Understanding Organic Growing
Non-organic refers to any kind of plant food that has been predigested in a laboratory before it is placed in soil. “Organic”, by way of contrast, refers to gardening with natural plant nutrients derived or composted from dead leaves, bushes, grass clippings, bat guano, liquid fish or seaweed.
In this guide, we are going to teach you how to grow marijuana and we’ve included a comprehensive checklist of all the tools, materials and magic ingredients you will need to begin growing your marijuana the organic way. We will also make sure you know how to care for your cannabis during the seedling, vegetative, pre-flowering, flowering, harvesting and cloning phases of ganja growth.
Tools for Growing THC Checklist
Here is a list of tools you will need to grow your own organic marijuana. You can find most of these items at hardware stores like Lowes, Home Depot or you can order these items online from Amazon.com.
- Journal or online spreadsheet
- Compost bin (or large patch or ground)
- Plastic tarp or plastic kid’s pool
- 7 to 13-gallon garbage cans
- Masking tape
- Sharpy marker
- Paper towels
- 12 or 16-ounce plastic cups
- pH testing pen
- Misting spray bottles
- Lighting (we use 315-watt bulbs. Combining different wattages can yield amazing results too.)
- 24-hour on-off auto-timers
- Electric fans
- Five-gallon grow bucket
- Five-gallon food grade plastic bucket
- Air stone bubblers
- Air pump
- Cotton bag
- Small LED microscope
- Gardening sheers
- Glass mason jars
- Rooting solution
Magic Organic Marijuana Ingredients Checklist
You will need the below materials to make organic soil, fertilizer and compost teas to feed to your growing cannabis plants. Many materials for composting such as dead leaves and lawn trimmings can be gathered at no financial cost. The other elements can be found at major hardware stores and local gardening centers. Obscure items such as Azomite and humic acid can be found and purchased online at hydrofarm.com.
- Cannabis seeds of your choice – order them online and they should come with plenty of helpful instructions for you to follow as well.
- Carbon-rich materials (dead leaves, straw, plant and tree trimmings, pine needles)
- Nitrogen-rich materials (manure, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable peels, seaweed)
- Coco fiber
- Rock phosphate
- Epsom salts
- Azomite (trace elements)
- Cup sweet lime (dolomite)
- 1 tbsp of powdered humic acid
- 1 kg of bat guano
- Blood meal
- Steamed bone meal
- 1 bottle of pH Up
- 1 bottle of pH Down
- Neem oil
How to Compost for Cannabis
Composting helps recycle natural waste from fruits, vegetables, indoor and outdoor plants back into soil where this organic waste feeds the microbial life forms that help us grow new crops of fruits, vegetables and plants including cannabis. “Organic marijuana” is cannabis that is grown in organically composted and fertilized soil.
You can begin the composting process by collecting enough carbon and nitrogen materials to make four to five gallons of soil per pot plant that you intend to grow. You want your compost pile to contain about 30 parts of carbon to 1 part of nitrogen. Dry leaves have a carbon to nitrogen ratio of 50:1 and coffee grounds, fruit and vegetable scraps have a C:N ratio of 12:1 giving you a total ratio of 62:2 or 31:1 if we reduce it, which is close enough for our ideal compost ratio.
A store bought compost bin will save you some time and labor by keeping your carbon and nitrogen ingredients at a temperature of 50 to 60 degrees celsius to speed up the decomposition of your compost pile into fresh soil. You can also do cold composting if you have the time and don’t mind doing a bit of extra work.
Simple Steps to Make New Soil
- Start your compost pile with a four-inch layer of brown or carbon materials.
- Add another four-inch layer of green or nitrogen materials.
- Use a thin layer of finished compost from your last pile or alfalfa, blood or bone meal or on top of the brown and green pile as an activator to invite microorganisms into the pile to begin the decomposition process.
- Add new layers of carbon, nitrogen and thin layers of activator until you have a pile of compost that is at least three feet high and three feet square to generate enough heat to sterilize your materials into soil.
- It will take about two to five months for your materials to decompose into soil in warm weather depending upon how often you turn your compost pile. You’ll eventually notice steam rising from your compost in the morning. You’ll know that your compost has decomposed into soil once it is soft, crumbly, dark brown or black and it smells sweet.
How to Make 420 Fertilizer
Now you’re ready to mix some of the compost base soil you made into the ultimate 420 fertilizer. This tried and true recipe was first developed by Subcool, the head breeder ofTGAgenetics. You can also purchase Subcool’s super soil mix online as well even though theWeed Nerd himself will tell you that mixing your own super soil will make your marijuana grow healthier.
- First, spread a layer of your composted base soil with coco fiber and mycorrhizae on a large plastic tarp or in a plastic kid’s pool.
- Spread .75 kg of rock phosphate, 1/8 cup Epsom salts, 1/4 of cup azomite (trace elements), 1/2 of cup sweet lime (dolomite) and 1 tbsp of powdered humic acid on top of the base soil mound
- Add a new layer of base soil on top of the powdered nutrients.
- Now add 1 kg of bat guano and a new layer of base soil followed by 1 kg thick layers of blood meal and steamed bone meal each with layers of base soil.
- Mix everything together with a spade then transfer it to garbage cans with 10 liters of water per can and leave your mix to cook in the sun for 30 days. This will allow helpful microorganisms and fungi to enrich the soil.
Thomas Jefferson’s Hemp Diary
We highly recommend beginning a grower’s journal to write down daily feeding, watering, light and heat cycles as well as any big setbacks and breakthroughs in order to learn from mistakes and replicate your successes. Select seeds from your favorite strain of marijuana and soak them in a glass of water to begin the germination process.
- Make sure to mark the strain of the seed with a marker and masking tape on the glasses if you are working with more than one strain.
- Leave the glass in a warm, dark place. Dry seeds will float when you first place them in water. They will absorb water and sink to the bottom in a few hours.
- Remove the seed when you see the little white taproot emerge from the shell. Don’t leave seeds soaking for longer than 32 hours as they can drown.
You can also place the sprouted seeds between two layers of damp paper towels for about 24 hours and leave them in a dark warm place to sprout them as well.
How to Keep the Seedling Safe
- Don’t forget to label the strain of the seed on the seeding cup if you are working with more than one plant.
- Make sure you don’t touch the taproot with your finger!
- Plant the seed, taproot pointing down in a 12 or 16-ounce plastic cup, under just enough composted, but unfertilized soil to cover the root from light, but not deep enough to prevent the seedling from breaking ground.
- Don’t move the seedlings around too much until they’ve reached the vegetative phase,
- Keep them warm, and start giving them constant light as soon as the stem emerges from the soil.
- Keep the soil moist but not wet with properly pH’d water and a spray bottle.
- You can also cut a plastic soda bottle container in half and put it over the seedling on top of the soil to help both moist under your lighting.
How To Properly pH water
pH is a scale of acidity and alkalinity. It’s necessary to check the pH of the water that you give to your cannabis plants because they need a slightly more acidic medium to digest and break down all of the organic nutrients that you’ll be feeding them. Checking and adjusting the pH level of your water is a simple process.
- Leave tap water in an open container for 24 hours to de-chlorinate it.
- Use pH tester drops or a pH tester pen to determine the pH of your water.
- Add pH up and/or pH down to your water to keep it within an optimal pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.
- Use your pH tester, add drops from a bottle of pH up and/or down as necessary and retest to get the acidity of your water within the ideal range.
- Spray bottles are ideal for keeping the soil of your seedlings moist without agitating, over watering or drowning them with poured water.
- Moisten your marijuana plants at least twice a day at this stage. You can cut clear plastic soda bottles and stick them into the soil over the seedlings to retain extra moisture.
The Seedling’s Little Saga
The seedling will break ground and two small round embryonic cotyledon leaves will push out of the shell within in 2 to 5 days, then the first pair of baby serrated marijuana leaves will emerge and over the next few days your baby pot plant will sprout leaves with 3, 5 and 7 points depending upon if you are growing an indica, sativa or hybrid plant. Some of the smaller leaves near the buds can grow up to 9, 11 or even 13 points.
Leaves of Ganga Grass
Large cannabis sativa leaves can have up to thirteen long, slender, pronounced, jagged, spiky serrations. The coloration of sativa leaves ranges from light to dark green. Sativa leaves can come from either female plants from which we harvest the cola buds we smoke or from the male plants known as hemp. Hemp plants produce more CBD than THC but are typically grown for a mind-blowing array of renewable, eco-friendly, industrial, planet saving purposes.
Cannabis indica leaves typically grow much shorter and wider than sativa leaves into seven to nine, olive-green leaflets. The cannabis indica plant itself is often much shorter than the sativa plant as well. Indica seeds often require a slightly shorter flowering time of 45 to 65 days compared to 60 to 90 days for sativas. You’ll want to check the instructions that come with your seeds for their specific flowering times.
Is Ruderalis for Real?
Cannabis ruderalis is a wild strain of cannabis commonly found growing naturally across Central and Eastern Europe. It typically has more CBD than THC cannabinoids and typically is not used recreationally. There is some debate as to whether cannabis ruderalis is actually its own species of cannabis. The leaves of the ruderalis plant possess five to thirteen leaflets and are very similar to those of an indica leaf except somewhat smaller and narrower.
Growers have experimented with crossbreeding ruderalis and indica plants in an attempt to create strains with shorter growing seasons. Ruderalis crossbreeds with sativa and indica have produced strains that flower automatically without having to reduce the number of hours that the plant is exposed to in order to trigger the vegetative phase into the flowering phase.
Time to Veg Out
Your plants of either strain should reach the vegetative phase in about 1 to 3 weeks. Sativa plants stay in this phase a bit longer than indicas and can grow up to 6 feet indoors whereas indica plants grow up to around 3 feet. The roots of the eight-inch baby plant will reach the fertilizer and grow into a two to three-foot tall adult plant in three to six weeks depending upon how much energy you can help it consume.
- Move them to a 3 to 5 gallon grow pot after the taproot outgrows the cup you rooted in.
- Don’t forget to mark the name of the strain on the growpot if working with multiple plants.
- Fill the bottom 1/3 of your grow pot with the super soil fertilizer and the top half with your composted base soil.
- Plant your new reefer root in the topsoil. Planting the root directly in fertilizer will give it nutrient burn.
- Use auto timers to ensure that you give your plant 16 to 18 hours of fluorescent light per day while they vegetate.
- Keep the air in your grow room warm between 72 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Use fans to keep the air circulating
- You only want to water your weed when it’s dry. Overwatering can kill your cannabis while its vegging out. Allow the top few centimeters of soil to dry out before you water your weed. Your plants will be much sturdier at this stage than they were as seedlings and you should pick up your plants to get a feel for their weight. Water them with pH balanced water when they feel light. Their leaves will droop and they will look limp and lifeless if you have been under watering them.
- The plant will need lots of nitrogen rich foods such as liquid fish and seaweed which you can feed your plants with compost teas.
Potential Signs of Plant Stress
Just because your pot plants are vegging out doesn’t mean that you can get your couchlock on just yet! There are many potential challenges ahead that could prevent your baby cannabis plants from ever flowering. The good news is that Subcool’s super soil formula is intended to prevent most of the nutrient deficiencies that could potentially kill your cannabis. It’s still important that you know how to identify and address these common issues if you want to ensure that you harvest your weed however.
The leaves of your pot plants are clues to all sorts of issues that your plants could potentially encounter during the growing process. The leaves will show specific discolorations and deteriorations if the plant is deficient in key nutrients.
Source (All photos below): http://www.thenug.com/galleries/diagnose-your-sick-marijuana-plants
Abnormal or thick growth tips, rough or hollow stems, and the yellowing or chlorosis of new leaves are signs of boron deficiency.
Calcium deficiencies are often accompanied by other deficiencies with their own signs of distress. Small, dead, crinkling brown spots on the leaves are the major sign of calcium deficiency however. Distorted colored tips on new leaves are another sign.
Your plant will have trouble growing taller, the leaves will curl back and change unusual colors if it has a copper deficiency. New leaves will grow in dark and twisted while older leaves will fade yellow or white.
Your plant will also be stunted if it has manganese deficiency. The leaves may eventually shred apart and die due to manganese deficiency. Yellowing in the veins and the appearance of brown spots on the leaves are your early warning signs of manganese deficiency however.
An orange, red or pink discoloration at the edge toward the middle of the leaves is your first tell tale sign of molybdenum deficiency.
The leaves of your pot plant will turn yellow, wilt inward and upward and will fall off starting with the oldest leaves near the bottom of the plant if it deficient in nitrogen during the vegetative phase. Yellow leaves due to nitrogen deficiency are normal during the flowering phase when the buds are nearly ready for harvest however.
Slow overall plant growth, weak stems and dark heavy claw-like leaves are signs of a toxic excess of nitrogen.
Stunted growth with dark gray or purple patches on the leaves indicates that the plant is lacking phosphorus which it is vital throughout its lifecycle and which it especially craves when it flowers.
The plants will become stretchy, the stems will become weak and the older leaves near the bottom will start getting dark and scorched lesions will appear around the edges of the leaves as they curl and die due to potassium deficiency.
Chlorosis yellowing will spread from the back of the leaf to the front if the plant is deficient in sulfur. The older leaves near the bottom will turn pinkish red or orange, Any growing buds on the plant will die off.
The veins of younger leaves near the top will turn yellow and start dying off if the plant is deficient in Zinc. There will also be less space between new nodes and the leaves will start bunching up. Any bud growing on flowering plants will begin to die at this point as well.
Other Signs Of Plant Distress
Your leaves will grow firm, drooping and curling down towards their stems, starving for oxygen if you overwater them. If this is the case, you’ll need to cut back on watering and give them time to recover. You can try increasing the temperature from the lights and your airflow if you are growing indoors to speed up water absorption. You can also poke some holes in the soil with a pencil to give them some oxygen. Your plants may also require a better drainage system.
The serrated edges of the leaves will begin to curl up if they are exposed to too much natural or artificial light. You’ll see yellow and brown burn spots on the leaves if they receive too much light or especially direct contact with a bulb. To alleviate these issues, decrease the intensity of your lighting and increase air circulation with fans to help your indoor plants recover. Hang a large cloth, sheet or build some other source of shade for your outdoor plants. Water them in the early morning and late evening to help them retain water and recover from outdoor heat and light stress.
Nutrient burn first appears as random spots around the edges of the leaves which will curl downward if you’ve overfed your plants or perhaps if you’ve planted your rootling too close to the fertilizer. You’ll want to cut back on any inorganic nutrients or compost teas you’re feeding the plant and flush it with de-chlorinated pH’d water.
Again keep in mind that you are more likely to run into most of these issues if you are using inorganic methods. Subcool did all the trial and error for us in order to root out these deficiencies and you’ll easily be able to grow mouthwatering ganja if you stick with his recipe. The compost teas we will teach you to brew will help prevent these deficiencies as well by adding extra nutrients and microorganisms to naturally unlock the organic fertilizers you buried deep down in your grow pot.
You will still want to consistently check the pH of the water you give the plants even if you are utilizing organic methods. Boron and copper deficiency are often triggered by water with a pH content above or below the ideal 6.2 to 7.0 range. Manganese deficiency is typically triggered by pH content that is too high. Molybdenum and nitrogen deficiency are specifically triggered by pH that is too low, so use water that is pH’d at 6.5 to 7.0 to try and clear it up.
How to Brew Organic Compost Teas
Compost teas are the organic way to add fungi and other microorganisms to break down the nutrient-fertilized soil at the bottom of your grow pot for the big hungry reefer root to easily absorb during the plants vegetation and flowering periods.
- You can begin to make your own compost tea by filling five-gallon bucket with water.
- Oxygenate it with air stone bubblers and an air pump for a few hours to purify it of chlorine and other contaminants.
- Then, fill a cotton bag with compost, guano, and a bit of molasses. Submerge and steep the cotton compost tea bag in the bubbling oxygen-rich water for two days.
- The tea will be most effective for an hour after it’s ready, so make sure to spray the tea on the plants leaves and roots as soon as it’s ready.
Organic Pest Control
The fungi and microorganisms in your compost teas and organic soil provide an extra advantage as organic deterrents to other pests such as spider mites whiteflies and thrips. Spray a mixture of neem oil on the tops and bottoms of your leaves to keep these pests away.
The stem of the plant will grow thicker and begin growing more nodes where new branches with more serrated leaves as it continues to vegetate. Your ganja will eventually slow down its upward growth and start filling out with more nodes and branches. Calyxes will start to emerge at the nodes where the branches meet the stem of the plant. Allow your plants to veg out for 4 to 6 weeks in order to grow 4 to 6 different leaf branches. It should be 18” inches or taller before you are ready to move it to the flowering phase.
Some strains of cannabis have been crossbred with ruderalis strains to flower automatically without having to adjust your plant’s growing conditions. However most strains of cannabis will continue to grow into sticks and leaves without any of the flowers’s medicinal qualities unless the amount of light it receives is reduced. Check the instructions that come with the seeds for your specific strains to determine when to trigger their flowering phase. The plant is ready for flowering once it is standing strong and well nourished at your desired height.
- Use auto timer lights to give your plants 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness in order to make the plant think that it is harvest time.
- Make sure that the air temperature is between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit and keep the air moving around the room with fans.
- Start feeding your plants phosphorus compost teas made out of bird, bat and insect guano as opposed to the nitrogen based teas you were feeding it during its vegetative state.
Most seeds you buy should be feminized unless otherwise indicated, however you should stay vigilant and check for male plants anyway since they will pollinate and ruin the cola buds you want to harvest off of the female plants. The sex of your cannabis plants will reveal themselves after roughly 10 days of flowering conditions.
- You will see little green banana-like sac structures on the node regions of the plant where the leaves meet the main stem If you planted any male seeds. These male plants must be separated from the female plants if they are found before the little green sacs burst open releasing pollen which can fertilize the cola of the female plants thus ruining the psychoactive potential of their trichomes.
- You can identify female, also known as sinsemilla, plants by the white hairs that emerge from the pear-shaped bracts at their plant nodes. It’s important to remain vigilant and to separate and destroy any hermaphroditic plants with female glands and male leaves which carry the potential to pollinate and ruin your psychoactive sinsemilla.
Marijuana Harvest Time
You’ll know when your cannabis plant is ripe for harvest when the hues of the pistils from the cola buds transform from milky white to reddish orange.
- Use a microscope to check the color of the heads of the trichomes oozing out from the ripe cola buds. You’ll know that your buds are ready for harvest when the trichome heads turn from clear to milky and opaque and eventually amber. The presence of more amber trichome heads will likely indicate a higher CBD to THC cannabinoid profile ratio in its trichome resin.
- Stop feeding your plants compost teas as soon as you see the first amber trichome heads. This will make it taste cleaner when it is eventually smoked. Only feed it dechlorinated properly pH’d water whenever the topsoil is crusty and the plant feels light. Keep the temperature between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit and keep the air moving around the room with fans.
Trimming and Drying
You will potentially begin picking up to half of the buds off of the plants to begin drying, curing and smoking them before the whole tree is ready to be cut down and fully harvested.
- Use a pair of gardening shears or a strong pair of scissors to cut the trunk of your pot plant at its base from the roots so it can be dried.
- Proceed to cut the tree into smaller branches, trim away all the large leaves down to the stem and all of the leaf tips stuck in the buds. The leaves and stems can be saved in order to be processed into cannabutter for edibles and cannabis concentrates.
- String up and hang the bud-sticks upside down from lines of twine in a dark cool room at a temperature around 70 degrees Fahrenheit with a humidity level of 40 to 50 percent for 4 to 6 days.
- Keep the air circulating in the room with fans. The smell should be powerful by now!
Curing Your Buds
The curing process breaks down the left-over chlorophyll in the buds which will make your marijuana taste like grass or old hay. It will be harsh and unpleasant to smoke unless it is cured which accentuates the subtle aromas and potency of the bud’s terpene resin. Curing also decreases the chances of mold forming on your marijuana.
- The buds should now be filled just below the top of wide-mouthed glass mason jars and briefly opened every day in a room kept between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 to 3 weeks in order to cure the buds.
- Shake the jars around and move any really moist buds away from each other. Leave the jars open for two hours a day when they are still wet. Leave the ganja jars open for 15 -30 minutes once the buds are moist but not yet dry and ready to smoke.
- Leave your weed covered in glass mason jars or even freeze it to keep it from getting crunchy until you’re ready to use it.
It is possible to yield multiple harvests from the same cannabis plant by rejuvenating or re-growing it.
- Leave about 10% to 20% of the plant’s main stem, strong branches, leaves and small flower buds in order to rejuvenate it. The more you leave on the plant the faster it will rejuvenate.
- Remove the roots from the soil and prune any brown, defective roots and transplant them into a fresh batch of composted topsoil with 1/3 fertilized soil underneath.
- Feed it fresh nitrogen compost teas to introduce new microorganisms into the organic soil medium.
- Turn your lights back on the plants for 20-24 hours a day. Keep the air warm and circulating and water them with pH’d water.
They should start showing signs of new growth within 2 to 6 weeks. Some of the new growth will look like mutations and it will need to be pruned before you re-trigger the flowering phase 10 days after you trim it by reducing light back down to 12 hours. Many growers will rejuvenate their favorite plants and keep them exposed to no less than 16 hours of light every day in order to make them perpetually vegetate as mother plants from which clones can be endlessly grown.
Clones will root faster if taken during a vegetative as opposed to flowering phase.
- Sterilize a razor blade and your hands with rubbing alcohol.
- Cut a green low-hanging branch with two or three nodes from a longer branch on the stem.
- Immediately place the stem in properly pH’d water.
- Apply rooting gel to the cutting and plant it into a growing medium such as rockwool cubes fresh composted soil in a 12 to 16-ounce cup.
- Keep the leaves of the new rootling exposed to light for no more than 20 hours a day. Water it with pH’d water. Keep the soil moist and the small plant domed with a cut soda bottle.
- It will take about two weeks until the root is large enough to transplant into the same 1/3, fertilized super soil lower layer and a standard base topsoil for the subsequent vegetative, flowering, harvesting and potentially new cloning phases
Become an Organic Cannabis Farmer
Do you have all the stages of the marijuana growth cycle memorized? Do you know all the ingredients and steps in making compost for cannabis, super soil and compost teas by heart? You certainly don’t need to! Becoming an organic ganja farmer is a step by step process. Cannabis grows fast, but not so fast that you won’t be able to refer back to this guide and your fellow community of growers as a resource to help you raise your reefer step by step.
- Take it slow and start by collecting all of the materials and magic ingredients you will need in order to grow cannabis.
- Review how to compost and fertilize soil first. Make sure you know how to properly pH water and be prepared to start making compost teas before the seedling reaches a vegetative state.
- Start your own grower’s journal to keep track of your plant’s daily progress.
- Study up on the dos and don’ts of the seedling stage when you are ready to germinate your ganja seeds.
- Get a feel for when to water your plants by picking them up and feeling how dry the top layer of soil is while they are vegetating. Pay careful attention to the leaves for signs of distress during the vegetative stage as well.
- Use auto-timers to trigger the flowering phase. Make sure you know how to spot any unwanted male plants so you can keep them from ruining the rest of your cannabis crop.
- Pay attention to the color of pistil hairs on the buds and use a small microscope to look for amber trichome heads which tell you when it’s time to harvest and trim your buds.
- Don’t skip the curing phase! Open your mason jars once a day long enough to let your cannabis properly dry out.
- Keep the cycle going by re-vegging as well as cloning as many more cannabis plants as you possibly can!