Mulching your cannabis gardens may sound blasé, but in fact, it is a keystone fundamental. IF… we are talking top shelf cannabis products. Even effecting the quality of extracts.
Recently, I have changed my preferred mulch. It’s still tree bark, just not shredded. You can use a surprising number of things for mulching. Before we get into actual mulch examples, I want to try and briefly explain why it is, that you care. Heh heh. You do care, if you are an all-natural/organic grower that uses living soil. You care more than you think you care, I would wager.
Let’s zoom out to 20,000 feet, and take a bigger macro-view at what mulch is, and always has been. Older organic farmers call it ‘Top Down’ growing methodology. It’s just using constant mulching. Also, it happens to be a ‘No-Till’ style. It also happens to be the way the plants and trees work on this planet. Basically “everything” lives and dies and falls onto the ground. It decomposes, feeding soil life, and so, plants and trees. Eventually the particles get so small they pack together tightly, feet below ground, as clay. Clay is pure nutrients with no aeration. Fungus plays a major role in accessing clay nutrients in the ground.
In containers, or in the ground, we always want to have a healthy and fairly thick mulch layer. Your mulch is basically food waiting to happen. Mulching also leverages the microlife. Up on the surface is where roots feed vigorously. It helps keep consistent moisture levels up top. This way the top soil won’t dry out super-fast. Again, this promotes colonization by the soil life. Always a good thing.
Road Rules of Mulching
You never want to use anything heavy as a mulch layer. No gravel, stones, sand, or pumice, etc. This would compact your soil—especially in containers. That’s not a good thing, ever. You also want to avoid mulching sources that would alter the pH. For example, pine needles can take the pH down due to their vitamin C content. Another example would be walnut tree leaves/twigs. These will tend to drive the pH upward. Just do a little research on anything you plan to use as mulch, first.
The very best mulch to use on cannabis plants, in my experience, is from cannabis plants themselves. Specifically stems and leaves. Chop them up and you have the best cannabis mulch. Earthworm castings make an awesome mulch, as long as it’s a bit chunky. Same goes for homemade compost. Bark mulch is my favorite go-to now for almost two decades. It’s a wicked good probiotic, and it has good nutrient values, like K, when it decomposes. It is also a bit of a buffer pH-wise, keeping the surface from getting too acidic. Bacteria dig that.
If you have access to good castings or compost, even if you use bark mulch or whatever. Always put a thin layer of compost/castings down just under your mulching layer.
Mulching with Chunky vs. Shredded Matter
Coir, lawn clippings, leaves, twigs, tree bark, stems, weeds, banana peels, straw, and of course, cannabis leaves and stems. These are all examples of mulching sources. There are many more. Common sense is a biggie here amigos. No lawn clippings from treated lawns. Weeds, are iffy, care must be taken your mulch is from healthy plants, and is fully dried. Coconut coir fiber is a fine mulch, but it MUST have been rinsed/flushed thoroughly with fresh water first. If you opt to use straw, alfalfa straw is the boss.
All of your mulch should be dried fully, with the exception of chunky compost, or worm castings. These two need not be dried out first before being used as mulch. And, as I mentioned before, either one of these makes a fine standalone mulch. I wouldn’t apply a super-rich mulch, like earthworm castings, with less than 4 weeks until harvest.
Chunky bark mulch lasts much longer than shredded. In the photo above you can see how the shredded bark mulched container no longer has a mulch layer after 30 days. So, the chunkier mulch also saves you the extra work of having to replace your mulch layer every 30 days. Nice!
The Nitrogen (N) Touchup
When you get your mulch sourced out, no matter what it is, if it hasn’t been composted somewhat already, you need to add a little N. Some bark mulch is pre-composted. This type doesn’t usually require the N touchup. But, any raw mulch will. You see, as raw mulch starts to decompose up top, a shit-ton of microlife make it their home, feeding on the mulch and growing. Those micro-bodies need a lot of N. So, they’ll take it from the soil. Which means from the plant. Here’s how ya do…
After you water the plants with the new mulch the first time, just sprinkle a little blood meal or bat/bird guano, right on top of the wet mulch. That’s it. That is all you have to do. This move will supply additional N to the microlife decomposing the mulch. Your plants will be much happier. All top dressing should also be done in this manner, exactly.
Rev’s Artisan Mulching Tips
Avoid using plant matter for mulching from plants that have been hit with powdery mildew (PM), or other parasites. Things like zucchini plants, and cucumber plants, aren’t good sources. These plants die to PM as a natural way of doing things. Super-bad for indoor cannabis gardens.
Chopped up and dried banana peels are one of my favorite mulch sources. Cantaloupe rinds also work well, as do potato peels. Basically, any squash or melon rinds. Kelp, that has been Rinsed off well and dried, is awesome. The thickness of your mulch layer should be at least 1” – except in very small pots. Replenish your mulch layer as needed. It will decompose.
Finally, make sure any mulch you purchase, has not been treated with anything. No colors added. Stuff like that. Read the small print. 😎👍
Granular Chicken Guano Update
Hey guys. A quick little sidebar regarding the granular chicken guano by Espoma. Seems you all have listened to my advice, and cleaned out Espoma for this product in the 25lb. size. LoL! You can still get the 3.5 lb. size online, easily. When mulching, one of my favorite things to sprinkle down first, is this chicken guano. I also like alfalfa and crab meal here, along with it. The combo rocks. Happen to be looking for some awesome all-naturally bred cannabis seeds? Check out Kingdom Organic Seeds Online baybee!
I do all my TLO style spiking exclusively, using this granular chicken guano product these days. However, if it were unavailable to me, I would use bird or bat guano for spikes and layers. I would cut it 50%, so it was half guano and half kelp meal. Alfalfa meal also works well for a 50% cut here. Avoid the high-P type guanos. Something like 7-3-1 NPK values is fine. Not something like 0-10-0 NPK values.
Alright then my green amigos. Time for me to fly for now, but I’ll see you all back here next week. Man, I have been smoking a ton of hashish lately—lockdown hash ice-bongs O-plenty LoL. I hope you enjoyed the article today, here’s another article by yours truly to check out if ya wanna: True Living Cannabis Water
I'm The Rev, and I have been with SKUNK for about a decade now. I hail from Southern California, spent mucho time in Northern California, and now reside in Southern Oregon; always coastal. I am an all natural style cannabis grower and I have written a couple books on the subject - check out True Living Organics 2nd Edition on Amazon - I have been growing for over 45 years, and I have been breeding cannabis for over 30 years. Check out kingdomorganicseeds.com to see some exotic selections. Growing connoisseur cannabis is what I teach mostly, growing it in living soil without using liquid organic nutrients to feed the plant. I am also a highly skilled synthetics grower, hydroponics, aeroponics, DWC/SWC/NFT, Ebb and Flow, and soilless, but I cringe when smoking synthetic grown herbs, so for the last 15 years or so I preach the artisan style of all natural growing, specializing in container growing. Cheers and welcome aboard.