Choosing a Cannabis Grow Medium: The Benefits of Soil Over Hydroponics
One of the first major crossroads you’ll encounter when learning how to grow weed is deciding which grow medium to use – soil or soil-less (hydro). While there are pros and cons to each, I truly believe that soil-grown cannabis is superior – and I will explain why in this article. The biggest difference between these two mediums is that soil is alive while hydroponic mediums are inert – this is a very important distinction. I will break down each style of growing in further detail below.
There are lots of different hydroponic mediums; hydroton, rockwool, coco coir, the list goes on – but they all have one thing in common – they are inert. Why is this so important? Because the plant is dependent on you! This means you, the grower, will have to supply the marijuana plant will all of its required nutrients throughout the entire life-cycle. In other words, the rhizosphere (sphere of roots) is attached to a nonliving medium and only receives food when watered.
This can be a very challenging place for new growers to begin because you are truly controlling every variable; how frequently you water, how much to water, how strong the solution is (ppm/EC), the acidity (ph), the ratio of nutrients, etc. – for lack of a better term, you are playing God. Although many experienced growers actually prefer the standardization that hydroponic growing allows, in my opinion, the finished product is simply not as flavorful. And it is a fact that growing hydroponically is more expensive and less (not) sustainable.
Living Organic Soil
Instead of trying to control Mother Nature, I prefer to harness her natural power through the use of living organic soil. Living organic soil (LOS) is exactly what it sounds like, healthy, balanced soil that’s loaded with life – bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, insects, and worms – all of which work together to form what is known as the soil food web.
More specifically, the soil food web describes the relationships between these microorganisms that serve a very important function – they make and maintain the soil. These organisms decompose organic matter, turn atmospheric nitrogen into plant-usable forms, rearrange soil particles and out-compete pathogenic organisms.
All plants rely on the soil food web to thrive in nature – plants can, indeed, take care of themselves without people getting in the way – they’ve been using it for thousands of years. Cannabis plants don’t need fancy bottled nutrients to produce abundant crops; they need balanced living soil and pure water. Balanced soil contains all the minerals and nutrients required for plant growth, from there, the plant can decide which food it needs, how much to consume, and when it needs it. That’s why you’ll often hear organic gardeners refer to ‘feeding the soil as opposed to feeding the plant’. What does this matter to you? It means that growing in soil helps you save time and money.
The Bottom Line: As you feed your soil, it will become more balanced and full of life – it truly gets better over time. You’ll save time, money, and the environment by re-using your soil each cycle.
What about combining the two?
Synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides should not be incorporated into a living organic soil watering regimen – they will kill soil life. In fact, many of these microorganisms can’t even survive a drench of city water treated with chlorine and chloramine. The beauty of utilizing the soil food web is that the plants already have what they need – just keep the soil content balanced. The only inputs needed to supplement the soil should be derived from nature; kelp meal, neem cake, earthworm castings, compost, fermented fruits, etc.