Step 3: Choose Your Growing Medium
These are the most common grow mediums:
- Soil – grow in organic composted super soil for the easiest growing experience, or start with the popular Fox Farms Ocean Forest soil mix (FFOF already contains enough nutrients to last the first month of your young plant’s life).
- Soilless Mix – anything besides soil including coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, etc. (all soilless mixes are technically considered hydroponic growing since there’s no soil).
- Directly in Water / Hydroponics – Get some of the fastest growth and biggest yields possible, especially when combined with HID/LEC/LED grow lights.
- Less Common Types of Hydro – Some people grow with plant roots suspended in misted air (aeroponics) or in a tank with fish (aquaponics), but these are relatively less common for cannabis growers.
What’s the Best Soil? Your absolute best option would be to compost your own soil (or purchase composted soil) which gets incredible taste results but does take a little more work (or money if you buy it).
For those of us who prefer pre-made mixes, I recommend starting with the popular Fox Farms Ocean Forest soil (often referred to as FFOF) since it’s already supplemented with plenty of nutrients that work very well for young cannabis plants. It’s a rich yet still somewhat airy soil that is made for plants just like cannabis and has been used by growers for years.
If you have limited soil options, choose an organic potting mix which is usually available in some form in the gardening section of any big-box store. As long as you use good cannabis nutrients (more on that below), a regular organic potting mix will work just fine.
Common cannabis-friendly potting mix brands in the US:
- Kind Soil Pre-Made Super Soil (top-tier and organic)
- Fox Farms Ocean Forest Soil (top-tier)
- Black Gold All Organic Potting Soil (good)
- Espoma Organic Potting Mix (okay)
- Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix (worst) – If you say you’re growing in Miracle-Gro soil, a lot of cannabis growers will wag their fingers at you. In addition to poor drainage, the original Miracle-Gro soil contains slow-release Nitrogen which is good for vegetative plants but bad for bud growth in the flowering stage and you can’t really rinse it out. Too much Nitrogen in the flowering stage can lower yields as well as possibly add a green or chemical “taste” to buds. However, if you’re going to use Miracle-Gro, their Organic Choice Potting Mix doesn’t have slow-release nutrients, which makes it a better option for growing cannabis than their standard version. It still drains poorly even with perlite, but if you’re desperate it does the job and you can get good results if you use good nutrients. The truth is that many growers have made it to harvest over the years with Miracle-Gro, despite some problems along the way, and even though it’s definitely not optimal, sometimes you have to do what you have to do!
Pick up a bag of perlite (found in the garden section) to help soil drain better unless it already contains perlite. Perlite looks like little white rocks and should be mixed in so you have about 70% soil and 30% perlite. Should you add perlite to your soil?
What type of pot should I use for soil or soilless growing mediums? If you’re having a tough time deciding on a grow medium, you might want to think about starting with a mix of coco coir and perlite. It’s easy and low-maintenance. That’s how I got started growing (with CFLs as grow lights) and it’s also what I used in my 1-pound 315W LEC grow. Growing with coco coir can be a good choice for beginners because it’s cheap, holds water well, and doesn’t have as many of the problems associated with soil (bugs, root problems, etc.). Yet since it’s hand-watered, it’s intuitive and has a lot of the ease of soil growing.
I’ve heard many people recommend against growing cannabis hydroponically for your first time because it’s “too complicated,” yet I’ve seen growers succeed at every grow type even on their very first grow. If you really want to grow hydroponically, I recommend you don’t waste your time doing something else first. If you’re passionate about hydroponic growing and do your research before you get started, there’s no reason you won’t be able to do incredibly well your first time.
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