Plants are only as good as the soil that bears them. Here’s how to improve that soil, on any budget.
And for anyone looking to spark some life back into lifeless dirt, then here’s how to improve cannabis soil on a budget.
Soil quality is an essential factor in any cannabis grow. When soil lacks aeration and vitality, it produces low-yielding plants that are prone to disease and pests. And whether you make a living from growing cannabis, or are a part-time dabbler in the art, we all want healthy, high-yielding, plants. Ensuring the quality of your soil should be top of the list for anyone cultivating cannabis.
Soil is expensive to buy and can be time-consuming and complicated to make. For those who wish to breathe some life into their garden without spending a fortune, then here is a list of cheap hacks that require nothing more than a little sweat and some know-how.
Soil tends to compact when it lies dormant. This makes it difficult for roots to weave their way through the soil and make nutrients available to the plant. One of the most cost-effective ways to clear the way for healthy roots to feed strong plants is with the double dig method.
In what is commonly the first step in improving cannabis soil, it involves digging down two feet into the soil and turning it before repeating. This process aerates compacted soil and primes it for cannabis growth.
Setting taproot plants into soil intended for future cannabis cultivation performs the task of double digging more efficiently, but at nature’s pace. Taproot plants consist of wild grasses and common root vegetables like carrots, beetroot, and parsnips.
Taproots send a dominant root downward from which other roots sprout laterally. It’s the burrowing effect of the roots that helps break apart and aerate the soil. Such natural techniques also help prepare the soil for optimal growth. The roots interact with microbes and bacteria and generate those symbiotic relationships that help promote nutrient absorption and long term maintenance of soil health.
Add Garden Compost to Cannabis Soil
Garden waste is the ideal ingredient by which to improve cannabis soil. Abundant and freely available, this organic matter breaks down via natural cycles to rejuvenate the soil. The most accessible form for the majority of growers is to compost grass cuttings and fallen leaves.
In any compost mix, brown material (wilted leaves) should ideally exceed green material (fresh grass cuttings) by two to three times. By placing three bins side by side and transferring the compost from one to the next every few weeks, the speed at which the material composts increases significantly.
Adding well-composted material to cannabis soil, helps create a healthy environment for the crucial microbes and bacteria that are essential to healthy cannabis plants and their optimal uptake of nutrients.
Mulching Cannabis Soil
This simple technique is cheap and highly effective. Mulching involves depositing organic matter on the soil surface, and in most cases consists of wood chippings. It takes mere minutes to apply, and the benefits far outweigh the effort required.
Mulching improves water retention in the soil and also helps provide the essential compounds for flourishing microbial life within the soil. In addition, it deprives the soil of abundant light and helps keep weeds at bay. A study published in PLoS One (2019) quantified the improvements in soil mulched with organic matter. Researchers noted that two years after mulching, total organic matter in the soil increased at lower depths, and the soil contained increased moisture content.Qu, B., Liu, Y., Sun, X., Li, S., Wang, X., Xiong, K., Yun, B., & Zhang, H. (2019). Effect of various mulches on soil physico-Chemical properties and tree growth (Sophora japonica) in urban tree … Continue reading
Boosting Soil with Additives
The inclusion of some low-cost supplementary compounds can help revive soil and prime it for cannabis. One common issue with subpar soil is a lack of nitrogen. Manure is rich in nitrogen along with a host of other nutrients, and when sourced from local farms, is often available for little cost, if not for free. Just make sure it doesn’t come from animals fed with antibiotics and pesticide-laden grains. Always opt for the free-range, grass-fed, approach. This should ensure optimal long-term soil health.
Another alternative includes the addition of some perlite, which can help improve both airflow and water retention in soil.
Add Rock Minerals to Soil
Rocks are mineral-rich, and when finely-crushed, the micronutrients and trace elements within can help rejuvenate soil that’s lacking fertility. Rock dust doesn’t contain any significant amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK), but it’s the presence of the minerals that help improve plant structure, increase pest resistance, and lead to more potent and higher yields.
Adding rock dust to the soil emulates the processes of glaciation and volcanic eruptions, where minerals get recycled back into the soil. Basalt rocks generally have the best mineral profile, and a thin application can help rejuvenate cannabis soil. Scatter the dust on the soil from a distance with a flick of the wrist to ensure even distribution.
One of the best places to obtain rock dust is from a local quarry. In these places it’s a by-product and an inconvenience. It’s usually very cheap to buy and may even be free, but growers should test it first to ensure it has a useful mineral profile.
The Ongoing Process of Improving Cannabis Soil
When growers avoid the use of chemical additives, they come to realize that soil management is an ongoing process. Mother nature works at a very different pace, and it’s in our adapting to her rhythm where growers can build soil health year-by-year with natural techniques that require minimal investment.
|↑1||Qu, B., Liu, Y., Sun, X., Li, S., Wang, X., Xiong, K., Yun, B., & Zhang, H. (2019). Effect of various mulches on soil physico-Chemical properties and tree growth (Sophora japonica) in urban tree pits. PloS one, 14(2), e0210777. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0210777|