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Organic Fundamentals

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#1 Guest_J.W._*

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Posted 30 March 2010 - 04:00 PM

Although I'm new to GreenPassion, I've noticed that there are plenty of people on here that share the same passion for growing that I do. While I'm no expert, I constantly try to learn more and improve my own approach to growing Cannabis. In saying that, I've noticed a trend where sometimes newer growers tend to overthink the little stuff and overlook the more important fundamentals that go with growing plants in general. Growing Cannabis has brought many people to horticulture that may not have otherwise been interested, but much of what applies to all plants is also important to growing dank, especially to organic soil growers. I've decided to write some threads that get back to basics and share some important info that helps me, and hopefully helps some of you as well. This first one is about a largely underestimated variable: water quality.

While it doesn't get dicussed much, quality water is actually an integral part of growing any crop, particularly quality cannabis. Everyone knows that crappy water leads to crappy weed, but how many people really know why? Also, how many people spend money and go to great lengths to set up awesome grow areas with top notch soils and nutes, only to skimp out on the only thing more used by their plant in photosynthesis than light: H20.

I, personally, have always heard that water was important, so I blindly followed some safe rules; I used tap water for much of the plants' lives, but always let it sit out for at least 24 hours to let the chlorine evaporate, always used the cold tap at a slow pace to fill my watering jugs up to avoid rust and heavy metals, and always used distilled water for germination, clones, seedlings, and flushing before harvest. I didn't really know what these minerals, metals, and rust found in tap water do to plants -- and more importantly growing medium -- so I did a little digging, and there's some interesting things I'd like to share, through my weed-minded interpretation. First off, if you use plain tap water that's sat out at least a day, do you check the pH every time? Not only is tap water inconsistent when it comes to pH, but I think many people will find that their tap water is often acidic. Also, as many may already know, organic nutrients release N slowly over time, and as the N breaks down, only N in the form of NH4+ or NO3- can be used by the plant; more has to be fed to make it to to the plant's cells. Furthermore, Nitrogen degrades more readily AND is more easily leached through the soil than P or K, which is why many farmers of other crops intercrop with legumes and other N regenerating crops, to keep organic sources of N available in the soil. Anything other than H20 in the water plays a huge part in retention and displacement of N in the soil.

As we all know, flowering Cannabis LOVES its P. Phosphorus during peak flowering is almost endlessly used by the plant. Plants extract P from the growing medium in the form of orthophosphate ion, such as H2PO4- or HPO4-. Phosphorus is much competed for between soil minerals and the plant's root system, and when P is free in the soil solution, the soil usually wins. Iron oxides, aluminum oxides, and other minerals in the soil latch onto free phosphorus through a process known as "sorption". Once this happens, the P is unavailable for plant uptake. If your cannabis plant's water is full of these oxides, much of the P you're feeding is not making it to the plant. Just the inconsistency of the battle between soil and plant for P would probably confuse the hell out of us growers, as we'd wonder why our plants are so wishy-washy. Also, the heavy metals found in most tap water do not leach out much, so they build up more and more from each watering. The good news is, is that the P builds up, too, as it doesn't leach as well as Nitrogen, but it takes some experience and trial and error to feed different strains how they prefer, as we all know.

Potassium, or "K", is also needed in fairly large amounts, much like N. K is used by all plants for water retention in cells, immunities to diseases and pests, stem strength and rigidity, and can even play a part in how well a plant's fruit(dank weed) ripens and lasts after harvesting. K is easily leached, also much like N, and adding Cal-Mag to cannabis not only gives them Calcium and Magnesium uptake, but this Calcium and Magnesium in the soil also displaces Potassium(K) in the medium. Potassium deficiency makes plants look sickly, and causes leaves to spot, leaf tips to scorch, and the leaves and eventually the plant to weaken and die. Most people don't have too much of a problem with K in Cannabis, but it is nonetheless important.

The point of all my stoned rambling here is that water plays a big part, as it's not only essential to the plant, but for many weed growers it is the vehicle by which they deliver their nutrients. Other elements of the water also play a huge part in how the soil retains these nutrients, and if they're available for plant uptake. With organic farming, there is a lot going on in the soil, and to make sure these organic amendments are retained an used by the plant, our water must be as pure as possible. Until I really looked into it, I had no idea! I'd like to use distilled water all the time, but wouldn't be able to afford it. I may invest in some decent filtration device, just to see if this impacts my grows.

Since this was interpreted and put in my own words, a lot of it may seem like opinion. I can't cite where I got all of the info, as this was a combination of previous knowledge, one of my grow books, and an online source, but much of what I found was on the online source, such as the info on sorption and organic nutrient uptake:


Comments and thoughts are always welcome. I'd like to hear people's water sources and what they think about it in general. Thanks for reading this looong post! Hope it helps!!:)

Edited by jangel, 16 May 2010 - 04:03 PM.

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#2 Bueller


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Posted 30 March 2010 - 04:10 PM

j-dubya.. Excellent posting and explanation of uptake and the importance of water in the life cycle of our plant. I recently added the importance of changes in rural water supplies during Spring snow melt. My spring was perfect until the snow melted and changed the Ph of my supply. What had been stable for 8 months changed overnight. The hard lesson learned was as you so ably stated, the Ph can and will change. I now check daily. Kudos, this rocks! Pete
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#3 Guest_J.W._*

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Posted 30 March 2010 - 04:41 PM

Now I'd like to add another post on some fundamentals to keep in mind, which kind of relate to water quality. In organic soil growing, many people focus on individual N-P-K values of their amendments, as well as how much "stuff" they can do directly to their plants. However, one thing that I think is often overlooked is the care of the soil itself. Cultivating the soil and ensuring that the soil is breaking down and aerating correctly is crucial to the plant's nutrient uptake. When mixing your soil mixes, be sure to mix the soil and amendments EXTREMELY well, leaving no clods or clumps and making sure that all the ingredients are mixed throughout. Also, many organic amendments such as dolomite lime(for pH), cottonseed meal, oyster shell, and others take time to break down before they even affect the soil or can be absorbed by the roots. Don't be impatient or lazy, or you will notice a difference in the end. When water goes through the soil and carries nutrients through the plant, this is called the "transpiration stream". This is when the water passes through the soil, and a small percentage is used for nutrients and photosynthesis; much of the rest carries waste out of the leaves through evaporation via the stomata, i.e. "transpiration". If your soil is clumpy or doesn't aerate well, water will not be absorbed evenly throughout the root ball and soil, and you will get dry spots, which cause oodles of problems. This can especially be a problem with organic soils, which have worm castings and other things that need to be cut to aerate well. Poorly broken-down soil also causes much of the water to drain through cracks in the soil, preventing the soil from even absorbing water, and basically just causing runoff. This can also lead to higher humidity, and the most common rookie mistake with soil growers -- overwatering! Don't water your plants until the soil is fairly dry and your plants are actually in need of water, when the stems are flexible just before the leaves start to droop a little. This may sound hard to do, but trust me. It's the actual draining of the water and the transpiration over the course of a couple days after watering that delivers oxygen and nutrients to the roots, not the actual wetting of the water itself. Once you get a good feel for it, you can actually tell a lot about the plants' water needs just by lifting the pot. If you water too often, this can also cause high humidity -- if the plants cannot absorb and transpire the water, then the soggy water has to go somewhere. If you have poor ventilation, watch out. Mold, root rot, and oxygen deprivation are all possibilities with overwatering. To make sure your soil drains well and will not cause air pockets, use a fork or other cultivation tool to break up as much of the topsoil as possible before watering, making sure NOT to damage or expose roots. When you water, water slowly around the entire topsoil until you just start to see water drain out all around the bottom, and then stop watering. Watch to make sure the top is uniformly damp and that the water drained well throughout the medium. Dry pockets can stunt a plant's growth, cause uneven root development and kill dried-out roots, and fool you into overwatering. Root development as well as humidity play a huge role during flowering especially. The humidity will close stomata and possibly cause moldy buds; roots that dry out from dry spots will miss out on that water that returns those sugars and carbs that the plant produced, which makes those molasses and sugar teas you gave almost useless.:) The point of this long post is that the medium is just as important as the plant, so put in the work and treat that soil right.

Edited by jangel, 16 May 2010 - 04:04 PM.

#4 jangel


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Posted 30 March 2010 - 05:04 PM

Excellent information j-dubya! You are already adding to our knowledge. Welcome!
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#5 Guest_J.W._*

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Posted 10 May 2010 - 12:41 AM

Thought I'd update this thread and add a quick write-up while I was thinking about it. :) As you can see above, I take pH very seriously. Although pH consistency is very important, for organic soil growers, it certainly doesn't have to be complicated. One of the main fundamentals any soil grower has to keep in mind is how fast each unique soil amendment breaks down. Nitrogen is the quickest-leaching macronutrient, but some nutes and elements take longer to break down in the life of the soil mix, just as some affect pH differently as this breakdown occurs. The simple part is that soil growers -- especially in organics -- can make great use of dolomite lime in their mixes to balance the soil. Again, the main thing to keep in mind is that lime takes time to break down and balance the soil -- usually at least a month of a normal watering and drying schedule, and even longer before it really starts to break down and neutralize, depending on the amount used and a few other factors, of course. Take my current situation, for instance. :) I am currently growing out four young seedlings that are just over a month into veg. I transplanted all four into 7 gallon pots of a supersoil mix three days ago, and watered good. This supersoil is lime-infused, but can still run a little hot initially. Anyway, you know how when you first water fresh soil how it's fluffy at first and sinks unevenly when it dries after its first watering? I'm going to use this to my advantage tomorrow, by taking some BioBizz light, which is low-nutrient soil, and mixing a little lime into it. I'm then going to topdress each of the four big pots with this light soil, just enough to even each out just under the pot rim, and then water each one well. Although my supersoil has lime in the mix and has been cooking for two months before use, this added light, lime-enriched topsoil will break down over the next few weeks, even quicker since it's at the top for each watering and all the light absorption. I still have another month of vegging and an 8-week flower to go, so this added lime comes into play perfectly at a critical time: the last few weeks of flowering. This ensures that my pH won't fluctuate too badly after each watering later, and also provide even more of a continuous release of Calcium and Magnesium, which the plant can take as it needs. As long as I also keep my water pH-balanced throughout the grow, then this simple task should close a lot of doors for problems later on. I want to reiterate that I'm not trying to be super-smart:study:, I just want to share some insight for those who would like to enter the world of organic cannabis, with some semi-technical reasoning behind some basic techniques. I enjoy reading about growing organically, and if even just a couple people enjoy reading this or can put this to use, then I'm happy! :)

#6 SandiaMts


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Posted 10 May 2010 - 01:14 AM

J.W., I, for one, am enjoying your information! I am someone new to growing and will hopefully be starting soon. I will be "attempting" to do this as "organically" as possible...my issue is that I live on SAND! Literally! I live in the high desert so trying to make soil is tough....not impossible as I have a compost pile that has been going since the winter (rough time to start but we have the space!). So for now I am using Fox Farms Light Warrior for starts and Fox Farms Ocean Forest for vege/flower. I will be mixing in perlite at 30%. Would you consider that Organic for the time being? I really want to be as close to that as possible as I am NOT a fan of chemicals in principle. Thanks for the assist!
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Posted 10 May 2010 - 11:00 AM

That is definitely an organic mix, and a fairly good base to start with. Fox Farm is a decent soil, and although some of their nutes are chemical-based, all of their soils are organic. I prefer Biobizz soils though, if I can find them (and afford them). I'd really like to get my hands on some of the Roots Organic that Sub and some of the other west coast guys have available, but I can't get it here. Anyway, the best organic advise I can give to beginners, is don't make any more than one change at a time, and be patient when making changes, because organics take time for changes to show and the magic to happen. I'm no expert, but if I can help you in any way, just ask! J.W.

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Posted 10 May 2010 - 12:07 PM

thanx for the info.

#9 mediuse


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Posted 11 May 2010 - 03:20 AM

Thanks JW...good read. My Name is medi-useA, and I'm an overwaterer! Aahhh..feel better now I' got th@ off my chest:) I grow mainly hydro because I have not yet learned the patience and I need my Buds ASAP. However, I AM 'practicing patience'...and learning somewh@...:) Now I'm getting to the stage where I can dedicate a cab to soil growing, and time to it too. Have you looked into how the magnetism of the water can effect growth?...some fascinating info out there...:) muA
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Posted 11 May 2010 - 12:27 PM

No, I've never heard anything about the magnetism of water affecting growth. Unless you're talking about EC; I do know that more dissolved salts and solids (TDS) raises the electrical conductivity of the water and soil, which affects absorption, and is a form of magnetism I guess. I'll look into that medi-useA, and thanks for the kudos. Oh, and SandiaMts, one other thing about your soil mix that you mentioned: I think you'd get better results if you cut back the perlite to 10 or 20 %. The FF soils already contain perlite, and too much perlite is actually bad, as it's inert, takes up space, and can clump or stratify to the top of the soil. If you can get your hands on some worm castings, definitely add that, as it's literally magic stuff. I'd add no more than 20% castings though, and be sure to cut the mix with a little extra Light Warrior if you can, as worm castings can harden like mud sometimes.

#11 JohnBlazino



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Posted 14 May 2010 - 10:58 PM

Great thread... in your opinion Would spriing water be a good option?
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#12 Guest_J.W._*

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Posted 15 May 2010 - 08:00 AM

I would say yes, but it's really a case by case basis. The only way to really tell is to check the pH and ppm of the water, and if that checks okay, give it a go and see how the plants respond. Sometimes springs have a lot of sulphur and other stuff. Also, make sure if you use it that it's not too cold, as some spring water can be and this could shock plants. Spring water seems like it'd be pretty clean though, but you never know what runoff can put in water. . .

#13 philly4life


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Posted 16 May 2010 - 09:46 AM

wow, amazing thread JW. i have been growing for a little while now and i am finally going to make the jump to organic. I have wanted to do it since the beginning but i wanted to develop a little bit of a green thumb first, which i can proudly say i have (largely thanx to this place). anyway, i am deff going to take all of this information into account. My local coop will allow you to fill ur own 5 gallon water jugs, unlimited, for only 15$/year. It seems interesting, but also a little sketchy--I will have to see what the water is like in the new house first. Luckily, where i am in VT give me incredible access to several different prepared organic soils, as well as various local organic nutes. I am only going to experiment with one organic plant of each of my strains this next grow and then decide what to do based on results. Keep the info coming please, it is some great additions to the site.
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#14 Guest_J.W._*

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Posted 16 May 2010 - 12:40 PM

No problem, I'm glad I could help. If something pops into my head, or if it's something I'm dealing with in my current grow or something I learned in the past, I will post it up. Thanks for reading! I'll try to keep fresh material posted. J Dubs

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Posted 13 June 2010 - 03:40 PM

Often times as growers, we feel the need to do as much as we can to help our plants along their life cycle. Especially when first starting to grow, we stare at the plants or mess with them, almost like a fascination. While it is true that the plants obviously need some care to do their thing, the truth is, we often tend to "overprotect" our plants, so to speak. In nature, a plant has many obstacles to face just to stay alive, much less what ideal circumstances are. Although these natural factors do stress the plant, which is probably one main reason why drug cannabis isn't the natural state of the plant, plants are hardy and built for this type of stuff -- especially a weed like cannabis :love: I happen to have the belief that less is more. There are often less drastic steps to take than what first comes to mind, especially when our plants display problems. Overreacting is probably even worse than not doing anything at all, because then you not only can't track all the changes you make and the results, but you throw the plant from corner to corner, almost like in a wrestling ring. As an organic soil grower, I like to see a fade in my plants toward the end of flower. Getting to know each individual strain's -- or even plant's -- feeding and growing needs is important, because you want it to start at the right time. One thing that you want to avoid is a situation where your plant starts fading in like week 3 of flower. One thing that many soil growers overlook that is still an organic solution in between feeding and doing nothing is epsom salt. I know that most of you reading this have heard of this, but the trick is to use it almost like insurance, just as I talked about adding the lime a few posts back. Often times, the first thing to fade in the plant's store of nutrients is Magnesium. Epsom salt is an excellent solution to prevent this, and adding a teaspoon per gallon of water and feeding it once early in flower can really do no harm, only help. The reason I even mention this, is because I've seen a few threads that show plants in flower, where the grower faces an issue of either a fading plant or an unbalanced mix. Adding a souped-up fertilizer to try and play catch-up is not the answer; plants do not work like this. Baby steps. A couple of the situations I saw in these grow threads, epsom salt was the perfect place to start. Not only did these posts get me thinking of epsom, but coincidentally, my plants are finishing their second week of flower. They were looking great today, but I gave them a shot of epsom salt with their plain water, just to make sure the soil can keep up with their budding needs the next couple of weeks. As for seriously deficient plants, even if the plant is showing a Nitrogen deficiency, you want to take it easy when supplementing nutes, as in soil, you're not going to see results right away if you do it right anyway. Always make changes in increments of strength and frequency, especially when dealing with plants that are already stressed.

#16 GeeGee


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Posted 13 June 2010 - 05:40 PM

very well said J... good stuff!
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#17 jangel


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Posted 13 June 2010 - 05:57 PM

Very well said, JW! Keep them coming!
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#18 Guest_J.W._*

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Posted 14 June 2010 - 04:44 PM

I wanted to follow up my last post with further info concerning epsom salt that you all can chew on. One thing I didn't mention is that although epsom is far from being synthetic and could certainly be considered natural, many organic purists and TLO or "True Living Organics" growers advise against using epsom salt. Some claim it's because retail epsom salt isn't technically organic, while others go so far as to believe it can act funky with the beneficial fungal and bacterial activity in the soil. I personally have had success using epsom with my organics, even if some consider the practice "psuedo-organics". It's really the only way I stray from organics, and I have not seen any evidence of my epsom in my mix or in a diluted watering cause any harm to my soil or the plant when used properly. Besides, I consider epsom a natural amendment despite its non-organic label, and as I said, you can overdo anything, which has to be avoided with epsom salt like anything else. Just a little more background on the use of epsom salts with organics. J Dubs :)

#19 dvusjay


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Posted 13 July 2010 - 05:42 PM

love all of the organic info, istead of epsom salt, just the word salt worries me, try this much better for the mico life, k-mag(also sold as sul-po-mag langbeinite or soft rock phosphate execellent sorceries of sulfur and mag. plus the fungi love it. i only use epson as a spay as the last resort.

#20 Bluesky73


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Posted 14 July 2010 - 09:59 AM

Thanks for the information. I think organics is the only way to go. I'm not so convinced that epsom salt is the way to go unless there is a deficiency problem. Peace.

#21 KaeaneabisSativas


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Posted 16 December 2011 - 06:15 PM

Jumping on board this, just so I can have easier access to it.
Awesome info guys! Smoke a bunch 4u all!!!

So be very Happy about your assistance and info helping out another, this was a very helpful and enlightening thread for me...
Thank you...

Edited by KaeaneabisSativas, 16 December 2011 - 06:21 PM.

#22 froggymountain



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Posted 17 December 2011 - 08:04 AM

I use RO and distilled water. PH is a real problem here in Rural Michigan. Farmers all around and tons of industrial chemical poured on crops: RoundUP (glycophosphate), Fertilizers, gases. After a good rain or snow melt run-off can be so filled with nitrates and phosphates that the water is undrinkable - whole house filters help with that (except for drinking - no drinking even filtered tap water. Drinking water is usually distilled. Plant water is definitely RO with an activated carbon polisher and distilled for propagation. I've seen TDS PPM as high as 300-400 in raw water. wouldn't feed that to my plants - and certainly would not drink it. With the EPA recently announcing RoundUP ® Glycophosphate as dangerous to human health, there is even more reason not to use ground or public water directly on plants - herbicides kill plants - as well as humans. http://www.epa.gov/iris/subst/0057.htm http://yosemite.epa.gov/water/owrccatalog.nsf/9da204a4b4406ef885256ae0007a79c7/4a93e80ab9deb36f85256b0600723ab0!OpenDocument

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