There are two main directions that growers can take when it comes to cannabis. The first is to plant your cannabis in a regular grow medium, such as soil, while the second is growing through the use of hydroponics.
Growing in Soil
Soil is a very natural grow medium and cannabis plants do quite well when provided rich soil with good drainage. As a result, the use of soil as a grow medium has been a preferred method for growers for many years. However, as with any method, using soil for your cannabis grow has its own set of pros and cons.
Benefits of Soil for Cannabis
The use of soil is a traditional growing method and is often a great place for beginners to start and those with solid green thumbs. Soil can be used in both indoor and outdoor grows, making it a versatile option for growers. In addition, soil is able to self-regulate to a point, which makes it a very forgiving grow medium for beginners or inattentive growers.
While well suited to beginners, a lot of experts also agree that soil is the best method and have found that it produces a more flavorful yield due to the high nutrient content. Another benefit to soil is that there are a wide variety of soils and options available such as soil with perlite for increased drainage, high quality soil options with a higher nutrient content, and even homemade soil. This type of grow medium also ensures a very natural end product – assuming that the grower uses natural and organic fertilizers and nutrients to feed their grow.
If you do choose soil for your cannabis grow, you will want a soil that provides good drainage and has a high nutrient content to reduce supplementation and improve your bud quality.
Cons of Soil for Cannabis
Despite the many benefits of soil, there are some drawbacks. The first is that planting in soil traditionally takes up much more space than a hydroponics grow. This is fine for most home growers who are only growing a few plants, or for smaller greenhouse grows but can be trickier for larger grows looking to plant hundreds of seeds.
In addition, soil can be expensive as it needs to be replaced after each grow as the nutrition has been drained during the previous grow cycle. However, this often depends on the size of the grow as replacing soil for a handful of plants more affordable than an entire hydroponics grow. However, when you’re growing hundreds of plants, the cost can easily skyrocket.
Lastly, while it produces better flavor, the use of soil does not seem to provide the high yields that hydroponics can achieve. Moreover, plants grown in soil can take longer to grow depending on how well the soil (and grower) are meeting nutrition needs.
What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is a growing method that uses water to deliver nutrients to the plants. This particular method uses any type of grow medium – except soil – such as gravel, coco coir, sand, mister air, vermiculite, peat moss, perlite, hydroton or sometimes just water itself.
In addition to the multiple grow medium options for hydroponics, there are also five different styles of hydroponic growing:
This particular hydroponic method uses a grow chamber that suspends the roots of the plant in the air providing no medium aside from a closed-loop system. The plants receive nutrients by way of nutrient-rich water that is doused on the base of the plants. The benefit to this option is that the plants are in an oxygen-rich environment, allowing them to better process the nutrients provided.
- Deep Water Culture
This hydroponic method utilizes a bucket of nutrients (or “bubblers”), which the plants are suspended above. This allows the roots grow into the nutrients within. The benefit of this option is it utilizes an aquarium pump to fill the bubblers with air, which mixes in with the nutrients. This provides the plant with plenty of oxygen, in tandem with nutrients, which speeds up growth and improves the end product.
- Drip Irrigation
Perhaps one of the simpler hydroponic methods, drip irrigation feeds each plant individually in their own chamber. The nutrients are fed to the grow medium through the use of a small dripper and the nutrients are then recycled to be used again – as with most of the hydroponic options.
- Nutrient Film
The Nutrient Film Technique hangs plants in a tray above a gulley, wherein a nutrient solution is pumped through to provide a shallow and slow-moving film that feeds through the plants roots. This method provides the plants continual access to water and nutrients, as well as good oxygen flow, to increase growth speed and improve yields.
The final hydroponics method is known as Ebb-And-Flow, which uses a medium, such as rockwool to produce, to produce high yields. The Ebb-And-Flow method stimulates a natural rain cycle, giving your cannabis grow a more natural environment.
Each of these methods provides a different alternative to growing but all have the same premise of utilizing water and airflow to improve nutrient uptake and overall yield.
Benefits of Hydroponic for Cannabis
Hydroponics is quickly becoming the preferred method of many growers! This particular grow method works to maximize yields by providing just the right amount of nutrients to your cannabis plants. Furthermore, it nearly eliminates soil-borne diseases and pests due to the lack of soil and the indoor nature of hydroponic grows. With indoor grows, the entire environment is heavily monitored and controlled from nutrients to lighting to airflow. For this reason, problems are easier to correct as each element of the grow is under tight control.
Another benefit to hydroponics is that it takes up much less space than a full soil grow, and can often produce quicker results due to the higher nutrition and heavily controlled grow environment. Likewise, much of hydroponic grows can be automated through the use of bubbleponics and deep water culture.
Cons of Hydroponics for Cannabis
Despite the positives, there are some drawbacks to the use of hydroponics. The first is that the finished bud tends to lack the same, full flavor that you get with a soil grow. Secondly, there is a lot more maintenance required when it comes to cleaning the equipment and the overall grow needs more care and attention. The time required to maintain the environment and the initial set-up cost for a hydroponic grow, are often the biggest con for beginners or for individuals that are not fully invested in their cannabis garden.
When it comes to making a decision regarding whether to use soil or hydroponics, there are a few things to consider:
- Is your grow indoors or outdoors? While soil can be used in both, hydroponics is best left for indoor only.
- How much space do you have available for your grow?
- Whether your goal is better flavor (craft cannabis) or higher yields (commercial growing)
- How much time do you have to maintain your crop and grow medium?
When broken down into a few basic components, the decision of whether to use soil or hydroponics can become very clear.
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