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Growing media – soilless mixes for cannabis

Types of Cannabis Grow Mediums: Benefits and Drawbacks

What Are the Differences Between Cannabis Grow Mediums?

There are a few different weed growing mediums to choose from, so it’s important to enter into cannabis cultivation fully prepared. All of the techniques discussed below have the potential to bring forth wonderful results if you do it right.

Keep in mind that when choosing to grow outdoors, you will have to consider more kinds of threats that can hinder the successful growth of your plants.

It’s hard to say what the best growing medium for cannabis is because all of them have their strong and weak sides. But there is certainly a growing medium that is best for you, that will suit your needs perfectly.

The variety of mediums for cannabis ranges from soil to complex air structures, so read on to learn more about each one.

Oftentimes, a grow medium isn’t the main factor, whereas getting seeds of high yield cannabis strains can be the key to success (heavy harvests).

1st Growing Medium – Plain Soil

Soil for growing cannabis

Plain soil is one of the mediums of growing cannabis suitable for beginners, and this is what growers of any type of plant typically go for. For starters, purchase good-quality soil and then keep an eye on proper soil moisture and fertilization.

The reason growing marijuana in plain soil is the most popular choice among growers is that it effectively mimics how the plant would normally grow. Many believe that recreating the natural environment improves the quality of weed. At the very least, it is a far less complicated and artificial technique than any other. Besides, if you don’t want to worry about the soil pH and particular nutrient ratios, you can use composted super soil.

Advantages:

  • It is easy and cost-efficient.
  • Supply store fertilizers or any other ready-made products will suffice.
  • It is a straightforward process with minimal human interference.
  • It is suitable for growing any variety of outdoor cannabis seeds.
  • Soil affects the quality of the final product. For that reason, weed cultivated in soil allegedly tastes and smells better.

Disadvantages:

  • If you happen to purchase low-grade soil, improper nutrient balance can lead to you losing the entire crop.
  • Plain dirt normally produces a lower yield in comparison to other growing techniques.
  • Organic materials naturally have pest-active compounds, so they tend to increase the number of pests outdoor marijuana grow will encounter.
  • Plants take more time to grow. While using liquid nutrients can offset this drawback, the length of the growing period in this medium is longer.

Compared to other mediums, the soil is not the frontrunner when it comes to growth rates. However, provided you improve the soil with suitable amendments and give your plants plenty of sunlight, the results will not disappoint. It will take one to three months for vegetation (depends on the plant size) and two to three months for flowering.

2nd Growing Medium – Hydroponics

A device for the growing method of hydroponics

The hydroponics system does not use soil. Instead, the roots are supported by gravel, perlite, clay pebbles, vermiculite, or peat moss. The main premise for this plant growth method is to get the roots in direct contact with fertilizers. It should not be an excessive amount in order to retain access to oxygen. The roots grow laterally and have fine white root hairs, which should not be confused with mold.

The specifics for watering and nutrient quantities can be altered depending on what the specific cannabis seeds you have may need. To ensure you have the “bud growing sweet spot”, you will have to maintain a pH range of 5.5-6.3. As the roots absorb the solution, the nutrient strength in the reservoir will change. So, it might take some effort to maintain. 

Advantages:

  • You can increase the yield without expanding the grow room. In addition to minimal space requirements, plants in hydroponics consume water in an efficient way.
  • There aren’t any specific requirements for planting density; it only depends on how much light your set-up gives. In some cases, plants can be stacked up, one on top of another. 
  • This technique provides an impressive quality of weed.
  • Plants take less time to grow because their roots get a lot of oxygen 24/7.
  • In a perfect scenario, you will be able to harvest the product up to six times a year.
  • It’s not as susceptible to insects, pests, and diseases that emerge and multiply in soil. Therefore, you reduce or completely eliminate the number of pesticides used on the plants.
  • The set-up is significantly less messy because there is no dirt involved.

Disadvantages:

  • The initial set-up costs are much higher than the ones for plain soil. You will need much more equipment at the beginning, such as reservoirs to be filled with fertilizer or another nutrient blend. Not to mention, this equipment will cost more to maintain.
  • It takes a lot more space to fit the equipment. 
  • Get prepared to constantly ensure pH and nutrient levels are within reasonable limits.
  • It’s not suitable for beginners. The system needs meticulous care, which must be done by a well-informed, experienced grower or at least by a person willing to do a lot of research. 
  • While plants in hydroponics are safe from soil-borne pests, growers should be cautious about water-borne diseases.

3rd Growing Medium – Aeroponics

Aeroponics systems involve plants being in an air or mist settings. They use no soil or aggregate medium and the plants are nourished by fertilizer being sprayed over the roots. You can use various kinds of materials to execute this concept as well as different types of design, including towers and other vertical approaches. In fact, you can adjust your set-up however you like to fit your space. 

However, sometimes the plants will lack the complex flavors that can be found when grown in soil.

Advantages:

  • Out of all growing mediums for cannabis, aeroponics provides the largest yields, which don’t take a lot of time to grow. When executed properly, meaning nutrition is applied directly onto the roots, the plants will feel their best and produce large, ripe buds.
  • Aeroponic systems are very water-efficient. Some examples require 95% less water than typical soil cultivation. 

Disadvantages:

  • The cost for building and maintaining the system will add up to quite a high number.
  • Also, similar to cannabis plants grown in hydroponics, you’ll have to maintain particular nutrients and pH balance, which can be a complicated task for beginner growers. 
  • Growers have to check up on the plants daily.
  • Any technical difficulties, such as power outages, broken pumps, blocked nozzles, and no water supply will cause substantial damage. Since the root won’t be able to survive more than an hour without moisture, you have a very limited time frame to fix any issues.

4th Growing Medium – Aquaponics

Aquaponics uses the best of the recirculating aquaculture and traditional hydroponics, using the waste from the first to benefit the second. The technique uses nutrient-rich water from raising fish in tanks to nourish soilless plants; the plants, in turn, cleanse the water by consuming these nutrients. This symbiotic relationship mimics natural ecosystems like ponds and rivers. 

The only input you need to provide for an aquaponics system is fish food. Uneaten food and waste are converted by beneficial bacteria into compounds that the plants thrive on. This nitrifying bacteria is the key element and driving force for the hydroponics system.

When this method is combined with controlled environment agriculture, growers will be able to harvest organic clean products year-round. Aquaponics could be of great interest to utilize in cities or in other places, where you can’t rely on outdoor cultivation.

Advantages:

  • It doesn’t rely on mined and manufactured fertilizers. In this way, you considerably cut down the expense of fertilizer salts. Also, both cannabis plants and fish will not be treated with any harmful petrochemicals, pesticides or herbicides.
  • The method ensures timely yield turn around. Since the roots receive high levels of oxygen, the absorption of nutrients is more efficient and you get increased crop production.
  • It is environmentally sustainable due to low water and power usage. Recirculating water leads to needing significantly fewer water resources compared to soil.  
  • Since there is no soil, it eliminates soil-borne diseases.

Disadvantages:

  • Aquaponics requires bigger upfront costs than any other system discussed. Depending on the size and technological level, the prices will vary. But there is no doubt that pumps and plumbing equipment will require a considerable initial investment.  
  • Growers not only need to take care of the plants but also the fish, which increases maintenance efforts two-fold. Fish require specific temperatures in tanks. Outside of closely controlled environments, you will need to closely monitor the heating and cooling systems.
  • The algae growth can be detrimental to the plants so you will need to ensure cleaning and sterilization.
  • It is not a suitable medium for growers who are just getting started.

5th Growing Medium – Coir (Coconut Fiber)

Many growers were on the hunt for something that doesn’t have the problems found in ordinary soil, but that is not as hard to maintain as hydroponics or other alternative mediums. They discovered that coir acts as a great growing medium for cannabis.

Coco coir is manufactured using the byproducts from torn coconut shells. In comparison to most hydroponic mediums, the coir is considered more forgiving; but in some characteristics, it is still inferior to the soil. That is why many growers tend to combine coir with soil to achieve a looser density soil. One of the most efficient mixtures is two-thirds of pure coco coir, with about a third of another medium.

Fertilizing coir will take some hydro growing skills. You will need to apply a light nutrient solution from the beginning. The water pH should be adjusted to pH 6.0, which can be tricky for beginners.

Advantages:

  • Coco coir is no harder to use than normal soil. Even though the coir is technically a soilless growing medium, all rules for soil cultivation apply here as well. As a potting medium, it is perfect for growing indoor cannabis seeds of any strain.
  • The density is a perfect middle-ground, ensuring the roots don’t get over- or under-watered. It retains just as much moisture in the root area for them to grow successfully. Also, the roots don’t have to reach deep into the soil to access moisture and nutrients, so the process doesn’t drain energy from the plants. 
  • The lighter texture and the amount of surface area provide better oxygenation, which promotes better and faster root development. This results in a quicker harvest and larger yields.
  • The coco coir is eco-friendly for multiple reasons. First, it doesn’t have to be regularly replaced. Second, it is slow to break down so it can be used for multiple grows. Last, by growing weed in coco coir you are essentially recycling material that would have been wasted.
  • The plants are not vulnerable to the majority of pests that normally affect the soil cultivation process.

Disadvantages:

  • There are no naturally occurring nutrients in the coco coir. So, you will have to artificially provide fertilizers to the medium so that the plants have something to feed on. However, this can also be said for most soil techniques, with the exception of composted super soil.
  • Not every store will have coco fiber in stock.

Choice Between Cannabis Grow Mediums

Realistically, your choice depends on your budget, how much time you can spend on your crops and the growing conditions you can provide. But if you want to put that aside and focus on what the different marijuana growing methods are, here is the rundown.

Organic composted soil makes the best-smelling buds and doesn’t require building complicated systems. Or you can start with a ready-made soil mix and start adding nutrients later on. Soilless mixes, such as coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, etc., are great because the process is similar to maintaining soil and you just provide all the nutrients hydroponically. Depending on your set-up, other hydroponic mediums can be very simple or very complex. Nutrients will be delivered to the plant directly and ensure fast and productive growth.

Don’t be afraid to experiment, based on what your cannabis plants like and respond to, and change things up in the process. 

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About the Author : Ruth Taylor

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