Interview: Growing Autoflowers in DWC with Cocha

It is a great pleasure to speak to our friend, Cocha, who decided to share with us something about himself and to reveal some tips and tricks about growing autoflowers in hydro (DWC).

You already expect this question so I won’t disappoint you :Happy:  How did you come across cannabis and when did you start growing?

Cocha: I have had canna around my whole life really. My parents were hippies – I was born in the 70s! Can remember seeing and smelling Moroccan hash about the place as a kid until my Dad hid it away  :Overjoy:
Next was soap bar in my teens, right trough my 20’s and so on with an occasional bag of skunk here n there! That’s how I rolled for years, always loved to smoke, but knew there was much nicer weed out there. Very rarely got to smoke some lush hash from some of Dads’ friends visiting from Spain or somewhere.

Jump forward to 2008, I had a bad bike accident that put me out of work and house bound for 18 months, in a lot of pain and bored. That’s when I thought about growing but met a girl, moved in with her and left it at that until we split… I ended up with my own place in the middle of nowhere, wishing I could be smoking good weed for once.
I did some research on the net… looked at videos on YouTube and found an awesome DWC-LED AUTO grow that blew my mind. Under the video was a link to AFN. I visited the site, found the grower who grew the plant and read everything he had shared there until I had enough of an idea of what DWC was about. I collected enough kit to give hydro a go for the first time. That was 2012 – when I first started to take the idea of growing seriously. As you know, Stone, the rest is history!

It is not a secret for our regular readers that you grow in DWC.  So you watched a video about DWC and LED and got hooked up to give it a try.  How did you start?  Did someone help you?

Cocha:It was that first intro video I watched on YouTube. I loved it so much & wanted monster plants like that in my tent. As a total noob on my first canna forum I was advised to grow in soil & attempt hydro once the basics had been learned hands on as hydro is for experts. Unfortunately soil was not an option, I had already bought t he hydro kit & no more cash for anything else. So I kept on trying & had killed a few poor seedlings by now until I started a thread to kind of reach out for some help & got the help I needed from my good friend KushTDog (cheers bro!). He was doing hydro & already friends with SB, the OG DWC main man whose grows had inspired me. The plant started to grow, things went well with KushT’s help & that first plant (blue mammoth) came in over 200 g.
Basically I got a lot of 1 on 1 help from almost the horses mouth & after all the research I had done, that was all I needed to grow nice buds.

Why autos? What do you like about autoflowering cannabis?

Cocha: Simply my first intro to growing was AFN and autos. I knew very little other than they flower automatically and finish faster – couple that with the yields I saw from the top boys I was sold. Photos never even crossed my mind until recently. Only grown a few photos but understand they both have their place for sure. It’s good to have variety in your grows so do plan on running both for a while and I get to try a few famous strains that have had me drooling for years !
I have some good online friends in the auto world and it wouldn’t be the same not growing with them. The people I learned from mostly grow autos. I just love them! They’re cute little underdogs that on a good day can cut it as good as any photo-period plant .
Plus it’s nice to be involved in something kinda new, auto’s are always progressing thanks to people like you. The last few years have seen them take off and they will get better all the time.

Maybe lots of people think: “Oh, well, hydro is easy. You stuck the beans in water with some nutrients and they grow.” What do beginners need to know before they start?


Cocha: In hind sight the best advise to a new hydro grower is: “Do lots of learning and research first. Don’t even buy anything before getting advise from an expert and don’t try to save money on cheap equipment.” That’s a big one for sure… sooooo many times have I been caught out by failing equipment. The meters you need especially. I would have saved myself a lot of time, money & dead seedlings if I had joined a forum sooner or asked at my local head shop and got that advise I needed on proper kit and lighting etc. A few of those babies died of UV radiation (or something like that) thanks to the nasty cheap LED lights I got from China. As soon as I replaced that dog with the GrowNorthern LED suggested to me on the forums the plants blew up. How bad is that people? I bought a light that was killing my plants! These days I’m more than happy to point people in the direction of these good products to save them the trouble I had.

You kind of need a passion to grow with hydro. You probably will fail once or twice but don’t give up. A bit of determination is good, but no amount of that will help if you have a dodgy PPM meter!
You won’t just put them in water & watch then grow… hydro is hands on, committed work that cancels holidays & such like. You can’t leave hydro for a few days and take a break, it requires at least some of your time every day – a good few hours one day per week for reservoir changes etc.

Thanks for agreeing to reveal your special “ DWC Cocha method”. Imagine you are talking to someone who has no clue of hydro. Where do you start?

Cocha: Assuming you have all the right kit… have done your research and are ready to go? Good. All round grow conditions need to be maintained religiously through the whole grow. If one aspect of your environment is out, the whole system can fall apart very very fast. High grow room temperatures will make the res temperatures go up & so on.
You take it day by day to start, as this is the most crucial time, checking regularly pH & EC. If week one goes well you increase the feed by around 0.2 EC in week two & so on, until the plants feeding habits have an effect on the pH & EC in the res. Then you can monitor that shift and tell if she is hungry or overfed… adjust and find the sweet spot. Keep the plant in that zone where the feed is right and everything else goes smoothly. While many other variable grow conditions can have a play… A good tip I learned was if EC rises & pH drops, you’re overfeeding and need to drop the EC-by around 0.2 and vice versa.

Do you use any nutrients from the beginning? 

day 45 mango's wide girl
SourD Mango

Cocha: Less is more with hydro – it’s better to be underfeeding than overfeeding. I like to start nutes once the first tap root hits the res after showing through the bottom of the net pot. You can run water for a few days longer or less maybe – this is just one method, but by then their first true leaves are there and they start to respond to what’s happening in the bucket. The first 1-3 weeks I use just root stimulator & hydro seedling feed  like “Formulex” or “Canna Start”. They have a low NPK ratio and really help if growing Autos in hydro… with photo-period you could get nutes going sooner with light veg instead.

It’s a common mistake for new growers to want to add there whole range to make the babies grow faster :Overjoy:  This completely overwhelms seedlings with stuff they don’t need or want until a lot later in the grow. Often the grower will think the remedy is to add even more of something, then their pH goes crazy and within a few days the seedling is toast. Root stimulator and baby feed with a low EC is good for the first week or two, maybe three.

This may sound funny to you but probably lots of people are wondering how do you know if the roots develop properly.

Cocha: Hands on growing at the start… I check every morning with young plants as they are most vulnerable – if you see anything other than bright white healthy roots you got a problem. This is my biggest fear/issue & that of all hydro growers. Any type of “stuff” on your roots or in the res is bad. Could be Algae, slime, rot or even little critters there. If all is well the res looks clean, clear and the roots look white and healthy. The difference is easy to see – the plant reacts soon after any problems occur.

 So the plant is growing now and you are off to the pub while it does its thing, right? What is your daily routine with hydro grow?

Cocha: It depends on the grow. If all is well than the pub sounds great! I can do a quick pH check and know they’re fine for a few hours no problem. If I was having a bad time I may have to pass on a pint until I’ve changed the res and got them (hopefully) sorted again.

Unless you live in a desert hydro grow sounds like a humidity issue. How do you deal with humidity?

Cocha: It is an issue in the UK so a desert sounds nice. A dehumidifier is ideal but a radiator to keep temperatures up a bit  – an open window in the flat is how I roll right now. Silly things like not having soil plants with run off in there saucers helps and general good ventilation. I need to get the RH down a bit if possible – a dehumidifier is on the cards.

I am not going to ask you how much is your water or electricity bill but how time-consuming is hydro grow? Do you think it requires more resources than all other methods?

Cocha: Sounds like the Que for a shameless plug on these new LED’s I’m using, Stone! Right now my 1.2m tent has 5 girls all under 150 watts and doing great. I have always used LED to keep electric bills down, but have recently just halved that cost again thanks to Grownorthens new Holographic series 1. I still have to finish this first test grow with them to confirm results, but looking good! Water bills are a bit extra but nothing drastic.

Which are the most common issues growers could experience in hydro?

Cocha: Reservoir temperatures are a big one, can cause a whole range of issues like root rot & algae if it gets to high. pH drifting too far, followed by lockout if it’s not kept in range. Calibrate meters often to help avoid this. Ca & Mg deficiency is a common one and you tend to use more of that with hydro.

All sound like a lot of hard work? Whats the benefit to growing in soil?

Cocha: It is hard work but the reward is the size of the plants you grow and obviously the yield they produce. Plus if you are doing everything right hydro grows can seem easy with a simple daily pH & EC check, maybe adjust and you are good for the rest of the day. When that happens and you grow a beast, there’s nothing better & personally I struggle to get anything close to these yields in soil, so need hydro to keep me in enough buds until the next grow is ready (I smoke a lot :Overjoy: )

DWC is a higher risk/reward ratio!

What about yield? There is still a myth that yield of autos is poor. What is the average yield  you get from autos – in soil and hydro?

Cocha: Average with hydro is around 200 g per plant I guess. Best ever was close to 400 g. If things go wrong I still usually get over 100g. Soil (for me) is harder as I have put all effort into hydro upto now – 50-80 g is close to what I get from airpots right now but still have that to dial in. That is nice for a fast 70-80 day cycle and viable numbers if applied to the SOG V meter square seed companies use. More a dogma than a myth maybe…

Bloodstone in mini DWC by Cocha 2013
Bloodstone in mini DWC by Cocha 2013

You are one of the few people who grow regular seeds in hydro. Do you have any special spell or fairy dust to turn the seeds into female plants? 

Cocha: I did make some clever mini DWC buckets to sex regs in. The main issue being the 20 liters of nutes every week for each seedling you go through if using normal oxypot buckets… just to get 1 girl and still no 100% guarantee of that. Three buckets using 3 litters each increases my odds of getting the girl 2-1 fav, plus I save 100 liters of nutes & it becomes viable… just!

What kind of nutrients do you use? Any recommendations for different nutrients in different stages?

Cocha: The baby feed at the start is a good idea. Bigbud is the only supplement I know of tailored for early bloom, so I use that and work up to PK boost week from there with the standard bloom booster (canna boost in my case). I try to only add what’s needed if I can (not easy). Ca/Mg, for example, starts in week 3 at 5 ml & gets increased by 1-2 ml each week unless I notice defficiency. This stops left over calmag she can’t consume from concentrating in the res, leading to imbalance. Regular res changes once a week also help avoid this.

Is there a trick of growing autoflowering cannabis on hydro? Meaning, there are hundreds ways to stunt a plants from the very beginning so how do you avoid this?

Cocha: I still stunt and kill plants sometimes! I think most of it has been covered above but all the general rules that apply to autos still apply in hydro. They do need that bit of extra tlc, but reward you for with the early yields and that’s why we all love them I guess.

Special thanks to Cocha for sharing his valuable experience and tips on hydro. Don’t forget to follow his grows to learn more  :Happy:

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