For those of you who are beginners, a growing medium in the marijuana world is what you are using to grow your plants in, be it soil, pebbles, aeroponics etc. There are lots of different types of growing mediums all with their advantages and disadvantages, at the end of the day marijuana plants are like any other living thing, as long as they have room to grow and enough oxygen, water and nutrients they will thrive.
Different growing mediums
- Soil or compost
- Soilless growing mix such as coco coir and perlight.
Growing in soil is the most popular method, mainly because it is the most easy to come by and is very cheap. Many people simply just grow in the garden in the soil that is already there so it technically costs them nothing, however it is important to make sure that whatever soil you are using is right for growing marijuana. Good soil should have lots of nutrients and be loose (non dense), if the soil is too dense then it can often prevent water and oxygen from penetrating into the roots of the plants and also prevent the roots of the plants from expanding. This is often why people when using soil or compost will add small stones into the mix or perlite, this creates little pockets of air and assists with drainage and keeping the soil nice and airy allows the plants roots to easily expand. A good mix will have around 20-25% minimum of something like perlite mixed in with it.
Another advantage to using soil is that it creates an environment that is as close to the plants natural environment as possible. Although you may not see them, inside the soil live tiny microorganisms that help to produce the natural minerals and nutrients that a plant needs to survive. Each type of
organism bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, algae and protozoa all provide a unique benefit to using this type of medium such as providing nitrogen. Because of the natural nutrients in soil you do not usually have to add your own nutrients, because nature does that for you. All that you need to make sure you do is re-pot into new fresh soil before the plants begin to produce bud. The only downside to using soil is that plants often grow slightly slower, however in my experience the difference is not enough to be a big disadvantage.
Soil-less growing mix
Soil-less growing mixes are typically made up of perlite peat moss, coco coir and rockwool. The biggest advantage of using mixes like this is that you feed the nutrients to the plant directly using hyrdoponics meaning that the nutrients go straight to the roots. Plants grown using this method will typically grow faster than in regular soil because they are getting more nutrients on board quicker and delivered direct to their roots as oppose to searching for it in soil. Another major advantage of using soil-less mixes is that you are much less likely to have issues with pests. Probably the most popular soil-less mix is Coco Coir mixed with perlite, Coco Coir is material that is made from the fibres of the husk of a coconut, it was originally used in the 80’s in Holland to grow flowers and because of its incredible success marijuana growers began to use it too for hydroponic grows instead of using peat moss which is much denser. The reason that Coco Coir works so well is that it retains water very well whilst also allowing for good drainage and aeration, it is also a good source of potassium and iron for the plant. Often when choosing growing mixes you do not need to choose simply between soil and soil-less mixes, usually the soil mixes will already contain some perlite and coco coir because it boosts the overall properties of the soil.
Hydroponics also known as DWC (Deep Water Culture) put simply is having the plant like the image below with its roots growing directly into clay pebbles and below that water. The advantage to using this method is that no soil is required and if carried out correctly it can be cleaner and easier to grow with and because there is no soil restricting the growth of roots the plant can grow massive and very fast. Nutrients are delivered directly to the roots and trickle through the pebbles, into the water below, the water is then recycled and used again to water the plants meaning that you can also save on water.
The downside to using hydroponics in my opinion is that regular maintenance is required which is a lot more hassle than just planting in soil in your back garden and you also need to keep a close eye on the nutrient supply, it is very common for growers using hydro to have to regularly alter the PH PPM levels in the water and hydro grows also can eat into your electricity consumption. However if you are an experienced grower and can give your plants the time and care to do a hydro grow i would strongly recommend it!