Cannabis as a companion: inviting pot into the veggie patch
With the cultivation, possession, and consumption of cannabis being illegal for so long, it’s easy to imagine that knowledge was lost. Over the decades, cannabis was separated from other crops and shrouded in secrecy. These worlds have gotten so separate that some prized tomato growers don’t realize that they have the perfect knowledge base to cultivate cannabis as well.
With more states legalizing the plant and, in turn, growing cannabis at home, one might wonder whether the plant can thrive alongside the tomatoes, rosemary, and peach trees in a traditional home garden.
Cannabis companion planting
According to cannabis cultivation experts, sun grown, and greenhouse-grown cannabis are an excellent companion to herbs and flowers in the garden. In fact, they work together.
“Here at Arcanna Flowers, we have a very diverse garden that’s 23 seasons in. We have many kinds of flowers, herbs, bushes, and fruit trees along with veggies,” Rodriques said. “We do cover cropping and interplant veggies and herbs like basil and parsley.”
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Tansy, calendula, roses, lemon balm, yarrow, feverfew, borage, milkweed, comfrey, lavender, and more have done historically well at the Northern California farm. The flowers and herbs are not only beautiful, they can contribute to healthier cannabis plants.
“Some companion plants deter pests,” said cannabis cultivation legend Ed Rosenthal in an email to GreenState. “These plants are typically fragrant: mint, garlic, onions, and calendula. Mint spreads, so plant it in pots and put the containers in between the marijuana plants.”
These companion plants, like cannabis, emit terpenes and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that insects and other natural predators can smell and taste. Some of these terpenes are toxic or off putting to predators, causing critters to avoid them in the garden. Placing pest-deterrent plants next to those that attract pests is one reason to bring that pot into the veggie patch.
For example, linalool and citronellol, two terpenes found in plants and insects, proved toxic to the common housefly in research from Argentina. In fact, that study revealed seven terpenes that could effectively keep little pests away.
For rodents and other ground-dwellers, Rosenthal recommends peppers.
“Hot peppers are another option for companion planting,” Rosenthal advised. “The same capsaicin that gives peppers spicy flavor and sensation is released by that roots and will keep ground-dwelling rodents away.”
There are a multitude of combinations of terpenes and VOCs in plants and companion pairings in the garden. Research paired with trial and error is the best way to learn what works in a space.
What is a sacrificial plant?
If keeping the bugs and critters out of the garden isn’t working, some farmers give them something else to munch on. These are called sacrificial plants.
Kenny Ingebrigtson is the farmer behind Eagle Trees in Washington state. The farm is a closed loop, building its own soil with cows and compost utilizing no-till methods.
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“I plant potatoes with my cannabis since wireworms, who like untilled soil with high organic matter, tend to attack cannabis plants when they’re babies,” Ingebrigtson told GreenState. “If you throw potatoes out with them, they’ll eat the potatoes instead. Even still, the potatoes grow well, usually.”
Like Arcanna Flowers, Eagle Trees farm has a bounty of food, medicinal herbs, and edible mushrooms growing around the cannabis and hemp plants on the property. Rather than trap or kill the wildlife that co-habitats that land on the Nooksack River, they choose to offer up other cuisine.
Ed Rosenthal has found that aphids prefer collard greens to fan leaves, making them useful when planted near cannabis plants.
The sacrifice plant technique has worked for cannabis farmers and home gardeners for ages. Bringing cannabis into the garden only adds to the symbiotic relationship between the flora in the yard, adding VOCs that create another barrier for unwanted visitors. Just make sure that the cannabis doesn’t become the sacrifice plant.
Bring cannabis into the garden, already
Growing cannabis at home can be a fulfilling experience for someone that loves to consume the plant, and for someone who loves to garden, too. A luscious flowering indica variety can perfectly complement prize-winning dahlias and robust potato mounds.
Just remember to research which plants go well together, and keep spreaders like mint in containers rather than the ground. Follow these tips and the plants are bound to thrive.