By John Ragozzino
My first glimpse of an aeroponic cannabis grow came as a young red-eyed University of Oregon student, and I was immediately intrigued. What I saw amazed me, marijuana plants growing with no dirt or medium whatsoever.
Even though I had never grown cannabis back in 2001 when I first visited this aeroponic grow, I had certainly consumed a fair amount of it and was immersed in the lifestyle. A number of my friends were growers so I had seen their soil grows, some hydro set ups, and I had even visited some commercial cannabis grows while visiting family in California’s medical marijuana industry.
Not knowing what it was at the time, I was looking at a fairly primitive low-pressure aeroponics system (LPA). The system was comprised of a white reservoir with six plant sites holding 2’ tall cannabis plants in their vegetative stage. Pure white roots were dangling into a chamber being held by nothing but a neoprene collar in a small net cup. Tiny sprayers intermittently coming on and off, it was like no other grow I had ever witnessed. I was amazed by the cleanliness of the growing environment, and the quality of the buds that were produced by this system.
The somewhat nerdy looking dude messing with a controller of some kind told me all about aeroponics, which I was far too high to grasp at the time, but what I took away from it was a determination to one day try my hand at aero. Fast forward a couple years, I had suffered a major back injury and started using cannabis medically more than recreationally, and I knew I needed to start growing my own medicine. I dabbled with soil, hydro grows, and even aquaponics, but each of these growing experiences were riddled with problems: from pests, to root rot, to my medicine flat out tasting like fish shit. I knew it was time to set up my own aeroponics system, so after a lot of research I dove head first into aeroponics.
Here we are after 12 years of running strictly aeroponic systems from clone all the way through flower, and I can honestly say that I have been pest free since the day I plunged into aero. In my humble opinion, grow mediums of any kind whether they are soil, coco, pellets, or cubes are a completely unnecessary expense. They serve no purpose except for a place for pests to breed. I know that I just “stirred the pot” with all you dirt lovers, and I’ll admit that soil has its finishing advantages.
Some of the best tasting buds I’ve ever smoked were grown in soil, but my personal favorites were all grown using aeroponics. I prefer the taste of aeroponically grown bud because this method offers complete control over what your plants consume and allows a true flush. Try some aeroponically grown cannabis and you taste the actual flavor of the buds rather than the taste of the soil, medium or nutrient, which can never properly be flushed when not growing in aero. It is impossible to fully flush in soil and hydro applications because it is impossible to thoroughly rinse the roots of remaining nutrient build-ups when your roots are surrounded by soil or any other medium. The rapid growth rates when using aeroponics cannot be matched.
From personal experience conducting side by side growing method comparisons between aero and soil and aero and hydro I have consistently seen 30% to 40% faster growth rates in aero. Why so much faster, you ask? This is because plants do not breath oxygen through their leaves. On the contrary, plants breath oxygen through their roots, and release oxygen into the environment through openings on their leaves called stomata.
The optimal way to deliver oxygen to a plant is using aeroponics. Rapid growth rates are obtained by intermittently misting or spraying roots with a highly oxygenated nutrient solution. Not only do you see faster growth rates with aeroponics, but the root masses associated with aeroponics increase yields significantly.
There are two primary types of aeroponic systems: high- pressure (HPA) and low-pressure (LPA). The difference between these methods is that HPA systems produce water particle droplets sized between 20 and 50 microns and boast 80 psi or higher. I have run both high-pressure and low- pressure systems side by side many times, and the results are always the same; with HPA you put in 500% more effort for only about 5% more yield.
High-pressure systems regularly get clogged sprayers and with all the extra equipment that is required for a proper high pressure set up, there is bound to be more potential for equipment failure. Don’t get me wrong, a nicely done HPA set up will grow some amazing buds and they are flat out cool to look at, but I am a low-pressure man through-and-through. While some may call HPA “True Aeroponics,” I am a firm believer that low-pressure systems also should be considered true aeroponics as well.
Low-pressure aeroponic systems are far easier to maintain and they also offer most of the same benefits as high-pressure. In a properly set up low-pressure aeroponic garden sprayers will be turned on for just long enough to saturate your root mass and left off long enough for the roots to stop dripping.