History has given us great success using dirt as a base, and in 1953, Austin Miller referred to soil as ‘the skin of the earth’. Throughout the years, the soil community has learned a few tricks. By adding nutrients, balancing pH, and enriching soil with organic ingredients, producers have made advanced planting mixes to ensure healthy plant growth.
So why consider a hydroponic system or a hydroponic grow box at all if soil has come so far? There are some serious benefits to using a hydroponic system over soil. However, both methods have their pros and cons. Let's get into it!
Why Choose Hydroponics Over Soil?
1. Bigger Yields.
Growing your cannabis plant in water can have several benefits that result in bigger yields. First, the roots get more oxygen when grown hydroponically. more oxygen= healthier plant that grows faster! Second, your plant will be able to take up nutrients easier. This also promotes a healthier plant. Lastly, the roots wont need to be as large, as everything is located right where they need it. This allows your plant to focus on vegetative growth an flower growth over root development.
While the initial cost of setting up a hydroponic system can be costly, it will save you money in the long run.
With a hydroponic system, you are using less water, as it is being recirculated to your plants and only changed out every 7-12 days. No more watching 10% of your runoff go to waste each watering.
You also wont experience the losses some soil grower experience from pests or under/ overwatering. Many pests need soil to complete their lifecycle, making hydroponic systems much more effective at deterring pests. If you want to learn more about pests that may affect cannabis plants, click here!
3. More Control Over Your Grow.
When using soil, there are a few things to consider, especially if planting your plant in the ground. First, the texture of soil in your region. Certain areas have soil with textures that are less desirable for growing cannabis. Growing in this soil may result in a less healthy plant. Next, think about what has previously been planted in that soil.
For example, if a black walnut tree has previously been planted near your garden, the plant would have added juglone to the soil- a natural compound that all walnut trees contain, and many types of plants are sensitive to. While there are some vegetable species that can tolerate this added compound, most plants will show symptoms such as yellowing (chlorosis), stunted growth, or even death.
If using store bought soil and a pot, this is less of a concern. However, getting the right texture of soil for your plant can still be some serious effort.
In a nutshell, a complete hydroponic system is simply growing plants without soil or other growing medium. There are many different types of hydroponic systems, we've listed some of these techniques below.
The combination of aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as snails, fish, or prawns in tanks) and hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. The waste produced by aquatic animals supplies nutrients for the hydroponic plants. In turn, these plants purify the water for the animals.
2. Drip Irrigation
Also known as micro or localized watering, small drip emitters deliver a constant drip directly to the soil. This ensures that the soil is always moist, but not over watered.
3. Deep Water Culture (DWC)
A type of hydroponics system where plant roots continuously sit in a highly oxygenated water and nutrient solution. Oxygen is usually supplied using an airstone that pumps air into the water.
Fun Fact: Grobo is a deep water culture grow box!
The process of growing plants in an air or mist environment, without the use of soil or aggregate medium. Plant roots hang in the air, and a mist of nutrient-rich water is sprayed onto the roots periodically.
5. Ebb & Flow
In this process, plant roots sit in a coarse growing medium for support, while a water and nutrient solution periodically flows past the roots on a set time schedule. This is similar to the ocean's rising and receding tides. This allows for the aeration of the roots, while automating the job of watering the plants by hand.
6. Nutrient Film Technique
This technique involves running a continuous oxygen and nutrient rich film of water over the plants roots in an enclosed space or tube.
All of these different techniques have one thing in common: they don’t need the roots to spread out in soil to absorb nutrients. Instead, they are fed a concentrated solution of oxygen and nutrients. This allows the roots to be packed into much smaller spaces.
All of these systems allow you to be creative and in control. You decide what nutrients to add, how much, and when. This control contributes to the increased speed and yield of growth you will experience.
We are going to first start off with a definition of what soil is.
Definition: Naturally occurring material on the earths surface, capable of supporting plant growth.
Soil is a combination of many compounds. generally speaking, most soil is a combination of minerals, organic matter, such as decaying animal life, dead plant matter, and humus (the final product of organic matter).
Depending on the plant species, some plants prefer different compositions of soil. However, most plants require slightly chunky, well draining soil. This helps ensure they do not rot, and get sufficient oxygen to the roots.
Here are some compounds that are often added to soil:
Formed from bits of rock including limestone, quartz, granite, and shale. Drains water quickly. Sand is best used with succulents, that prefer a growth medium that retains little water.
Fine particles of organic material combined with sand. Very fertile, drains water well. Silt is ideal as it retains water like clay based soils but drains well. Plants like Iris's grow well in Silt.
3. Hydroton/ LECA
Hydroton is a man-made clay based growing medium. It can be used in both soil and hydroponic based grows. It has great water retention, drainage and aeration. Additionally, it is a pH neutral medium, and does not provide a suitable environment for many pests, so you dont have to worry about them.
It is best to rinse and boil your hydroton before use. This helps remove dust and ensures it is clean.
Loam is a fertile soil that is a combination of clay, sand and humus. Loam has a porous texture that slows water drainage enough to allow plants access, but not enough to water log the soil. Loam is also very nutrient rich.
Compost is a frequently used medium for organic growers. It can contain good bacteria, fungi, insects, worms and micro-organisms. All of which can be beneficial to your plant!
Perlite is made by heating up volcanic glass, and once heated, the liquid vaporizes and the perlite expands. Think of it similar to how popcorn pops when heated up. Perlite is excellent for adding drainage, and can retain water. When working with perlite, always wear a mask. The dust that comes from the bag can harm your lungs!
7. Coco Coir
Made from the exterior of coconuts, this growing medium is pH neutral, and is great at retaining water. This medium can be used for many varieties of plants.
So head outside with a bucket and shovel right? Yeah, not so fast.
You should always ensure that you are buying your soil from a bag and not just getting it from outside, as store bought product has been treated to remove all of the bugs and critters that can tear-up your garden.
Soil not only provides a secure anchor for your plants and it’s roots, but it also aids in the retention and delivery of nutrients. Soil can act as a buffer for those nutrients, making it easier for the gardener to maintain a perfect nutrient balance.
One thing to watch out for is watering soil, as it can be surprisingly tricky. The number one issue new growers have is overwatering their precious plants.
New growers will try to be extremely attentive to their plants, and they normally want to get the most growth possible. This causes them to water too much and results in killing their plants. Over watering is dangerous because plant roots need to eat and breathe. Too much water logged in soil depletes oxygen, and thus the roots do not get enough oxygen to survive.
Beyond that, fungi and bacteria that thrive in environments that lack oxygen will start to grow. These fungi and bacteria release toxic compounds that will damage the roots, causing root rot.
When you water your soil, it’s helpful to have some water runoff to ensure you have fully saturated your medium. Once watered, the soil needs to dry out, allowing the roots access to air before letting them drink again. It is a balance that once achieved, will produce consistent healthy results.
The Final Choice
In the end, whether you choose to use soil or hydroponics is, of course, up to you. There really is no right or wrong answer. Just weigh the pros and cons of each style and method, make a decision that works best for you, and then get growing!
Which system have you had the best luck with? Tell us below.
Grobo is the most beautiful and easy to use home growing systems. Choose from over 900 strains and start growing today:
1. Plant your seed
2. Sit back & relax
3. Enjoy the harvest