By Grow

Cannabis is a fairly easy plant to grow, but producing high-quality buds isn’t so simple. There are a lot of strains out there, and understanding how to cultivate them into high-yielding plants requires some experience and/or extensive knowledge.

Cannabis can be cultivated in different ways and the method used to grow/cultivate must be decided on in advance. Before starting the cultivation process, it’s important to research whether it’s best to grow indoor, or outdoor, or greenhouse, or soil, or hydro, and so on. It’s important to pick a cultivation method that is best suited to your skill level, budget, and space.

Growing in soil is the most common and traditional growing medium for cannabis. Growing cannabis in soil is similar to growing fruits and vegetables, so soil growing may be the most intuitive option for a beginner with little cultivation experience.

There are some cannabis cultivators, usually with advanced growing skill sets, who may choose to grow cannabis using methods not associated with soil, such as hydroponics. Hydroponic growing is a form of growing plants using oxygen, a water-based system, and nutrient-filled solution. This method of growing doesn’t use soil; it requires the plant to have direct access to the nutrient-filled solution. Any water not consumed by the root (remember, this is a water-based system) is recycled through the system for consumption at a later time.

To get insight on soil versus hydroponics growing and cultivating, I chatted with Michael Baranchuck, a California-based cultivator and business owner. Baranchuck is the co-owner of De La Bo (delabocannabis.com), a California-based cannabis company offering a line of pre-rolls packed with all premium, Northern California–grown flower strains that are hand-selected by Baranchuck, who has grown cannabis for more than three decades. Throughout his career, Baranchuck has used soil, hydroponics, rockwool, and indoor grow mediums/methods.

In your experience, what’s the main difference between soil and hydro indoors as it relates to the final product for pre-rolls?

For me the difference between soil and hydroponics is not really about quality. If you’re a great grower you can make hydro-grown cannabis taste, look, and smell as good or even better than any medium, including soil. That being said, soil is amazing because it can be thrown right back into the earth. Growing outdoors is where my heart feels best.

For a beginner-level cultivator that has both outdoor space and indoor space, and is trying to figure out the best option, what questions should they be asking themselves to help them arrive at the best option for them?

There’s advantages and disadvantages to both indoor and outdoor growing. With indoor you can pull up to six harvests a year, whereas outdoor growing allows one to three harvests a year. If I was going to recommend something to a beginner grower, assuming they have an outdoor space that gets sun and not too much moisture, I would suggest starting outside. Indoor growing is expensive, even on a small scale, especially to do it right. The other thing I would highly suggest is to start with strong genetics. A lot of strains are finicky and having strong genetics will really help ensure a beginner grower pulls off a decent if not great first harvest.

In the United States, is there an overall better choice between the two depending on the state? For example, is soil better in California? Would hydro be better in Florida? Is soil better in New Mexico and would hydro be best in Arizona? 

There’s a reason why California has been the leading producer of cannabis for many years, especially with outdoor and greenhouse. California has the right temperature, humidity, and long summers; however, you can absolutely grow outdoors in a lot of other states. You will most likely need store-bought soil and it will probably be a short summer season, so again, it’s about finding the right genetics that will grow well in your area. For example, if you’re in an area with high humidity, you want to find a strain that doesn’t have a high density, otherwise the plant will most likely mold.

Regarding cost effectiveness and tight budgets, is one method more cost effective than the other?

Using soil or whatever medium you would use for hydro, is just that, a medium. Either one could be more or less expensive than the other. The cost comes down to the rest of the system. The lights, feeding system, tech, ACs, etc.

Most indoor farms don’t want to use soil because it’s bulky, weighs a lot, can have bacteria in it, clogs water lines, and is hard to break down a harvest and reset. Whereas with hydro, it’s a very easy break down and reset up between crops, the medium is fully inert (you can get inert soil as well), watering is much easier, and it’s just overall significantly easier to use on a large scale, in my opinion. Again, everything really comes down to genetics. I want to share an example. 

I was very fortunate to be one of a very small group of growers out of the San Fernando Valley in the early 2000s to grow the OG Kush. We were able to get the genetics from Josh D, the creator of the OG. They were to this day, the strongest, best genetics I’ve ever seen. We were the only ones to grow this OG for about 10 years and we had built quite a reputation amongst the cannabis community during this time. We were all very good growers, but our genetics were off the charts. We had a lot of people talking about our flower and I would often hear comments from people assuming the flower we grew must be soil-grown, because of how strong the smell and taste was but, we were almost all growing it hydroponically. Cannabis can grow equally as beautifully in a number of different mediums, it’s really a matter of how good the grower is, their system, and their feeding formula.

What are some things that a grower/cultivator must know about soil growing and hydroponics before starting their grow?

For all grow methods, knowing about the plant’s nourishment reigns supreme. Making sure that the plants have potassium, phosphorus, nitrogen, sulfur, magnesium, calcium, copper, zinc, boron, molybdenum, manganese, chlorine, and iron is vital to the plants health no matter the method.