Tips for the Home Grown Beginner: Soil, Soilless, or Hydroponics?

By Chris Bond
Published: May 16, 2018 | Last updated: May 11, 2021 05:03:11
Presented by Crop King Seeds
Key Takeaways

Cannabis can be grown successfully in soil, soilless media or hydroponically. Consider some of the pros, cons and tips to each method before jumping the gun and making some potentially costly, beginner’s mistakes.

You’ve decided to start growing weed at home. Maybe it’s so that you will have a reliable supply, maybe it’s for medicinal purposes; regardless of your motive, it is important to perform a little due diligence before seeding your first plants without a plan as to where and how to raise them. The decision of where to grow them will often dictate how it will be advisable to grow them. Cannabis can be grown successfully in soil, soilless media or hydroponically. Consider some of the pros, cons and tips to each method before jumping the gun and making some potentially costly, beginner’s mistakes.


Soil Grown

If you are in a position where you can raise home-grown cannabis outside, then opting to grow them in natural soil is an easy choice. Many consumers claim that outdoor grown cannabis tastes better, and contains more natural levels of THC and CBD, among the myriad other chemical properties of marijuana. Soil-grown marijuana, so long as it is not grown in the understory of trees, receives the best possible light, natural sunlight. Don’t discount the benefit of rain water and the abundant carbon and oxygen they will get when grown outdoors in soil. Plants don’t need to be kept “dwarfed” or not allowed to reach their full height potential when grown outdoors.

The ideal location for an outdoor crop of cannabis would be a slightly sloped, open and southern facing patch of ground. The soil should be well-draining with a pH in the range of, or adjusted to be between 6.0 and 6.5. The cannabis plot should be sited such that there is natural or man-made protection from the prevailing high winds such as with a screening of trees or a fence. So long as there is adequate spacing between the plants, the incidences of disease and pests in outdoor, soil-grown cannabis is lower than with indoor-grown plants as there are not usually natural predators found in indoor grow spaces.


Growing cannabis in soil is not without certain risks and challenges. There is always the risk of unwanted pollination of your crop from wind-borne or insect-carried pollen from other male cannabis plants that may be in the area unbeknownst to you. There are seasonal issues with outdoor, soil-grown cannabis for anyone living in regions that experience frosts or winters. Indoor growers have this advantage. The risk of theft or seizure is always there as well whether or not it is legal to grow in your area or not.

If growing outside is not an option for you to begin cultivating cannabis, but you are not ready to commit to a hydro system, then the other main indoor option is to grow your weed in some type of soilless media. It is not advisable to bring outside soil in for indoor growing as it increases the chances for insect and disease pressure.

Soilless Media

Though not exclusively used for inside production, as cannabis could be grown outside in containers filled with soilless media, weed is often grown indoors in some form of soilless media. This is generally the route that most beginning cannabis growers end up taking. Soilless media is the name given to any number of (usually) commercially prepared growing mixes such as potting soils and seedling mixes. They are comprised of some combination of peat moss or coir, perlite, vermiculite, sometimes bark, and sometimes fertilizer, wetting agents or other amendments. The benefits of using a soilless media, are that you, as beginning grower does not have to figure out what to put into your pots. The soilless media of your choice is prepared consistently with static and reliable pH levels and constituent ingredients.


Cannabis grown in a soilless media should be done so in a mix that provides a pH in the range between 6.0 and 6.5, similar to garden soil. When seeding or rooting cuttings, a lightweight mix, devoid of bark should be selected. When plants have sufficient roots on them and have their first set of true leaves, they (the plants) may be transplanted into a “heavier” mix that could include bark or sand in addition to the peat, perlite and vermiculite. It is important to select a mix that strikes the balance between retaining enough moisture so that the mix is not prone to drying out too quickly and selecting one that does not retain too much moisture so that the cannabis roots cannot get oxygen and then rot.


Hydroponic growing of cannabis is sometimes the path taken by beginning growers, but can be overwhelming to others. Like soilless media, cannabis can be grown hydroponically outdoors, but it is far and away more common for hydroponic marijuana growing to be done indoors. Many experienced growers like the hydro system for the very reason it may be intimidating to new growers. You, as grower can and need to manipulate all of the factors for successful growth. Hydro growers must make sure that their systems provide sufficient nutrient exchange, enough oxygen and support for each plant. For those that do grow cannabis successfully, they often cite the highest potential for yields with hydroponic crops versus either soil or soilless media-grown cannabis.


If you have a hydroponic setup where the variables can be easily controlled by you, then hydroponic cannabis may be the way to go. Unlike soil-grown or soilless-grown cannabis, the pH in hydro systems for ideal weed production should be between 5.5 and 6.0. It is important to check this level often and adjust as needed. Nutrients move around much quicker in a hydro system than either a soilless or soil system. Any miscalculation in acid, alkaline materials or nutrients can quickly damage a crop and require starting over.

Regardless which system you as a beginning grower opt for, make sure to take the above mentioned factors into consideration to try and avoid costly mistakes.


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Written by Chris Bond | Certified Permaculture Designer, Nursery Technician, Nursery Professional

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Chris Bond’s research interests are with sustainable agriculture, biological pest control, and alternative growing methods. He is a certified permaculture designer and certified nursery technician in Ohio and a certified nursery professional in New York, where he got his start in growing.

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