Companion planting is a practice that can benefit most plants. In particular, companion planting for cannabis has proven that many different crops can be useful partners to growers all over the world.
Yet, it is considered very common to cultivate cannabis plants in a monoculture setting. That is, the cannabis plants are the sole crop grown in a designated area. While this system is widely used for contextual reasons (lack of space, unsuitable grow space, etc.), switching to companion planting for cannabis plants can be a fairly painless project, whether you grow indoors, or outdoors.
Why choose companion planting for cannabis?
To protect and nurture your plants
Permaculture is the practice of utilizing natural resources or mimicking them in order to increase the sustainability of one’s crop(s). Companion planting is one of many techniques included in the permaculture system, and consists of planting different crops in proximity, in order to improve quality as well as productivity. The goal, of course, is to obtain a better end product, as well as a cleaner one, via improvements in terms of pest control, provision of nutrients, and harvest.
Growing cannabis in particular, as opposed to other plants, can also imply certain things, such as the need for an inconspicuous installation. Especially if you benefit from an outdoor grow space, several options exist that can help to keep your cannabis plants safe.
To make your cannabis garden more eco-friendly
The use of artificial compounds to enhance or protect a crop is a recent development in the art of growing. On the other hand, permaculture is an integrant part of the history of agriculture all over the world. Its roots were anchored centuries ago, only to be resurrected at the beginning of the 20th century.
While synthetic nutrients have been deemed preferable in certain contexts, especially from a commercial standpoint, cannabis growers may want to switch to an organic, more eco-friendly manner to sustain their gardens.
The need for organic, safe, and fully natural crops is becoming more and more pressing, and the cannabis world is no exception. Monoculture, while it may be the default for many, has no equivalent in nature: there is virtually no example of it that has not been orchestrated by humans.
Even if you are the happy-go-lucky type of grower, hands on and content caring for your plants, one is never safe from unforeseen circumstances, be they unwelcome pests, sub-optimal weather, and so forth. Having a few infiltrated agents within your grow space can only help! Besides, there is such a variety of companion plants you can grow, that you could end up with quite the varied garden … not to mention a delicious one.
Companion planting for cannabis: Preparing your soil
The “pest fighting” parameter of companion planting rests upon the fact that there is such a thing as beneficial bacteria. Indeed, it has been scientifically proven that some of them actually protect plants from other bacterial diseases.
The use of manmade pesticides or nutrients can be extremely harmful to soils. In fact, they have the capability to entirely destroy the bacterial and fungal ecosystem present in the rhizosphere, also known as the area in which roots and bacteria meet. The symbiotic relationship developed in this rhizosphere is vital to the health of the cultivated plants, future cultivated plants, and the soil itself. The use of non-natural products can result in a setback of actual centuries before the soil can be healthy and nourishing again.
The solution? Layering!
Companion planting for cannabis certainly is a smart way to pamper your crop, but what use is it if the soil in which your plants are growing is struggling and devoid of any nutritional worth?
By layering plant materials on top of the first layer of your soils, you can enable the accelerated rebirth of the valuable ecosystem of bacteria, yeasts and fungi that can make the difference between an average crop and an exceptional one. The bacteria present in said top layer will feed from this plant material, transforming it into more nutrients.
The good news is, you can do this in your garden or any other outdoor grow space, but also in your pots.
What plant materials to use for layering, and how?
Layering is even easier to do than reading about it. Find plant materials that have not been in contact with any chemicals (nutrients, pesticides, etc.) … and create layers. Almost anything works: fallen leaves, straw, various plant residues from trimming, cut grass, etc. Alternatively, you can also create additional layers using what you would usually put into your compost bin: leftover food, biodegradable plant-based items, etc. The keyword is: organic.
Companion planting for cannabis: Pest fighting
Marigold: Repels white flies and other insects through a chemical released directly in the soil and eventually, into neighbouring plants, making them repellent to pests.
Digitalis purpurea a.k.a. Foxglove: Attracts Dicyphus Hesperus, an insect which can help in eradicating whiteflies, aphids and spider mites.
Verbascum a.k.a. Mullein: see Foxglove.
Cilantro: Repels aphids and spider mites.
Peppermint: Repels aphids. Its menthol content can also attract beneficial insects.
Garlic: Repels aphids, snails/slugs, Japanese beetles, root maggots, and even certain animals. Also acts as a natural fungicide.
Dill (or Fennel, Cumin, and Anise): Repels spider mites, aphids, and caterpillars by attracting their common predator, wasps.
Basil: Repels various insects and snails/slugs by releasing insecticide from its foliage.
Costmary: Repels moths.
Chrysanthemum: Combats damaging insects and nematodes due to its pyrethrin content (a compound with insecticidal properties).
Sunflower: Attracts beneficial mites and flower bugs which eat spider mites, fungus gnats, and scales.
Yarrow: Attracts predatory wasps and ladybirds.
You can protect your cannabis plants in many other ways, especially if you know from a previous grow session which pests in particular need to be monitored.
Isolate the issue, and consider planting these specific pests’ favourite treats: if you can’t eradicate them, you can fool them into snacking on another one of your crops. For instance, dill, fennel, and parsley are butterflies’ favourite munchies.
Companion planting for cannabis: Optimize feeding
Alfalfa: Provides nitrogen. Can also be used as a nitrogen-rich layer during cultivation; trim it and don’t clean the plant material off your soil.
Borage (or other species from the Comfrey family): Provides additional nutrients. Plants of the Comfrey type act as a fertilizer, by bringing nutrients and minerals via their deep roots. This makes them the ideal outdoor companions, although some of them need their own space, as their growth is quick and space-consuming. Just like alfalfa, it can be trimmed and left as mulch.
Clover (Microclover, Dutch White, Red, and Crimson): Provides additional nutrients. Clover brings up trace nutrients in the same manner Borage does. It also has nitrogen fixing properties: by degrading organic matter, it releases nitrogen to be used by other organisms. Moreover, its living mulch state protects the soil around your cannabis plants, and improves water distribution by trapping in moisture with its shallow roots. Choose Microclover or Dutch White Clover for small to medium sized indoor containers.
Chickweed: Provided additional nutrients. Acts as living mulch, can also be trimmed and left to feed the soil.
Companion planting for cannabis: Increased productivity
Chamomile: Provides calcium and potassium. Releases them upon decomposition, thus feeding your cannabis plants in order to promote stem growth and fortification. Also increases oil production in nearby plants, and releases sulfur, a natural insect repellent.
Stinging Nettle: Increases oil production in nearby plants. This will have a positive impact on the resin content of your cannabis buds.
Yarrow: Increases oil production in nearby plants. Also prevents soil erosion by protecting its first layers.
Oregano (or Marjoram): Increases the yield of nearby plants. Also attract beneficial insects.
Companion planting for cannabis: Camouflage
Many a plant can be used in order to shield your cannabis plants from interested passers-by, the elements, or ever-curious wildlife. Of course, this depends on the setup of your grow space, and what other natural or manmade protections your garden already benefits from.
Nevertheless, there still is an obvious protective companion for your cannabis garden, almost regardless of setup:
Stinging Nettle: On top of improving your harvest (see above) stinging nettle is quite efficient at dissuading anyone from standing between you and your cannabis plants, for rather obvious reasons (ouch!).
There are many other options for camouflaging your plants, such as bamboo, honeysuckle, willow trees, okra, etc. Pick one that matches your growing environment, and get started soon to gain as much momentum as possible.
In the same manner, the number of plants, herbs, and flowers that can help you hide the heady scent of your ladies is endless: lavender, basil, jasmine, mint, southernwood (which releases a citrusy smell upon being touched) … just pick one and get started!
Of course, all of this is not specific to cannabis. Companion planting for cannabis may be one great asset for the everyday cannabis enthusiast, but whichever plants you are growing .. do them a favour, and provide them with an environment as natural and as supportive as possible.
Author: Silent Jay @ Sensiseeds