About 6 weeks prior to planting, we started our soil prep. This soil prep process involved:
- Pre-digging each hole (12” X 12” X 12” or a cubic foot in size) and placing the excavated soil into a wheel barrel. This soil was amended with by thoroughly mixing in an organic sustained-release fertilizer, which we formulated. This amended soil was then returned to the hole. Each hole was marked with a wood stake.
- We also decided that we did not wanted to spend much time weeding. Thus, we purchased a roll of 4-foot-wide 60lb indented kraft paper, to be used as a weed barrier. After we had amended and marked the 96 holes, we laid out the paper weed barrier, being sure to re-position the hole marking stakes. We thoroughly watered the paper weed barrier after it had been placed, to knit it to soil surface.
- In a belt & suspenders move, we also applied 2 inches of wood chip/bark mulch on top of the paper weed barrier. Having the mulch in place helps both to hold down the paper and to make the eventual planting pleasing to the eye.
We finished all of the prep work about 2 weeks prior to planting. Due to all of this preparation, planting out 96 plants was a straightforward process. We watered each plant in with our own custom formulated liquid that helps with rooting and establishment. We placed open topped milk cartons over each plant to aid in plant establishment and reduce critter damage. We left the milk cartons in place until each plant grew out of them.
After we took off the milk cartons, we lost 6 plants to the critters. So, we up’d our game and cut the bottoms off some old 5-gallon buckets we had on hand and placed a bottomless bucket over each plant. This approach eliminated the critter damage.
Over the next 2 weeks the plants established and grew some. It was not until the beginning of August that the plant growth took off.
As an experiment, in mid-June we planted 2 of CBD Hemp plants within 2 different garden beds. These beds had actively growing garlic, which had been planted the prior November. We pulled the garlic plants needed to make space for the hemp plants.
We have been working on improving our garden soil for over 12 years now. We classify our garden soil as “high performance”. The garden bed hemp plants established very well in this soil. The hemp plants were hidden in amongst the 3-foot-tall garlic plants for 6 weeks until the garlic was fully harvested.
By the time the garlic was harvested, the hemp plants had grown to a size where they needed more room. We planted spinach in the soil after the garlic had been harvested. Bare unplanted soil is a weed magnet…
Within our garden beds during our growing season we practice a subsoil irrigation method called Clay Pot Irrigation. For each garden bed hemp plant, we installed 2 eight-inch-wide sealed clay pots on each side, about 10 inches from the plant stem. We filled each pot with water. Additionally, we positioned within the clay pot a filled 4 gallon water jug, in much the same way the water jug is placed in a water cooler dispenser. We actually call this irrigation approach “water cooler irrigation.”
These 2 garden bed hemp plants were the only ones to have clay pot irrigation installed. We did this to determine how much water the hemp plants needed on a weekly basis.
The garden bed hemp plants told us that they needed about 2 gallons of water a week. We adjusted the watering of all of non-garden bed hemp plants to 2 gallons a week. We watered once a week and provided each plant with 2 gallons of water each all at one time. This resulted in deep watering and pulled the roots down into the soil horizon.
Because we had pre-dug each hole and amended the soil with such additives as gypsum and biochar, the soil around each plant was loose and held moisture. The 2 gallons of water added weekly soaked into the soil around the plant easily.
In addition, the combination of paper & wood mulch held the moisture in the soil, so that there was much less drying of the planting bed. The mulch also provided a moisture wick to the soil, as a result of rain events soaking the mulch on repeated occasions.
The hemp plants were slow to grow a few weeks after planting, but by mid-July things changed. It appeared that the plants had established well and had come from Mother Clone plants that were very healthy. At last, they started to size up nicely.
We found that there was a wide range in growth characteristics in the 96 plants we purchased. We are guessing that these 96 plants were cloned from a wide range of Mother Plants, which meant that we had different groups of transplants that grew similarly within each group. This manifested itself by having some plants that grew to be about 2 feet tall and other plants that grew to be 5 feet tall, even though they were all the same cultivar.
The 2 hemp plants that were in the garden beds grew to be the largest in both height and width. Keep in mind that we have been working on the garden bed soils for 12 years, as well as, these 2 plants had been inter-cropped into a bed of garlic.
Once we entered August with the heat of the summer in full swing the hemp plants all leafed out well. At this point we started to treat the hemp plants like tomato plants. Thus, we started to pull the bottom fan leaf from all of the plants in order to drive more energy to flowering, as well as, open up the plants to reduce the potential for mildew.
Not ones to waste a potential resource, once we had the fan leaf biomass, we looked at how it might be used. The first way we utilized this leaf biomass was to use it to cook with. We included the fan leaf in making zucchini bread and dog treats. We also steamed some to see how it tasted (not that great!). We settled on the zucchini bread recipe and the dog treats as the best uses.