This year at the farm I’m taking fertility of the cannabinitas into my own hands. I am striving to leave behind bottled fertilizers and replace them with my homemade goodies! Less plastic waste, fossil fuel emissions, and mystery around what my ladies uptake. After a recent side by side test I am more than happy with the results of my ferments. The only hurdle left to overcome is making production more efficient. I will pass on a few techniques and recipes I am using at the farm along to you.
Fermented Plant Juices (FPJ)
FPJ is a way to make liquid plant food out of ordinary/extraordinary plants that are all around us! It has been used by those who farm using a Korean Natural Farming approach and many others like myself who enjoy mixing and matching the styles and practices that have been passed down since farming began. Last year I began exploring this technique and have really made it part of my flow this year.
To make this fertilizer I begin by harvesting my desired plant for fermentation. (See a list of plants below that I use) This is best done early in the morning, before sunrise because the plant’s stomates are closed at this time retaining water in the plant. Stomata are pores on the underside of the leaves that serve as an exchange site of gases; during the day releasing water vapor and oxygen into the surrounding environment. Thank you plant kingdom for photosynthesis!
When harvesting, I choose to go for the tops of shoots. This is where the apical meristem lies which is a hub of activity within the plant, rapidly dividing and differentiating cells for growth.
Plants are harvested! Time for a large mug of coffee and the next step.
Do not wash off your plants as their surfaces are covered with tons of microorganisms that are coexisting and likely improving the growth of that plant. I simply estimate the weight of fresh plant material and match it with the same weight in brown sugar. Now things get a bit sticky. Using my hands I tear up the plant material and rub the sugar into the plant. After a while the material gets quite juicy – this is what I’m looking for. The sugars have helped to pull out the juices of the plant and bring it into a solution. This process happens through osmosis. (Osmosis is a law of nature in which molecules of a solvent pass through a semipermeable membrane, in this case the plants membrane, from a less concentrated solution into a more concentrated one, thus equalizing the concentrations on each side of the membrane.) The sugar creates a very concentrated solution outside of the plant membrane. So while we are mashing the sugar with the plant, juices from within the plant are being drawn out to equalize the two solvents.
All of this material, plant matter and juices, are then packed into a jar for fermentation.
I like to use glass so I can see into the mash. There will be less mold formation if the mash fills the jar close to the top. A permeable top is then tightened on. I use coffee filters marked with the plant type and date. After 7-14 days I strain the juice out if the plant mash and cap it for later use in the garden. The ideal rate id 4 T/ 1 Gallon however I am finding it hard to create as much as I would like to use and often combine multiple juices at lower rates. This is great stuff for foliar sprays! You can get away with using less this way, just be sure to spray early morning or going into evening when temperatures are lower. During the heat of the day the stomates may be closed to conserve water.
Here is a short list of plants I use on my ladies:
- Comfrey: All of my plants get a good dose on Comfrey ferment when transplanted. Comfrey is considered a bio-accumulator meaning it is great at mining soil for nutrients and storing them in its biomass. The juice is very thick, like a dark maple syrup, and the yield is highest of any of the plants I have fermented.
- Loosestrife: This is an invasive species, so I look at fermenting it as killing two birds with one stone. It will often grow in nutrient dense waterways, we have a small creek running through our farm and 12 ducks and 3 geese adding in their nutrients. This marsh dwelling plant is great at acquiring these excess nutrients. I have found the loosestrife ferment to be a great source of nitrogen when used at the recommended dose 4T/1Gal. Loosestrife is also great at destroying natural habitat for birds and fish by taking over a wetland, we are ensuring to always remove flowers to prevent spread and controlling this plant is more important than keeping it established for ferments.
- Horsetail: This plant is tough! You can feel the strength of the plant cells when harvesting. I have read multiple references about the high silica values found in this plant. I use this ferment when facing pest and disease pressure to create tougher plant cells that are harder to penetrate. It is great to add in with my pest sprays as a foliar feed.
- Lambsquarter: I’m sure many of you are familiar with this plant as it is a common “weed” in gardens. I have observed the speed at which it grows and sets seed. The vigorous characteristic is one that is good to look for when choosing plant to ferment, there are probably plenty of growth hormones. I suspect it to be a good source of phosphorous because of the mount of seed produced. This is a plant I reserve for my flowering ladies and am still observing closely for results.
- Cleavers: This plant is prominent around the edges of the farm. I have begun fermenting this on a good feeling. I know it is very medicinal for us humans, cleaning on lymphatic system, so I’ve been trying it out on my ladies whenever I feel they are coming out of a tougher time.
- Thistle: There are a few different species at the farm, one I know to be invasive, Canada Thistle. There are a couple other species on the farm and some I believe might be native so I let those be for the bees. Canada Thistle is a concern for pasture animals because too much ingestion can lead to nitrate toxicity. To me the high nitrogen levels make it great for a grow fertilizer! The juice of this plant turns very dark, almost black when fermented.
When I feed my plants fermented plant juices in a compost tea base i can feel them sing!
That’s my not so short, short list! It’s ever growing and I have even more plant goodies to share with you another time. I encourage readers to give FPJ a try. It feels good seeing the whole process of what goes into your cannabis (or veggies, herbs, flowers, whatever you grow!). Cruelty free, clean cannabis grown with love is our game and I can’t wait to share our flower with you beautiful people!
Much Love and Peace,
P.S. If you are in the Hood River area join in for my workshop Plants Eat Plants! Sign up online or at the store, Grow Organic.