55 Hydroponics Puts the Green in Green Thumbs

Photo by Nikki Nelsen

As Will Fennel walks through the store he works at, which sells everything for your home gardening needs, customers approach with questions—many of which concern growing cannabis.

Armstrong Garden Center, this is not. At 55 Hydroponics, Fennel will explain to guests seeking advice on any plant how much better hydroponic growing can be compared to sticking a seed or young plant into dirt outdoors. He sells a variety of soils and nutrients, and he and his staff are super-knowledgeable, especially when it comes to cannabis, as all have all grown the plant at one time or another.

Hydroponics should be someone’s first step, according to Fennel, who recommends visiting mom-and-pop shops such as his employer’s and comparing the experience to larger shops, where the staff might not be as knowledgeable. For example, a hydroponic store can teach you more about water conservation. Growing is a learning process, Fennel maintains, and the more you know, the better your plant is.

55 Hydroponics attracts large-scale industry growers who distribute to dispensaries in Orange and Los Angeles counties. Some even go to the store’s staff with their own growing questions. “We get to meet big-time growers because we do have a couple of clients in the legal world in the [recreational] market that are big players who produce great products,” Fennel says. “And I get to pick their brains all the time, which helps me become a better grower.”

For beginners, one can start with implementing the right soil and regular watering to see how the process works. The 55 Hydroponics staff also recommends against using too many nutrients when beginning to grow, as that could end up hurting the plant. “I tell everyone, ‘Just throw it in dirt and see how the plant grows,’” Fennel says. “That way, you don’t get discouraged and waste money on a lot of expensive nutrients that work, but they don’t necessarily know what they’re doing.”

Deciding where to grow, whether indoors or outdoors, comes down to price. People who choose outdoor growing have to be aware they are working with the environment, so extra care is important. The staff also recommends a butterfly net or pesticides to keep the bugs away, as well as using Monterrey B2 once a week to keep caterpillars off your plants.

Growing pot indoors requires a room or tent that will provide a full six hours of darkness when plants are premature and 12 total hours of night per day when they are mature. Lights and proper air exchange are also needed.

Photo by Nikki Nelsen

“When you are outdoors, you are at the mercy of the environment,” Fennel says. “Indoors, you can create your environment, and that’s the benefit there. Indoor-grown plants are a little more potent, but indoor to outdoor is just personal preference.”

For the more skilled growers, the 55 Hydroponics staff recommends deep-water culture growing to yield fuller and larger buds. “When you grow in that setting, you are using way less water, fewer nutrients, a lot less waste, [and] you get a bigger yield and everything else grows faster, so it’s just a little less of everything and you get more out,” Fennel says.

The shop also sells a variety of CBD products, which seems to have created its own customer base. “People come in just for CBD stuff,” Fennel says. “I don’t know how they even hear about it, but they come in and find it because it does work and it’s safe.”

Plans are afoot for 55 Hydroponics to host classes in the fundamentals of growing a variety of plants, including cannabis.

55 Hydroponics 1727 Boyd St., Santa Ana, (714) 259-7755; 55hydro.com.

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