Drought can be a deadly part of the climate when it comes to cannabis and too badly we are experiencing it more then ever. The climate change causes more dry conditions all over the world which could mean very bad business for cannabis growers. It’s just a matter of time that every grower need to adapt themselves and change their growing habits to protect their plants.
Extreme changes in weather or temperature is never good for someone who is trying their best to grow good cannabis outdoors. But as heat-records are being broken every year and CO2-levels are higher then ever, it becomes a harsh reality to deal with. In the short future it will be normal to grow in a different way then we do now. For some areas around the globe we already passed that point.
When you are living in such an area you could do a few things to protect your plant from drying out. Lots of watering only won’t do the trick (this could even drown or damage them). However your plant still needs quite some water because in a hot climate, different processes like photosynthesis and growing/flower production itself requires water/nutrients. Next to that it simply evaporates from the plants leaves and soil if it’s hot outside. Next to watering, there are other things to keep in mind:
Choosing the right strain for a dry climate!
As an outdoor-grower you need to think in the future and if the future tells you that there is a period of drought coming soon, you should anticipate on that! The first and probably most important choice of your grow is choosing the right strain that is able to grow in a dry and hot climate. Not al cannabis strains are resistant to hot weather and drought so to help you choose, here is some advice:
- Look at strains that are common in hot areas. For example: Critical. This is a strain often found around the Mediterranean sea. Especially in spain it’s a favourite for outdoor growers. This strain is very resistant against hot temperatures/sunlight and dry periods and despite achieves high yields.
- Another great tip is growing autoflowers in certainareas, especially for beginners. Most autoflowers are also pretty resistant against heat and drought. They are quickly done and yields are often compareable to photoperiod strains. However you still need to give it’s genetics a look because not all autoflowers are perfect for this climate. Look for small compact-branched and strong genetics like: Bubble Kush auto. This is a strain known to grow very well in a hot climate.
Using water absorbing polymers to fight the drought.
Water absorbing polymers can be a true saviour for outdoor or guerilla growers. Once blended with soil, they can create an emergency reservoir that your plants can live on in periods of drought.
There are multiple products that contain these polymers but you need to know which are usable for a cannabis grow. Early products (1960’s) often looked like powders that changed to paste once wet. A few years and some research later they invented biodegradable polymers. Hydrogel and water-absorbing polymers are the same and sometimes sold under different names. They are able to absorb 30-60x their own weight in water and can be used without leaving any harmfull stuff in your soil.
When using polymers for cultivation you’re able to choose between 2 types:
- “Diaper fillings” or polyacrylates
Polyacrylmides are sodium based polymers that can be found in diapers. These polymers are able to work very well and absorb a nice amount of water + they can be obtained discreetly. However there are some problems with these kind of polymers. After 4-6 months the polymers will start to break down in ammonia salts and later on nitrogen. This can really ruin your taste and quality of the final product.
We recommend to only use this kind of polymers when growing autoflowers. Auto’s are finished under 12 weeks so this will be earlier then the polymers starts to break down. This way you avoid nitrogen or ammonia salts to get in your soil mix and ruining your plants. One tea cup mixed with your soil will do the trick in a period of drought.
Too bad this won’t work on photoperiodic strains. The time that the polymers starts to breakdown, you photoperiodic plant is in it’s final stages of blooming. Exactly the time you don’t want any nitrogen build-up around the roots.
- “safe for consumption” or polyacrylamides
Polyacrylmides are also sodium based and perfect for photoperiodic strains grown outdoor. They can absorb up to 300-400x their own weight and are biodegradable but even better: Polyacrylamides takes around 5-7 years before to start to break down (instead of 3-4 months when using polyacrylates) in the soil. This means that you can use them for multiple grows and don’t have to worry about ruining your flowers through ammonia salts or nitrogen.
Guerilla growers sometimes dig a very deep hole and cover the bottom with quite some pre-hydrated crystals (polymers). Next they cover it with soil and this way they’ll create some kind of underground reservoir which contains hundreds litres of water. The water will stay there untill the roots of a bigger plant reaches them. In a dry area/ground the plants are able to live of your polymers resorvoir for a while!
If you are looking for these in your gardening store make sure they are labeled “safe” for consumption or agricultural use. To be discreetly you could say you’ll need them for you ornamental cactus.
How to use polymers?
After finding the right abosorbing polymers you need to know how to apply it correctly to your soil. There are 2 common ways how growers use them: The most effective way is to let it soak in nutrient filled water for a while. Just one teacup is enough. Next you’ll mix the Polymers with 1/3 of your soil mixture in a pot or hole. Another option is to simply mix a few gram powder (which is dry polymers) with your soil and water your plant normally. Other benefits of doing this is a more oxygenated soil mix and an efficient consumption of nutrients.
Using the right pots
Something you might not think about in the first place is using the right pots to work with in dry conditions. However this is also a quite important aspect to keep you plants hydrated. When using plastic pots, you shoud avoid using dark coloured ones. These will attract lots of heat and warm up the soil mixture. This is very bad for the roots of the plant.
Another option is using air-pots or fabric pots. These work pretty well in dry conditions because of 2 reasons:
- The fabric material/air holes work very well to keep the soil oxygenated, which is good for your roots.
- Because of this, the soil mixture won’t warm up that quickly.
One important thing to keep in mind when using air pots/fabric pots is to water the plants regularly. Because of the fabric material/air holes, the water will easily leak out and the soil will dry out quicker. But when growing in dry conditions, it’s always required to water very often.
Another great thing of using pots is that you could move your plants around, which brings me to the next tip:
Look for the shade!
Dry conditions are the result of high temperatures and bright sunlight. By creating a few shade spots in your growing area, you are able to move them to “safety” on the hottest part of the day. However you can’t do this too long/often because well, your plant needs sunlight to grow.
Another and even better idea is to create a bit of shade all over your growing area. This can be done by tighten a net over your garden and cover it with bamboo sticks, another net or something similar. Just make sure that you still let some sunlight go through but at the same time blocking some parts. This way you will cool down your whole growing area. Garden stores often sell these kind of special nets ready to hang up if you wan’t to go for the quick and easy way.
By covering the upper soil in your pots with straw or bamboo sticks you are able to shade the soil mixture and keep its temperature low. Just make sure to take it out every now and then to ventilate the upper soil. This will prevent mold and other problems.
Got other tips to help growers in a hot and dry climate? Leave them in the comments below!