Published: November 16th, 2018
Categories: Cannabis Cultivation
Growing cannabis is an entire world filled with different techniques, methods, and grow hacks. Every cultivator develops their own preferred methods over time, finding out what works best for them and produces the best results. The market for nutrients, enhancers, and fertilisers is huge, yet many people are surprised that they already have powerful growing tools at home in their kitchen. One example of this is molasses, a byproduct of sugar production that helps to boost beneficial microbial life in the soil and is rich in minerals required for plant and soil health.
Molasses is a thick, viscous substance created through the refinement process of sugar. Sugar cane, sugar beets, carob, pomegranate, and dates are all used to produce molasses, with sugar cane and beets being the most commonly used source. Molasses is primarily used within baking and cooking, adding a rich and sweet taste to many recipes. Although viewed as a byproduct, molasses is actually loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals and can be used as a natural fertiliser within the garden.
As a fertiliser, molasses adds a mix of minerals into the soil, along with sugars that feed microbial life, with no negative effects on the ecosystem as a whole. This is a huge advantage when compared to chemical fertilisers that can contaminate groundwater, pollute the surrounding environment, and contribute to certain health conditions.
When shopping around for molasses, you will come across both sulphured and unsulphured products, but which one to use in the garden? Well, as communicated by the name, sulphured molasses contains the mineral sulphur, which is used as a preservative to guard the contents against microbes causing it to rot and degrade. However, this is the very reason why using sulphured molasses in the garden is counterproductive. One of the primary reasons for adding molasses to the soil is to feed and expand the communities of beneficial microbes. Therefore, unsulphured molasses is a far superior option as a soil-enhancing tool.
There are various different types of molasses that are available, with each varying slightly in constituents, colour, and taste. Light molasses is the result of the first boil during the sugar refinement process and is light in colour, sweet, and often used in baking, sauces, marinades, and toppings. Dark molasses is the result of the second boil and therefore has less sugar within it. It is much darker in colour, more viscous, and more rich.
Blackstrap molasses is the result of the third boil. It is extremely thick and very dark in colour, and has a bitter taste due to the vast majority of sugar having been removed. It isn’t often used in cooking due to its lack of sweetness. However, this is the type of molasses you will want to be using in your garden. Blackstrap molasses is loaded with iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, selenium, potassium, vitamin B6 and B3.
Honey can also be used in a similar way to molasses within a garden as a natural fertiliser. Honey is rich in natural sugars and also has an impressive nutritional profile consisting of vitamin B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, as well as various amino acids. Honey also contains minerals such as manganese, magnesium, iron, calcium, copper, zinc, sodium, phosphorus, and potassium.
The foundation of the health of any cannabis crop is the soil. This growing medium is where plants source all of the nutrients they need to stay healthy and to survive. The soil isn’t just some lifeless brown mud; the rhizosphere (root zone) is teeming with many different kinds of life. Some of these microorganisms are massively beneficial to the health of cannabis plants, whereas others are hostile.
One example of a beneficial soil life form is a type of fungi known as mycorrhizae, which is essentially a synergistic relationship formed between a network of mycelium and the roots of a cannabis plant. Plants excrete exudates in the form of sugars for mycorrhizae to feed off, and in return, these fungal webs act as an extension of the root system and transport nutrients that the root system would not be capable of reaching when acting alone. Because molasses contains sugars, it can help to feed this fungal web and may assist in introducing it to the garden. Mycorrhizae can also help to protect plant roots against predatory nematodes by tying them up in their mycelial strands.
Another key use of molasses in the garden is as a natural fertiliser. Cannabis plants require a range of macro and micronutrients to reach optimal health, not just the nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus found in many commercial blends. Molasses can help fill in the gaps with any missing micronutrients to help plants thrive. It can also help prevent salt buildup in the soil, which is a frequent cause of nutritional problems in plants.
Molasses can also help to protect a cannabis crop against one of the biggest threats against outdoor grows: pests. There are many creatures, both big and small, that have an appetite for cannabis leaves, flowers, stems, and roots. Molasses helps to strengthen plants and makes them more vital, increasing their resistance against many types of pests. It can serve as a non-toxic way to combat pests without using harmful pesticides in the garden. Molasses can also be lethal to many insects when consumed, adding to its defensive capabilities.
Molasses is also reported by some users to have beneficial effects on cannabis flowers. Some cultivators claim that the substance helps to bulk up and harden the buds due to the sugar content. Sugar is also reported by some growers to boost the taste of cannabis flowers.
One of the easiest ways to use molasses in the garden is as a soil treatment. Soak your soil with molasses 1 week before transplanting into it. This will set a solid foundation for growth and will give microorganisms time to populate and form a thriving community.
Molasses can also be used as a compost tea, a liquid formula rich in beneficial bacteria, fungi, and other life forms. To make compost tea, you will need a 20l bucket, clean and unchlorinated water, 1 cup of inoculant such as worm castings, ¼ cup unsulphured molasses, 1 compost tea bag, an air pump, and a watering can.
Fill the bucket with water, place the airstone of the air pump at the bottom, and hook up the air pump so the water starts to bubble heavily. Add the inoculant to the compost tea bag and add it to the water along with the molasses. Let this mixture brew for 24 hours and then strain it into the watering can and apply to the soil for a large dose of beneficial bacteria.
1–3 tablespoons of molasses can also be added to 5 litres of water to create a spray to be applied to the leaves and roots of cannabis plants.