Growing cannabis is a tricky feat on it’s own, but this can seem more difficult if you are trying to grow naturally – that is, without the use of pesticides. However, with the right information, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, growers often rely too much on man-made products and pesticides.
In order to maintain sustainability in the cannabis industry, a more natural route is ideal. So, how do we achieve a successful cannabis garden without using pesticides or other chemicals for that matter?
Prevention is Key
The first step to minimizing pesticide use, and growing a more natural cannabis garden, is prevention. This is the key to everything because, at any given time, pests can easily make their way into your cannabis garden with the aim of destroying your hard work. By following these prevention tips, you can help to mitigate pests and the damage they bring.
- Use Sticky Traps – These can be placed at different heights and in different areas throughout your cannabis operation in order to keep pests at bay. Positioning them on floor level and towards the top of the grow are ideal. These traps should be inspected daily.
- Plant Bush Beans – These are a magnet for spider mites, and the damage is easily visible on the foliage. It is a great method for staying on top of any potential infestations.
- Inspect The Crop – Inspecting the entire crop regularly, preferably with a magnifying glass, is a great way to keep tabs on pests and makes it easy to notice any warning signs.
- Cover Your Bases – One particular method used by some growers is to introduce a small number of predators for the major pests in the area.
Maintaining Plant Health
Another major preventative technique is to maintain plant health; healthy plants are far less susceptible to infestation and damage than an unhealthy plant.
Tips for Outdoor Grows
If you are an outdoor grower who wants to produce healthy plants with solid yields, without pesticides, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Use Mulch – A layer of mulch (such as straw, shavings or leaves) will help keep water in the soil.
- Plant Tightly – Planting your cannabis seeds tightly together helps to shade the soil and reduces evaporation after watering. It is important to note that cannabis planted this way are easier to manage hydration-wise, but they do require ample nutrients in order to remain healthy and produce ideal yields.
- Water Smart – Using mulch and planting your seeds close together can both help you to be more water-smart. In addition, watering in the evening can reduce evaporation. Another tip is to water deeply only twice a week once the plants are approx. a month old. This will help encourage them to develop strong, deep roots instead of staying along the surface.
- Choose the Right Strain – Perhaps one of the most important tips for growing healthy plants that are strong enough to withstand the environment and potential pests, is to plant a strain that suits the climate. For example, if you live in a dry climate, Durban Poison or Afghan kush can be good options. For those living in a wetter environment, Super Silver Haze and Strawberry Cough can be good places to start.
Tips for Indoor Grows
If you are an indoor grower who wants to produce healthy plants with solid yields, without the use of pesticides, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Install Full Spectrum LED Lights – Using full-spectrum LED grow lights are one way to ensure healthy, robust plants. These lights will actually produce higher yields with less output as LED lights use about half as much energy as HID lights. In addition, LED lights stay cool and require less ventilation and are less likely to cause heat burn.
- Choose Feminized Strains – Planting feminized strains is a far more efficient way to grow, unless you are planning on breeding. If you are not planning to breed your plants, then essentially you have spent 3-6 weeks worth of resources growing a plant that, once identified as male, will be tossed away.
- Grow Quick Flowering Strains – Choosing a strain with a quicker flowering time leaves less room and time for errors or pests to grab hold. Strains that finish flowering around 8-9 weeks are ideal.
- Train Your Plants – Another tip for maximizing indoor grow space to produce healthy, viable plants is to consider plant training. Low stress training or Sea of Green techniques can be very beneficial for maximizing light access for the entire plant, which will boost the yield and reduce energy costs.
Major Pests and Deterrents
One major reason for continuing to use pesticides and other chemical products is as a pest deterrent and remedy. However, the best deterrent is proper prevention techniques and can be done without the use of any pesticides. One of the best ways to do this is by introducing predators to your garden to manage the major pests.
Spider Mites are one of the biggest threats to cannabis gardens – and a huge pain to get rid of. Fortunately, there are three options for beating spider mites. The predatory mite, A. fallacis, is a general predator that will spread throughout the crop and help manage pest infestations. Another option are S. punctillum (Stethorus) beetles which easily track down spider mite hot spots well before you do. If a hot spot does break out, P. persimilis can quickly knock down the hot spots.
Another frustrating pest that are known to make their way into cannabis grows are thrips. To thwart these particular insects, there are two things to do. The first is to plant a marigold in the garden, somewhere near an entrance, as bait for thrips which love this plant. Another option is to introduce A. cucumeris is a predatory mite that is very effective at managing thrips and other mite infestations. Another option is soil-dwelling mite S. scimitus (Stratiolaelaps) or G. gillespiei (Gaeolaelaps) which work best in soil and can feed on many pests, including thrips and spider mites. They can be applied throughout the crop, but particularly on the marigold if you have one.
Another highly common infestation pest are aphids. The best predator for these guys is A. aphidimyza (Aphidoletes), which is surprisingly effective in the larva stage later growing wings and becoming an even more avid hunter when they reach adulthood. Another alternative is the Brown Lacewing, which is a great predator in all stages of life and particularly beneficial to outdoor crops.
Are You Harvest Ready?
Once you have taken your pesticide free grow to the harvest stage, you will want to keep that organic frame-of-mind through the trimming and curing stages. One way to do this is to employ a bud trimming machine that has a non-stick Quantanium coated tumbler, which is food safe and negates the use of any trimming sprays, which could affect the quality of the finished bud. These Quantanium non-stick tumblers are available for the entire CenturionPro bud trimmer line-up from the Tabletop Pro to the Gladiator and 3.0 commercial machines.