Being a little more earth-friendly while growing not only helps the planet, but simple sustainable practices can save you money and help you grow some amazingly delicious herb. Being more sustainable in the garden might require a little bit of planning, but it is cheaper and kinder in the long run. With earth day and planting time right around the corner, here are seven ways to grow more earth-friendly cannabis:
1. Introduce beneficial insects
Bugs aren’t only for outdoor growers. There is good reason to introduce beneficial insects to outdoor, greenhouse, and indoor gardens. Beneficial insects act as natural pest control, limiting your need to rely on added pesticides, even organic ones.
Some insects, like earthworms, dig tunnels through the soil which allow for better oxygen flow. This reduces your chances of a fungal infection or disease caused by pathogenic bacteria, which thrive in oxygen-less environments.
Here are a few beneficial insects you can introduce to indoor and outdoor gardens:
- Earthworms (natural fertilizer, aerates soil without work)
- Ladybugs (pesticide replacement)
- Praying mantis (pesticide replacement)
- Nematodes (soilborne, pesticide replacement)
2. Build your own vermicompost
Vermicompost is worm composting. Building your own worm bin is not only super easy, but it can save you a good chunk of change on organic fertilizers. The entire process takes 3-4 months, meaning that this is a good thing to get going in stages so you develop a consistent supply.
The end result will be a nutrient-rich soil amendment that is abundant in worm castings. According to the Univerisity of Nebraska Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, these castings have five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus, and 11 times more potassium than ordinary soil.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Worms (redworms)
- Container (old dresser drawer, plastic container)
- Bedding (cardboard, shredded paper, peat moss)
- Non-fatty kitchen scraps (fruit and vegetable scraps)
You can start vermicomposting during the offseason. Your finished castings can be stored for up to 3 years in a five-gallon bucket with air vents. The castings should remain slightly moist, but not wet.
For more info on how to start your own worm bin, read here.
3. Put up bird feeders to attract bug-eating birds
If growing outdoors, putting up a few bird feeders and nesting boxes can attract birds. Birds are a welcome addition to any garden, as they pick off slugs, caterpillars, and other pesky insects that like to chomp on your plants. Plus, bird poop is high in nitrogen.
4. Use compost teas
Believe it or not, it’s possible to grow at home without purchasing a ton of expensive organic fertilizers. A great way to introduce more earth-friendly grow practices is with compost teas.
Compost teas are more or less fermented compost. You can also use worm castings to make an extra nutritious compost tea.
Compost teas are rich in probiotics, sort of like Kombucha for plants. Beneficial fungi and bacteria help release soil-bound nutrients to your plant. To be extra sustainable, you can make compost teas out of unwanted fan leaves from past harvests.
Not only does this reduce waste from your grow, but it adds an abundance of extra food to your plants. They’ll love it!
You can learn how to make your own compost tea here.
5. Go veganic
Industrial animal agriculture is considered one of the biggest beneficiaries to anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change. By some estimates, one-third of our greenhouse emissions come from agriculture. The three primary ways animal agriculture contributes to environmental harm is through greenhouse emissions from animal feces, the devastation of forests that are cut for agricultural land, and water use.
The three primary ways animal agriculture contributes to environmental harm is through greenhouse emissions from animal feces, the devastation of forests that are cut for agricultural land, and water use.
An easy way to be more earth-friendly in the grow room is to stop using commercial animal products like bone meal, blood meal, and fish meal. Many trendy growers are now taking the veganic route, including the legend behind Strawberry Cough, Kyle Kushman. Some growers have even won cannabis cups with their veganic creations. Instead of amending
Some growers have even won cannabis cups with their veganic creations. Instead of amending soil with animal products, here are a few things you can use instead:
- Worm castings
- Compost teas
- Kelp and seaweed
- Trace minerals
- Humic acid
- Mycorrhizal fungi
6. Collect fish scraps from local markets or restaurants
Veganic gardening is not everyone’s cup of tea. Plus, plants seem to love fertilizers made from animal products and fish scraps are going to be thrown away anyways.
To avoid purchasing expensive bone or fish meal and participating in less than earth-friendly industrial farming, another great option is to ask your local butcher, fish market stand, or seafood restaurant if they have any leftover fish bones or heads. These fish bones and heads can then be buried in your soil before planting.
If you eat fish regularly, you can also throw some leftover scraps into the bottom of your hole before planting. Some people go as far as to make a fish head compost tea, which is another great way to skip the commercial fertilizers, which cost money, may not come from ethical sources, may be shipped long distances, and are packaged in plastic containers (reducing your use of plastics is one way to be more earth-friendly in the grow room).
7. Plant some companions
Companion planting is another great way to reduce pesticide use and provide vital nutrients to your plants. Some companion plants are nitrogen fixing, like clover. Clover also makes for a good ground cover in outdoor containers, meaning that less water is evaporated away by the sun, meaning that you can water a little less.
Here are a few companion plants to place near or plant along with your cannabis:
- Clover (nitrogen fixing)
- Borage (uproots trace minerals)
- Basil (repels slugs)
- Rosemary (repels slugs)
- Cilantro (repels aphids, spider mites, and potato beetles)
- Foxglove (attracts insects that kill white flies, poisonous to eat)
- Garlic (natural pesticide and fungicide)
- Marigolds (repels all sorts of pesky insects)