Sustainable cultivation comes in many forms, each uniquely beautiful in its own way. This is because being sustainable means working with your land and adjusting your approach to serve its needs. From the soil you grow within to the average cloud coverage in the sky, understanding your microclimate is key to creating a sustainable garden that is perfect for your particular space.
Evaluating your land from the ground up is a great place to start. What is the current state of your soil? Begin by using the simple Jar Test to determine the type of soil you have: sand, clay, silt, or a combination of two or all three. This knowledge will help you decide what plant species will grow well in your native soil and which plants you will need to create a more appropriate medium for. You can start building your soil with what you have on hand, like household compost, grass clippings, and manure that beneficial soil organisms can break down into usable nutrients for your plants. Or, if you want specifics, sending soil samples to a lab can help you determine if nutrients are lacking and if amendments are needed to replenish your growing medium. Some soils, like clay and some silty mixtures, work best with raised garden beds due to their lack of adequate water drainage and a tendency to compact too tightly as a result of foot traffic and heavy rain or snow. If you decide to try raised garden beds but want something different than the norm, Hugelkultur beds are an excellent low-maintenance and sustainable option to consider.
Next, explore your local climate in detail. Find the low and high temperatures of each month and determine if there are specific times of the year that you will not be able to cultivate. Some plant species can survive through the winter in certain geographical areas, so consider this when planning your plantings. If you have a limited cultivation time frame and want to continue year-round, you could install a greenhouse to keep extreme weather from reaching your growing plants. Be sure to take some time walking around your garden space to identify where the low and high terrain areas are and any land restrictions you’ll need to keep in mind. Are there regions susceptible to flooding? Do some sections get more sun exposure than others? To explore your local light patterns, you could make a sun map by sketching an accurate representation of your garden space, then using this illustration to record the shady and sunny areas each hour or so. As a tip, utilizing various colors while creating this map will not only be more fun, it will also point out the varying hours of shade due to structures around the garden’s perimeter. Knowing which areas get five hours of sunlight and which get seven could be the tiny detail that transforms your garden into a lasting and abundant space. If you prefer not to do this manually, or simply don’t have the time, sun-tracking apps like Lumos can help you follow the sun's light in detail. Once you’ve identified what spaces house each unique micro-environment, it’s time to research the types of plants you desire in your garden, choosing their planting area based on water drainage, shade coverage, and companion planting.
Now that you feel you have a reliable picture of your land, identify your goals, and create a sustainable and efficient pathway to get there. To reduce your water usage, collect rainwater (if legal in your area) to help supply your water needs. Setting up an irrigation system for your captured water can prevent overwatering and save you some labor in the process. If you're in an area where you have months without precipitation, choosing a large enough storage tank to collect rain during the wet months will give you the volume of water necessary to sustain your garden during dry periods. Smart farming technologies, like on-property weather stations and geographical positioning technologies, can prioritize efficiency and data collection while you work to weave sustainability into your cultivation practices. These technologies can help you hone in on specifics that relate to you individually to improve your techniques as you try new methods. As for powering these tools, a personal solar system can be an effective way to do so while lowering your household's environmental footprint. If that's not possible, signing up to receive your energy from renewable energy sources through your local power company is a great alternative.
Designing a cultivation plan that benefits from your particular microclimate will be vital to building your sustainable and efficient garden. This working-with-the-land approach is the method we employ on all the Hive Mendocino farms, and it has helped us lower our environmental footprint each year, all while cultivating top-quality cannabis for our clients. If you're a brand, distributor, or processor interested in craft cannabis, partnering with Hive Mendocino may be what takes your company to the next level. Reach out to us by filling out a Wholesale Account Form and we’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest Hive Mendocino news and available bulk inventory. You can also contact us directly with any questions you may have.
Photo by: Chris Butler