Soil and Hemp
by the Farmer of Sunlight, James Hinkle
The Ancient Greeks believed that to be a successful farmer one must first understand the nature of soil.
Being in tune with the health and quality of your soil will enable you to develop healthy root systems for your hemp crop which will result in thriving plants and a bountiful harvest. Being that soil is composed of mineral particles combined with living and dead organic matter we can amend it to optimal conditions for our hemp plants. Three major characteristics of soil that every farmer should familiarize themselves with are texture, nutrient content and pH levels.
Soil texture plays a major role in root development and it determines the amount of water drainage and aeration that will be available to the plant’s root system. There are three major categories that we can use to identify the various soil textures and they are clay, sand and loam. The soil texture is a consequence of the size and physical characteristics of mineral particles.
Clay is composed of tiny, flat particles and when it gets wet those particles will pack tightly together which will impede root growth as well as aeration and drainage. Sandy soils are made up of large particles that allow for adequate aeration and excessive drainage that will create a demand for frequent watering. The most optimal soil texture for hemp is loam as it contains a mixture of the other textures which results in a steady rate of water drainage, a healthy amount of aeration and little resistance to the development of a root system. Proper soil texture is vital to the development of a healthy plant.
Nutrients from the soil flow through the roots of the plant and serve to fuel its development. While there is a wide array of nutrients that can be found in soil and utilized by hemp plants, the major ones that you will want to track and amend are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (commonly referred to as N-P-K). Overall plant growth is a consequence of nitrogen and it is found in all plant cells. Composted manure is an excellent source of organic nitrogen that can be added to any garden. Phosphorus serves to facilitate the conversion of sunlight into energy for root development which also contributes to overall plant growth. A rich organic source of phosphorus is manure from animals that are exclusively grain-fed. Potassium increases the resiliency of the hemp plant which helps to deter disease. One simple organic potassium amendment for your oil is hardwood ash. While the above three macronutrients are of the utmost importance, there is also value in tracking the micronutrient content of your soil. A few examples of micronutrients are calcium, sulfur and magnesium. We all know that it is important to water our plants, but it is also important to feed them by supplying them with all of the proper nutrients.
While it is important to provide your hemp plants with a balanced diet of macro and micronutrients, that is only half the battle. If the pH levels of the soil are not optimal your hemp plants will not be able to process those nutrients efficiently. The pH scale is a measure of the acid-alkaline balance in the soil and it ranges from one to fourteen. One represents the most acidic, seven is considered neutral and fourteen is as alkaline as the soil can get. Hemp prefers a slightly acidic balance and can be cultivated in soil ranging from 5.8 to 7 but the optimal range is 6.5 to 7. In the event that the soil is too acidic the nutrients will be chemically bound and hemp roots will be unable to absorb them. An excessive amount of alkalinity will also make the nutrients unavailable and can lead to a toxic salt build up in the soil. Much like texture and nutrient content, the pH level of your soil can be amended. If you seek to lower the pH level (increase acidity) you can apply a material containing lime, ground agricultural limestone is one example. If you seek to increase alkalinity and raise the pH level, you can amend the soil with sulfur. Maintaining an ideal pH level of your soil should be a top priority otherwise any other amendments you’ve made to the soil may have been in vain.
A firm understanding of soil texture, nutrient content and pH levels will pay off come harvest time for not only hemp but any crop that you may choose to farm. Possessing the knowledge to properly and organically amend each of these soil characteristics will allow us to overcome countless obstacles as farmers and gardeners. It is key to remember that the health of the plant is dependent upon the health and development of its root system, which is at the mercy of the soil that we choose to cultivate in.
The major takeaway from all of this information is that if you take care of your soil, it will take care of your hemp.
Let me know if you have any questions, comments or concerns about the above at James@HinkleHemp.com Respectfully, James Hinkle | Farmer of Sunlight
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