How to Grow Cannabis Organically
Organic certification has never been more popular; it has moved beyond just food and drink to other products we ingest or put on our bodies. But is it better? And as a cannabis cultivator, what are the benefits of going the organic route? Cory Hughes lays out what needs to be considered and weighed when it comes to organic growing.
With more and more people interested in growing cannabis at home, the question arises: Is organic better? There is no easy answer as there are no one-size-fits-all solutions to growing quality cannabis.
There are many misconceptions about organic cannabis production. Some think that organic is automatically better, and that isn't always the case. The questions to ask before undertaking an organic cultivation regimen are, “Why am I interested in organic production? Do I want the best quality? The best flavor? Do I just want to pump out as much a possible? Am I concerned about pesticides?” Understanding the benefits of organic cannabis cultivation will help you determine if it is the right production method for you.
Organic Fertilizers and Pesticides
For plants to be considered organic, they must be grown from non-GMO seeds without using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
So, what differentiates organic fertilizers from non-organic? Non-organic fertilizers are typically made by combining raw elemental salts whereas organic fertilizers are made from plant and animal waste. When it comes to the commercial cultivation facilities pumping out vast quantities of marijuana, it is by far more cost effective to use elemental salts. Large scale production using organic nutrients cuts into profits big time. Organic cultivation techniques are much more suited to home grows and boutique-type strains than for mass production.
Pesticides are another area that usually confuses people when it comes to organic cultivation. Organic doesn't mean you can't use pesticides. There are a range of organic pesticides to counter everything from fungus gnats to powdery mildew that are non-toxic and leave no residues behind that affect smell or taste. Organic pesticides are also generally safe with a short re-entry time. This “interval of entry” refers to the amount of time needed after an application before humans can re-enter the area safely.
Non-organic pesticides can have a re-entry interval of days, if not weeks, compared to organic pesticides, which have a relatively short re-entry time of hours. Organic pesticides can also be applied up to the day of harvest in most cases, whereas with non-organics, your pre-harvest interval can be weeks or months. The reality is organic pesticides are effective and all but gone from the plant by the time of consumption.
The biggest question to ask is, “Why is organic better?” The single biggest reason is increased nutrient bio-availability. Organic nutrients are closer to the forms of nutrients plants would be exposed to in the wild and are more readily absorbed by the plant, which by definition, results in higher bio-availability.
Bio-availability is the measure of nutrients that can be absorbed by the plant. When dealing with nutrient salts, the electrical conductivity has to be pumped up to much higher levels to make up for the lack of bio-availability. When using nutrient salts, on average, you are only getting around 25 per cent nutrient bio-availability. With organic cultivation, your bio-availability doubles.
The reason for that is when a plant is growing in natural surroundings, the raw elements and animal matter that breakdown to provide sustenance are transformed by beneficial fungi and microbes in the soil. Nutrient salts are not friendly to this environment and will result in soil that contains no beneficial microbes or fungi, an extremely beneficial part of the growing cycle.
Organic cultivation fosters the growth of these microbes and beneficial fungi, which in turn metabolize the raw elements into a form more easily absorbed by the plant. People will try to supplement non-organic grows with microbes; however, the pH of the nutrient salts is typically enough to kill them, leaving you with no added benefit.
To maximize nutrient bio-availability, veganic (vegan organic gardening) cultivation is an option. As growers search for the most natural methods of growing cannabis, veganic cultivation has become the talk of the town. Veganic cultivation redefines simplicity and, as you could have guessed, involves no animal products. This isn't necessarily a statement about animals per se; it’s about maximizing nutrient uptake through fostering an environment in which beneficial fungi and microbes are free to thrive.
Veganic cultivation revolves around the use of compost and compost teas to enrich the soil. Grass cuttings, vegetables, cannabis leaves, and any other greens will break down over time, which allows a compost heap to form a black sludge at the bottom. As it decomposes, the compost becomes home to a world of insects, larvae, and fungi.
One big shovel of compost placed into a five-gallon bucket of water, then strained, creates one of the best nutrient and microbe cocktails on the planet. Advocates of veganic cultivation claim that the nutrient bio-availability is as close to 100 per cent as it can get. Thanks to beneficial microbes and fungi, this massive increase in nutrient uptake results in greener fan leaves, fuller buds, and a flavor free of residues left behind by animal waste in typical organic cultivation. (Read: Veganic Weed: Superior Method, Superior Product?)
So, is organic better? The short answer is yes. Understanding your need, however, is paramount. Nutrient salts are cheaper and they work. However, they are not nearly as effective as organic supplementation. The increase in nutrient uptake alone makes organic cultivation worth exploring. If you are looking to produce commercial quantities of cannabis, organic will be pricey and harder to implement; however, for a home grower, organic is by far the way to go.
Geoflora Nutrients delivers a balanced charge of beneficial bacteria and over 19 organic ingredients with diverse macro and secondary nutrient profiles, which work together to produce a simple yet effective solution for cultivators who want to see results – without the hassle. Their products are OMRI Listed and include registered CDFA OIM ingredients, ensuring that they abide to the highest organic growing standards so that you can grow organically, and with confidence in your fertilizer.
For more information, visit geofloranutrients.com or email [email protected]
Written by Cory Hughes | Commercial Grower
Cory Hughes is a former police officer turned full-time commercial grower in Denver, Colorado.