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What Is Companion Planting And Why It Is Important for Growing Cannabis

Companion planting cannabis

WHAT IS COMPANION PLANTING AND HOW DOES IT BENEFIT CANNABIS?

Companion planting in gardening and agriculture is the planting of different crops in proximity for pest control, pollination, providing habitat for beneficial creatures, maximizing use of space, and to otherwise increase crop productivity. Companion planting is a form of polyculture.

Benefits of companion planting:

• Increased yield and success rate.

• Protective shelter served by multiple layers provides a wind break or shade.

• Some companion plants can help to prevent pests, insects and pathogenic fungi from damaging the crop.

• Companion plants produce copious nectar or pollen in a vegetable garden and may encourage higher populations of beneficial insects which control pests; some predatory insects only consume pests in their larval form and are nectar/pollen feeders in their adult form.

• Some companion plants have the ability to confuse, distract or move pests away from others.

• Easy progression of pests is common in monoculture as pests spread easily from the same plants, however this progress is often disrupted by surrounding companion plants which can "confuse" the pests.

Cannabis companion plants

Many modern principles of companion planting stem from centuries ago in cottage gardens in England, forest gardens in Asia and even thousands of years ago in Mesoamerica.

Companion planting was practiced by indigenous Americans prior to the arrival of Europeans. These natives domesticated squash, maize and then common beans between 8,000-10,000 years ago. This formed the "Three Sisters" agricultural technique. The cornstalk served as a trellis for the beans to climb up and the beans would fix nitrogen in the soil, benefitting the maize.

Rice with mosquito fern companion

Mosquito ferns (Azolla spp.) have been used in China for at least 1,000 years as a companion for rice crops. They host a cyanobacterium which gathers nitrogen from the atmosphere, and they block light from plants that would compete with the rice.

In a forest garden system, companion plants are intermingled in order to create an actual ecosystem, emulating the interaction of up to seven levels of plants in a forest or woodland. Plant mixtures often have a greater efficiency or total yield than monocultures. For example, culinary herbs form a vital food supplement, but also tend to stimulate growth of other crops.

Good mixed plant systems utilise light, water and nutrients in an efficient manner, and when legumes are grown there is also the benefit of nitrogen fixation in the soil. Recent studies suggest that flying pests have less success if their host plants are surrounded by another plant or a "decoying" plant.

Cannabis forest garden

This method also results in a reduction in the spread of pests and diseases as competition is increased by natural predators and improved weed control. Combinations of cover plants are commonly used for cycling nitrogen, building organic matter and microbial biomass, for example: legumes such as peas, fava beans and vetch legume in combination with a grass such as winter rye. Further advancement arises from the encouragement given to microorganisms in the soil and it is through this that problems to do with crop rotation are largely solved.

So far, companion planting has been largely based on years of observation. Better growth is marked when the correct combination of plants are used. Hindered growth is observed in the incorrect combination of plants, and so it is as necessary to avoid companions that don’t get along too well.

Companion planting CAN be the quick fix to your garden troubles, but only if it’s done right! This is due to biodiversity. Companion planting will increase the biodiversity of your patch and so the variety of life forms in your garden. Thoughtful planning can mean your garden is never without blossom and therefore never without the essential wildlife that follows; birds, pollinating insects, butterflies, bees, native wasps, beetles and more.

In this section we take a closer look at the fundamentals of companion planting and how it can be a benefit to a cannabis plant. But first, we must look at the core function of compound planting to truly understand it: biodiversity.

WHAT IS BIODIVERSITY?

Biodiversity is defined by the diversity of species in an ecosystem or natural habitat. It is the variety of species and genetic variants within an area, biome or planet.

How these organisms interact with each other and their environment can have a direct effect on how the ecosystem functions. Observing nature, we can attempt to mimic the most favorable conditions for our plants in order to encourage a natural strength and resilience to outside factors such as pests and weather.

For farmers and gardeners, this means that the natural control of weeds, pests and plant diseases are more likely to be effective in a diverse system, where bursts of pest or disease are less likely due to strong links between plants.

Biodiversity cannabis

Just as important as ecosystem diversity are the links between species that are present. One of the keys to creating a diverse and balanced habitat is to find species that can provide links to lots of other species. Cover crops provide not only a habitat for beneficial insects, but also soil organisms. To enhance the attraction of beneficial insects, specialised wildflowers and insectary plants can also be added to the system.

WHY IS DIVERSITY IMPORTANT?

Managing your land or space to grow a cultivated annual or permanent crop often involves a simplification of the system which can have adverse effects on the interrelationships which usually work to control pest or disease outbreaks. Crop rotations and cover crops improve these issues by managing the system to benefit the soil and crop.

Monoculture encourages many pest issues as crop-specific pests can multiply out of proportion when a crop is grown in the same place year after year. Pests are better controlled when crops are rotated. Mixed planting or intercropping of one or more plant species can help provide this kind of diversity.

Organic cannabis

Generally speaking, by organic, we understand a form of gardening which does not rely on poisons to control pests, diseases, and weeds and does not use artificial fertilizers; its purpose is to avoid deleterious influences of any sort. Nevertheless, traditional methods of tilling the ground are often still employed. The soil is turned in the usual garden beds, and manure dug into it. What is more, there is often heavy manuring of a specific nature, appropriate only to the needs of the plant population growing in the beds that year.

Treatment of this type with mineral fertilisers can disturb the steady rhythm in the life of the soil. In this way, organic gardening, although it does not use poisons, fails to take advantage of all the pure, high-quality nutrients available from natural sources. In view of the danger, to which the environment is exposed nowadays, gardeners must surely be asking themselves to what extent they must adopt a more ecological approach to their work.

WHAT IS POLYCULTURE AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

Cannabis polyculture

Polyculture is a method of agriculture using multiple crops in the same space, providing crop diversity and imitation of diversity in natural ecosystems. This includes multiple cropping, intercropping, alley cropping, companion planting and use of beneficial weeds. It is generally defined as the raising of more than one species of animal or plant at the same time.

Polyculture is a principle of permaculture. A study in China showed that planting several species of rice in the same field increased yields by 89%, largely due to a dramatic 94% decrease in the incidence of disease, making the use of pesticide redundant.

Polyculture increases localised biodiversity and is an example of reconciliation ecology, which is a principle of accommodating biodiversity with human landscape. This method could also form part of a biological pest control program.

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