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The Pros and Cons of Different Grow Mediums
Handful of soil  

Here at Technaflora, we understand that many people are wondering about the different types of grow mediums, but they’re not quite sure what they are? A growing medium is a material used to grow cannabis and other plants. The most popular and recognizable grow medium is soil. Soil has been used traditionally in the cultivation of cannabis for centuries; however, other soilless mediums are now offering alternative ways to grow your cannabis.

Regardless of the medium, a cannabis plant will grow and flower, providing the roots have space to grow with access to fresh oxygen and water. A variety of nutrients can also be used to enhance the aroma, flavour, potency, and yield. For those who prefer their weed without chemical additives, organic growing with soil or compost will get the job done.

Below is a list of the most common types of mediums used by professional growers throughout the cannabis industry:

Soil

Soil is a very popular choice because it’s easy to use, an all-natural resource, and available everywhere. Since all cannabis originates from the soil, it’s sustainable and hard to beat. Soil is a great choice for novice growers and a variety of soil blends such as worm castings, eggshells, and organic waste can be added to enhance and build your compost.

If you want to use soil as your medium? We recommend using a mixture of sterilized and non-peat potting soil that has a loose composition. You can purchase your soil with perlite or add it to your compost. Perlite prevents the soil from becoming dense, which allows for proper drainage and keeping higher levels of oxygen and air in the soil.

Pros:
  • Sustainable
  • Affordable
  • Excellent terpene content
  • User-friendly
Cons:
  • Heavy
  • Subject to pests
  • Prone to diseases

Perlite

Perlite starts its life as a type of volcanic rock known as obsidian. It’s an inert substance with a PH of 7.0, and it plays a vital role in growing cannabis in soil and soilless mediums. Once mined and crushed, it’s subjected to extreme temperatures, which evaporates the moisture inside and makes the obsidian expand rapidly.

The results of this process make an incredibly light and brilliant white popcorn-like substance ready for commercial distribution. Perlite is known worldwide in the cannabis industry for improving drainage, and its airy structure is very much appreciated.

Pros:
  • Increases oxygen levels
  • Doesn’t interfere with nutrients
  • Enhances root development
  • Decreases soil weight
Cons:
  • Frequent pH testing
  • Increased watering
  • Requires more attention

Coco Coir

When it comes to versatility, coco coir is one of the best mediums for growing cannabis. This is a soilless medium that resembles the appearance of peat moss; however, unlike peat moss, it’s more eco-friendly and sustainable. Peat moss when harvested can take centuries to regrow.

Coco coir is made by grinding coconut husks, and this soilless medium works a lot like soil with some slight differences. Coco coir is a semi-hydro technique that provides the roots with better access to nutrients and air for faster growth. When you have healthier roots, the results are healthier and bigger cannabis plants.

Pros:
  • Smaller pots
  • Bigger plants
  • Can’t overwater and reusable
  • Adjusts well to feeding mistakes
Cons:
  • Requires nutrients from the start
  • pH levels need to constantly monitored
  • Needs to be hydrated in order to activate

Expanded Clay Pellets

Expanded clay pellets (hydroton) are small round balls, also known as lightweight expanded clay aggregate (LECA). Clay pellets are made by expanding and heating clays to create thousands of marble-shaped balls. This is also a soilless growing medium that’s designed for hydroponic use.

Due to their porous nature, clay pellets are lightweight, but they’re also heavy enough to support the plant as it grows. They provide an efficient means for the roots to wick up the nutrients, and they can be cleaned, sanitized, and reused. Additionally, clay pellets are very well-balanced oxygen to water medium with a neutral PH.

Pros:
  • Less Blockage
  • Higher air holding capacity (ACH)
  • Excellent for microbial populations
  • Easy to use and reusable
Cons:
  • Poor water holding capacity (WHC)
  • Can cause plumbing problems
  • Fairly expensive

Starter Plugs

Starter plugs are small and compact masses of a solid growing medium that expands under heat and moisture. They are primarily used for rooting cuttings and seed germination. Starter plugs provide the perfect moisture control and aeration for the regeneration of roots.

Starter plugs are a great choice for cutting clones that make a perfect copy of the mother plant. They also provide a safer alternative as opposed to buying cannabis seeds, which are still illegal on a federal level.

Pros:
  • Easy to use
  • Legal to purchase
  • Self-sufficient
  • Inexpensive
Cons:
  • Needs a propagation device
  • Requires constant monitoring
  • Easy to overwater

The Final Verdict

There are also some other popular grow mediums for cannabis such as vermiculite, Rockwool, oasis cubes, grow stones, rice hulls, air, sawdust, and more. Growing cannabis can be achieved with a variety of mediums. Although some mediums are more effective than others, they can all lead to the production of big and healthy buds.

In the end, it comes down to finding the medium that’s right for you. We recommend that novice growers should start with a soil medium to better understand how the cannabis plant grows, then experiment with a variety of other mediums until you find the one that produces the results you’re after – big yields and robust buds.