Beware of people trying to promote either soil or hydroponic marijuana, saying one is better than the other. In some cases people who grow and sell one type will make up stories to try make the other look bad, for their own personal financial benefit.
There was a news story with some medical marijuana patients who thought hydroponics utilized dangerous chemicals. Another story was about recreational users that only smoked hydroponic, because they thought it was more potent.
Both groups were incorrect. In truth, both soil and hydroponics can produce marijuana that is of the same potency and of the same quality for medical, recreational, other purposes.
The nutrient requirements for soil and hydroponic marijuana plants are the same, no dangerous chemicals involved either way. In fact, many experienced soil growers will solely employ hydroponic nutrients to give their soil grown plants.
Unlike plants grown in soil, hydroponic plants have roots that will never come into contact with soil. Their only means of getting nutrients is those in the water that is supplied to the plants by the hydroponic system they are grown in.
Because of this, hydroponic nutrients must be complete. They contain balanced quantities of all the primary and secondary nutrients needed. In addition they include beneficial amounts of trace elements. This is ideal for soil grown plants too.
Soil And hydroponics Compared
--- Easier to learn.
--- Less labour intense.
--- Plants grow slower.
--- Less expensive initially.
--- Harder to learn.
--- More labour intense.
--- Plants grow quicker.
--- More expensive initially.
For someone with no experience, learning to grow marijuana with soil is usually easier. There might be some people that feel more comfortable learning hydroponics, but they will be a minority.
With hydroponics, it takes more time and effort to setup and maintain a garden than it does when compared to setting up and maintaining a soil garden to grow marijuana, as well as other plants.
Hydroponic plants grow quicker than those grown in soil. Most hydroponic marijuana plants grown indoors are ready to harvest 8-10 weeks after they start to flower. Grown in the same conditions, the same marijuana strain will take about 1-2 weeks longer in soil.
It will cost more to setup a hydroponic garden than it will a soil garden. Over time you will have to get similar replacement items, with either soil or hydroponics, to maintain your garden (like nutrients and replacement bulbs).
However, with hydroponics you don't have to buy soil, which can be expensive, for each new crop. Hydroponic plants don't use soil and depending on the hydroponic system, hydroponic media like rockwool, can be bought for reasonable prices.
A hydroponic system that uses 3 inch grow cubes (which is about the minimum size required with a large plant) for the plant roots to grow into instead of soil, means that you only have to purchase a single 3 inch grow cube, for each plant, to start a new crop.
A 36 x 12 x 3 inch rockwool slab can be purchased for under $20 (USA 2016 price). If you cut the rockwool slab yourself, into 48 cubes measuring 3 x 3 inches, it works out to less than half a dollar per plant for media.
Soil Verses Hydroponics Conclusion
Not matter which method a gardener chooses, soil and hydroponic gardens can both produce healthy high quality marijuana, equally. It comes down to a matter of preference, and more importantly, what is more practical.
If you are a perfectionist, hydroponics would probably be a good first choice. But for most people, especially those with a more casual interest, starting with soil is the better option. After learning how to grow with soil, you may wish to consider hydroponics.
For me, good soil that has been analyzed for heavy metals and other substances that can be health hazards is expensive. With hydroponics, soil contaminants are impossible because there is no soil. But toxic substances can be absorbed by plants through water.
But by utilizing a reverse osmosis water filter, possible toxic substances in the water are removed. Cost is under $10 a year to replace the filters, and under $50 every 3-5 years for a reverse osmosis membrane. In the long run hydroponics has been cheaper.
In addition, since hydroponic plants are ready to harvest in a shorter amount of time, with my setup there are six harvests per year with hydroponics compared to five harvests when growing the same marijuana strain in soil under the same conditions.
So personally when cultivating cannabis, hydroponics has been the better option. But hydroponics it isn't best for everyone. Depending on the circumstances you are faced with, most individuals will probably be better off choosing soil.