Organic Growing Methods and Resources
Intro to No-till and Regenerative Growing
Start composting now if possible… at the very least, feed the earth your cannabis plant waste/vegetable/fruit waste. Instead of setting your leaves to the curb, let them compost in a corner of your back yard, around the base of trees, or mulch your garden beds to add nutrients to the soil for the next year. But if all possible, you should use all of these in a compost pile to start building your own free soil.
Ratio: 30 Browns (Carbon) : 1 Greens (Nitrogen) is a standard suggestion (Which makes horse manure my favorite because it is about that naturally! Horse manure is 25:1, old horse bedding 45:1!)
Browns: dry Stalks and stems, dry grass, straw, leaves, fruit waste
Greens: Cannabis Leaves, vegetables, lawn clippings, plant waste from garden, manure
The ratio is not an exact science as materials you compost very. Composting will happen no matter what, however having a good ratio will make it happen faster.
Tips: Keep compost moist, stir often, keep pile between 3’-6’ tall. Also, think outside of the box! I get my horse manure from my neighbors for free! They get free clean up and I get free soil!
Craigslist and marketplace is a great way to get cheaper and bulk compost. Good compost should smell like earth, look like dark rich dirt.
MIX YOU OWN SOIL-
The base of my soil is straight compost. I do not use peat or coco as they are just filler but if you are sourcing your ingredients from the grow store only, it will make your mix a bit cheaper. I only use aeration in indoor beds and I only use pumice and rice hulls. But there is a million recipes out there and you can always adjust to what works best for you!
Standard Ratio 30% Filler (Peat Moss/COCO) 30% Aeration (pumice, rice hulls, perlite, vermiculite, rocks)
40% compost (compost, worm castings, humus)
My OUTDOOR Ratio 100% Compost
My INDOOR Ratio 80% Compost 20% Aeration (50/50 pumice to rice hulls)
Amending your soil- The goal is to add sources of your macro nutrients (N-P-K) and micro nutrients (trace minerals). I try to keep my mix simple, but diversity in all things can be beneficial!
My Soil I use: Paramagnetic Rock, Tennessee Rock, Sea 90, Cottonseed meal, Fish Bone Meal, Alfalfa Meal, Langbeinite always. Sometimes if I have It, I will add mycos (like bigfoot), insect frass, neem cake meal or karanja meal too! Follow the instructions for how much of each you should add depending on the amount of your base soil you are amending.
After you mix, moisten and cover with a tarp for a couple weeks before use to condition. Or add to beds/mounded rows/pots (25 gallon minimum for flowering indoor) and cover crop and mulch. Once cover crop has sprouted you can transplant other plants (cannabis). I use cedar raised beds indoor and mounded rows outdoor and in greenhouses. I also love adding vermicompost (worm castings) and worms to new soil and beds!
MULCH and COVER CROP:
Mulch- keeps soil cool and moist and feeds the soil. I like to use barley straw. I also cut back my cover crop often and deleaf my plants and add as mulch too.
Cover crop- also keeps soil cool and adds nutrients to the soil as well as diversity to the rhizosphere. It also is a living mulch to keep chopping and feeding the soil. Build a soil mixed seed is my favorite. I also like to plant food too on the edges of my beds. This is called companion planting. I do it in my vegetable gardens too. Planting lots of species together allows you to grow more in a smaller space. There are other benefits to each other too, like adding nutrients to the soil and pest control. Some things do not grow well together so definitely do your research first. I am working on a chart/list that I will post soon on my site. My favorites to plant with cannabis are basil, cilantro, peas, beans, lettuce, arugula, and dill to name a few.
RE-AMENDING AFTER HARVEST:
After you harvest. Cut stalk at the base but leave the roots. The roots will become food to the soil, and will be ate up and gone in about a week or two. They become food to the new plants you will transplant next to them. If your mulch is thick pull back mulch and re-amend with worm castings or compost as well as a little of all your amendments. If your mulch is thin, amend right on top of it. After you are done amending, spread old mulch, apply new cover crop and mulch. Once your soil is established it is a good idea to get your soil tested to see if you need to add more or less of some things. Or if you notice a deficiency, like nitrogen which is the most common, be sure to add a little more the next round.
Irrigation will keep you soil happy and alive! Soil and the organisms that live there start to die when it gets too dry. It also makes gardening easier and opens up time to work on more things like IPM and pruning. Irrigation is much easier to run in raise beds and mounds which is a big part of why we use them. Also because we try to use as little plastic as possible. Blumat soaker hose is my favorite for irrigation. The hose should be ran under your mulch to prevent algae and keep it closest to your soil.
VERMICOMPOST (WORM BINS):
Use a tote or reservoir that is wider that it is tall. I use my old hydro reservoirs. Add compost, leaf mulch and soil as your base. Make sure your mix is moist but not too wet before adding worms. Mulch with straw and keep moist but don’t drown your wormies! Add more compost as needed. Harvest worms when the bedding is mostly worm castings.
Harvesting worm castings: place a tarp or board in the sun or under grow lights. Dump bin on tarp and mound. The worms with move to the middle away from the warmth and light. Scrap away castings until you reach worms. Wait a bit for worms to migrate again then scrap again. Only you have harvested ¾ of your pile add the worms and remainder castings to your bin with new bedding (base) and start again! Use worm casting to reamend your beds/pots and for tea.
COMPOST TEA: You need a barrel, a air pump and a large tea bag (I use old pillow cases and old bale twine to tie and hang it on the side of the barrel for easy removal after brewing).
You can mix a simple tea of molasses and worm castings if you have nothing else and your plants will love it! But you can always add botanical teas like Dragonfly Earth Medicine, or amendments like sea kelp, fish bone meal (in flowering), or feather meal in (vegetative growth). You can also grow/forage and dry your own botanical teas. Or make fermented plant juice to feed your plants. I recommend researching and experimenting with those too!
IPM INTRAGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT:
TREATMENT IN VEG: You should treat in vegetative state for disease in pests at least once a week even if you don’t have any visible signs of issues. There are lots of organic ways to treat and prevent issues. I do not treat cannabis in flower, however I will cut back and treat cover crop/mulch on occasion.
Treatments options for organics: Oils, essential oils, soaps, enzymes, beneficial bacteria, and beneficial fungi. Some you can make yourself like EM-1 which is a beneficial bacteria great for preventing disease. I alternate spraying oil base and soap base.
List of products I like: Suff Oil, Amazing Doctor Zymes, Smite, Mountain Organics, EM-1 (easy and best to make your own), Safer Soap, B.T. (Bacillus thuringiensis), Beauveria Bassiana, and Tweetmint.
Because we spray so many things, we use a barrel, a submersible pump that’s big enough to hook up to a garden hose, a garden hose, and an adjust make nozzle wand (make sure it has mister and fan settings).
TREATMENT IN FLOWER: I like to use beneficial insects in flower. I will also treat the mulch/cover crop if needed. It is not recommended to spray at all after you release beneficial bugs because you will kill them too! My favorite bugs are…
Lacewing eggs (they will hatch quickly into larvae and this is the biggest bang for your buck.) The larvae state is the most beneficial as they eat the most bad bugs during that time. Adult Lacewings don’t eat much. What for new eggs too… they also exist naturally in our area, so check for eggs before you spray in greenhouse and outdoor.
Predator Mites- Amblyseius (=Neoseiulus) cucumeris. These are great for combatting spider mites, broad mites, and thrips.
Lady bugs- are amazing beneficial bugs! However, they are harvested from there natural environment so they are not my first choice or recommendation. In fact, with all the fires out West, they have not been available for purchase for the past year!
Nematodes- They work great to combat bad nematodes, fungus gnats and root aphids. They also help spread beneficial soil drenches like B.T. (beneficial bacteria that actually exist naturally in the soil) and Beauveria Bassiana (beneficial fungus).
Rove Beetles-The Rove beetle (Dalotia coriaria) is a species of soil-dwelling beetles which feeds on fungus gnats, thrips, root aphids and some small mites. The larvae and adults are both aggressive eaters. The larvae are light brown to dark brown in appearance and are more worm-like, while the adults are 3-4 mm long and dark with a slender body and wings. The wings allow them to mobilize from container to container in a grow room and from area to area in an outdoor environment, to attack where pests are prevalent. These wings allow them to establish quickly in their introduced environment as well.
Air flow and ventilation is so important for disease and pest control. We have high velocity fans in our greenhouses as well as indoor. Make sure plants are not too crowded however try to utilize as much of your canopy. De-leaf/de-foliar especially under the plants to allow more are flow. This is also an excellent time to examine for disease and pest.
Light Deprivation for outdoor/greenhouse:
I recommend using greenhouse plastic to shelter the top of your grow if possible outdoor. We have built simple greenhouse structures out of 4x4s and hog fence. This will help control bud rot and PM (Powdery Mildew). All of our greenhouses have completely open sides as soon as its warm out, to allow great circulation, even the hoop houses. Light deprivation is a great way to get your plants to finish early before the risk of bud root and mildew becomes great during the beginning of fall.
Gratitude to the following amazing people who have freely shared their love and knowledge to better each other! Please show them all some love and check them out for more beautiful information! Many of them have social media and youtube channels full of knowledge, encouragement, and guidance.
Carbon:Nitrogen Ratio List-
Chris Trump- https://christrump.com/
Dr. Eliane- https://www.soilfoodweb.com/
Build a Soil- https://buildasoil.com/
Dragonfly Earth Medicine- https://www.dragonflyearthmedicine.com/
Jeff Lowenfels- http://www.jefflowenfels.com/ (teaming with microbes guy)
Susan the Bug Lady- https://www.instagram.com/bugladysuzanne/
Morgan’s Compost (local store)- https://dairydoo.com/
Country Roots (local store)- https://www.countryrootsltd.com/
Mountain Organics- https://mountainorganics.net/
Eagle and Smiley- The Organic Take Over – (you tube) https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVHf_SRasR0L4w2MCVYYmag
The Rev True Living Organics - https://www.kingdomorganicseeds.com/revs-bio/
Red Bud Soil Company- https://www.redbudsoilcompany.com/