First thing is pots or containers. There are many different sizes and styles of pots. Plastic pots are inexpensive, reusable and easy to clean. Clay and wooden pots breathe better, but also absorb water from soil. Metal pots rust and bleed off harmful compounds. Grow bags are similar to plastic pots, but more cheap, reusable, and can be folded for storage convenience. And even better are smart pots, geo pots, dirt pots, and other material such as pots which do not root-bound plants and grow more fibrous roots to absorb more nutrients. Plus, they dry faster due to added aeration to soil type.
After choosing a container which will work in your provided space, now your choice is soil or soil-less mix. Soil is mainly organic. Simply meaning, it is derived of living matter. There is a micro ecosystem of bacteria breaking down food to be absorbed at a certain rate for the plants. When using soil you only use water in your medium. Soil, whether it’s bought or made has fertilizer and/or nutrients put into it from either compost, some form of manure, or organic agents like earthworm castings, bat guano, etc…. You, of course, have to calculate your formula properly for your strain.
Soil-less mixes are a sterile growing medium. Soil-less is a lot like soil made with some form of peat moss or coco coir with soil amendments mixed in. Rockwool cubes, peat pellets and oasis blocks are other forms of soil-less. The point of soil-less is to have a medium to anchor roots and hold water similar to a sponge. And you add food via liquid or powder into the water to be added to your soil-less mix. The plants use that preferably readily available food.
Perlite is sand or volcanic glass used for aerating the soil and helping to increase drainage.
Pumice is volcanic rock; similar to perlite.
Hydro clay holds air in growing medium.
Vermiculite is used to hold water, like little sponges, in your soil/soil-less mix for plants that like more water.
Both soil and soil-less can use soil amendments to help create a better medium for your roots. Mycharrizae is another important part of soil as it is the bacterium that makes up the living part of soil. These attach to the roots and eat the food in order to break it down for roots to absorb more easily.
This bacterium should naturally occur in your organic soil, but there are bottles of powdered mycharrizae which you can place at the exposed roots. In addition, there are bottles of liquid mycharrizae which is put into your regular feeding program every other feeding. This is great stuff and helps plants grow at least 3 inches faster in a week. The liquid version can be used in soil-less mixes as well.