The Other Great Debate, Pt. 1: Soil vs. Hydroponics

Previously we discussed the various advantages and disadvantages of cultivating cannabis indoors vs. outdoors. Both have their valid arguments, however given the circumstances many growers face (security/privacy issues, money, space, resources, etc.) it doesn’t look like either method is going away anytime soon. In fact, despite the environmental and financial benefits of having nature do (almost) all of the work for you, many people will still choose to grow indoors, mostly because it is a little easier to do, at least if growing for personal consumption, but also because it’s quite fun and brings people lots of joy and satisfaction to produce their own medicine.

            Regardless of what your aim is or what skillset you have, if indoor is the name of the game, then you will have to choose either soil as your medium or a hydroponic (soilless) setup. The differences between the two might help you decide which option is best for you.

            Nature calls: Soil

            Soil is the more instinctive choice as this is how plants grow naturally in the great outdoors. However, just because you are indoors doesn’t mean at all that you have to go soilless. One of the reasons many canna-enthusiasts love outdoor or sun-grown varieties is because the end product is an expression of the environment it is grown in (thanks to both the macro and microbiome), therefore you get more terpenes and as a result, the taste and smell of your cannabis are immediately noticeable. Indoors, the grower doesn’t have many environmental factors to worry about, but at a minimum he or she has control: temperature, amount of water, fertilizer, pests, etc. can all be controlled by the grower, the same cannot be said for growing outdoors. This is where medium selection is key. Not all soils are the same of course and it is very difficult to replicate in your home what mother nature has done over the course of millions of years (why do you think there are no wines made from indoor grapes?).

            For your plants to grow vigorously and flourish, they need a medium that will meet three rudimentary criteria: 1. Loose texture 2. Drain well 3. Retain water. Depending on location and availability, growers generally have four types of soil base to choose from: sandy (drains well, easy to work with), silt (retains water, contains nutrients), clay (contains minerals, poor drainage), loam (mixture of first three). More often than not, store-bought soils will be a type of loam as they contain mixtures of sand, silt and clay to various degrees/proportions. In addition to meeting the three criteria mentioned above, they should also have a neutral pH (ideally 5.8-6.5) and be nutrient rich, at the very least in the three macronutrients of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Once these have been covered, you can turn your attention to additives such as bat guano, coffee grounds, kelp meal, mycorrhizae mix, activated charcoal, etc., to fine tune your soil composition and provide your plants with nutrients they will use to flourish.

There are countless amounts of ready-made soil mixes available for purchase, however not all of them are suited for growing quality cannabis. If you are a novice gardener, a knowledgeable grow store should be able to help you find a quality ready-made medium, though if you are feeling ambitious and experimental, there are some fantastic homemade recipes available online.

            Next post we will go into a few hydroponic methods and compare and contrast them with growing them in soil.

If traditional soil is your thing, our Dragon Fruit Auto or Northern Dragonaut seeds will certainly not disappoint!