What is Good Soil For Growing Cannabis?
When it comes to growing cannabis in soil, unless you’re using a brand that is known for making soil that is specifically cannabis-friendly, there are a few things that you need to consider before starting a grow.
What should you look for in good cannabis soil?
I think most growers agree a good cannabis soil should look dark and rich, with a loose texture that drains well and can hold water without getting muddy (you want wet soil, not dirt-batter!). But beyond that, what do you look for?
The following video shows the soil texture you want (this is Coco Loco, an excellent soil for growing cannabis)
Some growers choose an amended and composted “hot” soil that slowly releases nutrients over time. With this type of soil, you typically just add water or natural supplements like worm tea from seed to harvest. Other growers prefer a lighter potting mix so they have more control, and give nutrients in the water once the plant roots have used up the nutrients in the soil. But which brands can you trust?
Some popular soil examples that I’ve used with good results include:
- Almost any organic soil potting mix – If you can’t order special soil online, ask for the best soil at your local gardening store. You can use almost any organic soil potting mix to grow cannabis. I say “organic” because that cuts out a lot of potentially problematic ingredients like slow-release chemical nutrients (which often cause nutrient issues in the flowering stage by delivering too much Nitrogen). If asked what you’re using it for, say tomatoes. You should plan to start adding extra nutrients in the water by the time a plant is a few weeks old as the roots will quickly use up everything. Try to look for soil with a rich and dark but loose texture. It’s a good sign if you see little white pebbles mixed in (this is perlite, which makes soil drain better). If a soil looks like dirt or mud, it’s no good!
- Roots Organics Original – This was the first soil mix I ever used to grow cannabis and I had a great experience. I’ve moved on to Fox Farm products because they were available at my local hydroponics store, and now I’m hooked on Coco Loco. But Roots Organics Original soil has been around for a while because it works great. As with most soil mixes, you will need to supplement plants with additional nutrients after a few weeks.
- Fox Farm Happy Frog soil– This soil mix is relatively light on nutrients so it’s great for seedlings. It’s also suitable if you plan to give nutrients in the water from seed to harvest. If you don’t add extra nutrients, your plants will use everything in the soil up quickly.
- Fox Farm Coco Loco soil– A coco-based soil mix with enough nutrients to last your plants for a few weeks. With Coco Loco, you should start supplementing with extra nutrients once plants are 2-3 weeks old. I personally like Coco Loco the best of any soil mix I’ve used. You can use it by itself and it’s also my favorite base potting mix for a “just add water” super soil grow. I feel like plants tend to grow happy and healthy while being more resistant to over or under-watering compared to the other soil mixes I’ve tried. It’s great soil for other types of crops too.
- Fox Farm Ocean Forest soil– A “hot” soil mix with lots of nutrients packed inside. You can start seedlings directly in this mix though they may show signs of nutrient burn at first until they get adjusted. Ocean Forest has enough nutrients to last your plants quite a while, though you likely should still give extra flowering nutrients once your plants start making buds in order to get the best yields, density, and bud quality. Cannabis plants need a surprisingly lot of nutrients in the flowering stage and you don’t want to starve the plants right as buds are forming.
Recommended soil nutrients:
- Fox Farm Soil trio – These 3 bottles include everything your plants need from seed to harvest. The FF trio produces superb weed with any high-quality soil.
- Learn about other cannabis-friendly nutrients
Important Cannabis Soil Considerations
- Drainage Ability
- Water Retention
Although that list looks vague and complicated at the same time, the requirements you want to meet are actually pretty simple; let me break it down!
Texture, Drainage & Water Retention
It’s easy to get caught up thinking about what nutrients and amendments are in the soil, and those are important, but perhaps the most important aspect of any soil is actually its texture, ability to drain, and overall water “holding” ability.
In order for a cannabis plant to grow and thrive, it needs a good mix of both water and oxygen at the roots at all times! Too much water and the plant roots can’t get enough oxygen (lack of oxygen at the roots is why plants get droopy from overwatering) but on the flip side if there’s not enough water retention the roots can be injured from drying out too quickly!
What gets the best results for growing cannabis is a soil with a light texture that is good at retaining water…but not too much!
Note: Don’t worry, there’ll be examples of good and bad soil in just a bit!
Signs of Good Cannabis Soil
- Appears dark and rich
- Loose texture
- Drains well (doesn’t make a pool on top of your soil for more than a couple of seconds and doesn’t take forever to drain out the bottom)
- Holds water without getting muddy (you want wet soil, not dirt-batter)
Example of “Good” Cannabis Soil Ingredients
- Composted forest humus
- Sandy loam
- Sphagnum peat moss
- Coco coir (sometimes labeled coco fiber)
- Earthworm castings
- Bat guano
- Fish meal
- Crab meal
- Bone meal
- Blood meal
- Dolomite lime
Note: You’ll likely never see any soil mix with ALL those ingredients, but I wanted to share examples of common cannabis-friendly ingredients and amendments that often appear on the label of good soil 🙂
If you get the soil part right, you have almost everything you need to get to harvest! With the correct texture, drainage and water retention, you’ve got a perfect base. Add good soil cannabis nutrients, especially in the budding phase, and you should get to harvest with great results!
Example of happy marijuana plants in good soil!
More About Common Amendments to Alter Texture, Drainage & Water Retention of Soil
- Perlite is one of the most common soil amendments. It is highly recommended for any soil mix that doesn’t have some already.
- Very light, airy white “rocks” that feel almost like popcorn and add oxygen while increasing overall drainage ability.
- Add perlite to the mix (10-40% of the total volume). Use less perlite if you want better water retention and don’t plan on using a lot of extra nutrients. This is because a lot of extra perlite can cause the nutrients leach out faster from the soil. Add higher levels of perlite if you want to use a lot of added nutrients or supplements without burning your plants (since perlite helps prevent nutrient buildup).
- Vermiculite “lightens up” heavy soil and improves water retention.
- Some growers use perlite and vermiculite interchangeably, though they’re not exactly the same. Vermiculite holds water much better than perlite, but is not as effective at adding aeration and drainage.
- Some growers use a little bit of both. If you go high with vermiculite, you don’t want to go as high with perlite and vice versa. Together, perlite and vermiculite should never make up more than 50% of your soil!
- Coco coir is made from coconut husks. It can be purchased as loose coco coir, in an amended potting mix, or as coco bricks which needs to be rehydrated before use (learn how to re-hydrate coco bricks). Sometimes you’ll find a “soil” mix that is pretty much all coco plus amendments, and these can be a great choice for cannabis. Coco has some unique properties that make it a good supplement for cannabis soil mixtures.
- Coco improves water retention, but doesn’t make soil heavy.
- Roots tend to develop faster and plants are less likely to suffer from overwatering in coco coir.
- Some growers grow in pure coco, but if you’re adding it to a soil mix as an amendment, you might add 10-30% coco coir.
- Worm castings is a nice way of saying worm poop, and cannabis plants love it!
- Improves texture, drainage and moisture retention
- Add a natural source of nutrients that breaks down slowly
- Usually contains high levels of beneficial micro-organisms due to going through a worm’s digestive system 🙂
- Add up to 30% worm castings in your soil (although it contains nutrients, it’s gentle enough that it’s unlikely to burn your plants even if you add too much)
Now here are a few examples of good and bad cannabis soil so you can see the texture you’re looking for!
Good Cannabis Soil
Rich and light composted soil. Since this soil doesn’t have a lot of perlite, it’s a good choice for a grower who doesn’t want to add a lot of extra nutrients or supplements in the water.
Good Cannabis Soil
Another light, rich soil mix with great drainage. Although there is a wood chip in this picture, for the most part the mix is completely composted and broken down. It’s normal to see some wood pieces in composted soil, but you don’t want to have to wait for a lot of wood to break down while your plants are growing – you want all that rich nutrient goodness to be readily available to your plant roots 🙂
Good Cannabis Soil
This soil has quite a bit of perlite, which is a good choice if you plan to feed heavily with nutrients and supplements since the extra perlite prevents nutrient buildup in the soil
Good Cannabis Soil
The plant is growing in organic, composted “super soil” which has enough amendments to last your entire grow, so the only thing you do is add water!
Here’s organic “super” soil up close
Bad Cannabis Soil
This soil is muddy, clumpy and waterlogged. It retains too much moisture, which makes it really easy to overwater your plants.
Bad Cannabis Soil
Cannabis soil should not have a whole lot of big visible wood chips in it. That means the soil hasn’t been fully composted, and all the nutrients and goodness in that wood is mostly unavailable to your plants.
Bad Cannabis Soil
Although this seedling is over a month old, it has stayed tiny. Its growth is stunted by the thick heavy soil that holds way too much water and not enough air. Note how some of the soil looks like one solid object.
Bad Cannabis Soil
Don’t use dirt from outside! It almost never works, especially if it looks like this!
Suggested Brands for Cannabis Soil
Fox Farm Ocean Forest Soil
Fox Farm has been around for over 30 years and makes some of the most common types of “cannabis soil” (at least in the US). They have several great soil mixes, including “Happy Frog” which is a great choice for seedlings and clones.
Their Ocean Forest soil mix is “hotter” soil (higher levels of nutrients) that contains ingredients that cannabis plants love, including earthworm castings, bat guano, fish meal and crab meal. The nutrients contained in the soil will provide everything your plant needs for several weeks. Although it might give young seedlings just a touch of nutrient burn at first, they can be started in Ocean Forest soil and will soon be able to use the nutrients and start growing quickly. Some growers might put a little big of Happy Frog on top of a container of Ocean Forest, just to make it a little more gentle for seedlings the first week or two.
If you are willing to keep transplanting to bigger pots as your plant uses up the nutrients in the soil, you don’t need to supplement with extra nutrients. However, even if you grow in the same pot from seed to harvest, Fox Farm offers a complete nutrient system that is also formulated for plants like cannabis and goes perfectly with their soil to make sure your plant is getting the right levels of nutrients throughout its life.
This plant is growing in Fox Farm Ocean Forest Soil
Kind “Super” Soil (Living Soil)
When cannabis growers talk about “super” soil, they’re usually referring to soil that has been amended with slow-releasing organic nutrient sources, and then composted for several months (learn more about super soil).
The composting process creates a “living” soil that is full of microorganisms in the rhizosphere (area around the roots). Properly composted soil has nutrient sources that slowly break down over the course of your plant’s lifecycle. It very closely mimics what happens in nature.
Super Soil has a colony of micro-organisms living in the soil which form a symbiotic relationship with your plant roots. They deliver nutrients to your plant, and in return they eat the sugars that get secreted by your roots!
The “micro-herd” in the soil delivers nutrients directly to your plants. As long as you’re using decent water, you usually don’t need to worry about pH or other things that can disrupt nutrient absorption in regular soil.
However, when growing with Super Soil, it’s a good idea to avoid watering too much at a time, as extra runoff waterwill drain away some of the nutrinets. Try to give just enough water to saturate the soil with very little extra coming out the bottom. Since you won’t be adding more nutrients through the grow, you want to conserve what’s in the soil!
Nugbuckets is a famous organic soil grower! Check out his plants!
Organic Potting Mix
This is what kind of soil to get if you don’t have any “good” soil available, but want something that is known to work for growing cannabis.
Generally, anything labeled as an “organic potting mix” will work. This type of mix hasn’t been amended with chemical slow-release nutrients, which is one of the main things you want to avoid with soil for cannabis. I know it sounds like heresy, but even the Miracle-Gro version of “organic potting mix” will work okay, because unlike their original potting mix it doesn’t contain chemical nutrients (though it still has poor drainage and moisture retention – almost any other type of organic potting mix is better!).
Usually an organic potting mix does not have enough nutrients to last your plants for more than a few weeks, so it’s a good idea to always supplement with cannabis-friendly nutrients, especially in the flowering stage when your plant is making buds and needs lots of extra Phosphorus and Potassium.
Espona Organic Potting Mix is found in many stores in the US, and works for growing cannabis!
What to Watch Out For With Any Soil Mix At the Store
- Look At and Touch It If You Can! You already have an idea what soil should look and feel like, but here’s a test: If you form the soil into a ball, it should stick together loosely, but it should also easily fall apart again if you squeeze it.
- No “Time Release” Chemical Nutrients in the Soil – These types of soil slowly release nutrients over the course of months, which provides too much Nitrogen in the flowering stage and could possibly impair overall bud growth.
- Soil Should Appear Dark and Rich – Pale, crumbly or sandy soil usually doesn’t have a lot of nutrient content that the plant roots can get to.
- Soil Has Little White Rocks In It (Perlite), if you see white, almost fluffy rocks dispersed through the soil like popcorn, that is usually a good sign because it means this potting mix was intended to have good drainage.
- Soil Isn’t “Heavy” – Cannabis grows best in soil with a light airy texture and great drainage, which may seem almost fluffy when it’s dry.
- Example of “Good” Soil Ingredients – Composted forest humus, sandy loam, sphagnum peat moss, coco coir (sometimes labeled coco fiber), perlite, earthworm castings, bat guano, fish meal, crab meal, bone meal, blood meal, Azomite, pumice, kelp, dolomite lime, mycorrhizae and leonardite. That’s not everything, just examples of cannabis-friendly ingredients you see the most often 🙂
- Examples of “Bad” Soil Ingredients – You don’t want to see wood or bark on the label if it doesn’t say it’s been composted first. Also if you see just the word “fertilizer” in the ingredients that’s often code for slow-release chemical nutrients, which you don’t want!
Try to get soil that looks like this!
I hope this soil tutorial helps you find the right soil for your cannabis setup!
What is Good Soil For Growing Cannabis? When it comes to growing cannabis in soil, unless you’re using a brand that is known for making soil that is specifically cannabis-friendly, there are a
What is the Best Climate to Grow Hemp?
From the river valleys of Virginia to the lush hills of Oregon, hemp is making an American comeback. It is a hardy, versatile, crop that can adapt to some of the harshest conditions on the planet. With more and more farmers looking to grow hemp it begs the question, where is the best place to grow hemp?
What are the Ideal Conditions for Growing Hemp
What are Ideal Soil Conditions for Growing Hemp?
Let’s start at the bottom. Hemp prefers a balanced (pH 6-7), well drained, loamy soil. Soil that is well aerated and allows for adequate water retention. Although it can grow in a wide variety of soil types, sandy soil is often the most difficult. This is due to compaction and poor water delivery to the roots. Having dry roots due to inadequate moisture, or excess water remaining on the surface, will lead to crop damage.
What are Ideal Planting Conditions for Growing Hemp?
Once the soil is prepared for planting seeds, dig a well at a depth less than 2 inches. Planting at 1 inch lets the seeds sprout in uniformity. This allows for a more profitable field because taller plants will not shade newly emerging sprouts. This also is helpful when harvest time rolls around. The height of blooms, seed areas, and stalk height will be at close to uniform.
What are Ideal Light Conditions for Growing Hemp?
Hemp does well in full sun when the outdoor temperatures are around 60°F and preferably 2-3 weeks after the last chance of frost has past.
[PRO-TIP] If an unexpected frost does occur the young plants can be protected if they are covered by a film or cloth and are watered 24-48 hours before the frost. Well watered soil retains heat more so than dry soil giving the plants a better chance of survival.
What are Ideal Temperature Conditions for Growing Hemp?
Once established, hemp is quite drought tolerant. Through the early stages of seed germination, air temperatures should be between 50-80°F. This will give the roots enough time to become fully established before the heat of summer is in full effect. Seeds can be started when soil temperatures are between 42-46°F.
What are Ideal Moisture Conditions for Growing Hemp?
When planting seeds directly into the field they require more water over the first 4 weeks. Watering a freshly planted field 1-2 times a day to allow the seedlings proper moisture for healthy germination. Once the plants are about 2 inches in height, the water can be adjusted as necessary to provide slightly moist soil throughout the rest of the growing season. Once the plants reach a height of 3-4 feet water can be further reduced depending on how hot outdoor temperatures become.
What is the Ideal Air Flow for Growing Hemp?
Air flow between the plants is necessary to keep mold and mildew at bay. This can be accomplished outdoors by spacing plants adequate distances apart. Four to seven inches between each plant in a row is ideal. Spacing rows two to four feet apart is adequate depending on the end harvest goals. Traditionally hemp has been planted like a grain, as that has been the primary end harvest goal, but now more and more farmers are planting hemp like a vegetable or orchard, due to the desire to maintain the plants at higher quality and harvest for a different end goal.
What is the Ideal Nutrition for Growing Hemp?
Hemp grows very large, very quickly. To allow for this vigorous growth, the plants will need proper feedings. As a general rule, the soil should contain twice as many nutrients at seeding, as the plant will absorb in an entire harvest season. This is a good starting point for a healthy field, but the plants will need to be fed at leastonce during the growing season. The plants will have distinct two stages of growth during their life-cycle: Vegitativeand Flowering.
The vegetative stage is when the plant grows tall and wide, filling out with leaves, branches, and overall size.
The flowering stage, as the name suggests, is when blooms or flowing buds, that are rich in CBD, begin to form. This flowering location is also where seeds/grain is formed.
In each stage, the plant requires a different mineral food source for optimum growth.
In the vegetive stage, the plants will use primarily Nitrogen to expand and grow in size. A good fertilizer for this stage would be one rich in Nitrogen such as an NPK 10-6-6.
Once flowering has begun, the plants will switch over to using more phosphorus and potassium. So once signs of flowering are noticed, it would be a good time to give a feeding of an NPK 6-12-8 fertilizer. The number of the NPK’s (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) here do not have to match the numbers above. Today there are so many different blends of feed to choose from, that selecting the “right” one for your crop may seem overwhelming. Not to worry, the main thing to remember is that the numbers should be higher in Nitrogen for the vegetative stage, and higher in phosphorus in the flowering stage. To find what out what minerals your soil has already, you can perform a simple test.
How to Treat Hemp Plants for Weeds
Hemp is naturally effective at suppressing weeds. No chemicals are needed to ward off encroaching neighbors. There are no approved or registered chemicals for hemp field weed suppression and given the end harvest goals of CBD extraction, fibre for textiles, and grain for food, chemical additions would do more harm than good. Not only for the plants and products, but also to the soil. Keeping soil healthy and dynamic will yield not only great harvests today, but assure abundant future harvests for generations to come.
When to Seed Hemp Plants
Hemp can be seeded in the early spring through early summer and plants reach maturity in as quick as 60 days for some species. More commonly hemp is allowed to grow for 90-120 days allowing the plant to complete it’s full life cycle. The timing of the harvest is based on the end harvesting goals. Most recently hemp has been grown primarily for grain in North America (Canada) and the leftover stalks were viewed as a nuisance. But now with the ever growing market for hemp based products, more and more farmers are letting the plants grow 60+ days to harvest the flowers for CBD extraction, leave a section to continue growing to 90+ days for seeds, and once both are harvested, cutting down all the stalks for fibre harvest production. Making a three distinct harvests from one plant. Getting the most out of their time, land, and money.
When to Rotate Hemp Crops
Hemp can be grown year after year on thhee same section of land, but good crop rotation is key to the sustainability of any good farm. Rotating the hemp plot with buckwheat (phosphorus regeneration), legumes (nitrogen regeneration), and alfalfa (nitrogen regeneration) are all good solutions to maintaining the soil.
The soils health is key to keeping a great operation alive and well, so taking the time to plant a cover crop, replenishing the soil with nutrients and minerals can make the difference in growing healthy crops for years to come. A 4-year rotation is recommended.
- Year 1: Hemp (planted for harvest)
- Year 2: Common Buckwheat (planted for soil phosphorus regeneration)
- Year 3: Hemp (planted for harvest)
- Year 4: Alfalfa (Planted for soil nitrogen regeneration)
Hemp prefers a balanced (pH 6-7), well drained, loamy soil. Soil that is well aerated and allows for adequate water retention.