A good starting point to getting your green thumb going is to figure out what medium to use.
In the past the answer was always soil, there were no other options. Now that there are so many other mediums available to us, some of us have lost touch with our roots.
Here, we discuss the benefits of soil over other mediums, why you should be using it, and how to determine good quality soil from bad.
The Benefits of Soil
For the vast majority of human history, farmers have been tending to our soil to grow food and medicine.
We’ve gotten very good at using soil over the years, and despite the development of other mediums, like rockwool and clay aggregate, soil remains the most popular growing method to this day.
There are a few good reasons for this:
1. It’s Cheap
Soil is much cheaper than many of the other mediums available including rockwool, clay pellets, coconut coir, and foam products. It also doesn’t require the use of expensive pumps, reservoirs, and flood tables.
Not all soil is created equal, however.
Cheap soil will contain a mixture of clay, peat, and loam. They often require some form of additives to make it suitable for your plants, and will need to have fertilizer applied.
High quality soil will have other forms of organic matter in it as well, like kelp, manure, or worm castings, and often includes soil conditioners to get its water retentive properties just right. These soils are only marginally more expensive, and offer a lot higher quality for your plants.
Even high-quality soil comes in at a lower price tag than many of the other growing mediums.
2. It’s Simple To Clean up After Each Harvest/Season
Depending on what you’re growing, you’ll likely have crop cycles.
At the end of each cycle (or season), the plants are harvested and the growing medium is replaced.
The growing medium plays a big role in how simple or complicated the cleanup and replenishment process is after a season has finished.
Mediums like clay pebbles can be reused, but require some serious sterilization and cleanup before it’s safe to reuse the medium on new plants. The problem is that it can harbour bad bacteria, fungi, or viruses and reinfect the next crop. The old crop may have been strong enough to resist these pests, but the new, younger crop may become sick and die from it.
This is why most professional growers won’t reuse the same growing medium between crops.
Soil offers some clear benefits here, as it’s cheap, and easy to replace between cycles.
3. It’s Harder To Mess Up
Hydroponic systems involve growing plants in a nutrient-enriched water medium.
Water doesn’t offer all the nutritional requirements a plant needs. This means we need to add it in using water soluble fertilisers.
We also need to manage the pH, and keep our eye on the total dissolved solids (TDS) in the water. If we add too much nutrients, or not enough nutrients, or we’re unable to maintain the water pH or TDS to a suitable level, our plants will begin to suffer.
Unlike hydroponic systems, soil has a natural buffer system built in to protect us from going out of range.
If nutrient levels become too high, compounds in the soil will lock them up, preventing them from harming the delicate roots of the plants. In the same way, pH levels are balanced with natural buffering compounds in the soil.
This makes soil a fool-proof growing media, suitable for both novices and experts alike. It allows you to have a low-maintenance garden as you don’t need to constantly check your water levels, pH, and TDS.
4. You Can Grow Organically
It’s easy to grow organically with soil.
Organic gardening requires a balance between the beneficial bacterial, fungal, insect, and plant cultures all growing together in one spot.
With soil, this is much easier to maintain because it supports all types of organisms found in this system.
This balance needs to develop gradually over time as symbiotic colonies of different microbial species begin to grow and interact together. Organic gardens are generally much more resistant to disease and infection than sterile hydroponic gardens are.
Although it’s possible to develop these organic colonies using any soil, it’s best to start with a high-quality living soil.
Our Cré kelp-infused soil is an excellent place to start.
It contains plenty of organic sources of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for your plants to thrive, and promotes the growth of symbiotic decomposers. It’s organic fertilizers help resist the pathogenic anaerobic species of bacteria that can kill your plants roots.
5. Some Plants Will Not Grow In Other Mediums
We can grow a lot of different types of plant with hydroponics, however, there are some that simply won’t thrive in this type of setup.
Root vegetables for example don't usually do well in overly moist environments like hydroponics. Their roots will begin to rot in the high water environment.
Crops like ginseng, carrots, potatoes, and beets all require soil to grow properly.
6. You Don’t Need A Complex Setup To Get Started
Getting started with soil is simple. All you need is a few pots, access to light (either sunlight or artificial lighting) and some water. THAT’S IT. Everything else is extra.
Hydroponics on the other hand often need complex systems to manage the flow, maintenance, and replenishment of water. Fertilisers need to be added every time the water is changed, it needs constant pH balancing, and water levels often need to be topped up to avoid drying out the roots.
If you’re new to gardening and want to get started as cheaply and simply as possible, soil is the clear winner.
Soil is the oldest, and most popular growing medium known to man.
We’ve been using it successfully to grow our food and medicine for thousands of years.
With the invention of hydroponics, and the other growing mediums that came along with it (rockwool, clay pebbles, and coconut coir to name a few), soil remains one of the best growing mediums we have available.
If you’re looking for a fool-proof, and cost-effective way to start your garden, or are interested in organic farming, soil is by far your best option.