A prospective outdoor gardener in a place without any viable soil faces a dilemma. Purchasing and moving large amounts of topsoil might compromise a secret location you’ve scoped out for cannabis growing, either in your own yard or in the wilderness.
Instead hauling in literally tons of topsoil, you can make do with a few bales of straw instead. Cannabis grown directly into a conditioned bale of straw has everything it needs as long as you keep adding fertilizer or compost. After harvest, you can either compost the straw or use it as a soil amendment in the hopes of one day planting directly into the ground.
For starters, lay down some landscape fabric to prevent any weeds from growing through your straw. Place the bales on their sides so the string doesn’t pass over the top surface where you’ll eventually plant. Don’t cut the strings; you need them to keep the bale’s shape.
To condition the bales you first have to completely soak them in water. They need a source of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. If you decide to use fertilizer, sprinkle three cups on each bale every other day for a week while watering every day. After that use half that amount of fertilizer for three days. After 10 days the bales should be ready. Instead of fertilizer, you can use bone meal, blood meal, urine and compost to amend the straw.
The bales should head up considerably. Always keep them wet and make sure the heating doesn’t get out of control; they can become a fire hazard without sufficient water.
Start your clones or seedlings in some potting soil. Once they get six inches tall or become root bound, transplant the entire container into the straw bale. For maintenance all you need is a drip irrigation system and weekly application of bone meal/blood meal or compost. Up the amount of compost or blood meal if you spot a nitrogen deficiency, but be careful not to overfeed.
Once the time comes to flush for harvest, let out double the amount of water in the drip irrigation and stop adding amendments. The porous straw will quickly flush out of excess minerals and nitrates leaving for a clean smoke.
If the temperature of the straw bales does not get hot enough to kill any potential weed seeds, they may start to grow on the sides of the bales. Not to worry, they won’t harm your plants. Plant wildflowers around the sides of the bale to act as natural shields from pests by attracting beneficial insects.
After you finish harvesting, you can do one of two things with the leftover bales. Breaking them up and spreading them over the ground will benefit the soil below it. Year after year this will leave you with soil fertile enough to grow in. Alternatively, you can compost the used straw in a compost pit over the winter for use next year as an amendment for you next straw bale garden.
Don’t miss our previous Grow Hack: Get Better Flavors with Indoor No-Till Cannabis Gardening