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The Truth About Living Soil

The Truth About Living Soil

I hear two really popular tag-lines about growing cannabis these days: living soil and no till.

In reality, these terms are really just old forms of magic poking their head into the new cannabis industry. Living soil is a term defined by Elaine Ingram, our godmother to biological understanding of the soil. The problem is, all soul is living.

The idea of living soil is that you nurture the environment within the soil and develop an ecological or biological ecosystem. Now, on the surface it sounds great. But how do we get there, and what does it really mean to have “living” soil?

Origins of Living Soil Ingredients

First off, living soil is no more environmentally friendly than rockwool.

Ok, 3/4 of the people reading this just threw their phone across the room or started cursing my name. But just think about where all those organic ingredients come from. Just because they are natural ingredients doesn’t mean they’re superior.

Almost every specialty organic ingredient is strip mined. Somebody rolls onto a piece of land, sets up conveyors and starts digging a hole. They get all the gypsum or bat guano or whatever else out and maybe they fill the hole back up. Maybe they just walk away. Not the most environmentally friendly.

For instance, bat guano is one of the most loved organic ingredients by living soil farmers. However they don’t just sweep up the fresh bat poop on the floor of caves. They find areas around the planet where bats are living, and tear them apart top to bottom.

High-nitrogen guano is the freshest bat poop. This is the first product that is swept up off the bottom of the cave using large excavators and front-end loaders. As soon as the fresh bat guano is depleted the hard soil at the bottom of the cave begins to be dug up. This is the high phosphorus bat guano.

The same destructive process is used for fossilized kelp, humus, gypsum and lime, creating eco-damaging strip mines everywhere. Kind of uncool if you ask me.

Real “Living Soil”

If you have a real commitment to organic farming you would use just compost and other waste products such as fish emulsion, bonemeal, harvested kelp, and composted agricultural waste. Compost has minimal nutrition in it and only biological life like weeds, seeds and other bugs.

I have made literally millions of yards of compost. Compost is usually made from green waste materials or sawdust. The whole point is to add nitrogen to the carbon-based waste product.

When you balance the carbon-nitrogen ratio, your compost is ready. This means all the nitrogen and most of the beneficial phosphorus and potassium has also been eaten up in the composting process. Therefore compost is mostly cheap filler. The only benefits you get from it is biological life, yet you have to deal with the bugs, pests, weeds and the seeds.

Living Soil and Cannabis

Besides the environmental impacts, living soil doesn’t really work that well inside. Living soil is often full of bugs, part of what makes it “alive”. Once a critter is introduced into an indoor environment there’s little chance that you’ll be able to restore your grow room back to its bug-less inception.

With modern cannabis growing, pesticides and pest control are of the upmost importance. Pest control is a heavily regulated area within the cannabis community. Pest control is so highly regulated that the introduction of pests into your room is the first line of defense.

Living soil doesn’t yield indoors and in most cases living soil does not yield much at all. It mostly serves as a magical term used by magical people to complete their Bro-science degree.

I’m not telling you it doesn’t work, I’m saying it’s like a hole-in-one. You can try as hard as you can, practice your swing all day. But a hole-in-one is determined as much by luck as it is determined by your skill. Living soil is the same way; it’s expensive, it’s never the same twice, you have to work hard at mixing it, and then only randomly does it actually work well.

At this point if you’re still reading you’re either intrigued or you totally hate me. Here’s the truth. I’m a sucker for organic, and if it says organic on the label I generally buy it. I’m a 25 year vegetarian, and even lived off the grid for numerous years. I am a tree hugger and a conservationist.

But if you want to grow the highest quality cannabis indoors, the above ideas don’t mash. If you want to grow consistently and not crap after crap, living soil will not work for you.

If you want to believe your bro science or your brother-in-law or your “Master” grower friend that’s always putting you down, go for it. But look at the quality of all of your buds without excuses and you’ll see living soil a little differently.

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How to Pick Quality Hemp Genetics

How to Pick Quality Hemp Genetics

With an exploding market and a high demand for hemp genetics, how can you tell if your genetics are high quality?

For the past 90 years, the only hemp that grew in the United States other than hemp grown in scientific studies for research purposes was feral. That is, it grew in the wild, mostly untouched by man. Now that industrial hemp has been legalized and a new market is quickly emerging, a lot of farmers are trying to transition from traditional row crops into mass-hemp production.

With very few means to process hemp fibers, husks and other materials that will be useful in the future, the main appeal for those entering the hemp industry is CBD. Cannabidiol (CBD) has become a craze in the US, with hundreds if not thousands of new CBD companies and products.

But where are all these people getting their hemp seeds from, and as a grower, how can you know if the seeds you get are quality?

Hemp Genetics Stability

Stable genetics are genetics that are uniform. This is essential for hemp farmers who are growing on a large scale. Having stable genetics give the grower confidence knowing that every seed they plant, will grow to look exactly the same, with same characteristics as the plant next to it.

On a large scale, this makes processing and managing your hemp much easier. Compare this to unstable genetics that would vary in size, structure, and potentially have other growth issues. Stable genetics makes the whole grow uniform, and therefore easier to manage.

You can tell the stability of your genetics relatively quickly, as you’ll notice differences in growth and structure as the plants vegetate. Stable genetics will grow to look the same, at the same time.

High-CBD Hemp Genetics

Like it or not, CBD is the name of the game in legal hemp right now. Until the market grows a desire for the countless other commodities created via hemp, CBD is the most accessible and sellable hemp product on the market currently. But when it comes to high-CBD hemp genetics, they are few and far between.

Cannabis has been genetically modified by humans for hundreds of years, with the most vigorous and highest yielding plants being crossed with each other to produce the high-THC strains we have today. Up until December 2018, hemp hasn’t had the same luxury. It has mainly grown feral around the world, with a main focus on extracting its materials in Europe.

But now that hemp is legal in the States, and everybody is looking for high-CBD hemp, cannabis breeders are making the transition to hemp. By taking traditionally low-THC cannabis strains, and breeding them over time with high-CBD feral hemp strains, the THC can be bred out, and the CBD bred up.

The end result is hemp that looks, smells and even tastes like cannabis, with .3% THC or less, and CBD content surpassing 12-15%. It’s important to do your due diligence in researching your hemp seed supplier to ensure they have quality, high-CBD genetics, and not some mid-grade hemp seed they pulled off some males growing the back yard.

You Won’t Know Til You Grow

The reality is you can buy the most expensive hemp seeds from one of the most renowned breeders and still not get quality results. Sellers with a reputation won’t always have the best stock available, and the only way to truly know whether or not you have quality genetics is to grow it through flower and test it.

Even if your genetics aren’t the most stable, and you have varying sizes and structures in your plants, they can still produce high-CBD hemp flower that can be processed. But the only way to test your CBD content is to wait until your plants are roughly 35 days into their flower cycle. This is when you can begin to test for CBD content effectively.

It is important to trust your hemp seed supplier, but even if they are a pro, they can still produce seeds that won’t perform as well as others. Just like cannabis, growing quality hemp is a process of testing, trial and error. Until you’ve been through a couple hemp harvests, you probably won’t truly know what to look for in your genetics.

That’s why it is important to study up with articles like this and others that help guide you through the growing process, and how to judge your own hemp genetics for quality.

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The Best Hemp Products for Growing

The Best Hemp Products for Growing

You can plant a seed in the ground, give it water and hope for the best. Or you can get the best hemp products for growing and blow away the competition.

Growing hemp indoors will produce higher quality results than that of hemp grown outdoors on a large scale. Not to any fault of the grower, but due to the conditions of growing outdoors, the plants just have to endure more, including changing weather. Indoors, all of this can be avoided to grow hemp that looks and smells great.

However if you are growing industrial hemp on a large scale, there are still some hemp products in this list that you can utilize to increase productivity.

Hemp Products for Propagation

Whether you’re starting from seed or clone, you’ll need to start them in a controlled environment indoors. Whatever option you choose, you are best off putting those seeds or clones into some root plugs. There’s rockwool, coco, peat and other options you can try to hold your young plants, but you’ll need somewhere to put all of them once your seed and cuttings are put into the plugs.

Cheap and easy, all you need is a 50-cell plastic tray, or a 72-cell tray to house your root plugs. You’ll also need a bottom tray to hold your cells. This will make it much easier to move your plants around once they start to bulk up plus you can get them with holes for extra aeration and drainage.

Best Lights for Growing Hemp

When you are still in the propagation stage, T5 lights are one of the most common and effective options. They are also easy to find compared to other specialty lights.

The great thing about T5 lights is that you can easily increase their effective range. You can have two bulbs in one fixture to cover a smaller area, or if you have a larger propagation area pick up a 4×8 T5 ballast to cover twice as much area with one fixture.

Another great light option for propagation is LED light fixtures. LEDs can be expensive, but they are extremely cost effective and efficient in the grow. You can get just a single bulb, up to entire strips and fixtures depending on the area you need to cover. The best option by far though, is the 315 LEC (Light Emitting Ceramic) bulb.

Also known as a CMH (Ceramic Metal Halide), a 315 LEC bulb packs a lot of light power into one bulb. It is great for bulking up your plants during the vegetation stage, and is powerful enough to continually provide the light they need all the way through flower, resulting in healthier, more consistent yields.

You Need Rolling Benches

Hemp can be a vivacious plant that grows tall and wide if not trained and trimmed consistently. The bigger your plants get, the heavier they will become and the more space they will take up. If you just throw your pots on the ground or on a roller for each individual pot, you’ll be spending a lot of time moving plants back and forth just to get through your grow.

With rolling benches, all that extra work is gone. You can get benches as small or large as you need, and it allows you keep your plants in the same place, while still being able to move them easily. Benches are essential for optimizing the space in your grow.

You can push them together when you need more space, and you can push them apart to easily create walkable aisles. Without rolling benches, you’ll be spending way more time just trying to squeeze between plants without breaking branches.

To really succeed in growing the best hemp, there is more you’ll need to add to this list. Irrigation, humidity and other environmental controllers, the nutrients you use and more can all be a game changer if you aren’t putting as much focus into them right now.

Get some of the best tips for which products you should use, whether to grow form seed or clones and more on The Real Dirt Podcast.

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Top Tips for Growing Hemp

Top Tips for Growing Hemp

At the time of recording for this episode, outdoor planting season is just a couple weeks away. But when it comes to growing hemp, you can’t treat it like any other row crop.

If you’re in Colorado, you may have a little extra time before your plants are ready to move outside. For most of the country however, Mother’s Day weekend is also planting time.

Hemp is a durable plant. There’s a reason it was given the nickname “weed” back in the day. It would grow almost anywhere if a seed was put in the ground. But we’re not just trying to sprout feral hemp anymore, we’re trying to grow top-tier, CBD rich hemp.

From picking between clones or seeds to the gear you need to get ahead, this week’s episode of The Real Dirt has you covered.

Plan Your Plant

Consider this: hemp and cannabis are the same thing, just slightly different species genetically. But hemp is not grown the same way as cannabis, although it can be when grown indoors.

Farming isn’t easy, and if you’re trying to grow industrial hemp on a large scale with little to no field crop experience, you’re in for trouble. With cannabis, you’re planting a few plants into their own pots on a relatively small plot of land. Hemp on the other hand can cover acres and acres, and staying on top of thousands of plants isn’t easy.

From planting too early and getting hit with the final frost in Colorado, to running out of water halfway through the season because you weren’t prepared, lack of preparation can be the end of your hemp grow before it even starts. This is why it’s essential that you check the weather regularly to ensure you don’t plant at a bad time, as well as ensuring you don’t end up running short on supplies.

It’s always better to over-prepared and have some left over than to run out and lose your plants.

Irrigation is ESSENTIAL

The bigger your field, the more water it will need. Unless you have a massive staff that ensures each plant gets watered every day, you’re going to need irrigation.

It is the more expensive option at first, but it pays itself off quick. Instead of hand watering each plant, spending hours on one task in the field, all you need is a reservoir and drip-lines connected to it. After a little education and a couple hours of set up, you’ll be able to save hundreds of hours you’d otherwise be spending watering.

Frankly, even if you have a smaller hemp grow indoors or outdoors, irrigation can still be extremely useful. One of irrigation’s biggest benefits is that it removes the risk of human error and overfeeding.

Quality of Genetics

You can do everything right and still end up with a poor quality product. If you don’t strive to find and use quality genetics, you will fall behind the competition. With the legal hemp industry still so young, it can be very difficult for farmers transitioning into the industry to know where to look for quality genetics.

As these first few seasons of growing hemp come and go, people will breed some pretty great hemp genetics. Services like the International Hemp Exchange are one of the main companies connecting breeders to buyers, but just like the cannabis industry early on, you’ll either get your genetics through your growing circles, or pay a hefty price for quality.

In This Week’s Episode

Jacob Sarabia is the head of sales for Cultivate Colorado, the largest grow store in the country, as well as an avid cannabis grower and connoisseur. He’s also gotten into growing hemp over the last year.

In this week’s episode Chip and Jacob puff on a couple joints while they talk about their experiences with hemp so far, the techniques they’ve picked up, how growing hemp is different from growing cannabis and more.

If you want some professional advice on growing hemp that stands out, listen to the episode now.

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Colorado Cannabis Delivery and Social Consumption Makes Big Moves

Colorado Cannabis Delivery and Social Consumption Makes Big Moves

Cannabis has been legal in Colorado since 2012. But it’s been hard to figure out where it’s safe to consume it.

Unless you owned a home or had a cool landlord, you would be at a loss trying to find a safe place to consume the cannabis you just bought. Since legalization, it has been illegal to consume cannabis in a public setting in Colorado. 

The only place that was legal to consume was a private residence. As mentioned before, if you’re renting and your landlord puts a “no cannabis” rule in the lease, you’re out of luck (as someone in that situation I can vouch for the inconvenience).

But finally, that’s all about the change.

House Bill 1230

Under this new bill, dispensaries will be able to apply for a tasting room license similar to the one used for breweries in this state, while businesses such as hotels, restaurants, music venues, art galleries and yoga studios can apply for private consumption licenses and limited cannabis sales.

Mobile cannabis lounges such as tour buses and limousines would also be licensed but could not sell cannabis. Social consumption businesses would have to apply for a license through the state Marijuana Enforcement Division, and would be exempt from the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, a state law that bans public indoor smoking.

“In expanding access to regulated spaces for adults to consume cannabis, we are taking the responsible approach to cannabis consumption in a safe environment,” says Senator Vicki Marble, one of the bill’s prime sponsors, in a statement about the bill. “HB 1230 protects the will of voters who asked for the freedom to choose marijuana as an alternative and to curb dealing and use in parks and on the street.”

Nothing is Final

There are still some hurdles before cannabis cafes can open in your town. Governor Jared Polis still needs to sign the bill into law, which appears to be pretty likely at this point.

However, even if Polis signs the bill, local governments would have to opt in to the new licensing program, and could modify it to ban certain forms of consumption, such as indoor smoking. And the City of Denver’s social marijuana consumption licensing program, which already has its own location qualifications and bans indoor smoking, would remain unaffected by new stipulations in the bill, unless Denver City Council or the mayoral administration decide to alter it.

Baby Steps are Still Steps

If there’s anything the members of the cannabis community have learned through the years, it is that cannabis regulation moves slow. While counties in Colorado will be able to begin the application process in January of 2020, should Polis sign the bill, counties can still make their own regulations.

It’s likely that many places will still ban indoor smoking even with the new law permitting this with the proper licensing. However a big driving force behind this bill specifically was the cannabis tourism industry in the state. With current laws, out-of-state visitors who legally purchase cannabis cannot consume it in hotels.

With House Bill 1230, hotels and other local businesses could gain additional tourism revenue by getting on board and applying for a public consumption license.

cannabis delivery in colorado could soon be legal

Dispensaries in Colorado could start using free delivery as a sell point if the new cannabis delivery bill passes.

Cannabis Delivery in Colorado

The day before the passing of House Bill 1230, House Bill 2019-1234 passed the state Senate with a vote of 20-14, and the state House with a vote of 38-27. The bill allows for “marijuana delivery permits” for licensed medical marijuana dispensaries and “transporters” to deliver their products to private residences once a day only.

Should the bill get the final signature from Polis, medical cannabis delivery would start in 2020, with recreational delivery following soon after in 2021. A $1 surcharge would be tacked on to each delivery made and would then be funneled back into local law enforcement for the sole purpose of administering local marijuana laws. 

Those licensed to make such deliveries would also be protected from criminal prosecution while on the job. Similarly to the other bill, local county governments and city councils could still restrict deliveries.

Proponents of cannabis delivery in Colorado site those medical patients that cannot make it to a dispensary due to immobility or other issues and a desire to eliminate the illegal delivery market currently operating in the state, while opponents worry that cannabis delivery could damage in-person dispensary sales and even open the opportunity for big players like Amazon to eventually take over.

Nevertheless it looks like a bright future lies ahead for cannabis consumption in Colorado, and it’s about time. For over 6 years cannabis consumers in the state have had to hide or find somewhere secluded enough that they wouldn’t get caught.

Hopefully these bills will get the final signature from Polis and we can begin to move forward into the next phase of legal cannabis in Colorado.

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Cannabis Dispensary Jobs: Tips for success

Cannabis Dispensary Jobs: Tips for success

Cannabis dispensary jobs are more available today than ever before.

The cannabis industry isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Several states have legalized cannabis for medical or recreational use just this year, and it’s only May. With legalization comes a brand new industry, with a completely different infrastructure, and a unique product at its core.

One of the most popular and essential jobs of any cannabis industry is that of the cannabis dispensary budtender. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, think of the name literally. Tenders of bud, or cannabis products.

Cannabis Dispensary Jobs

This article is going to focus on the budtender dispensary jobs specifically, but there are other dispensary jobs outside of budtending.

You can also become a grower for a dispensary and manage a dispensary, among other opportunities. Remember that if you are in a medical marijuana state, you will need some type of certification and medical licensing prior to applying for dispensary jobs to even be considered in most cases.

When it comes to budtending specifically, we have some tips for being prepared for the job, and doing the job better once you’re hired.

Budtender Tips

The first thing to know about budtending dispensary jobs, is that being a recreational budtender and medical budtender are two different things. As a recreational budtender, you can think of yourself as a sommelier of cannabis. As a medical budtender, you are helping patients with potentially serious health conditions find the right medicine for them.

It can be hard to take this difference seriously as in most cases, other than different regulatory requirements, medical and recreational cannabis is identical. However, while there is still a separation between the two, there is also a difference in experience required.

Know Your Cannabis

To save us all from more redundancies, apply the following advice to a more extreme extent for medical cannabis dispensary jobs. The most important being to know your shit.

Any inexperienced wine drinker will find it more difficult to tell the difference between a red wine from Northern California, and a red wine from Georgia. But an experienced wine drinker or sommelier can notice the intricate differences in smells, flavors and even effects that different wines have.

Cannabis is no different. Even more so, compared to wine, cannabis has been more genetically modified and tampered with by humans than wine ever has, despite wine’s higher popularity throughout history. This means there’s a good chance that the dispensary you’re applying to could have more than a dozen different cannabis strains on their shelves, if not more, all with unique profiles.

Know Your Terpenes and Cannabinoids

A table of the most common terpenes found in cannabis and their effects. Photo by Pot Guide.

The smells, flavors and effects of each cannabis strain are different, and knowing these differences will help you get the best product in the customer’s hand. Now, we all know what they say about assuming, but it’s pretty safe to assume that if you’re applying to work at a cannabis dispensary, you probably consume cannabis yourself.

What I’m saying is, you have experience consuming cannabis to the point you think you can suggest to other people the best strains for them. But it’s another level of dedication to consistently pay attention to the cannabis you are consuming and noting its terpene profile, and how it affects you. To be an effective budtender, you need a similar understanding of the cannabis you are selling.

When it comes to cannabinoids, you will have some customers that just want the highest THC content possible. More experienced consumers may want something with more CBD, or even CBG and CBN among other cannabinoids. Depending on your state, there might be labels already on the cannabis that tells you its cannabinoid content, but in a lot of cases there won’t be. If this labelling isn’t a requirement in your market, you most likely don’t need to worry about it as much.

Go Above and Beyond for Your Customers

As mentioned above, a lot of new cannabis consumers will come into a cannabis dispensary and look for whatever strain has the highest THC content because it’s the only cannabinoid they know. For most of our lives we have been led to believe that THC is everything, but as an experienced budtender and cannabis connoisseur, you know that’s not the case.

Think about that one time you had a waiter at a restaurant that just blew you away. They were polite, knew the menu like the back of their hand, and helped your whole table decide on what to order just by having a conversation. That waiter helped guide you to your own decision, with some suggestions (based on his assumed experience) to get you there. Budtending is no different.

You should never just be standing there waiting for the customer decide on what they want, especially if you can tell they aren’t sure. Ask if they like specific smells, flavors and effects. Through your knowledge, guide your customers to an educated decision, that you can both feel confident in.

Not only does this make the customer more likely to come back to the dispensary, it makes you more likely to excel in your position. With experience, knowledge and commitment, you can excel in a budtending job at any cannabis dispensary. After some time working in a dispensary, you could eventually decide that you want to transition into the grow.

We’ll dive into getting those dispensary grow jobs in the next article.

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