With so many commercial scale farmers growing Cannabis and adapting hydroponic methods, there has been an increase in the number of home growers who have chosen to replicate the same set ups, on a small scale in their homes. Abandoning the old conventional organic route and opting for chemical fed yields does have its advantages and disadvantages, in the same way switching from hydro to organic also has pros and cons. Below we explain the real benefits associated with growing Cannabis organically.
By Stoney Tark
Understanding The Role of Beneficial Microorganisms
The phrase often linked with organic growing is " Don't panic...it's organic " and is one way to explain the easy going, low maintenance style that has been practised worldwide for thousands of years, and still the only viable option to farmers across the world. The principle behind organic farming to recycle organic matter in combination with beneficial bacteria and fungi. As plants photosynthesise and produce sugars, the root zone will become rich with sugar content as a way to attract any indeginous microorganisms to the plant.
Of course we are able to advance things much further and provide our Cannabis plants with a super rich nutrient line as hard foords, or liquid food. There must be a balance between the amounts of N-P-K and trace elements in the soil food web, to encourage different bacteria and fungi groups to perform specific tasks as mother nature originally intended, of converting, fixing and immobilizing compounds for the roots when they need them.
This is the reason nutrient brands will offer beneficial bacteria for different stages of the plant's life cycle. Certain beneficial groups may have the role of fixing phosphorus and potassium for the plant which is what is required most during the flowering stage. Another reason also aerated compost tea is used from the third week of flowering onwards with no flush required. Due to the microorganisms in the tea being aerobic, this means they thrive off high oxygenated environments where they are able to multiple from millions to billions.
Feed the microbes to feed the plant
Once you have a basic understanding how the soil food web operates, you can now begin to think of how organic matter is used as a food source. All organic life with decompose and turn to a carbon base. As this process of decomposition takes place, the organic material will break down in structure and release N-P-K, trace elements and carbon back into the soil. Using worms or worm castings in your soil is an excellent way to ensure beneficial microorganisms are being input back to the soil.
Not only is worm castings well balanced in micro and macro nutrients, they are also enriched with beneficial bacteria that has been generated in the stomach of the worms. Compost is also a great way to introduce bacteria and fungi to your soil, and provide a rich source of slow processing magnesium back the plants. This is particularly useful when growing O.G Kush varieties that tend to use Magnesium more than other cultivars.
Compost is super charged with life and the longer it is recycled and topped up, the more enhanced the compost will be in terms of nutrient availability and beneficial microorganisms.
The advantages of organic farming
The start up costs: If you are a small scale grower, who prefers a low maintenance, basic way to grow then getting started with organics is cheap and straight forward. Buying a complete soil from a nutrient brand accompanied by a line of organic liquid nutrients that will easily last your first crop is not expensive and is easy to source. In comparison to hydroponics, investing in pots, soil, liquid nutrients and a watering can will not break the bank.
Availability of Materia: The best thing about organics if you do it right is the opportunity to source organic material is always there. From starting your own worm bin, to collecting forest floor, making I.M.O cultures from woodlands or gathering a compost pile of green waste and brown waste can easily be done at different times of the year depending on the seasons. There is a never ending supply of organic material and as long as you prepare in advance, you can have all your organic requirements in the comfort of your own back garden.
Natural Buffering Zone: Organic farming can be as basic as hand feeding water and allowing the microbes and fungi to do the rest of the work. On the basis that the plants are not fed anything too radical or chemical based, there will be a 72 hour buffering period where the plants will break down and decide what nutrients they require. This is one reason why organic farming brings so much success to so many growers and especially when the soil food web is functioning to its full capacity.
The Taste and Aroma: Many growers believe that organically grown flowers will taste and smell far more superior than hydroponically grown buds. Some rowers feel that outdoor organic buds grown under direct sunlight will produce the best quality terpene profile. Either way the advantage certainly goes to organics when it comes to taste, fragrance, smoothness and overall experience.
Low yields compared to hydro: While organic grown buds make take the prize for best taste and terpene profiles, there is a case of give and take and when growing hydroponically, and what they lose in taste they certainly make up for with yields. Organic farming will produce the most commercially demanding end product but when meeting large orders of fruits, vegetables or commercial Cannabis, hydroponics can deliver up to 3-4 times more in weight.
8 Top tips for growing with organics
- Making aerated compost tea with worm castings is a brilliant technique to apply in the early growth stages and during the flowering phase. Not only can you supply the roots with worm castings, you can supplement them with a liquid worm casting feed that can also be applied as a foliar feed also.
- When making compost piles, it is a good idea to be aware of which organic matter will be better for bacteria and which are better suited for fungi groups. Brown organic material is best for fungi and green material is best for bacteria groups.
- Add worms to your soil or custom made organic medium, to improve aeration around the root zone, increase beneficial microorganism count and release well balanced levels of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium and trace elements back to the plants.
- After each grow and you have harvested your plants, you can leave the roots in the soil, or choose to break them up and leave them mixed into the new potting mix. Keep all of the beneficial microorganisms you have worked hard at building up, for the new seedlings or clones to attach to and form a symbiotic relationship. This will give the new plants the very best kick start.
- Adding a ratio of perlite, coco, hydroton and diatomaceous earth in rock form to your organic medium will dramatically improve the drainage and air capacity around the roots. The more air pockets that can be created with in the pots will encourage roots to grow into those spaces and expand out.
- When making aerated compost tea, make sure that you supply a food source that is rich in carbon. Adding unsulphured black strap molasses will be an excellent way to keep the microbes and fungi present happy and well fed as they metabolise over a 24 hour time frame.
- Feeding plants in soil using an irrigation system has many advantages, and does not mean using chemical nutrients. By using only water, or an enzyme solution and regularly feeding to a set routine without over or under watering your plants can produce excellent results both indoors and outdoors.
- Adding compost as a top layer to your pots is a really great way to supplement the plants with a mix of trace elements and high levels of Magnesium. Growers who experience Magnesium deficiency will find a mix of worm castings and compost will do wonders at repairing deficiency.