Marijuana growing – pests and diseases
Now that we’ve covered many solutions to combating pests and diseases that can affect your cannabis garden, it is vital to remind you that prevention is the best practice in keeping your marijuana plants healthy. This begins with the growing medium. Preparing your garden with compost is one of the best beginnings you can provide to ensure a successful garden. Compost is rich in nutrients and beneficial microorganisms. It also serves to aerate the soil, allowing for a good flow of oxygen at the root level. Compost is available at any garden center, or you can make it yourself.
Make sure your compost bin has a tight-fitting lid, is elevated off the ground (to allow for air flow) and is in a sunny location. This will facilitate the mixture to ‘heat up’ allowing for proper decomposition. The sun also provides a natural sanitation method by drying the mixture, forming a more soil-like appearance. Your composter should have several holes around the sides to allow oxygen to flow freely into the mix.
Healthy compost consists of green material and brown material. Green material is grass clippings, vegetable and fruit discards, manure (poultry, sheep, horse or cow), coffee grounds, plant cuttings, feathers and hair. These items are rich in nitrogen. Carbon rich brown material can include shredded leaves (make sure they are not diseased!), hay and straw, paper, cardboard (toilet paper and paper towel rolls), tree and shrub trimmings, eggshells, tea bags and corn cobs. All components should be shredded or torn into small pieces before adding to the compost pile. The recommended ratio of brown to green material is thirty to one, respectively.
Do not add meat, bones, fish, eggs (eggshells are beneficial, just not the egg itself), poultry, dairy, fats, grease or oils, coal or charcoal ash, yard trimmings that have been treated with pesticides, black walnut leaves or twigs or cat and dog feces.
Layer the bin alternating with green and brown items. Add enough water to moisten but not saturate the mix. Water should not be released when squeezing a handful. If it is too wet, add more brown material until the mixture has the moisture level of a well squeezed sponge. Conversely, if the mix is too dry, add more water.
Mix or turn the compost weekly to aerate, especially when adding new material. Once your bin is about three quarters full, stop adding new material, but continue to aerate. After several months, the compost will resemble dark, crumbly soil and have an earthy smell. At this point, it should be ready for use. One way to test for readiness is to take a handful of the mixture from the center of the pile and place in a plastic baggie. Keep it sealed and at room temperature for five to seven days. Upon opening the bag, if the compost smells like dirt, it is ready to be added to the garden plot. If it smells rotten, the decomposition process is not yet complete.
Once you have determined the compost is ready for implementing into Mary Jane’s garden, spread it into the prepared bed, blending well with the existing soil. Allow the two soils to ‘marry’ for a week to ten days before planting. This will allow the compost to cool down with less chance of burning new plants.
Now that you are ready to lay the garden, be sure to space your seeds or seedlings far enough apart to allow the flow of oxygen as they grow. If your plants can’t breathe, they will become susceptible to mildew and leaf eating critters. Once your plants are in place, cover with three to four inches mulch. This will help retain moisture, will deter the growth of weeds and will create a home for frogs and toads. Frogs come out at night to eat bugs; they are a welcome asset to anyone’s garden.
If preventative measures still result in garden pests, try mechanical controls before resorting to insecticides, particularly if the garden is not yet infested. The methods discussed below can help to avoid infestation before it hits.
- Air filtration will help indoor gardens from fungal spores and small insects. A fine dust filter will catch them before they enter the grow space.
- Bug zappers can keep flying bugs from entering the garden. These should be used outdoors only.
- Vacuuming will effectively remove white flies, spider mites and their webs, aphids, caterpillars and ants. Use the hose and brush attachment gently. Be sure to immediately discard the vacuum bag, wrapped tightly in a plastic bag, so as not to spread what you’ve just taken the time to remove.
- Hand-pick caterpillars, slugs and snails when you see them. Crush or drop in a bucket of soapy water to drown them.
- Boiling water poured directly into anthills will destroy them. However, do not use this method if the hills are within three feet of the plants or you risk damaging the root system.
- Spraying with the garden hose at high pressure will knock loose and drown aphids, mites, ants and caterpillars.
- Wiping leaves with an alcohol soaked cotton ball or Q-tip will remove scale and mealy bugs. Discard the swabs in a tightly closed baggie.
Download my free grow bible to learn more about pests and diseases.
- Grow with my Quick Start Guide
- Discover secrets to Big Yields
- Avoid common grow mistakes
The bottom line is giving Mary Jane a healthy environment will set her growth off to a good start. Make her happy and she’ll repay the favor by giving you a healthy crop. Happy gardening!