Providing cannabis plants a soil abundant in beneficial microbial life is the secret behind utilizing organic nutrient sources.
Nutrient Cycling in Nature
Nature decomposes material that increases the soil structure of soils and fosters microbes.
How does it work: A leaf falls down from a tree in a forest, covering the ground. Sitting there the dead leaf now starts to break down, being decomposed by the environment and microorganisms. This natural decomposition process creates food and habitat for microscopic fungi and bacteria, as well as larger organisms like earthworms.
Essentially this is how a forest grows itself. The dead leaves fall to the floor and enrich the soil from which it came. This natural process helps sustain and grow the forest without the need of human intervention. Most plants in the world already depend on this age-old process of working with microorganisms to obtain the nutrients required for growth from the soil.
Fungi and bacteria work together to break down organic material. In soil, speeding up the decomposition rate means that plants can utilize nutrients from organic material quicker.
Bone meal, blood meal, chicken manure, and nutrient-rich compost are all examples of organic matter that are not all readily available for your plants absorption. These are slow-release fertilizers. Some of the nutrients, are released and absorbed quickly, while others must be ‘mined’ down into smaller particles in order to be absorbed by a plant. This means the fertilizer needs to be broken down further in order for it’s nutrients to become available for plant usage.
Best way to speed up this process?
Just maximize the beneficial fungi and bacteri
Dead material sources are full of nutrients, which is why increasing the fungi and bacterial levels in your soil is an effective way to help cannabis plants absorb more nutrients from the soil.
Try this experiment in a local forest:
- During fair weather, find a thick pile of fallen leaf litter underneath a tree.
- Dig into the leaf pile until the topsoil level is reached – you may see white saprophytic fungi on leaves as you get deeper.
- Pull back the topsoil and take a look at the plant’s roots. If you see a white fuzzy fungi growing directly on roots then you’ve found mycorrhizal fungi, a naturally-occuring beneficial fungi that forms on plant roots.
While most of what is covering leaf litter, mulch and compost is actually Saprophytic fungi, the fungi that grows on plant roots is what’s called Mycorrhizal Fungi and it helps plant absorb nutrients.
Mycorrhizal fungi has a symbiotic relationship with plants. What mycorrhizal fungi does is live as a host on your cannabis roots.
Why does it need a host? Because the roots contain much-needed carbohydrates for the fungi as well as a home.
So what do plants get in return? This beneficial fungi helps to feed the plant nutrients from the organic matter broken down in the soil. This plant-fungi association is in order to create a larger habitat for the fungi to live on – it’s win-win situation for both the plants and fungi in most circumstances.
While saprophytic fungi are the main decomposers of the fungal kingdom, mycorrhizal fungi has been shown to be responsible, either directly or by association, for the creation of strong enzymes that break down dead material sources in the soil.
Benefits of mycorrhizal fungi plant associations include
- healthier plants
- quicker growth
- enhanced resistance to pests and diseases
- increased drought resistance
- reduced transplant shock
- higher yields
Creating an optimal soil environment for mycorrhizal fungi to flourish is the backbone of the True Living Organics method which is based off of this book written by the Rev.
True Living Organic practices are not strictly for outdoor growing. Fungus and bacteria will still be doing it’s job indoors too 🙂
Organic Soil Mix Considerations
Mycorrhizal fungi is extremely delicate and can be wiped out easily. Be careful not to use any salt-containing fertilizers such as most readily available chemical fertilizers. Adding salt to fungus will simply dehydrate it, similar to putting table salt on a slug.
Keeping the soil’s aerobic bacteria levels high is a key to success in True Living Organic growing method. Make sure your soil has a weath of aeration – TLO mixes generally consist of roughly 1/4 perlite. Using perlite in the soil is basically like having a bunch of artificial air pockets throughout your mix. Microbial life needs to breathe, and will flourish in air-filled environments, taking advantage of these air pockets.
Coco-coir is also a major addition, fluffy, airy and retaining 10 times its dry weight in water. Be sure to rinse the coco-coir out thoroughly: soak coco-coir in a bucket and draining out water out 2 or 3 times – being a coconut product, coco-coir more often than not contains salt.
Compost teas are extremely effective when done right, creating a type of microbial life explosion in the soil. Be sure to to aerate compost teas correctly, or you could be doing harm to integral micro-beasties instead of helping them. Read a compost tea how-to article here – http://www.finegardening.com/brewing-compost-tea
FoxFarm’s Happy Frog fertilizer comes loaded with mycorrizal fungi as well as bat guano, kelp meal, alfalfa meal, fish meal and humic acid. A safe bet for True Living Organics soils, this cocktail of fertilizers is ideal for your plants. Happy Frog fertilizer is slow-released and can be applied mixing directly into your soil, sprinkling onto your topsoil or making ‘spikes’ (probe a hole into the root-zone soil, filling with the fertilizer). Happy Frog is a genuine wonder-product for organic growers.
For information about building an optimal soil-mix maximizing mycorrhizal fungi, check out SKUNK magazine & the Rev.
The Rev’s book True Living Organics: The Ultimate Guide to Growing All-Natural Marijuana Indoors is essential reading for the organic grower, and certainly not just indoor growers. The Rev explains the delicate symphony of soil microlife in an easy-to-read format suitable for readers of all levels. You will learn how to create a healthy micro-beastie friendly enviornment in your soil and the dangers you must look out for. Worm farms, organic tea mixes and soil amendments are all covered in depth. The book also contains detailed instructions on creating your own ‘TLO’ (True Living Organic) soil mix, complete with a wide variety of nutrition for plant. Part of this system focuses on pumping up the aeration of your soil in order to create a better habitat for mycorrhizal fungi. Fungi needs air to grow, and will flourish in properly aerated soil.
For those interested in the science of True Living Organics, you should pick up Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web. Written in an entertaining style, this book explains the fundamentals of microorganisms in your soil, and how they can benefit your plants. It also explains why chemical fertilizers are detrimental to soil health, injuring the microbial life of the soil food web. You will learn about the science behind why feeding your soil will in-turn feed your plant and how pumping up your microlife will increase your plants performance and nutrient availability.
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