Ten tips for soil-less growing

There are many inherent properties of soil that make it difficult to alter/monitor/control the kind of soil and the way it influences and facilitates the growth of a plant. However soilless growing ensures and takes care of many such parameters which makes this an ideal choice and alternative for growing crops.

To succeed in soilless growing, one needs to be aware of finer differences between growing with soil and going soil-less. Following are a few tips to help you through the journey.

No. 1 – Choose a good medium

Grow media consisting of Cocopeat and Gravel

Whether liquid medium or soilless medium such as cocopeat – The medium should facilitate growth by having certain characteristics such as:-

  1. Good balance between water retention and drainage
  2. Inert nature (free of chemicals and agents that can react)
  3. Reusable
  4. Clean and sterile
  5. Balanced pH (should be in the zone that allows for nutrient absorption)

No. 2 – Ensure proper aeration to Roots

Normal aquarium air pump

Roots need a passage of air to enable the roots to breathe and grow. Hence it is vital to ensure that the media you choose allows for roots to be aerated properly.

In the case of a water-based system like DWC, it can be achieved by using the usual aquarium pumps. While using Cocopeat, aeration can be improved by mixing it with other media like gravel, hydrotons/clay pebbles, coco chips, wood shavings etc.

No. 3 – Provide external nutrition to the plant

CityGreen’s Symphony Nutrition puts you in full control of meeting your plant’s nutritiional requirements

Since the inert soilless medium will have no inherent nutrition, it is vital to ensure that nutrition is provided to the plant externally. In absence of additional nutrition, plants will starve and die a slow death.

No. 4 – No exposure of the root system to sunlight

Sunlight should not enter the root zone

The natural habitat of roots is under the ground in zero light conditions. If the root system is exposed to sunlight, it may result in algae and fungi growth. The roots will turn brown and plant may not grow to its optimum potential.

No. 5 –  Monitor and maintain the ph of the medium

CityGreen’s Organic Offering to manager pH and condition grow media

Plant’s roots can absorb nutrition only in an optimal pH range. This range varies slightly for different plant families. 
For the proper growth of any plant- the pH and the EC of the medium should be within its optimal range. This ensures that plants are able to absorb and accept the nutrition being provided- which in turn helps plant growth.

No. 6 – Protect seeds from predators

Ants thrive on seeds. Make sure to protect the seeds from ants

Ensure that at the time of Germination, the seeds are sowed and kept in an area away from where pests and rodents can attack them. Seeds are a very high source of Nutrition to these creatures, Especially ants.

No. 7 – Keep the sown seeds away from sunlight

It is a good idea to cover the seeds till they germinate

Most seeds germinate under the ground. While germinating seeds one should try to replicate their natural environment. Seeds should be sown preferably in a dark, warm place to facilitate germination. Seeds have enough source of nutrition and “life”. They do not need to be provided with extra nutrition at the germination phase. All they need is warmth and moisture.

No. 8 – Ensure enough room for root growth

Ensure that roots get enough room to grow

Always know (if possible) the extent of root growth and provide sufficient room for the roots to grow. If roots do not receive enough space to spread and grow this will impact the growth of the plant as well.

No. 9 – Plant spacing is important

Plant spacing is important to allow plants too spread out and grow fully

If growing in an NFT channel plan the spacing of the plants such that its leaves have enough room for growth and expansion. A higher number of plants spaced little apart may give lower yields than a lesser number of plants appropriately spaced.

No. 10 – For easy availability of nutrients to plants – go for Foliar Spray

Foliar feeding helps increase yield during bloom phase

A direct foliar spray of nutrient to the plants is beneficial. Leaves also intake food. Hence providing a foliar spray will aide the nutrition intake for the plant. However, you should not use this method as a substitute method of providing nutrition to the plants – by eliminating the nutrition channel to the roots.


Sometimes you choose your profession. Sometimes God chooses your profession for you. For me it was the latter – The quest to find purpose and expression came in the form of my work. A connection with soil, water, growth and life.

As a kid, I would secretly wish that grown-up life was just like my childhood – running around luscious green fields, feeding the farm cows, chasing and being chased by hens, goats, cousins, the wind in my hair, the rain on my face, the smell of the earth after a rain, and the sound of non-stop laughter.

It was a sad day, when I realised that my wish was just that – a wish! Its been a personal mission for me to recreate the magic of my childhood in any way possible and contribute to clean air, smiling faces, nourishing food, happier homes all with a sense of awe and gratitude. Thus I found my way to CityGreens – here I help people sow, plant, nurture, care and harvest plants. Through plants a better home and life.

When I was not running around and playing with my cousins and farm animals I also managed to do my B.Tech and MBA.

4 thoughts on “Ten tips for soil-less growing

  • mcdon.reb says:

    I have ordered the Seed Starter Kit and am planning on doing a Dutch Bucket for tomatoes.
    Have few questions:
    1. What media will be best suited for this? I was thinking one of two options: Layer (1-2″) of Clay Pebbles +Perlite + Clay Pebbles or second option mixture of cocopeat and clay pebbles. Any suggestions? (Or if there is a third better option)

    2. I am planning to do the setup on my rooftop. But the rooftop is covered with no direct sunlight (though sids are open with indirect sunlight throughout the day). Will the setup work or it needs direct sunlight or need to use glow lights?

    3. There are multiple set of nutrient on sale. Which one would be recommend? Symphony combo pack or the Balanced NPK or something else?

    4. I would be using standart size buckets (30 (L) X 25 (W) X 22 Cm (H)). Shall i have 2 plants per bucket or only 1 is recommend?

    5. How often (and what amount and concentration) should the water/Nutrients be pumped into the buckets? I am planning to use 2 drippers (with flow rate of 8LPH) per bucket.

    6. For the starter kit provided do i neef to add any nutrients or only water should be sufficient? If only water then does it has to be pH balanced? pH recommend for tomatoes?

    • Hi,

      PFB the specific answers:-

      1. If you are setting the dutch bucket as a non-recirculating system (in which case, you don’t specifically need a dutch bucket – any container or grow bag will do fine), either of the options would be ok. However, if you are setting it as a recirculating system, don’t use smaller size media as it may clog the water pump. You can go for only clay pebbles as well (like we do). While choosing for clay pebbles do understand the pros and cons of ones made of real clay (usually heavier and pink in color) and ones made of fly ash (brown color with black inside and lighter). The former are costlier, sturdier, provide more support, and offer water retention of 30%+. The latter at cheaper, lightweight and provide retention of approx 15% (you will need to set the pump frequency at double rate if using latter.

      2. The tomato plant needs direct sunlight for at least a few hours a day. In a covered setup, yield will be very low. You can use glow lights but it will lead to a heavy increase in the input costs. Go for it if the primary purpose of this exercise is to get safe food and cost is of secondary importance.

      3. Symphony + Organic Origin Seaweed Bloom Booster -> you can connect with our team on 831 031 2660 to understand how to use them.

      4. Go for 1. The ground surface area of the bucket is less than 1 sq. ft. Tomato plant spreads out and needs spacing to ensure it gets enough light to generate food (esp in your case of indirect light, crowding is not advisable at all). If you take care of pruning and supporting the branches well, 1 plant in the bucket will give you greater yield than 2 may give if not done properly.

      5. Will vary depending upon the plant size and set-up type. Please connect with our team and they will guide you.

      6. Only water would suffice for germination. Seeds pack enough nutrients to germinate and survive for a few days thereafter. Start nutrition a week post germination (in small doses). You can use tap water. It’s pH is in the range that works for tomatoes.

      Hope it helps.
      All the best!

      • mcdon.reb says:

        Thanks Gaurav for prompt reply. Comments are helpful to get started.
        One point though : The clay pebbles available on CG look to be of real clay; correct?

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