Deep Water Culture (DWC) Hydroponic Systems

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Deep Water Culture (DWC) Hydroponic Systems

Growing cannabis without soil... no not witchcraft, but instead an alternative method with some highly impressive results.

Despite the name (DWC) or Deep Water Culture is not the next underground house movement, but instead an alternative and a somewhat simple way of growing cannabis without soil. Yes, you read that right, without soil. The idea behind it is straightforward. Cannabis roots thrive on oxygen, the more they get the better their nutrient uptake. What does more nutrients mean? Prizes! In this case the prize of better buds and yields. It presents the perfect situation for even a novice grower to try their hand at. So if a soil-less grow is on your agenda, look no further.

Now the world of soil-less growing environments, whilst not complex in nature can be complex in some of the different setups used and the subsequent terminology that goes with it. The important thing to remember is that when we refer to a DWC build, this implies the use of a single bucket, feeding your plants via oxygen from an air pump and supplying them with nutrients through the liquid the roots are submerged in. Aeroponics, Drip Irrigation, and Wick system are all types of setup who's key principle are the lack of soil in the growing environment.

For the sake of this guide, we will not be going into details on these setups but just so you are aware when these types of growing come up in searches. They each offer their own advantages and disadvantages but will ultimately come down to knowledge, space, and money. A DWC grow presents an even middle ground from the most basic setups to the difficulty of an RDWC (recirculating deep water culture) whereby each plant is fed individually in separate pots and supplied by a central reservoir.

How Does DWC Work?

Deep Water Culture's beauty lies in its simplicity. We know that cannabis roots thrive on oxygen, in turn increasing their ability to uptake nutrients. DWC works by permanently suspending the roots of your cannabis plants in a nutrient solution whilst at the same time feeding them with oxygen through the solution. This method provides some highly expansive root growth which even to the experienced grower is truly a sight the first time it is seen. The cannabis itself is grown in suspended net pots filled with the clay pellets. The pots are suspended in a larger bucket or container filled with the nutrient solution. Then using an aquarium air stone the nutrient solution is fed with oxygen, typically 24/7 to provide the roots with that essential oxygen. This oxygen allows the uptake of nutrients from the solution and bingo! No soil, not a problem.


What do 'I' Need to Build My Own DWC?

Like all good growing environments, times have changed and as such DWC setups can be bought from a range of suppliers across the internet. They are however as described, simple in nature so if you happen to be a dab hand at DIY they can be constructed relatively cheaply. Essentially all you need is the following:

- 13-22 Liter Bucket (for one plant)

- Specialist net pot lid to fit the bucket (these can be bought from hydroponic stores)

- Aquarium air pump and stone

- 150cm of 19mm wide silicon tubing

- Your chosen growing medium to go in the bottom of the net pot

1) The method is just as easy as the list itself. The net pot is placed inside your bucket, the watch out here is to make sure the net pot does actually fit your bucket. You want it to be a snug fit to save any unnecessary movement or accidents. Next, we need to sort out the oxygen supply. Make a small hole in the bottom of your bucket, enough to fit the silicon tubing through. On one end will be your aquarium stone inside the bucket and the other end will be your pump. Make sure to place the pump higher than the top of your bucket. If you pump stops working for any reason this will stop water flowing back through the tubes and ruining your pump for good.

2) Fill the bucket with a small amount water to test your pump. If you're seeing bubbles then we are good to go! Fill the bucket with required nutrient solution up to the top of your pot. The pot itself should also be filled with that chosen growing medium, again to the top. Place your clone or seedling into the net pot and sit back and relax. DWC growing environment nailed! Well not quite....

3) You will need a germinated plant or clone to start with. The choice is up to you but if you choose to germinate your own seeds these can be grown in a Rockwell cube first and then moved to the net pot. The bucket filled with the nutrient solution will also need to be cleaned out and changed roughly once a week, this will keep everything flowing and keep your plants in tip top shape. It goes without saying that being submerged in a nutrient solution means very careful and regular checking of the pH levels. Like any other type of grow you will need to adjust accordingly so that your cannabis plants stay within the required pH range.

What are the Benefits of a DWC Setup?

An awful lot of the time, your chosen growing environment will come down to cost. This is were DWC excels. As you can see from the guide above, its construction is minimal. Very little is needed when only growing a few plants. This makes it ideal for a novice grower who is interested in trying a soilless grow. Let us also not forget about the actual weed you will have at the end of it. Increased nutrient uptake means better quality buds, typically giving you better yields and a more intense high. This increased nutrient uptake can't be achieved with a soil based grow given the lack of a constant oxygen supply direct to the roots. Finally, all this is easily expanded. If you wanted to grow more plants the same principle applies. Either through multiple net pots in a bigger bucket or a more powerful air pump feeding multiple buckets.