Hydroponic Vs Soil Cannabis Cultivation
The debate over cannabis growing mediums is not likely to end soon. With all the information available, it can be hard to make this decision regarding your own grow-op. We’re here to help you choose!
With the continuous momentum of cannabis legalization, a lot of people are starting to take a swing at growing cannabis. Smoking your own home-grown bud is one of the most gratifying experiences a stoner can have. But when starting out, most people don’t know where to begin. In this article, we’ll be covering hydroponic vs soil-based growing operations. This will help the inexperienced and even the experienced grower decide on the correct medium for their next grow.
In 2017, when we talk about soil vs hydro plantations, we’re usually referring to indoor vs outdoor growing. This is because indoor mediums are rarely 100% soil. People tend to use substrates like coco coir and rockwool, which are soilless mixtures. Most fully-soil operations out there will be found in outdoor plantations. Let’s dive into what the differences between hydroponic and soil growing actually are.
THE ESSENTIALS OF EACH METHOD
As you probably know, soil is the green part of our “blue planet.” Although it only dominates 30% of the Earth’s surface, it’s where most plants grow and have done so for millions of years. Because of this, soil has accumulated minerals and organic matter that is very hard to replicate with any other method. That is why a lot of traditional cannabis aficionados will only grow and/or buy cannabis that is cultivated outdoors in soil. But it’s still important to note that most soil growers will add nutrient solutions or nutrient-rich materials like earthworm castings and manure to enhance their medium.
Hydroponic, on the other hand, takes away all the unpredictability of soil. The term hydroponic is now very commonly used for all mediums other than soil. Water-based growing operations without a stationary medium are referred to as “solution culture.” Because of this, we’ll be defining hydroponics as methods where the roots of the plant are in constant contact with a water solution. Nutrients are then added in liquid form to the water, creating a new solution. This will consist of only the absolute essentials for the plant and will give the grower much more control over the end result.
THE PROS AND CONS OF EACH METHOD
What differentiates these two methods is mainly a matter of yield vs quality. Growing outdoors with a soil medium will generally allow for much higher yields. Outside, there is no height limitation and with soil, the roots can grow and branch out freely. With proper care, a soil medium can help you grow plants that are 2m tall, offering more than 400g of quality bud per plant. Using hydroponic methods in an indoor operation won’t allow for cannabis this tall. Therefore, yields won’t be as high because the roots are limited by the size and volume of your coco coir, mesh pot, water bucket, grow room, etc.
Quality works in the opposite way. It’s much easier to control an indoor hydroponic plantation. You’ll be giving the plant the exact nutrients it needs under the perfect lighting conditions in an environment with the ideal humidity. This will also allow you to automate most of the growing process.
Soil is not as controllable. When growing cannabis outside, there will be temperature changes, uncontrollable wind, and even humidity variations. These are hard to predict and impossible to master. One can only adapt to the outside environment and hope for the best. Soil also contains organic matter and bacteria that might not be too favourable for your plant’s health. These will be hard to identify until visual changes manifest on the plant.
You’ll have to base your decision on finding the best combination of quantity and quality for your situation. Soil is a much more familiar medium than hydroponics and is more advisable for first time growers. There is a lot of information out there. Conduct further research to make a more informed decision.
When growing a complex plant like cannabis, changing the medium will affect its requirements. You’ll have to adapt nutrient feeds so you’re not left with an unwanted deficiency. This is a very common problem in cannabis plants that a lot of growers don’t know how to deal with. Making sure your products are the appropriate ones and your pH is ideal will go a long way in preventing deficiencies or nutrient lockout.
Whether in the form of mineral powder or dissolved in water, macronutrient products will have three basic elements: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These nutrients are summarised by the N-P-K ratio composed of three numbers on the front of a nutrient bottle. Each value represents the percentage by volume of the corresponding nutrient in the solution.
In a soil medium, manure can be added, which is a nutrient-rich material. This is something that a hydroponic solution can’t replicate. Soil is filled with microbes that help turn organic material like guano and worm castings into usable nutrients for your plant. In hydroponics, you’ll have to feed your plants the full quantity of micro and macronutrients. Independently of the quality of your soil, you’ll likely need extra supplements in order to obtain the best results. This is where the hydroponic system differentiates mostly from a soil-based medium.
Micronutrients like iron, copper, and magnesium are widely available in most soil mediums. Therefore, hydro solutions must contain more of these to compensate. They also require more nitrogen, a macronutrient abundant in soil, but not as much in water sources. This is why hydro nutrients during the vegetative stage have a higher percentage of nitrogen.
MAKING A CHOICE
This is the part where you’ll have to decide what to do next; which materials to buy and how much area to dedicate to your plantation. Let’s recap on what we explored above.
Growing in soil will be the best choice for you if you want to keep the natural essence of the plant. You might prefer the flavour outdoor soil gives the flowers. Only consider soil if you have access to high-quality soil mediums. Soil growing is perhaps the best option if you’re not growing full-time. Soil will require much less of your attention as it will be doing the bulk of the work for you.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for the highest cannabinoid presence, hydroponic will be your choice. This is where you’ll get those deliciously frosty 28% THC buds. It is also smart to choose hydroponics if you want an automated system. You won’t be able to fully automate the process, but with methods like drip irrigation, it will reduce your chores. This will be the best method to try out if you’re experienced, but have never tried it before. It’s always positive to learn how cannabis grows and behaves under different conditions. You’ll probably achieve better results growing hydroponically, assuming you know what you’re doing.
Remember that the best choice will be the one you make. You’ll make it work whether you’re experienced or not. It’s the motivation and passion you have that will ultimately determine your success. Even though people have been growing cannabis for thousands of years, only recently has real research gone into it. Perhaps you’ll be the one to figure out the next trick or hack for growing the best cannabis flower. Go out there and experiment; just have fun!
THESE STRAINS ARE A GREAT PLACE TO START
Whether you choose soil or hydroponics, both are capable of producing top-quality cannabis. However, if you are not sure which strain to start with, we have a beginner-friendly suggestion for both methods.
Soil is the traditional growing medium that has served growers for centuries. As we have alluded to though, soil can be a little tricky to manage, especially if it is your first time cultivating cannabis. With that in mind, we have picked a strain that is more forgiving than others to offset any small mistakes.
This flavoursome beauty benefits from indica-dominant genetics, and can be harvested in as little as nine weeks. Not only is that less time for things to go wrong, but Somango XL is considered ideal for both newbie and experienced growers. Her hardiness allows simple mistakes like nutrient fluctuation to occur without significant repercussions.
Struggling to decide which grow method to go with? Here, we'll go through everything you need to know in order to make the best decision for your situation!
A Guide to Growing Hydroponic Weed
Hydroponic weed is typically viewed as a higher quality product, as the environment and conditions that this method provides can significantly improve the health of a marijuana plant. The trickle-down effect of a healthy environment means bigger, more potent buds, and generally, a much more enjoyable experience, but is it one that is worth the investment?
Here, we will cover the hydroponics basics in an easy to read and follow step by step style that is perfect for both experienced cultivators and beginners. Those with years of exposure to growing in soil might think that they know all that there is, but if you haven’t tried to set up your own hydroponic garden, you will quickly learn that the process is not only complicated but also well worth the risk if you are dedicated to the project.
What is hydroponic weed?
Hydroponics uses a water base with some methods requiring various organic materials that are different than soil. This way always requires various liquid nutrients and fertilizers that are entirely safe for the average user as long as the plants are put through a cleansing, which is essentially one to two weeks that nutrients are not added right before harvest.
Hydro grow operations have much higher production rates that average almost double that of their organically grown counterparts. They are much more demanding and allow for the ideal environment to be created, which results in a larger and often more potent bud.
How much does it cost to set up a hydroponics grow box?
To set up a hydroponic grow box will depend on where you will get all your supplies from, as much of what is needed can be salvaged from off-cut bins at lumber mills for a reduced cost. If you don’t have the patience for that, then you will probably head to your nearest Home Hardware or Home Depot. Below, you will find a breakdown of the cost that should be expected to complete your outdoor grow box.
- 1 8ft long x 2ft wide x 1inch thick wood plank = $20
- 2 PVC caps = $3
- 1 8ft long x 1inch thick PVC pipe = $20
- 5 cement blocks = $20
- 1 Rubbermaid container (reservoir) = $10
- 1 Rubbermaid container (dry tote) = $10
- 4 3gallon plant pots = $8
- 1 water filter = $50
- 1 hose adapter (1inch-1inch) = $1
- 1 piece of 1inch rubber tubing (that will reach the grow box from the water barrel) = $5
- 1 water barrel (with tap) = $50
- 1 small water pump = $20
Total estimated cost: $222
How to start a hydroponic garden
- All the items mentioned above
- 1 drill
- 1 cutting tool
- Seedling (or cannabis seeds)
- Cannabis growing medium (coco coir)
Spread the cement blocks out evenly across an area that is 8 feet long and place the large wood plank on top of them.
Place the rain barrel somewhere out of the sun if possible, as colder temperatures will help to keep the ph. levels in the water, down.
Use a cutting tool to remove the bottom corner from each pot that measures 2 inches x 2 inches.
Set the pots on the wooden plank evenly spaced.
Put one end cap onto one end of the PVC pipe, then place it against the containers to measure where the holes will need to be in the next step.
Take a drill and make 3-4 small holes located where the pots rest in the PVC pipe to spray water onto the roots of the cannabis plants.
Now you can set up the filtration system by plugging in the filter and placing it into one of the totes that will act as the reservoir for clean water.
The next step is to connect the rain barrel, filtration chamber and PVC pipe together using the black rubber tubing and adapter.
Once the watering system is in place, it’s time to prepare the pots by filling them with a growing medium and seedlings, clones or seeds.
You may have to fill the rain barrel the first time, but nature will help to replenish the system on its own for most of the growing season.
Turn the tap, filter and pumps on, and you now have fully functional hydroponics grow box that is ready to use.
Finally, you will want to use the last remaining tote to house all your electric components, including the timer for your pump, which should be set to an hourly schedule.
How long does it take to grow hydroponic weed?
Hydroponics allows for one of the most effective methods of growing, but it doesn’t come without its drawbacks, and one of them is that the process takes time to complete. A hydroponic garden will provide your plants with the best care possible in the right hands, but it will not speed up the growing cycle, so you can expect to see the average of 90-120 day turn around that would be seen from other methods.
How to make homemade nutrients for hydroponics
This homemade nutrient solution makes a 250 concentrate mixture, that can be used to feed 250 gallons of water. Once you mix a shot of the solution with water, it makes enough nutrients to last most small-scale growers an entire season.
- 1 gallon of distilled water (room temperature)
- 600g master blend 51838 tomato special water-soluble fertilizer
- 300g Epsom salt
- 1.5g sodium benzoate
- Protective gloves
- Dust mask
- Large bucket with lid
- Paint stick
If the water isn’t room temperature, the powder will not mix nearly as well, so it’s always best to take a moment to heat it up if necessary. Once you have warm water, you can now pour it into the bucket.
Now add in the other listed ingredients and stir everything together until the powder is completely dissolved.
The homemade nutrients are now ready to be stored for up to 8 months in a cool dark space so that it is available as needed.
Indoors vs. outdoor
Hydroponics is often shown in the media as an indoor operation that is expensive and high tech, but the system mentioned above is a much cheaper alternative that can be placed outdoors. The main difference between the two is in how they function.
Pros and cons of Hydro vs. organic growing
- · Space-saving
- · Efficient nutrient delivery
- · Optimal environment control
- · Expensive to start and maintain
- · Uses vast amounts of utilities like hydro
- Affordable to start and maintain
- No harmful chemicals
- Requires more space
- Difficult to control PH
- Open to the elements of nature
Which one is better?
The only real differences between the two are:
The method used to grow, which can slightly affect the overall product quality of the plant, however, a high THC producing strain will likely still have a high THC content when grown either way.
The total yield from a hydro grown plant is mind-blowing when compared to an organically grown plant. They produce 2-3 times more but also require additional expense and diligent work with light and nutrient schedules, whereas naturally produced pot takes the least toll on the environment, doesn’t need any cost outside of the seeds and is the safest to ingest without having to go through a well-timed cleansing period.
In the end, the most significant contributor to which you feel is better is personal preference.
Cannabis Cultivation: A Guide to Growing Marijuana
Growing marijuana is a whole lot more complicated than most people realize, but once you get down the basics, the reward will be worth the investment. .
Here, we will cover the hydroponics basics in an easy to read and follow step by step style that is perfect for both experienced cultivators and beginners.