Greetings my artisan friends. I’m Rev, and today I am going to show you guys some simple top-dressing approaches that are off the beaten path for sure, but uber potent for growers using the living soil (no bottles) to grow their plants. As some of you know, one needs to slow down time in your head to think along plant-lines. Plants, and your living soil both benefit huge from air, calcium (Ca), and consistency. When the living soil can count on things, the plant can as well, time to slow down time…
I mention Ca as a special booster of sorts. When your plant gets supplied with a consistent source for available Ca in particular, it will produce superior results, yield and quality. This formula assumes other environmental and nutrient needs are being met. Aeration of your soil, especially in containers, is a prime directive. Never compact your soil mix—that, is the law. Anyway, since we are thinking in slowed down time like plants operate in, let’s start out with one of our greatest tools, gravity.
Letting Air and Gravity Supercharge Top Dressings
Long ago I used to see the soil like a snow cone, kind of. Roots just sucked out the nutrients from the soil like you would suck out the colors from a snow cone, and then you just filled them back up—LoL. Along these same lines, whenever I would top dress, I would always be trying to push top dressings downward using water force and other application methods. Since you are after decomposition here, all you need is moisture, and air, and then gravity. Lots of air equals tons of microbeasties decomposing the source. That equals supernatural results.
Let’s look at the method, man, heh heh. First, we want to really have a mulch layer on top of the soil. It’s not a deal breaker if you don’t, but your results will not be quite as stupendous.
- Water plants first, insuring to get the top of the soil (mulch) evenly wet.
- Apply the top dressing; avoiding the main-stem of the plant with the raw nutrients.
- That’s it. The top dressing will absorb some water, and it is exposed to maximum air up top like that, so it decomposes at a hyper-rapid Just let gravity do the rest. Set and forget.
Literally, forget that top dressing. Don’t assist its assimilation in any way, just water as usual, yada-yada. The impact of doing it this way will be more than obvious in about 10 days. I would always wait at least 10 days between applying top dressings. I would not apply any top dressing within 2 or 3 weeks of harvest. Obey these rules and reap the ambrosia you have sown. Let’s check out some great top-dressing sources (particularly alfalfa) and blends below.
Top-Dressing Advice from Rev
You really want to cover a wide bandwidth of nutrients when using a top dressing. Keep it simple, and consistent. My number one recommendation for any top dressing will always include some good alfalfa meal. Packed full of a wide range of nutrients—huge healthy farm animals exist on this nutrient source exclusively; think about that—and, it possesses at least one powerful growth hormone called triacontanol. You could just use alfalfa meal alone and have great results. Keep your top-dressing formula consistent, about every 10-14 days, the soil (and so the plants) will adapt to exploit that food source in particular—supernaturally.
Too much of anything is bad. We can all agree on that, and too much alfalfa meal will go very badly for your plants. I flower in 3 or 4 gal. containers, and the most alfalfa I would use on them per top dressing would be about 1 tablespoon. In a nice hot and dry garden, you could maybe top dress once every 8 or 9 days and be fine. I assume it is the growth hormone in alfalfa that can cause your plants to go rapidly south if used too often, or in too great of ratios. Use it correctly, and you will see some magic happen.
My soil mix already has decent amounts of DE, crab meal, and bone meal present, so for my top dressing blends I normally use something like granular chicken guano (by Espoma), and alfalfa meal period; although I do add some crab meal as well, here and there. Your own particular soil strength and diversity of elements will dictate your top-dressing choices. If I were just using something like good bagged soil, I would use a more complex blend using all or most of the things listed below. Keep your dressing blend and schedule consistent, that’s where the true power lies.
A Few Cool Top-Dressing Blends
You can use about a tablespoon of alfalfa meal as a top dressing each time, on plants in 3- to 5-gallon pots. There are a few other things, that if you have them laying around, you can add to really cover some bases, nutrient-wise, for your plants. For the following formulas we will assume 3- to 5-gallon pots.
CRAB MEAL: Kickass top dressing loaded with calcium carbonate, great nitrogen, phosphorus, and a little chitin. Chitin is somewhat of an exotic element that cannabis seems to really put to good use. This one pairs well with alfalfa meal, and you could use an additional ½ teaspoon of crab meal with the tablespoon of alfalfa meal per top dressing.
DE (diatomaceous earth): Another great one to bring in an exotic nutrient in decent amounts is DE. You must use agricultural or food grade DE only! Along with more beloved calcium carbonate, this element brings in silicon. Cannabis plants use a lot of silicon particularly when forming resin—’nuff said. You can use about ½ teaspoon of this in addition to the alfalfa meal, and the crab meal if you want.
BONE MEAL: Another great source of calcium here along with a real decent phosphorus, and nitrogen bump, supplying the form of nitrogen flowering plants love to use. You can add about ½ teaspoon of bone meal in addition to anything else above.
GRANULAR GUANOS: Granular chicken (bird or bat) guano can work really well as a standalone top-dressing nutrient source. As a standalone you could use about a tablespoon per application. If you were adding some to any or all the above you would use more like a teaspoon. Make sure it’s granular, and this is a great addition paired with just the alfalfa meal as well. The chicken guano x alfalfa meal is potent and kickass, for flowering plants especially. The guano should have as equal NPK numbers as possible, do not use high phosphorous type guanos for this.
Bottom Dressing with Alfalfa Meal – Catch Tray Tea
I have mentioned versions of this growing philosophy before, using steer manure and other elements in the bottom of self-watering style containers—I’m always tinkering. When using the alfalfa meal up top as a top dressing, and then also doing this, “burns the candle from both ends” as it were, LoL. For a container around 3 or 4 gal. in size, just use 1 teaspoon of alfalfa meal for this move in addition to the top-dressing with alfalfa as above in this article. Here’s how we do it…
Okay now, if we are growing in containers, we have catch trays. If we don’t, then we need to go get some, now. Uber important! If you are using self-watering containers, just dump the alfalfa through the bottom tray lip into the bottom tray. Anyway, so right after you water your plants when there is water in the catch tray, just dump a teaspoon of alfalfa meal right in the water—don’t worry it will spread itself around. This makes for a really mellow alfalfa tea-ish every time you water. Plants LOVE it! Just redo it every time you top dress.
Afterword with Rev
I’m always messing with organic sources that will supercharge my living soil with nutrients and good matter. I love several exotic ones, like bee pollen and pumpkin seeds (ground), to name a couple. However, in the back of my mind I’m always thinking about how hard it is for some of you I hear from to get certain things where you live. Also, I would dig on knowing the simplest method using the easiest stuff to get/source to grow cannabis, in case there’s an apocalypse, heh heh … I give you: Alfalfa.
You guys out there that compost with or without worms and add certain dressings to your soil, will see amazing things by just using this little move with alfalfa alone, it pairs exceptionally well with living soil. Just use good water; you won’t need to bother with actual teas. When you give your plants a rich source of nutrients in a slow and consistent manner, nothing short of magic happens. Don’t underestimate this my green friends.
- REvski 😊
Rev’s Canna Crossword
‘Aight Skunkers, here we go, here’s your next puzzle from yours truly. Mostly cannabis related things, with some nostalgic pop culture here and there. Spark one up and give it a whirl, if ya dare—wink. As per usual the answers will be in next week’s article.
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.