Since DC now allows up to 6 plants per household (only 3 mature at a time), a lot of people are looking to get their green thumbs on and start growing. However, there are a lot of things to consider before diving head first into your deep water cultivation system. Indoor growing systems have improved dramatically in recent years and systems with elaborate (and breakable) parts as well as large amounts of water that can flood or attract pests are worth researching. For those fairly new to home cultivation, a passive growing system is generally recommended first, before moving on to a more expensive setup.
Passive Growing Systems
The main benefit of passive indoor growing is the minimal system maintenance required. Lacking spray emitters, large, water-filled reservoirs, or pumps, they rely on plants in soil, or a soilless medium and manual feeding by the grower. Many people think hydroponic systems require a water base but technically, anything grown outside of soil from the earth is considered hydroponic, including soilless substrates. These may take a little more time to care for each plant than elaborate active systems but they offer an excellent chance to observe the growth of the plants and a great learning opportunity for those wishing to progress to more complicated systems in the future. Purists argue that plants grown in soil are more in tune with the earth, but for those interested in maximising their growing mediums, descriptions of popular non-soil substrates include:
One of the most popular soilless- mix bases, peat is the partially decomposed remains of vegetation and flora that have been preserved underwater or in a semi-aquatic state. Its look, feel and texture are similar to fine earth soils, and it is heavily loaded with organic minerals. There are three types of peat: peat moss, peat humus and reed sedge, with the first two being the more popular commercial forms.
Sphagnum moss (or sphagnum peat, as it’s also called) is the dehydrated residue or living portions of bog plants. It’s usually pathogen-free, always light in weight, and has an extremely high capacity for water retention. Sphagnum is more desirable as a grow substrate than standard peat; however, its high cost has limited its commercial use.
Second in popularity to peat, it’s extremely adaptable and can serve many functions. When ground to a finer consistency, coco coir makes an excellent base for soilless mixes, and when shredded into fibers or chunked into smaller pieces, it can serve as a great additive to peat-based mixtures, as these forms help aerate the medium. In any form, coco coir — which is made from coconut husks — is highly absorbent and can retain moisture while holding its form for long periods of time.
Mostly used as an additive for soilless mixes, vermiculite is neutral in reactions and offers excellent buffering to the root zone while also holding moisture and nutrients very well. The term “peat-lite” refers to peat-based mediums that contain perlite or vermiculite.”
The above examples of soilless mediums, as well as more detailed information on the requirements of passive and active indoor growing systems can be found in the following article.