It’s a common misconception that hydroponic cannabis cultivation means that you grow your cannabis in water. That can be the case, but not always, and not here at Smokey Okie’s. We have some reasons for that and wanted to take a moment to discuss all the various growing mediums that you can use when growing cannabis, how they compare, and why we make the choices that we do at Smokey Okie’s.
What does Hydroponic Growing Really Mean?
Hydroponic refers to the delivery method in which nutrients get to the plant. Hydroponic growing methods deliver nutrients to the plant via water, and not through the soil. This means that instead of being grown in soil, planters need to think of another medium to grow in, the obvious one being water, but with multiple other options. If you are ready to try your hand at hydroponic growing and are weighing your options for a good growing medium, we are here to help you determine what is best for you and to discuss why we choose our preferred growing medium at our facility.
Types of Hydroponic Growing Mediums
- Clay Pebbles – Clay pebbles are marble-sized clap balls that are specifically manufactured to retain moisture which helps provide your cannabis with a time-released nutrient experience. They are also easy to use, inexpensive and pH neutral to give you greater control over your nutrient supply.However, clay pebbles once weight are extremely heavy, so moving containers is much more difficult. They are also messy and require soaking and saturating prior to use, so you can factor in more time in your process. Finally, even though the clay is a renewable resource, it is also strip-mined which is not great for the environment.
- Sand – Some people will inquire with us (particularly those who live near the coasts) if sand is a good growing medium for marijuana. The short answer is no. While it’s cheap and there are some benefits to sand growing, such as good root support, and we know that many other plants grow wonderfully in sand, cannabis is much more finicky. It’s too difficult to keep moisture levels and nutrient levels stable and intact and results in a smaller yield. Not recommended by us.
- Perlite – Perlite is actually volcanic rock that is pH-neutral and is crushed to use as both an additive to soil growing, but also for soilless growing. It’s lightweight and is great for increasing oxygen levels and root development. However, it requires more frequent pH testing and is more expensive. So for our large-scale operations, it’s not the best option.
- Rockwool – Rockwool is a common choice for many growers, especially those who are growing at a larger scale. This is because they are easy to use. They are pre-molded pieces of molten rock and other fiberglass/chemical materials. It holds 18% air at all times, making overwatering impossible.
However, rockwool can be even more difficult to maintain the pH with because it has a baseline high pH. Finally, it’s not biodegradable, meaning once used to the end of its life (about 6 crops), it will never leave the environment. For us, that was a deal breaker. Instead, Smokey Okie’s uses coco coir, the best option that provides the most benefit, the fewest negative effects and is the most sustainable choice.
Why Smokey Okie’s Uses Coco Coir for Hydroponic Growing
We saved the best for last – coco coir, which is what we use at Smokey Okie’s for a number of reasons, and it’s a growing medium that will also work well on a small scale, such as in your home or grow room. Now, let’s start by mitigating the cons that many will point out. First, the cost.
High-quality coco coir is pricier than some other growing mediums. However, it’s also reusable and delivers a much higher yield, so you are making up for that cost easily in the amount of bud you are getting from each plant.
Another con that likes to be pointed out is that you will need to keep a close eye on pH. A basic soil/pH meter from Amazon will solve this. And because you’re going to save time watering less, this isn’t too much of a problem.
The main benefits to coco coir are that you can use coco coir in smaller plants- perfect for large and small scale operations, alike. You get larger plants, and coco coir is forgiving. It helps regulate and adjust for any feeding or watering mistakes. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to overwater using coco coir, which is a common rookie mistake when growing cannabis.
Finally, coco coir is made from the remnants of coconut husks, which is the unused and uneaten portion. So we are taking waste from one process and using it to grow cannabis. It’s reusable and completely biodegradable. For us, the pH testing (which you should be doing anyway) and cost of coco coir is greatly outweighed by the sustainable choice to use it, along with our experience increasing yields with it as our preferred growing medium. For us, it’s an easy decision.
If you’d like to see more about our growing methods, you can check out some of our behind the scenes footage on our YouTube channel.