Hydroponics vs. Soil: The Ultimate Showdown
BCNL uses hydroponic technology in our grow boxes, and we have many reasons for why we chose to go with hydroponics as opposed to traditional soil.
The soil versus hydroponics debate and indoor growing versus outdoor growing debate are essentially the same.
For the most part, they go hand-in-hand. Just like growing plants outdoors, soil is less expensive and requires less equipment. Soil also self-regulates for the most part; it gages its environment, and adjusts accordingly.
Soil is any plant’s natural grow medium, so generally, it is gentler to plants. It’s also easy to use if you’ve got a knack for gardening.
Of course, soil still has its restrictions. If you want strong and healthy plants, then you should opt for high-quality soil as that’s where your plants are getting their nutrients.
Your soil will need to be able to properly drain, contain the right sorts of nutrients, and, unfortunately, soil is something you have to constantly maintain.
Even after you’re done harvesting, you need to figure out what to do with your soil because you certainly can’t reuse it—the soil’s drained of nutrients!
Why not soil?
The downside of growing plants in soil is that, like in nature, your plants would take longer to grow.
If there are any defects in your plants, it’ll take longer for those defects to show, and so ultimately, your plants would also take longer to recover. That’s both a waste of time and money.
During the first few weeks of growth, you’ll also have to tend to your soil-grown plants with some serious TLC. If you don’t have the time or patience for this, soil is probably not your best bet.
Bugs are also a serious threat to soil-grown plants. No one likes bugs, and no one likes infestations.
Pest control isn’t impossible, of course. Bugs are nuisances, but they can be controlled.
A few good ways to manage infestations, if you are going with growing in soil, includes: keeping things clean, removing any dead plants or leaves, and taking preventative measures, like knowing what you’re dealing with.
You see, bugs thrive in soil. And if you’re not clean, if the tools you use aren’t clean, then you are giving bugs exactly what you want.
A good rule of thumb is to make sure your hands are washed before handling your plants, and to disinfect the tools that you use.
Dead plants or fallen leaves may seem innocent enough, being dead and all, but they’re as bad as zombies. Yes, they will rot, and yes, they will infect the plants that are perfectly healthy.
Make sure you remove any dead plants at the first sighting to ensure that you keep your healthy plants safe.
Lastly, if bugs are already tormenting you, then learn about those bugs that are ruining your plants. Know what makes them tick (ha, see what I did there?), know what they can’t stand, and of course, know what kills them.
Knowing exactly what you’re dealing with will help you get rid of the problem more efficiently.
Having said all this, offense is the best defense, so avoiding soil altogether is a pretty good option if you don’t feel like dealing with an infestation.
And this is where hydroponics comes into play.
So this is hydroponics
On top of the obvious benefit—discreet, customized growing (assuming you’re using a grow box of sorts)— growing hydroponic plants means that you have complete control over what sort of nutrients and how much of them your plants get. You can minimize potential problems that arise by doing this.
Harvesting also comes sooner with hydroponics as hydroponics gives your plants the ability to reduce up to two weeks of grow time.
This is because you are giving nutrients directly to the plants, and because your plants don’t have to use any energy on finding the nutrients, it can concentrate on growing big and tall. In fact, grown under the same conditions, a hydroponic plant can grow up to 30-50% faster than a soil plant.
Because your plants grow faster, you can also identify issues earlier on, meaning that these issues can be tended to or repair themselves faster as well.
Needless to say, this also implies that you have to supply nutrients to your plant manually. Nutrients that you can purchase are just as good as what soil supplies for your plants.
Getting it juuuust right
pH of your growing medium is also a big thing to consider. With hydroponics, you can also control the pH levels of the plant.
Quick refresher: “pH” describes the acidity level of any given thing. Its scale goes from zero to 14, with 14 being the least acidic (or “basic”), and zero being the most acidic. A pH of seven is considered to be “neutral.”
Generally speaking, your plants prefer pH in the lower range, around 5.2 to 5.9. Any higher than that, then your plant can be prevented from growing. This means that maintaining pH manually will further reduce potential problems with your plants.
Cleanliness is next to godliness
This is pretty obvious, but growing with hydroponics is a much cleaner. Think of all the soil spills you won’t have! This also means no weeds, no insects, and no parasites.
Soil is a medium that has the ability to breed all of those annoying things, so again, without it, you are pre-emptively removing potential problems your plants may have.
A fit for everyone
There are six main types of hydroponic set-ups, so, you know—a type for everyone! The different types are: the drip system, the ebb and flow system, the NFT (nutrient film technique) system, the water culture system, the wick system, and the aeroponic system.
Some are less involved than others (like the wick system vs. the aeroponic system, respectively), but all have the same guarantee that any hydroponic system holds: they’re fairly easy to maintain, clean, and requires a lot less space.
And of course, less space taken up by soil means more room for plants. More plants means more efficient growing, and bigger yields. Isn’t that what we’re all aiming for anyway?
Have you adapted hydroponics into your growing repertoire? Why or why not did you decide to go with (or without) hydroponics?