What Happens When a Marijuana Grower
Looks for Better Soil?
Posted by Michigan Jim | 8800 views
By Michigan Jim
If you want crystally buds like this and you’re growing in soil, you need quality soil.
(Click to enlarge)
Of all the concerns we have as marijuana growers looking to cultivate the healthiest plants that produce the most THC and the largest harvest weight with the least amount of hassle, one of the biggest worries is getting quality root zone media.
Marijuana growers who want to grow in soil or “soilless mix” have two clear choices. We build our own soil, perhaps using Subcool’s supersoil recipe, or we buy soil or soilless mixes.
Buying soil at a hydroponics store means buying products that include Fox Farm Ocean-Forest, Roots Organic 707, Metro-Mix, or Sanctuary Soils Empire Builder. Buying a soilless mix means buying Pro-Mix, Sunshine Mix and other peat-heavy mixes.
Buying soil at Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart and other non-hydroponics stores means you're getting very low-grade soil that serious marijuana growers should not even consider using. What's worrisome is that about six out of ten soil and soilless mix experienced marijuana growers I’ve talked to have now or in the past have had problems with popular soil and soil mix products, even those bought at hydroponics stores.
Growers are sometimes forced to use dangerous chemicals, add extra amendments to change soil pH or porosity, or go through other big hassles to fix problems that came in the soil bag or the soilless mix bale.
I'm not saying all hydroponics store commercial soil mixes or soilless mixes are inferior at all times. A significant percentage of marijuana growers get good results with commercial soil mixes. However, the problems that many marijuana growers are worried about include:
• Lots of filler: Too much debris, such as bark, stones, sticks, stems, etc. These contribute little or nothing to plant nutrition, are not the right density for marijuana roots, may carry pathogens, and affect pH of root zone.
• Inferior physical or chemical properties such as inadequate porosity & drainage, incorrect pH, incorrect mixture of components, low quality components, fillers.
• Pests and pathogens on board, such as fungus gnats, root aphids, pythium, and other insects and/or pathogenic organisms that destroy marijuana roots.
• Incorrect or expiring starter nutrients charges. Incorrect or expiring wetting agents. Incorrect or expired beneficial bacteria and/or fungi. These are important factors that affect the freshness and value of soil or soil mix many growers use.
What happened that made me write this article is I went to the local hydroponics store and they had this new soil called Potter’s Gold. I was way dissatisfied with other commercial brands and was ready to try something new...if it was better.
I asked the store people to open a bag. As soon as I looked at the soil and ran my hands through it, I realized this soil is a potential gold mine for marijuana growers.
As you can see from the photos below, Potter’s Gold really is gold-colored (these photos are exactly what Potter’s Gold and another commercial soil look like out of the bag). And how odd is it to describe soil as "clean?" It sounds almost contradictory, right?
But clean is the right word. This kind gold soil just did not have the sticks, bark pieces, and other filler debris you find in other commercial soils. See for yourself:
Potter's Gold soil (on the left) is clean, safe, & easy to use.
The soil on the right is typical of other commercial soil brands sold to us at hydroponics stores.
At first I mistakenly assumed Potter’s Gold contained coco coir, because there were long, blonde fibers that reminded me of the best coco coir substrates. The soil felt uniquely clean and rich. It flowed through my fingers with a totally different look, smell, and feel than any other soil I’ve encountered.
So I anonymously contacted the manufacturer of Potter’s Gold and talked to the guy who made it. He uses a pseudonym: “The Dirtman." I asked him for detailed information about his soil so I could compare its quality and components with other brands.
It was a real pleasure to talk with a very knowledgeable and down to earth university-trained horticulturalist and soil scientist with many years experience making container soils using computer-controlled blending techniques, machinery, and specialty materials.
The Dirtman’s primary business is making custom soil recipes and providing grower support for non-marijuana commercial greenhouse and nursery clients in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio.
He is confident in Potter’s Gold combination of ingredients, which includes elite peat from three different Canadian bogs. It’s “long-fiber blonde peat” with physical and chemical properties that optimize root zone pH, water-holding, and nutrients availability.
He listed Potter’s Gold other ingredients as high-grade perlite, composted red pine bark, screened deciduous leaf humus, premium earthworm castings, amino acids, vitamins, humic acids, meal components made from alfalfa, poultry, fish, crab, lobster and kelp, horticultural vermiculite, a starter nutrients charge, and a large roster of beneficial mycorrhizal fungi sub-species.
And then The Dirtman provided me with a credible, scientific explanation for why this combination of ingredients is optimized for root growth, nutrient release, proper oxygenation and water-holding capacity, and other important factors.
He referred me to a high-end scientific soil analysis on his website, and it was interesting to see a real soil analysis that explained how people like The Dirtman make sure soil will work well for growers.
But what really counts for our marijuana community is how Potter’s Gold works for medical marijuana plants. I bought several bags of Potter’s Gold and did a test grow with it, while at the same time polling marijuana growers who ran their own Potter’s Gold tests.The unanimous opinion was Potter’s Gold is a connoisseur soil that’s a pleasure to work with. I heard nothing but glowing reviews.
In my Potter’s Gold test grow with clones from marijuana strains Chernobyl and Girl Scout Cookies, the soil provided ample grow phase nutrition through week three of grow phase. After that, I began feeding with Iguana Juice Grow full-strength until I flipped to flowering phase and fed with Iguana Juice Bloom full strength. I experienced absolutely no nutrient absorption problems. No bugs. No sogginess. No pathogens. And drainage was just right. At my grow room humidity (constant 53%), the root zones dry out predictably in 3-6 days, depending on how thirsty my marijuana plants are.
In Potter’s Gold, my marijuana plants grew fast, and their leaves were lush and richly-colored all the way to cut day. Root development was above average. Taste was superb. The test group agreed that Potter’s Gold is a marijuana grower’s dream come true.
As a marijuana grower frustrated with the inherent and pervasive problems that occur in other soil and soilless mixes sold in hydroponics stores, I was very happy to find this golden, properly-crafted soil. When I contacted The Dirtman to give him props for making great soil, he said his main goal is ensuring every batch of Potter’s Gold is uniform, free of pests and pathogens, and well-designed. For him, it’s not just about getting a fair price for making top-shelf soil, it’s also about making custom, superior soil because it’s what he loves to do, and do well.
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Looks for Better Soil?
Tuesday, 16 July 2013
Photography by © Copyright, Michigan Jim, 2013
Article by Michigan Jim, on Jul. 17th 2013