Every farmer knows that soil can make the difference between a bumper crop and a failed harvest. That’s why it’s so important for farmers to take the time to test, prepare, and manage their soil throughout a crop’s growing season. Though hemp has a reputation for growing easily, that doesn’t mean you can ignore your soil. While hemp can grow in many different regions and climates, soil matters. The right soil for hemp can dramatically increase the health of your hemp plants and your yields of CBD or CBG.

Fortunately, farmers with the right know-how and a reliable soil plan can turn most types of soil into great hemp soil. What kind of soil does hemp grow best in? Let’s find out.

The Best Soil for Industrial Hemp

Before we discuss the best soil to grow hemp, it’s important to recognize that farming industrial hemp in the United States is still a relatively new experience. Only since the passage of the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills have farmers in the modern era been allowed to grow hemp. That means we’re all still working to figure out best practices, including the best soil for growing hemp. We encourage you to take our suggestions as just that: suggestions. Use them as a basis and start experimenting with your own soil and crop.

the best soil for industrial hemp

With that out of the way, here’s what we can tell you about the best hemp soil conditions. Hemp loves to grow in loose, well-drained, and loamy soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. It also prefers deep soil that is rich in organic matter.
Don’t have well-aerated, loamy soil? Not a problem. We’ve found that hemp can also grow well in clay soil that is well-drained, and even sandy soil as long as you give extra focus to irrigation and fertilization.

It’s also imperative that your soil doesn’t include heavy metals. Hemp is famous for its “bioaccumulative” properties, meaning that it can absorb many properties from soil, including, according to Hemp Industry Daily, “radioactive elements, heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, explosives, and fuel.” This makes hemp an excellent option to clean up abused soil (hemp has even been planted around Chernobyl), but it can be very problematic if your soil contains dangerous substances!
How do you know if your fields have the best soil to grow hemp? More importantly, if your hemp soil conditions are less than ideal, how can you make over your soil to improve your hemp harvest? Fortunately, farmers have a lot of tools and options to improve their soil for hemp.

Test Your Soil

Before you even consider growing your first hemp crop (or really any cash crop), you must perform soil testing for hemp so you can understand what you are working with. A soil test will give you the pH of your soil as well as the nutrient balance of the soil. You’ll see where your soil is deficient and where you may have an overabundance of certain elements that might hurt your crop.
It’s a good idea to test your soil several months before you plan on planting, so you have time to perform your soil prep.

Create an Irrigation and Soil Nutrient Plan

Your soil test will give you the information you need to create an irrigation and nutrient plan for your fields. This plan should start with steps to prepare your field before planting, including addressing any nutrient deficiencies before you add your hemp seeds or starts.

Bringing your soil up to health is only the beginning: Your plan should also include steps to maintain the health of your hemp soil throughout your growing season.

The second part of the plan will feature your irrigation strategy. Remember that hemp plants need well-drained soil. Overwatering hemp plants is a common and disastrous mistake. Our research has found that drip irrigation, pivot irrigation, and floor irrigation can all work well with a hemp crop.

Prepare Your Soil for Hemp

Most farmers need to perform some interventions to make their soil more conducive to hemp. If you are starting a brand-new field, you will likely have to do more work than on a field you’ve been working for many years. Your soil test will guide you on how to prepare your soil. Your goal should be to build the health of your entire field ecosystem.
Here are a few quick suggestions on the specific nutrients in your soil:

Nitrogen

Hemp is all about the nitrogen. If your soil testing for hemp shows that your soil is lacking in nitrogen, don’t be stingy in adding plenty of nitrogen to your soil before you plant. The Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Extension suggests adding 150 pounds of nitrogen for every 1,500 pounds of yield. Again, test, observe, and experiment to find the right amount for you.

Phosphorus

Farmers growing hemp for CBD or CBG will want to give their crop plenty of potassium to support good flower growth. (The majority of a hemp plant’s resin is produced in the flower of the female plant.) However, be careful not to go overboard with the phosphorus; consider adding 50 to 80 pounds per acre.

Boron

Not all soil will need extra boron, but it’s still important to check your soil test to determine if you are boron deficient. It’s also a good idea to perform a leaf analysis at the midpoint in your growing season to check if your plants might need additional boron.

Fertilizer

Hemp does best in soil that contains lots of nutritious organic matter. That could be compost, fish emulsion, kelp extract, or whatever organic matter you prefer. Just make sure to check the nutrients of your fertilizer to make sure you aren’t adding too much of a specific nutrient to your soil. For example, some compost includes high levels of potassium, and too high of a level can make it harder for your hemp plants to absorb much-needed calcium. Most compost suppliers can provide a nutritional analysis of their compost. This article from Cannabis Business Times provides a suggested fertilizer schedule for hemp.

Invest in Hemp Seeds with Good Genetics

No farmer’s hemp soil will ever be perfect, which is why you can increase your chances of a good harvest by investing in hemp seeds with strong, reliable genetics. Many of today’s top hemp seed strains have been bred to be robust and to withstand challenging weather conditions and imperfect soil conditions. Our Berry Blossom strain, for example, is grown in nearly every state in the US and is prized for its toughness. Our Merlot strain is also noteworthy for its robust constitution. (Learn more about how hemp seed strains can make or break your hemp farm.)

Hire an Agronomist

How do you interpret your soil test, and how do you use it to develop an irrigation and nutrient plan for your fields? You don’t have to! One of the best decisions you can make as you begin planning your future hemp crop is to hire an agronomist. These “crop doctors” can guide you through every step of preparing your field for planting hemp, including developing the best soil for industrial hemp. For example, an agronomist can suggest the right soil test, then use those results to build an irrigation and nutrient plan for you. They can offer specific instructions on what nutrients to add to your soil as well as other interventions to improve the quality of your soil. Agronomists also keep track of the latest and greatest research and can give you the most up-to-date advice on improving your hemp yield.

Growing hemp is complex, and the margins between financial success and failure are thin. Give yourself an extra edge by working with an agronomist. (You can also help yourself by reviewing our Hemp Farming 101 infographic.)

Be Patient

You cannot change your soil overnight even if you use the best-practices suggested in this article or the recommendations of your agronomist. Accept the fact that it can take years to shift the structure and nutrient composition of your fields, especially if you are working with a new field. Your agronomist can provide you with a multi-year strategy that will gradually shift your soil over time. Put in the work, and it will pay off.

Another aspect of being patient is to recognize that even the best soil to grow hemp won’t stay that way if you ignore it. Your soil constantly changes, especially as you rotate your fields and plant different crops. Test your soil regularly and continually revise your soil management strategy based on the results. Your soil is just like your crops—it needs regular care and attention!

Keep Experimenting

Your soil is different in ways big and small from the soil of other hemp farmers, which is why your results will vary from theirs. Only through experience and experimentation will you learn how to create the best hemp soil conditions for your fields. Don’t be afraid to test different levels of nutrients as well as different CBD hemp strains or CBG hemp strains to see how you can get the largest and highest quality yield. Your agronomist can help you evaluate your results and suggest other factors to test in the future.

Have More Hemp Soil Questions?

We could only scratch the surface on the topic of soil for hemp in this article. If you have more questions on soil testing for hemp or which hemp strains do best in which kinds of soil, we’d love to answer them! Contact us today.

Autoflower hemp seeds are queens of speed and champions of resilience. If you’ve heard some skepticism about autoflowering hemp, put it out of your mind. Today’s newest strains of autoflowering hemp seeds offer high yields and great terpene variety. If you’re looking to reap multiple hemp harvests in a single year, it’s time to learn about how to grow autoflowering seeds on your hemp farm.

We’re here for you. Welcome to our autoflower grow guide.

A Quick Introduction to Autoflower Hemp Seeds

Let’s start with the basics: What is autoflower hemp and how is it different from other types of hemp strains?

Most hemp strains are known as “photoperiod” plants, meaning they need a shift in the light cycle to trigger the flowering stage that produces the majority of the plant’s CBD and CBG oil. As its name implies, an autoflower plant flowers automatically. It doesn’t require a change in the light or the season. Autoflower hemp seeds are the descendants of cannabis plants grown in Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and Russia. In these cold countries, the cannabis plants had to learn to grow quickly to make the most of short growing seasons. They shed their reliance on the light cycle, allowing them to grow and flower in record time.

Today’s farmers can now use seeds with those adaptations to grow more hemp and harvest more resin.

Why Choose Autoflower Hemp Seeds?

Before we jump into our tips for growing autoflower plants, let’s look at why you might want to consider choosing autoflower seeds instead of photoperiod seeds.

Speedy Growing Cycle

Most hemp strains require over 100 days (sometimes up to 120 days) to complete a grow cycle. Autoflower strains, on the other hand, are speed demons when it comes to growing. Most strains reach maturation in 7 to 10 weeks, allowing farmers to grow multiple harvests per year in warmer climates. This fast growth rate also makes autoflower strains a great option for farmers who live in colder climates with short outdoor growing seasons.

High Resiliency

The great ancestors of today’s autoflower hemp seeds had to survive in some of the world’s toughest climates, which makes autoflowers some of the most resilient hemp strains around.

Resistance to Pests

Pests and insect infestations are a threat to any crop, but autoflowers grow so quickly, insects often don’t have enough time to do the plants much harm. This makes autoflowers more pest-resistant than most other hemp strains.

Improved Yields and Better Terpene Profiles

In the past, autoflower plants have been criticized for producing lower-than-average amounts of resin and for their poor selection of terpene profiles. These days, however, hemp seed companies like High Grade Hemp Seed have been hard at work breeding autoflower strains that boost CBD yields and provide tantalizing terpene profiles your customers want.

How to Grow Autoflowering Seeds in Soil

Growing autoflower hemp seeds in soil isn’t so different from planting other strains of hemp seed except that you’ll have more options on when to plant your seeds.

Step 1: Prepare for Autoflowers

If you’ve grown other hemp strains in the past, you’ll need to revise your growing plan for autoflower hemp. Make sure you review your planting and harvesting schedules and that you are prepared with your next batch of seeds if you plan on cycling your autoflower harvests.

You’ll also need to ensure that your labor crew is ready for a speedy turnaround between planting and harvesting.

Step 2: Schedule Your Planting

The beauty of autoflower hemp seeds is that they can grow throughout most of the year as long as they don’t experience frost or too much rain. That gives you a lot more flexibility in when to plant. In some parts of the country, planting can start in early spring all the way through to late fall.

Figure out your planting goals: Do you want to focus only on autoflowers and cycle as many harvests as you can? Or do you want to get an autoflower harvest at the beginning and end of the year around your other, longer-growing hemp strains?

Step 3: Germinate Your Plants in a Greenhouse

At High Grade, we often recommend germinating your seeds in a greenhouse infrastructure to give your seeds the best chance for survival. Autoflower plants don’t have as much time to recover from a replanting in the field, so farmers may want to experiment with germinating their autoflowers in a greenhouse and seeding directly to see which produces the best yield. If you decide to germinate your seeds in a greenhouse, it’s a good idea to give your new seedlings a few weeks to grow in the greenhouse before planting.

Step 4: Prepare Your Soil

Your robust autoflower hemp seeds don’t need as much nutrition as other hemp strains, but they still appreciate a little nourishment. Test your soil before planting and double-check that your soil doesn’t contain high levels of sulfur, potassium sulfate, or rock phosphate.

Step 5: Keep Your Soil Well-Drained

Hemp plants, including autoflowers, grow best in loose, well-drained soil. Adjust watering to your particular climate. Autoflowers do well with surface drip irrigation, subsurface drip irrigation, pivot irrigation, and flood irrigation.

Step 6: Harvest Your Plants Sequentially

Your autoflower hemp plants will be ready for harvest between 7 to 10 weeks. Consider harvesting the colas on the tops of the plants first in order to give the lower buds a little more time to mature before harvesting them.

Step 7: Germinate Your Next Crop

To create the fastest cycle between harvests, begin germinating your next crop of non-autoflower hemp seeds in your greenhouse as you are harvesting your autoflower crop in the field. Once your harvest is complete, you should have a whole new batch of germinated hemp plants ready for another round of growing and harvesting.

How to Grow Autoflowering Seeds Indoors

Thinking of growing autoflower seeds indoors? You’ll need to set up a well-designed grow space. Make sure to set up proper lighting and irrigation and that you have the ability (and the right equipment) to maintain the right temperature and humidity levels.

Step 1: Plant Seeds in a Single Pot to Avoid Replanting

Autoflowers grow so quickly that they don’t have the time to recover from a big stressor like replanting from one pot to another. Instead, plant your seeds and grow them to maturation in a single pot. If you want to attempt to create a strong canopy in your grow space, plant the seeds in smaller pots so you can keep your plants together.

Step 2: Prepare Your Soil Properly

Autoflower hemp plants prefer light and airy soil. They don’t need the same amount of nutrients as other strains of hemp. Be careful about using pre-made soil mixes with too many nutrients. Plant your seeds in only lightly fertilized soil.

Step 3: Limit Watering

Be careful about overwatering your autoflower hemp plants. As we mentioned, autoflowers don’t recover well from major stresses like a deluge of water. Give the soil enough time to dry between waterings. A lighter watering schedule will also help you prevent mold.

Step 4: Determine Your Light Scheme

The beauty of autoflower hemp plants is that you don’t have to commit to a rigid light schedule like you would with photoperiod plants. However, you still need to give your autoflowers plenty of nurturing light to help them grow strong.

There is a lot of debate on how much light to give industrial hemp plants. Farmers who want the highest resin yields and have a little more money to invest upfront may want to use a 24-hour light cycle. Farmers who want to save on energy costs can still get good results using an 18/6 schedule, which refers to 18 hours of light and six hours of darkness.

Step 5: Control for Airflow and Humidity

Autoflower hemp plants do best in moderately warm temperatures, so try to keep your grow space at a cozy 68 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Good airflow is also an important component of keeping your plants happy and healthy, so use a ventilator to keep humidity low.

Step 6: Harvest Sequentially

When your indoor autoflower hemp plants are ready for harvest, take the colas and the buds from the top first in order to give the lower buds a little more time to mature. This will help you get even more resin from your harvest.

Step 7: Rinse and Repeat

You know the drill by now. If you have space in your grow room, consider germinating your next crop of seeds while harvesting your current crop. Take advantage of the fast-growing speeds of your autoflowers to achieve multiple harvests in a year.

Where to Find the Best Autoflower Hemp Seeds

To give your autoflower hemp crop the best chance for success, look for the seeds with proven genetics. At High Grade Hemp Seed, we are proud to offer our feminized Autoflower seeds, which are known for uniform growth and a tantalizing terpene profile that’s both sweet and spicy.

We’re passionate about the genetics of our seeds, including our autoflower strain. This guide on how to grow autoflower hemp seeds only scratches the surface of this complex topic. If you want more personalized growing recommendations for your farm, contact us today.