Ok, today I’m going to talk dirty to you. We’re going to get down and dirty, possibly for hours to talk about the right marijuana soil or other growing medium. Have I got your interest yet? Great, let’s go for it!
To the nursery that is. We are going to buy dirt. Yes, you heard me, dirt. “But why would I want to buy something that I can find in my backyard?” you ask. Because for some reason, our dirt (with a few exceptions) is devoid of nutrients. So off to the store we go, but there’s so much more to dirt than meets the eye.
Today, we’re going to discuss the three most popular growing mediums: Soil, Coco Coir (Coco), and Hydroponics. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of the mediums. And in the end, it’s up to personal opinion. What works for one may not work for the other.
Let’s start with soil. This is the easiest and most popular medium. No special stores are necessary. Heck, you can pick it up with your groceries at Super Walmart. There’s a myth out there that using real soil is what creates the earthy dirt taste in some Cannabis. This is not necessarily true. The taste depends mainly on the strain. And proper flushing has a great deal to do with taste.
Anyway, marijuana soil comes in several types. There’s Miracle Gro, and FoxFarms to name just two. (These are two that I have personally used.) As I said, both of these come with advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of Miracle Gro is it is chock full of nutrients. However, they are nutrients best suited for tomatoes and roses. FoxFarms costs more and comes in two types, Amazon Bloom and Ocean Forest. “People” will tell you to use the Amazon Bloom and NOT the Ocean Forest. No one ever gave me a reason so I, thinking dirt is dirt, have used both and see no difference. But soil is easy to obtain and relatively filled with nutrients so it is a good start for the first-time grower.
Any soil you get, you’re going to have to mix it 50/50 with Perlite. No need for a name brand here, generic will do. Remember to rinse your Perlite in a colander under water to remove all the dust. You do this because the dust from the Perlite can clog up the roots and cause the plant to not feed. Also, any soil you buy is going to contain pests. It’s just a fact of life. Spider Mites hang out in soil. So do fruit flies, gnats, and aphids.
To grow in soil, you must water every 2 to 3 days, depending on size and growth cycle. Sometimes, daily watering is necessary in maturity. Plants in maturity need constant care so stick around to tend to them. Soil is also harder to flush than other mediums. This can lead to buildups that can harm your plants if you don’t fix it. To flush the plants and soil properly, you must have a way to collect the excess water that runs off. You can do this by using those drainage trays that come with the pots and sucking up the water with your shop vac. (Hey, why not buy that with the soil at Super Walmart!)
Another consideration with soil is the question of how to get rid of it. When I was growing in pots, at the end of the season, I’d just dump it out in the backyard. Sometimes I’d till it in, sometimes not. Now, I hear that you don’t want old soil hanging around your house because of those darn pests. So now, we have to get rid of the dirt. You can put it out at the curb but only if you want to let the trash collector in on your little growing secret. A more suitable way is to bag up the soil in heavy duty trash bags and drive it to the dump yourself.
For my vegan friends, I’m going to put a little piece in here about Peat Moss: There are environmental concerns now. Peat Moss is decayed plant matter found in the rain forests. Removing it can kill the rain forests. It is not a readily renewable resource because it takes several centuries for Peat to regenerate.
Now, let’s move on to Coco Coir. And no, that’s not a stripper but would make a good stripper name. Coco Coir or Coco as it is more commonly known has been gaining popularity as a growing medium. There are good reasons for this. For one, it is soilless. It is a byproduct of coconut processing. It is, literally, the fiber found between the shell and the husk of coconuts. And for those vegan friends, it is a completely renewable resource.
Coco is an inert medium which means no nutrients at all. Everything the plant needs is your responsibility. Luckily, there are several good coco specific nutrient blends out there that will give your plants a healthy life. Remember, coco absorbs calcium and magnesium so you will need to add a calcium/magnesium supplement.
Also, Coco dries faster than soil so daily watering is necessary. But this means, your plants will receive more water over their lifetime which will create more medicine. Coco is great for beginners who would like the ease of soil but want to receive the benefits of Hydroponics. It is also a good crossover medium for the intermediate grower wishing to convert from soil to hydroponics.
Coco has a lot of oxygen space which allows air to travel through the rhizosphere (where the roots and microorganisms cohabitate.) The oxygen will accelerate activity between the roots and the microorganism… which is good.
Perlite can be added to Coco but it’s unnecessary. One hundred percent Coco is just fine. But plants may grow faster in 75% Coco and 25% Perlite. Also, the more Perlite the faster the pot will go dry because there isn’t enough Coco to keep the plants moist. This can become a problem in the later stages of growth when you’re watering every day (a good reason to stick with 100% Coco).
It is easier to flush plants grown in Coco than plants grown in soil. It is easily flushed of nutrients because it’s an inert material. Use those drainage pans because Coco will have more run off than plants grown in soil.
The primary reason for using Coco is it doesn’t import pests the way soil can. The disadvantages are few. Occasional pH problems or that nasty calcium/magnesium deficiency are your only ones, making it a user-friendly medium. Another drawback is the daily watering. If you’re using a remote grow room or house, you have got to be there; no vacations for you!
Using 100% Coco can average you two pounds or more per plant. It is possible that Coco will become the main choice for experienced growers because of this fact.
Before you start, make sure you have a pH meter and a Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) meter!
Finally, we are left to discuss Hydroponics. Hydroponics is basically growing the plants in water enriched with nutrients. Hydroponics is one form or another dates back to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Growing “Hydro” has many advantages. Without the barrier of soil or Coco, Hydro plants enjoy more vigorous growth and bud production because they can draw nutrients directly from the water. Of course, this means you get more medicine come harvest time. Hydro plants seem to have frostier, denser trichome formations. These are the resin glands that contain the THC and other cannabinoids that determine the medicine’s potency.
If you are using a remote grow house, this is the medium for you. Because you don’t have to water daily, you can stay away longer. Depending on the size of your reservoir, you could stay away for up to a week. But remember, a lot can go wrong while you are away so make sure your Hydro is running properly.
A financial advantage to Hydro is you don’t have to buy soil, Coco or Perlite. Hydro doesn’t need a drainage system and is relatively easy to clean.
The biggest benefit to Hydro is it is so darn easy to flush. The better your flush, the better the medicine with taste and perform. This is so important because if you don’t properly flush your nutrients, you will end up smoking harmful substances. Hydro makes flushing a cinch.
This is definitely an advanced growing medium. A lot can go wrong with Hydro. More than with any other medium. There is power loss, equipment malfunctions, and the spread of disease through the sharing of reservoirs just to name a few. This makes growing Hydro very difficult so I would suggest starting with soil or Coco, if you’re a newbie. Once you know the tendencies of the Cannabis plant, you can begin experimenting with Hydro.
Since Hydro requires more equipment, your startup costs are going to be more. Of course, this will be offset over the years but your initial outlay will be substantially more. Ongoing costs consist of Hydro fertilizers which are a bit more expensive.
Space is also a consideration when using Hydro. You need room for all those reservoirs, you know. And you must have hot water available to your site so you can routinely sanitize your equipment.
Of all three growing mediums, Hydro is most attuned to the grower’s personality and behavior. Hydro would be a good medium for clean freaks. Hydro must be sanitized regularly as Hydro is more susceptible to disease and harmful bacteria. The grow house must be spotless! It should be free of leaf matter and all equipment scrubbed in hot bleach water weekly.
So there you have it. Three different mediums, three degrees of difficulty. My dream is to grow in clay pots with Coco. What’s yours?
“When I first smoked Marijuana in 1963, I was a student at Berkeley, and on my next trip home to Los Angeles, I told my parents about this fabulous discovery. They reacted with horror…”
— Pot Stories for the Soul