There are two primary ways to grow weed: indoors or outdoors. These days, if you’re growing outdoors, you are probably using soil, and if you’re growing indoors, you are probably using hydroponics. But in the showdown of soil vs. hydro, which one is best? What are the benefits and pitfalls of each one? This guide will give you an overview of soil vs. hydro so you can figure out if it’s better for you to grow with soil or hydro.
Soil or Hydro: The Pros of Growing in Soil
For many growers, one of the best things about growing weed in soil is that it’s already a fairly intuitive process. A lot of people have had some experience growing plants in soil before, so growing weed this way just feels simpler, more straightforward, and more natural.
Similarly, growing weed in soil does not require as much specialized equipment as a hydro grow. True, you will still need to put in a lot of work to get your soil up to snuff, but at a bare minimum you can get away with a few simple hand tools. Either way, it’s going to be less initial set up in terms of gear and equipment than trying to grow hydroponically.
If you’re growing in soil and you’re growing weed outdoors, you can expect to get exceptionally large plants. In some cases, way bigger than anything you could ever get out of an indoor grow. And that means equally large harvests. Of course, if you end up getting massive weed plants it’ll also require more work to take care of them.
And finally, many cannasseurs who pay close attention to taste and smell think that weed grown outdoors has a more complex, nuanced flavor profile. Obviously this is all subjective. But a lot of consumers prefer the taste of weed grown outdoors.
This is because of “terroir,” the multi-faceted combination of environmental factors that contribute to the taste of the final harvest. When a plant is grown outside, it comes into contact with a much more varied growing environment, which often translates into a more complex flavor profile. So when it’s soil vs. hydro, many prefer the taste of soil-grown weed.
Soil or Hydro: The Cons of Growing in Soil
Most of the drawbacks to growing weed in soil come directly from the soil itself. If you want your plants to be successful, you can’t just plop them down in your backyard and call it good.
Soil has to meet some basic requirements. It has to be loose enough to drain well. At the same time, it needs to retain moisture long enough for your plants to feed. And finally, the soil needs to have the right balance of nutrients.
To meet these soil requirements you will need to do some work to amend your soil. You will need to till it to make it light and fluffy. You will need to add nutrients to promote plant heath and microbial growth in the soil.
Once you’ve got the soil all prepped, your plants are more likely to come into contact with pests, fungus, and other harmful infections. Similarly, plants grown in soil tend to take a bit longer than hydro-grown plants to grow.
And if you are growing outdoors, your growing season is limited by the seasons. An indoor hydro grow lets you grow year-round, as long as you can maintain the proper conditions.
Soil or Hydro: Pros of Growing Hydro
The biggest pro to a hydroponics grow is that you have tons of control over the growing environment. You are literally overseeing each and every component in the setup.
You know exactly what your plants come into contact with, and you have full control over all the variables that affect your plants. That includes light, water, oxygen, nutrients, humidity, and temperature.
This control can limit the chances that your plants will become sick. It also gives you more control over the final crop your plants produce.
On top of all that, weed plants grown hydroponically tend to grow quicker than plants grown in soil. This is a good if you are growing indoors, as you can squeeze in many more harvests than a traditional outdoors grow.
So although growing outdoors in soil can give you bigger individual plants with larger per-plant yields, a good indoor hydro setup can compensate by giving you multiple harvests per year.
Soil or Hydro: Cons of Growing Hydro
Growing weed hydroponically requires a bit more specialized knowledge and equipment. And that can be a bit intimidating for new growers and for people who have not tried hydroponics. Similarly, the extra gear introduces more upfront costs to get started.
Similarly, although hydro gives you more control over the growing environment, that can also sometimes mean a bit more work. You have to keep close tabs on humidity and temperature, and you have to be sure your plants are getting the right mix of nutrients at the right time.
Additionally, you need to adjust lighting as you go. During the vegetative phase, your plants need more light, and they need light on the blue end of the spectrum. But during the flowering phase, you’ll switch to redder light and less light each day.
With that said, a well-constructed hydro setup gives you plenty of chances to automate much of this work. So if you know what you’re doing, you can counteract a lot of those challenges with some planning and some good equipment.
Finally, if your hydro setup is also indoors, you will face space restrictions that outdoor soil grows do not. That will mean smaller plants, each of which will have slightly smaller yields.
Similarly, if you’re into the terroir of your bud, then you will probably find hydro-grown bud lacking in depth and complexity of flavor. But not everyone agrees with that. It’s all about your tastes.
Final Hit: Soil vs. Hydro
Ultimately, in the showdown between soil vs. hydro, there is no definitive way to say which one is better. It’s all about your goals, your preferences, and your access to space and equipment.
Each approach has its own unique sets of pros and cons. In the end, if you want to be a pro-level grower, you should become an expert at them both.