From: Compost And Compost Teas, A Clarification: Or How To Grow The Very Best Cannabis
This Article Was Written By Mister X and I thought it was Some Interesting Reading Regarding Cannabis and Compost Teas. Where is the Best Cannabis In Northern Californa? It Could perhaps be in your own garden or own backyard!Clarification is included in the title due to the abundance of misinformation out there re Teas. With this series of posts I will attempt to shed some light on the subject and debunk a shit ton of bad 411.
About the author: I started cultivating cannabis outdoors in cow pastures and vineyards in Northern, CA in the early 70's. I started in what i would now call dirt. The helicopters started in the beginning of the 80's and sent myself and a lot of my confederates seeking the shelter of indoor cultivation and hydroponics. For almost 20 years I ran hydroponics, I get bored easily so I constantly switched media and systems. The result of this is I can rock any media, any system; rockwool, peat, coco coir, hydroton, pea gravel, i don't care; ebb n flow, dwc, drip, wand, aero, drain to waste, recycle, don't care. Been there done that, and I have the tee-shirt. Hope this doesn't sound arrogant, I just want you to grasp the fact that I have tried and became somewhat proficient with most of those systems (never really grooved well with aero - to many snags), yet I choose soil. But not just soil, a truly living soil. For the last 10 years or so I've been into soil, soil not dirt, soil is a living system, dirt is mostly dead. So the progression was, dirt, hydro, soil. Now I'm a sort of cheerleader for using Truly Living Organics (TLO) for lack of a better name, cause w/o TLO, you will have the organic blues. This is why organic ganga has garnered a bad name among those in the know. I don't even like to label meds organic, lest some type of psychosomatic trip kick in and F-up the analgesic effects, or disuade the individual from even trying in the first place. It's inverse to the food market. Why? Way too many have been burnt by bunk organic too many times, or have heard from friends that organic pot can never have the same kick as it's perfectly done blinged out inorganic sister. Why? In a word chelation. Without a diverse biology (life) organic cannabis will always be mediocre at best. That said organic cannabis done with the correct biology, done the way I will lay down in this series of posts can not be touched by any other system, you will be producing true pharma grade cannabis. Put it this way. Does M's #1 have a kick? Follow along if this sounds like something you'd like to do, those who do will be able to:
• Throw away your PH Meter, and quit playing the NPK Game.
• Enlist fungi to mine rocks for Phosphorus (for real)
• Eliminate the need for nitrogen fertilizers
• Make biologically powerful compost and compost tea
• Eliminate pesticides "organic" or otherwise.
• Grow the very best possible pharma grade medicine
Readers: please pack your bags, cause I plan on taking you on a long trip. A safari through soil, if you will. A Safari through Soil, eeeeeejo (sounds like - eeeeehoe) how lame is that? Well turns out not so lame, soil is the basis for all life, it's where everything starts and ends. If we can help spread the word and maybe we can get the farmer -and most everyone else- off the tons of salts modern ag is putting into the ground, which leads to the copious use of pesticides. Which cause disturbance and compaction. With the correct information the vicious circle of salt/pesticide use can be arrested or at least curtailed. I say vicious circle due to the salts killing off the biology, thereby leaving the plant easy prey for pathogens. So what do we do then, once the pests inevitably start attacking the plant now deprived of it's natural defenses? Why spray pesticide of course. And then a little more once the pest start developing a tolerance. OK everybody packed up? Ready to go?
Make no mistake, the reader who's able to hang tough - will be capable of producing pharma quality flowers. This I promise dear weed tracking reader, stay with me and you will be able to grow the very best cannabis in the world. This is of course if you are able to get your hands on world class strains, if you live in Cali this should not be too difficult, if you live anywhere else talk to me about sending you a clone in a sealed test tube, just add light and grow. Not magic, just tissue culture cloning. In addition to becoming a world class grower, you will throw away your PH meter and dis-associate w/ your local Hydro store. Kiss plant decease and pests goodbye, w/o ever resorting to pesticide. Yep it's that serious, it's that cool.
What is a salt?
When I speak of salt I do not speak of table salt, for the sake of these posts, a salt is anything that disassociates in water. I.E., anything that dissolves in water. Salt is a conductor which is why EC meters (electric conductivity meters) are used to tell us what our nutrient levels are. We read them as total dissolved solids, in parts per million.
Why do salts behave this way?
Regardless of whether a system is biological or synthetic, plants need nutrients in the form of ions, an ion is a positively or negatively charged compound. Salts are made up of ions, that means when the salt is added to the water, the hydrogen (H+; positive charge) portion of the water will complex with the negative part of the salt and the hydroxide (OH; negative charge) part of the water molecule will complex the positive part of the salt.
This occurs due the simple positive and negative charge interactions. All salts are in this category because they behave this way.
Why am I discussing inorganic nutrients in an organic forum?
If you can measure it with a EC meter it's a salt it is not organic no matter the certification or Hydro store claims. And I want you to get a good grasp on what it does to your microbiology when you add salts, even inadvertently.
Why is this important?
Think about what the above salt discussion means for water availability in the soil or even a soilless media. For each molecule of inorganic nutrient added, one molecule of water has been taken away from the plant, and from the microbes. The negative impact on microbes is severe, plants aren't typically harmed until extremely high concentrations of inorganic nutrients are reached. Plants are very tolerant of desiccation (lack of water) 1000's of times more tolerant than many of the beneficial bacteria and fungi. Salts kill the wide diversity we need in our biology to sustain true nutrient cycling. Without true nutrient cycling you will never produce pharma quality flowers w/o the use of specially cheleted inorganic chemicals.
Will actively aerated compost tea's (AACT's from here forward) work with soilless media?
Yes, but certain media works better than others. For instance, coir, peat and rockwool will sustain even micro arthropods, so hell to the yes, but I'm hoping to get you into a true soil by the end of these posts.
Are AACT's plant nutrients?
Yes and No. Mostly no. They can and often do contain small amounts of nutrients, but we are not interested in them as nutrients. They are inoculates, we want to introduce the biology contained in a tea to our soil. Therefor they must maintain a specific balance of micro organisms to be effective. The balance is plant specific, so the balance we're looking for is for the cannabis plant. We will inoculate the media, then the plant itself will take over the feeding of the specific microbiology it needs around it's rhizosphere (root system) it selects by feeding specific bacteria and fungi by excreting exudates from its roots. Exudates are food for the microbes, they are proteins (chains of enzymes), carbohydrates and sugars. They feed the microbes and help with the decomposition process.
Side note: decomposed organic matter retains 10x as much water as before it was decomposed, and becomes more and more gnarly each time it is consumed.
One person's poop is an others pizza! The plant poops out cakes and cookies (exudates) from it's root system, the bacteria and fungi shout, "yippee!" and have a party and do they ever multiply. Now the protozoa really start whooping' it up; they're eating all those bacteria multiplying like crazy. Bacteria are very high in nitrogen content their carbon to nitrogen (c/n) ratio is 5:1, this is the narrowest range known to any creature on earth. Protozoan have a c:n ratio of 30:1, so in order to get enough C (energy) they must eat 6 bacteria. Once they eat 6 bacteria they have have the right amount of C but now they picked up 5 extra bacteria, they need to get rid of that. So the protozoan poop out 5 N for every 6 bacteria consumed. Wowzer that's some serious nitrogen production.
Is this enough N to grow cannabis?
Each protozoan eats 10,000 bacteria per day, so that's 8,000 N molecules per day per protozoan! Healthy soils contain 50,000 protozoa per g. Protozoa eat 500,000,000 bacteria per g of soil per day, which releases 400,000,000 molecules of N per g of soil per day. This part's kinda rough, so I'm gonna do the math for you. This equals 7 ng of N per cm3 surface of root soil per day, and the hungriest plant known to man only requires 0.2 ng of N per cm3 surface of root soil per day to thrive. So vast amounts of Carbon and Nitrogen are held in the atmosphere and cycled into plant available forms, but…..
What about the other nutrients? All the nutrients are available in the soil, there are mineral eating bacteria, there are phosphorus solubilizing bacteria and fungi. And mycorrhizal fungi do it all.
Where are their reserves? How are they held in the soil? How do they become plant available?
The crystalline structures on the fungi are calcium oxalate held and kept from leaching out of the soil by the fungal hyphae. Plants cannot get access to nutrients retained by the bacteria or fungi directly; they need protozoa and nematodes to consume them and release the nutrients in a chelated plant available form. That is unless the fungi are mycorrhizal, mycorrhizal fungi can translocate this calcium directly to the plant. Other fungi need the protozoa and nematodes to perform the metabolic processing needed to transform and chelate these nutrients, which the protozoa and nematodes release as waste. See one person's poop is an others pizza.
What I will attempt to convey with this series of posts is how you can have true nutrient cycling and the plant it self will select for the exact nutrients it needs at the exact moment it needs them. Perfectly chelated by nature. This requires understanding soil structure, succession, nutrient pools, retention…
Microbes make hallways and passageways in soil or soilless media.
Bacteria makes glue that hold clays, silt, sand, and organic matter together.
Fungi are strands that make glue and threads that hold bacterial aggregates together.
Protozoa control bacterial populations.
Nematodes open up large pore areas.
Micro arthropods engineer the larger pores.
Roots engineer the freeways.
We want our soil to be like cake. Cake for the plant, and in return the plant will feed the soil cookies and ice cream in the form of exudates.
Soil selects for the plant species, soil drives succession. What is succession? Succession begins with any disturbance, a disturbance that destroys the biology, or some of the species there. And succession has a lot to do with selection, how the soil selects. Why the soil selects for what it selects for depends on how far along in the successional order or chain that soil is in. The first stage in soil succession is the early grasses or lower grasses (weeds), than mid grasses, than the first mycorrhizal plants and vegetables, than shrubs, and on and on until we reach old growth forrest. And let's be clear, despite the fact that most if not all the posters, charts, etc., that display an attempted simile of succession always show what's on top of the soil. Never the soil, which IMO is the most important part as it drives the life on top, which is what is unusually displayed. From micro beasties to man. Remember, "one person's poop is an others pizza!", so the charts will typically start with the micro-arthropods Tiny creatures barely or not visible to man, the macro-arthropods (bugs) that eat them, then the birds and small animals that eat them, until we get to old growth forrest and man. The flora and fauna are displayed, but not what's truly driving the succession. Soil. Why isn't everything old growth forrest by now, since succession is driven by time and nature. In a word - disturbance. Animal and human foot traffic can create compaction, as can high concentrations of urine, feces, so grazing animals may create disturbance, than there's flooding, erosion, fire, earthquake, clear cutting, plowing, tilling, monsanto corp., salts, these all create disturbance. Disturbance can happen from of any number of natural or man made calamities.
Let's use Mt. Saint Helens for our example of disturbance and succession. On May 18th, 1980, Mt. Saint Helens in Washington erupted. In the blast zone the land was scoured by the 1300F. temperatures of a pyroclastic wave that eradicated everything in it's path. The topper both literally and figuratively was the millions of tons of volcanic ash deposited on the surrounding landscape. In many areas it was measured to be over 40 feet deep. Yikes! 40 feet of completely sterile matter. Inert - no life. So we had vast areas of land that contained no biology. What happened next? That's right life happened.
CO2 mixed with the sun (energy) and photosynthetic bacteria were formed. Photosynthetic bacteria fix nitrogen, and solublilize phosphorous and calcium. The nutrients are solubilized by the enzymes created by the photosynthetic bacteria. This is the beginning of the colonization of the volcanic ash, the colonization that will turn the inert ash into a living soil. As the photosynthetic bacteria live and die, the waste coming out of their bodies feed other organisms and this starts to build enough diversity to support the first true bacteria. And hey once we have true bacteria, here come the hungry protozoa and fungi. And let's not forget the importance of natures taxi cabs; micro-arthropods, macro-arthropods and even small animals like gofers that were tunneling back up to the surface, carrying with them come a host of other organisms and organic matter. Also bugs were flying over and dying, giving the decomposers plenty to feast on. Until finally there's enough organic matter to support early grasses, which are little more than weeds. What is a weed? A weed has a short life span, seeds early, thrives on high nitrate concentrations - ohhhhh, you mean the high nitrates that would come in surges as large populations of bacteria live and die. Without enough predators the early bacterial populations thrive until they suck up all the oxygen, and carbon that's available and die. The resulting high surges of nitrate are exactly what a fast growing, fast dying weed needs to survive, then die depositing more organic material (OM) to be eaten, pooped out, eaten again, pooped out again, and on and on, each time the OM gets eaten or decomposed it becomes more complex or gnarly and retains more water and holds more nutrient. This is the process of the creation of Humic Acid. Humic Acid is formed when nematodes feed on fungi, so bacteria begin the process of Humic Acid production and fungi finish it.
So the live fast die young life style of the weed brings a lot more OM into the mix to be decomposed, humicified if you will. Now the stage is set for succeedingly higher plant species, we're starting to build the diversity needed for the first mycorrhizal plants. The word mycorrhizal stems from the greek words: Myco - fungus, Rhiza - roots, in succession the first mycorrhizal plants represent a stage.
Quick Note on Mycorrhizal Plant species: Mycorrhizal plants produce a special sugar that's needed to wake up mycorrhizal spores. This sugar is called trehalose, mycorrhizal plants secrete trehalose as an exudate. Trehalose cause the mycorrhiza spore to germinate and grow until it reaches the root system (rhizosphere). It actually moves between the individual cells of your roots. It looks for a good infection site invades than grows between the cell membrane and the cell wall causing it to invaginate. The resulting structure on the root is called an arbuscule. Different mycorrhizal fungi species produce different types of arbuscular structures. The fungal hyphae grow down with the fast growing root tips and out 6 inches in every direction. Mike and Eddie Allan at the Univ. of San Diego have shown that hyphae grows out over six inches in every direction from the root system. Think of the increase in soluble nutrient production once your plant becomes completely mycorrhizal? It solubilizes phosphorus from minerals, has the enzymes to pull the nitrogen out of the OM. It can pull all the colbolt, zinc, sodium, potassium, anything the plant might order. And yeah, it's like that. It's really a matter of the plant saying; (Dracula Voice) "mycorrhizal fungi come grow with me, here's some trehalose" The fungus says, "Yippee! My favorite sugar, let's party!" but once the arbuscules are formed the plant says, "OK, no more sugar for you, that is until you go get me this shopping list: N,P,K,C,CA,Z etc, etc, etc, everything the plant needs right when it needs it.
Back to succession and Mt. Saint Helens. Now 30 years later the succession of the land covered once buried in ash has now reached old growth forrest, the last stage in succession. Life drove that succession. 1st bacteria. What eats bacteria? Protozoa and fungi, what eats them? Nematodes<micro-arthropods<macro-arthropods<birds, small animals<bigger animals<biggest animals<man… That's who's eating who on top of and in the soil, the soil everything eventually returns to. What we really need to grasp though is how the fungi/bacteria (F: ratio dictates what the soil is selecting for. Click here to see a great chart detailing succession, and a discussion on how the soils C:N ratio and last disturbance control the F:B ratio. Succession of Plants as a Ratio of Fungi: Bacteria | Sustainable Growth A disturbance could be Mt. St. Helens, a mud slide, heavy use of salts, pesticides, tilling, compaction; freshly disturbed soil is always bacterial dominate. So freshly disturbed soil selects for weeds. In cannabis cultivation we want about an even F:B ratio.
What happens when we water with molasses or "Sweet" or whatever simple sugar many "organic gardeners" dump on their soil in a willy nilly fashion? We feed the bacteria, the bacteria scream, "yippee," then throw a huge party and suck up all the oxygen, fungi die off, and the cycle starts again. What happened? We have created a soil programed for high nitrate surges, so we're selecting for the lowest successional plants, i.e. weeds. Don't trip, we can fix the soil, we can even reverse soil compaction, we can use actively aerated compost tea to manipulate what our soil is selecting for. We can dial in the F:B ratio.
With tea's it's especially important to not over feed the bacteria, as soon as the dissolved oxygen level drops below 6ppms a milliliter we're inviting anaerobic conditions. An anaerobic tea will kill your plants, or in the least make them very sick. So don't "...just throw in some molasses..." we need to put in some fungal food too, and not too much of either. Or again; they'll suck up all the oxygen. Back to cannabis, with cannabis cultivation most start with disturbing the soil-digging a hole, mixing in amendments, or "Fox Farms", or "Roots Organic", or whatever mix you may happen to use. Indoor growers are esp. afflicted with this dilemma, whether they're in "smart pots" containers, running soils, whatever the media same problem. So we're going to need to inoculate that media with a tea that has the correct F:B ratio. How do we do that? How do we brew a tea with the right diversity? What do we feed it? All these questions and many more will be answered. But perhaps first we need to understand compost, especially how to make our own.
Side note: Potting soils, amendments, etc., almost always list an NPK ratio, this information is misleading and almost completely useless. We want to see the carbon:nitrogen (C:N) ratio.
Should we make our own compost first? Or jump right into teas using components we can purchase from various sources?
Source: Compost and Compost Teas, A Clarification: Or How to Grow the Very Best Cannabis