We get a lot of questions at Smokey Okie’s about how we grow our cannabis. There are a lot of new developments out there, along with a lot of choices when it comes to growing. Probably one of the most common questions we get is: Should I grow my weed in soil or hydroponically and our answer to this question is always “yes”. Let us explain.

To begin, we want you to grow marijuana, to continue trying your hand at things and learning how to maximize your growth at home. Second, to the untrained eye, soil growing, and hydroponic growing may look the same depending on the growing medium, but they have a lot of key differences, and it’s important to understand them so that you can know which growing style works best for you, your space and your budget.

Nutrient Selection and Distribution

The two biggest differences between soil and hydroponic cannabis growth are the growing medium and the nutrient distribution method. Soil growing obviously happens in soil, potting soil or organic perlite soil are common choices. The reason I say that it may look the same to the untrained eye is because there are some growing mediums for hydroponic growing that look very similar to soil. 

Many people believe that the core difference between soil and hydroponic growing is that one is in soil only and one is in water only; this just isn’t the case. The real difference is how the necessary nutrients are delivered to the plant. In soil growing, the cannabis plant gets its nutrients from the soil. As you water it, and the plant absorbs the water, the nutrients within the soil are also absorbed. 

In hydroponic growing setups, the nutrients are added to the water and then to the plant during watering. If there is a medium other than water used to grow the plant, it’s not potting soil, but there are a number of nutrient-neutral mediums that growers can use, such as clay pebbles, perlite, soilless potting mix, rock wool, or coco coir, which is what we use at Smokey Okie’s (we will talk about why in our next blog post).

Let’s break down how this differs in both your growing experience and your likely outcome. This will help you determine which growing method will work best for you.

Soil Pros

  • Less complex – This is probably the biggest pro for soil growing. If you are a novice grower, soil is going to be more forgiving if you are still learning since there are nutrients in the soil already to help you maintain a baseline of food for your plant.
  • Taste – There are some who claim that marijuana grown in soil tastes better because hydroponic plants will absorb more nutrients and alter the taste. However, we believe this likely has more to do with hydroponic growers not flushing the plant properly before harvest. Check out our full harvest guide here!

Soil Cons

  • Slower timeline – During the vegetative stage, which is when most of the growth in a marijuana plant happens, plants tend to have slower growth. This may not be noticeable to you if you are not a seasoned grower, however.
  • Less product – On top of waiting a little longer for your flower time, you will likely end up with less bud when all is said and done. This is because during the vegetative stage, the plant that is hydroponically grown will eat more because it absorbs the water (which contains the nutrients) as opposed to relying on the nutrients in the soil to be absorbed with the water.
  • Risk of Over-Watering – because soil is not as porous as coco and other mediums (like rockwool), the natural soil will retain the water for much, much longer than common hydro mediums. Novice growers often make the mistake of overwatering plants in soil, which can lead to a host of problems. Whereas hydroponic growers will drip their irrigation multiple times a day, soil growers will often skip entire days between watering, such as a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule.

Hydroponic Pros

  • Better control – When you are applying nutrients to a plant hydroponically, you have total control over what and how much of a nutrient gets into the plant. You will know more readily how to adjust for issues.
  • Quicker Time to Smoke – Hydroponic growing has a faster vegetative stage, the obvious benefits of this being that you can grow more marijuana is less time, and also have your marijuana to smoke much more quickly.
  • Larger Harvest – It has been found that because of its nutrient-dense watering method, hydroponic plants tend to have a larger yield.
  • Less Hassle/Time Investment – You will be watering less and also kissing weeding goodbye (no soil, no weeds). While there is more of a learning curve with hydroponic growing, once you have it down, your time commitment will ease.

Hydroponic Cons

  • Complexity – As mentioned above, learning how to best hydroponically grow requires time, money, experimentation, and learning. Beginning growers may be more apt to grow in soil to start and while they learn more about hydroponics, if they want to try that route.

If you want to know more about growing marijuana at home, check out the Smokey Okie’s blog for lots of tutorial information, and check out our other blog this month, breaking down all the different growing mediums for hydroponic weed cultivation. Stay tuned!


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