Have you ever tried growing weed? It’s not the easiest of plants to cultivate. There’s a lot of environmental and biological management involved, and even the most seasoned grower can run into problems with this most fickle of plants. Cannabis is a very unique crop because nowadays people can actually grow their own medicine. Where avid gardeners once grew herbs, fruits, vegetables and feel-good flowers, many Canadians are actually cultivating their own remedies for pain, inflammation, insomnia and anxiety. If you’re looking to try your hand at blooming some of your own buds, where do you even get started? Well, it might sound too simple, but you literally need to start from the ground-up. Let’s look at some of the best soils and growing mediums for cultivating your very own cannabis.
GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY WITH SOME GROWING KNOW-HOW
Before you even get around to choosing the strain of cannabis you want to grow, before you watch any of the “growers tips & tricks” videos online, and well before you go ahead and but the equipment like tents, lights and nutrients, you need to do one very important but often overlooked thing: ask yourself, “Why do I want to grow cannabis?”. Are you a veteran stoner, a true cheeba connoisseur, but you are dissatisfied with the lack of quality and inconsistencies of the products on the market today? Maybe you’re new to the ins-and-outs of this wondrous plant, but you are an experienced greenthumb who has the best gardens and lawns on your street. Whether you want to grow your own cannabis because you want to control the quality, potency and variability of genetics yourself, or if you’re simply looking to add cannabis to your gardening repertoire, you need to understand your motivations.
It is essential to understand the fundamental reasons behind your desire to grow your own cannabis. Why, you might ask? Why indeed – the important question of “Why” is often glazed over, but it forms the basis of everything we do. Do you want to grow a basement-full of high-potency medicine for you, your family and friends? Or are you an introverted, shy cannabis user who only wants to relax with it once in a while? Context is king when it comes to setting up your growing environment. How important cannabis is to you, and how much resources you devote to cultivating it will go a long way in determining what kind of equipment, expertise and investment you’ll need. Someone who requires high-doses of THC for a serious health condition will obviously need a lot more technical know-how and a lot more growing space, tools and training. On the flip side, a green beginner might be okay with a small grow tent, some basic equipment and just enough knowledge to keep the plants growing upwards.
What level of interest you have, or to what degree you rely on marijuana also has a major impact on what kind of growing medium you choose. What is the best soil for growing cannabis? That depends on you – the money you’re willing to spend, the space you have to grow, the amount of plants you’re growing, and what kinds of results you’re expecting.
In order to pinpoint the best soil for weed, let’s look at some of the top choices that many greenthumbs are using today. Before you get growing, take some time to appreciate your motivations, and once you’re ready, it’s time to dig deep into the world of growing mediums and soils.
BEST SOILS FOR CANNABIS
To begin with, there is one important distinction you need to know before we talk about soils. The term “soil” is actually referring to anything derived from nature, as in the dirt we find whenever we tear into the ground. Soil is a very vague term because the composition of soil is highly variable – it can have different micro and macro nutrients per square foot, and other factors like alkalinity, moisture, and heavy metals can all fluctuate from region-to-region, and meter-to-meter. Soil by definition is a mixture of organic material, minerals, liquids and gases, but when we’re talking about hand-crafted “soils” made by human ingenuity, then we’re actually referring to “soilless” growing mediums. Soil can also mean compost, so basically anything that is naturally-derived, decomposing organic material will become soil over time.
Soilless might seem like an odd term to describe, essentially, man-made dirt, but the reason we refer to these kinds of growing mediums as “soilless” is because there is no wholesale dirt or natural earth involved. Combining horticultural knowledge and industrial capabilities, many growing medium providers are mixing some cutting-edge soilless media that can be calculated to best suit the crop you’re intending to grow. Soilless mediums are very customizable, and they’re based on agricultural/horticultural expertise so that we can feed our plants what they need, when they need it, in the right amount that will maximize crop success.
Many growers like to trust in nature and simply grow in what is abundant in their area, but a lot of others have turned to specialty, crafted, scientifically formulated growing mediums like “super soil” or “coco peat”. There are thousands of different kinds of soils available all over the globe, but in Canada there is a dominant type of native soil found in each province. Here’s a breakdown of the agricultural soils by province & territory:
- Branham Soil, British Columbia – this yellowy-brown soil is prevalent throughout the interior and some coastal regions of the province of BC. Branham manifests in floodplains, river valleys and near bodies of water, and is very suitable for growing large crops (wheat, canola) as well as high-moisture plants.
- Breton Soil, Alberta – a greyish, almost clay-like soil, Breton is ideal for big agricultural crops like canola. Breton soil is also known for being suited to crops that require cool, moist climates.
- Weyburn Soil, Saskatchewan – a rich, chocolate brown color, Weyburn soil is the loamy earth associated with grassy plains. It is well suited for growing cereals and oilseeds.
- Newdale Soil, Manitoba – a very black, earthy soil, it is rich in organic material and has been known to hold moisture very well, typical of its wheat and cereals crops.
- Guelph Soil, Ontario – greyish brown in color but not overly clay-based, Guelph soil is ideal for growing soybeans, corn, hay and a variety of agricultural staples.
- Sainte-Rosalie Soil, Quebec – a clay-centric soil, it is very grey in appearance but it can hold moisture extremely well during dry periods. Quebec soil has been known to be suitable for hay, corn, soybeans and more.
- Holmesville Soil, New Brunswick – a unique olive-brown color, Holmesville is known for being very fertile for many food crops like potatoes and barley.
- Charlottetown Soil, Prince Edward Island – a bright, vivacious red appearance, Charlottetown soil is fine and sandy but is suited for the province’s iconic potatoes.
- Queens Soil, Nova Scotia – reddy-brown color, high-clay content that supports many forage crops, feeds and grains.
- Cochrane Soil, Newfoundland & Labrador – dark, reddish, brown and very rocky, this soil does well with rooted crops like potatoes, turnips and cabbages.
- Cryosol Soil, Nunavut – not a well-known or used soil type, this environment is more tundra and skrag than heritable land. Cryosol soil is a subsoil that consists of the remains of frozen organic material and is not overly suitable for cultivation.
- Hay River Soil, North West Territories – brown, similar to BC’s Branham soil in that it is commonly found among bodies of water and river valleys, Hay River soil is well-suited to hay and seasonal vegetables.
- Champagne Soil, Yukon – brownish grey, Champagne soil is ideal for grass, hay and oats cultivation. It is very prevalent throughout the Yukon.
These major types of soil are not the only ones you can find in each area – for instance, Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast of BC by themselves have laid claim to dozens of different kinds of nutrient-rich soils – but they are the recognized “Provincial Soils” that epitomizes each region. If you know of some effective soils in your area, it is definitely a good idea to invest in your localized growing mediums because they’re suited to your climate. However, many people grow their cannabis indoors, so you don’t have to put so much emphasis on curtailing to your regional climate as an outdoor grower would.
If you have no knowledge of cultivating anything, and you simply want the best soils for growing marijuana, there are certain ones that are better than others when it comes to cultivating buds. Cannabis is a very heavy feeding plant, so you need a solid nutrient base in your growing medium or you’ll need to do a lot more feeding. There are two important things to keep in mind above all else when you’re hunting for a native soil: 1) The growing techniques you’re going to implement, and 2) Your budget.
Growing techniques refer to how you set up your grow, what kinds of equipment or tools you’re planning to use, and how involved you want to be. Growing is the furthest thing from a “one size fits all” – there are hundreds of different ways to grow cannabis, from clean-green/outdoor to hydroponics, and traditional indoor tents to aeroponics. Some growers prefer to be very hands-on with their plants, paying close attention to them each day and adhering to strict feeding and watering schedules. This methodology requires a lot of fertilizers, tools, equipment and technical know-how. On the contrary, a lot of beginners like to simple plant their seeds, water their plants and watch them grow as nature wills it. This approach is more in-line with the “clean-green” school of growing – giving the plant a very dense, nutrient-rich soil from which it can draw the nutrients it needs, when it needs it. In either case, you need to still pay close attention to your plants’ behavior, and things like watering, pH balancing, and temperature control can’t be absolutely automated.
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SOILLESS GROWING MEDIUMS
There are literally thousands upon thousands of kinds of soilless growing mediums on the market, that it would take an entire novel to cover all of them in detail. For the purposes of this article, we’ll review some of the more popular options that many growers are using today. In general, many soilless mediums considered to be the best for growing marijuana can be categorized into the following:
Coco Mediums: As the name suggests, coco is derived primarily from coconut fibers and husks. Coco is a staple among hydroponic growers, and it is often combined with peat moss in growing cubes, pyramids or pots. Nevertheless, on its own coco is a very inert and neutral medium, with favorable pH and EC (electrical conductivity) for growing cannabis. Coco is typically divided into a few subtypes: coco pith, very earthy and similar to peat moss, it is dense and retains water very well; coco fiber, the stringy and hair-like fibers from coconuts, it is very durable and can be reused if carefully washed; and coco chips, the chunks of coco coir made up of both fibers and pith.
Coco mediums grow fast, big-bud cannabis because they can be customized to fit any growing set-up, and its air-to-water ratio and water absorption are favorited by hydroponic growers. It also has the distinction of being reusable, so it is a very environmentally friendly option to grow your cannabis.
Peat Mediums: Peat moss is very abundant in Canada, but there is a major divide among Canadians whether it is safe to tap into this very rich, natural resource. Peat moss develops in bogs over thousands of years, as slowly breaking down plant material hosts thriving microorganisms that can be very beneficial to other plants. Peat moss is undoubtedly beneficial for crop growing, as it seems to be “black gold” for cultivating high-value crops – plants just do better with peat moss available, simple as that. The only downside to using peat moss is in the actual harvesting of it. Many growers are also advocates for sustainable practices, and it’s very difficult to obtain peat moss with destroying the natural harmony of the peat bogs themselves.
Adding to this issue, peat moss develops over a very long time so there’s no way to replenish the supply as quickly as we harvest it and mix it into growing mediums. With these concerns in mind, it is good practice to buy peat moss from reputable suppliers who have green initiatives and are registered with the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association (CSPMA).
“Super Soil” Mediums: This category of growing mediums is really a broad group of any hand-crafted soilless media. Super soil was the term adopted by this medium because it can be jam-packed with all of the essential nutrients and minerals your plant needs, leading to “super” successful crops. There are some usual suspects found in most super soils, such as: perlite or vermiculite, coco or peat, compost, N-P-K inputs like guano, and a variety of mineral-rich ingredients like limestone or glauconite. The thing about super soils is that they’re completely customizable – from the base ingredients, to the N-P-K ratios, to the fertilizer inputs, you can tailor your super soil to suit your environment.
Some people only use super soil for the rooting zone of the plant, because it is so nutrient-rich they can still grow in a base of coco or peat but with the complex nutrient profile of super soil accessible by the roots whenever the plant needs a boost. Super soil is an excellent option for beginners because it takes a lot of the pressure off of the newbie growers and allows the plants themselves to absorb the nutrients they need, almost on-demand. As is the case with any growing medium, balancing air-to-water ratio, pH, and moisture control are essential to have control over, but with super soil in your pots you can do less managing and be more of a supervisor as nature does its thing.
Conventional Hydroponic & Aeroponic “Mediums”: These kinds of soilless mediums are indeed devoid of soil, but they’re so far from the idea of growing in dirt that we’ll just briefly touch on them. Rockwool, clay granules and aeroponics are more of a scientific pursuit than a technique for gardeners. These growing techniques don’t focus on the medium itself, but instead aim to cultivate their plants in a safe, neutral environment from which they can control every facet of the plant’s life cycle. A more modern approach to be sure, but there are still a lot of growers who are having a lot of success with these semi-futuristic methods of growing cannabis. If you’re looking for the best soil for marijuana, you won’t find it in these laboratory set-ups, but if you’re the kind of person who likes to innovate and be at the cutting edge of things then hydroponics or aeroponics might be for you.
BEST SOILS FOR GROWING WEED? IT’S UP TO YOU
The point is, no matter how intense you want to get into growing cannabis, there are many different ways to go about it. Organic vs. non-organic, natural vs. conventional (science-based), there’s no one way to grow. How you go about it, what you believe in, and what you use to cultivate cannabis is your personal choice, so explore your preferences and try all of the best soils for marijuana. Finding the best soils for growing weed is kind of like being an advocate of a certain brand of vehicle – you might be a staunch supporter and only drive one kind of car or truck, but until you’ve gotten behind the wheels of others you’ll never truly know if your advocacy is warranted.
Many growers are very opinionated about their soils as being “the best soil for growing cannabis, hands down”. This isn’t a negative development, in fact we think it’s great. If you have found a growing medium that has helped you grow many successful crops of buds, then we salute you and your beautiful plants. Picking a school of thought in the growing community isn’t the end-all-be-all, you still have to grow the plants from seed to harvest. In the end, what matters is how satisfied you are with your cannabis, and that you’re getting the best quality medicine or just-for-fun weed that you need.
If you’ve already found the best soil for growing marijuana, and you just need a stock-up of some quality buds or some potent cannabis concentrates you weren’t able to make yourself, check out the awesome inventory at Haute.health.