Hydroponic vs Soil Cannabis Growing

There are 2 primary methods of growing that have taken prominence in the world of cannabis. Those being soil growing, and hydroponic growing.

Cannabis soil grow usually appeals to purists and those aiming for simplicity and sustainability. Soil offers a natural buffer and interaction with a living medium, which many argue is the superior and simpler method of cannabis growing.

Hydroponics offers a soilless approach, which relies on nutrient-rich water for plant growth. Hydro growing stands out for its control, efficiency, faster rate of growth, and higher yield and quality potential. That makes hydroponics marijuana desirable for growers seeking precision and maximizing plant potential.

In this article, we'll delve into the nuances of each method, to help growers choose which best fits their growing circumstances and needs.

Hydroponics vs Soil Cannabis: Basic Differences

Growing Weed in Soil

Grow Weed in Soil

When growing in soil, the cannabis plant relies on the soil for its nutritional needs. Most soils come pre-enriched with minerals and nutrients which feed the plant. Over time, these nutrients in the soil will run out, and you will then need to amend the soil with the necessary nutrients based on the plant's stage of growth.

When growing in organic soil, the soil contains organic matter rich in nutrients, as well as living organisms and fungi. These microorganisms break down the organic matter, making the nutrients bioavailable for the plant to uptake and utilize.

Pros of Cannabis Soil Growing

1. More Suitable for Beginners

If done properly, growing cannabis in soil typically requires less work, as only water is needed until nutrients start to become depleted. Soil grow is more forgiving, as the soil medium acts as a natural buffer of pH and nutrients, reducing the chance of errors that could harm the plant.

2. Natural or Organic Flowers

Soil is seen to produce more "natural" flowers. If organic soil is utilized, it can produce 100% organic weed flowers free of heavy metals.

3. Lower Startup Cost

Starting a soil grow requires a lower initial investment, as much less equipment is needed than hydroponics. You can even grow weed outdoors with soil and reduce the operations cost even further. Soil growing can be as simple as attaining some high quality soil, and pots!

4. Resilient

Soil-grown cannabis plants tend to be more resilient to fluctuations in watering and nutrient schedules, thanks to the soil acting as a natural buffer. This can lead to a less stressful life for the plant, and growers alike!

5. Versatile

Soil can be used in both indoor and outdoor growing, offering more flexible cultivation methods.

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Cons of Cannabis Soil Growing

1. Messy

Growing cannabis in soil can create a much dirtier growing environment, requiring more labor intensive setup and reset. Cleaning pots and containers can be cumbersome due to soil residue.

Dirt can often stick to flowers and end up in the final product. An unsanitary growing environment can also attract house pests, posing a risk to plant health.

2. Limited Space

If growing cannabis indoors, soil/pots can take up more vertical space, which restricts the number and size of plants that can be grown at one time.

3. Less Control

Since soil acts as a buffer, and comes pre enriched with nutrients, it means less control and/or knowledge of what the plant is consuming or not. Being able to control the nutrient profile and concentration can lead to higher quality, higher yield, and more control of the rate of growth.

If you notice the plant starts to experience nutrient deficiencies or other issues manifesting in the leaves (different cannabis leaf symptoms), you'll need to determine which amendments are appropriate to add to the soil to repair the issue. Figuring this out can be tricky, and may end up causing further issues if not done properly.

Water content is also much harder to control or correct in soil growing. If cannabis is over-watered, the plant takes much longer to rebound and respond.

4. Slower Rate of Growth

Since you have less control over the amount of water, nutrients, and nutrient ratios in the soil, typically soil-grown cannabis will grow slower than hydroponic ones. Slower growth means more time growing vegetatively, and can result in less harvest per year.

5. Higher Risk

Soil can often harbor pests, diseases, bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Common pests like fungus gnats, thrips, aphids, and mites find soil to be a hospitable home and may end up infecting the plants. This requires vigilant scouting and monitoring of the plant.

Often times, in the event of pest or pathogen infestations, growers often resort to interventions like sprays or foliage removal. Although helpful in pest/pathogen control, these can end up having a stressful or negative effect on the cannabis plant.

6. Quality and Yield Potential

On a per-square-foot basis, growing weed in soil can be less efficient than in hydroponic systems. The lack of control over nutrient delivery may lead to lower quality yields. Additionally, as soil can harbor pests and diseases, it could potentially stress the plant and require growers' intervention, which will further impact quality.

Growing Weed Hydroponically

grow hydroponic weed

cannabis grown in Hey abby's hydropinics system_Image via @Wiccn

Hydroponics cannabis growing is a soilless method, meaning plants receive nutrients directly from the grower instead of soil.

Growers are responsible for providing the plant with nutrients in water, keeping the ratio and concentration within a proper pH range. This direct delivery of nutrient-rich water to the root zone allows for easier processing and nutrient uptake, which can lead to more control over the rate of growth, yield, and quality of the finished flower.

Since no soil is used, hydroponic systems often house the roots in mediums like perlite, rockwool, coco, nutrient-rich water, or aeroponics systems which constantly mist the roots with nutrient-rich water.

Pros of Growing Hydroponics Cannabis

1. Clean

Since no soil is used, the grow environment of hydro weed stays much cleaner. It makes for an easier, and less labor-intensive harvest, setup, and reset process. Since the environment is much cleaner, and more sanitary, there is a lower chance of cannabis pests/pathogens being harbored in the environment.

2. More Control

Since hydroponic cannabis relies on nutrient inputs from the grower, it gives the grower full control over what the plant receives and how much! The nutrients are directly delivered to the roots zone, resulting in more rapid uptake and processing for maximum absorption!

3. Efficient

Hydroponic cannabis growing systems are typically more water efficient than soil-based growing methods. Because hydro systems can recirculate and reuse water and nutrients, it dramatically helps minimize waste!

4. Faster Growth

With optimized control over feeding, environmental conditions, and lighting, hydroponics cannabis plants often exhibit faster rates of growth compared to soil-grown cannabis. This accelerated growth pattern can lead to shorter cultivation cycles and more harvests per year!

5. Better Utlization of Space

Typically, hydroponic systems are designed to maximize vertical space, allowing growers to cultivate more and larger plants, which means larger yields overall!

6. Reduced Risk of Pests/Pathogens

As mentioned, soil can harbor pests and pathogens. By eliminating dirt/soil from the grow space, it also reduces or eliminates the risk of soil born bugs! This leads to an overall healthier plant, and reduced possibility of grower intervention, which helps keep the plant stress-free!

7. Better Results

Since hydroponics marijuana growing gives you more control, it can increase the rate of growth and ability to apply beneficial stress to the plant. That will result in a higher yield, and quality potential of the final product!

Cons of Hydroponic Growing

1. Higher Initial Investment and Operation

Since hydropics need a full system buildout, there is a much higher initial investment needed. You will need much more equipment than soil growing, including reservoirs, pumps, grow lights, timers. The cost can add up quickly! Since there are more mechanical tools being used, it requires more resources to use them, specifically power. The general cost to operate a hydroponic cannabis garden is higher than soil.

2. Technical Issues/Maintenance

Since more equipment is used in hydro growing, it leads to more maintenance of said equipment, and more labor and time checking to make sure everything is functioning properly. If not maintained properly, it can lead to higher risk of technical failures, which can negatively affect the plants.

3. More Complex/Detail-Oriented

Hydro systems require much more attention to detail. When feeding the plant, you will need to closely monitor which nutrients are being used and when, the concentration of the nutrient solution, pH level of the solution, and the temperature of the nutrient solution. There is also much more equipment needed to watch over and monitor.

4. Less Forgiving

Because of their precision, and lack of soil acting as a buffer, hydroponics is less forgiving than cannabis soil grow. Errors in feeding levels, pH and more have a larger impact on the plants.

5. Steep Learning Curve

For beginners, there is a lot to learn using a hydro weed growing system. Understanding the nuances of nutrients, mixing nutrients, pH level, water content, and system deisgn/function can be overwhelming for novices.

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Growing Weed in Soil vs Hydroponic System: How to Find the Best Fit?

hydroponics vs soil weed

When choosing which cultivation style fits your needs or circumstances best, you should consider the following factors.

Difficulty

Are you looking for an easier way of growing cannabis? If so, go with soil!

Budget

If you are looking for a lower initial startup investment, soil may be the best option. If you want to go all out for the ultimate grow setup, hydroponics fits the bill! But don't worry, you can always start off with a basic/lower cost hydro system, and gradually buy add-ons and build your system up!

Speed

If you are looking for the quickest turn around, and most harvests per year- hydro is the only way to go!

Risk of Pests/Disease

No one wants to deal with pest/disease infection. It can lead to more work having to spray the plants and/or prune the infected areas. Hydroponics is much cleaner, and less likely to contract infection

Water Consumption

Soils need to be watered til runoff is reached, each time its watered. And the runoff water isn't reusable, as it is in some methods of hydro-growing. So if you are considering water usage, hydro may be a better fit!

Control

Only hydroponics offers full control over the plant, via feeding, lighting, and environmental control.

Yield

Due to the control you have over the plant, and more efficient use of the grow space when growing, typically the yield will be higher with hydroponics weed! But to obtain a higher yield, it takes more work and attention to detail.

Flower Quality

Since hydro offers more control over nutrient concentration and ration, and allows you to apply more beneficial stress on the plant, there is a higher possibility of better quality when growing hydroponic cannabis. But similar to higher yields, to obtain the higher quality, it takes more work and attention to detail.

Essential Cannabis Grow Equipment That Beginners Need

Hydroponics Cannabis Grow Equipment

When growing hydroponics marijuana, there is some necessary equipment needed based on the style of system you setup.

  • Grow light
  • Pumps
  • Irrigation system
  • Grow tables/trays/buckets
  • Nutrient reservoir
  • Nutrients
  • Medium of your choice (rocwool, coco, DWC buckets, etc.)
  • pH meter
  • Fans
  • Timers
  • Environmental controls
  • HVAC (humidification & dehumidification)
grow hydroponics marijuana with Hey abby 420 edition
grow hydroponics cannabis with Hey abby 420 edition

Or you can utilize an all-incorporated system like the Hey abby 420 Edition. It contains everything needed to grow hydroponically, and with their subscription service, all materials needed for growing will be shipped straight to your door!

The system's algorithm oversees your garden round the clock. It requires just 10 minutes of your attention each week for impressive yields year-round.

Hey abby Automated Grow Box Soil Edition

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Cannabis Soil Grow Equipment

  • Grow light/Sunlight
  • Pots or containers
  • Soil
  • Watering apparatus
  • Fans (if growing indoor)
  • Environmental controls
  • HVAC (humidification and dehumidification if growing indoor)
  • Soil amendments
  • Runoff trays/saucers
cannabis soil grow with Hey abby grow box soil edition

Alternatively, you can opt for an all-in-one solution like the Hey abby Soil Edition grow box. It offers a fully integrated indoor growing space, preassembled and equipped with automated features. Plus, it even tells you what to do to, and when with an APP!

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