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Perlite/Vermiculite. Perlite is a substance made from volcanic rock. It is white, light weight and often used as a soil additive to increase aeration and draining of the soil. Vermiculite, which is used the same way as perlite and often mixed together, is made from heat expanded mica and has a flaky, shiny appearance. Because perlite and vermiculite are so lightweight, they are suggested only for starting seeds and cuttings.

Cultivating plants without soil, the accepted definition of hydroponics, continues to gain popularity within commercial horticulture, and as it does, more and more products are developed for it. More sophisticated lighting, easier to mix nutrients and simplified plant supports have all come onto the market within the past five years. But one of the most exciting developments in the world of hydroponics has been the refinement and popularization of alternative growing media.

The Industry Standards

Sphagnum is usually purchased in dry, compressed blocks and needs to be soaked for approximately one hour before use.

Sawdust. Sawdust has had limited success as a hydroponic medium, but it is used, especially in Australia with tomatoes. There are many variables that determine how well sawdust will work, predominantly the kind of wood used and the purity of it. Growers need to be careful to ensure that their sawdust isn't contaminated with soil and pathogens or chemicals from wood-processing facilities or undesirable tree species. Another problem with sawdust is that it will decompose. Additionally, sawdust retains a lot of moisture so be careful not to overwater. The best thing about sawdust is that it is usually free.

Gravel can easily be reused as long as it is washed and sterilized between crops. Also use heat, steam, bleach or hydrogen peroxide for cleaning.

• Growing Cannabis With Coco Coir Growing marijuana in coco coir is a fantastic alternative cultivation style.

Difficulty: Medium
Cost: Low to medium

Now, let’s take a look at the differences between each growing medium.


Growing in a mix of coco and perlite provides the advantages of a hydroponic grow and the ease of a soil grow.

• Hydroponic Cannabis Growing Guide Hydroponics is a method of cultivating plants, specifically cannabis in this case, in a solution of water and nutrients.

The main advantage of soil is that it is forgiving and beginner-friendly, and you can still crop cannabis of top-notch quality. Soil is also widely available and relatively inexpensive.

You can also find setups that do not use a solid growing medium at all. In these systems, plants are suspended above a tank, with the roots reaching down into the water/nutrient solution. Some systems may use a combination of these, with the plants in a solid medium and the roots suspended in a tank. Simple dripper setups are relatively affordable, while more elaborate systems that make use of pumps and other equipment can be quite expensive.