Many novice and intermediate growers across the States have grown accustomed to inefficient growing habits. Surprisingly enough, the fertilizer and nutrient-rich potting soils that are available commercially through most nurseries and garden stores aren’t the epitome of substrates to use when growing marijuana. Though there are some benefits to planting crops in potting soil, the cyclical nature of vegetation then flowering of the cannabis plant is best complimented through adjusting nutrient levels between the two stages of growth. By using potting soil to grow your bud with, you could be missing out on harvest weight that could have been attained if you had used a grow medium that is specifically designed to maximize drainage and water retention.
The Disadvantages of Potting Soil
Though potting soil contains pre-imbued nutrients along with organic material, fertilizer and perlite, there are distinct disadvantages that make it a sub-par option when compared to other growing mediums. First, potting soil is expensive. Depending on the brand you opt for, soil can get as expensive as $22 for just twelve quarts of soil. When compared to other substrates such as rockwool or grow rocks, this cost is unwarranted as you’ll get better results using cheaper growing mediums. In addition, potting soil is notoriously bad for drainage. If water doesn’t leak out of your potting mix, you run the risk of your plants developing root rot or fungus. Always ensure that the bottoms of your pots have drainage holes and that there is a tray below them to catch draining water. If you’ve encountered this issue in the past, try loosening the soil by turning it over a few times. Ultimately your best bet if you’re using potting soil is to switch to a more effective grow medium like one of those listed below.
Grow Mediums for Healthier Plants
There are a few great grow mediums that are readily available that require little, if any change to the way you grow your plants. Implementing any of the following grow mediums will yield obviously healthier plants than those you may have seen come out of potting soil. Try using growing mediums together: grow rocks, for instance, are great when laid out roughly 1” thick at the bottom of your pots with either coco or rockwool above.
Rockwool is an ideal substrate especially for drip hydro systems. If you aren’t growing hydroponically, the material is still preferable over potted soil, but you’ll have to put in extra effort to control pH, as rockwool tends to have a high pH level of its own. Also, be sure to wear a mask when dealing with this substrate: the fibers and particles that kick back when working with it can be damaging to the lungs. Also, if you’re an eco-friendly farmer, rockwool won’t be your first choice. Similarly to Styrofoam, rockwool does not biodegrade over time. Distinct advantages of rockwool include the fact that it holds water well: literally 18% is the minimum water retention to expect out of this substrate ensuring that your plants consistently have the water they need. This substrate is also versatile as it comes in varying sized blocks that are ideal for a single seed. Get twenty blocks or get two: the choice is up to you. Despite the fibers being bad to breathe in, the substrate of rockwool is very durable and clean. It doesn’t break apart easily, but still, wear a mask when working with it for safety.
Hydroton Rocks aka: “Grow” Rocks
The only complaint about hydroton rocks is that their exceptional drainage quality means that you need to increase the amount of water delivered to your plants to ensure that the rocks and your plant roots will stay moist. Aside from that, these are an all-purpose substrate great for ebb and flow, drip and aeroponic systems. Quick drainage means its exceptionally easy to flush your system in the event of nutrient build up and when used below a layer of coco or rockwool, hydroton rocks work wonderfully!
When dealing in coco substrate, it’s important that you don’t cheap out when purchasing. Low priced coco usually means low quality. Low quality coco has been known to contain high levels of sea salt and even beach sand, (coco is short for coconut – the husks are used to make a substrate). If you invest wisely in high quality coco you’ll be joining the ranks of most hydro growers these days. Coco substrate has become widely popular among professional growers lately as it comes in a variety of forms including:
• Compressed Bricks
• Bulk Bags
• Growing Bags
• Roll-Out Mats
The way to tell that the coco substrate you’re interested in is high quality is by checking for two things. Make sure that the coconut husks have been disinfected and/or treated with trichoderma (prevents against root rot).
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