Fall gardening is about prepping and planning for next year.
By putting a little time into replenishing or cleaning soil after harvest, we minimize the potential problems for the upcoming year. That’s something that ultimately leads to money savings and improved yields. So, here’s how to achieve the best grow you can by gardening in the fall.
Reusing Soil For Cannabis Grows
The costs of growing cannabis can quickly escalate if we choose to replace the soil after each harvest. Unless the existing soil is compromised by disease or some form of pest infestation, growers don’t need to replace the soil for the next harvest. With a few simple techniques, it’s possible to rejuvenate old soil by replenishing it with the necessary minerals and life to restore that smbiotic aliveness that cannabis loves.
For those who go the other route, the price of purchasing soil can quickly add up. Growers can expect to pay $1 per gallon of soil, meaning that the costs rapidly add up, especially in larger grow operations.
Why Does Cannabis Deplete Soil?
Cannabis plants are notoriously hungry. They demand considerable quantities of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. Then, of course, there are a host of minor elements such as iron, copper, zinc, manganese, molybdenum, and boron that are all required, albeit in lower quantities.
By the time harvest comes along, the soil is usually well and truly depleted. To ensure optimal yields for the next harvest, then the first on any growers fall gardening checklist should be regenerating the soil for the next season.
Companion Planting Cannabis
Growing companion plants in close proximity not only fend off unwelcome pests, but they attract beneficial insects and also help infuse the required nutrients into the soil.
Companion planting helps maintain the complex, interconnected, and self-sustaining web of life within the soil that’s required for optimal growth. It helps achieve a closed-loop system. Here, all the resources necessary to maintain optimal soil health already exist in a process that sustains itself.
When it comes to obtaining optimal soil composition, one of the critical factors is maintaining colonies of microbes close to the roots. Companion plants tend to add exudates to the soil that contribute to the thriving food web within the soil. Once established, and with abundant nutrition available, the roots interact synergistically with these microbes. The microbes provide nutrients for the roots, while the roots provide sugars for the microbes, and it’s this that results in soil teaming with life.
Some of the best companion plants for cannabis grows that will improve soil include nasturtiums, alfalfa, sweet peas, yarrow, dandelion, and beans.
What To Do With Compromised Soil During Fall Gardening
Many growers experience issues with pathogens that render the soil useless for growing. Some species of mites, fungus, and gnat can persist no matter how we try to eradicate them. In such cases, it’s best to discard the soil. Attempting to reuse it will likely spread the pathogens to other areas of the garden. Many pathogens are surprisingly resilient, too. Even when a gardener tries to eradicate them, they can still survive in the soil and quickly begin to multiply at the most inopportune of moments.
What about where the soil consists of weed seeds, insect eggs, or fungal spores? It may be possible to kill them off by exposing the soil to heat. Try placing the soil in a black garbage bag and allow it to bake in the hot sun. This is a form of pasteurization. It will kill off both the harmful pathogens and much of the friendly bacteria. This means gardeners will have to replenish and rejuvenate the soil after pasteurization.
The simplest way to recycle and rejuvenate existing soil is to add some potting soil to the mix. Such solutions are effective and require little manual labor. But, they do come with the disadvantage of potentially introducing industrially-sourced fertilizers, and hormones that may go against the ethos of many “purist” growers.
For those who wish to follow a more holistic route to soil management, then here are several things that will help rejuvenate the soil.
- Consider adding compost to the existing soil in a 30:70 ratio. This may help inject some life and nutrients into the depleted soil.
- Adding vermiculite or perlite will help increase the surface area for friendly bacteria to thrive upon and proliferate.
- Crushed rock dust, dolomite, Epsom salts, and molasses can help introduce a useful range of minerals to the soil.
- Consider adding some microorganisms to the soil mix. Beneficial root bacteria can help support plants and strengthen their ability to fight disease, pests, unseasonal weather, and even poor pH control. Microorganisms also help decompose old roots and harness them into the building blocks for new growth.
For those who would like to go a step further and make their own soil from scratch, then check out our guide to making your own living soil.
Renewing Soild Life
Quality soil that’s brimming with life containing the optimal balance of nutrients and minerals will help improve disease resistance. It can also reduce plant stress, and ultimately save growers money while ensuring improved yields. By maintaining soil regularly, growers ensure that it requires less attention with each passing year. Think of it as a meditation of sorts rather than a chore. And remember, you reap what you sow. So, spend a little time each fall bringing everything back into a state of natural balance. It will pay for itself come the next harvest!