The following is taken from ATTRA. For more information click HERE. Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA) By George Kuepper and Katherine Adam NCAT Agriculture Specialists February 2002
Various forms of seedling and potting media are used in the production of field transplants, in the growing of container plants, and in greenhouse crop production. Such media may be composed of a wide range of natural and synthetic materials. In certified organic production, there are limitations on the materials that may be used either as base substrate or for supplemental fertilization. This publication was written to assist organic producers in finding commercial sources of organic potting media or in making their own.
Organic producers who choose not to mix their own growing media either purchase off-the-shelf potting mix products, or arrange with manufacturers to have a mix custom-blended for them. The latter option is occasionally chosen by large growers, and by groups of growers who pool their orders to save money. Some entrepreneur growers order more than they need and sell potting media as a sideline.For those who buy off-the-shelf, finding appropriate growing media can be challenging. Until recently, the market for organic seedling and potting media has been small, and few commercial blends have been readily available. Furthermore, because of specific changes brought about by the Final Rule of the National Organic Program, a number of familiar products may no longer be acceptable for certified production, because they contain prohibited ingredients. One good indication that a commercial product is acceptable in organic production is the presence of a label indicating the product is “OMRI Listed.” OMRI — the Organic Materials Review Institute (1) — is a nonprofit entity that was established to evaluate products and processes for the organic industry. With the advent of the Final Rule, OMRI is working ever more closely with the National Organic Program (NOP) in determining what is and is not acceptable for organic production. However, to be absolutely certain whether a product is acceptable for use, read the label to learn the ingredients. If any components of the mix are questionable, check with your certification agent before making a purchase. This publication will discuss many of the ingredients allowed in organic production and those that are prohibited or at least suspect.
What is Organic Agriculture? Over the years, it has become common to understand and define organic agriculture as farming without synthetic pesticides and conventional fertilizers. This should not be considered a definition but a characteristic—only one characteristic of a socially and environmentally conscious approach to agriculture that is currently experiencing rapid growth in the U.S. (1). A more suitable definition of organic agriculture is provided by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)—the federal advisory panel created to advise the USDA on developing organic legislation. The NOSB defines organics as: “an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony” (2). The NOSB definition, not surprisingly, is similar to many definitions of “sustainable” agriculture. Research on organic farms, done over several decades, has revealed characteristics usually associated with sustainable farming, such as reduced soil erosion (3), lower fossil fuel consumption (3), less leaching of nitrate (4), greater carbon sequestration (4) and, of course, little to no pesticide use.
My Experience My first foray into the marijuana growing adventure I thought the easy way would be to use chemical fertilizers and potting soil. When my pitiful crop came in, it was barely smokeable it tasted so bad and worse it wasn’t effective medicine at all. It had taken me months in my tiny bedroom closet to produce barely a quarter ounce of very low grade marijuana. And I still had to go to the dealer for my medicine, even after all my hard work. Eventually, I was done in by spider mites. All I could do was cry. I didn’t know a lot of people and I didn’t know any growers so I began going around the bars asking people to grow pot for me. I was rescued by a grower’s apprentice who was looking to try the new method of growing that he had just learned. When I asked him to grow for me he said, “ Jesus, lady somebody is going to kill you! I’ll do it just to save your life. You can’t just ask people that.” And he took me under his wing and showed me what to do. The first Northern Lights #5 that we harvested was the most potent medicine I had ever experienced. After a few months of smoking organic medicine I found that the chemically produced product was vastly inferior and I could taste the difference between chemical and organic right away. I’ll never grow that chemical trash again!