Reeferman Genetics – Chapter 8 – Grow Top Shelf Buds

Chapter 8 of our 14 part weekly series will talk about proper water management. Follow step by step to grow top shelf harvests like a pro. The information and instructions are highly scalable. These proven and well developed methods and technologies will work for anyone. Whether you want to grow some personal crops of buds at home or if you intend to fill a warehouse.

Water is the lifeblood of your crop of buds.

Water is essential to your growing success in both quality and quantity. Just because water is drinkable does not mean that it is going to be great for your plants. You take the time to create a healthy growing environment, provide strong light and choose your nutrients carefully–do not let water quality become your limiting factor. At the same time, use water wisely.

On average, following our cultivation model in recirculating hydroponics, a square meter of budding cannabis plants during peak bloom will go through around five gallons or twenty liters of water daily. That is one of the advantages of hydroponics by the way: water use by the crop is an accurate way to measure the health of the crop, a great diagnostic tool. Measure and monitor water carefully and you will have a good reading on the pulse of your grow at all times.

Water Storage Volumes

Water StorageWhat if your water source becomes unavailable suddenly? Will your plants go without? It does not take long for a healthy and thirsty crop to suffer or even perish without adequate water. Storing water is a good idea, it gives a buffer between supply and demand. However, storing large volumes requires a higher level of management and time. If water becomes stagnant and unused, things like water molds can develop, especially if you are dechlorinating water for the health of your plants.

TIP: A good rule of thumb to work with is to store water in a volume that will have fifty percent of the total volume used and replaced daily. In simple terms, a two day supply. So, if you operate a three foot by six foot horticultural tray full of budding cannabis, you will want to store around 20 US Gallons of water. Remember that each tray also has a minimum of a 35 US gallon reservoir of recirculating nutrients, the stored water is for topping up daily. To change and refill your reservoir you will require more.

Water Storage Containers

A polyethylene plastic garbage can works great for the hobby grower. They are inexpensive, do not take up much room and are made of plastic that is safe for water storage and come with a tight fitting lid. Twenty gallons or so is a standard size for a plastic trash can.

For a slightly larger set up, blue food grade 55 gallon polyethylene drums are ideal. They are easy to find and relatively inexpensive. Make sure the drum you choose is food grade, and if used, that it was for food. Blue barrels usually signify this purpose, but who knows what the last person was using it for when buying used. Make sure it is thoroughly cleaned and rinsed before using to store crop water. Would you drink out of it? If the answer is no, your valued crop probably should not drink from it either.

TIP-A mag drive pump, like the kind used in the hydroponic system to recirculate nutrients is great for transferring water in and out of your water storage containers when coupled with a hose. You can also couple a pump in your water storage tank directly to your feeder lines for the float valves keeping your hydroponic reservoirs topped up. The extra heat from the pump can be handy in cooler months.

Water Purification

Reverse Osmosis SystemMost water supplies will benefit from some purification before use with your valued crop of buds. What tastes OK to us may not be as good for your plants. In nature, most naturally occurring sources of water roots take up is clean.

What might be in your water that can negatively affect your plants?

-Chlorine & Chloramines
-VOCs (volatile organic compounds)
-Bacteria and or Fungi

Usually, most municipal supplies that are safe to drink just require either Reverse Osmosis water filtration, or if you are blessed with low dissolved solids in your tap water a simple Dechlorination and Sediment filter.

Reverse Osmosis Treatment

RO (reverse osmosis) will yield the best quality water, nothing but two hydrogens and one oxygen, water that measures “0 EC”. Besides removing dissolved solids, it can do a great job of removing all the other impurities we listed above. The draw back to RO systems, besides their initial cost, is the fact that they generate wastewater in addition to the “product water” (pure water) they capture. Usually, the higher the daily delivery capacity of the RO systems, the better the ratio of product water to wastewater. Small units may create up to 4 or 5 times the wastewater versus product water. Super-efficient large microprocessor driven units may allow you to keep twenty parts product water with only one part wastewater.

DeChlorination & Sediment Removal

If water quality from the tap is good to start with, this is a simple and cost effective way to treat water for crops with no wastewater generated. An added benefit is great flow rates, RO purification takes time to fill your water storage container, there is little restriction in flow rates with a good quality dechlorination and sediment filter. If your tap water is 0.5 EC or less to start with, you may be able to get away with just a dechlorination and sediment filter set up. For water culture systems like aeroponics, NFT, DWC, RDWC, etc. only RO water or reclaimed condensate is recommended.

Reclaimed Condensate

When operating Air Conditioning and Dehumidification equipment, moisture captured from the air, in this case your grow room(s), must be drained away as condensate. This can be an excellent source of highly pure water for your storage tanks and reservoirs. This is “live” water, it has come from your plants and growing system. Monitoring how much is captured is also a good indicator of how healthy your crop is at any given growth phase. You learn the rhythms of when your plants should be using more water versus other times. If they are not, you know something might not be right or a factor is out of whack.

Considerations to adhere to when using reclaimed condensate water from your crop.

Firstly, if your AC and dehumidifier are brand new, you will want to run them for a month or two before reusing any condensate they may provide. There are oils on parts when manufactured to prevent corrosion while stored and transported before reaching the consumer.

Water Management replacing RO CartridgesSecondly, while the water is very pure it will typically be of a very low pH i.e., 5.5 and will require adjustment prior to use–no biggie.

Thirdly, the water may be prone to growing water molds. Because there is no chlorine in the water, and it is exposed to grow room air, bacteria or fungi can start to grow. There may also be dust or debris from the air present.

One innovation available to take the worry out of using reclaimed condensate for your hydroponic garden is an ARCS set up (from HydroLogic Purification Systems). ARCS stands for automated reclaimed condensate system. The system uses sediment filtration, a carbon filter, a UV light, and a remineralization cartridge. The system delivers perfect pH balanced (7.0) with extremely low dissolved solids (<0.1 EC) that is sterile and clean from all your condensate sources for adding to your water storage tanks. Just replace the filters and lamps occasionally and you may never have to add more water from the tap to your system again. This can be used in place of an RO filter system in some instances.


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