Organic bud - Growing Cannabis Indoors
If you want to enjoy highest quality cannabis, then it‘s going to be organic herb. But growing cannabis indoors organically can be a challenge. We explored organic farming techniques and put together a small guide.
Pesticides come in all shapes, sizes and forms; from gases, pellets, to powders and sprays. But they have one thing in common; they‘re nasty chemicals. Unfortunately, contaminants in commercially available cannabis have become a serious concern. When a California lab screened legal cannabis for pesticides, they found „alarmingly high“ levels of residual toxins. In the absence of legal regulations, quality control is left up to the growers - who might not be particularly concerned about your health. Meanwhile, studies have shown that in the US, 43% of cannabis users consider it „critical“ for their weed to be organic and pesticide-free.
So, if you‘re after the most fragrant and safe marijuana, you‘re best off growing it yourself. But how then do you manage to grow high quality bud without chemical knock-outs? The following should give you an outline as to the options available to the organic cannabis grower.
Prevention is better than curing
Outside, nature provides a complex and balanced environment. But indoors, it‘s much more challenging to maintain favourable growing conditions. The best way to stay away from pesticides is make sure they are never needed in the first place. Preventing a problem from coming up is always better than having to cure one. Let‘s look at some preventative measures you can take.
Pasteurising the soil
Growing on composted and natural soil is the way to go when you‘re after organic bud. But while you might keep any airborne outside contamination away from your grow, that won‘t do much because the soil is loaded with life. While commerical soils from a good manufacturer might come close clean, many soils, specially natural ones, come with a plethora of bug eggs and mold spores. Sterilisation is not a good choice, because that kills the beneficial bacteria along with the bug eggs. The solutions is pasteurisation, which kills off most bad stuff, while leaving the good in. To pasteurise soil, bake it in the oven for 30 minutes at 82 degrees celsius. Use a heat-resistant thermometer to keep track of the temperature and make sure it doesn‘t go over 95 degrees, as you might also kill off the good bacteria.
Foster fungi symbiosis
Over millions of years, natural soil has developed into an incredibly intricate system of symbiosis between plants and fungi. This cooperation is called mycorrhizae, and many plants have specific ally-mushrooms that help both lifeforms thrive. In the soil, mycelium and roots intertwine and effectively merge, extending the range of root network multiple times. It helps the roots absorb nutrients more efficiently, and it boosts their immunity to soil-borne disease. After soil pasteurisation, it‘s a very good idea to add a spore mix of fungi that are in a symbiotic relationship with cannabis. There are a couple of such products on the market.
Provide abundant airflow
Loss of airflow creates a vivid breeding ground on your plants. Pests like spider mites are just waiting to find a stuffy and moist environment to proliferate. Don‘t stuff too many plants into a limited space and make sure there is a steady flow of fresh air.
Use yellow sticky traps
Bugs are naturally attracted to the bright yellow surface, where they will meet their destiny. The traps are most in helping you to identify pests early on. The earlier you discover an infestation, the easier it is to treat.
Many of the common commercial fertilisers are synthesised from petroleum products. Starting out with vital and strong soil already provides a boost of nutrients. There are many fertilisers derived from 100% plants sources that are much healthier to use for you and your plants.
Organic Pesticides - IPA, Neem oil & Pyrethrum
The key to not having to deal with pests, is to always keep the grow clean, strong and healthy. But sometimes that doesn‘t work. If you‘re forced to fight back, without resorting to chemical kill-alls, there‘s a couple of things you can try and combine. When fighting spider mites, some growers have reported success with a Isopropyl Alcohol and water mixture. Alcohol can kills bugs as well as burn leaves, but diluted in water it works very well. Aim for a 1:10 ratio - 1 part IPA to 10 parts of water. We heard this mixture can be used up to harvest, but don‘t overdo it - IPA dissolves the cannabis resins and could potentially destroy your buds.
The second line of defence is Neem oil. Extracted from the seeds of the indian Neem tree, the oil is a very potent natural pesticide and fungicide. Effective for spider mites, it can be used even preventatively during the vegetative period. The key to using Neem oil is to mix it with liquid soap. Aim for about 8ml oil with 5ml of liquid soap in 1 Litre of luke warm water. It should make a milky liquid you can pour into a sprayer. Undiluted Neem oil is very strong and might burn your plants. Apply the mix every 3 days for at least 2 weeks.
If things get serious and you need to step up a notch, try adding lemon oil to the Neem oil mixture. To make a natural killer mixture for a very stubborn infestation, add a drop of Pyrethrum. It‘s one of nature‘s strongest insecticide but non-toxic to humans. But Pyrethrum should be a last-resort measure as it can produce resistant strains of mite or bacteria. While it is regarded as one of the safest pesticides out there, still use it only in the smallest effective amounts and make sure you don‘t inhale it.
Not all insects are pests, and whilst not technically a pesticide, natural predators can be a real boon to your cannabis grow – especially when growing outdoors. By allowing them to thrive, they will naturally help control the numbers of actual pests around your garden or grow room. You can even buy packs of these predators to breed, making sure you have a constant supply. A fine example of this is the humble ladybird. Recognisable by all, this little bug will tear through the pests on your cannabis without causing harm to the plant itself. They can be bought online in large number, eat loads of pests and breed quickly – what is not to like?
As you can see, there are a lot of options open to the organic grower. What is important is picking the correct one for you. Remember, prevention is better than a cure - keep your grow area as clean as you can!