GreenJeans' DWC Method

greenjeans

Hydroponic Heretic
Feb 16, 2015
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I wanted to put together an outline of my growing methods in the hope that it will help some people get going with DWC. I had problems in the beginning, and it all seemed really confusing, and now I feel like I have it pretty much dialed in. Since my method feels different to me, and less complicated than others I have seen, I hope it will be of use to some of the AFN fam. So much here has been really useful to me, that I wanted to give back.

I will update as I learn more, and hopefully I can eventually come up with a more detailed, more effective, perhaps even simpler method.



DWC Autoflowers- The GreenJeans Method


DWC doesn’t have to be complicated. When I first started out all I ever heard was ppms ppms ppms.. EC, TDS, and a hundred ways of adjusting water to bring all of this back into the zone.

Proper PH and TDS are definitely extremely important, but with my method, the TDS (ppm) does not need to be monitored or adjusted.

YOU WILL STILL HAVE TO ACTIVELY MONITOR AND MAINTAIN YOUR PH!!!!

This method is tailored for a 3.5 gallon closed system. Not a large RDWC with multiple buckets. The premise is easily transposed to larger containers, but I don’t know that it will be practical in larger recirculating setups. The reason I use a 3.5 gallon bucket is that it makes it simple, the key word, to mix a given ratio of nutrients. For example, if I want a 1/3 strength solution, I mix 1 gallon’s worth of solution from the nutrient chart of whatever brand I have, into 3 gallons of water. If I want ¼, I can simply add another gallon of water. If I want ½, I mix 2 gallons’ worth of nutrients into 4 gallons of water, and so on. It is easily scalable, but 5 gallons is not quite as easy to measure to me.

Most deficiencies and plant issues that I have seen are related to PH. PH is the MOST important thing to get right in a DWC system! 5.8 is your target. And you had better make sure you have a good meter, and proper calibration solutions, and that you are getting accurate readings. Get the PH right no matter what it takes! Read about it. Learn about it. You will thank me later.

Further, most other issues seem to be related to the environment. These include temperatures, humidity, pests, and issues with bacteria in non sterile systems.

I run a sterile system. I recommend you do the same. Organic Hydro can be expensive and difficult because you are basically growing in a reservoir full of bacteria. I am of the opinion that this is, more often than not, a losing battle. Dutch Master Zone is what I use to stay sterile. Unlike peroxide, it does not evaporate after a couple of days, so if you use it, you will most likely not have to worry about bacteria or algae issues. It kills everything and keeps you sterile.

Now this method may or may not be perceived as being more work, but there is no question in my mind that it is more simple. And it has worked great for me.

When a plant uptakes a nutrient solution, it doesn’t take it up evenly. In other words, it may take more Nitrogen or Potassium depending on where it is in its life cycle. This can cause ppm adjustments to change the balance of the solution by adding balanced nutrients to a reservoir that is already high in one or another part of the solution.

In other words, the ppms may read to be correct, but the N-P-K ratios are now out of whack.


My method combines a bubbler bucket with a more Kratky method style of feeding to eliminate this issue, and allow the grower to grow start to finish without the need to own a TDS meter at all.

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So here is how it works:

First things first- I am going to assume that you already have an acceptable setup. A 3.5 gallon bucket with a net pot, lots of bubbles, a neutral growing media, and something to start the seed in (Like a SMALL rockwool cube).


Starting your seed:

Drop your seed into a glass of water and place it in a dark spot for 12-24 hours. Normally the seed will have sunken to the bottom within this time. However, if it hasn’t, I have still had them sprout no problem, so don’t freak out!

Now you want to plant the seed in rockwool (or other starter material). We do this right in the DWC bucket. In my experience, for the small grower, it is not necessary to have a separate system to start your seeds.

First, get everything sterile by washing in water with just a little bleach added in. Rinse THOROUGHLY. Not only the gear, either! Put some in a spray bottle and spray the walls and everything in your grow space you can. Let it all dry completely. Start Sterile every time.

For starting a seedling, do NOT add any nutrients to the water. Use tap water, as long as it isn’t well water, it should be fine (although some well water may also be fine, depending on the well), and it should have anything a seedling could want and more. Use only a root stimulator, to jump-start root production (I use GH RapidStart), and something to keep your water sterile. I use Dutch Master Zone, and I cannot recommend the product highly enough. Buy it. It is a MUST HAVE for DWC in my opinion.


Mix 4 gallons of water with 1.5 ml of Zone (or a 3 gallon dose of whatever you are using for sterility), and a 2 gallon dose of your root stimulator. Fill the reservoir up enough to submerge the bottom of the net cup about ½ inch into the water. Not the rockwool, but the rocks below it in the cup should be in the water.

PH adjust your water to 5.8!!

Fill a spray bottle from the res!

Turn on the bubbles!


Soak the rockwool in the res water for a bit. Some people say this long or that long, but I typically just let it soak for 30 minutes or something while I am doing other things. I will usually fill my spray bottle and rinse some hydroton rocks while it is soaking. Place it into the net pot by putting a little grow media in the bottom first, and filling around the cube with more, leaving the very top of the rockwool exposed. Set it up at the depth you think is right. I like to leave myself a little room to fill in with more rocks once she starts taking off.

I have found that closing a rockwool cube over the seed only creates headaches. The seeds inevitably have a hard time pushing up through it.

Open up the hole in the cube a bit and drop in the seed. Then cover over with a pinch of sawdust or sand. Something that the seed can EASILY push up through, but that keeps it in darkness until it does.

Now, you’ll need to cover the net pot with something clear to retain humidity. I use a clear lid that is made for a cooking pot. You could use anything that creates a greenhouse effect. (Think plastic or glass clear bowls and containers.)



Spray down the rockwool cube and all the rocks well with your res water, and cover. Place under 24 hours of light. Spray the cube and rocks 1-2 times a day and you should see some action within 2-5 days. The cover should begin to collect moisture causing it to bead up on the inside. If this is happening, you are doing the right thing. If not, try moving your lights a little closer. You want it to be warm.

Bingo. You just sprouted it. No cloning trays or separate containers needed. No stress from transplanting. All done.

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Caring for the Seedling:



Remove the “dome” as soon as you see the very first leaves open up.

Leave it alone. Spray the rockwool as usual and spray the seedling a little for the first few days, then slowly start working your way away from watering the cube and toward watering the rocks. You want to begin to tease the roots out of the cube and make them search for the water. Don’t let the cube run dry yet, but don’t soak it. Slowly tease the roots into the rocks by watering them more, and the cube less. The roots will hit the water in no time flat. Typically within the first 6 days.

The original reservoir water should last at least the first 2 weeks. Do not give them any more nutrients yet. Let them grow into the root stimulator. The plant doesn’t need food yet. Disregard this and your plant will probably burn some.


Be aware that DWC typically starts a bit slower than soil. You may be in week 3 thinking “Why is it so small? Is this normal?”

Yes. It is normal. Your soil plant may look bigger now, but you are going to leave it in the dust around week 5. :)

Soon after day 14, we want to start thinking about new water. I usually go a bit more than 2 weeks and then switch to a 1/6 strength solution.

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Feeding your plant:


Autoflowers are different. They don’t need as much nutrients as other plants. Whatever brand of nutrients you choose, the numbers on the manufacturer’s feed chart are considered “Full Strength”.

I use the manufacturer’s chart to feed my plants. Make sure it is a feed schedule for hydroponics.

I use General Hydroponics, and feed with their “Flora Duo” series for my base nutrients.

I also use some of the additives from GH. And not others. This is something you will have to make your own decisions about. I am not going to give you exact amounts, because they will differ by brand, but I am going to give you the information you need to plug in your own numbers easily.

When I talk about feeding I will be using terms like “1 gallon’s worth of nutes into 3 gallons of water”. What this means is that you will look at your manufacturer’s hydroponic feed schedule, and use the amount given for 1 gallon of water, but mix it into 3 or 4 gallons, depending on the dilution we want to achieve.

These charts will most likely have different levels for vegetative, preflower, early flower, late flower, etc. We WILL use those, but only based on the signs the plant gives us. We will not use them based on any arbitrary timeline given by the manufacturer. We will change it based on growth in real-time.

Also, it is important that we understand that we are working, really, with two different sets of nutrients. Our base mix, and our additives. The base mix will always be mixed as a fraction like ¼ strength, or ½ strength. But we look at the additives separately. We may be running the base mix at 1/2 strength, but the additives at ¾ or even full strength. I have found that it is not as important to dilute the additives in most cases, so long as you have that base mix diluted to what your plants like.


With all that said, let’s mix the first res…


Mix ½ of a gallon’s worth of cal/mag and base nutes into 3 gallons of water. One at a time. Follow the directions for your products.

Mix in a full strength dose of your root stimulator.

Mix 1.5ml of Zone in. Or whatever sterilizing product you are using at half strength.


PH to 5.8!!!


That is all I put in the first feed. Base nutes at 1/6 strength, sterilizer and root stimulator.

That goes for ONE week. This is just a transition stage to ¼ strength nutrient solution.

ALWAYS re-test your ph a few hours later, and keep checking until you know how your water acts. With mine, I typically have to re-adjust the ph the next day, and then it stays stable. You have to keep checking it every day until you learn how your water behaves. You will soon know how many times, if any, you have to adjust to get it stable after a res change, and then you won’t have to fight it. But whatever it takes… KEEP IT AT 5.8!!!

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How to change the reservoir:


It is important to follow these same steps every time you change the res. You never add back, or adjust existing water in the system. We RINSE AND REPLACE every time. This is what allows us to not worry about our ppms. In the beginning you will dump a few buckets of solution, but as the grow progresses, the plants will drink it dry faster and faster and in the end, will drink it dry in just a few days.

1. Discard the res water. I use a 3 dollar siphon pump from the hardware store.

2. Add a half gallon of tap water to rinse the bucket.

3. Discard the rinse water.

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Mix:

2ml Zone, 1 gallon’s worth of cal/mag and base nutrients and 1 gallon’s worth of any desired additives listed in your feed chart to 4 gallons of water. One at a time, as per your manufacturer’s instructions. Use your feed chart.


PH to 5.8!!!!!


This is ¼ strength. Fill your res with it.

Now watch your girls. If they look healthy with nice green growth and somewhat lighter new growth, you are doing the right thing!

If they develop burned tips or if the tips curl downward sharply (Not just looking droopy), add a little tap water to dilute. But they probably wont.

If they get brown specks or yellow spots or if any other leaf problems arise it is probably the PH. If it is not the PH, then it is the environment. Look to temperature and wind. Heat AND wind can cause leaves to curl up or cup. Raise the lights and/or point any fans away from the plant.

If your plant seems to be taking the nutrients well after another week, increase everything to ½ strength by mixing 2 gallons’ worth of nutes with 4 gallons of water. Monitor that to make sure she is taking it well.

By now, you should be around week 5.

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In DWC weeks 5-8 is where it all happens. Sometimes it may take longer, but normally, this is where it happens for me.


The plant will now be drinking a LOT faster. By the time it is in full flower it can drink a full res in 3 days. Let ther drink it. Do NOT add water or nutrients. When the water is an inch deep, rinse, refill, and PH. This process is similar to the Kratky Method. We let the res get low, increasing the oxygen to the root zone. This creates wet and dry periods similar to what happens in a soil grow, albeit over longer periods. This method allows us to then rinse and create a fresh res without worrying about throwing the solution’s ppms off. We don’t add back. We empty, rinse, and refill. You will be tempted to just fill on top of the almost empty res. Don’t. Do. It. Rinse and refill!! Rinse it even if it is completely dry!

By this point, you should know how to create feeding ratios and use your feeding chart. I normally start bumping the nutrient strength up a little each time, moving as high as ¾ strength if a plant can take it. However, after week 5, I run my ADDITIVES at ¾ strength and work up to full strength in full flower.

In other words, while I may bump the base nutes up a little above ½ strength, after week 5 I start bumping the additives up full-steam ahead until I hit full strength.

Once they are in full flower I am hitting them hard with the Liquid KoolBloom and FloraNectar at full strength, while still feeding ½ or ¾ on the base mix..



There is not much to tell beyond this. Just keep watching, pay attention to your ph, do any training you decide on and generally play around with what you want to do above the reservoir, and If you follow this guide, you WILL be able to grow in DWC.

I hope this proves helpful to some in the future.

Peace

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Last edited:

HotBunz

Just a dude who likes to grow
Mar 12, 2015
1,015
3,496
0
Crawling across your face
greenjeans,

I realize that there is almost always more than one way to skin a cat. What always kept me away for Hydro/DWC was the fear of how complicated it was. Once I dug into how it all worked and trimmed out the nonsense/BS it really is very simple. Results in my 3.5 bubble bucket grow have blown away anything I have done in soil. Thank you for taking the time for your write up I am going to add a couple of things that I do that are very different than your method.

I also use 3.5 gallon buckets. First and foremost I do NOT want a sterile bucket. I see guys using DM Zone and Rez Clear and I just shake my head. Rez Clear is nothing more than watered down swimming pool shock and while DM Zone does not list anything on their MSDS general thoughts around the net say it's pretty close the same. DM claims it will KILL everything in your bucket.....that's just not good I want a very live bucket. I use Botanicare Hydroguard. It is LIVE bacillus bacteria. Two different ways to the same end but I would much rather use live and natural solution to prevent root rot and to keep my roots healthy vs. more chemical that KILL everything. Keep in mind I have no regard to bucket/rez/solution temps. My buckets are in the low 80's in the early part of my grows and never a sign of root rot!

On the topic of bucket maintenance....bucket/rez changes. I use ONLY RO/DI water. This whole change out once a week or once you replace the same volume of water as the bucket holds is starting to be proven more and more as a crock of bull. I was on the weekly( or more often as my plants will suck up over a gallon a day) change bandwagon myself. I chased PH almost daily. I now only do 3 or 4 bucket changes during a whole grow. Ph is rock solid and plants are much happier. Sure after a complete solution change PH will take a day or two to sort itself out and settle down but once it is I can do a bucket water top off, add back my given nute amounts and be spot on with my PH. In the early part of my grows I run a PH of 6.00. This idea was taken from a couple long time growers on different forums that do this for more than a hobby. I never need to mix out side of my bucket. Pre mixing outside the bucket just complicates things. I know what I need to add back to it to get to a set PPM level. You never once mention PPM levels in your write up only fractions of feeding chart levels, which of course are useless for us auto growers....i.e. 1/4, 1/2 etc. I feel knowing your PPM level is VERY important and the only way to know what your plant is uptaking. I top off my bucket and bring my PPM levels back in check twice daily.

As for when to add nutes to your system. That is also very much open for debate. While most growers use standard net pots. I use Rhizocore net pot/bucket tops. My roots don't have to fight their way through grow media for a week or longer to get into the rez. My method has a tap root in the bucket within 2 days from sprout. By day 3 I have a tap root a few inches long into my bucket already. I start giving nutes of 100/150 PPM at this time and NO I don't get nute burn. Having to wait 2 weeks before feeding just puts a plant behind the 8 ball. A plant can and will use nutes well before 14 days old. By day 14 my tap root/root system is already like a small horse tail. Even other more experienced growers using standard net pot hydro systems feed before 2 weeks.

Like I said there is two ways( or more )to skin a cat. What works for one person might not work for someone else. I think at the end of the day the important thing is to know your system like the back of your hand. Know how it reacts and know how to control it and not let it control you. I see to many beginners get caught in chasing rabbits with DWC and try to fix problems they don't even have with products they neither need nor know what they do.
 

Anasazi

Urban Farmer
Jul 7, 2014
645
777
0
greenjeans,

I realize that there is almost always more than one way to skin a cat. What always kept me away for Hydro/DWC was the fear of how complicated it was. Once I dug into how it all worked and trimmed out the nonsense/BS it really is very simple. Results in my 3.5 bubble bucket grow have blown away anything I have done in soil. Thank you for taking the time for your write up I am going to add a couple of things that I do that are very different than your method.

I also use 3.5 gallon buckets. First and foremost I do NOT want a sterile bucket. I see guys using DM Zone and Rez Clear and I just shake my head. Rez Clear is nothing more than watered down swimming pool shock and while DM Zone does not list anything on their MSDS general thoughts around the net say it's pretty close the same. DM claims it will KILL everything in your bucket.....that's just not good I want a very live bucket. I use Botanicare Hydroguard. It is LIVE bacillus bacteria. Two different ways to the same end but I would much rather use live and natural solution to prevent root rot and to keep my roots healthy vs. more chemical that KILL everything. Keep in mind I have no regard to bucket/rez/solution temps. My buckets are in the low 80's in the early part of my grows and never a sign of root rot!

On the topic of bucket maintenance....bucket/rez changes. I use ONLY RO/DI water. This whole change out once a week or once you replace the same volume of water as the bucket holds is starting to be proven more and more as a crock of bull. I was on the weekly( or more often as my plants will suck up over a gallon a day) change bandwagon myself. I chased PH almost daily. I now only do 3 or 4 bucket changes during a whole grow. Ph is rock solid and plants are much happier. Sure after a complete solution change PH will take a day or two to sort itself out and settle down but once it is I can do a bucket water top off, add back my given nute amounts and be spot on with my PH. In the early part of my grows I run a PH of 6.00. This idea was taken from a couple long time growers on different forums that do this for more than a hobby. I never need to mix out side of my bucket. Pre mixing outside the bucket just complicates things. I know what I need to add back to it to get to a set PPM level. You never once mention PPM levels in your write up only fractions of feeding chart levels, which of course are useless for us auto growers....i.e. 1/4, 1/2 etc. I feel knowing your PPM level is VERY important and the only way to know what your plant is uptaking. I top off my bucket and bring my PPM levels back in check twice daily.

As for when to add nutes to your system. That is also very much open for debate. While most growers use standard net pots. I use Rhizocore net pot/bucket tops. My roots don't have to fight their way through grow media for a week or longer to get into the rez. My method has a tap root in the bucket within 2 days from sprout. By day 3 I have a tap root a few inches long into my bucket already. I start giving nutes of 100/150 PPM at this time and NO I don't get nute burn. Having to wait 2 weeks before feeding just puts a plant behind the 8 ball. A plant can and will use nutes well before 14 days old. By day 14 my tap root/root system is already like a small horse tail. Even other more experienced growers using standard net pot hydro systems feed before 2 weeks.

Like I said there is two ways( or more )to skin a cat. What works for one person might not work for someone else. I think at the end of the day the important thing is to know your system like the back of your hand. Know how it reacts and know how to control it and not let it control you. I see to many beginners get caught in chasing rabbits with DWC and try to fix problems they don't even have with products they neither need nor know what they do.
Man I am so buying those Rhizo netpots. I saw your journal 2 days after I ordered 2 normal pots and I was so mad lol. It took me at least 12 days to get roots in the water. Definitely the first change i'm making when my grow is over. It seems like you and I are pretty much the only active people who don't change the res out much. I'm at d47 and 1 res change. We should make a thread about it to let other people know there is a different way to do things.




@greenjeans Nice post bro. I did it very similar to your guide when I did my first dwc bucket. Even though I ran into root problems at the end of the grow It was still my best yield and biggest plant up to that point for a while. My current plant has topped everything though ;D
 

greenjeans

Hydroponic Heretic
Feb 16, 2015
793
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@greenjeans Nice post bro. I did it very similar to your guide when I did my first dwc bucket. Even though I ran into root problems at the end of the grow It was still my best yield and biggest plant up to that point for a while. My current plant has topped everything though ;D
I had root problems in the beginning too. I did cure the root rot with physan 20 I believe it is called? I then discovered and used Zone for the rest of that grow. I ended up harvesting early, but I did save the plant. Since then, I have used The Gold Range Zone, and Even at the end of my grows, there is not a slick spot to be found in my res. It is as clean as the first day I filled it, with the exception of any gunk from the rocks.