Hello growers, patients, and stoners alike. Today I'm going to be talking a bit about dirt. In our circles dirt can mean a few different things. So to clarify, dirt as in growing medium.
You can buy the best cannabis seeds known to man, without anything to grow them in, they become just one of few natural human foods that you can completely sustain your life with. In my region of the United States the dirt is heavily laden with clay, this is not ideal for optimal growing conditions of the cannabis plant, or for that matter, many plants at all. Growing optimal cannabis takes a bit more care and attention to the soil when these conditions are present.
You may ask, "How do you know if your soil is overly clayey?" There are a few indicators to overly clayey soil that do not require having a soil test completed. Take a look at these next photos, these photos display some of the common characteristics of clayey soil.
Notice the cracking, the hard crust like formation of top soil. Underneath this layer, that is approximately 0.75 inches(about 19mm), the soil is no longer dry or as compact. This is a strong indication that your soil has a high concentration of clay.
What do you imagine will happen to any water applied to these surfaces. Do you think the water is going to be absorbed? Or do you think the water will pool? Actually, the water pools up until it runs off filling the cracks, this creates tiny rivers that usually flow out and away from the base of the plant. Even once the water run off has subsided, the pool of water will sit for an extended period of time before it is absorbed into the soil below.
This can present catastrophic issues to your grow and affect your results in many ways. Let me touch on a few of those for a minute. Let's imagine you are feeding your plants with soil teas(liquid fertilizers), usually the correct method for the applications involve diluting the concentrated fertilizers in to H2O(water). Now if your soil has this clay predicament, do you think your plants will get that correct feeding? I would say no. As the water runs off through the rivers formed by the cracks, it in-turn carries with it some of the needed nutrition. Thus that measured feeding can not possibly be 100% of what you need if 25% - 30% is running off. This run off can then lead directly to an issue of nutrient lock as an abundance of the nutrients run off most likely to a particular spot, over doing the ratios in that location of your garden.
Another downside to having the water pool up for an extended amount of time above the soil line is that the water usually is in direct contact of the main stalk. With the main stalk continually sitting in standing water, you increase the chances of fungus and mold. A plant is cellular, it absorbs moisture. Think of what you skin looks like after soaking it in water for a extended period of time. In a sense, that pruning effect can happen to you cannabis too, degrading the epidermis.
So, what in the hell can ya do? First off smoke one, it makes every situation less stressful! There are some things you can do that I practice myself. Every year I turn my garden, with a spade shovel by hand. I do this multiple times, breaking up the clumps each and every time. I let the entire garden dry out in between turnings. Once you have completed this process you should be able to toss your spade shovel up and into the garden, with it landing buried into the ground up to the foot rests(About 10"-12"[254-304.8mm]).
Another thing you can do is to completely replace your soil down about 18"(457.2mm). This can become an expensive endeavor though. You need to replace enough of the dirt as to not form sweet spots. A sweet spot is an area of phenomenal soil surrounded by low quality soil. A plant that is grown in a sweet spot may have a root system that does not properly spread its way throughout the soil. Confining the roots inside the sweet spot can present root binding, poor nutrient uptake, and rot to name a few conditions undesirable to the grow.
Some growers use mulch to keep that top layer moist, some add sand to help keep the clay separated. There are many other things one can probably do to remedy this issue, I personally just turn the garden each year, and continually break the top surface of my soil to prevent the formation of the cracks and to add air to the top soil. This air as I will talk about becomes the key to why clayey soil gets hard in the first place.
By breaking up the soil in this manner, when I add my water it is immediately absorbed into the soil. This ensures the nutrients that I want to feed each plant will remain at the plants location and that the roots will have the proper moisture surrounding them. You might ask, "Why does this end up returning to a hard surface after you have broken it up?"
Soil that is overly clayey is dense, as the water rains down onto the top of the soil, the impacts force the air out from between the clay and to the surface to escape. This makes the soil more dense, now once the sun comes out and the moisture of the clay is evaporated, the clay losing its water content shrinks. This is what causes the cracking and also pulls the soil away from the base of the plant in some cases exposing the delicate roots.
Knowing this, I always break the soil pulling toward the plant base. This allows for soil to be redeposited around the base of the plant protecting the roots from the soil pull away condition. Also knowing that it is the air being forced from the soil that creates such adverse problems, I have a board that runs through the center of my garden. I do not go off the board, this focuses all my compaction from walking into one area that I do not use.
Soil is a big factor in growing the finest cannabis, with the proper care there is no reason why you can not achieve great results in clayey soil.
Growing In Clay
Was Grown In Clay
Remember Last Years Snow White?
Hope you took some knowledge with that bowl today! Keep growing!
Until next time, toe toe toke it up!