Part of keeping your grow costs low is planning ahead and engaging in a few preventative measures. There is an overwhelming amount of options when it comes to starting marijuana plants. It’s easy to get wrapped up in all the branding and technology, but when it comes down to it, there are only a few basic things you really need to get started with organic, low-cost growing: a container, soil, water, light, some nutrients, and a seed or seedling.
There are easy solutions for items like pots—5 gallon water jugs or utility buckets (like the bright orange ones at Home Depot), or plastic tubs. The plain black plastic pots you see plants in at the store—nursery pots—are very inexpensive and simple as a one-use option that wastes less plastic. Some people even grow lots of small plants in those ubiquitous plastic red cups one sees at parties and BBQs. Almost any container that has drain holes can be used. But, what about nutrients? This is where you can really save yourself some money with just a little bit of effort.
High-tech designer nutrient systems are easily found all over the internet and industry magazines. These certainly have their benefits if you are growing on a large scale, but if you’re working with a personal grow, most of what you need is easily found at your local garden center or big box store, and for a lot less money.
Kelp or Seaweed Extract should be required for all gardening tool kits. Just as this rootless ocean plant is great for the human body, so it is also great for the marijuana plant. This multipurpose wonder serves as a replacement for rooting hormone in a pinch, and it helps to ease the shock of transplant. Dab a little diluted mixture on the exposed spots where clones were taken or topping occurred. It also can be used as a foliar spray and rich source of nitrogen, iron, or up to 60 other nutrients when your leaves are looking slightly funky. Through stimulating beneficial microbes in the soil, seaweed extract helps build more robust root systems. It also has been shown to increase the efficiency of photosynthesis, thus encouraging vigorous growth in the vegetative stage.
Worm Castings or Compost Tea – Compost tea is the most efficient method to deliver the nutrients and beneficial microbes prevalent in regular compost or in worm castings (an extra rich compost that has passed through a worm’s digestive system). High in Nitrogen and Phosphorus, 11 Trace elements in total, compost tea also helps protect your plants from illness and infection, making the need for future interventions and expenditures less likely. If you don’t have the space to manage your own small compost bin, pick up some worm castings near the other organic fertilizers.
Start with a rich soil mix to take a lot of the initial work out of your grow. For the price of the soil you’re also getting a punch of nutrients your plants will love through the beginning of their journey. Mixes vary across geographic region. Look for mixes that contain compost, some kind of sea materials—kelp, seaweed extract, or fish emulsion—and even bloodmeal and bone. Including something like Perlite, to stabilize the water content, can be helpful too.
Once you have your seedlings going in inexpensive containers, with a basic organic soil mix in place and a little seaweed extract poured over the roots, you just need to monitor your plants closely and give them nutrients judiciously. Let packaging guidelines do just that, guide you. Most important is to be mindful of your plants and act when negative changes appear, while avoiding overwatering.
Growing organically in soil helps avoid major PH problems. It is usually synthetic fertilizers that create these issues. The minimalist approach advocated here is particularly stable, making it easier for beginners, or those who don’t have a lot of time to be repeatedly testing their soil. Create an ideal environment for strong, resilient, well-nourished plants to flourish, and then let nature do its magic.
by Kristin Cerda