The permaculture garden provides the perfect environment to grow cannabis medicine.
Did you know that you can give cannabis buds a boost by supplying the plant with banana water? Simply soak a banana peel in tap water for two days, remove the peel, and pour the banana water at the root of the cannabis plant. Flowering plants will appreciate the extra boost of potassium. And your harvest will reflect that gratitude. While little home remedies, like this, help keep gardens free of toxins and other harmful chemicals, making your cannabis the center piece of a self-sustaining permaculture garden will reap all the enormous buds.
It was Bill Mollison and David Holmgren who first coined the concept of the permaculture garden as a return of humans into a living ecosystem. Instead of stripping and destroying natural systems, this agricultural practice seeks to create a fully integrated system that doesn’t need your help anymore.
Sadly, we often see cannabis growing as a monoculture. Unfortunately, providing the ideal circumstances for a field (or greenhouse) of plants that are genetically identical has consequences. Stripping of the soil and overuse of pesticides are but two of the issues that harm the final product and the environment. Serious growers are looking for a more sustainable and integrated solution. The result is the best possible (quality and quantity) cannabis crop.
What’s the Problem with Cannabis Monoculture?
There are many pros to growing only cannabis. Efficiency and increased yield being two big pros. Essentially, factory farming practices are designed to create the most product in the least amount of space. Practicing monoculture has offered increased efficiency and maximizes yields for a growing population of humans. In fact, there are doubts that we could even produce enough calories to feed the world if we didn’t use monoculture.
Unfortunately, applying production line principles to a living system has less than desirable results. It strips the soil of nutrients as each plant in the space competes for the exact same mineral needs. Over time, this will cause the soil to become infertile. Some farmers have met with success in reversing this process by rotating crops to give certain nutrients and minerals a rest. But in the end, this only delays the inevitable. One simply can’t continue to overproduce and expect the Earth to have time to restore and rejuvenate.
Another really significant problem with monoculture of cannabis is the concentration and evolution of pests. Infestations threaten viability of crops and often mean the application of ever-increasingly potent pesticides in an attempt to save the harvest. If you put all of the favorite food in one spot, what do you think is going to happen? Pests will get the party started without you even knowing they were there.
Thrip, for example, can wipe out plots of cannabis plants very quickly. These invasive pests reproduce twelves times per year and the eggs are hard to find. You can look for small silver and black dots on the underside of the leaf. Often, growers don’t know they have an infestation until thrips are sucking up the sap meant for growing buds, decreasing yield day-by-day.
But, with a little careful planning and application of the principles of permaculture, cannabis will flourish alongside the rest of your food forest.
What is Permaculture?
Permaculture is more than a design system, it’s a holistic gardening process that incorporates the design of your existing space (urban, rural, backyard, remediation site) and builds better. Its sole purpose is to maximize land use while protecting land wellness. The idea is to create a ‘permanent system’ that no longer needs your input, but is a self-sustaining permaculture garden.
Permaculture Incorporates indigenous knowledge and modern techniques to create an interdependent whole. It comes from the belief that in order to truly thrive, humans need to move away from the destructive path they are on and shift toward sustainability. This is not limited to agriculture, but includes housing, social constructs, transportation, economy, education, and healthcare. We need to start living as part of a self-sustaining system.
By honoring indigenous science, permaculture has a framework that incorporates tradition and sustainable new technology. Traditional wisdom will navigate cannabis growers toward a crop that is not only self-sustaining, but regenerating for the land around it.
At the heart of permaculture is a set of twelve design princples that are based on ethics and sustainability. It is about good soil, access to water, self-reliance and then spreading these practices to encompass the larger community.
How to Create a Permaculture Garden
There is a fair amount of experimentation in permaculture and serious creativity. It involves a lot of observing before any action is taken. For example, if your cannabis has browning leaves, observe the area first to find out why it is not a happy plant. It could be a nutrient deficiency or it could be too much heat, or even excess water. Each of these problems has a different solution. And each problem diagnoses a larger deficit in your permaculture system. There’s a saying in permaculture that goes like this: the problem is the solution. Think about that.
Further, in a permaculture garden, you can create a solution that is permanent and self-sustaining. Excess heat can be overcome by making sure there is a suitable canopy overhead. This could be something as simple as a nearby oak tree or a bush that casts some shade during the hottest parts of the day.
If your cannabis plants are infested with aphids, for example, plant some rosemary nearby. Rosemary produces a volatile organic compound that will stop the aphid reproductive cycle. And try some horseradish between the plants. Horseradish chokes out weeds that compete with your cannabis for nutrients and return these to the soil when they die.
While The Urban Farmer gives a more thorough summary in their article: Permaculture Design, the following list is a quick overview of what it takes to create a permaculture garden.
Thoughtful Observation Rather Than Thoughtless Labor
Thoroughly study the area before you plant. This means you should know its history and its current ecosystem. Was there every a building on this land? Any septic systems buried below? Take some time to study light patterns and test for soil conditions. Watch bug populations and determine which pollinators already come to visit. Once you have a good understanding of the land and its personality, it’s time to begin.
Make the Least Change
Start small and then scale up from there. It is less expensive to practice on a small area and then duplicate what is working into the rest of the space. Basically, don’t make the expensive mistake of going all in. For example, instead of digging up and replacing all of the stripped soil, seek remediation solutions such as adding organic compost or manure.
Create a Yield
No matter how small this starts out, create something that serves either the system or a human need. Over time, and as you build on this, your products will become abundant and you will have a surplus of food and cannabis.
Think Multiple Functions, Multiple Elements, Multiple Directions
The more redundancy you can build into your permaculture garden, the less vulnerable it will be to pests or poor weather conditions. For example, have multiple sources of water and irrigation by using rainwater collection, land contouring, and household grey water. Also, make use of vertical and horizontal spaces for growing. Get away from the Western style of neat and identical rows. And plant companion plants to either repel pests or draw them away from your cannabis grow.
It all starts with the sun being converted to useable energy by plants. Then the plants feed beneficial insects and animals, their waste fertilizes the soil, and so on. The key is to trap the energy in the system and cycle it through.
By the same principle, let no resources be wasted and do not allow pollution into your system.
Permaculture Garden Design
Whole system thinking is the key to permaculture design. This means that each element has a relationship to the other elements in the garden. For example, the tree cools the garden and can provide biomass for the soil and forage for chickens or goats (if you are including animals). Interestingly, chickens can be very useful in terms of providing fertilizer and weeding and even keeping down slug populations that can threaten your cannabis grow.
This approach to land use focuses on restoring soil that have been stripped or degraded from overuse. With the application of holistic farming, nature will do the work of restoring herself. Two of the key principles are a ‘no till‘ policy and, secondly, incorporate cover crops. Covering the soil means a reduction in disturbances and a lessening of erosion. Additionally, cover crops that die can return biomass and nutrients to the soil.
The end result will be dense, beautiful buds that are full of good medicine.
When you plan your permaculture garden, resilience should be the goal. This is because resiliency gives your system the ability to withstand and overcome challenges, such as drought or pestilence. Resilient communities have the ability to bounce back quickly.
How do you achieve this? By first observing the pre-design uses of the land (Which plants and animals are already there? What was the land used for before you arrived?) and then researching plants that are indigenous to your climate region. Which plants will help your cannabis grow? Which plants will protect your cannabis?
Growing Cannabis in Your Permaculture Garden
Using the principles of permaculture to grow your cannabis medicine means that you will have both companion plants and plants that help retain water and keep away weeds. Whereas typical cannabis farms have one cannabis plant per pot pr plot, permaculture pairs cannabis with other plants in order to create a whole, self sustaining system. The end result will be cannabis that is healthier and requires little to no attention from you until harvest time.
We have some suggestions for companion plants we have had success with in growing zone 7a.
Companion Plants to Help Your Cannabis Permaculture Project
Legume species of plants are nitrogen fixers. All peas and beans are legumes. Rhizobium leguminosarum is not a spell to banish a nosey neighbor (although, could be worth a shot on a clear night with a full moon). It is the species of nitrogen-fixing bacteria that form a symbiotic relationship with legume plants. These industrious little cells pull nitrogen from the soil, convert it to ammonia and then offer it up to the plant in exchange for sugars.
Leave the legume plant to die after harvest. This will return nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil. Thereby making it more nutrient dense for next year’s cannabis crop.
Stinging nettle is a plant popular to herbal medicine and studies indicate it may reduce inflammation, hay fever, blood pressure and even help regulate insulin levels. It also adds minerals to the soil, including iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium.
Stinging nettle can also cause rashes due to the picky needles protruding from the leaves and stem. The needles cause a burning sensation. Once the plant is processed, however, by freeze drying or cooking, it can easily be consumed in various delicious and healthy recipes.
Strawberry Ground Cover
Strawberry plants are the perfect ground cover. And these will give you delicious red berries throughout most of the early summer. These plants will spread from the mother plant, so every year you will have the more and more cover and berries. If you want to confine the strawberries to one area, this can be easily done by building a barrier to prevent the runners from growing out of the defined space.
The permaculture garden is the perfect spot to grow your cannabis medicine. Importantly, it is part of a growing movement to weave humans back into the fabric of living ecosystems. And THIS is the very essence of cannabis culture.
Go ahead and get started without any feelings of intimidation! The problem is the solution when it comes to permaculture. And you’ll know exactly what that means once you get your sustainable cannabis grow going.