You may have heard of hydroponics, coco, or even living soil — these are different grow mediums. To help you understand the different methods, here is a deep dive into different growing mediums. By the end of this guide, you will be able to choose which medium you think will be best for your grow as each method is used for different reasons. Medical growers tend to grow organically, while those with commercial gains usually grow in hydroponics.
Let’s take a closer look at grow mediums, so you can make a well-informed decision about what would suit your needs best. If you are new to growing cannabis, then don’t worry; you can get help with your grow no matter which medium you are growing in. Get help over at our friend’s site, Percys Grow Room. They are a very friendly cannabis growers forum, and are always happy to help. So though some of these grow methods might seem complex, you can get all the help you need over at Percys.
The Various Growing Mediums
There are two main types of growing medium you may have heard of: soil and hydro. Though, on the surface, it seems as if this is a simple choice, there are different kinds of soil to grow in, and many types of hydroponic grow systems. Firstly, we will break down the different types of soil you can use to grow cannabis. We will discuss the pros and cons, and reasons why you should consider growing in soil, or if there is another method that may suit you best.
Growing Cannabis In Soil
Cannabis grown outdoors, is usually planted in the ground. This is soil. Soil is a mixture of different things, like clay, silt, and decaying organic matter. Soil in the ground comes in different grades. Some will be poor for growing, but some will be good. Most growers will buy their soil in bags and use that to grow their cannabis.
Growing in soil is simple and straight-forward. You plant your seeds in it and let it grow. You will need to feed the plant and water it, but only a couple of times a week. Some soils will have a lot of food in them for the plants; this can be known as “Hot Soil”. When you grow plants in soil, you only have to water them 2 or 3 times a week. This makes soil growing easy to maintain if you are very busy and do not have time to tend to your crop often.
Growing Cannabis in Soil From Bags
When you plant seedlings or young plants in soil from bags, it is a good idea to use a potting mix to prevent the plants from being overfed. This will reduce the risk of excess and toxicity problems. Soils from bags will have nutrients in them that will be used by your plant for a number of weeks, before more food is needed. This means you will give your plants only water for the first few weeks of their lives, reducing the cost of nutrients.
Some growers claim that growing in soil will give you a smaller yield compared to growing in hydroponics. This is because soil does not allow air into the root zone easily, and this is an important factor. A cannabis plant likes lots of air to get to the root zone. This helps the plant drink and eat more. Because soil is more compact than other mediums for growing, it can be harder for air to get to the roots.
The main appeal of growing cannabis in soil is the fact that you can grow organically. This is good if you intend to grow cannabis for medicinal use. Though you can use salt-based nutrients to grow cannabis in soil, most growers prefer to grow organically.
Living soil is usually “built” by a grower. You can source ingredients locally and build your own with the qualities you want. This soil will be high in microbes and nutrition for your plants. Organic soil consists of organic materials. The materials are eaten and broken down by the bacteria in the medium, and then your plants can eat it. Salt-based nutrients are chemically altered to be available to your plant straight away. Organics are completely natural but will need time to be broken down before being available to the plant.
If you have a good, well-built living soil, then your plants will only ever need to be watered — you will not have to feed them. Instead, you will “top dress” the soil or use cover crops to help keep the soil healthy and full of nutrition. It can be difficult to find all of the exact ingredients you need for living soil, but if you’re thinking about growing cannabis in soil, then this would be a great option for you. Not only does growing organically bring you clean, tasty buds, but there is far less impact on the environment, too. Chemical fertilizers can have a negative effect on ecosystems if they are not disposed of correctly.
Pros and Cons of Growing Cannabis in Soil
Each growing medium comes with its own unique set of pros and cons. Based on the following list, you can make an educated decision on which type of medium works best for your lifestyle and personal preferences.
- Very easy to grow
- Cheaper than other mediums
- Easy to source
- Can be left for days without needing water
- You can grow organically
- Slight reduction in yield
- Defeciencies can take longer to fix
- Can be more susceptable to bugs
- Easy to over-water
- Less air to the root zone
What are Soilless Mediums?
Before we take a deep dive into different growing mediums for full hydroponics systems, there is a middle ground we should cover. Some mediums are not soil but are also not full water-growing systems. Though these mediums are not full hydro, they are still considered, and treated, as hydroponics. All a plant needs to grow is a good medium that will hold its roots and a good supply of air, food, and water.
Soilless mediums are an awesome way to grow. They can bring a lot more air to the root zone than growing in soil. This is said to improve the final yield of the plant, but, like anything, this is up for debate. You have a lot of control over what is available to your plant and when, when you grow in soilless mediums. You will use salt-based nutrients that can easily be added or removed from the medium to ensure the plant is getting the right amount. Not too much; not too little.
One of the most popular soilless mediums is called coco. Coco is seen as one of the best mediums for growing cannabis and is a good middle ground between hydro and soil.
Growing Cannabis in Coco
Coco is one of the most popular mediums for growing cannabis. It has great drainage and air-to-water ratio. This means your plants’ roots can get more air than plants grown in soil. Unlike soil, coco will be void of nutrients, and plants grown in coco will need to be fed straight away.
This is good for some growers, as you know exactly what your plant is getting with each feed. Plants grown in coco will also need to be fed daily. This can discourage some growers, as it can be time consuming. Not only should you feed your plants every day in coco, but you should also remove the run off. This can also be time consuming, especially when you have to do it everyday for at least three months.
There are plenty of automated feeding systems, and drainage systems too, that will help make growing in coco easier. But even though daily watering may seem like a chore, coco is a perfect medium for new growers.
Pro and Cons of Growing in Coco
Still on the fence about which growing medium is best? You might go loco for coco!
- Easy to grow in
- Fix deficiencies quickly
- Decent yields
- Lots of air to the root zone
- Needs daily watering to keep coco moist
- Needs 10% run off with every feed
- Run off must be collected or drained away
- Can be time consuming
Different Kinds of Hydroponic Grow Systems
Though coco and soilless mediums are considered hydroponics, when you think of hydro, you think of plants grown in water. Many plants can be grown hydroponically, not just cannabis. In this type of grow, the plant is supported above the water level, and the roots hang down into the water. This is where it gets its nutrients, water, and air.
There are many ways to grow cannabis in hydro, but the principle is always the same: the roots hang in a nutrient solution, and air is delivered to them via an airstone. Because the roots have access to a lot of air, water, and nutrients, plants grown in hydro are said to grow much quicker than plants that are grown in soil.
Hydroponic setups can be expensive, but you can buy setups that are completely automated if you have enough in your budget. This means you can leave your plants for a week, sometimes even longer, and they will be fine. As long as you have reliable equipment, your plants can still be fed and watered without you being there. This makes hydro a great option for people who may be too busy to tend to their crop often or work away from home.
Deep Water Culture (DWC)
Deep water culture is when a plant is grown in a bucket of water and an airstone provides air to the root zone. DWC can have multiple plants all linked up together in one “reservoir.” Each plant will have around 25 litres of water for the root zone to grow in. And it can be all root!
Growing cannabis in DWC can bring huge plants with massive yields, but the initial set-up can be expensive. You will need buckets, pumps, airstones, and other equipment, depending on how you would like to grow. Fully automated systems can be pricey, but it is easy enough to maintain the levels by hand if you’re only growing a couple of plants.
N.F.T. Nutrient Film Technique
In NFT systems, plants are placed in a tray or tube. One end is lower than the other. A pump delivers water from a reservoir to one end. The water runs through the roots, and is then drained at the other end of the tray. This water is then added back to the reservoir and recirculated.
The pump is on a timer, and every 15 minutes or so, the water is pumped through the roots again, and drained. This allows the plants to drink, then get some air before the next feeding. NFT is easy to make yourself at home with a bit of equipment. You can also buy full set ups that are automated and will adjust the pH and EC of the reservoir to ensure the feed is always on point.
Pros and Cons of Growing in Hydroponics
The last mainstream growing medium relies on hydroponics. Could this be your perfect fit?
- Big yields
- Grow many plants in one resevoir
- Lots of air to the roots
- Defeciencies can be fixed quickly
- Can be fully automated
- Extra equipment needed
- Can be noisier due to pumps and air stoned
- If pump breaks, the crop can die quickly
- Takes consistent maintenance to keep levels optimal
In aeroponics, a plant is suspended in an empty tub or bucket. A pump then sprays a nutrient solution on to the roots. A plant grown in aeroponics will sit in the mist of a fine spray of nutrient solution. The roots will be kept damp and have constant access to air, too.
Setting up an aeroponics grow can be expensive, so you don’t see many growers using this method. Also, you need reliable equipment when you grow with aeroponics. If your pumps or misters break, your crop will die very quickly.
Think about what works best for you. In my opinion, if you have time to tend to your plants every day, you should go with coco. Not only do you feed the plants every day, but you also visit them and spend time with them. The more time you spend with your plants, the more likely you to spott a problem if you have one.
If you can only tend to your plant 2-3 times a week, growing in soil is a good option. You may get a slightly smaller yield, but the buds will be high-quality and tasty. For people who grow cannabis for medical use, living soil is what you should be growing in. Most medicinal cannabis users prefer an organic product, as it is chemical-free, and natural. Also, a proper living soil, will only need water and some top dressing throughout the grow.There is no money spent on nutrients at all, but be ready to fight bugs.
Maybe you like the sound of full hydroponics and have the budget to get the best equipment. If that is the case, then go for it! Growing cannabis is relatively easy, you can do it, no matter what medium you choose. There is help for you online! Check out Percysgrowroom.com. They have a cannabis growers forum and an awesome growing community. Signing up and becoming a member will give you access to experienced growers, competitions, and discount codes for cannabis seeds.
All you have to do is choose which medium you want to grow in, and move forward from there. Thanks for reading! Good luck with your grow.