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Anyone can grow marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes. However, it might take some creativity. Producing high-quality plants is a bit more complicated than putting seeds in the ground and adding water. Marijuana plants will not thrive unless the soil is the right consistency and provides nutrients. The good news is that you can create the ideal atmosphere for growth and get excellent results in almost any location, whether you grow in the tropical heat of Southern Florida or the dry desert air of Nevada. The key is to understand how conditions affect plant health and what actions can optimize the growing environment.
Growing in Containers vs. Planting in the Ground
If you are lucky enough to have an ideally located plot of land with fertile soil, planting cannabis seeds directly into the ground may seem like the best option. However, we always recommend that you germinate your seeds indoor first, protected by moist paper towel, and then transplant them outdoors once the seedlings are nice and sturdy. You will need to prepare the ground, ensure the crop has enough water, and continually test soil nutrients. It is worth the work because roots grow more deeply in the earth and become stronger than when they are confined in containers. Water will not wash away quickly, and it is easy for roots in the ground to absorb nutrients.
However, when space is limited, or you want to reduce plant maintenance, containers can often make more sense. It is easier to create the ideal soil for plants when it is contained, which means they will require fewer additives throughout their lifespans. Containers also enable you to move your plants around and keep them in the sunniest areas of your yard.
You might decide to grow cannabis in vessels on your porch or plant containers in a garden. Either way, the size of pots matters. When buying containers that you will put in the ground, consider the dimensions of the garden, and choose pots that mesh well with your layout. If growing wholesale seeds on a large scale, you will also want to consider the cost of each pot as well as the durability if it can last for harvest after harvest.
Some growers use 5-gallon restaurant buckets that initially contained food. They are an appropriate size and may be available for free. Garden centers carry plastic pots in a variety of sizes. They provide drainage, are inexpensive, and simplify transplanting.
You can also find a range of terra-cotta pots that help control moisture on hot days. They are heavy and can anchor bigger plants. Fabric containers, commonly known as grow bags, also work well. They encourage the development of healthy root systems and provide excellent airflow and drainage. It is crucial to select containers carefully because they are part of the growing environment and must allow water to drain as well as give roots access to oxygen and nutrients.
Container Growing Requires Extra Care
With all the benefits offered by growing cannabis in containers, the process does require special care. You have less room for error and will need to monitor growth very carefully. Plants cannot naturally get water and nutrients the way they would in the ground. You are their only source.
It is best to choose the lightest containers possible since you will be transplanting several times. Make sure each pot has enough holes to allow drainage but not so large they let the soil escape.
Outdoor Plants Need Unique Soil Mixtures
To produce maximum yields, all marijuana plants grown from American seeds need the correct balance of nutrients throughout their lives. They must get adequate nitrogen (N), potassium (K), and phosphorus (P).
According to growers at Leafly, the ideal growing environment includes soil with optimal pH levels, drainage, nutrients, texture, and water retention properties. The simplest way to create healthy conditions is to buy prepared fertilizer and use containers. The soil will automatically have balanced pH levels. Garden centers carry a range of soil mixes, and their staff can help you make the best choice. Generally, it is best to begin seeds in basic potting soil, since mixtures meant for mature plants may be too rich.
No matter how good the soil is when you first prepare it, cannabis plants can begin to show signs of nutrient deficiencies. That is because different plants absorb them at different rates. If marijuana crops start to show signs of problems, it is easy to add nutrients directly into the soil or via watering. Be sure to check the pH levels, too. If soil is too acidic or alkaline, plants may develop problems that mimic nutrient deficiencies. Over-fertilizing can also cause a problem. Common deficiencies include:
Nitrogen: Plant leaves begin yellowing and may develop brown spots. Leaves may curl up and then drop. Bud sites and yield also decrease.
Phosphorous: Leaf stems turn purple, and leaves have a blue-green hue. Upward and outward growth slows, copper spots appear on leaves, and dead spots show up on leaf stems. Leaves curl up and drop.
Potassium: Leaves become dull and overly green and can develop rusty-brown spots and yellowing. Younger growth begins curling, and plants develop leaf burn and dehydration. Plants become weak and can become susceptible to pests.
Testing Outdoor Soil Mixtures Is Important
It is critical to test cannabis plant soils often. Their pH levels continuously change as plants absorb nutrients and roots expel waste products. The goal is to keep the levels between 6.2 and 7.0.
Fortunately, garden centers sell a variety of pH meters. Experts at 420 Big Bud recommend investing in a high-quality model. Most meters look like pens. They are placed in the ground to provide pH levels. If readings indicate levels are off, it is easy to amend the soil with additives.
Adding Amendments to Soil
When cannabis plants show signs of deficiencies or pH levels are off, you can add soil amendments to restore balance. There are many products designed to increase water, air, and nutrient retaining abilities. It is essential to use additives correctly, so when in doubt, ask suppliers.
Growers use the following amendments:
- Worm Castings: This is the waste of worms and contains an abundance of micronutrients. Castings are a great source of nitrogen.
- Guano: This is manure produced by bats or birds. It is sold in varieties that are high in nitrogen, high in phosphorous, or balanced.
- Bone Meal: This is a product consisting of ground-up bones from slaughterhouses. It is high in phosphorous. Be aware that it can attract animals.
- Perlite: This is a non-porous volcanic by-product with a neutral pH. It can help improve drainage.
- Kelp Meal: This is made from ground, dried seaweeds and can provide hormones that promote faster foliage and root growth.
- Dolomite Lime: This is a product that neutralizes acidity, which increases pH. It is a slow-acting product.
Loamy Soil Is Ideal for Marijuana
A healthy cannabis harvest depends on soil that allows plants to perform their best. The texture of the soil determines its structure, which can vary widely from one location to another. Most growers need to adjust the growing environment to produce healthy yields. However, if your area includes loamy soil, you are starting with the ideal type of ground.
Loamy soil is easy to identify. You will have trouble forming it into a tight ball that will not crumble. When compacted, it will hold its structure for a few moments before breaking into large chunks. Qualities of loam include:
- Almost neutral pH
- Contains silt, sand, and clay
- Pros: Naturally fertile, good drainage, retains water, easy to work with, retains nutrients, has high oxygen levels, and supports microorganisms
- Cons: Might be expensive to buy
Naturally occurring loamy soil is found in many farming areas, but most cannabis growers need to buy it. Potting soil is the most commonly used form of loam and has its trademark rich, dark texture and earthy smell.
Optimizing Plants for Clay Soil
If you live in an area with clay soil, the natural environment may not be ideal, but you can alter it to produce healthy crops because clay is fertile. Some types absorb water better than others. Clay-rich soils can be found in many places, but are especially common in the geographical areas of Minnesota and Nebraska. Kaolinite clays (used in the ceramic industry) are most commonly found in Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania.
Clays are made of fine crystalline particles formed from chemical reactions in the Earth’s natural resources and minerals. Clay soil can be molded when wet and dries into hard clods or patterns of cracks in the ground’s surface. As a result, the soil is hard to work with and can create problems for marijuana plant roots if they cannot penetrate hard layers.
But there are ways to keep the environment loose and cannabis friendly. For example, growers working with clay plow often, which gives matter more space to breathe. You can add fertilizer, perlite, and other soils, along with lots of fresh water.
If the land is near a wet area like a stream bank, plants may get too much water and develop stem or root rot. Growers facing this problem often create mounds. They are usually 6 inches to one foot tall, so they keep roots safe.
What if You Have Sandy Soil?
The soil in many “hot” areas of the world is primarily made of sand that includes few, if any, nutrients. As tough as cannabis is, it rarely thrives in these conditions because it cannot grow without proper nutrition. Sandy soils have low pH and poor water retention. They dry out quickly and allow nutrients to wash away.
The best solution for those in sandy areas is to buy fertile soil and grow plants in containers.
A bountiful marijuana harvest requires the right soil. Fortunately, growers with less than ideal natural soil can grow plants in containers. The dirt in any environment needs to contain the right nutrients and allow plants to get the necessary air and water. A growing medium should also be pH balanced. You can ensure abundant harvests by monitoring crops, identifying problems, and using soil amendments to optimize conditions. Contact our team if you have any questions about how to determine the best strains to grow for your unique needs.