I'd love to tell you why organic cannabis is the way to go, but that article has already been (excellently) written. In short, organic cannabis has the potential to taste better, smoke smoother, and be better for both you and the environment, all without sacrificing yield. Plus, organic veggies have a lighter environmental impact as well as being more nutritious if grown in a living soil with plenty of minerals.
So I’ll instead shed some light on some basic techniques and strategies.
It’s all about the Compost
For organic grows, compost quality largely dictates how close a plant will reach its genetic potential (e.g., maximum health and yield).
High-quality compost has the necessary biology to ensure peak soil life for providing “root food” and other symbiotic relationships between soil microbes and roots.
Unfortunately, the only sure way to know the diversity and quality of your compost is to send it to a lab for analysis. There are however telltale indicators of good compost: tan to dark brown in color, coffee-ground texture, damp(ish), and an earthy smell. Top-notch compost will have microarthropods (tiny soil insects) and compost worms.
Vermicompost and compost can be made or bought locally in most places. Just search the Internet, including Craigslist, with terms like “compost” or “organic compost”. Be wary of bagged compost that lists peat moss as a main ingredient—this is not compost!
The other option is buying a quality bagged soil, which already has compost mixed in. The best brands tend to have a regional distribution and list all of their soil ingredients. Other companies, like BuildASoil and KIS Organics, ship quality premixed soils to your door.
If you’re not buying soil, compost is just one ingredient for a kick-ass soil. Common additions include peat moss, coco fiber, aeration (rice hulls, pumice, etc), kelp meal, oyster shell, neem meal, and rock dusts such as glacial rock dust.
Basically, you mix all the ingredients together and let it sit for 3 weeks or longer. This a composting or “cooking” period, which is required before the soil is suitable for gardening.
My book provides many variations for making your own soil, giving you plenty of room to experiment or rely on only locally obtainable ingredients.
Compost and Botantical Teas
Compost can keep giving your garden goodies in the form of an aerated compost tea. Compost is bubbled or “brewed” for 24 to 36 hours with unsulfured molasses, which is food for the microbe like to flourishing during the brewing period. Compost brewers range from a bucket and aquarium pump to purpose made brewers, which range from 5 to 100+ gallons of tea. The Mini-Microbulator and a similar brew system offered by KIS Organics are two systems tailored made for the home gardener.
Similarly, soil ingredients like kelp, neem, and alfalfa can be areated for 24 to 72 hours to make a botanical tea that can be applied to the soil (a soil soak) or the leaves (foliar spray).
Kick-ass soil can go 1 to 2+ grows with just adding water and teas. Gardeners keep the same soil going even after multiple grows by adding an inch or two of compost as a “topdressing”. This a great technique for growing multiple crops out of the same soil. Just add a layer and keep chugging along by planting another plant (a transplant) after a harvested plant has been chopped (but the root ball can stay!).
If you want to get fancy, grab a dynamic accumulator or two and bury it under a layer of compost. For example, leaves, stems, and roots harvested from dynamic accumulators can be placed on top of the soil or buried by a top layer of soil. This allows the nutrients stored in the leaves, stems, and roots to be released in the soil.
Dynamic accumulators are plants that store nutrients taken from the ground or air in their leaves, stems, and roots. These natural fertilizers are not created equally; each has a uniquely accumulated nutrient profile, and several sources list (link one; link two) the nutrient profiles for a variety of accumulators.
Dandelion, kelp, stinging nettle, comfrey, and watercress are standout dynamic accumulators that have a broad spectrum of nutrients, among other beneficial properties. Dandelion is particularly handy because it grows just about everywhere. When possible, pick dandelions from areas free of herbicides and pesticides.
As you can see, few, if any, bottled products are needed for a successful organic grow. That’s because we’re relying on nature, including the symbiotic relationships between roots and soil microbes, to provide the requite nutrients when the plant needs it.