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A Full Guide to No-Till Cannabis Farming

Learn how to grow cannabis with this magnificent farming technique!
17 May 2022
13 min read
A Full Guide to No-Till Cannabis Farming

Contents:
  • 1. What is the no-till farming method?
  • 2. The pros and cons of no-till
  • 3. No-till cannabis farming… a mis-understood artform?
  • 4. No-till cannabis growing week-by-week guide
  • 4. a. Preparing the soil
  • 4. b. Week 1 - seedling / rooted clones
  • 4. c. Week 2 - vegetative stage
  • 4. d. Week 3 - vegetative stage
  • 4. e. Week 4 - vegetative (one week before pre-flowering)
  • 4. f. Week 5 - pre-flowering (transition from veg. to flower)
  • 4. g. Week 6 - flowering
  • 4. h. Week 7 - flowering
  • 4. i. Week 8 - flowering
  • 4. j. Week 9 - flowering
  • 4. k. Week 10 - flowering
  • 5. No-till cannabis farming faqs
  • 6. In conclusion

No-till is an agricultural technique used for cultivating without disturbing the soil, which prevents erosion and increases the soil’s health and nutrient retention. This method is known for increasing the variety and amount of life in the soil while requiring minimal labor, and despite not being popular amongst cannabis growers, is a great way to grow cannabis organically!

1. What is the No-Till Farming Method?

No-till farming (aka zero tillage) refers to a land where no tillage is applied between harvest and germination, meaning that there’s no disruption in the soil between one crop to the other. 

 

No-till cannabis guide: what is it?

No till consists of growing any type of crop without disrupting the soil.
 

This technique is more common when growing in sandy or dry soils, this technique reduces erosion while increasing water infiltration, the retention of organic matter, and nutrient cycling, which ends up increasing life in the soil while using mulch and stubble to control herbs and pests, or if necessary, use 100% organic products to do so which results in an overall healthier soil.

2. The Pros and Cons of No-Till

Pros

  • Less use of water and nutrients due to having more organic matter and microorganisms.
  • Improves soil structure which results in better soil oxygenation and water retention.
  • Reduces soil erosion which allows you to recycle the soil.
  • Much more budget-friendly than other cultivation methods.
  • Much less effort is involved during a run and between crop cycles. If done correctly, there should be almost zero need to add any synthetic nutrients or pesticides, which allow the plants to grow as naturally as possible. This natural growth promotes full-spectrum terpene production and the best genetic expression possible in every other aspect.

Cons

  • Increased risk of carrying over diseases to your next crop.
  • It takes time to reap the benefits due to having to activate soil beneficial microorganisms.
  • The premium organic nutrients used to activate the soil can be expensive.

3. No-Till Cannabis Farming… A Mis-Understood Artform?

No-till farming, also known as direct drilling, may sound a little backward. As cultivators, we are usually pretty focused on using new fertilizers, compost, and all the other components that make up a great soil for each and every new crop. Rightly so, many people new to the no-till may be of the belief that zero-till farming will just have zero chance of producing the same results as more conventional cultivation methods. How is possible to produce the same results in terms of overall plant health, potency, and final yield with no-till cannabis cultivation?

Well, think about how it works in nature. some of the most bio-diverse and rich natural soil regions are those that have the least human disturbance to them. The Amazon rainforest is the most naturally biodiverse region in the world, and this is a direct result of the lack of human interaction with the region. Cultivators may also worry about the increased possibility of pest infestation issues when using no-till farming methods. But fear not, as with any thriving ecosystem the symbiosis formed between the lifeforms will help create a biosphere that thrives and is naturally well balanced. The help from beneficial bacteria, fungi, and insects can not be understated. Beneficial nematodes hunt down and eliminate their less desirable cousins. Ladybugs, Green Lacewings,  and Praying Mantis help control the macro pests, and beneficial fungi and bacteria help promote the healthiest and most vigorous growth possible.

4.  No-Till Cannabis Growing Week-By-Week Guide

Well, before starting you need to know that you will need big pots; It’s recommended to use 120L pots (or raised beds) but you can get away using 60L, 30L, or 15L pots, obviously, you don’t need a 120L pot for each plant, you can grow 2-3 plants in each container (depending on the size) so don’t worry, you won’t’ need one huge container per plant.

 

No-till cannabis guide: week-by-week

No-till works better in large containers so we recommend using 60L pots.
 

After you’ve filled the pots, you have to water the soil. The amount of water will vary according to the substrate mix but as a general guideline, water with 6L of water for every 60L of soil.

So now that you’ve chosen the pot size and watered the soil, it’s time to start preparing the soil for your grow cycle.

Have in mind that for the rest of the guide we’ll use the quantities needed for a 60L pot, if you are using bigger (or smaller) containers you’ll have to adjust the quantities.

Preparing The Soil

With the pots filled and watered, you want to add the following per 60L container:

  • 2 tablespoons of cover crop (spread well);
  • 32-64g of premium quality alfalfa meal (NPK ≈ 2.3 - 0.29 - 2.4);
  • 43g of diverse grain bokashi per plant;
  • 2.5-7.5 cm of barley straw mulch (water the mulch and remove the excess water before using).

Once you have prepared the soil, you need to give it time for the ingredients to dissolve and the soil to activate so it will need a minimum of 7 days, up to 1-2 months depending on the size of the container.

 

Yellow Sweet Clover 15%Carter Flax 15%Indianhead Lentils 6%White Proso Millet 2%
White Dutch Clover 15%Crimson Clover 10%Hairy Vetch 6%4010 Forage Pea 2%
Medium Red Clover 15%Iron & Clay Cowpeas7%Common Vetch 5%Mancan Buckwheat 2%

 

A good way to know when to start your grow cycle in this pot is to wait until the cover crops have sprouted, if you don’t know which cover crops to use, we recommend the ones in the table above. 

After the cover crop has come out of the soil you can go ahead and plant your cannabis seeds (or transplant your seedlings) into this pot.

Week 1 - Seedling / Rooted Clones

Right after your seedling comes out of the soil it will be pretty small and the roots won’t have established yet so during the first week you have to provide a good amount of beneficial microbes and fungi to provide a good environment for the roots to develop healthily and thrive.

 

No-till cannabis guide: week 1

 

As said above, baby plants don’t need much food so in the first week you’ll only be providing beneficial microorganisms; So on day 1, you should be introducing all of the following (or as much as you can) beneficial bacteria and fungi: 

 

ArthrobacterBacillusRhodopseudomonas
AzospirillumGlomusStreptomyces
AzotobacterPseudomonasTrichoderma

 

As you can see in the schedule, one day after you can go ahead and introduce some digestive enzymes to help the beneficial microorganisms make the nutrients available for your plants to absorb.

 

AmylaseGalactosidaseInvertase/SucrasePeptidasePhytase
CellulaseHemicellulaseLipasePhosphataseProtease

 

Now that you’re done for the rest of the week there’s nothing left to do other than keeping the soil moist to allow everything to dissolve and the microorganisms to do their thing.

Week 2 - Vegetative Stage

Starting from the second week, you have to take care of your plants for them to grow strong enough to withstand the weight of the buds but you’ll also need to avoid mold and pests so during the following week you will be doing two different applications.

 

No-till cannabis guide: week 2

 

As you can see above, you should apply the first mix as a foliar spray during the beginning of the second week of the vegetative stage, and 3 to 4 days after, apply the second mix.

Make sure the ingredients for the second application are properly combined before applying it.

Have in mind that the fish protein hydrolysate should have (ideally) 14.9% water-soluble nitrogen and 0.1% water-insoluble nitrogen.

Week 3 - Vegetative Stage

To obtain the best results possible, you want to introduce microbes every 15 days so during the third week you’ll be adding the same microbes added during the first day of the first week.

 

No-till cannabis guide: week 3

 

 For the best results possible, the premium organic 3-5-2 NPK should contain as much as possible of the following ingredients:

 

Kelp mealCalciumCrustacean mealSoybean mealMagnesiumMicronized basalt
Karanja cakePhosphateFish mealSulfateMalted barleyGypsum
Alfalfa mealCamelina mealFish bone mealPotassiumCalcium montmorilloniteOyster flour

 

Also, have in mind that if you are looking to keep mother plants or your plants need more time in the vegetative, you can continue alternating between week 2 and week 3 until one week before pre-flowering, then continue with the next feeding chart.

Week 4 - Vegetative (One week before pre-flowering)

One week before your plants start pre-flowering you need to give your plants some extra nutrients for them to have what they need to grow big dense buds.

 

No-till cannabis guide: week 4

 

For this week, you will have to brew an alfalfa meal tea; The tea should be done with 16.3g of high-quality alfalfa meal per 1L of water, letting it soak for 24-48hs with an airstone to help aerate your tea.

Then you’ll want to add the layer of premium organic compost and the soil inoculant, and right after brewing your tea, mix the enzymes in it and water in the amendments.

Remember that you can use any product but for the best results you want the soil inoculant to contain all the following beneficial bacteria or as much as you can:

 

ArthrobacterBacillusEnterobacterMicrococcusRhodospirillum
AzotobacterBrevibacillusLysinibacillusPseudomonasStreptomyces

 

Also, if you were planning to prune some leaves to allow more airflow and light to reach all the buds equally or remove any branches to promote bud growth at the top, now is the time to do it.

 

No-till cannabis guide: pruning

If you were looking to defoliate a bit, now is the time to do it!
 

Have in mind that for your plants to be properly fed, the Super phosphate should be preferably derived from rock phosphate and contain the following:

 

Avail. phosphate7%Iron 1%
Calcium 21%Manganese 0.05%
Sulfur 1%Sodium 0.3%

 

And the CalSil should preferably be derived from wollastonite and contain the following:

 

Soluble potash 1%Carbon 11%
Calcium 16%Silicon dioxide27%

 

As said before, don't worry if the product you find doesn't contain everything described in the tables, as long as it contains the main ingredients your plants will be fine.

Week 5 - Pre-Flowering (transition from veg. to flower)

This week is when most plants will stretch quite a bit so make sure you adjust your lights accordingly and, due to your plants needing much more nutrients for the buds to develop, you’ll be feeding them quite a lot.

 

No-till cannabis guide: week 5

 

All of the products except the micronutrients + humic acid have already been used in the last weeks so you already know what they should have, but for this new ingredient you should look for a product with a high Iron content but very low Manganese, Boron, Cobalt, Copper, Molybdenum, and Zinc content.

Week 6 - Flowering 

In the sixth week from seed, your plant will be in full-flowering mode so there’s not much to do other than maintaining the best conditions possible and continue feeding your cannabis plants.

Make sure you keep an eye out for bugs or mold but you shouldn’t have a problem at all.

 

No-till cannabis guide: week 6

 

All of the products mentioned in this week’s schedule except the bloom booster have already been used in the last weeks so you already know what they should have, but for this new ingredient you should look for a product made with the following:

 

Non-GMO micronized soy mealWater-soluble fulvic acid and gypsum
Micronized soft rock phosphateHorticultural epsom

Week 7 - Flowering 

Reaching the seventh week your buds should be taking shape and looking beautiful. Due to having fed quite a lot during the last week, you’ll mostly foliar spray during this week to avoid any minor nutrient deficiencies and keep your plant with that beautiful healthy appearance.

 

No-till cannabis guide: week 7

Week 8 - Flowering 

During this week you'll be feeding quite a bit of nutrients to provide your plants what they need for thick dense buds.

This week is critical if you want to get beautifully frosty and chunky buds so make sure you provide everything your plant needs and keep an eye to ensure she's growing healthy.

 

No-till cannabis guide: week 8

 

By the eighth week your buds should be looking almost finished, now it’s just a matter of providing that last boost before reaping the rewards. Try to check every day for bugs, due to the neem oil sprayed during the last weeks there shouldn't be a problem at all but it won't hurt checking just to make sure.

Week 9 - Flowering 

Before starting your grow cycle you should already know approximately how long the strain you’re growing will take so you can tweak the schedule a bit and make sure you can flush properly. Remember that this article just serves as a guideline and may differ depending on your growing conditions.

 

No-till cannabis guide: week 9

 

Ideally, you should flush for 3 weeks (obviously, when possible) due to the amount of nutrients in the pot but if it’s not possible in your case, try to flush for 1 week at least (the next one).

Week 10 - Flowering 

In the last week of flowering you can continue watering with the freeze-dried coconut water if you think it's necessary and only if you think your buds could fatten up a bit more.

During this last week, you’ll have to take into account several factors such as the state of the trichomes and stigmas to know when your plant is ready for harvest according to the type of effect you prefer,  but this could take a couple of days so make sure you check every day.

 

No-till cannabis guide: week 10

On week 10 your plant will be ready (or almost ready), so now it's just a matter of harvesting!
 

Once your buds are 100% it’s just a matter of harvesting, drying, curing, and smoking your sweet organically grown buds!

5. No-Till Cannabis Farming FAQs

Is Indoor No-Till Cannabis Cultivation Possible, And Recommended?

Although more commonly practiced by outdoor cultivators, no-till cannabis farming can be used in indoor growing environments. It is possible to grow the best tasting and smelling weed of your life using that’s strong as all hell in rich, organic soil that can be reused season after season. All it takes is a little time and care, but in the long run, you will save not only a bunch of cash on bagged soil and nutrients but also a heap of time!

How Does No-Till Farming Save You Money and Time?

By creating a living, healthy, and thriving biosphere with our super soil we take care of the macro and micronutrient needs of the plant. Sure, we may add some organic additives at certain and specific times during the lifecycle, but these can be cheaply sourced or even made at home. They are also not 100% necessary but will help promote the best traits possible and ensure a potent and delicious final product that will impress in yield size.  In terms of time savings, it’s pretty simple. The super soil does a lot of the work for you, meaning you have more time to tend to the plants themselves. Gone are the days of laboriously mixing up a nutrient solution every day, then checking the EC or PPM, and then pH'ing the solution before you are finally ready to feed the crop. With no-till, the substrate provides most of the nutrients (if not all), and so all you have to worry about is the pH of the water. And then there is the period between crop cycles. With no-till, the substrate should be ready for replanting almost immediately. 

Is No-Till Cannabis Cultivation for Everybody?

Yes and No. Although it is essentially quite an easy cultivation method once everything is set up and in place, it does take some prior knowledge and a good understanding of plant life to get it right. In general, for novice growers at least, we recommend using coco-coir and bottled synthetic nutrients for the first couple of crop cycles at the very least. But, if you have a garden patch ready to go that has all the hallmarks of healthy, thriving soil then go ahead! What do you have to lose?

What we would say is to start small. There is no need to go balls to the wall and start a huge, multi-strain crop straight away. In general, it’s probably best to start your no-till with no more than about 10 plants of the same strain. This allows you to fully understand the differences between no-till and whatever other cultivation methods you have experience with. This also takes some of the strain away if things do not go to plan, and can be the difference between losing and saving the crop.

How Important is Mulch?

We can not understate the importance of covering any and all bare topsoil with organic mulch. You want to heavily mulch all areas with a wide and diverse range of materials, as this is one of the best ways to promote the bio-diversity and activity of the growing area. With no-till farming methods, we are essentially trying to perfectly recreate how it works in nature. The most fertile areas of our planet have natural ways of mulching themselves. As the seasons change, the trees drop their leaves and let their dense, nutrient-rich bark fall. Trees die, as do smaller plants, and all of this turns into natural mulch. It acts as a protective barrier between what lives above, and what lives below the soil. Give your soil the best chance of thriving, and mulch away!

Should you Add Worms and Worm Castings to Your No-Till Cultivation Area?

One of the absolute best ways to promote a thriving and healthy biosphere within your no-till grow space is to amend your super soil with worms and worm castings. Its one of the most efficient ways to promote the production of fresh compost, otherwise known as “vermiculture.” 

Worms break down any and all organic material and through the magic of digestion, they produce the highest quality compost you could ever hope for. This means that there will never be a lack of organic nutrients available to your crop, and will eliminate the need for the use of any synthetic fertilizers whatsoever. 

6.  In Conclusion

This guide will result in an unbelievable harvest, with delicious smelling and tasting flower. We understand that some of the ingredients used may be quite hard to find depending on where you live so we recommend using Build A Soil products which are of an extremely high quality.

If you have experience with no-till cannabis farming and can help fellow growers with some tips and tricks, please leave a comment in the comment section below!

 

External References

  1. IMPACTS OF NO TILL FARMING IN AGRICULTURE.  - Mukherjee, Bishal. (2019). 
  2. No-Till Farming Systems in Europe.  - Stroud, Jacqueline. (2020). 
  3. No-Till Farming.  - Kynigos, Nathaniel. (2015). 
17 May 2022