Commercial fertilizers — the bottled nutrients — are super expensive, so we don’t blame you if you’re wondering how to grow cannabis organically. In fact, it’s possible to even grow autoflowering cannabis organically if you understand the basics. Plant seeds, water them on time, provide lighting, and feed them with nutrients — that’s all there is to it. But, have you ever tasted organic cannabis? Just the aroma of cannabis grown in organic matter is enough to make you swoon.
That’s not to say that inorganic nutrients are evil. In fact, N-P-K based fertilizers most commonly used help plants absorb nutrients faster whereas microorganisms in soil have to break the organic matter in order to make them viable for the plants. Naturally, commercial nutrients with exact NPK ratios sound easier.
However, think about it in a different way. If you prefer eating organic vegetables why not grow cannabis in the same way? After, all you’re inhaling the smoke. You not only get to enjoy your buds guilt-free but you’ll probably never go back to chemical-based nutes once you get a taste of organic cannabis. And, organic cannabis is more potent with far more complex flavors and aromas.
The biggest advantage of cultivating organic marijuana is that you’ll never have to worry about nutrient burn or over-feeding the plants. Soil microbes do all the backbreaking work and you’re rewarded with bountiful yields at the end of it all. And, most people believe that it’s expensive, but that’s not always the case. The trick lies in sticking to basic natural farming, and you’ll be alright.
However, there’s a caveat — organic fertilizers release nutrients slowly and autoflowers are super fast. So, what do you do? Well, like any other plant, autoflowering cannabis will also love organic soil and thrive in it. And, it’s easy too! So, without much ado, let’s get started.
It’s all in the soil
The basics of growing organic marijuana start with the soil. Just imagine how cannabis grows in the wild. They grow untamed without any human interference and still taste fantastic at the end. And that’s only because of the soil.
The soil is enriched with several organic components that are broken down slowly over the years. The only goal is to replicate the environment even at home. Many people assume that cannabis can be considered organic only when it’s grown outside. That’s simply not true because you can grow organic cannabis indoors.
Since soil plays such an important role, you can purchase premade potting mix online or make your own. There are various recipes with step-by-step instructions on making your own potting mix, otherwise referred to as Super Soil. You can also make your own compost, but make sure that you have a good ratio of browns and greens to provide nutrients to the plants.
Keep in mind that your plants need all macro and micronutrients. Most micronutrients are found in the soil, but if you pay special attention to Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium, the rest will follow. Here’s a basic list of what you need to make your own mix.
· Organic compost — Make your own or purchase online.
· Perlite— To aerate the mix.
· Coco peat — Retains water.
· Coffee grounds — Provides nitrogen
· Rock Phosphate — Provides phosphorous
· Banana peel powder — Make your own by drying banana peels and crushing them to provide potassium.
· Kelp — Also known as seaweed, it helps the plant fight against stress.
· Mycorrhizae — Microbial organisms that bind to the roots of the plant and helps nutrient uptake.
· Epsom Salts — Magnesium Sulphate
· Azomite — Provides trace elements to the plants.
· Dolomite Lime — Regulates pH and adds calcium.
· Rotten and aged manure — Any manure including horse, sheep and chicken manure will do.
· Humic Acid powder — Acts as a soil conditioner.
· Blood Meal — Nitrogen
· Bone Meal — Phosphorous
It may not be possible to find all the ingredients mentioned above, but a basic mix including coco peat, manure, compost, and perlite will work well. The other ingredients aren’t absolutely necessary, but they help the plants grow faster.
If you take care of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, you don’t have to fertilize the plants again. The best way to ensure that your soil contains all nutrients is to make your own compost.
So, now that you have the soil ready, the next step is to germinate a few chosen autoflower seeds using damp paper towels.
The seedling stage is crucial regardless of the method you choose to grow cannabis. To prevent soil-borne diseases and pathogens, sterilize your old garden soil or use new soil. It’s recommended that you use new soil because seedlings are delicate and need all the help they can get.
Although you’re growing organically, seedlings may struggle in soil amended with too many ingredients. Therefore, fill the container only half-way with super soil and top up with coco peat. If you can’t buy or make your own organic soil, a basic mix mentioned above will work with seedlings too.
A note on the pH
The best part of growing organically is that you don’t have to worry about pH. However, if your water is too alkaline (above pH 8) or too acidic (below pH 5) the plants may struggle to take up nutrients. If you catch nutrient deficiencies, check the soil or runoff pH to correct any issues. Cannabis plants thrive when pH levels range from 5.5 to 7, so lower or increase the pH depending on the readings.
Many growers use commercial pH Up or Down to regulate the pH, but it defeats the purpose of growing organically since chemicals can kill the soil bacteria. Therefore, you can reduce the pH level with white vinegar and increase the ph with baking soda.
Autoflowers enter the vegetative stage in the second week of their growing cycle. This is when they require lots of nitrogen to grow healthy leaves. A bit of potassium is necessary to develop healthy roots, but if you’re growing with super soil, additional nutrients are not necessary.
In case you’re using a basic mix, here’s a quick nutrient recipe to be used only in the vegetative stage. Most organic fertilizers sold today are nothing but fermented juices of plants, but since bottled nutrients are expensive, you can make your own at home.
Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ) recipe for vegetative Stage
FPJ is nothing but an organic fertilizer containing chlorophyll, microbes, plant sap, and juice. It is loaded with enzymes and is also referred to as plant blood sometimes. It’s a Korean technique that has been used for ages to provide complete nutrition to plants.
· Leaves of any plant that grows vigorously. Cannabis leaves are even better.
· Brown or cane sugar
Choose plants that tend to grow really fast. Snip the leaves and shoots at dawn when plants are most active with enzymes. The leaves should preferably be fresh, young, and free from diseases and pests.
Shred the leaves as much as possible to extract the juice and place them in the container. Do not wash the leaves since they contain lactic acid bacteria. Measure cane sugar in equal parts and mix it with the leaves. For instance, if you have a kilo of leaves and shoots, a kilo of sugar should be used.
Once the leaves and sugar are mixed well, wrap the top of the container with cheesecloth or anything else that allows the mixture to breathe and keep insects away. Place the container in a shaded area for 7–10 days. You’ll see white mold form at the top, which is normal. Do not squeeze the mixture (wear gloves!) but collect the juice through a strainer.
The resulting liquid is your FPJ. For autoflowering plants, use the solution in a 1:100 ratio, meaning 1 ml for every 100 ml of water. Use the fertilizer only during the vegetative stage to supply nitrogen and other important nutrients.
Autoflowering plants enter the flowering stage in the third or fourth week of their life cycle. It’s best to use fertilizers meant for vegetative stage until the fifth week to help the plant focus more on developing leaves.
Autoflowering cannabis plants need phosphorous right before they begin to flower. At this stage, the plant needs more phosphorous since it’s a transition from the vegetative to the flowering phase. This means that you should use rock phosphate or bone meal from the third week until the fifth week. Phosphorous helps the plant develop larger fruits or buds in this case. From the beginning of the fifth week, a good organic fertilizer rich in potassium needs to be used.
Here’s another version of FPJ that can be utilized to provide potassium.
Fermented Fruit Juice for flowering stage
For FFJ, simply replace the leaves with fruits rich in P (Phosphorous) and K (Potassium). A good mix would include equal proportions of banana, papaya, melons, and squash. Since these ingredients contain both P and K, you’ll have a well-balanced fertilizer that can be used in the bloom phase.
To prepare the fertilizer, cut up the fruits and mix them with cane sugar. Let the mixture ferment in a container in a well-shaded area for 7–10 days until you see white mold. Extract the juices through a sieve.
Store the solution in the refrigerator or combine it again with equal parts of cane sugar if you wish to preserve it at room temperature. FFJ can be used until the final stages of harvest at a ratio of 1:100 fertilizer: water to get big buds.
Optional soil amendments
Many growers grow autoflowering plants using super soil right from the beginning. A good potting mix reduces your work and you don’t have to use anything else as the plant grows further. However, to enhance the yields a tad more, compost teas can be used as soil conditioners.
In conclusion, growing cannabis organically is super easy and affordable if you grasp the basics. Various organic fertilizers found in your local garden store can also be used if you can’t be bothered to indulge in “DIY” experiments. Experienced gardeners and DIY fanatics will certainly have a great time making their own potting mixes and fertilizers, but since everything is available commercially, you can still produce great yields.
Organic cannabis not only tastes better, but the hits are also smooth and easy on your throat. The plants don’t need to be flushed at the final stages, unlike plants grown using synthetic-based fertilizers. Whether you grow indoors or outdoors, you’ll soon be hooked to growing some of the most amazing autoflowering cannabis organically, and you’ll never go back to using expensive bottled nutrients again!