To Fertilize Or Not To Fertilize? It’s A Complicated Question

Many outdoor gardeners and growers have already started work on this season’s crops so their decision with respect to fertilizing (specifically what type of fertilizing) has most likely already been made, but just like with many other aspects of cultivating cannabis, there are several ways of going about it. It’s obvious to everyone now that climate change is a real issue and that it is a mostly man-made problem (methane from cows is also a huge contributing factor but it’s hard to blame farm animals for their excessive population numbers), so sustainable solutions must be found and pretty quickly at that.

 

In this blog we’ve discussed indoor vs. outdoor cultivation as well as soil-based vs. hydroponic cultivation. We’ve touched on the advantages and disadvantages of each, though it must be said that indoor cultivation, while being able to produce very impressive yields and equally impressive quality, if you do crunch the numbers, it ultimately requires a lot of energy from fossil fuels and contributes to the climate crisis more than combatting it. The idea of using highly efficient LED lighting systems sounds like a lovely idea and of course it would be even better if they could be powered by solar panels. In a small garden for personal use, you might be able to get away with this type of cultivation for a while, but if we are talking large-scale cultivation, unfortunately this is a pretty dirty business as it takes a ton of energy to power giant warehouses (lighting and HVAC costs add up quickly) but also the procurement of fertilizers can also significantly contribute to the problem, especially considering up to 50% of the world’s population is dependent on synthetic ones.

 

Organic vs. permaculture

 

There are of course plenty of solutions to the problem of fossil fuel-based chemicals that are cheap and relatively easy to apply. Even with respect to hydroponic gardening, organic cultivation is a readily available option, but there’s much more to sustainable cultivation than just being organic. Permaculture is a name that has been used increasingly in agriculture of all kinds. It is a combination of the words “permanent” and “agriculture” but is actually more than just those two concepts. Coined in the 1970s, the term refers to “a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.” It goes way beyond being a mere philosophy, for some it is a way of living.

Organic practices aren’t necessarily foreign to permaculture, however. The two can (and should) be easily combined. Organic simply means using the natural carbon cycle to turn plant waste into plant food. A large-scale agricultural operation can certainly work using organic methods, however once the crop is harvested and the produce is trucked off, it leaves the cycle of production, taking with it part of the environment that was used to create it. In permaculture everything would be kept within the cycle and as local as possible, including waste.

 

Store bought vs. homemade

 

If you are adamant about using fertilizers, there are several options available. Synthetic fertilizers such as those used in hydroponics can produce a strange taste in your harvested product and organically grown cannabis is the way to go according to some of the biggest cannabis connoisseurs, so if you have that option, stick to organic. There are many brands on the market that offer good quality nutrients such as BioBizz, Plagron, Advanced Nutrients, GK Organics to name just a few. The downside in using store-bought nutrients is that costs can add up and if you are doing regular flushing on your plants, you are also flushing away the nutrients you just paid for with your hard-earned money.

            To avoid this type of situation, you could go the permaculture route or you can make your own nutrient solution, such as compost teas. This is a much cheaper way of obtaining high-quality nutrients for your plants and even if you do flush your crops, at least you wouldn’t have wasted much money. Additionally, if you are using a compost tea, flushing will not even be necessary as there is no salt build-up to worry about. The nutrients will be absorbed into the soil and will contribute to the underground fauna (microbes) that will drive those highly sought-after terpenes.

The question is not whether or not to use fertilizers at all, obviously they can do wonders for a crop. It’s more about the life cycle of a specific environment that should be considered when growing crops. In short, work with nature, not against it. The rewards of having her as an ally are much greater than if you try to fight her.

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