Cannabis Growing – Soil Based Organic vs Hydroponic Grows

Haute Health / Introduction / Cannabis Growing – Soil Based Organic vs Hydroponic Grows

Now that cannabis has been legal for almost two years many Canadians are starting to look at the prospect of growing their own cannabis strains. Just like building a computer or fixing a car, there is no better feeling then creating something that you started from scratch.  In addition to growing the exact strain you want and the pride that comes with it, you also save a lot of money and have enough stock to last for the foreseeable future. So now you’re looking to start your first grow but don’t know where to start, the first question you need to ask yourself when you start your grow is Hydroponics VS Soil cannabis. Each offers its own unique way of harvesting cannabis and much much you can yield, here we’ll dig deep into which grow method best suits your cannabis needs. 

Cannabis growing-soil based organic vs Hydroponic grows

Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons

Before we get down to the nitty gritty of hydroponic vs soil let’s look at the upside and downside of both growing methods to help clear the mud and guide you towards a more suitable growing option. When you decide you want to grow your own plant the thought of harvesting large quantities of bud is one of the first motivations, and with those government prices we don’t blame you! When you grow outdoors using organic soil medium the yields tend to grow much higher then those of an indoor hydroponic cannabis grow. When growing outside you have no limits on how high you plant can grow, using soil the anatomy of the plant such as the roots and branches can grow free with no limitations. If grown correctly, many outdoor grows using organics can grow up to 2 meters in height and can bud up to 500 grams of quality cannabis flower.

However, when you are growing with hydroponics cannabis you are always growing marijuana indoors which naturally limits the size you can grow your plants, this results in smaller grow yields due to the roots being limited. For what you lose in size when growing marijuana indoors however you gain in quality when using hydroponics as it is much easier to influence and control growing cannabis indoors then it is outdoors. When you grow marijuana indoors you can precisely give the plant everything it needs from nutrients to perfect lighting to controlling the temperature and humidity down to the exact degree. When growing organic cannabis outside you lose an element of control , the environment can fluctuate on a regular basis making growing organic cannabis unpredictable. Outdoor elements such as temperature change, wind speeds, humidity and both animals and insects can provide limitations on how you grow your crop. Using soil also comes with another obstacle, when using soil, organic matter and bacteria come into play and they can be very unpredictable, even worse is that you cannot predict if that organic matter or bacteria are harmful to the plant until the plant begins to show physical signs. Nutrient Deficiency is another factor in the growing of cannabis, to learn more read our How to Cure Nutrient Deficiency in Cannabis Plants.

All in all, deciding between hydroponic vs soil weed it really comes down to your situation, whether you have access to the outdoors, the space you have ect. For first time growers it is recommended that you take the ourdoor soil approach, it is less complicated and requires far less equipment and grower knowledge.

Quality or Quantity 

Quality or Quantity

When it comes down to it, the level of quality from hydroponic cannabis has become superior to growing organic cannabis, various outdoors strains are of course an exception, but overall most of the best marijuana nowadays is grown indoors. That however doesn’t make growing marijuana indoors the one and only way. Growing outdoors is hands down the best way to yield a sizable crop, especially the yield per plant. It all comes down to the space, from gardens to full fields, if your plants have the space they can grow anywhere from 8-15 feet which means each plant can produce up to 5-10 pounds of flower. However due to the high volume of plants and the time is takes to irrigate, purine, training and trellising the quality of the harvest can suffer if the proper amount of time and man hours aren’t properly allocated. This is what makes hydroponic vs soil weed different hydroponics cannabis used automated hydroponic systems are used when yielding crops indoors. 

When using such systems growers have the ability to accommodate upwards a couple thousand smaller plants in a commercial garden setup. Hydroponic yields are the optical option for a screen of green (scrOG) setup which is where the plants are packed extremely close together and grown directly through a screen trellis. These screen trellis are rolled over the garden of plants during the vegetative stage and are horizontal consisting of string netting in 4-inch squares. By growing smaller plants indoors growers try to boost their yields but cannot compared to the yield one gets from growing outdoors. That being said the quality of herb makes up for the lack of yield when growing indoors, this is largely due to the indoor growers having full control of the plants environments which the outdoors plants don’t. This allows them to maximize the potential of each strain they grow. Outdoor growers have control over certain aspects such as watering and nutrient feeding, indoor growers can control everything from irrigation and nutrient programs, to garden temperature, humidity, co2 saturation, light cycles and pest and disease controls. This is what allows for indoor growers to obtain the optimal potency and quality when yielding their crops.

 

Mediums 

Mediums

The debate over hydroponic vs soil cannabis has actually become quite watered down over the years, this is largely due to the fact that the use of actual earth topsoil is no longer used indoors anymore. Topsoil is however still commonly used outdoors but even that is changing with the introduction of composted mediums that have less topsoil replaced with decomposing organic material, helping enhance a fuller and nutrient rich medium. Using compost helps growers accelerate things such as rot and the breaking down of organic matter, altering the chemical properties of the soil, the mineral content and the aeration and moisture retention within the medium. Compost is a great option as a slow release fertilizer, providing mineral elements to the medium during the plant’s life.

When choosing the best soil for your outdoor setup there are multiple factors to take in as not all soils are appropriate for growing cannabis. Factors such as the specific type of cannabis you’re growing, the location you are growing in such as your backyard or the wild and the climate you are dealing with. Here we’ll look at the common occurrences you want when picking the right soil for your grow.

Texture

When growing cannabis it prefers a light and loose soil texture that isn’t restrictive. This allows for the roots to move freely during its developments allowing for oxygen to reach the roots more freely and increasing the optimization of the plants growth and overall health. 

Drainage Ability 

Like most things in the world, retaining water is a game changer, and soil for your cannabis is no different. When watering your plants you want to make sure that the water pools on the top of the soil. If the soil isn’t providing the right drainage it will result in your plant getting sick with the potential of dying. 

Water Retention

No different then good drainage, water retention is vital in the survival of your plant. The ability to retain and hold water gives your plant an adequate life source, a good cannabis soil will have both good drainage and water retention.

pH value

pH is what determines how acidic or how alkaline is in your plant. Cannabis plants flourish in a specific pH level and going over or under can be problematic. The average range you want your pH level at is about 5.8-6.3 with the optimal level being 6.0 pH. 

Nutrients

One of the key elements of your cannabis plants growing big and strong comes down to adequate nutrients, feeding your cannot be understated. When buying soil, almost every bag will feature its own amount of nutrients, however there is a catch. Most nutrients in soil only last to a maximum of 3-4 weeks, this means when the flower process begins, your soil will just be a pile of dirt and your plant will be completely depleted of nutrients. It’s important to know this as you will need to add your own nutrients to the plant to help make sure it continues to grow properly. When you add your own nutrients you should ensure your soil contains organic substances like compost, worm castings, guano and humus. These organic substances will be turned into nutrients that your plant can access on demand by microorganisms. 

Most store-bought potting soil will be designed for optimal growing, but if you are growing organically it can be different. When using natural organic soil it can come in a variety of different ways such as sandy, silty, loamy and clay. Sandy soil is more coarse and is good for water drainage, but isn’t great at absorbing water. Silty is of a medium coarse type and has an abundance of minerals and organic particles, it retains water well and is a great organic soil choice. Loamy is a combination of all 4 soils with additional organic compounds, offering great water retention, drainage, nutrients and oxygen, but is the most expensive of the choices. Lastly clay, to be expected this is a heavy and not very easy soil to work out, it has high levels of nutrients and minerals, but has poor drainage and is hard to work with. 

When working with natural soil you will need to add your own nutrients on a regular basis, as the natural soils are not perfect for growing cannabis during the beginning stages. There are however options to improve the soil to help create a better growing process. First is coco coir which is a coco fibre that is made from coconut husks, these fibres help improve both water retention and lightening heavier compact soils. Second is perlite which is the most common of the soil amendments, perlite contains light white rocks that vastly improves both drainage and airiness of the soil, along with improving the water retention. Third is vermiculte which is commonly used to help make the soil lighter but more importantly it is great at helping the soil retain water.  Lastly is worm castings, these castings contain a lot of useful microorganisms that contribute to a successful grow, improving texture, drainage and the water retention of the soil. 

Indoor grows take a different approach, using amended soilless mediums. Similar to traditional soil, these soilless mixes act almost the exact same but they are substrates known as coco, peat or sphagnum which contain amendments like perlite, wood chips and vermiculite. When growing with a soilless medium such as coco, peat and sphagnum you can treat your plants almost the same way as in regular soil, with the biggest difference being all the nutrients are fed through the water. This results in the plants growing a lot quicker due to the roots being fed directly, opposed to outdoor grows where the roots have to go looking for nutrition. It is also less likely you will run into common outdoor grow problems such as over watering or bugs.

Soilless mixes are not right for every hydroponic system, here we’ve put together a list of hydroponic systems and how they grow their plants.

Aeroponics

Aeroponics uses what is known as a grow chamber, where the roots become suspended in the air with no medium inside the closed loop system they use. Water that is packed with nutrients is used on the plants as they are suspended, this oxygen-rich environment allows the plants to digest and absorb the nutrients.

Deep Water Culture

This method uses what is known as bubblers which is a bucket or nutrients. The plants hang over the plants as the roots grow into the nutrients below. The bubblers mix contains air using a aquarium pump which helps speed up grow times. The purpose of this grow method is that the fertilizer enriched mixture is amazing for the plants and works wonders for the grow.

Drip Irrigation

Each plant in a drip irrigation has its own chamber, the nutrients are feed by a dripper and the solution is recycled. In each chamber the nutrients are fed into the medium by a small dripper. 

Nutrient Film Technique

This method is a nutrient solution being pumped onto a try which then forms a shallow and slow moving film targeting the plant’s roots. The roots then grow into a solution, which creates a large root mat in the tray. This gives the roots 24 access to water, nutrients and oxygen, speeding up the development and producing maximum yields.

Ebb and Flow

Replaces soil with rockwool a medium that helps produce large yields. Stimulating a natural cycle of rain, producing a natural like environment for the grow.

 

Hydroponic VS Soil Cannabis

To summarize it all up, when choosing hydroponic VS soil cannabis it all comes down to the yield you are looking for. Indoor does offer the best bang for your buck, if grown properly it can produce a superior quality cannabis that outdoor cant and the grow times are usually faster. Indoor also has the advantage of a more direct approach due to the hydro and mediums that are used. Roots prioritize intake by oxygen, nutrients and water, roots breathe in oxygen below the surface and the rest of the plant above the surface breathes in CO2. Hydroponics mediums are less dense and more airy which helps gets oxygen to the roots faster, results in a quicker grow time. Ourdoor might not be as superior as indoor grows but they can offer higher yields. 

FAQs

Is hydroponic better then organic?

Hydroponics is described as the process of growing plants or crops in water without the use of soil, while organic farming involves choosing not to use inorganic fertilizers in the growing process. … It has been proven that vitamin content is 50% more in hydroponically grown plants as compared to conventional one

Is it better to grow in soil of hydroponics?
In fact, grown under the same conditions, a hydroponic plant can grow up to 30-50% faster than a soil plant. Because your plants grow faster, you can also identify issues earlier on, meaning that these issues can be tended to or repair themselves faster as well.
 
Is growing hydroponic easy?
hydroponic system can grow plants and vegetables faster and year-round. Plants grown this way usually yield more, require less space, and conserve soil and water. … Three systems are suitable for beginners: the wick system, the water culture system, and the ebb and flow system.