With the legalization of cannabis across several states in the US right now, the industry is at an all-time high. In 2019 alone, sales of legal cannabis in the country amounted to nearly $16.9 billion. The industry is also expected to reach $147 billion by the end of 2025, especially with more than 60 percent of Americans favoring the decriminalization of the drug. With that kind of money at stake, several commercial-scale growers have jumpstarted the availability of strains with names such as Blue Dream, Strawberry Cough, or Durban Poison. Unfortunately, the same companies are no longer relying on the same organic marijuana processes that most people know about when the drug was just introduced in the 1960s. Much of the productions now largely rely on energy-intensive processes with heavy doses of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and many other chemicals.
The dire implications of cannabis cultivation on the environment have been well-documented. What used to be thickly forested mountains in the state of California, for instance, are now large tracts of cleared land, diverted streams, and greenhouses used by the state’s thriving marijuana business. These well-guarded plantations are covered in trash and are seriously contaminated with pesticides, creating dreadful results for the waterways, forest soils, and countless animal species. With growers eager to cash in on the opportunity at hand, organic marijuana has fallen back in the shadows.
But wait. As the medicinal cannabis industry continues to grow and even potentially surpass recreational marijuana, the demand for high-quality, organic cannabis has grown along with it. Also, as consumers become increasingly aware of how unsafe the cultivation practices of many companies are with their synthetic practices and formulas, many people are now looking into organically growing cannabis themselves. If you are one of the many individuals who is looking at ways to grow marijuana au naturel then this article is for you.
What is organic marijuana?
Simply put, organic marijuana requires cultivating cannabis either using nutrients and pesticides that are natural in origin or using no pesticides and nutrients at all. The plant is grown in the way that nature intended – with natural soil, nutrients, and sunlight. When grown organically, weed is believed to be widely superior in flavor and aroma as compared to conventionally-cultivated cannabis. This is because the commercial way of growing cannabis almost always uses nutrient systems that contain other elements that can alter the taste and smell of the plant. Purists and other advocates of this method of cultivation also attest that growing weed organically will result in higher yields, especially when all conditions are met. The weed grows far more consistently when allowed to grow naturally and by allowing it to rely on its ingrained genetics to survive and withstand unfavorable growing conditions.
Soil for organic marijuana
One of the key factors in organic marijuana is soil – a healthy, living soil that is teeming with thousands of tiny microorganisms and insects. Each of these organisms serves an important role in breaking down organic matter into essential nutrients for the cannabis plant. By starting your organic grow with proper, organic soil, you can help avoid nutritional deficiencies, diseases, and pests down the line. Maintenance is also quite easy – all you need to do is nothing more than add water as needed.
To build a quality soil for your organic marijuana, you first need to know the key players that help shape the soil and keep it in optimal condition. Diverse microbiology in your soil includes beneficial worms, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes. As mentioned, all these creatures in the soil are part of the proper soil food web needed for organic cannabis grow.
Soil amendments and nutrients for organic marijuana
Once you have your quality soil on hand, it is time to add the necessary soil amendments. It is important to have varied and complete natural sources of macronutrients and micronutrients on hand and have these readily available for your plants to absorb. As many of us might already know, cannabis plants, like any other plant, require the same building blocks of N-P-K (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium). These nutrients are needed in large quantities and play important roles in photosynthesis, carbon dioxide uptake, moving nutrients around, and transferring genetics to future generations, among many others.
Here are some organic sources for each macronutrient:
- Nitrogen-rich sources: Worm castings, bat guano, seaweed
- Phosphorus-rich sources: Chicken manure, bone meal, manure, rock dust
- Potassium-rich sources: Wood ash, kelp meal, compost bin with banana and other fruit peels
Aside from the above macronutrients, cannabis plants also require other micronutrients to flourish. As the name suggests, these nutrients are needed in much smaller quantities but this does not mean that they are of lesser importance. A deficiency in any of these micronutrients will effectively impede plant growth and reduce yields.
Here are the different micronutrients and organic sources for each of them:
- Boron-rich sources: Compost
- Calcium-rich sources: Eggshells
- Copper-rich sources: Manure, compost
- Iron-rich sources: Greensand, manure, seaweed
- Magnesium-rich sources: Compost, Epsom salt
- Molybdenum-rich sources: Wood ash, kelp meal, molasses
- Sulfur-rich sources: Straw, manure
- Zinc-rich sources: Kelp
In contrast to chemical fertilizers and synthetic nutrients, these organic matters are slowly but effectively broken down by the key lifeforms in the soil into nutrients that the cannabis plants can uptake. That being said, organic farmers should make highly concentrated nutrients and fertilizers to minimize the time it takes for these to be absorbed by the plant.
Sunlight for organic marijuana
As mentioned, organic cannabis cultivation involves growing the plant in the same way nature intended them to flourish. Of course, natural sunlight is a big part of this. Organic, outdoor cultivation is the only and clear way for any natural cultivation method. This not only reduces high-intensity and electricity consumption but it also helps prevent chemical runoffs by conventional fertilizers from contaminating the water supplies. Unfortunately, the cultivation of cannabis outdoors is not an option for all states and across many different places. In these cases, the option would be to ensure that organic nutrients and pest-control techniques are used and followed to reduce and minimize any environmental impact. For instance, the use of natural predators like ladybugs and praying mantis to control spider mites and thrips, instead of using toxic chemical solutions, which are often found in conventional growing methods.
For many years, most American cannabis users would buy a bag of marijuana without knowing where the weed came from or how it was grown or what exactly is inside the magical plant. But with the advent of medicinal marijuana, consumers are now becoming more serious about getting only organic marijuana. Many pot smokers are willing to pay over five times the price for organically-grown, high-quality marijuana over a commercially-cultivated, low-quality weed. Growing cannabis organically is not only better for the environment and the earth, but it is also better for you.