On the internet, there are many guidances on cultivating cannabis, but most of them are inorganic cultivation methods using synthetic liquid fertilizers. Most of us may know that this method not only produces less safe buds but also lower quality compared to organic methods. Organic cultivation may still be relatively unfamiliar to many people, but through this guide, we will explore the basic principles of organic cultivation, from soil preparation to plant care, to help you successfully grow your own organic cannabis.
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Organic cultivation is about working with nature rather than against it and it consists of 8 steps, each of which is a skill that we need to master. A successful grow requires the grower to perform all these steps well, but don't worry, even if something doesn't go as smoothly as expected, you will be able to have tastier and cleaner buds. And the most important that your skills will undoubtedly improve with each grow.
Step 1: Selecting seeds
Most people come up with the idea of growing cannabis when they find a few seeds in their cannabis stash. However, we want to emphasize that this is not a good idea. Firstly, you cannot determine the gender of the seeds; most of the seeds you have may be male, and you will waste a lot of time (the gender can only be determined when the plant enters the flowering stage) because our goal is to harvest buds from female cannabis plants. Secondly, all high-quality cannabis strains with standard cultivation practices do not have seeds inside their buds. Buds contain seeds usually come from low quality strains, grown in suboptimal conditions or from hermaphroditic plants (due to stress from the environment, genetics, light schedule…). If you are lucky enough to grow a female plant from these seeds, it will often turn hermaphroditic by the end of the cycle, resulting in buds full of seeds and less potency.
The best choice for everyone is to buy seeds from reputable seeds bank. Cannabis seeds from reputable seed banks have stable genetics that have been bred for generations to ensure consistent quality. Furthermore, you can rest assured that your plant will be female when you buy feminized seeds.
Step 2: Soil preparation
Soil is the most important factor in organic cultivation, and doing this step well means you have completed 70% of the work. For organic cultivation, all the nutrients for the plant come from the soil, so you must ensure that your soil is rich in nutrients because cannabis is a fast-growing plant. You can find various organic soil mixing recipes for cannabis on the internet, and most of them are relatively complex with hard-to-find ingredients. However, you can still successfully cultivate a crop using the basic recipe below:
- Organic compost, such as worm castings, well-rotted manure, or similar types.
- Coco coir or peat moss.
- Soil conditioner. Examples include perlite, vermiculite, pumice, etc.
Almost all organic soil recipes are composed of these three ingredients and some other additives like seaweed fertilizer, bat guano, bone meal, blood meal, etc. These additives are included to supplement nutrients in the basic soil mix. However, you can also use a larger pot (more soil) for a similar purpose. In our experience, about 20 liters of the basic soil mix above are sufficient for one plant from seed to harvest.
Note: The magic of organic soil comes from the living microorganisms within it. Do not use any inorganic fertilizers as these chemicals will harm the microbial life.
Step 3: Prepare the growing space
You can cultivate cannabis both indoors and outdoors. Each type of cultivation has its own advantages and disadvantages, so you should make a decision based on your preference.
If you choose to grow indoor, consider buying a grow tent. You can build one yourself, but it will be labor-intensive and time-consuming and may not work well. Next, you need to install a ventilation fan with enough capacity for the tent to ensure a continuous supply of fresh air for photosynthesis. Lastly, and most importantly, you need to purchase one or more grow lights. There are many specialized brands and products on the market, so you should research and choose the most suitable one for your needs. To save time, if you plan to grow one plant in a 60x60cm tent (the most common size), you should select a light with a power of approximately 100-150w. Additionally, if you are concerned about the strong smell of cannabis towards the end of the cycle, you can install a carbon filter on the ventilation fan. This tool will help you avoid unwanted attention during your cultivation.
If you choose to grow outdoor, the most important thing to note is the timing of seed sowing. Outdoors, you can not control over the light cycle and must rely on natural conditions. Cannabis plants enter the flowering stage when the days are shorter and the nights are longer, typically in the fall in northern regions. Therefore, you should sow the seeds 2-3 months before the flowering stage begins to ensure the plants have enough time to develop. If you live in the southern region or areas without four distinct seasons, the plants will start flowering as soon as they reach maturity (often quite early). In this case, we recommend purchasing autoflowering seeds (they flower automatically without depending on light cycles) or changing to grow indoor. Apart from the above note, the outdoor cultivation process is relatively straightforward; you just need to place the plant pot outdoors or dig a hole and fill it with the prepared organic soil mix before sowing the seeds. Nature will nurture your plants, but you still need to water them regularly if your location lacks sufficient rainfall.
Step 4: Learn the right time for watering your plants
Watering may seem like a simple task, but in reality, improper watering is the leading cause of plant death in the early stages of cultivation for many beginners. Watering too little or too infrequently will lead to wilting, while overwatering can cause root rot. Both of these conditions can be fatal to your plants. You will learn when and how much to water after several grows, but if you are a beginner, you can follow our guidelines: Water each time with an amount equal to 1/10 of the pot's volume. For example, if you have a 20-liter pot, you will need to use 2 liters of water each time. In our experience, this is the most common ratio in most situations. This amount of water is sufficient to moisten the entire soil in the pot but not enough to drain out of the bottom, preventing nutrient leaching from the soil.
Only water when the plant shows signs of wilting. If your plant is still healthy and thriving, it is best not to water to avoid overwatering. A slightly wilted plant will recover more easily than one suffering from overwatering. In fact, many professional growers believe that allowing the plant to wilt slightly between waterings encourages strong root development, leading to overall plant health. Be patient. Do not water if you do not see clear signs indicating its need for water. When the roots are not yet large enough to fill the pot completely, the plant takes up very little water and is prone to overwatering. In fact, if you plant in a large pot right from the start (we recommend this method to beginners rather than transplanting), you often won't need to water for at least the first two weeks after the seeds have sprouted. The soil can retain a lot of water, and if it's lacking, the plant will naturally develop roots to search for moisture. Also, remember that a wilted plant can recover within 24 hours after watering, but once the plant shows signs of overwatering, it usually cannot be saved.
It's a wise practice to refine your watering skills on other garden plants before embarking on the cultivation of cannabis. This will help you distinguish between signs of wilting and overwatering, and it also helps you stay calm and avoid getting too excited before embarking on cannabis cultivation. In our experience, excessive enthusiasm often leads to deviations in the cultivation process and ultimately results in failure.
These are the four preparation steps for organic cannabis cultivation. We will delve into the cultivation steps in the next part of this guide. If you follow with these steps, the cultivation process will be a piece of cake.