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.

How to Brew Compost Tea

How to Brew Compost Tea

Growing organically should be the eventual goal of every grower, and brewing your own compost tea is the first step.

For most, growing “organic” is a lot easier said than done. At first it might seem like there’s a plethora of organic nutrients out there that do the same thing as synthetics. But a brand name and even a label isn’t always honest.

There are dozens of nutrients, fertilizers and other plant products that might have “organics” in the name, but this doesn’t guarantee the product itself is organic. But you can avoid a lot of the false marketing by starting your organic grow with a compost tea.

What is Compost?

If you grew up with a pile of food and vegetable scraps in the backyard, you’re already familiar with compost. Compost is simply just organic material that is combined together to produce a breeding ground for beneficial microbes and bacteria.

A healthy compost tea pulls the soluble nutrients and microorganisms from compost; this includes bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes. Nematodes do not have a life cycle that is rapid enough to increase their population in the time it takes to brew a tea.

However, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa can all increase their populations with the right foods and conditions. Once you’ve got the right mix you want for your compost, you can begin mixing your tea.

How to brew compost tea

Compost tea is literally just that, tea. Like you would brew up a cup of tea with a teabag, you’ll want to put your compost into a fine micron bag to ensure it doesn’t spill into your water while it is brewing. But before you add anything to anything, you need to make sure your water is aerated with an air pump. This is important especially if your water source is chlorinated, as aerating your water will remove it.

Once you’re ready to start brewing, you’ll want to use roughly 5 pounds of compost for every 25 gallons of water. In addition to the compost you add in, there are other beneficials you can add to enhance your compost tea.

You can add in 1–2 tablespoons of humic acid and dilute it in 2 cups of water before adding it into the tea. You can also use 1–2 tablespoons of fish hydrolysate as an alternative. Now go ahead and mix ½ cup of kelp into 5 cups of water. Once adequately mixed, add this into the compost tea for a highly nutritious punch.

Once you have all your ingredients together and your compost is in the water, all you need to do is wait. Ideally compost tea will take 24-36 hours to complete brewing. Make sure you keep an eye on the temperature of your water, as temperature is essential for the development of bacteria and fungi.

The optimum temperature for healthy compost tea is between 65-85 degree Fahrenheit.

Applying your tea

There are two popular ways to apply your compost tea to your plants. The simplest option is to use the compost tea as a soil drench, applying it during your regular feedings for optimal nutrient uptake.

The other option requires a little more gear, and that’s applying your compost tea as a foliar spray. With a sprayer you can walk the grow and spray down your plants making sure they are completely covered. Doing so can put beneficial fungi and even predatory nematodes on your leaves to protect against predators.

And that’s about it! When it comes to making compost tea, the most essential ingredient is obviously the compost. Make sure your compost is fully developed and not still breaking down the organic material within. It should look and smell like fresh soil from the earth when it is ready to use in a tea. And there is always more you can do to produce healthier, more beneficial compost.

You can also greatly simplify the brewing process by using a compost tea brewer. While these can be expensive, The Real Dirt is working with Cutting Edge Solutions to provide an incredible deal on their 15-gallon and 35-gallon brewers. When you buy a ticket to our Organic Cultivation Seminar, you can save over $500.00 on these compost tea brewers, all included with a full-day seminar on organic cultivation.

Everything from the basics of organic cultivation, to building your own organic soil and brewing compost tea efficiently will be covered at this seminar, all for an incredible price.

The Costs of Growing Organic Cannabis

The Costs of Growing Organic Cannabis

Everybody has their own personal definition of what “organic” means.

For a lot of growers, organic pertains to the nutrients you use to grow. To others, organic only means planting your plants straight into the ground and growing from there.

But what does it really mean to grow organic cannabis?

What is organic cannabis?

Contrary to what the lazy grower may wish to be true, you can’t just grow cannabis in the dirt in your backyard and call it organic. You have to feed organic too. But what can you feed cannabis that is actually organic?

An organic nutrient is anything that comes from biological life. This includes bone meal, feather meals, guanos, and the like. There’s also mined organics like gypsum, pumice and other natural resources. So just using any of those throughout your plants’ life cycle should be enough.

Not exactly.

Renewable Organic Inputs

To grow as organically as possible, you want to use organic inputs that are also renewable. The problem is that these inputs are few and far between. The reality is that a lot of organic inputs are strip mined, and cause irreversible damage to the ecosystems they impact.

Take guano for example. Bat and Seabird guano are two of the most popular organic nutrient products that growers love to use when growing organic cannabis. But have you considered how these products are obtained? Strip mining.

Surveyors look all over for bats flying in and out of caves, or bird flocking to a specific cliff face or perch. They then bring in excavators and dig in, ripping up the top layers of the cave or cliffs for the high nitrogen guano, and digging all the way down for the phosphorous and potassium-rich guano that has been sitting underneath. This displaces thousands of bats and birds, and destroys any other small life that could live in the area.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t any renewable organic inputs.

While it is still up for debate among growers and suppliers alike, many would say that peat moss is renewable. The debate is due to the time is takes for peat bogs — where peat moss comes from — to redevelop. Peat moss is the result of millions of years of decomposing biological life that piles on top of itself. After it is mined, it will not replenish for a million more years. So yes, peat technically renews over time, but not fast enough for us to constantly use forever.

One of the only truly renewable organic inputs is coco coir. It is a byproduct of the coconut and textile industries in Asia. Made from the short and long fibrous hairs that aren’t used from the shell of coconuts, coco coir does no damage to any ecosystem, it doesn’t impact the livelihood of textile workers, and coconuts fall off trees every single day. Coco coir is 100% renewable, and even reusable.

Should I even grow organic cannabis?

Of course you should. The reality is that most of us are wearing clothes right now that aren’t sourced or made ethically, and we just sort of ignore it. It isn’t the best approach, and I’m sure there’s some of you out there that try to avoid supporting these companies. But the same applies to organic inputs.

If you want to grow organic cannabis, you need organic inputs. To get organic inputs, they need to be gathered through different means, whether its a renewable byproduct like coco or a strip mined inputs like guanos, phosphates and others. Sure, you could just grow in some dirt in your backyard and feed nothing but water. That is organic cannabis. But don’t expect great results.

An important ethical question growers should start considering is the importance, and difference between their end consumer’s health and the health of the environment. Organic cannabis is rising in popularity, and will most likely end up becoming a major sector of the legal industry, which means demand is going to grow. Is the consumer’s health more important than the life that is potentially destroyed in the process of obtaining those organic inputs?

The reality is you can grow cannabis with no-organic, synthetic nutrients and still have a safe to consume end product. So the decision is really up to you as a grower; is organic cannabis just a marketing tactic, or a way of life?