You might have heard a lot about the miraculous hemp plant, from curing unhealthy fields to thriving in bad to awful conditions. And, within reason, there is some truth to those claims. There’s also the fact that successful farmers can see profits with their hemp harvests that are sometimes as much as four times that of other more traditional cash crops. But, hemp is still farming and it requires a lot of the same preparation and forethought given to any other plant out there. Properly preparing fields for hemp sets any farmer, new to the crop, on the road to a bountiful hemp harvest.
Getting your soil ready
It’s true that hemp grows better in lower quality soil than less resilient crops. That has to do with the plant’s deep growing tap root. With the right conditions, hemp tap roots can grow deep and wide so the plant can draw in water and nutrients from more of the surrounding soil. Hemp will even reach nutrients buried further down in the ground. Because of this hemp doesn’t always need healthy, nutrient dense soil. It’s like any other plant in that regard: the more nutrients the fuller the buds or the more biomass it produces, but you’ll still have a good crop with a little less.
The most successful farmers, especially organic farmers, start prepping their soil early on with a solid crop rotation plan that includes cover crops. That ensures the soil is chock full of organic material and nutrients when it comes time to plant. That’s important because hemp plants take in nutrients on a steep bell curve. The plants grow very quick after a slow start, and then drop on their intake of nutrients after that growth spurt. Most farmers still supplement nutrients throughout the hemp plant’s life cycle, but they don’t do as much for the plant as what’s in the soil from the start.
There’s a reason organic products are a strong trend in hemp farming. Because of the tap roots of the plant, hemp can take in all the benefits of organic soil. It can go further, faster when starting out with adequate amounts of nutrients. Giving your hemp an organic start then helps the plant in crowding out weeds, which it already does well. This enables farmers to make less use of potentially harmful herbicides. You’ll probably encounter some weeds if you’re planting with more space for flower production, but the weeds get under control with a bit of labor. The tag of organic CBD or CBG goes a long way in today’s market and you’ll find it’s worth the effort.
Test your soil
It’s a good idea to get your soil tested for the right pH levels (hemp plants like 7.0 to 7.5) and materials like elemental sulfur, potassium sulfate, and rock phosphate. Hemp is so good at absorbing nutrients, but it doesn’t stop there. It can also absorb any substances that are in excess in the soil. That’s another reason why lots of farmers tend to grow hemp organically — there’s less of a chance of imbalances that could negatively affect your final harvest. You can get soil tests from your local hardware store. Just make sure you test at the right time for an accurate idea of what your hemp will grow in itself. Late fall or early spring is a good bet.
Proper soil tillage
Hemp roots require well aerated soil to grow deep and prevent compaction of the fibrous roots off-shooting the main stem. So tilling, or some sort of soil aeration, is very important for hemp. Some organic farmers have luck with planting cover crops and then using a machine called a roller crimper to fell the plants and create a cover for the field. Of course, giving your fields a good till is a fool-proof way to ensure the roots set deep and your hemp plants stay healthy and happy for the season. Keep in mind, over tilling will impact the health of your fields in the long run. Make sure to keep planting cover crops and rotating crops instead of over-tilling, so you’ll be able to plant for a long time to come.
Hemp likes a lot of moisture in its growth spurt stage, or the first six weeks in the soil. After that, you’ll find hemp does better with drier conditions. Start with good amounts of moisture in your soil. The wetter the soil, the more ability the tap root has to reach deeper and wider, and the better its ability to grow healthy with less water down the line.
Support for the perfect soil
Seasoned farmers will no doubt find hemp a hospitable plant to grow. Especially with proper preparation, hemp plants can give a lot to farmers at all levels of experience and any scale of operations. At Arbor Vita8, we know that every farmer needs support with a plant as new as hemp. We know the minefield of information out there is hard to navigate, so contact us today with your questions. From seed-to-sale, we’re here to help you get started.