Growing marijuana organically has never been easier. More companies are offering fertilizers made from naturally derived ingredients and better regulation on fertilizer labeling means growers can make informed decisions on what to feed their plants.
Before we begin this discourse on organic farming it is important to understand what makes organically grown produce superior. In studies conducted by several independent universities around the world, organic produce has been shown to contain up to 60% more nutrition over foods grown using “conventional” methods. In addition to being more nutritious, organic produce is free of trace levels of pesticides, fungicides and other potentially harmful chemicals that may have been used in their production.
Most pesticides that are indicated as “safe” for use up until the day of harvest should not be considered safe for use on flowering marijuana. This assessment of “safe” is contingent on the produce being washed prior to consumption, marijuana can not be washed properly.
Cannabis has the unique ability to thrive in toxic environments that prohibit the growth of other plants. Following the famous nuclear failures of Chernobyl, industrial hemp was planted to physically absorb dangerous radiation. Cannabis is like a wonderful sponge that greedily sucks up anything it can get its roots wrapped around. Because of this tendency, marijuana may be the most important candidate for organic production.
What is Organic Gardening?
The term organic, as it applies to this subject is defined by the United Stated Department of Agriculture or USDA;
“Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.”
There are several organic certification companies that are used by the USDA for testing fertilizer products. Collectively this federal entity is known as the National Organics Program or NOP. In addition to the USDA accredited certifiers there is the Organic Materials Review Institute or OMRI.
Being a revenue generating bureaucracy it’s all very complicated, confused with politics, money, and favors. Also, because of laws that protect trade secrets, fertilizer manufacturers are not required to list every ingredient in their products. Organic certification is expensive and companies that seek this golden seal of approval spend loads of money each year. In addition to this expense, the certification expires after a few years and manufacturers are forced to have their same recipes reevaluated.
Despite bureaucratic shortcomings, this complicated system used in the United States is the best in the world for protecting consumers from potentially harmful chemicals that can infiltrate food and medicine production.
Before liquid organics, growers had a limited field of products to choose from. This often involved “building” ones soil by adding manures, composts, and other plant and animal byproducts. The items listed below are considered soil amendments. Amendments are best added to soil prior to planting, but can be worked into the soil around the base of established plants. The reference information below denotes one example of any given product, actual N-P-K values will differ by brand.
|Blood Meal*||13-1-0||Rapid to medium release|
|Bat Guano||7-3-1||Rapid release, apply with caution|
|Seabird Guano||12-12-25||Medium to slow release|
|Chicken Litter||varies by brand||Rapid to medium release, apply with caution|
|Soy Meal||7-2-1||Vegan, medium to slow release|
|Fish Meal**||9-4-1||Rapid to medium release|
* Not suitable in areas where bears may be found.
** Attractive to bears and raccoons alike.
|Archipelago Bat Guano||0-7-0||Medium to slow release|
|Belize Bat Guano||0-3.5-0||Medium to slow release|
|Philippine Bat Guano||0-7-0||Medium to slow release|
|Fossilized Seabird Guano||0-6-0||slow to extended release|
|Steamed Bone Meal*||1-12-0||medium release, delicious to bears|
* Precipitated Bone Meal in not organic, “steamed” normally is. Attractive to bears
|K-Mag Suppli-Mate||0-0-18||Water Soluble, INFO|
|Palm Bunch Ash||0-0-15||Alkalinity may adjust soil pH|
|Rice Husk Ash||0-0-15||Neutral pH, high in silica|
|Azomite Rock Powder||0-0-.2||Naturally occurring. mined, not processed INFO|
|Glacial Rock Dust||0-0-0||Slow release|
|Canadian Kelp meal||1-.1-1||Often high in humic acid and amino acids|
|TMI, Trace Mineral Additive||0-.5-.4||Derived from montmorillonite. Contains CA,Mg,Fe,Mn|
Often, consumers think they are practicing organic gardening when they are not. While I am not a steadfast proponent of the industry’s current organic qualifying criteria, it is important to understand that OMRI and NOP make the final judgment. So seeing the little OMRI endorsement on the product packaging can actually be very important.
Despite the importance of organic certification there are some exceptions. There is at least one fertilizer manufacturer who has deliberately allowed their certification to lapse. The once certified Earth Juice Original product line has opted out of the organic certification rat race. Earth Juices recipes have not changed, so growers can still enjoy their liquid organic goodness. It is the opinion of this author that Earth Juice original formula Grow, Bloom, and Catalyst offer best in class performance and value.
Products With Misleading Labeling
Fertilizer companies are required to have obtained special certification prior to including the word “organic” on their packaging. However, some manufacturers print the word “organic” on their products as a misleading falsity. They are able to sidestep these regulations by placing the word “based” after organic. Actually the term “organic based” means the product contains a minimum of 15% organic matter, and should not be confused with organic fertilizers. Below are several examples products with misleading packaging.
- Age Old Organics, Bloom and Grow
- Botanicare, Pure Blend Pro
- Earth Juice, Sugar Peak product line
- General Hydroponics, Floralicious Plus
Not everyone chooses to grow organically. There are certainly pros and cons to this decision that can be debated ad infinitum. Please take it to the forum. That being said, the cannabis fertilizer industry is notorious for its confusing and gimmicky product packaging and we think it’s important to know what you are really putting into your plants. If there are any questions about the products mentioned here, or the countless others on the market, please leave a comment below and we will do our best to settle them.