Growing ORGANIC Marijuana: DIY Style
At the time of writing, it is legal to cultivate marijuana at home in 21 states plus D.C. However, in several states, such as Rhode Island, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, you can only grow cannabis for medicinal reasons. It’s great news for cannabis enthusiasts who are now allowed by state law to cultivate at home for either recreational or medicinal purposes.
Despite the growth of marijuana cultivation across the United States, there are still relatively few places where you can benefit from a one-to-one consultation. You can take a trip to see seed/clone retailers or hydroponics stores. However, these organizations will likely steer you towards non-soil growing mediums, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers.
It’s like a broker recommending shares in a stock when he receives a commission from the company for doing so. These stores make the sale, but you don’t necessarily receive the best advice or products. Fortunately, there is an increasing number of retailers that follow the organic growing approach. Growing marijuana organically is something we wholeheartedly recommend at WayofLeaf.
Organic Versus Inorganic Growing
It would be remiss of us to disregard synthetic fertilizers completely. However, the fact remains that you can get better yields, higher cannabinoid content, and improved flavor by going organic. Best of all, it costs a lot less, too! People have grown marijuana naturally for thousands of years.
Growing organic cannabis was never an issue until marijuana was made illegal in the 1930s.
By the 1970s, a significant proportion of weed was grown indoors because cultivators knew they faced severe penalties if caught. Initially, it had a negative effect on potency and yield. As a result, growers used chemical fertilizers to grow cannabis. Grow spaces were confined areas susceptible to attack from pests. This meant that the use of further chemicals, in the form of pesticides, were needed.
With the change in legislation in certain states, clandestine growing is no longer required. As a consequence, it is now possible to revert to the days of organic growing. Keep reading to learn how easy and inexpensive it is to grow organic weed in the comfort of your home.
How to Grow Organic Cannabis
One of the great things about organic cannabis farming is how simple and flexible it is. The definition of ‘organic’ is a topic that continues to spark much debate. Some say that true organic farming involves plants grown from non-GMO seeds, without the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
Jeff Lowenfels, a graduate from Harvard Law School, is often credited with increasing interest in growing marijuana organically. Lowenfels said that organic growth is all about a plant’s natural life cycle and the microorganisms that make up the soil food web.
A simple example of the concept is fertilizing a lawn in spring using leaves that fell in autumn and winter. The microorganisms that live in the soil play a massive role in organic gardening. They produce nutrients for your plants from waste and other compounds found in the soil. It is a natural process that removes harmful waste, and aids in feeding the plants.
Overall, we feel that there is a lack of regulation in terms of what dictates true organic farming. Technically, it is impossible to grow organically indoors since it involves growing in an enclosed system. However, unless you are an industry professional, it merely becomes a matter of preference.
We look at the pros and cons…
The Importance of High-Quality Soil
Firstly, you need an all-natural soil medium. Without high-quality organic potting soil, you can forget about achieving a successful organic grow. Everything starts with this ‘soil food web.’ As organic fertilizers are made from animal and plant waste, you need to consider soil amendments. Examples of these include perlite, fish emulsion, bat guano, earthworm castings, and compost.
Creating a super soil is not an easy task, and is something that novices may find tricky. On the plus side, you can avail of numerous ‘recipes’ online. We believe it is best to keep things simple and narrow your options down to two.
You can purchase premixed organic soils, which are great for new growers. Aside from watering, such mixes require little maintenance. Organic soils seldom need pH adjustments and can provide your marijuana plants with all the nutrients they need.
The second option is to create DIY super soil. This should be the preserve of experienced growers because it takes time, patience, and knowledge to get the right mix. The first step is to find the right base soil. High-quality organic soils usually are rather expensive. They should also contain ingredients such as those mentioned above, along with glacial rock dust, coco fiber, pumice, and soybean meal.
If you can’t find soil with enough nutrients, you must add your own. It isn’t enough to know what to add; you also must know the right ratios. This is why we recommend premixed organic soil!
Even when you have the right organic soil, it is essential to treat the whole growing environment as one ecosystem. This means keeping the right balance between soil, temperature, humidity, airflow, grow lights, and ventilation. It should be easier to achieve this delicate balance when growing outdoors.
Growing Organically Indoors
If you are an indoor grower, on the other hand, it is much trickier. Although it depends on the individual marijuana strain, most weed types fare well in temperatures of between 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep humidity at around 60-65% during the vegetative stage, and lower it by 10-15% during flowering. Invest in a hygrometer and thermometer, which you can use to check humidity and temperature levels regularly.
Use temperature control and ventilation to keep everything balanced. With non-organic systems such as hydroponics, maintaining the right nutrient levels is a burden. You’ll be pleased to know that it isn’t the case with organic cannabis.
What Should You Feed Your Organic Cannabis?
Hydroponics mainly involves deciding which nutrients to use, with an emphasis on finding the right ratio. On the other hand, using the right water is essential when growing organic cannabis. We advise you to steer clear of tap water. Many municipal supplies are laden with chemicals, such as fluoride, that kill ‘good’ bacteria in the soil.
According to a NDRC report, approximately 77 million Americans are served by water systems that report violations of the 2015 Safe Drinking Act. It is safe to say that this water is also not suitable for plants. For the record, Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania had the most offenses.
Experts recommend investing in a reverse osmosis (RO) system. A RO system purifies water, making it safe for you and your marijuana plants to drink. RO systems remove pollutants such as fluoride, sulfates, bacteria, pesticides, and much more from the water.
Aside from clean water, organic supplements can make a massive difference in the growing process. Aerated compost teas are excellent because they reintroduce living microorganisms to your soil. As a result, processes such as fighting pathogens, and turning them into nutrients, take place.
Mycorrhizal fungi can be added to soil because they boost nutrient and water intake at the roots of your organic plants. You can add a small sprinkling of these beneficial fungi to the soil at the beginning of the vegetative stage. This can help you achieve a more favorable result.
Marijuana requires Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K), throughout the growing process. As a rule of thumb, plants need more nitrogen during the vegetative stage and more phosphorus during flowering. It is also a good idea not to add nutrients two weeks before harvesting to avoid a nasty fertilizer taste. Don’t forget secondary nutrients such as calcium, manganese, and magnesium. Carbon dioxide is also essential.
When you add synthetic supplements, you must remember that they work on a ‘supply-lock’ basis. What this means is that they continue providing nutrients until the plant stops allowing them. The excess passes through the soil and drains off with water. With organic soils, you don’t need additional supplements because your plants already have everything they need.
Some of the best fertilizers a…
Organic Cannabis – Pest Control
We strongly urge you to refrain from using synthetic insecticides because you can ruin the taste of the crop. Also, inhaling these chemicals is very bad for your health. Unnatural pesticides damage the soil. If it is saturated with chemicals near harvest time, you face a desperate race against time to ‘flush’ the soil. If you don’t, then the crop is unusable.
Such soils also need to be tilled, tossed, or remixed if they are to be used next season. With organic soils, you are dealing with a living entity, which means no tilling, etc. is required. Just remove the root ball, add some mycorrhizal fungi, and the soil is ready to be used again!
As for dealing with pests, you have the option of creating homemade remedies. Sprays made with neem oil, in particular, are incredibly adept at killing pests and discouraging others. Other usable mixtures include garlic, coriander, and cinnamon. Bacillus thuringiensis, better known as BT, and diatomaceous earth, also known as DE, also work wonderfully against pests.
Companion planting is another great way to deal with pests. These are plants known for their ability to repel certain pests naturally. For example, marigolds are effective at dealing with aphids, while gnats hate basil and dill. Perform a quick search online, and you’ll find that there is a companion plant for almost every common pest.
Final Thoughts on Growing Organic Marijuana
Don’t succumb to the temptation of using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. You probably think it is the ‘easier’ option, but it isn’t. Growing cannabis organically is easier than you think. It is also cheaper and ensures your soil isn’t filled with salt and chemicals. If there is too much salt or chemicals in your soil, they can cause a nutrient lockout. The result is nutrient deficiencies, lower yields, less potent buds, and cannabis that doesn’t taste right.
When you go organic, your soil will love the extra care and attention it receives.
It makes no sense to continue using synthetic ingredients when you can grow organic marijuana instead. Throughout history, cannabis was grown naturally, and as you can see from this guide, you don’t need that much expertise.
The explosion in marijuana growing in the United States means there is ample information available regarding growing organically. There is also a lot of information which lets you know the necessary tools and ingredients that you’ll need. In the end, you get better tasting cannabis that’s likely to be more potent and save money in the bargain. What’s not to like?
Don’t succumb to the temptation of using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Here are more tips and tricks to growing organic cannabis
How do I compost soil for growing organic marijuana?
Table of Contents
So you want to grow organic?
by SpliffyYoda (with contributions from a few other growers)
What does “organic” mean? Organic growing means growing a plant using only biologically available sources.
Unlike with chemical nutrient, in organic growing there is no “middle man” extracting just the active parts of something to be turned into an easily soluble salt.
Organic growing takes advantage of environmentally available nutrient sources and allows them to be naturally broken them down into something a plant can absorb.
This includes all organic products you could cultivate yourself through composting, vermicomposting, and even permaculture (aquaponics).
Note about veganic growing: There is organic growing and then there is veganic growing veganic growing uses zero animal byproducts and uses only plant and fungal life and natural minerals for nutrient sources.
The benefits: Growing marijuana organically offers a smoother, more tasty final product. There are no harsh chemicals used and a flush toward the end of flower isn’t even required. Organic growing can be easier then regular soil growing and is usually much simpler then hydroponics.
The cons: Growing organic is not cheap. Many products are needed to amend large quantities of soil, or to brew nutrient teas, and this can get expensive. Yet prices are comparable to buying a high-quality nutrient set for regular soil growing.
Why organics? Because you should care!
Wherever you live, where ever you are, there is no need for us to be dependent on a laboratory to help fertilize and grow amazing medicine. Nutrients made in labs contain salts which end up in our run off water, which then end up in our ecosystem.
No matter how you paint it, those inorganic salts pollute our seas and water tables.
Plus organic growing is easy!! You can grow plants that smoke smoother, taste better and look amazing!
In organic growing all of plants natural hues come out during flower, making your purples more purple, your blues more blue! Hell, with some soma strains, buds can even turn orange or completely black! This was the case when growing “Somango” and “Soma Lavender.”
What about my pH?
Don’t worry about it seriously… Don’t.
In organic growing you depend on your soil and the humates it contains to buffer your pH. If pH adjustment is necessary because you are witnessing nutrient lock out, then you may want to look into adjusting your pH organically.
Never attempt to adjust the pH until you know something is wrong!
In organic growing “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” If you do need to adjust, use an organic source for pH management. How do I adjust the pH when growing organically?
In organic growing you feed the soil (not the plant) from these microbes and micro flora. They break down these nutrients and with the help of beneficial fungi introduce it into your root/plant effectively feeding it. A healthy organic medium with a good micro herd and bennies can tolerate any nutrient solution from 4.0-8.0 pH.
As long as your nutrient solution and plain water aren’t too far out of that range, the pH will be self corrected in the root zone by the humates, microbes, beneficial fungi and your soil itself.
You’ve effectively created a butler that prechews your plants food for it and makes sure it’s the right pH. This “butler” is called mycorrhizae and it gives your plant the food it asks for in exchange for glucose.
Conclusion: You don’t have to pH at all when growing organic marijuana. The ecosystem in your organic mix should take care of everything as long as the pH range stays within 4.0-8.0.
Organic Growing: Different Methods
The simplest way to grow organically is with a super soil mix in a container.
Some growers choose to grow “fully organic” while other growers are happy with “semi-organic” growing.
The differences between organic growing and semi organic growing are simple. One approach is hands on and the other is hands off.
No matter which method you choose, in organic growing, there is no need for pH adjustment. The only pH that matters is the natural pH of your soil.
First I will share the “traditional” way of growing organic marijuana which involves mixing your own super soil, then I’ll share a “hands-off” alternative to organic growing.
Organic Gardening Method 1: Compost Your Own Super Soil
The main idea is to get a base soil and amend it with nutrients. You are trying to create to make living soil that mimics the composition of a thriving natural ecosystem, where life and death work in symbiosis.
There are many recipes for mixing soil, but the one included below has been tried-and-tested for growing marijuana, and has proven itself to produce outstanding organic buds.
Preparing your soil: There is a lot of manual labor involved but it is a labor of love!
IMPORTANT NOTE: This recipe is for amending a super soil mix with 8 large bags – if you need less soil, simply divide the recipe down to what you need and recalculate the dosage of other ingredients to your needs.
What you need:
8 large bags of high quality organic potting soil with coco coir and Mycorrhizae (30 pounds each bag or
240 pounds total) – Roots Organics Soil or Sunshine Mix is ideal
*** If using an RO (reverse osmosis) system add in 1/2 cup powdered Cal/mag
Credit: Thanks to subcool, a great marijuana breeder, for this recipe.
Step 1: Mix everything together
Lay everything out on a tarp as evenly as you can. Lay the soil, worm castings and perlite first in even layers. Then evenly sprinkle the rest of the larger amendments across the entire surface (except for the epsom salt, sweet lime, azomite and humic acid, and beneficial bacteria, which are needed in extremely tiny amounts and will be added at the end).
You want to mix everything together thoroughly so there are no “hot spots,” and laying out the ingredients properly will make it a lot easier to mix your super soil together.
You can use anything to mix your super soil mix together thoroughly, even your feet, though a small gardening hoe works well.
Now you will add the smaller elements that are remaining (epsom salt, sweet lime, azomite and humic acid and beneficial bacteria).
You can ensure an even coverage by spreading these powders over the entire dirt pile as evenly as possible and then “kneading” with your feet or hands (or whatever you’re using).
View a video of famous organic growers Jinxproof and Mr Spliff mixing their super soil
(start at 2:58 to skip the intro and get straight to the mixing)
“We added coco coir and hydroton for additional aeration since Black Gold organic soil does not contain coco. Once soil is mixed, we transferred to garbage cans with lids or cover for 40-60 days for soil to innoculate. After 40-60 days a mold layer will have developed. Mix mold into dirt and it is ready for use.”
Step 2: Add water to mix to initiate the microbial process
The process of adding water initiates the microbial process that will break down all the organic compounds and innoculate the beneficial fungi.
After mixing your mix together it is time to put everything into a container and to water it all.
If you don’t have a good container (such as a garbage can) to hold your super mix while it cooks, you can water the mix while it’s still on the tarp, and then wrap it up.
If you do wrap your mix in your tarp, you may want to spread your mix out in a “worm” shape first, as pictured to the right, so it’s easy to wrap up.
The idea is to keep the mix both moist and relatively contained. If your super soil mix is not put in a container or wrapped up, it will dry out, which stops the whole process.
Step 3: Allow to “cook” for 30-60 days (keeping soil moist but not soggy)
The recommended “cook” time is 30-60 days you want to keep the soil moist but not soggy during this time.
Be on the look out for bugs! You just created a perfect environment for them to live.
Bonus points: if you add live worms to this mix it will help aerate your mix. Worms can even be used when you plant as they do no harm living in potted containers.
Step 4: Fill the bottom 1/3 to 1/2 of your pot with this special super soil, and fill the rest with untreated soil
Now that you have your super soil mix, you fill the bottom 1/3 to 1/2 of your pot with this soil mixture.
Fill the top half with just your base organic soil you bought and did not amend.
This is so you do not burn young plants or clones with too many nutrients, and creates a sort of hempy style nutrient reservoir at the bottom that causes plants to explode in growth.
Fill Bottom 1/3 to 1/2 with Super Soil Mixture
Then top off with untreated organic soil.
Step 5: Start growing!
Learn how to germinate marijuana seeds
Step 6: Maintain Organic Super Soil With Compost Teas
The best way to maintain your organic grow is to use compost teas, which continue adding “good stuff” to your soil.
When using a super soil mix like above, there is no need for additional nutrients in your compost tea! You have already added the nutrients your plants need, and the compost helps get some of the extra “good stuff” to your plants.
You want all the microbes that a compost tea has in order to keep the ecosystem in your pot thriving! It will help innoculate all the beneficial fungi in your soil and help break down the large organic materials like the bone meal and blood meal.
Organic Gardening Method 2: “Hands Off” Alternatives
Like any other growing style there are a million ways to do it.
Probably the simplest method for growing marijuana organically is to start with organic soil and pair it with a proven organic nutrient line like the GO box.
However, many growers believe that these “semi-organic” methods of growing do not get all the benefits of a “traditional” organic grow since it does not necessarily build the micro-ecosystem you would create with the soil mix above. Others swear by these “hands off” alternatives to organic growing. It’s up to you to decide what works for you!
For now that is all I have I hope this gets some traction and helps somebody!
Want more complete instructions?
Organic Marijuana Trophy Pic!
This picture is by the author of this article, SpliffyYoda.
Details from SpliffyYoga about these happy vegetating plants:
- Grow Light: 350 watts worth of CFLs
- Strain: Wonder Woman from clone – genetics are from Nirvana Seeds
- They’re in 3.5 gallon buckets with drainage holes drilled in the bottom
- Growing technique is topping mixed with LST
So you want to grow organic? Learn how to mix up your own organic super soil! Just add water and grow…