The debate over hydroponic vs soil cannabis has actually become quite watered down over the years, this is largely due to the fact that the use of actual earth topsoil is no longer used indoors anymore. Topsoil is however still commonly used outdoors but even that is changing with the introduction of composted mediums that have less topsoil replaced with decomposing organic material, helping enhance a fuller and nutrient rich medium. Using compost helps growers accelerate things such as rot and the breaking down of organic matter, altering the chemical properties of the soil, the mineral content and the aeration and moisture retention within the medium. Compost is a great option as a slow release fertilizer, providing mineral elements to the medium during the plant’s life.
When choosing the best soil for your outdoor setup there are multiple factors to take in as not all soils are appropriate for growing cannabis. Factors such as the specific type of cannabis you’re growing, the location you are growing in such as your backyard or the wild and the climate you are dealing with. Here we’ll look at the common occurrences you want when picking the right soil for your grow.
When growing cannabis it prefers a light and loose soil texture that isn’t restrictive. This allows for the roots to move freely during its developments allowing for oxygen to reach the roots more freely and increasing the optimization of the plants growth and overall health.
Like most things in the world, retaining water is a game changer, and soil for your cannabis is no different. When watering your plants you want to make sure that the water pools on the top of the soil. If the soil isn’t providing the right drainage it will result in your plant getting sick with the potential of dying.
No different then good drainage, water retention is vital in the survival of your plant. The ability to retain and hold water gives your plant an adequate life source, a good cannabis soil will have both good drainage and water retention.
pH is what determines how acidic or how alkaline is in your plant. Cannabis plants flourish in a specific pH level and going over or under can be problematic. The average range you want your pH level at is about 5.8-6.3 with the optimal level being 6.0 pH.
One of the key elements of your cannabis plants growing big and strong comes down to adequate nutrients, feeding your cannot be understated. When buying soil, almost every bag will feature its own amount of nutrients, however there is a catch. Most nutrients in soil only last to a maximum of 3-4 weeks, this means when the flower process begins, your soil will just be a pile of dirt and your plant will be completely depleted of nutrients. It’s important to know this as you will need to add your own nutrients to the plant to help make sure it continues to grow properly. When you add your own nutrients you should ensure your soil contains organic substances like compost, worm castings, guano and humus. These organic substances will be turned into nutrients that your plant can access on demand by microorganisms.
Most store-bought potting soil will be designed for optimal growing, but if you are growing organically it can be different. When using natural organic soil it can come in a variety of different ways such as sandy, silty, loamy and clay. Sandy soil is more coarse and is good for water drainage, but isn’t great at absorbing water. Silty is of a medium coarse type and has an abundance of minerals and organic particles, it retains water well and is a great organic soil choice. Loamy is a combination of all 4 soils with additional organic compounds, offering great water retention, drainage, nutrients and oxygen, but is the most expensive of the choices. Lastly clay, to be expected this is a heavy and not very easy soil to work out, it has high levels of nutrients and minerals, but has poor drainage and is hard to work with.
When working with natural soil you will need to add your own nutrients on a regular basis, as the natural soils are not perfect for growing cannabis during the beginning stages. There are however options to improve the soil to help create a better growing process. First is coco coir which is a coco fibre that is made from coconut husks, these fibres help improve both water retention and lightening heavier compact soils. Second is perlite which is the most common of the soil amendments, perlite contains light white rocks that vastly improves both drainage and airiness of the soil, along with improving the water retention. Third is vermiculte which is commonly used to help make the soil lighter but more importantly it is great at helping the soil retain water. Lastly is worm castings, these castings contain a lot of useful microorganisms that contribute to a successful grow, improving texture, drainage and the water retention of the soil.
Indoor grows take a different approach, using amended soilless mediums. Similar to traditional soil, these soilless mixes act almost the exact same but they are substrates known as coco, peat or sphagnum which contain amendments like perlite, wood chips and vermiculite. When growing with a soilless medium such as coco, peat and sphagnum you can treat your plants almost the same way as in regular soil, with the biggest difference being all the nutrients are fed through the water. This results in the plants growing a lot quicker due to the roots being fed directly, opposed to outdoor grows where the roots have to go looking for nutrition. It is also less likely you will run into common outdoor grow problems such as over watering or bugs.
Soilless mixes are not right for every hydroponic system, here we’ve put together a list of hydroponic systems and how they grow their plants.
Aeroponics uses what is known as a grow chamber, where the roots become suspended in the air with no medium inside the closed loop system they use. Water that is packed with nutrients is used on the plants as they are suspended, this oxygen-rich environment allows the plants to digest and absorb the nutrients.
Deep Water Culture
This method uses what is known as bubblers which is a bucket or nutrients. The plants hang over the plants as the roots grow into the nutrients below. The bubblers mix contains air using a aquarium pump which helps speed up grow times. The purpose of this grow method is that the fertilizer enriched mixture is amazing for the plants and works wonders for the grow.
Each plant in a drip irrigation has its own chamber, the nutrients are feed by a dripper and the solution is recycled. In each chamber the nutrients are fed into the medium by a small dripper.
Nutrient Film Technique
This method is a nutrient solution being pumped onto a try which then forms a shallow and slow moving film targeting the plant’s roots. The roots then grow into a solution, which creates a large root mat in the tray. This gives the roots 24 access to water, nutrients and oxygen, speeding up the development and producing maximum yields.
Ebb and Flow
Replaces soil with rockwool a medium that helps produce large yields. Stimulating a natural cycle of rain, producing a natural like environment for the grow.