BRINGING SOIL AND HYDROPONICS TOGETHER FOR GREAT RESULTS INDOORS

BY GEORGE DOGOOD

Soil or hydro? It’s a question that can successfully divide most indoor growers. But there is a huge and increasingly popular grey area between Soil and Hydro that I like to call Handro, and it’s growing a lot of fantastic indoor crops around the country right now. I use “Handro” as a broad overarching term by which I refer to container gardening, indoors, with a completely soilless medium and fed primarily with liquid hydroponic nutrient. From the biggest large-scale commercial indoor grows, to hobbyists with a small tent or closet, Handro is helping growers produce consistently high quality cannabis in hefty amounts but the term Handro originated with the small scale applications from which it sprung.

Small scale growers figured out decades ago that you can take soilless growing mediums, from hydroton and rockwool to pure coco or even pure perlite, and fill containers with them like soil, and then hand water them with hydro nutrients. (Of course depending on your choice of media, nutrient, and how you used them, results varied greatly.) It was therefore like hand watering hydro; or in a word, “Handro”.

This method allowed growers the relative speed and consistency increase that hydroponic gardening methods often provide for indoor growers, but without the need to construct and maintain a larger hydroponic system. I know for certain this method has been used for at least 20 years. All these years later, there is a resurgence in Handro gardening, and the technology has increased to bring the Handro method to entirely new heights.

One key difference in Handro between now and 20 years ago is the variety of media and nutrients from which to choose. There are more companies making more media and nutrients for our industry than ever before. The good news is many of these products are of high quality and can produce high quality results. The bad news is, the word is out on this new “green rush” and fly-by-night soil and nutrient companies have begun to spring up left and right. That said, whichever your preferred medium, be sure you are purchasing from a reputable manufacturer.

But back to the positive vibes of Handro and advancements in growing technology. Coco Fiber in general is also of consistently higher quality and greater availability than ever before in our industry. Largely for this reason (in my opinion) the most common Handro method today is hand watering or using a drain to waste automated system and feeding mineral, or mineral-organic liquids into containers (usually varying between 3-10 gallons) of a pure coco, or a coco/perlite soilless medium. Another key development in growing technology over the lifespan of Handro, has been fabric containers.

These containers allow better oxygen availability for roots, and naturally air prune roots which prevents wrapping around the sides and bottom that is common in plastic containers. Again, like with Coco and nutrients, there are many companies from which to purchase fabric containers, and quality certainly does vary. I personally use the handro method for indoor growing on a small scale (9 1000 watt HPS) here in Eugene OR. I am an organic minded grower and I like to buy local whenever possible, so virtually everything I use is made in Oregon. I hand water 10-gallon containers of soilless media (which is a 60/40 coco and perlite blend). It gives me consistently heavy yields and a level of quality that most people can only hope to attain with organic soil. I get organic soil quality, with the increased speed and convenience of hydro, and that my friends, is what Handro is all about.