When growing cannabis, it’s important to consider all aspects of the cultivation environment that can affect your plant. These include pests, nutrient absorption, soil quality and more.
A 10,000-year-old technique called companion planting can help you combat many of these problems without having to put in too much extra work. Companion plants also act as a form of pest control and natural cover, which can be essential for the health and productivity of your plants.
1. Soil Fertility
Increasing soil fertility is an important component of any cannabis cultivation operation. It involves determining the nutrient levels in your soil and implementing management practices to bring those levels up. This includes minimizing the amount of chemical and mineral fertilizers used, using organic sources of nutrient and maintaining an optimal pH for your soils.
The soil has several types of micro-organisms that are responsible for retaining and increasing a soil’s nutrient content. These organisms include bacteria, actinomyces, molds, algae and protozoa.
Some of these organisms, like bacteria, help to enhance the availability of nutrients to plants. They also aid in the microbial activity that helps to break down organic matter and increase moisture retention. Other organisms, such as fungi, can aid in inhibiting pathogen growth and improve soil quality by feeding on the waste products left behind by other organisms.
These micro-organisms can be found in most soils, and are important to the overall health of the soil. Having an abundance of these organisms can lead to healthier soil and a higher crop yield.
One of the most effective ways to increase soil fertility is through crop intercropping. When you combine crops, they can increase a soil’s nutrient content while decreasing the use of chemical fertilizers. Crop intercropping can also help to manage weeds and pests as well as minimize the loss of nutrients from the soil.
Another way to increase a soil’s nutrient value is through crop rotation. Rotation can help to keep the soil healthy by allowing the crops to naturally replenish the nutrients that are lost due to harvesting. Including cover crops in your rotation can also help to maintain or increase the soil’s nutrient level.
Whether you’re growing cannabis or another type of plant, it is essential to have optimal soil fertility. The nutrient levels in your soil can have a dramatic impact on the quality and quantity of your crop production.
The simplest way to determine your soil’s fertility is to have a soil test done. These tests can provide you with information on how well your soil is able to retain and adsorb cations, such as calcium, magnesium, sulfur and iron. This is called cation exchange capacity (CEC).
While the amount of cation exchange capacity in your soil can vary, it’s always best to have your soil tested before you start any new crop. This will allow you to better understand how your soil is able to retain and thereby adsorb the nutrients you’re trying to grow. This will also help you to identify any nutrient deficiencies that may be affecting your crop production.
2. Weed Control
Weeds (plants growing where they are not wanted) reduce crop yield, increase production cost and harbour insects and diseases that attack crop plants. Weed control is a critical component of a successful cannabis cultivation plan.
Crop intercropping is a good way to manage weeds, especially in the early stages of plant growth, because it can minimize the number and variety of weeds in the field. In addition, crop rotation reduces the risk of weed resistance to herbicides by limiting repeated exposure of a weed population to the same mode of action.
In addition to reducing the number and variety of weeds, crop intercropping can also help in preventing soil erosion and increasing nutrient availability to the crops. These practices also reduce the amount of fertilizer that must be applied.
Cultivation based on size differentials can delay weed emergence relative to the crop by stripping soil from the weed roots. This practice is especially effective if the weed rootbed is a cloddy soil or compacted. This type of weed control works best if the soil tilth is fine and if the crop seedbed is prepared with adequate depth of preparation and good drainage.
For many vegetable crops, a shallow full-field cultivation before crop planting can minimize weed pressure in the row. Later cultivations can be deeper to bury small in-row weeds.
The use of mechanical weed control techniques can also help in controlling weeds. These include hand weeding, mechanical cultivation, and application of chemicals acting as herbicides.
A fall herbicide application can help control winter annual weeds, such as horseweed and narrowleaf hawksbeard. It can also provide some control of early spring-emerging weeds, such as kochia.
To maximize the effectiveness of crop intercropping, crop rotation must be maintained throughout the growing season. This allows each crop to develop a strong root system before competing with weeds. It also prevents the emergence of disease-carrying bacteria.
Using crop intercropping in combination with cover crops can provide effective weed control. These crops suppress weeds through a mulch effect and by producing allelopathic compounds that inhibit weed germination and growth.
3. Pest Control
Insects, fungi and other pests can cause significant damage to cannabis plants if they are not controlled. Fortunately, there are many effective natural and organic solutions for managing these unwanted guests.
One way to reduce the presence of these pests is by using crop intercropping. This involves planting two different crops together, ideally in alternating rows. This technique is beneficial for minimizing crop loss and increasing yields.
It also allows growers to avoid the expense and labor costs associated with planting and harvesting individual crops. Additionally, it enables growers to use a variety of growing equipment designed for multiple crops.
Planting intercrops allows growers to maximize the production potential of each of their crops by maximizing crop emergence rates and maturity levels. This can be done by seeding each intercrop at a depth that is appropriate for each type of crop, or by adjusting planting dates to ensure proper emergence of the desired phenotype.
Another approach to managing pests is to incorporate beneficial and predator bugs into the cultivation area. These insects are naturally attracted to specific types of plants that can help control pest populations before they become a problem.
This strategy is particularly useful in greenhouse and outdoor grows because it can help minimize the spread of pests from the cultivation area to other areas of the garden. The addition of beneficial bugs such as ladybugs, lacewings, and predator wasps can be very effective in controlling the influx of unwanted pests.
The cultivation area should be scouted regularly by experienced personnel to detect any damage or disease conditions before they are too severe for IPM strategies to be implemented. Scouting should involve a thorough review of the entire crop, including incoming plants and weeds.
Some growers may also opt for an early-warning system to monitor for pests before they have a chance to cause damage. This can be accomplished by using yellow or blue sticky cards to attract common pests and then placing them on the plant canopy at various heights.
This can be a very useful method of monitoring for pests and determining the best time to apply pesticides. It can also be used to track changes in humidity and temperature that influence the appearance of pests, which will help you determine when pest populations change.
There is no doubt that crop intercropping can enhance your yield, quality and weed control but careful planning is key. Selecting crops that have similar maturity dates, sourcing the best seed and inoculum and implementing good weed control will be the keys to your success as an intercropper. Using the right crop mix for your growing area, the best time of year to plant, and the right fertilizers will all pay off in the end. Lastly, a little pre-harvest preparation and maintenance go a long way to keep your crop looking its best. Whether you choose to harvest in one go or spread it out over multiple cycles, make sure you take advantage of the optimal weather conditions to maximize your yield and minimize your crop damage.
The best intercropping strategies will also include crop rotation for a variety of reasons, including maximizing soil microbiology and improving soil quality. The use of crop rotation in tandem with an integrated pest management (IPM) program is a proven winner. Among other benefits, it can lower costs and increase the odds that you’ll produce an edible crop.