The purpose of veganic cultivation is to make nutrients in the soil bioavailable all the time. Maintenance of the soil is the most important aspect of veganic growing. This is done with a number of different techniques and considerations in mind, such as preparing compost tea and maintaining pH levels.
Quite simply, veganics is vegan organic gardening—organic growing that does not make use of animal products. Proponents of veganic growing claim that their product is cleaner, tastier, and healthier than regular or even organic cannabis, and that it is possible to achieve higher yields than with standard organic cultivation.
What are the main principles of veganics?
The concept of veganic gardening has been around since the 1940s. Techniques were first developed by horticulturalists Maye E. Bruce, Rosa Dalziel O’Brien, and Kenneth Dalziel O’Brien (son of Rosa) as a means to prove that healthy crops could be produced without the use of animal waste products (on the basis that they are detrimental to overall soil health).
As animal products are not acceptable in veganic gardening, soil health must be maintained by specific application of vegetable wastes in the form of mulches and microbe teas. The original methods were specifically designed for outdoor cultivation, but the principles have been adapted to suit other techniques.
Veganic cultivation aims to make nutrients 100% bio-available at all times. This means soil microbes (mainly bacteria and fungi) must be abundant and healthy, so they can process the maximum amount of nutrients from as little added feed as possible, as well as devouring dead root mass from the growing plant. The latter ensures that plants may take up nutrients at full capacity, the former that there are sufficient broken-down nutrients to supply its needs.
Techniques for veganic growing
Veganic cultivation is not difficult, and it is suitable for novice and experienced growers alike. These techniques are also applicable outside of growing cannabis, so the rest of your garden can benefit too! We have put together the techniques of veganic growing and listed everything you should consider when transforming your garden into a vegan permaculture paradise.
1. Choosing nutrients for veganics
Growing veganically does not necessarily require a truck-load of expensive nutrients—in fact, it is possible to do so with some widely-available feeding systems. The Bio range from Canna in particular uses no animal-derived products, and a crop grown solely with it can be called veganic. However, there are various products that can be incorporated in a veganic regime, and there are even complete veganic cultivation kits in development.
Be sure to use certified organic nutrients—depending on your country, there may be one or more certification authorities. Do your research, and if the stipulations for organic in your country seem to be lacking, why not order from a neighbouring country with more stringent standards? Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland are all good options.
2. Importance of soil microbes in veganic growing
A healthy balance of soil/substrate microbes is the key to successful veganic cultivation. Microbes break down nutrients in the soil to a form that is far easier for the plant to take up through its roots; according to proponents, with correct use of veganic products, nutrient uptake should be closer to 100%.
Synthetic nutrients may have uptake rates of just 20-25%. Furthermore, many synthetic fertilisers actually damage the microbe population in the soil, as well as causing soil acidification and depletion.
Beneficial microbes ingest decomposing plant matter and excrete nutrients in a broken-down form. Beneficial microbes include several Actinobacteria species, several Bacillus species, Cyanobacteria, Pseudomonas and Trichoderma, as well as many other bacteria and fungi.
When preparing mulches or compost tea for your vegetating plants, choose nitrogen-rich plant matter as your base; when preparing for flowering, use potassium and phosphorus-rich materials. For vegetating, alfalfa, nettle, spirulina algae and kelp are good choices; for flowering, look for burdock root, rhubarb and wild yam root.
3. Making microbe tea for veganics
Making a good-quality microbe tea will do the job perfectly. Also called compost tea, it is possible to produce it from your own compost, provided it is made up of safe ingredients (i.e. no meat scraps, fats, milk or bones).
For those who do not compost at home, prepared blends are available, such as the entire compost tea brew kits, or products from OG Tea (such as the Veganic Special Sauce). These are by far the most popular choices, but there are plenty of cheaper alternatives that will still do the job. Search online, and contact horticultural supply outlets in your local area for more information.
Making microbe tea is as easy as can be, although the process of tweaking the recipe to fit your exact requirements can take some trial and error. All that is required is to steep the compost in aerated water for at least eight hours (if agitating the mixture regularly; if not, leave for 24 hours at least) before filtering the water from the solid residue.
Adding unsulphured molasses provides extra nutrition for the microbes and kicks off the process: 250ml for 5-10 litres of compost is a good rule of thumb. The soaking stage may go on for longer than 24 hours, but most growers agree that after 72 hours, much of the usable nutrients have been processed and fungal growth will take over from bacterial (this may be beneficial in cases of root rot, but is detrimental in normal conditions).
4. pH considerations in veganic gardening
With veganic cultivation, pH is far less of an issue than with other techniques, as the nutrients present are 100% bio-available over the entire range. The acceptable pH range runs from 7.0 down to 5.5, which is too low for typical soil cultivation. Using a professional pH meter that allows readings to be taken directly from the root mass is ideal.
Although pH is less exacting than with other techniques, it is important to remember that it must stay above 5.5 to be healthy. Therefore, microbe tea must be tested for pH and raised if necessary (pH as low as 4.5 has been observed in many microbe tea solutions).
5. Aerating soil & water
Proper aeration of your soil/substrate and water will bring massive gains. Many (but not all) of the microbes in the substrate depend on oxygen to survive and reproduce, and aeration provides several mechanical benefits too.
In your substrate, proper aeration improves air exchange, reduces compaction, increases water retention and overall resilience, and improves uptake of water and nutrients. Air and water have increased access to the root zone, leading to vigorous growth. Outdoors, aeration is typically performed using specialised equipment; indoors, the grower has the option to add light, porous substances such as perlite, vermiculite, pumice and lava to improve aeration.
Aeration of water is a separate process. Water can be aerated by use of an air stone and diffuser or pump; the air stone slowly releases compressed air into the water, while the diffuser or pump circulates it around the container. Aerating the water used to make microbe tea will allow aerobic (oxygen-breathing) microbes to flourish. Generally, aeration of water used for plant cultivation helps break down excess nutrients in the substrate, improves microbial health, and increases the supply of oxygen directly to the roots of the plant.
6. Other important things to remember
Certain additions may have to be made to ensure that your plants are receiving everything they need. Extra phosphorous may be needed, as well as trace micronutrients which may be depleted due to the high level of microbial activity in the substrate. If adding humic acid, pH may need to be raised to keep it within the safe zone.
Kyle Kushman is one of the most notable proponents of veganic growing, and has released abundant information on the best products to use, based on his own use over several years. However, for those who shy away from celebrity endorsements, there are hundreds of products out there that will do the job, so for the discerning consumer it should be possible to find an appropriate set of nutrients elsewhere. No doubt, research will be required to ascertain the perfect blend for your plants—but your efforts will be well rewarded!
- Disclaimer:Laws and regulations regarding cannabis cultivation differ from country to country. Sensi Seeds therefore strongly advises you to check your local laws and regulations. Do not act in conflict with the law.