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Grow mediums and their differences

Added 12 June 2021

Introduction

Cannabis growing is on the rise in all parts of the world and if we look into this we can see a few different methods of growing. In this article, we will be taking a closer look at the 3 main different types of mediums that we can use. The growing medium is where your root system gets developed and the most common medium is soil because it is so abundant and easy to use and also cheap to start with, and then we also have the mediums of growing soilless ( coco/perlite mixes ) or using a hydroponic system to create those lovely flowers aka buds. One thing is for sure, as long as a cannabis plant has the room to grow and develop roots that can take up all the necessary water, oxygen, and nutrients, it will thrive no matter what growing medium is being used and all of these methods have their own advantages and disadvantages but also a different cost in material and in this article we will be trying to go over as much as we can! Let's take a look!

The different possibilities

The very first little word of advice to start off here is the following : there is no "best way for growing cannabis" to my humble opinion9. With all types of mediums, the things that really matter are the experience and the right knowledge of the grower itself to achieve the maximum quality. If there was a competition between the world's best growers of all mediums available, the quality will all be the same in the end ( therefore in many cannabis cups there are separate awards for the different types of mediums ). These are the main three categories of growing mediums :

  1. Soil
  2. Soilless ( coco/perlite mix or rockwool )
  3. Hydroponics

Advantages and disadvantages

Between the three types of mediums, there are a bunch of advantages and disadvantages to take in mind even before thinking about the cost of the whole deal. Some growers will prefer a certain method because all of them are quite different and there are more than a few things to take in mind, especially for the starters among us! Let us take a look at the main advantages and disadvantages. And below each type, we have mentioned one of our platforms growers to show you that with each medium quality is achievable!

Advantages :

  • Soil :
    When it comes to the easiest way of growing, choosing soil is by far the favorite by many growers just for this reason alone. If you are a starting grower or just want to do it as natural and organic as possible, this is the way to do it. With only a bit of soil, water, and the right amount of light your plants will thrive, as long as your soil can provide the nutrients your plant needs. So keep in mind that replanting will have to be done after a certain amount of time, most soil will last you about one to a maximum of two months of growing before having to replant because all the nutrients have been used ( but this depends on the type of soil and size of your container and such ). Another great advantage of growing in soil is the fact that your PH-levels will stay more stable because it is the soil itself that regulates this. And the last thing, using the right soil and amount of natural compost will provide you the best-tasting weed of all methods mentioned in this article!
  • Soilless :
    Using a coco/perlite mix or using rockwool as a growing medium, you can sort of say that this is a combination between the regular growing in soil and using hydroponics and so it shares a few of both their advantages. The first to mention is the fact that these mixes and mediums have no nutrients in them, this means you are 100% in control of what your plant gets, from the start. A more experienced grower can handle this better than a starting one, but do not let this be a deterrent for you to start experimenting with this method. Another great advantage is the fact that you need little to no special equipment for this and you get a few other benefits such as the fact that your coco is a reusable source that, with the right experience, will make your plants grow faster than in soil!
    Rockwool is a bit different but is quickly on the rise as a good alternative. It is the same story for the nutrients, there is none present, so you are completely in control of that aspect! Mostly rockwool is used with a hydroponics system to be able to give the roots extra support instead of just "letting them hang". 
  • Hydroponics :
    Hydroponics is nothing new anymore but still, many growers seem to think it is overly complicated and difficult to learn, but this is not the case but I do recommend only starting this once you are comfortable with adjusting PH-levels and adding nutrients to a regular grow because this is the most demanding type of growing on those two levels. There are actually a few options that you can go for but basically, hydroponics is a way of growing where plants are suspended above a water solution, there are two main types of hydroponics, the first is a non-return system and the second is with a return system meaning your water keeps cycling through your garden and between those two there are several categories such as using drippers or deep water culture for example. The main advantages of using this method are your plants will grow faster as long as you can control the PH and nutrient levels in the water and there is less risk of pests or soil-based diseases. 

Disadvantages

  • Soil :
    Of all three types of mediums out there soil is the one where you will have the highest risk of infestations such as bugs but also mold and pests or fungus that can be quite hard to get rid of sometimes because many growers "read their plant but not their soil". Not only that, with this medium you will have the slowest growth but this does not mean you will have smaller or less potent harvests, they just take a bit longer to grow to the same size as with soilless growing or hydroponics! When you are a starting grower, make sure to read on what kind of soil is the best for cannabis growing because not all is the best compatible for this and can cause a lot of trouble in the future!
  • Soilless : 
    Now there are more than a handful of different types of soilless growing where growers use different materials and this goes from coco to a mix with using perlite and others. The main disadvantage, especially for those who have little experience, might struggle a bit more to give your plants the right amount of nutrients and also taking care of the PH-levels at all times. It will also turn out a bit more expensive because of the constant need of nutrients and coco is usually more expensive than regular soil, most people cannot even get their hands on it locally. Growing organic because difficult because of the nutrient need and when it comes to using rockwool in your grow, be aware that it is not biodegradable so it is far from an ecological way of growing! Take these in mind maybe for the future : peat, composted bark, pea gravel, sand, expanded clay, lava rock,...
  • Hydroponics :
    The first thing to make clear is that this is the most complicated way of growing because of the amount of equipment you need but have no fear. For the same price of a somewhat decent inside grow tent with lights and pots you can also get yourself a good small starting kit for hydroponics depending on how complicated you want to make it yourself. The biggest disadvantage of hydroponics is, from the start, you need to add nutrients to the water and also make sure to keep a close eye on your PH at all times. And when it comes to maintenance, there is a little more work to be done because of all the components used in this method. Also, there is a bigger chance of rotting roots because of the constant exposure to water but this is not the case with all hydroponic systems.

Conclusion

By far the cheapest of all methods is the simple outdoor grow in full soil, very little is needed to get started on this, and do not forget, if that is not possible, for some of us, guerilla growing might be the option to go for and will always be the cheapest of all methods, just be aware of your surroundings at all times! Indoor growing in the soil can also be done on a small budget and anybody who is a bit of a handy person will find many ways to save on money, no matter what the preferred medium is. The second most expensive method is the soilless growing with coco being the leader of the preferred medium in that section. This is simply because normal soil is easier to get your hands on and also because of the need for extra nutrients this makes it a bit more expensive. The most expensive way of growing is by far hydroponics but then again, this really depends mostly on how far the grower is willing to take it, and my advice is, start small to give yourself the time to learn all the different aspects. You can start for around the same budget as a more decent growing kit and the options are almost endless nowadays.

Let us know down in the comment section what your favorite medium is and what your experiences are!

References

Alternative Hydroponic Substrates - Bridget White ( 2004 )

3 tips for selecting growing media for cannabis - Patrick Williams ( 2019 )

This article has been updated June 2021






Comments

Agricola_Borealis
Agricola_Borealis

My favourite medium is the soil of my garden. Water comesfrom the sky, nutrition is added mostly outside the growing season, cannabisplants in the ground seem to be the last ones to suffer from drought, though some attention is necessary, in 2018 two newly planted apple trees nearly perished probably because a 2 meter high and more than 3 meters wide sucked all the water from below those trees. I wonder if things like having to feed forthe flowering process are of any relevancy when growing in the ground, If the roots go one meter deep (my garden is being drained well, and one and a half meters from the stem I have Pi r^2 is more than seven cubic meters of medium in which the pant can shop for nutrients. I dump a lot of organic material in the area most fit for my plants. Besides that, the difference between plants in pots or in the ground is like owning a dog and owning a cat.

DreamIT
DreamIT

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