The choice of media is the most important decision you can make even more than lights. The media determines how you water and when, and how much growth you can obtain. It is the single biggest determination in how susceptible cannabis plants are to growth issues.
We literally have tried all we know of, peat, organic, traditional hydroponic, aeroponics and our favourite in a small grow, coco coir. Coco coir has some properties that make it a really great choice.
Coco Coir is very environmentally friendly in that it is a waste product from coconut and other coconut products. It has some very favourable properties as far as air void space and water retaining properties. Coco can actually hold up to 4 times its weight in water.
All coco is not produced the same though, many have very high salt content, really bad for cannabis. If you look at our video you can see that there is a tremendous difference in coco. Cannabis likes oxygen and the void space in the MilleniumSoils Coir is 43%, this really enhances how cannabis grows.
So if you want to hand water your cannabis plants the Premium Coco Coir is right for you. It has the void space but a little more water retention so you can water every day or so, or up to every 120 minutes. There is no better media we have found to hand water your plants. You get less growing issue with more volume of flowers.
Coco Hydroponics is the simplest way to produce the most cannabis possible, with fewer risks or growing issues. All done only with the right coco coir.
The cannabis plant starts a new growth cycle every 90 minutes or so we can feed at that rate we can maximize our growth potential. We can get a growth rate of flowers that is as much as 40% higher over other media’s. We can even outpace traditional hydroponics and aeroponics with way less risks or issues. With aeroponics you risk catastrophic failure if your pumps fail, or lines clog, and the systems are complex. With both aeroponics and traditional hydroponics you have to worry about fungus or bacterial infestations. These are very detrimental to your plants, retarding growth. Both systems require harsh cleaning of reservoirs and feed systems..
With the proper Coco Coir we have no issues of fungi, we cannot get root rot even with the frequent watering. MilleniumSoils Coir is washed so it is delivered without salt build up, then when we set up with the proper feed system, we just get well fed plants with almost no nutrient issues ! (because of excessive growth a little extra Magnesium is beneficial, see our feed chart) We have no signs of too much nutrients, too little or lock out. Never get signs of overwatering and we never underwater. It’s a product that just works for cannabis.
Now I can understand people thinking that this is too complex for them and we said we were going to keep this simple. Well moving to coco hydroponics does have some set up, but once done, it makes life so simple.
With Coco hydroponics the amount of time required in the room goes down by about half compared to hand watering. Things just work, you go in and the plants are the right colour, no visual issues at all everyday (when following the Back Room Grow guide and using MilleniumSoils Coir).
Coco Hydroponics -Set up
Remember if you are setting up your grow room to do coco hydroponics you can reduce your lighting and grow space, you will grow more. I have personally had harvests of over 3.5 lbs from 945 watts CMH lighting (now this is on a very good producing strain), never before having more than 2.5 lbs. I was just in awe when I first saw my Coco Hydro garden, the difference in flower size is remarkable.
The build is not complex but it does take some time.
Use a food grade 45 gallon drum as a reservoir, very durable and cheap. You can buy a reservoir designed for cannabis but they are expensive and not as durable.
We want this to be outside of our grow space if possible. Your nutrient feed temperature should be lower than your grow room temp. Ideal is between 60 and 65 deg F. Your plants like the cooler watering temps and it helps prevent algae build up in your reservoir. But if you must put in your room, we can make this work.
You will need pumps. For a medium size garden of 4 to 20 plants a great pump for this is a Little Giant MSP 5. This is a 1/6 hp pump that does the job well and is reliable (as long as they don’t run dry, use a cost effective float shut off, about $40 to protect your pump). Cheaper Aquarium pumps can do the job but are less reliable and may cost you more in the end. I have 6 of these in my room for over 6 months, all still working well. Skyler has several that have lasted years! Pumps can and do fail though, so have a spare on hand (pumps usually fail on a Sunday or Holiday).
Feed Lines and Dripper
Use 1/2″ lines for your feed system. I prefer the yellow thicker walled product, less likely to bind or buckle, but the black polytube is fine. (use the wrong material and you may be getting false estrogens in your water, ewe. Tubing must be of food grade quality).
We are going to run that line right from our pump, to the middle of our table where we are going to attach a header. Assemble the header in a circle. Use the correct hole punch and attach lines with clips.
Attach 1/4 inch lines from the header, 2 to every grow bag. At the end of the1/4” line we are going to attach a “2 gallons per hour (GPH) dripper” (one in the starter cubes hyperlink). These should be placed evenly on either side of the main stock about 2” away from center.
I have found that a lot of these products are available at a general agricultural online, a feed store or Lee Valley. Products here are of better quality and function than found at most grow stores. But be wary of garden and lawn supply where the product may not be food grade.
We need a timer or controller for our pumps. We are going to take the electrical cord from your shut off valve float with the pump plugged in and affix it to the controller. I have been using Grow Zone CY-1 with good success but others do the job. You need to be able to schedule feedings every 90-120 minutes when lights are on, and no feedings when lights are off. Only issue with these is they are light activated if you have them outside your room you need a small light on a timer (cheap one set up to same schedule as grow room) to get the pump to shut off at night. You also can hook up an analog timer to your cycle timer. You analog timer will be set with the same 12 hours off ,12 hours on cycle as your lights meaning your cycle timer will only come on when the lights are on (we don’t want to feed nutrients at night)
We have a more in depth look at some other ways to control your feed systems.
Drain to waste
To properly set up Coco Hydroponics we recommend a drain to waste set up. Now this may seem imposing but once you set it up you will be so happy you did. No more trying to get the time in for watering, no pumping things out with a shop vac or the like. This planning and work we put in will save us time everyday, just way less hassles.
There are two way to set this up. The best, but it won’t work for everyone and is more expensive is a sump and sump pump. I dug up concrete in my room and installed a sump, it cost me around $1000. The real advantage is you don’t lose much grow height for your plants. You need a few inches of elevation of your table so that water will flow. I put my veg room tables on a couple of bricks, and a few in the middle for support.
The other is to drain to a small bucket that is at least a foot tall, and put a pump with an automatic float switch in it. You will need to place your tables about 6-8” higher so that water can flow and accumulate in the bucket. You will lose this height for your plants, but is not much and this is a cheaper easier solution. The sump and pump though is nice once set up.
Once set up, you just need to check periodically the drain to waste system. This honestly has saved me a couple of hours a day, just way more time to do other things.
Nutrients – Are All Just Salts!
All our growers have found that when they grow with coco, we don’t need all the additives and can run the nutrient solution weaker. This saves you money and results in happy plants.
Plant based nutrients are fine for those who want to grow organic, but organic growing comes with more challenges and potentially less yield than with other grow system. With a lot of work and experience these systems can work, but there are challenges. This is something I aspire to, but the systems are not there, especially for the inexperienced grower.
The plant based nutrients have two major issues. First they are a source of food for bacteria and algae. While this may seem good, it leads to fouling of reservoirs, feed lines and drippers, and a lot more maintenance to clean it up!
I have used House and Garden nutrients, a premium nutrient system that I have had good success with. When I switched to Coco Hydroponics at first I used the whole system plus an organic based Cal/Mag. I had an almost constant battle with plugging drippers and algae in the reservoir. This is a tremendous hassle and takes way too much of our precious time.
The other and really more serious issue is that these products tend to form a oily film or sludge in the growing media and roots. Some nutrients are not fully water soluble, so they require “beneficial bacteria” to break down the product for plant uptake. This cannot keep up with our heavy feeding schedule and therefore we get poor nutrient and oxygen transfer, resulting in slower growth. The rinsing of waste products and excess salts is much more difficult resulting in more nutrient and water use. This is also the case of many nutrient based growing issues. It just makes growing more difficult and not as successful.
I found that both Ken and Skyler removed these products from their nutrients and had great results. So I removed, from the House and Garden system, the Allgen Extract, Amino Treat and Roots Excelerator and I got better results. Less sludge, better yield, less costs. Well that is win, win, win. The question is then, why are these products marketed and used? Well they are some of the most expensive products. So now you know.
We have found a nutrient company we really like called Future Harvest – Holland Secret. This is a Canadian company that really has thought about what us growers need. Their 3 part base products have all the nutrients and micro nutrients built in so we can have a successful grow with just their base products.
We then can add the products, and they have them, that will make our garden pop! And we don’t add any of those plant based materials. We use less nutrients than with H& G and our costs are down.
Take a look at our feed chart, and see the reduction in nutrients used. ( Anything in excess in not good for the garden, using Brix numbers can help.)
One of the keys to this feed system is to ensure we have the correct concentration of nutrients at the roots every time. To ensure this we measure the concentration of the runoff water after feeding. Generally it takes about a 15-20% run off (of total feed volume) to maintain the correct concentration at the roots.
We can measure the initial nutrient strength with a TDS metre or EC, they are fundamentally the same way to measure just expressing the number differently. we have both listed in our Nutrient Feed Chart and want to make sure this number stays in the right range. (learn about Different TDS meters vs EC here.
We then measure the run off, and if it is within 100ppm or .200 EC then we are good. If it is more then we need to turn up the time on our controller by maybe 10%. It is that easy. We always get the right amount of nutrients at the roots every time. This means our plant nutrients are always in the goldilocks’ state for maximum growth. Not too much, not too little. Just Right, Always!