Hempy is a cheap and very simple hand watered drain-to-waste system. All it takes is a bucket with a hole in the side, filled with perlite. A 10 l (2.5 gal) bucket with a pencil sized drain hole 2 inches from the bottom is a good size for hemp-sized plants. You’ll have to start the plants in a smaller container, usually from clones or a rockwool cube. The hole creates a reservoir on the bottom of the bucket, from which water and nutrients are wicked up by the growing medium. Pure perlite (fairly coarse) works fine, but some prefer to add a little vermiculite or coco coir. Water every other day, or as needed, until water flows out of the drainage hole. Skipping nutrients every 3-7 waterings is common (but might not be necessary), to flush the growing media.
The method of growing with a hempy bucket started way back in the early 80s. Now, this method has spread to growers all over the world – even in the most remote locations.
This basic method of cultivation, with the right environment conditions, will result in your cannabis plants flourishing. Even if you’re new to growing cannabis, you can implement this method and succeed without many issues.
One of the best things about the hempy bucket method is its flexibility in the mediums the grower can use. Some growers have reported better results using coco instead of the traditional perlite and vermiculite mix. Others have reported success only using straight perlite.
To make one, you will need
- A 20L black plastic bucket (important that it’s black, as this will keep light out of the root zone and prevent algae from growing in the reservoir);
- A drill with a quarter inch or half inch drill bit;
- A tray or saucer to catch run-off;
- A mix of 3 parts perlite and 1 part vermiculite;
- Any decent hydroponic nutrient.
Drill a hole on the side of the bucket, 2 inches from the base. Fill the bucket with the perlite / vermiculite mix and pot up your plant (the plant should be root bound in a propagation block). Water from above until you see run-off coming out of the hole on the side of the bucket. The base of the bucket is now a reservoir, effectively mimicking the water table that a plant feeds from when naturally growing outdoors.
For the first 2 weeks the plant will need to be watered little and often – every other day – as its root’s fill the bucket and head towards the reservoir at the bottom. Once the roots reach the reservoir, the growth is phenomenal! The watering is then reduced to twice a week, hand water with nutrient solution until you have achieved around 30% run-off, then you can be sure that you’ve replaced the old nutrients in the reservoir and have drawn fresh oxygen into the root zone.
The hempy bucket offers the constant supply of nutrient, water and oxygen that leads to rapid growth and massive buds. When the roots hit that reservoir at the bottom of the bucket your plant will fly! They’re also less maintenance than a hydro system, as you only check your EC and pH when you feed, rather than monitoring a nutrient tank.
The only downside is that planting up in a relatively large container from the start may mean a longer than usual veg period, so using a larger bucket may not be so suitable if you’re growing small Autoflowering varieties. In which case, simply use a smaller bucket like a 5L or 10L. Alternatively, if you like the idea of very big plants, you could even give a 25L or 30L black bucket a go.
So what type of grower are the hempy buckets good for?
• New growers – when starting out from fresh, there is so much to think about when growing indoors that it makes sense to simplify the actual feeding of your plants. Using a hempy bucket with a built-in reservoir, turns watering into a twice-weekly task… rather than a daily chore. This allows you to concentrate on mastering the basics of your grow room; lights, extraction and fighting the urge to trim off your first buds as soon as you spot them! Newbies scouting for a fail-safe system should look no further, hempy buckets could well be your saviour!
• Nervous over-waterers! – there’s no denying that there is a certain type of grower, usually ones that have easy access to their plants and keep them in their home, who just can’t help checking up on them and having a fiddle! The temptation to ‘just give them a bit extra’ can be so strong, that they eventually over water or over feed. Hempy buckets are ideal for this type of grower, because they allow you to set a strict feeding schedule of watering every 3 days. If you’re still desperate to fiddle with your plants, check out an article on pruning.
• Growers on a budget – if you’re starting a grow on a tight budget and don’t have too much cash to splash on your grow set up, head to your local shop and pick yourself up a few black plastic 20L buckets and a couple of bags of perlite and vermiculite. You can create a hempy bucket set up for a lower price than some quality pots and two bags of soil – and you’ll most likely score a better yield! The perlite can also be washed and reused, saving a little bit more money. All good grow shops stock buckets, perlite and vermiculite, so get them from there rather than the big chain DIY places. Support your local grow shops!
• Growers who like BIG plants – when growing your own, it’s all about getting maximum yield with minimal risk. To avoid getting caught with your hands dirty, it’s generally accepted that less is more. Hempy buckets are a great option for pulling more yield off fewer plants. Check the US forums; you’ll see hempy buckets being used extensively … the plants look like tress!
Here are a few hempy hints and tips for those of you who are itching to give it a go:
Use a quality hydroponic nutrient. It may sound obvious but, when using a reservoir in a passive set-up, organic nutrients will spoil as quickly as they would in active hydro, possibly even quicker as there is no pump to agitate or oxygenate the solution. In hempy buckets you’ll need a good quality, mineral feed.
You can, in theory, start plants in any growing medium and transfer them to your buckets. But, in practice, to avoid transplant shock and keep things clean, try to use a hydroponic medium like coco, rockwool or even a pot of vermiculite and perlite mixed. You can still use a sponge starter cube, like a Root Riot, if you wish.
Plants grown in hempy buckets can get BIG; particularly if you’re using larger buckets, like a 25L or 30L. Plan your space accordingly; you don’t want to overcrowd your room. Also, it’s a good idea to invest in some bamboo canes, yoyos or nets to support those large buds!
Keep your grow room clean and safe; invest in some large saucers or a tray to catch run off after watering your buckets.
Experiment with your growing media. Some growers like to use a 3:1 perlite / vermiculite mix, some like to use straight perlite. Some even like to fill the reservoir of their buckets with perlite or clay pebbles and then add coco on top. Half of the fun of growing your own is experimenting, try a few methods out and see what works for you.
So, there you have it; want to cut down on your watering workload and grow bigger plants? Get the drill out, get yourself some plastic buckets and give it a go.