A Growers Guide To Choosing A Growing Medium
A GROWER’S GUIDE TO CHOOSING A GROWING MEDIUM
Canna-culture has changed over the years, particularly with regards to how many ways there are to grow the stuff, which can make things as complex for the stoner hobbyist looking to grow their own as it can for those with, erm… larger scaler operations.
For anyone looking to grow, one of the first questions you need to ask yourself is which of the seemingly endless list of grow mediums is best for you, but it is also important to remember that there is no definitive answer to the question, nor is there any magical combination of them that gives perfect results.
The right choice for growing mediums depends very much on what you want out of your yield, how much money and time you can invest in the operation, how experienced a grower you are, and what you have to work with.
Let’s go over a few of your options to give you a better idea of which one would suit you best…
As growing mediums go, soil is generally the most widely used because it is easy, organic, cheap, and pretty good when all things are considered.
If you are a starter grower, soil is likely the answer for you because it lets you get away with more mistakes than pretty much any other medium. Soil is the most forgiving in terms of PH fluctuations, which require careful management in nearly all other mediums, needs very little feeding, and is by far the cheapest approach.
It does come with its own set of drawbacks, however, such as a higher risk of pest infestation which can be troublesome to deal with especially late in the grow, much longer growth cycles (which makes it take longer to notice grow issues), and generally smaller yields when compared to other growing mediums.
We Recommend using a Living Organic Soil for the best terp smelling buds and a simple “just add water” growing experience. Or start with a cannabis-friendly soil mix such as the popular Organics Matter Organic Living Soil or 420 Mix Soil which already contains enough nutrients to last the first month of your young plant’s life and give nutrients in the water as plants get older.
SOILESS GROW MEDIUMS
Although this technically includes any grow mix that doesn’t include soil, with ingredients such as Coco Coir, Perlite & Vermiculite, etc.,
Coco peat is used as a soil additive or as a growing medium for various crops. It can be mixed with a wide variety of components to create suitable growing mediums or it can be used on its own. It is often blended with coconut shell chips and coconut fibre to increase porosity and stimulate root growth.
most cannabis growers use a mix that’s primarily made out of coco coir and perlite. All soilless mixes are technically considered hydroponic growing since there’s no soil, but most growers think of them as somewhere in between soil and hydro, and you get a lot of the best parts of both.
coco peat offers a great compromise that gives many of the benefits of organic (soil) growing and other mediums. It is relatively easy to work with (though not as simple as soil), affordable to some extent, and has the added benefit of being reusable.
These growing mediums offer a middle ground in terms of cost and ease but give much better yields than soil does. They also offer a much shorter growing cycle and give you full control over the nutrients your plant has access to (which can be good or bad, depending on how adept you are).
These mediums, like all others, also have their drawbacks. You will need to manually give nutrients to your plant, but that is not unique to these mediums.
You also have small margins of error, which can be a nightmare for new growers to get right, since you need to carefully monitor and manage PH and nutrients yourself, and even the smallest mistakes will affect the final yield and quality.
When Growing In Coco we recommend using either a 50/50 Coco/Perlite mix or if you wish to water less often use an 80/20 Coco/Perlite Mix.
PERLITE VS VERMICULITE
Expanded perlite ore is an excellent aggregate to add to growing mixes, or even on its own in hydroponics environments. It is a volcanic mineral, that when it is heated (to about 871C) the particles pop in a similar fashion to popcorn and forms a very light, white material.
Similar to expanded clay, each particle is made of many tiny closed air cells. Tiny cavities cover the surface which creates a very large surface area in which moisture is held. Roots, therefore, have access to this water. At the same time, the shape of the individual particles creates air passages between the particles and hence provides aeration and prevents root rot. Because it is sterile and appropriate fertilisers should be added. Different grades or sizes are suitable for different applications.
Advantages of Horticultural Perlite:
- Improves aeration and drainage
- Makes moisture and nutrients readily available to plants
- Is inorganic and does not deteriorate.
- Has an essentially neutral pH of 6.5 to 7.5.
- Serves as an insulator to reduce extreme soil temperature fluctuations.
- Is sterile and free of weeds and disease.
- Is clean, odourless, lightweight, and safe to handle.
Vermiculite is well established as a growing medium. It is most commonly used in compost formulations, usually in combination with peat or coir. Vermiculite/peat or coir compost formulations provide ideal conditions for plant growth. The presence of vermiculite particles in the compost aids airation, improves moisture retention and promotes the steady release of added fertilizers, whilst the vermiculite itself contributes potassium, magnesium and a number of minor elements. The air/water ratios for vermiculite/peat or coir composts are ideal for the stimulation of root growth, and hence the production of healthy young plants. The vermiculite is sterile when processed. If stored correctly it will need no further treatment before incorporation into composts. Vermiculite can also be used as a carrier and extender for fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. It is also used in a ground form for encapsulating seeds.
-In Conclusion :
Perlite will add drainage to the soil that it’s mixed with.
Use Perlite if or when:
- You have plants that need to dry out before watering again
- When you move your seedlings to separate pots
- You need to loosen clay soil in your garden
Vermiculite will mix with soil and help to retain water.
Use Vermiculite if or when:
- You need an additive for plants that need to be kept moist
- You want your seed trays to develop strong seedlings
Rockwool is most often used in hydroponic builds, but it has several other growing applications as well. In terms of both difficulty and cost, this growing medium sits in the mid to high ranges.
Rockwool is a lot more hands-on than soil or even perlite, requiring very careful management of PH levels and nutrients. In addition to this, you cannot grow organically with Rockwool, increasing the amount of attention you will need to give your plant.
The most common uses for Rockwool include hydroponics (which we will discuss more later) and germination. Where germination is concerned, its excellent moisture retention properties and the ease with which seedlings can be transplanted without being removed from the Rockwool, make this growing medium ideal.
It also significantly lowers the risk of pest infestation, being a non-organic medium.
Rockwool, regardless of its application, is best used by those with some experience with growing and cultivating cannabis and ensuring the correct balance of nutrients.
Remember too, that it does not biodegrade, and it is not recommended that you reuse it.
Hydroponics, in all its variations, is one of the most complex, expensive, and conversely rewarding approaches to growing.
With the highest possible yields and nutrient control, the shortest possible growth cycles, and the smallest risk of pests, it is easy to see why.
Hydroponics setups typically come in one of two varieties: systems that hold another medium like Rockwool or perlite and use drippers to give your plants nutrients; and those that use no solid mediums at all, where plants are placed above a tank and have their roots reaching down into a nutrient-rich water-based solution.
Both approaches are highly effective for quality, clean, large yields. Both are extremely difficult and expensive to get right; making them better suited to experienced growers. This is largely due to the manual need for PH and nutrient control, which is generally more sensitive in hydroponic setups than in any other.
There is, however, something to be said about the taste of hydroponically grown bud, and it's one that comes down to preference. It will lose the ‘natural’ taste of plants grown organically.
LOOKING FOR THE PERFECT GROWING MEDIUM FOR YOUR NEEDS?
Here at the Skyline Vape & Smoke Lounge, we specialise in a complete range of quality growing mediums that cover everything you need, no matter which way you choose to do it.
Be sure to visit our online store to see more about our offers.