What Is the Best Growing Medium for Me?

As a beginner level grower, you may not be fully aware of what is the best growing medium for you to your favorite plants. Knowing which mediums are best suited for your needs and the advantages and disadvantages of using soil, coco coir, peat, clay and perlite will give you the upper hand in the garden! In the article, we present a guide on which growing mediums are best, when to use water and nutrients, the difference between organic and hydroponic systems and more to give you the ultimate head start.

What is the best growing medium?

If you’re planning to grow indoors or outside some annual vegetables, fruits, herbs, or spices, then starting with the best growing medium is key. Generally, first time growers will choose the easy and practical route and will plant seeds into soil. Made up of organic matter, beneficial microorganisms and slow release nutrients, soil is easy to work with, good for the environment and suitable for almost every type of plant. Also, you can buy the soil substrate of your preference and plant in pots.

 

On the other hand, you can always decide to go down the hydroponic route and use soilless growing mediums such as coco coir, rockwool and expanded clay for dripper, flood and drain and DWC. The best growing medium effectively is the one which is most compatible for a plant’s roots to grow, can retain plenty of water, has considerable amounts of air pockets inside, is able to dry out after fully wet without becoming waterlogged, and gives plants access to nutrients via organic matter that decomposes over time or liquid nutrients.

 

Signs of a superior quality growing medium

● The growing medium should have good aeration to promote the growth of roots.
● Water and nutrients should be able to be poured in and run off the pots.
● Soil mediums will contain perlite for increased aeration.
● Roots grow very quickly and search out for space and moisture.
● Top quality soils will be full of nutrients and beneficial microorganisms.
● Hydroponic mediums such as rockwool, clay and coco are sterile.
● Many growing mediums will come with coco, soil and perlite combined inside.


The main differences between soil or coco substrates, soilless and hydroponics

It can be quite overwhelming as a first time grower trying to get your head around the different methods of growing. We are all aware of soil and how practical and forgiving it can be, but what about the other substrates such as coco coir, rockwool or clay? Soil will slowly release nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and trace elements back to the plants, thanks to the help of beneficial bacteria, fungi and microorganisms present in it.

Hydroponic systems are well known for their ability to produce a massive root zone and as a result generous sized plants and rewarding harvests. Plants that are grown inside a deep water culture bucket or NFT system, can grow quickly and large sized during the growth stage, giving great harvests, faster.

 

Unlike soil, there are no nutrients inside the medium, meaning they provide an excellent starting base and allow you as the grower to decide exactly what nutrients are given and at what amount. Combine with frequent maintenance, pH and EC requirements and a fast pace of growth, hydroponics is best suited for growers who are well versed with plants and have a few years’ experience. If you want to learn more about hydroponics and get some practical tips, don’t forget to visit our blog post on the subject.


The advantages of using soil as a growing medium

● Soil is amazingly easy to use and ideal for a new grower.
● There are nutrients already inside that will be slowly released over time.
● Soil contains beneficial microorganisms, bacteria, and fungi inside.
● Many people believe that soil produces the best tasting fruits and crops.
● You can find top-quality soil at lower prices, like Janeco-Light-Mix.
● Enthusiastic organic growers can start their own compost and soil pile.
● The soil can be reused after harvesting with some care and amendments.

 

The advantages of using soilless growing mediums

● Yields can be significantly increased compared to using soil.
● Soilless mediums are sterile and free of bacteria and fungi.
● Growers can choose the exact amount of nutrients given.
● Coco coir, rockwool and clay contain no nutrients and are inert.
● Roots can grow extremely large in a soilless medium.
● You can mix coco coir and soil together for the perfect blend, like Bi-Growmix.


Is soil or coco coir the best for me?

Not everyone can use hydroponic systems and for others working with pots inside their tent and hand watering works simply fine. There are options that you can choose between soil and soilless, without needing to buy a pump and hydroponic equipment.

Coco coir

Made from coconut husks and treated of salts, coco coir is a superb growing medium that contains no nutrients and is classed as a sterile growing medium for plants. A popular growing medium that is used with hydroponic liquid nutrients. A wonderful way to increase aeration is by blending coco coir with perlite. Coco coir is fantastic for clones, seedlings and can be reused once washed thoroughly with an enzyme solution such as ATAzyme.

Soil

Basically, a decomposing blend of organic materials ranging from worm castings, peat, bark, and compost. We work with peat substrates, a raw material that gives remarkable results for gardening purposes. It can be recycled after every harvest, on the basis that the right amendments are added before planting new seeds. The trick with soil is to feed the soil with organic matter, that then converts nutrients and minerals back to the plant’s roots. This keeps the soil life thriving and plenty of nutrients for the plants during more time. If this idea sounds good to you, then check ATA NRG Upgrade or Worm Delight. They will become the perfect match for your substrate.


How much nutrients do my plants and growing medium need?

This will all depend on multiple variables such as plant maturity, growing medium and light intensity. Soil growers will be able to provide their plants with an organic or mineral nutrient solution, however the plants will then buffer the nutrients over a 72-hour period. Growing organically with soil can be as easy as adding a slow release fertilizer or compost as worm manure, hand watering with only water and letting Nature do the rest.

 

Hydroponic systems are far less forgiving and if you are not on the ball with your nutrients, EC and pH levels, then the plants will not grow to the best of their ability. One of the benefits of hydroponics, is that the plants are fed a nutrient solution multiple times per day, and in some cases such as DWC, RDWC, NFT and dripper systems such as the Wilma system, roots are in contact with water and nutrients 24 hours a day.

Our conclusion

The best advice we can give a first time grower is to use an organic substrate, feed the plants water and nutrients, and learn about plants during the growth and flowering stages. Once you are more experienced, try a hydroponic medium such as coco coir, rockwool or clay. Soilless systems can be extremely rewarding and produce enormous yields. Soil and peat are the easy options, able to hold water, nutrients, and air. Good luck learning which growing medium is best for you and mastering the ways of the better grower!

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