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The Most Popular Growing Mediums to Replace Soil

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When you’re growing plants without using soil, you have to replace it with something. There is a myriad of options to choose from and some are more popular than others. There are different benefits to each particular medium. Important factors include water absorption, pH balance, and support for the plant. Some options include sand, rice hulls, composted pine bark, or even foam insulation. What follows are some of the more popular options that growers choose regularly.

Popular Choices


Probably the most common growing mediums for hydroponics, Rockwool can be considered the “OG”. It is composed of granite and/or limestone that has been superheated and melted then spun into small threads. Some benefits of using this medium include its porous nature and the fact that it is sterile. It is very popular for starting plants or starting clones. In order to make sure it’s pH balanced, you should soak it in pH balanced water before using.

Clay Pellets

Also known as “grow rock”, clay pellets are another popular option with hydroponic growers. The main benefit of these pellets is that they can be reused. They are also heavy enough to support the plants. Airflow and workability are a couple of additional benefits of using this medium. Clay pellets have a neutral pH and can be found at almost every hydroponic supplier.

Coconut Fiber/Chips

This sustainable by-product of coconuts is a popular choice of the earth-conscious grower. Allowing more oxygen while retaining more moisture, this medium is beginning to edge out the two previously mentioned options. An additional benefit of using coconut fiber/chips is their plant-stimulating hormones. These help to protect plant roots from infection and disease.


Rocks, often sourced from rivers, are a popular option because they are cheap (sometimes free). What the grower saves in cost, they gain in extra attention and maintenance. A popular method is to mix rocks with another medium, such as coconut chips. When using a flood and drain system, rock is both cost-effective and drains well.

Your Choice

Each hydroponic grower has preferences when it comes to a growing medium. Depending on the method of growing, different mediums have clear advantages. Doing your own research and talking to more experienced growers will help to send you down the right path. Over time, experimentation and time will help you find the right growth medium for you.

A Brief History of Hydroponics

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As cannabis continues to be legalized in more states, the hydroponic method of growing is becoming more popular. Contrary to what many assume, this technique actually has quite the history. The word itself comes from the roots “hydro”, meaning water, and “ponos”, which means labor. Let’s adventure through history and see just how long people have been growing plants without using soil.

Ancient Times

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Said to have been built by either King Nebuchadnezzar II or Assyrian King Sennacherib, these ancient gardens date back as far as 704 BC. That’s pretty old. Additionally, famous explorer Hernan Cortez discovered a form of hanging gardens utilized by the Aztecs around the year 1519. Living in the middle of a lake, the people of Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City, grew their crops on floating islands.

Marco Polo is also said to have written of hanging gardens in Ancient China. Not much is known about these floating gardens but it’s safe to say that the practice has been used for centuries. What about the more recent history?

Recent History

In the late 1920s, William Frederick Gericke of the University of California at Berkeley began to research and promote hydroponics. He grew tomatoes that were massive without using soil. He is often credited with the use of the term hydroponics. His work was later expanded upon by two other Berkeley scientists, Dennis Hoagland and Daniel Arnon. Their 1938 text “The Water Culture Method for Growing Plants without Soil” is considered one of the most important writings published on hydroponics. Many of the solutions they developed are still in use today.

Use in Cannabis

In terms of potency, the cannabis that is grown in the present day is unparalleled. This can be largely credited to the use of hydroponic growing methods. There are several different systems in use including Deep Water Culture (DWC), Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), Ebb and Flow, Drip Systems, and Aeroponics. The development of these modern systems has allowed growers to take full advantage of hydroponic growing.

As the cannabis industry continues to grow, hydroponic growing techniques will be continuously improved upon. Knowing the history of these techniques can help to form the future of them. It’s likely that you didn’t know hydroponics were this old. There are plenty of great benefits to growing cannabis this way and many more yet to be discovered.

5 Benefits of Hydroponic Growing

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The definition of hydroponics is simple: a method of growing plants without the use of soil. To the less-experienced, this may seem like a contradiction. Plants that grow without soil? That’s correct. Not only is this a regular practice, but it also has a rich and storied history that could possibly stretch back as far as Ancient Babylon.

When specifically applied to cannabis, hydroponic growing has several unique benefits when compared to a traditional, soil-based grow. Below you’ll find some of the more popular reasons that growers are choosing the hydroponic method. There are plenty of reasons to grow cannabis this way, but here are the important ones.

  1. Maximum Control
    • The grower has complete control over the nutrients that a plant will receive when growing hydroponically. Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium are the three essential nutrients that are necessary for plant growth. Different solutions can be used for different stages of growth. Nitrogen-rich solutions are common in the vegetative stage, while more phosphorus-heavy nutrient solutions are required in the flowering phase.
  2. Increased Yield
    • Nutrient manipulation accurately provides just the right amount of nutrients. This allows for the total control and maximum growth of each plant. The yield and growth rate of plants that employ the hydroponic method is substantially better than that of soil.
  3. Stunning Potency
    • When marijuana rose to popularity in the ’70s, it was not as strong as the stuff we smoke today. It’s common to see strains north of 20% THC. This was pretty much unheard of back in the day. As hydroponic growers have adjusted their methods over the last few years, they have been able to produce strains with insane potency.
  4. Spacial Efficiency
    • As they are normally indoors, hydroponic grows can be limited in terms of space. That is no issue as the grower has so much control over plant growth. This is an additional advantage for growers that don’t have too much room to work with.
  5. Automation
    • Using different techniques like bubbleponics or deep water culture allow for increased automation within the growing process. This requires less supervision of plant growth. It can also help speed up the grow time of the plants. A grower that has more automated processes has more time to devote to other parts of their cannabis operation.

As previously mentioned, there are plenty of additional benefits to hydroponic growing beyond these five. The more experienced a grower is, the more benefits can be reaped from this method. However, every grower has to start somewhere. Once you start growing hydroponically, it can be hard to justify any other method.