Hydroponics or Soil: Which is Best For Cannabis Cultivation
Every grower has an opinion about the hydroponic vs. soil cannabis cultivation debate. But whose ideas are the best?
Plenty of information proves both sides of the argument. However, depending on your grow-op, the potency each method offers could be vastly different.
Cannabis legalization is happening nationwide. And while it’s not yet federally legal, many people are either trying to scale their grow-op or start one.
Regardless of if you’re just starting out or a master grower, we aim to reveal the truth about hydroponic vs. soil-based growing operations, including some insight to determine which medium will work best for you.
Hydro or Soil for Beginners: The Basics
If you’re an experienced grower, you can probably skip this section. The majority of plants, including cannabis, naturally grow in soil. Millions of years of tried and true natural plant growth show us that successful cultivation happens in mineral-rich soil.
The minerals in soil come from organic matter. As living things (plants and animals) die, they’re broken back down into the minerals that nourish plants. This is why many traditional cannabis cultivators still choose to grow cannabis outdoors in soil. However, most of the time, it’s necessary to add nutrient-rich solutions and natural nutrients (manure or earthworm castings) to provide sufficient nutrition.
Hydroponic is an innovative cultivation method that removes the unpredictability you’ll find when growing in soil. These are water-based grow-ops that lack a stationary medium. With this in mind, the best hydroponics method involves the roots of your plants remaining in a water solution.
You’ll need to add liquid nutrients into the water solution. These are the essential nutrients your plants need to grow. But since you control the influx of nutrients, you have more control over the health of your plants.
In our opinion, soil is best for beginners. Since most plants naturally grow in soil, it’s usually a medium most people are familiar with using. However, some beginners bypass soil and start with a hydroponic setup. Regardless of which method you choose, it’s best to conduct some research before you make your choice.
Hydroponic vs. Soil Pros and Cons
This opinion piece featured on Leafly claims growing with hydroponics is better than soil. However, both grow methods come with a list of pros and cons.
Soil Pros and Cons for Cultivating Cannabis
If you’re growing cannabis outdoors in soil, you should plan for higher yields. Since there’s no limit to how tall your plants can grow outdoors with soil, your plants can grow larger. These plants could grow around six feet tall and yield beyond 400 grams of quality flower a piece.
The good thing about soil grow-ops is that the microorganisms in the soil can help with several common issues. For instance, a pH imbalance or too many nutrients can be resolved quite quickly in soil. Hydroponic setups don’t offer these fixes, meaning you’ll have to be more careful while tending to your plants.
Unlike hydroponics, you can’t control the soil in an outdoor grow-op. Furthermore, the temperature, wind, and humidity fluctuate outside, and these are variables you cannot control. Also, your plants will be more susceptible to organic matter and bacteria when growing outdoors. All in all, if you plan to grow in soil, you’ll need to understand how you can adapt to the environment.
Pests can also be more problematic for soil grow-ops. As an organic material, soil allows a plethora of species of pests to thrive in it. With this being the case, soil grow-ops usually result in more pests than hydroponic grow-ops.
Hydroponics Pros and Cons for Cultivating Cannabis
Hydroponic grow-ops won’t give your plants as much freedom to grow. These are indoor operations, and since the plants will be smaller, your yield will be less. You’re limiting your roots to your grow room, water bucket, etc., and this translates to less flower.
However, the quality of your buds in a hydroponic setup can be better than soil. If you know how to appropriately control your hydroponic grow operation’s environment, you’ll provide your plants with the nutrients, lighting conditions, and humidity they need to create high-quality buds.
Cannabis plants have different nutritional needs throughout their growth. With this being the case, it’s beneficial to have control over environmental and nutritional variables throughout your plants’ grow. This will enable you to provide your plants with the appropriate concoction of nutrients for each stage of the grow cycle, customizing your mixture as your plants progress. Also, tending to your plants could be easier once you automate several aspects of your grow.
While hydroponic grow-ops are more temperamental, you can use this to your advantage. Minor adjustments can maximize your yields and make your plants grow faster. And if you monitor your water’s pH and cleanliness, nutrient measurements, and temperature, your plants will yield higher quality buds. Hydroponic systems even allow you to monitor your plants’ roots to see how they’re developing and make any necessary adjustments to keep them healthy.
In the battle of soilless vs. soil, is hydroponics cheaper than soil? In the beginning, your operational costs will be higher than a soil grow-op because you’ll need some equipment. However, eventually, your costs will be lower because you’ll use the same nutrients for an entire week. This fact paired with how much water you’ll save makes a hydro soil grow less costly than soil grow-ops.
Should I Grow Hydroponically or in Soil?
Ultimately, choosing whether to cultivate cannabis hydroponically or in soil depends on your goals. If you want more control over the quality of your buds and are willing to risk more, hydroponics is the best option. However, if you’re interested in growing more buds without worrying too much about the specifics, soil could work best for you.
Regardless of the method you choose to use, remain vigilant in the way you monitor your grow operation. While cannabis plants are incredibly resilient, you’ll still need to look out for common issues like nutrient burn, light burn, under- and over-watering, pH problems, pests, nitrogen deficiency and toxicity, and other issues.
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