All living things thrive when ideal conditions are identified, provided, supported and maintained. At Fire Flower Farm we pay special attention to the dirty truth: A plant’s health starts in the soil.
Proper pH Levels of Soil
To begin with pH seems appropriate. Perhaps the most well known and frequently tested characteristic of the soil, Potential Hydrogen gauges the concentration of hydrogen ions. More simply put, it is the measurement of how acidic or alkaline a substance is. With a scale of 0-14, 7 is neutral. 0-7 represents acidic soil and 7-14 is alkaline. Moving one full number on the scale would be 10x more acidic or alkaline than the next. For example, a pH of 6 is 10x more acidic than a pH of 7. And 5, 10x more acidic than a reading of 6. It is important to consistently check pH levels; it can easily slide to extremes in either direction.
The proper pH for cannabis, like many flowering plants, is between 6-7. But, various minerals are absorbed better at different pH levels. For this reason, instead of determining a single perfect measurement, it is beneficial to let the levels fluctuate from 6.0-7.0. When kept within these bounds plants will have the benefit of absorbing the broad spectrum of essential minerals.
It is crucial to establish this ideal pH window. Soil health will thrive and plants can easily uptake all of its nutrient needs.
Widely known to any home gardener or student of botany, N, P and K dominate the attention and promotion of the growing industry. They are easily the most supplemented elements in the soil, and for good reason. When incorporated with other essential minerals, plants will reach their peak potential.
Nitrogen is most notable in the vegetative stage. As an essential element of all amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, it is used by the plant to produce lush foliage and construct tissues for creating strong stalks and stems. Nitrogen is also a main component that carries genetic material supporting unique traits and characteristics, aiding the plant’s survival. With sufficient nitrogen, photosynthesis can run at a high rate and result in robust growth and development.
Phosphorus is the key element utilized for timely flowering and fruiting. It also encourages root growth, is required for the storage and transfer of other nutrients throughout the plant, assists in passing on genetics from previous generations and is critical in photosynthesis.
Potassium is an all-around important nutrient in the life cycle of a plant, aiding in a variety of important functions. It signals to the stomata when to open and close, regulating the uptake of CO2. Potassium regulates water and salts in plant tissues and cells, while also promoting the creation of proteins and starches used to build and feed the plant.
Magnesium is needed for the production of chlorophyll, flowers and fruit. It strengthens cell walls and increases uptake of nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur.
Sodium regulates the balance of water within the plant, resulting in cell expansion and more vigorous growth.
Many lesser known minerals are imperative for a plant to properly function.
Zinc is a major component of many enzymes that prompt metabolic processes within the plant. Carbohydrate, protein and chlorophyll production is impossible when soil is devoid of this mineral.
Manganese is necessary for photosynthesis to take place. It metabolizes nitrogen, synthesizes enzymes and assists in the formation of chloroplast.
Although only a small amount of iron is required, it is critical for producing chlorophyll and regulating the flow of oxygen within the plant.
Copper is imperative in all the main functions of the plant. It is needed to perform photosynthesis, respiration and metabolizing carbohydrates and proteins.
Boron plays an important role in the formation and strengthening of cell walls. Good levels of boron can also help increase the uptake of potassium and phosphorus.
It’s incredibly difficult to completely understand the intricate interplay of these minerals in the context of plant and soil health. But through research and lab testing optimal levels can be adjusted and achieved.
Soil is Alive
Well decomposed compost may be the single best addition to any growing space. Its benefits are numerous. The substance provides essential nutrients to the soil, improves soil structure allowing for better air flow and water retention and introduces and supports beneficial life forms like bacteria, microbes, fungi, enzymes and insects. It also helps to suppress the existence of any pests that could negatively affect the biome of the soil.
Cations, positively charged ions, are released in the soil from specific beneficial nutrients. Negatively charged soil particles will retain cations, making them available for the plant’s use. A healthy living soil will have a high Cation Exchange Capacity, which indicates its ability to make available important cations of magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium, iron, copper and manganese. Soil with a high CEC will retain water and nutrients more effectively as well as maintaining a stable pH.
Enzymes in the soil increase the efficiency of plant material decomposition. They are made up of living and dead microbes, plant roots and other soil life. Enzymes accumulate and bind with humus (broken down organic matter) and are responsible for physical soil properties and microbial activity. Because the levels of enzymes fluctuate noticeably, their presence is a telling indication of the direction of a soil’s health.
How Fire Flower Farm Encourages Soil Health
Fire Flower Farm acknowledges and strives to understand all of the complexities of a truly substantive soil. We use many different organic and holistic amendments to supplement the native soil.
Alfalfa meal provides NPK and an abundance of trace minerals, vitamins and amino acids.
Blood meal is a wonderful way to give a considerable natural boost of nitrogen. It is especially effective early in the vegetative stage and serves as a cost-effective slow release fertilizer. Blood meal also helps to keep critters away that detest the smell.
The prize of using crab meal as a fertilizer is its abundance of calcium. The bonus is its content of phosphorus and magnesium, along with the ability to destroy pests residing in the soil and engaging the plant’s immune system.
Feather meal is another naturally sourced product that will significantly lift nitrogen levels and improve soil structure.
Epsom salt adds a jolt of magnesium to the soil. Magnesium is especially important during the time of flower production.
Kelp meal is a miracle soil amendment. It provides amino acids, chelated minerals that bond with amino acids for easy absorption and the essential trace minerals boron, cobalt, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc.
Bat guano and seabird guano typically contain concentrated amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus, and can help to drastically improve soil quality.
Mycorrhizal fungi, or mykos, are an underground web of fungus that interacts beneficially with the existing microbes in the soil. It enhances root health and growth exponentially. Essential nutrient availability and uptake increases when mycorrhizal fungi transport carbohydrates to microbes. This results in faster growth, greater water efficiency, improved soil condition and less of a demand for fertilizer.
Our raised beds are tested annually for quality and content of all of these significant factors. Using this scientific guidance we amend the native soil accordingly to bring into harmony all of the necessary nutrients in order to produce the healthiest plants and final product possible.
In the beginning until the end, all living things are composed of billions of much smaller forms of life. In order to survive, and thrive, there is a delicate balance to maintain among all of the vital components present in the soil.
Like the ecosystem of our own bodies, health and prosperity starts by taking care of these unfamiliar and unseen elemental building blocks of life. It is becoming more than ever that the foundation of plant health is in its soil. And at Fire Flower Farms we put our dirt first, nourishing and treating it with its due respect.