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DIY Organic Growing Solutions for Cannabis

organic growing cannabis
Written by Sarah Friedman
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Growing your own pot is the new thing, and that means dealing with a bunch of issues related to pests and weeds. Not everyone wants to take out an industrial size bottle of chemicals to do it, so, for those of us who want a cleaner growing experience, here are some DIY organic growing solutions for cannabis, that should help keep your plants looking healthy and strong.

DIY cultivators need organic growing solutions if they don’t want to use harsh chemicals on their plants. Check out this article for basic tips and further reading on the topic. This publication covers cannabis and psychedelics stories in their respective dynamically growing industries, and you can be a part of everything by subscribing to the THC Weekly Newsletter. Along with daily updates, you’ll get direct access to deals on tons of products like vapes, edibles, and paraphernalia, as well as cannabinoid compounds including HHC-O, Delta 8, Delta 9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP, and HHC. There are a myriad of weed products to choose from, and consumers should only buy what they are comfortable with using.


What does organic actually mean?

The term ‘organic’ is a buzz word, and not everything advertised as organic, actually is. There are also different levels of organic which use slightly different terminology. According to Merriam Webster, the definition for ‘organic’ which relates most to what we need is this: “Of, relating to, yielding, or involving the use of food produced with the use of feed or fertilizer of plant or animal origin without employment of chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics, or pesticides.”

Outside of this, organic can mean “having systematic coordination of parts: organized”, “of, relating to, or arising in a bodily organ”, “of, relating to, or constituting the law by which a government or organization exists”, and “instrumental.” The first definition, however, relates to food and products, which is our point of concern.

Organic is defined as naturally-made compounds. It excludes the use of chemicals and synthetics, which upon use, change the definition of the product from organic, to something else. Different products have their own requirements when it comes to the status of organic. As far as cannabis, as its not federally legal, there are no specific federal standards. Different states have their own rules, and basic organic regulation does apply.

USDA organic

In the US, the main stamp of organic approval is through the ‘USDA certified organic’ classification. USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) certified organic has certain stipulations which are followed in order to get the stamp. All crops must be grown in soil that had no prohibitive substances put in it for three years. And organically raised animals must live in conditions parallel to natural conditions, like open fields for grazing, and space to run around.

Animals can only be fed natural feed, and cannot be injected with hormones or antibiotics. Processed organic foods cannot contain artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors, and must be made from organic ingredients. There are some exceptions in the form of approved non-agricultural ingredients, like enzymes used in yogurt, pectin for jams made of fruit, or baking soda. Products must not have undergone prohibitive processes, including genetic engineering, which is not allowed at all in organic production.

A lesser form of organic exists as well. If you see on a package that a product is made with an organic food (“made with organic peas”), what it actually means is that at least 70% of ingredients are organically produced. In these situations, its stipulated that all non-organic ingredients did not undergo prohibited production practices. These products are mostly organic, which is why their labeling indicates organic, but will not bear the USDA organic seal, as they are not fully organic. These products, along with USDA certified organic products, do list the USDA-accredited certifier on the packaging for verification.

Organic growing solutions for cannabis – pesticides

In the plant and animal worlds, everything has something that likes to attack and eat it. Whether dealing with pests, weeds, or larger animals, there are tons of predators out there. When farming, its important to ensure that these other living things don’t hurt the crop. Though there are many chemical pesticides and herbicides used in standard commercial farming, this is not ideal for organic cannabis cultivation. For organic growers, there are a host of options for natural pest and herbicidal treatments.

Common cannabis pests include spider mites, aphids, cabbage loopers, thrips, and whiteflies. One of the best control methods, is ‘companion planting’. Companion planting means planting multiple plants in an area in a way that makes them beneficial to each other. For cannabis, planting it around strong smelling plants like lavender, sage, or basil, makes the area less desirable for pests. Thrips, aphids, and beetles, among others, are deterred by these scents. This is applicable indoors as well as outdoors.

Another pest solution for the organic growing of cannabis, is predator insects. This is an outdoor solution, as bringing in a bunch of small bugs isn’t ideal for an enclosed indoor space. For outdoors, however, its pest against pest, though the grower needs to know what they’re specifically looking to get rid of, in order to apply the correct predator bug. For instance, if spider mites is the problem, the Stethorus punctillum beetle is the best solution. When dealing with fungus gnats, using Gaeolaelaps is better because they eat other mites, as well as fungus gnats. Anytime a grower is bringing in bugs to get rid of bugs, they should be very sure of their growing situation, and monitor the process to keep it from getting out of hand.

growing organic cannabis

Another option is to spray the plants with something. The most common biological insecticide is Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacteria that grows naturally in the guts of certain moths, butterflies, and caterpillars. This works through the production of crystal proteins during sporulation, which have delta endotoxins, an insecticide agent. Other options include using the essential oil of aromatic plants. Instead of planting the plants around the cannabis plant, the oils of plants like cinnamon, peppermint, or clove are sprayed on the plants. Prospective users should figure out which oil they want to use, and make sure to use it in the appropriate amount only.

Rather than spray a plant, some oils are added to the soil. Neem seed meal is used in soil to add micro and macronutrients, while deterring pests as well. Crab meal is also useful, as is aloe vera and silica. One DIY recipe for organic pest control for cannabis plants goes as follows: 1 tablespoon of neem oil, 1 teaspoon liquid soap or a pre-wetted silica powder, and an optional 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon aloe vera powder along with a few drops of an essential oil. Mixing tip: the neem oil must be completely emulsified before mixing with water (which involves the soap or silica). Full instructions are found here.

Organic growing solutions for cannabis – herbicides

Little bugs aren’t the only thing to worry about when growing cannabis. Seasoned growers also know the threat of other plants on the health of their pot plants. There are several natural methods for protecting your plants from these growth-inhibitors. One option is thermal weed control. This principal is about getting rid of weeds by using the heat of the sun, or fire.

The term ‘soil solarization’ defines the process of using plastic to enclose the plant area, which creates a greenhouse effect. Soil solarization can produce temperatures of 130°F (55°C), which kills weeds and sterilizes weed seeds. This is done before new seeds are sewn in the land. Another option is flame weeding, which involves the use of a flame weeder to burn out weeds before planting, and at any time during the growing process. Obviously, when using this method, the grower must be careful not to damage their crops with the fire.

Turning the top soil is another basic organic growing solution for cannabis, and simply means using a farming instrument like a rake, hoe, or roto-tiller to mix up the top inch of soil. This ‘stale seedbed’ method controls early weed growth. The soil is tilled once weeds start to grow, and then the cannabis seeds are immediately planted after, and can benefit from the dead weeds. This is often repeated to keep new weeds from growing, although not directly where the desired seeds are planted, as this will ruin the crop.

Yet another option is using mulch. A mulch is any ground covering, whether living or not. ‘Living mulch’ refers to a ground cover that is currently living, and is put all over the ground specifically to drown out weeds. Think ivy, or vinca vines, something that grows all over the place. Other options for live mulches include oats, vetch, or clover. These hold soil in place, while adding nutrients, and don’t allow weeds to grow.

organic cultivation cannabis

There are also non-living mulches, like bark, straw, and grass. Newspaper is a non-living mulch, since newspaper decomposes in time, as are natural plastics since they break down too. Technically, non-degradable plastics are usable, but must be removed when the growing season is over. These are used in virtually the same way as living mulches, and cover the ground to block weed growth.

Spray options are available for cannabis herbicide control. In order to inhibit germination of weed seeds, corn gluten is sprayed to coat the seeds and block out the sun. This works best when done year after year, and shouldn’t be relied on as the sole remedy for weeds. The post-germination killing of weeds is best done with some combination of the following: vinegar, acetic acid/citric acid, and essential oils like clove, garlic, or mint. Interested users should make sure to use the correct quantities so as not to damage their cannabis plants in the process.

For those who want none of the above, just get down on your hands and knees and start yanking. It might be outdated, but the standard method of weeding is also useful for cannabis plants. This is probably best implemented for just a few plants, as weeding many rows of plants, or entire fields, is a long and tedious process.

Conclusion

In the world of cannabis cultivation, there are a lot of issues, and a lot of good workarounds. Organic growing methods for cannabis provide ways to keep plants and growing spaces clean and free of parasites or chemicals, to ensure flowers are of the highest possible quality.

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About the author

Sarah Friedman

I look stuff up and and write stuff down, in order to make sense of the world around. And I travel a lot too.

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