What’s In Your Garden?
The most challenging step of starting any new hobby is to get started. If you are looking for a fun, calming, and rewarding hobby look no further! Medical patients in IL are allowed to grow their own medicine (up to five plants) and I have found very few people are taking advantage of this amazing perk. Not only will you be able to save money by purchasing less cannabis from dispensaries, you will also know where your cannabis was grown and how it was grown. If you would like to see some examples of craft growers bud, make sure to follow us on Instagram.
As a new hobbyist grower, you might be overwhelmed with the amount of information on the web in 2020. This is why I created Chicago Hydro, to help guide you in the right direction. I will help you better understand hydroponics and the benefits that come with growing your own marijuana. I have broken down each section so feel free to skip ahead to your subject of interest or read through the entire guide to have a full grasp on starting a hydroponic grow.
Step one is locating the space in which your plants will grow best. There are a few things to take into consideration when choosing the best location in your home for your plants. Privacy is a big one, so make sure your setup will not be seen by neighbors or other people in the area who might have negative intentions. Light penetration is also another factor to consider, especially if you will not be using a grow tent indoors. We also want to make sure the grow room can be optimally controlled with the Gear you will have installed.
After choosing where your plants will grow, you will need to decided how your plants will grow. There are plenty of guides out there on soil grows, which is why I will focus on a hydroponic guide of growing marijuana in Chicago. (I might make a soil guide in the future.)
I will be focusing on the hydroponic medium which is the process of growing weed without the use of soil. Instead, the roots will be submerged in the water and will be given oxygen through the airs stones. Nutrients will be manually provided weekly during the reservoir change. We can also clean the reservoir during the water change. Since we are growing in a hydroponic setup, we will not need any soil for this grow. Instead we will need Reverse Osmosis water or purified tap water, which is what I use and it works just fine since Chicago has access to Lake Michigan’s water.
Single bucket system
Shared reservoir system
EBB & Flow
Water pump on timer
Many first time growers are intimidated by starting with a hydroponic system because of how many moving parts there are. This guide is made to help new growers feel confident when starting with a hydroponic system by going over the function of each piece of gear and how it benefits plant growth. For those seeking personal consultation or an in home installation of a DWC or RDWC system, please click here and schedule a meeting. The first 15 minutes phone consultation is free and I can answer any concerns or questions you might have.
Now that we know where and how the plant will be growing, we need the gear to make it happen! I recommend starting with a DWC system to prevent leaks and other unwanted issues. After a full cycle and learning from your errors, I recommend moving up to an RDWC or Ebb and Flow system. When you are more familiar with the errors that are possible in a DWC system, you can better be prepared for errors made in a shared reservoir hydroponic systems.
- Air Pump
- Air Stones
- Air Stone Tubing
- Bucket/ Tote (5gal)
- 3″ Net pot
- Clay Pebbles Grow Media
- PH Meter
- PPM Meter
- Water Thermometer
- Grow Tent
- Hydroponic Nutrients
- Grow Light
- Inline Fan & Carbon Filter
The items listed above are the essentials needed to start your DWC home grow. The grow tent and lights are the most expensive pieces of gear required. Some additional gear might be needed to control the environment better indoors. If Chicago begins to get humid you will need a dehumidifier, but in the winter time you will need a humidifier to keep the dry winter air from harming your plants. The water temperatures will be monitored by the thermometer and will need adjusting if the water exceeds 70 °F. A water chiller might be needed in the summer or you can freeze water bottles to frequently add them throughout the day for a temporary adjustment in the reservoir.
We have the where, how, and the cart with the gear is on the way, but do you know what you are building? The reason we want a grow tent is to better control the environment in which our plants grow. Without a grow tent you are welcoming dust, light leaks, and a multitude of other problems into your plants grow area. Managing an environment in a grow tent is much easier than an entire room. If you do choose to go down the no tent route, make sure you are on top of cleanliness, room temperature, and room humidity.
Perfect Grow Tent Environment
- Tent Temperature: 69°F – 78°F
- Humidity : 45-55%
- Light Hours: 18 on /6 off
- Constant Air Flow
- Water Temperatures: 60°F-70°F
- Water PH: 5.8 ideal (5.6-6.4)
Make sure seedlings have plenty of humidity and are top fed if their roots are not in water yet. Stop the top feeding when the plant can uptake nutrients on its own.
- Tent Temperature: 75°F – 82°F
- Humidity : 55 and Drooping Over Time
- Light Hours: 12 on /12 off
- Constant Stronger Air Flow
- Water Temperatures: 60°F-70°F
- Water PH: 5.8 ideal (5.6-6.4)
Humidity will be dropping all of the flower stage to allow the plant to use up all its stored nutrients.
Make sure to clean your grow area thoroughly before and after every grow cycle. This will help prevent any unwanted pests or dust build up. Best practice is to clean the reservoir one time a week, ideally during the reservoir change when the water has been drained.
Hydroponic grows require nutrients to be added manually weekly. I use General Hydroponics Trio and have had great results. There are supplemental nutrients you can use during the flowering stage such as advanced nutrients, which carries a variety of bundles. Below is a general schedule for a DWC system from seed to harvest.
Make sure to do your research before choosing your nutrient source. The nutrient line should be compatible with coco or hydroponic grows. Over the week, keep an eye out for signs of nutrient deficiencies or signs of root rot.
Before adding new water to the reservoir mix the nutrients, PH the water, and check the PPM of the water. If there is an imbalance of nutrients in the reservoir, the plants will show signs of nutrient deficiencies/ nutrient burn. The PH being outside its ideal range will also cause the plants to appear weak and dull. Keeping the PPM in the ideal range weekly is also important to prevent nutrient lock.
Note: Check PPM and PH every two days to make sure the plants are uptalking nutrients.
You will notice the last two weeks are blank on the schedule. This is because the plant has nutrient buildup in the leaves, which will need to be used up by the plant before they are harvested. The more nutrients are used by the plant during the flush phase, the cleaner the smoke will be from the Harvested and cured buds. It is ideal to use reverse osmosis water during the flush phase to make sure that there are no nutrients in the water for the roots to feed on.
Now that everything is in order, you are ready to start browsing through your cannabis containers for seeds found in dispensary cannabis. If the Illinois cannabis industry is selling cannabis with seeds in it, this must mean they want us to perfect what the corporate grow ops could not. So take that that single seed and master those genetics until clones and seeds become readily available in the Chicago area.
Note: Do not go DMing people asking for seeds or clones.
Not all strains are created equal and that is exactly what cloning is for. When a grower takes clones from a mother plant, the cuttings DNA is an exact copy of the mother. This means we can expect the same growth, nutrient needs, height structure, herming probability, and anything else seen on the mother plant genetically. So if you find a strain you really like, make sure to clone her and keep a mother plant in a low light setting.
If you start your grow from a seed you will need to germinate the seed, plant the seed, and ease the seedling into a young vegetative plant. This can take one to one and a half months to complete at the earliest. After the seed goes to the seeding stage, it will remain in the vegetative state until its light schedule is switched from a 18/6 to a 12/12 cycle. The younger the plant, the more susceptible it will be to the environment and issues with your build. But do not fret because things do get easier as long as you pay attention and make modifications where needed.
When a plant is in the vegetative state, you can clone branches from the plant in order to keep genetics and shorten the vegetative stage for the clones. Instead of starting from a seed, the clone will need to develop roots and then continue into the vegetative stage with a head start. The less time spent in veg, the more harvests you can go through a year.
Note: Outdoor growers are limited by the seasons, indoor growers control their tents seasons.
Hopefully you are feeling more confident about starting your very first indoor grow as a Chicago medical patient. You now know what is required to begin a grow at home. But if you would like a free consultation to go over any other questions you might have, click here to set up an appointment. The cannabis community in Chicago is welcoming and willing to help people looking for a safe space to ask questions and learn more about craft growing. I post weekly on YouTube if you are more of a visual person and would like to see how I personally grow my plants from seed to harvest.