Some critics have dubbed marijuana growing as wasteful and unsustainable. And with the rising popularity of indoor cultivation, this sentiment increased. Maintaining an indoor grow operation, after all, typically demands large amounts of energy. There is also the use of hazardous pesticides and nutrients to think about.
In response, more eco-conscious farming practices are popping up. This includes growing plants “naturally.” Aside from being environmental-friendly, it also coaxes the most out of the plants while saving up on costs. Sounds too good to be true?
But growing marijuana naturally is precisely that – and more. Whether you are cultivating outside or inside the house, there are easy ways to make the growing operation greener. This allows you to enjoy homegrown buds without depleting the planet’s precious resources or destroying the ecosystem.
How to Grow Marijuana Naturally
Growing marijuana plants naturally is all about being eco-friendly and sustainable. You would have to steer clear of chemicals and other toxins that could harm the environment. You also need to keep all aspects of the growing operation efficient – including the use of water, nutrients, and electricity. This way, you get to lower your ecological impact while saving precious bucks.
This approach, however, is more than just cost-effective and clean. It also allows you to grow superior marijuana buds – especially in terms of purity, potency, aroma, flavors, and overall quality.
Before diving into it, however, there is one thing we need to get out of the way. Natural does not equate to organic. The two concepts are related but entirely different from each other.
Growing organically typically includes adhering to strict guidelines regarding the use of fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, and other substances. The restrictions vary from country to country. In the United States, for example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the main deciding body, although there are other organizations involved. While growing organically ensures the quality, safety, and purity of the harvest, it is not always the most efficient and productive approach.
I. Outdoor Cultivation
If you live in a state where outdoor marijuana growing is legal, then make sure to take advantage of it. It is cheap, straightforward and allows you to grow plants the way nature intended it. Cannabis seeds, pots, and soil are the bare minimum you would need to get started. You may also have to invest in testing kits and fertilizers for even better results.
Remember, when growing outside, you are in direct contact with Mother Nature. Pollution can be a real concern. It often arises from using synthetic nutrients and pesticides, most of which contain noxious chemicals. When released as run-off, they contaminate the air, soil, and other non-target organisms – including humans. As if that is not enough, they could also harm beneficial microorganisms – especially in the long run.
Aside from avoiding these chemical-laden products, there are other things you could do to make the grow more sustainable.
Choose the Suitable Strain for Your Climate
When growing marijuana outdoors, doing it naturally means capitalizing on what is already available. That includes the local climate and terrain. That said, make sure to stick to a cannabis strain that best thrives in your specific region. Otherwise, the plants may not develop to their fullest potential. Not to mention, you may also end up using more water and nutrients to keep them in top shape.
If you live in colder climates, go for strains that evolved in harsh environments – most notably, those with Ruderalis genetics or autoflowering weed strains.
Note: Browse this collection if you want only the highest-quality auto-flowering strains.
Indica strains grow well in colder areas too. Incidentally, they also thrive in arid continental climates with hot summers. This is especially true for landraces like Afghan Kush and the Hindu Kush, which evolved in the Hindu Kush mountain range in Pakistan and Afghanistan. To make growing these strains easier, we have Afghan Kush Feminized weed seeds for sale which are perfect for beginners to grow if they are looking for great, hardy indica strains that are guaranteed females. Furthermore we also have Hindu Kush Feminized cannabis seeds for sale which are perhaps a little more difficult to grow but are nonetheless incredibly adaptable to harsh climates.
As for Sativa strains, they originally hail from the equator, preferring warmer climates and longer growing seasons.
Mulch the Soil Bed
Mulching is the practice of spreading organic material over the surface of the soil. Primarily, it acts as a covering that prevents moisture loss and keeping it cool. Put simply, it allows you to water the plants less frequently.
On top of that, mulching also suppresses weeds and makes the garden bed more pleasing to the eye. The most common types of organic mulch include:
- Composted manure
- Grass clippings
- Pine needles
- Shredded or chipped bark
Eventually, these materials will decompose, adding more organic matter to the soil. This, in turn, nourishes the soil microbes, boosting soil fertility and increasing the overall nutrient content. As a result, you get healthier, more robust marijuana plants.
Be Mindful When Watering
Excessive water consumption is another common concern when growing marijuana outdoors. Being aware of proper watering habits allows you to irrigate the plants only when you need to, helping avoid wastage.
As a rule of thumb, you need to drench the crops when the top 4-5 cm of the soil feels dry to touch. Simply poke a finger into the medium. In most cases, it entails watering every 3-4 days. If you live in dry or warm regions, you may have to do it more often.
You have to decide on how to water the crops as well. In most U.S. states, individuals could only grow 6-12 plants per household. In this case, the classic hand-watering technique will suffice. Make sure to water slowly but deeply, ensuring that at least 10-20% of the water drains out of the bottom holes.
If you want to automate the watering process, consider installing a drip irrigation system. This consists of tubes and emitters, delivering the precise amount of water directly to the roots. Whatever happens, do not use sprinklers as these are wasteful.
II. Indoor Cultivation
There is no question about it. Growing marijuana outside is the most natural approach. Unfortunately, not everyone has this luxury. For one, the state where you live most likely prohibits it. Even if it is legal, there is also the climate, security, and safety to think about. Not everyone, after all, has a suitable spot for an outdoor garden.
For many, growing cannabis indoors is the only viable option. However, it has a bad rap for being wasteful and unsustainable. But this does not have to be the case. There are actually a few simple ways to reduce your environmental footprint and make the indoor grow operation more green.
Stick to Feminized Strains
Regular seeds are marijuana seeds in their natural form. These contain both male and female chromosomes, with a 50-50 chance of growing into either of the two sexes. As you may know, only the female weed plants can produce the coveted buds used for consumption. On the other hand, males are undesirable as they could pollinate the lady plants, which lowers the quality of the nuggets.
For this reason, the males are immediately discarded once identified. This happens a few weeks into the vegetative stage after they reveal their pre-flowers. To make up for the lost plants, the practice is to grow twice as many plants.
Does it sound tedious? Well, that is because it is. Even worse, it can be expensive and wasteful. Imagine growing plants that ultimately have to be thrown away – what a waste of precious time, energy, and resources.
With feminized marijuana seeds, you avoid all the extra work and unnecessary spending. These seeds have been genetically modified to remove the male chromosomes. It ensures that the plants would grow into females nearly all the time. The result is a streamlined and highly efficient cultivation process.
Consider Autoflowers or Fast Version Seeds
When growing marijuana indoors, efficiency is a critical concern. One way to achieve this is by having a rapid growth cycle – which essentially means using fewer resources. Fast-finishing strains, in this case, are the way to go.
You have two options – auto-flowering or fast version seeds. Autoflowering weed seeds only take 8-10 weeks to grow from seed to harvest. Keep in mind that they do not rely on light changes to flower – and will do so automatically upon maturation.
Fast version seeds, on the other hand, are photoperiodic. You would have to switch to a 12/12 light schedule to force the plants to bloom. However, they have a much shorter blooming stage of 6-8 weeks – compared to the usual 8-12 weeks of Indicas and 10-16 weeks of Sativas.
Incidentally, both are usually feminized, too.
Opt for Full-Spectrum LED Lights
If growing indoors, you cannot rely on sunlight for energy. This is where artificial grow lamps come in. They mimic natural sunlight, providing the plants what they need to grow and survive. There are several options in the market. And if being eco-friendly is the priority, LEDs – short for light-emitting diodes – are your best bet.
LEDs are among the most efficient light sources, converting about 95% of the energy into light and releasing only 5% as heat. Since the bulbs stay cool, there is no need to install additional ventilation. That – coupled with the energy-efficiencysignificantly reduces power usage, translating not only to lower electricity bills but also less carbon footprint.
With an average lifespan of 50,000 hours, LEDs are also incredibly durable and would take a long time before needing a replacement. On top of that, the bulbs do not contain mercury and other toxic chemicals that could contaminate the environment. In fact, LED lamps are made up of over 95% recyclable materials.
For even better results, go for full-spectrum LEDs. Like sunlight, they cover the wavelengths useful to plants across the different stages of growth.
Train Your Plants to Save Energy
Most – if not all – cannabis training methods are all about increasing the quality and quantity of the yields. This usually entails maximizing light intake – and using the available light energy more efficiently. Doing so dramatically reduces the energy requirements of the crops – all while boosting yields. Talk about hitting two birds with one stone.
There are many ways to go about it, including bending or damaging certain parts of the plant. The most recommended techniques include low-stress training (LST), the Sea of Green (SOG), and the Screen of Green (SCROG) methods.
Cannabis plants need the primary macronutrients – nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) – and several other trace minerals to grow, survive, and flourish. The nutrient requirements also change as the plants mature. In the vegetative stage, for example, calls for higher amounts of nitrogen. Flowering plants, on the other hand, need more phosphorus to stimulate bud production.
Remember, using chemical fertilizers are strongly ill-advised. With that said, here are some of the most natural ways to nourish your plants.
Note: The following nutrients are only suitable for soil-based plants. If you are growing in hydro systems or soilless substrates, make sure to opt for fertilizers specifically designed for hydroponics. Generally, it is not recommended to use natural nutrients – which contain organic matter – in a hydro setup. If you really want to, you would have to install a dual-level hydroponic system. You may also need to use nutrient-rich sprays to increase mineral absorption.
Worm castings – also called vermicast – are worm’s manure. It is packed with essential minerals, beneficial microbes, enzymes, decaying plant matter, and other soil-enriching substances. Even better, it provides the nutrients in a form that marijuana plants could readily access and synthesize.
This prized all-natural fertilizer is easy to make, requiring only cheap and widely available materials. It does require time and patience.
The first step is to prepare a worm bin, filling it with shredded newspaper, composting material, kitchen scraps, and red wriggler worms. Wait for the worms to feed, digest, and convert the organic material into nutrient-rich excrement. This can take anywhere between 3-6 months. Afterward, it is just a matter of collecting the waste by-product.
Worm excrement is exceptionally potent, so a little goes a long way with it. To use, combine it with soil. The recommended worm casting-to-soil ratio is 1:4 or 1:5. As an alternative, prepare it as a worm compost tea or apply it via the top-dressing method.
Compost – also known as ‘black gold’ – refers to decayed organic matter. Like vermicast, it is also jam-packed with essential minerals, including the three primary macronutrients. And since it is rich in carbon, it helps nourish the soil microbiota. This enhances the structure of the soil and also helps promote nutrient availability.
You can buy compost commercially or make it at home. To prepare, you simply have to build a mound of damp, organic material, letting it decompose for an extended period. This can take anywhere between 3 months to 2 years. Ideally, the heap should have an optimal blend of “brown” and “green” materials. This includes:
- Shredded paper
- Wood chips
- Straw and hay
- Dry leaves
- Grass trimmings
- Coffee grounds
- Fruits and vegetables
- Food scraps
- Kitchen wastes
To use, sprinkle it liberally on top of the soil bed or add it to the potting mix. Alternatively, you could also prepare it into compost tea, which is then used as a foliar spray.
If the thought of making your own fertilizer sounds tedious, then consider buying commercial blends. There is nothing wrong with that. Just make sure that it is teeming with organic matter (to encourage the soil microbes) and devoid of toxic chemicals. Typically, these professional mixes contain the following ingredients at varying combinations and ratios:
- Worm castings
- Blood meal
- Bone meal
- Bat guano
- Crustacean meal
- Kelp meal
- Alfalfa meal
- Mycorrhizal inoculants
- Humid acid and fulvic acid
- Garden lime
- Epsom salt
Consider Super Soil
Super soil is a genius creation of Subcool – the late legendary marijuana grower and breeder. This highly amended soil is so nutrient-rich that it could support marijuana plants throughout the growing cycle without adding separate nutrients. You would not even need to manage the pH levels as rigorously. All you have to do is water the plants.
Preparing the super soil mix includes taking quality potting soil and adding organic materials. This needs to be composted for 30-60 days. Take note that this process can be expensive and time-consuming. For this reason, it is better suited for large grows. Or, you could also buy it pre-made.
IV. Pest Control
Pests are the nemesis of every gardener – marijuana growers included. If left unaddressed, they could damage the plants and compromise the yields. As mentioned, it is not advisable to use commercial pesticides and insecticides – most of which are packed with hazardous chemicals. They do not only pose health and environmental risks. They could also drastically lower the aroma, flavors, and overall quality of the buds.
But do not worry. There are several all-natural and highly effective ways of combating these troublesome insects and animals.
In the wild, predators feed on prey. You can use this eating behavior to your advantage. If you introduce predatory insects into the garden, they will attack the pesky bugs ravaging your crops. Ladybugs, for instance, can kill as much as 50 aphids a day. On top of that, it also feeds on other soft-bellied critters.
Aside from ladybugs, here are other natural predators you could introduce into the garden. These can easily be bought online or at a local garden store.
- Assassin bugs
- Parasitic wasps
- Pirate bugs
- Praying mantis
- Predator mites
This refers to the practice of cultivating plants that grow synergistically in the same area. Doing so offers many benefits – including repelling pests and attracting natural predators. This allows you to lower the pest population while preventing more insects from invading the garden. Here are some plants that you should grow alongside cannabis for reliable pest control.
- Chili peppers
- Lemon balm