Converting To No-till By The Experts
Setting a standard No-till method
No-till is still a new movement in the growing industry. Many growers are switching over and growing with living soil, ditching nutrients, and letting soil biology do the work.
However, there is no standard system for doing No-till and each expert will go about it in a different way.
So, we reached out to 3 leading No-till experts and asked them some questions to find out what is working best for them!
Meet the Experts
BrownGuy420 at No-till Supply
One of the leaders in teaching No-till soil techniques in cannabis. Soil builder and teacher.
Humboldt Seed Organization
Lance, Cultivator at Redtail Farms
Makes all their nutrients and supplements in house following modified KNF (Korean Natural Farming) which they call Natural Modern Farming. Their focused on closed loop regenerative farming, having no waste, and utilizing the entire plant and the plants material.
This has been proven in indoor growing as well. They are the craft farmers and change the commercial misconception of growing cannabis commercially both indoors and greenhouse.
Zac at Nugz & Kisses Farms
They are farmers that are passionate about plants and passionate about their jobs! Pursuing sustainability will allow them to lower their inputs and their carbon footprint. They will soon be moving their indoor growing into a greenhouse.
How to manage an outdoor grow, according to these experts
Imagine you’ve picked up a new license and are taking over an outdoor grow. The farm already has 99 used 65gal fabric pots and water tanks installed with a drip irrigation set up. This is a scenario we pitched to the experts.
BrownGuy420: Use the 65 gallons, if they’re in good condition and BPA-free. Check to make sure the soil wasn’t used for synthetic growing before using it.
Lance: If it fits in the budget, ditch the 65 gallons in favor of raised beds. Raised beds grow more efficiently and use less water. If the soil is good, use the soil that was in the 65 gallons.
Zac: Likely swap the 65 gallons for something bigger. The larger the soil volume, the larger the plant and the less frequent the watering needs to be.
Addressing the Soil
BrownGuy420: Get the soil tested from a reputable soil testing company. Flush heavy salts and mix in fresh soil to level the soil out if needed. Add minerals, mealed nutrients, red wigglers, and a cover crop to get the soil going.
Lance: Test the soil to make sure it’s pesticide free and acceptable for your state’s testing. Build the soil, starting with Thrive, Earth Shine, compost (free of animal product), and earth worm castings. Introduce worms and cover crop with clover with a top layer of alfalfa.
Zac: Work with the company BuildASoil. Building healthy soil doesn’t happen overnight. They test your soil and print out organic amendment options that will restore the soil to its proper nutrient levels.
BrownGuy420: If the irrigation set up is still functional, use that. Flush the system to be safe, and check each emitter for good flow.
Lance: Use rain bird ½” drip irrigation running down the length of the raised beds with 12” emitter spacing. Should release .96 gallons of water per hour per emitter.
Zac: A drip irrigation setup is ideal, but some organic teas and KNF style ferments can sometimes cause problems. For thick organic nutrients, a hand-held sprayer attached to a filtered pump is the easiest way to go about watering.
Watering and Feeding
BrownGuy420: Small amounts of water every day until the soil starts to retain good moisture, then water every third day.
Lance: Primary feed only once a week. When the plants need water, use just BIM and water. Check soil moisture levels with a meter and water appropriately, probably once or twice per week with ramping up through the hotter months.
Zac: No-till prefers consistent soil moisture levels. With large soil volumes, water every other day or every day for hotter climates.
What if you received an indoor license instead of an outdoor?
BrownGuy420: Same process, more or less.
Lance: Use Grassroots Raised Beds, 4×16 on rolling tables. Use Kings mix soil with a light amount of plant-based compost, earth worm castings, cover crop, and alfalfa. Feed only once a week and use water and BIM any time water is needed. Water twice a week and keep the cover crop and top layer moist every other day to keep biology thriving.
Zac: Raised beds have been a game changer for indoor growing. Test soil frequently. Adding worms to the system will keep you from having to reamend the soil with worm castings. Cover crop and mulch with the first top dressing. After harvesting, seed new cover crop on top of the last top dress and mulch. Hand water. Follow the “modern farms methods” 10-week flowering schedule for feeding.
What were the biggest mistakes you made when converting to No-till on your own?
BrownGuy420: Over thinking was a big early mistake. Thinking too much about PH’s and PPM’s of everything when you just need to let the biology take over. Feed the soil and everything will take over. I wish I understood the processes of living soil better. I would recommend reading “Teaming with Microbes” to get a head start if you would like to get a good grasp on organics first.
Lance: I wouldn’t just say No-till, but when converting to beds you really have to watch water consumption. It’s easy to over water. The roots will find the water source. So be sparing.
Zac: A biggest mistake is thinking that “more is better”. Sometimes you don’t need tons of amendments. I think this mindset comes from “bottled growing and grow stores”. I was buying shit that I didn’t need when I could have been learning about ways to make my own nutrients and cut costs. Closing the loop and using a different approach!
Why is No-till the ideal growing method for cannabis?
BrownGuy420: Growing No-till allows you to grow in your soil indefinitely. It also removes the need to have to replace your soil over time. In fact, your soil will only get better and better over the years. If you give No-till time to set up and to let the soil food web develop, it will produce as good if not better than synthetics. Terpene levels will be higher with No-till growth than it will be with synthetics which has been shown to affect the individual’s high more.
Lance: For me personally it’s all about soil life. I spend all my time and resources building my soil. I don’t want to go in and destroy or damage the microbial life or microorganisms in the soil. I think of the soil as a city and coming in filling is like Godzilla coming in and destroying the city.
Zac: The No-till method has allowed us to cut down drastically on the amounts of bottled nutrients and inputs we’ve used in the past. Why buy a $50 bottle of “whatever” when you can buy a 50lb bag of organic kelp for same price? Not having to micro adjust bottled nutrient recipes for individual strains and allowing the soil to do the work has made a big difference. Feed the soil and the soil feeds the plants! Never throwing away used soil is HUGE! The beds we have make soil that we never have to remove! Way less time spent moving dirt, way less back ache, and the soil just keeps getting better!
Commonalities in the Expert’s Methods
Whether you end up growing with pots or beds or go for large plants or small plants, there are things all the experts are doing.
Cover cropping: Encouraging the biology in the top layer of soil is part of what sets NoTill apart from other growing methods.
Investing in the biology: Earthworms, red wigglers, plant product amendments… Boosting your soil’s natural nutrients is the way to go with NoTill.
Watering carefully: Watering every day should only be needed under special circumstances. Monitor your outputs and be careful not to over-water.
Soil testing: Having your soil tested professionally gives you so much insight into your biology, you can’t afford to pass it up. It’s key to making sure you’re on the right track.
If you have any questions or would like to know more, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll help you out!