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Hydroponic vs soilless vs soil?

Which of you are doing soil versus soilless versus hydroponic and why did you make the choice you did?

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Soil mix. In my experience it has the best opportunity for a dynamic bacterial and fungal ecosystem - all of which are really important for high grade organics and maybe a fuller expression of terpenes and cannabinoids. Also it can be more forgiving of mistakes and fits into outdoor and greenhouse operations well.

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I chose hydroponics (RDWC) for a number of reasons.
#1 - Growth rate is very fast. My license limits me to 500 sq ft of cultivation, so I want to grow the largest plants I can as fast as I can.
#2 - Im located in a rural area in Alaska which isnt connected to city water. All my water is rainwater that I collect from a rooftop catchement. I needed a grow method that uses the least water possible.
#3 - RDWC uses the least amount of nutrients of DWC methods
#4 - I wanted a system that would allow me to manage every variable. With a closed environment and automating ph, nutrient dosing, temp, humidity etc… I can keep my plants in the most optimal conditions at all times and reduce the risk of something going wrong.
#5 - i only have to maintain 2 reservoirs for the entire facility. Im a two person company with a daytime job, so not having to test and water hundreds of smaller plants individually or across many reservoirs means I can spend my time looking at and caring for the plants.
#6 - If needed, I can leave for up to a week. The automation systems can be viewed and controlled from my smartphone, along with the cameras
#7 - I like growing Cannabis Trees!

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I just finshed a grow with a combination of rockwool cubes and smart pots with soiless medium. I also used some of the space I had to start tomatoes, peppers, and various other veggies in soil. All this was in the same fairly tight space, no pest issues or root problems. I should note that the environment was far from “perfect”. Many times the perimeters of conventional recommendations was exceeded. This was without doubt accomplished through proper watering techniques. The finshed product was close to the same from the soils to the rockwools. Tests results are still out. The rockwools did use considerably more water, had to use nutes, and the cubes were covered in all kinds of funky mold by the end. I have always been a soil grower, I have experience in a commmerical hydro growand, in my opinion soil, living soil to be exact, is best.

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@DynamicFlowers there’s some cool covers for rockwool made by floraflex. Here’s a link in case you haven’t seen them before. These can solve the funky mold on top of the rockwool. http://floraflex.com/6-pack-6-light-shields/ I use rockwool for propagation from 1.5" cubes to 6" cubes. Once my plants root out in the 6" cubes I plant into net pots and fill around it with hydroton. These covers are great and they make a variety of drip covers and hand water covers too that allow precise measurement when watering.

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These guys are way cheaper in bulk and used commercially…

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I have seen those. I put a simple plastic cover over them with rubber bands. The covers are a pain when you are handwatering. I just like to use the least amount of materials as possible for a multitude of reasons. Call me a hippie I guess. But to each their own. I have been considering doing a set in a method like you describe. Maybe on the next flip. Thanks for the info!

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BTW I’m sorry for the Bold and giant font of my earlier post. I was on my phone and I must have hit something on accident that made everything bold and large…

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I have to agree with you Nathan. And don’t forget the different forms of protozoa, which ‘eat’ bacteria. The excrement from these single-celled organisms is high in N and other nutrients. For instance: this is why, when brewing compost tea, a longer (36-48hr) brew cycle results in higher amounts of N. In the first 24 hours, bacterial populations explode, and only afterwards will the protozoa populations proliferate as a result. Hint: try different brew times for different developmental stages.

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Cheers on the fast growth and cheap water bill! Restricting water consumption is something that many growers haven’t even considered, yet is very much a major player when it comes to expenditures (especially for those of us not in the Northwest).

When you say “I can keep my plants in the most optimal conditions at all times and reduce the risk of something going wrong,” I have to assume you have either been growing in such a system for a very long time or a very short time for you to not have experienced anything horrifying. When problems occur in a recirculating system, they occur fast and they involve every single plant that is connected via roots-water-roots. Pathological threats transmitted this war are very real, though less common than other issues, and can be very detrimental. Just be careful to stay as clean as possible and change your water appropriately! (I assume you are likely aware, but this advice is good for other readers as well.) Sounds like you know how to stay on top of your plot! Cheers!

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I have grown in a few different media. I like amended coco and soil for flavor taste and potency. I believe if you are looking for the most rapid growth dwc,rcdw, aeroponics will be the best bet. Although, as wisely mentioned above you can have serious issues and very quickly. I think a safe in between is Rockwool which is used in commercial agriculture as pretty much the standard depending on crop requirements. Rockwool is also much easier to acquire as a sterile pest free growing media opposed to coco and soil which vary greatly between companies and batches. I myself will stick to coco for my salt based nutrients. For my soil beds I am working to boost the humus content and beneficial microbial colonies. I dont use any synthetics or salt based fertilizers. Its mostly compost teas and reammending between crops. I also use sprouted alfalfa seed teas in flower and coconut water in my teas as well. I use clover cover crop to as well. My favorite smoke has come from those beds. :slight_smile:

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Organic Soil. I did it for the soil biology. Located in Northern California, Sierra Foothills. My goal is to help heal the Mother Earth so that she doesn’t need me to help her grow plants. She’s been at it before our destructive race started disturbing her processes with chemicals fertilizers, etc.

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Bumping this topic for the newer folks.

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Hi well I think everyone is about right on here. I’ve grown the gamut. I have been growing aquaponicly since 2012.

Truth hydroponics uses less water and done correctly uses less nutrients. The rnft systems are perfect for this the obvious draw back as mentioned is the room for mechanical error.

I do believe aquaponics solves all these concerns. However the major downside to aquaponics is upfront cost. Ergo mthrfknature. Sorry I think can’t beat the ground under you feet, amend it, grow biology and get big nutrient rich yields.

However we do have water issues and hydro systems can help us out a lot. Some folks grow organic hydro but you still have the inputs to deal with.
I like aquaponics because it can be set up with raft beds, that are gravity fed and drained. If the power goes out your plants are in a large body of water. Also the large body of water creates stability. In a Nft system the instability comes from the low flow. It can get hot, and if you loose power the plants are in trouble quick.

In aquaponics like nft you are working with a consistently recirculating low nutrient density system. Then if drag back is even if you have the capital to set up a system. It’s an organic ecosystem and frankly it takes time to build an ecosystem. Most aquaponic growers say they get great grows starting year 4. So there’s that.

I know a lot of folks have had mixed success with aquaponics but we are all still learning and it’s getting better rapidly. I’ve personally grown some of the best buds straight rock bed media aquaponics.

On my YouTube channel i started to run a series that I grew this winter comparing aquaponic dual root zone, to veg bloom coir pots, in the same room. The veg bloom did awesome. The aquaponics did awesome. My wife and I smoked he aquaponics first. It just taste a lot better.

All In all. I grow both notill and aquaponics. I will phase more into aquaponics over time.

Btw good clean convo with out the arrogance. Good on y’all

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@darlinggrowers could you please upload or link your YouTube series? I would love to check it out.

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I’m obviously not a great videographer. I started to document my process but took a minute off while I sorted legal issues out. They are sorted and I’m starting to build the farm out. It’s gonna be a slow process since it’s just me with little funding.

My real goal is to have something to look back at. I’m gonna start posting more often. Thanks for the interest.

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Those videos are great - I’m looking forward to the next one in the series!

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Do you reuse the hydroton?

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Organic NoTill Living-soil. Nothing even compares. Hydro is just disgusting. Who wants to smoke medicine impregnated by chemicals? And why would you want to support the companies who make them? The same companies making GMOs and pesticides are the same ones making your nutrients.

Organic soil is superior in quality, flavor and effectiveness. Our organic grows have always out yielded conventional grows too. And at a fraction of the cost. Not to mention, farming organically is good for the environment. Conventional practices are destroying the environment and ground water at alarming rates.

The way we see it, using chemical inputs is not farming. If you have to follow a feeding schedule, you are not a grower, just able to follow directions. Same to be said if you prepare a box or Mac n Cheese, it doesn’t make you a chef…

True farming is understanding the ecology and how the system works. You don’t feed the plant, you feed the soil. Take care of your microbes and they take care of your crop. Build the soil and your crop will get better and better every season. Never seen a reason not to grow organically in soil.

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Yes the hydroton is re-usable. You want to clean it between usage, to remove roots and buildup. I put it in a mild bleach solution to sterilize, then soak in water before re-use. I’ve also tried different sizes of hydroton, from the small corn sized pellets to the large Quarter size balls. I definitely prefer the largest size, as the smaller stuff falls through the net pots, and can clog pumps. The largest size works great, easier to clean and the plant roots like it just as much.

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