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Is Organic Cannabis worth it?

Is Organic Cannabis worth it?

Organic cannabis is becoming the standard in the industry, but what does it take to become truly organic?

At The Real Dirt we are big fans of using organic cultivation practices. Whether it’s using a compost tea, creating a living soil, or incorporating organic fertilizers into your nutrient regiment, there’s a lot you can do when it comes growing more organically.

But what does it take to grow 100% organic, and is it worth the trouble?

Growing organic cannabis vs growing cannabis with organics

It’s easy to incorporate organic products into your current grow regiment. But that’s not the same as growing organic cannabis. Sure, your cannabis will be more organic than if you hadn’t used an organic input, but to truly produce organic cannabis, it all has to be organic.

From the products you use to the medium you grow in, every factor of your grow needs to be organic. You need sustainable and environmentally friendly grow practices. And it’s a lot easier said than done.

The reason hydroponics and synthetic nutrients are so popular, is because these systems allow growers to produce big, high quality yields consistently. Synthetic nutrients are specifically formulated to feed your plant the exact portions it needs to grow strong foliage and dense buds. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done in an organic grow.

Common organic cultivation practices

Developing organic cultivation practices takes time, because nature takes time. Living soil is an incredible way to grow organic cannabis, but you can’t buy it in a bag at the store. But you can buy everything you need to start making your own.

Living soil is composed of organic inputs, like earthworms, bat and seabird guanos, peat moss and composts. When you combine organic inputs together in your soil base, over time an organic biome will develop in your medium.

Your plants will benefit from the organic setting, and it will feed off of the organic matter in your soil. But it can take a season or two to get you living soil truly living, and some growers don’t have that time.

Chip Baker answered some frequently asked questions about organic inputs if you want to learn more.

Time and money

That’s what it comes down to; time and money. You can pick up some organic soil, feed your plants nothing but water and call it organic. It just might not be the best quality cannabis you’ve ever had.

It takes time and money to wade through the various organic inputs you can use to enhance your plant quality organically. When synthetic nutrients can be cheap, concentrated and effective, it’s easy to see why a lot of growers prefer synthetics. But flushing out your plants when it comes time to harvest so there’s no residual chemicals from the synthetic nutrients does not make it organic in the end.

Is it worth it?

Yes. While we could end it right here, let us explain a little bit.

We live in a world with finite resources, and an environment and climate that is changing around us constantly. When we cultivate cannabis, we need to take into consideration the impact that has on your local ecosystem, and the ecosystem at large.

Water run-off from farms that use synthetic nutrients can end up in water sources for animals and people. It can also soak into the ground, poisoning the plants around it that animals might see as food. Now imagine that on a massive scale.

When thousands of growers use synthetic nutrients without taking care to prevent run-off and other damaging side effects, it stacks up. Additionally the rise of indoor growing has caused a massive spike in electricity usage for cannabis production.

In other words, as the cannabis industry grows and more people have the ability to cultivate their own cannabis, the need for more organic and sustainable practices will grow too. And knowing the cannabis community, growers will rise to the challenge.

2020 Outdoor Grow Prep Guide

2020 Outdoor Grow Prep Guide

It might not seem like it, but Spring has sprung.

It’s slowly starting to warm up, which means it’s getting closer and closer to planting time!

If you’re growing indoors, you’ve probably already been growing through the winter months, but for those of us who only grow outdoors, now is the time to get your grow in order.

Get the Gear

Those pots from last year might be in rough shape. Cracked plastic or torn fabric won’t help your plants in the long run, so double check your pot conditions and pick up some fresh ones if you need to.

Once you get your pots in the sizes you want you need something to fill them with. Most outdoor growers will grow in some type of soil blend, but soilless media is becoming more popular as well.

A great option is to get your plants started inside in a soilless media like coco coir or rockwool, then transplant them into a hearty soil blend outdoors after they develop. Of course you can’t grow high quality plants without high quality nutrients though!

You can keep it simple with the basics and use organic fertilizers that carry the essential nutrients your plants need, then simply feed them water. But there are more concentrated options, both organic and synthetic that can provide consistent nutrients throughout your plants’ growth that will help grow bigger, stronger plants.

The biggest decision to make when choosing nutrients is whether you want to use organic nutrients, synthetic nutrients or a combination of both.

Prepping your grow

If you’re using pots for your plants then preparing your grow is pretty straightforward. You want to get your pots lined up with enough space between to account for future growth. You don’t want a bunch of plants growing into each other with no space to get in between.

If you’re growing in a soil bed you reuse instead of pots, you still want to make sure your soil is ready. The quick and easy option is to till your soil and mix in your new blend to freshen it up.

Some growers prefer a no-till method, mainly those trying to grow organic. But no-till growing can save time and money since you let the soil do all the work over time, building up its own nutrients and biological life to support your plants.

One of the great perks of growing outdoors is that you save a ton on electricity! Unless you have a greenhouse with supplemental lighting, you don’t need any sort of grow light outdoors because you have the best grow light in the sky.

If you’re just growing a few plants, you can save some more money by hand-watering. However if you have a big farm, you’ll like need some form of irrigation set up when you plant.

You can set up a DIY irrigation system to save some money, but it’s worth a little extra dough to set up a system like Netafim that can take care of every aspect of your feeding schedule.

Once you have your grow organized, you can move on to deciding whether or not you want to grow from seed or clone. We have a guide on how you can choose between the two, since both have their pros and cons.

There’s more steps you can take to make sure your outdoor grow is primed and ready for planting like soil conditioning, fertilization and more. But cannabis doesn’t need all the bells and whistles to grow strong and dank. Just some preparation and care throughout its growth.

Pot entrepreneurs flocking to the Bible Belt for low taxes

Pot entrepreneurs flocking to the Bible Belt for low taxes

oklahoma cannabis industry news

Jessica Baker takes a cutting of a plant at the Baker’s marijuana nursery at Baker Medical, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, in Oklahoma City. When voters in conservative Oklahoma approved medical marijuana in 2018, many thought the rollout would be ploddingly slow and burdened with bureaucracy. Instead, business is booming so much cannabis industry workers and entrepreneurs are moving to Oklahoma from states with more well-established pot cultures, like California, Colorado and Oregon. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

OKLAHOMA CITY — From their keen taste for sun-ripened pot to their first meeting at a pro-marijuana rally in college in the 1990s, everything about Chip and Jessica Baker fits the stereotype of cannabis country in Northern California, where they lived for 20 years.

Jessica, with wavy hair that falls halfway down her back, is a practicing herbalist, acupuncturist and aromatherapist who teaches classes on the health benefits of cannabis. Scruffy-bearded Chip wears a jacket with a prominent “grower” patch and hosts a marijuana podcast called “The Real Dirt.” They started their pot business in rugged Humboldt County when it was the thriving epicenter of marijuana cultivation.

But the couple bid goodbye to the weed-friendly West and moved somewhere that might seem like the last place they would end up — Oklahoma.

They’re part of a green rush into the Bible Belt that no one anticipated when Oklahoma voters approved medical marijuana less than two years ago. Since then, a combination of factors — including a remarkably open-ended law and a red state’s aversion to government regulation — have created such ideal conditions for the cannabis industry that entrepreneurs are pouring in from states where legal weed has been established for years.

Though 11 states have fully legalized marijuana for recreational use, Oklahoma’s medical law is the closest thing to it: Anyone with any ailment, real or imagined, who can get a doctor’s approval can get a license to buy. It’s not hard to do. Already, nearly 6% of the state’s 4 million residents have obtained their prescription cards. And people who want to sell pot can do it as easily as opening a taco stand.

“Oklahoma is really allowing for normal people to get into the cannabis industry, as opposed to other places where you need $20 million up front,” said Jessica Baker.

The Bakers have a marijuana farm about 40 miles (65 kilometers) from Oklahoma City, along with a dispensary, nursery and gardening shop in a working-class part of town where virtually every vacant shop and building has been snapped up by weed entrepreneurs in the last year.

When he leased his place, which had been vacant for 10 years, Chip Baker said, “to celebrate, the owner went to Hawaii for a month.”

Unlike other states, Oklahoma did not limit the number of business licenses for dispensaries, growers or processors.

In less than two years, Oklahoma has more than 2,300 pot stores, or the second most per capita in the U.S. behind only Oregon, which has had recreational marijuana sales for five years. Oklahoma has four times more retail outlets than more populous Colorado, which pioneered full legalization.

“Some of these states are regulating cannabis like plutonium,” said Morgan Fox, a spokesman for the National Cannabis Industry Association, the national trade group for marijuana businesses. “And the financial burdens that are placed on licensed businesses are so onerous, that not only is it very difficult to stay in business, but it’s also very difficult for the legal, state-regulated systems to compete with the illicit market.”

Marijuana taxes approach 50% in some California communities and are a factor in some business closings.

California requires a $1,000 application fee, a $5,000 surety bond and an annual license fee ranging from $2,500 to $96,000, depending on a dispensary’s projected revenue, along with a lengthy application process. Licenses can cost $300,000 annually.

In Oklahoma, a dispensary license costs $2,500, can be filled out online and is approved within two weeks.

Arkansas, next door to Oklahoma, also has medical marijuana, but like most such states, it allows purchase only for treatment of certain diseases, such as glaucoma or post-traumatic stress disorder. It also requires a $100,000 surety bond. Louisiana, which also tightly restricts prescriptions, has only nine licensed dispensaries.

Ford Austin and his sister opened the APCO Medical Marijuana Dispensary in a gentrifying part of Oklahoma City after he gave up on plans for a California weed store. “There’s way more opportunity here,” he said.

Sarah Lee Gossett Parrish, an Oklahoma attorney specializing in cannabis law, said about 15% of her cannabis clients are coming from out of state.

“I frequently receive calls from people in the cannabis industry in California,” Gossett Parrish said.

People in some rural towns are worried about the Wild West atmosphere of the boom, particularly where shops with funny weed-pun names, waving banners and blinking signs have opened near schools and churches.

A Republican state legislator, Jim Olsen, has proposed a bill banning dispensaries within 1000 feet (305 meters) of a church. “While I recognize that some people do find pain relief from medical marijuana, with children we really don’t want them to think that when they reach problems in life, that marijuana is a good answer to that.”

But Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt and the GOP-controlled Legislature have shown no interest in reining in the industry since the ballot measure authorizing it passed overwhelmingly. The industry has mostly fought off local attempts at zoning.

Many communities are welcoming cannabis shops because of the sales tax revenue. In college-town Norman and in Oklahoma City, at least a half dozen businesses have joined the chambers of commerce.

“In our community, I think most businesses view them as equals,” said Scott Martin, president of the Norman Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve even had a handful of ribbon cutting ceremonies.”

Marijuana sales generated $54 million in tax revenue last year, accounted for the sharpest ever annual decline in empty mid-sized industrial properties in Oklahoma City, and booked up electricians around Tulsa outfitting new grow rooms with lights and temperature controls.

Even some longtime opponents of marijuana legalization have softened their tone.

Sheriff Chris West in Canadian County, one of many law enforcement officers who decried the 2018 legalization ballot measure, says a number of farmers he knows have decided to switch crops.

“I’ve had them call me and tell me, ‘Sheriff, we’re going to venture into this business and we’d like for you to come out and see our facility, because we want you to know what we’re doing.’ And these are longtime, good, godly, Christian families that see it as an income opportunity.”

Is That Dirt Weed? How to Rate Your Cannabis Quality

Is That Dirt Weed? How to Rate Your Cannabis Quality

Cannabis has come a long way just in the last decade. But just because there’s more high quality cannabis available doesn’t mean the dirt weed can’t still make its way into your sack.

There’s plenty of obvious dirt weed out there. The Mexican bricks, the seed-filled nugs, unflushed bud that won’t burn or tastes terrible. Luckily all of this can be avoided!

With a little bit of knowledge you can make sure your cannabis isn’t dirt weed before you even smoke it. Using your eyes, nose and fingers you would be surprised how much you can find out about your sack of bud.

Does it look like dirt weed?

The most obvious way to tell if you have some dirt weed is to just look at it. If it’s really bad, you’ll probably be able to tell.

Yellowing leaves, brown buds, and a lack of trichomes on the outside are typically signs of a bud that is not great quality. But there are plenty of strains out there that might not look good, but still taste great and produce great effects.

For this reason, some buds take a closer look. Maybe that’s with an actual loupe or microscope to analyze the bud more closely. But for your average consumer just checking out a fresh sack of bud, that means bringing in the smell.

How does it smell?

Interestingly and luckily for us, a lot of dirt weed smells the same. There’s a signature smell that bad cannabis has that resembles old, dry hay. Like if you went to a farm, grabbed a handful of hay that has been sitting outside for the last month and took a whiff. If you get that smell from your cannabis, it could be old, moldy, or just straight low quality.

Cannabis has a lot of unique terpenes that give it different odors depending on the phenotype and genetics the plant carries. There are plenty of cannabis strains that most would consider to be high quality that have a unique, and sometimes off-putting smell. For example there’s Cat Piss, which gets its name from the unique odor it gives off.

In case you aren’t familiar, cat piss doesn’t smell good. Yet the Cat Piss strain is a well-liked and even sought-out strain by connoisseurs everywhere for its rarity. So if even weird smelling cannabis strains can still be high quality, how can you tell if you have dirt weed? Fingers.

How’s it feel?

So your looking at your sack of bud; it doesn’t look great, but it’s not brown, the smell isn’t like your usual stuff but it doesn’t smell like hay either. At this point, you could be dealing with a pretty unique strain, a mediocre bud or you’re just missing one key thing; the feel.

An important thing to remember when it comes to feeling out a bud is that dry does not always mean bad. Colorado cannabis is naturally more dry due to the lack of humidity and elevation, which makes the cannabis buds almost crumble in your fingers with a little pressure (which is great if you don’t have a grinder). California cannabis on the other hand has much more moisture, and can even be difficult to break apart and grind up (but typically burns a little more slowly). Nevertheless the importance of checking a bud with your hands shouldn’t be overlooked. If the bud feels a little too wet, break it open and check for bud rot.

There’s one thing a good bud has regardless of it’s dryness, and that’s stickiness. Trichome content will tell you a lot about your cannabis’ quality just by look and touch. Not every bud is frosty and caked in trichomes, but if you break it apart in your fingers and it leaves some sticky resin on your finger tips and more smells come out when you break it apart, that’s a good sign.

Overall, if you get a bud that looks and smells questionable, you’re probably better off just avoiding it. However if you’re in a pinch and it’s all you got, always double check to make sure it is safe to consume by cracking it open and making sure it isn’t moldy. Let’s be real, we smoked a lot worse 15 years ago, and the odds of smoking some cannabis that will actually make you sick are pretty low. But it’s always better to safe than sorry, and with your eyes, nose and fingers you can tell if a bud is good enough for you, or if it’s just some dirt weed.

Budgeting Your Home Grow

Budgeting Your Home Grow

how to budget a home grow

Whether it’s your first time building out a home grow or you just haven’t bought new gear in a while, budgeting is essential.

If you don’t want any of the advice or details and you just want to know if it’s cheap or expensive to build out your own grow, the answer is yes.

In other words, you can do it the cheap way or you can do it the right way. That’s not to say setting up a grow as cheap as possible can’t work out, but in the end you might end up spending more with all the problems cheap set ups can cause.

Grow Space

Budgeting out your home grow space is one of the only aspects of home growing that you can potentially save some money on. This is because if you have a nice walk-in closet, or storage space you aren’t using, you have a grow space.

For others without the extra space, you either have to build your own grow space like a greenhouse in the backyard, or you can buy a grow tent. Grow tents make it super easy to get going because they come with holes to pipe in ventilation, reflective walls to help with light, and other features.

If you just have a closet space, you can just as easily line the walls with some plastic and pick up some reflective material to help with light penetration. The size of your grow space will also determine how many pots you’ll be able to fit and in turn, how many plants you’ll be able to grow.

When it comes to pricing out your grow space, you can spend close to nothing, or you can spend a lot. But on the high end, expect to pay a couple hundred for a grow tent or the supplies to build a small greenhouse.

Pots and Medium

You can save a lot of money on pots by using traditional plastic pots. They won’t cost more than $10 for half a dozen depending on the size you want, but plastic has its restrictions.

A lot of growers instead choose to use fabric pots because they provide more aeration and some brands have handles attached for easy transport. If you decide to set up a flood and drain hydroponic table system (if you have the space of course), fabric pots absorb water much better than the few holes in plastic pots allow.

Cost-wise, fabric pots aren’t too much more expensive than plastic pots, only a dollar or so more depending on size. As for mediums, the options are much more varied.

Potting soil is always a good option for your standard grow, especially just starting out. It’s affordable and cost-effective, though it limits how often you can feed, and depending on the soil blend, you may have to adjust pH or other nutrients to account for variations in nutritional content that might already be in the soil.

For this reason, you should consider a soilless medium. Coco fiber and rockwool are two of the most popular soilless mediums currently, mainly because of their inert characteristics that allow growers to feed more often resulting in bigger plants. Also, soilless mediums are typically the cheaper option.

A bag of basic potting soil will typically run you about $15, with higher end blends costing up to $20 or more. Factor in your pot sizes and you can determine exactly how many bags you need to fill all your pots and how much it will cost.

Lights

It might seem like the easy choice to go online, do a google search for some grow lights and pick one of the cheaper options. You’ll save a couple bucks, but the product you receive might end up a little different from the product that was advertised.

A lot of low end lights draw you in with their price point, but once your bulb or ballast stops working after a month, you’re stuck either buying from the same crappy brand, or buying new lights all together. You’ll thank yourself later if you dish out some extra dough for quality lights that will last a long time.

Before picking your lights, you need to calculate your space’s square footage to determine what kind of light would best fit the space. Higher wattage lights will cover a much larger area, and using them in a smaller space won’t help your plants. But you also don’t want to get a light that is too weak and doesn’t provide enough light for all of your plants.

If you decide to go the cheap route, you can get T5 bulbs for vegging your plants, and a 315W for flower without breaking the bank. But for the most effective growth, 1000W Double Ended lights will give the most bang for your buck, with the standard brands coming in around $400-500. Keep in mind if you don’t have the right size space or a means to keep it cool, 1000W bulbs can really heat up your room and damage your plants.

For this reason it’s always wise to invest in some solid ventilation.

Ventilation

When it comes to ventilation there are two essentials every home grow should have, no matter the size of your grow space; a carbon filter and a fan. These two items should never be overlooked when you’re growing at home.

Your plants might like a warm environment, but they don’t like a stagnate environment with stale air. With your lights producing so much heat, you need to move the air around your grow space to prevent overheating. Just having one rotating fan can make a huge difference in keeping your plants and your room cool.

Even if you’re growing the best smelling flowers in the neighborhood, nobody wants their whole house reeking. A carbon filter scrubs the air in your room by pulling it in and cleansing it before releasing it. If you have a closed system where you don’t need to pump the air out, you can recirculate it into your room with a carbon filter.

You can find a few different, quality, small carbon filter options for under $200, with prices rising steadily up into the $300s for larger filters. Fans are also pretty cheap, with 6″ clip-on fans for $20 or less, and higher end large standing fans for $70.

Water

One of the most common mistakes first time growers will make is using tap water to water their plants or mix with nutrients without proper precaution. Tap water contains chloramines, and these chemicals interfere with biological components of nutrients rendering them useless.

If you’re trying to save money and hand water because you only have six plants, that’s just fine. You can even avoid buying a water filter to deal with the chloramines by letting your water sit for 24 hours before mixing with your nutrients. But let’s be real, your plants need to be fed regularly and unless you get on a schedule of pouring water 24 hours in advance in a way that you have a steady supply of usable water, a water filter is the most efficient option.

Starting around $100, a water filter can filter out chlorine, sediment and other chemicals that naturally occur in tap water so you can mix right away without having to wait.

If money isn’t an issue, you can optimize your water and feedings with irrigation. On the cheap end the equipment will run you $500 or more, with the most expensive component being the water pump.

Basic Estimates

If you’ve made it this far, you should know well by now that the costs of setting up your home grow can vary greatly. But we can come up with some rough numbers for getting started from scratch.

If you’re really pinching pennies and just want to get going, you can buy the cheap lights, use whatever grow space you got with plastic pots and hand water, and you’ll still be looking at around $300 when all is said in done. For the average grower with a little more change to spare, $500 can really boost what you can get and help you get started on the right foot.

Of course there’s really no limit to how much you can spend to get the best gear for your home grow. If you’re really serious of growing and want to transition into a professional environment eventually, it’s smart to grow with good gear so you can advance your craft. Just remember that it won’t come cheap!

Wet vs Dry Trimming Cannabis

Wet vs Dry Trimming Cannabis

A better question might be, why does it matter?

When harvest time comes around, you need to get rid of the excess leaves and foliage around your flowers to make them look better. In reality, this isn’t something you really need to do, but a lot of people prefer more manicured flowers.

There are two options when it comes to trimming; wet and dry. Different growers have their preferences for both, but when it comes to which is really better, there’s always debate.

It’s up to you to decide when to trim, but here’s the pros and cons to each to make your decision a little easier.

Wet Trim

Wet trimming can be a more streamlined process for growers trying to dry their harvest faster. Wet trimming is possible when you trim your flowers right after harvest.

The plants are still full of moisture, which makes the leaves the freshest. With the leaves sticking out like they would on a live plant, they are much easier to cut without risking cutting the flower by mistake.

After these leaves are removed, the flowers will dry more quickly since the leaves won’t be there to add extra mass and shield the flowers as they dry. Proponents of the wet trim prefer this method because it’s faster, and some would argue more efficient for drying large quantities of flower.

Dry Trim

The dry trim is considered to be more difficult, but also more rewarding. Opposed to wet trimming, dry trimming happens after the flower have already had time to dry, leaves in tact.

Dry trimmers prefer this method because they claim it allows the flowers to cure more slowly, contained by the shriveled leaves that dry up and cover the flower. By almost sealing the flower, it helps maintain terpene profiles and prevents plant resins from drying out too fast.

But this is also what makes a dry trim more difficult. With the flower dried up and stuck to the flowers, the trimmer needs to be extra careful to only trim the leaves they want without cutting out pieces of the actual flower.

Some growers who prefer to trim dry will leave smaller leaves on the flower for a more natural look, and also argue that doing so helps preserve terpenes.

Is One Way Better?

No matter who you ask, some growers will prefer wet trimming, and some will prefer dry trimming. While newer growers tend to lean toward wet trimming for its accessibility, more advanced growers might prefer dry trimming for it’s near-artisanal practice.

But as with everything when it comes to growing, harvesting and trimming, it’s all preference. If you’re committed to the dry trim but it’s your first time, don’t stress. And likewise if you’ve been dry trimming for years and want to give a wet trim a go, do it.

To get the real dirt on wet vs dry trimming cannabis, listen to this episode of The Real Dirt Podcast featuring Cullen Raichart, founder and CEO of GreenBroz Inc, the leading dry machine trimmer company in the country.

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