If you had told me five years ago that today I’d be blending colorful fertilizer powders made from plants with molasses and water—feeding ground-up dead plants to my marijuana plants—I’d have said you were crazy.
For my entire marijuana growing career I believed hydroponics systems and nutrients are far superior to growing in soil or using organic nutrients. I viewed any other type of growing as primitive, messy, unscientific. I believed marijuana plants grown in pure hydroponics systems such as deep water culture using premium hydroponics nutrients always grew and matured faster, and produced bigger, more potent yields.
I’ve grown organically too. Outdoors, it was successful. Indoors, the poopy, disgusting smell of organic nutrients, the fungus gnats and root aphids, the clogged-up fertigation systems, and the problem of determining proper pH were among many reasons I gave up using organic fertilizers indoors.
But I kept hearing from readers about “veganic” marijuana growing using products made by a company called Dragonfly Earth Medicine that makes veganic nutrients and supplements. It intrigued me, because I’m vegan and consume nothing that comes from animals, but I’d never wondered if marijuana plants really like being fed poop, bone meal, blood meal and other animal-derived materials in organic fertilizers.
The word veganic is a combination of the words vegan and organic, but there are many crucial differences between veganic and organic growing. For one thing, organic growing prohibits synthetic pesticides, nutrients elements, rodenticides, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) while veganic farming does the same, but goes even further. Veganics avoids animal byproducts including manure, fish emulsion, krill, guano, feather meal, blood meal, and bone meal commonly found in organic fertilizers. Veganic nutrients don’t contain dead animals, nor do they contain synthetic and mined nutrients elements found in hydroponics feed programs.
In veganic gardening, growers create a “living root zone” using plant-based composts, powders, extracts, beneficial microbes, and green “manures.” This mimics fertile soil found in undisturbed natural areas.
Veganic advocates note that in undisturbed soils, decomposed animals are usually the smallest percentage of materials contributing to soil nutrition. Nutrients in natural undisturbed soil mostly comes from the earth’s crust, the atmosphere, rainwater, beneficial soil microbes, and decomposed plants. Yet, decomposed animal parts make up the majority of organic fertilizer product ingredients.
Organic marijuana growers who love animals are dismayed to discover that animal byproducts in organic fertilizers come from factory farming and other industrial sourcing. Factory farms cause horrific suffering for innocent animals. They create climate change greenhouse gasses, as well as staggering amounts of air, land and water pollution.
Guano mining for organic fertilizer has killed hundreds of millions of birds and bats, and wrecked their habitats. The harvesting of krill (krill are tiny crustaceans) for fertilizers is a major threat to whales, penguins, seals and other animals that depend on krill, and is also destroying fragile, irreplaceable ecosystems where krill live.
The stark truth is, if you’re using commercial organic fertilizer, you’re likely using the blood, bones, tissue, and defecation of innocent animals who lived terrible lives due to cruelty inherent to the animal agriculture industry, and you’re contributing to environmental ruination.
Veganic farmers note that most non-veganic fertilizers contain potentially harmful amounts of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, lead, nickel, chromium and mercury. These materials transfer into plant tissue and harm consumers.
Hydroponics nutrients are a problem too: sourcing materials and manufacturing synthetic and mineralized hydroponics nutrients is incredibly harmful to the environment, and using them is too. When I was living in a place where indoor hydroponics marijuana growing was a dominant industry, scientists discovered that the flushing of hundreds of thousands of gallons of hydroponics nutrients from drain-to-waste and other hydroponics growing systems was harming rivers, bays and groundwater.
A Veganic Garden of Eden
When I kept hearing about Dragonfly Earth Medicine (DEM) from growers who were in love with the company’s products and holistic ethic, I contacted DEM and learned that this lauded veganic nutrients company was created by two innovators who abandoned the biosphere-killing industrial grid to live a holistic lifestyle in the wilderness of British Columbia, Canada. Josh Sarvis and Kelly Dunn, who created and manage DEM, are among few people on earth living an almost zero-negative impact lifestyle devoted to health, ecology, cannabis and ethics.
Kelly and Josh have an idyllic way of life that includes hard work, sacrifice, and deep reverence for the healing power of plants. The couple’s remarkable transition away from regular society started in the 1990s, when concerns about raising their child in a crowded urban environment and around harmful farming methods led them to start a homestead in Canada miles from the nearest paved road.
Influenced by herbalism, environmentalism, biodynamics, and permaculture, they changed their lives and geographic location to create a “closed-loop” regenerative agricultural and lifestyle system. Closed-loop means you don’t often have to purchase food or food-growing supplies from other people or from companies. It means using harvested cannabis leaves in compost and teas to feed your next cannabis crop. It means growing your own medicine. If you’re regenerative, your lifestyle and farming doesn’t create a net loss to the environment—you create a net gain.
I challenged Kelly and Josh to convince me that veganics works as well if not better for marijuana growers than hydroponics feed programs. Kelly started by emphasizing that veganic plant-based nutrients are more effective than organic and synthetic nutrients, and are produced with a much lower ecological cost…or no ecological cost at all.
Plant-based fertilizers contain essential nutrition and growth hormones that supercharge cannabis plants so they become gargantuan, she says.
Take a look at the impressive main photo for this article…you’re seeing veganic cannabis!
The Dragonfly crew carefully selects locally-grown native plants and other organic materials and crafts them into high-potency powdered plant foods containing alfalfa, stinging nettle, kelp, cacao, turkey rhubarb, burdock root, spirulina, noni fruit, lavender, rosemary, calendula, wild yam, humic and fulvic acids, and astragalus. There’s not a hint of bone meal, blood meal or other dead animal parts.
“You can’t find even one commercial ‘organic’ broccoli head grown without commercial corporate animal products like bone meal and blood meal,” Kelly laments. “We don’t want animal byproducts in the root zone because it takes harmful pathogenic microbes to decompose those materials. When you use animal products that way, you run a way bigger risk of root rot, and you can’t use that soil over and over due to nasty fungi breakdown. With veganics, you can use your soil over and over again, because it retains the microbial life that facilitates nutrients availability, uptake, and plant health. Veganic growing is healthy for earthworms too.”
Plants eating plants, is how Kelly explains veganics, emphasizing that veganics depends on a living root zone containing beneficial bacteria and fungi that protect roots, enhance their function, stimulate plant immune systems, create growth hormones, and convert organic materials into elemental nutrition absorbable by plants roots.
Dragonfly products install a vast array of bioactive beneficial endomycorrhizal fungi and beneficial soil bacteria species known to enhance and protect cannabis roots, including Glomus Intradices, Glomus Mosseae, Glomus Etuicatum, Bacillus Amyloliquefaciens, Bacillus Licheniformis, Bacillus Pumilus, Bacillus Megaterium, Bacillus Subtilis, Trichoderma Konigii, and Trichoderma Harzianum.
I’ve used all major brands of liquid and powdered beneficial microbes sold in grow shops, but never saw any worthwhile increase in root mass, root health, and garden profits. Worse yet, many of those products were dead on the shelf. Or, soon after I opened them, they smelled like rotten eggs or developed mold. Or they created a scary mess of filamentous gunk in my hydro reservoir. I was just throwing my money away.
In contrast, when I use Dragonfly beneficial microbial products, I see rapid expansion of root mass and root health, which translates into faster growth and bigger yields.
“A living root zone is a natural ‘manufacturing facility’ that turns root zone materials into nutrition for cannabis plants,” Kelly explains. “Synthetic nutrients are a totally unnatural way for plants to absorb nutrition, and lack of natural function damages plants. Also, although there are many reasons not to use commercial organic animal-derived fertilizers, a healthy veganics homestead often has humanely-treated farm animals who increase soil fertility and quality. Large scale commercial animal agriculture harms animals, the biosphere and the atmosphere. A healthy homestead with a few animals roaming in a field rotation adds tremendous health to the farm system. Still, by far the primary source of nutrition in Dragonfly Earth Medicine products comes from the collection and layering of raw plant biomass created on our property.”
As someone who has used premium hydroponics nutrients for years in pure hydroponics systems including deep water culture, rockwool, soilless mix, and coco coir, at first I was scared to abandon my chemicalized feed program and trust the beneficial microbes, plant-derived nutrients, and plant-boosting formulas offered by veganics. I grow marijuana medicine for myself and several other patients; I can’t afford a crop failure from experimenting with a totally new type of feed program.
I’d already tried all major organic and “natural” nutrients brands (Earth Juice, Fox Farm, Nectar for the Gods, General Organics, and several others) and found them to be a mess. I hated their shitty smell. They ruined my pH probes. They attracted fungus gnats and other pests. They gunked up my root zone and clogged my fertigation systems.
So it was a leap of faith for me to try veganics, but now I’m a true believer. How pleasantly surprised I was to see veganics working so well in my indoor grow op. Kelly explains that the all-natural materials in Dragonfly products stimulate plant immune systems and other metabolic pathways that increase terpenoid and cannabinoid production, as well as bud development and early maturation.
Kelly says her outdoor plants typically yield at least five pounds dry-weight of tasty, gooey, high potency buds, and that the veganics feed program and their farm’s environmental factors create larger resin glands and more resins.
“We try to recreate nature in every garden bed,” Kelly explains. “Every tea we give our plants is from our own biomass on our farm. We’re growing our nutrients. This produces the best quality flowers and allows our plants to show their ultimate potential. When you give cannabis plants the best, they grow the best.”
Veganic farming’s benefits extend beyond nutrition. For example, many outdoor and indoor marijuana growers are sadly familiar with battling mites, root aphids, thrips, whiteflies, fungus gnats, powdery mildew and botrytis (gray mold). We seal our grow rooms like they’re bank vaults, filtering the air and using other methods in hopes of blocking pests and diseases.
Ironically, Kelly and Josh don’t have to worry so much about pests and diseases, because veganic cannabis plants are stronger and naturally repellant to pests and pathogens. That’s why Kelly and Josh can grow in outdoor structures open on all sides and only covered when it’s time for flower-forcing or to protect from torrential rains–but their plants aren’t being destroyed by pests or destroyed by molds and mildews!!!
Kelly notes that animals and other pests that commonly eat marijuana plants don’t much bother the cannabis grown at Dragonfly’s farm. They prefer the many other delicious plant species also planted in the same space, and leave the cannabis alone.
This protection is enhanced because Kelly and Josh do companion planting to grow pest repellant plants in close proximity to cannabis plants. “We plant non-cannabis pollinator gardens and put pollinator flowering plants in every greenhouse and line every garden bed with them,” Kelly says. “We usually have at least ten different species of beneficial insect pest predators on every cannabis plant. Our products stimulate plant immune response. We’ve taken concepts from human herbal medicine and transferred them to creating healthier plants and soils.”
What happens if all their tactics fail and cannabis pests attack their plants? It’s rare, but it happens. And when it does, they don’t resort to poisons like many growers do. “We spent 12 hours a day washing mites off our plants, and it worked,” Kelly recalls.
Their emphasis on naturalness, ecology and health led Kelly and Josh to reject the usual nutrients marijuana growers use.
“When people use synthetic nutrients, it wipes out soil life and forces plants to unnaturally uptake nutrients, kind of like when doctors plug intravenous feeding tubes into people,” Kelly says. “Synthetic nutrients bypass the digestive ‘intelligence’ of the plant, negatively affecting plant enzymatic and metabolic systems. Cannabis strains are vulnerable to disease because growers are breeding ‘unintelligent’ plants that lack the natural vitality and systemic integrity found in veganics growing. Using standard non-veganic feed programs and defective strains, you end up with a disproportionate amount of THC and myrcene, and not much else. We breed for full spectrum cannabinoids and terpenes, and veganics ensures that cannabis plants reach their full genetic potential.”
Creating resilient veganic marijuana super-strains and plants requires cannabis boot camp for Dragonfly seedlings. Kelly and Josh used to start their seeds indoors, using supplemental LED grow lights to give them a well-lit start. These days, they start their seeds outdoors so they can see which seedlings have what it takes to survive in the rugged, natural environment.
How Practical is Veganic Cannabis Growing?
Dragonfly Earth Medicine offers veganic plant-feeding and soil-enlivening products tailored to grow phase, bloom phase, and overall plant health. One of their products is a protective foliar spray that fights powdery mildew, gray mold, and other leaf pathogens. Their fertilizer products are super clean, beautiful to look at, smell good, mix easily.
The company also makes veganic human health formulas, including nutritionally-rich cocoa potions made from reishi, chaga, cordyceps, cacao, alfalfa, nettles, and astragalus. Their cocoa brew contains an intense dose of vitamins, protein and other life-enhancing compounds.
Dragonfly also offers a health-enhancing product called Myco Canna Capsules. It contains cannabidiol (CBD), along with naturally-extracted fractions of medicinal mushrooms, along with Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs. I take a Myco Canna capsule to get rid of insomnia, anxiety and body pain.
Kelly and Josh point out the obvious parallels between human health and plant health. Humans need beneficial microbes in their gut to break down food into usable nutrients. Plants need beneficial microbes in the root zone, for the same reason. And here’s something to consider: the chemical structure of chlorophyll, the “lifeblood of plants,” is similar to that of hemoglobin, an essential part of red blood cells in humans.
Kelly and Josh see veganics, regenerative agriculture, cannabis and the closed-loop lifestyle as a spiritual and practical model for how humans can live without accelerating the anthropogenic mass extinction event that’s killing the entire biosphere.
But skeptics point to the billions of acres controlled by Big Ag, and the massive corporate cannabis farms that have sprung up like weeds after Canadian federal decriminalization and partial decriminalization in the United States. They ask how farmers could feed the huge overpopulation of humans on our planet without using petrochemical fertilizers, factory farming, genetically modified organisms, and poisonous pesticides and herbicides.
Kelly counters that large-scale regenerative agriculture isn’t just possible, it’s urgently necessary. Industrial agriculture destroys soil, poisons land, air, water, plants, animals and humans, introduces genetically modified organisms, destroys native intact ecosystems and plants and animals, and produces inferior food and other products that lack nutritional and other essential values. In contrast, large-scale regenerative farming puts humans back into harmony with the environment, is kind to native flora and fauna, is extremely productive, raises crop quality, and reduces faming costs.
Instead of a large-scale, licensed commercial cannabis facility having to start its venture by buying tens of thousands of dollar’s worth of hydroponics nutrients, Josh explains, the veganic approach would see the farmers creating living soil and feed programs that are superior to hydroponics nutrients.
Kelly notes that cannabis is an accumulator plant that sucks and stores heavy metals and other toxins present in soil, making it a restorative plant that reclaims damaged land. But she warns that this same accumulator trait makes it imperative that people grow cannabis veganically.
“Cannabis farmers have to be extremely careful about pathogens, chemicals and heavy metals,” Kelly explains. “These things easily enter cannabis plants, and many regular nutrients and foliar sprays sold in garden shops will create testing failures when growers attempt to provide products to licensed dispensaries and processors. Cannabis is a dynamic accumulator plant that stores toxins from foliar sprays and the root zone and distributes it to the trichomes where cannabinoids and terpenoids are made and stored. If you have toxins in your growing practices then, your buds’ trichomes fail the regulatory purity tests, and nobody will buy them.”
To help cannabis growers and assure cannabis consumers’ safety, Kelly and Josh created the “DEM Pure” certification process. They describe this process as “far more stringent than standard organic agriculture certification processes.”
Standard organic certification processes such as OMRI barely examine crop inputs used to grow plants and trees and whether a product contains only “safe” ingredients, and has a lot of loopholes, Kelly explains. Fortunately, DEM Pure certification examines the entire agricultural enterprise to see whether it’s using sustainable, regenerative farming practices that feed the soil and create robust, contaminant-free cannabis crops. At least 80 cannabis farms in North America have received DEM Pure certification.
Veganic Growing is Easy & Fun
Some cannabis growers worry that veganic growing doesn’t seem practical, especially for indoor hydroponics gardens. When Kelly first told me about making fertilizer brews using molasses and Dragonfly powders, I was reminded of my compost tea and compost pile experiments that took a lot of trouble and time but didn’t work so well.
So I’m glad to tell you that after running test grow ops using only Dragonfly to feed my plants, veganics is now my favorite way of feeding cannabis. These products are much easier to use than hydroponic or organic fertilizers, especially because precise control of water pH isn’t necessary. When I first started making Dragonfly feed solutions (using rainwater or reverse osmosis water, chlorine is bad for root zones), I noticed that the solutions always tested at 6.0 pH—the ideal pH for nutrients absorption!
The more I work with veganics, the more I like it. I’ve gotten growth rates, yields and potency that equal or exceed what I get using hydroponic nutrients and organic fertilizers. I’ve also seen that veganic pesticides, mildewcides and other veganic methods for fighting pests, molds, mildew and root diseases are better than harmful chemical interventions, without poisoning you and your buds.
From my marijuana grow op testing, I can affirm that veganics provides generous doses of nutrition, supercharges roots, and stimulates plants metabolism, immune system, photosynthesis, and production of cannabinoids and terpenoids.
It’s easy to do veganic growing when you use Dragonfly products. Not only are the products pristine, hand-crafted, and unique, the DEM customer service team is timely, professional, and caring when you ask questions about using their products, and it’s obvious from their responses that they’re cannabis cultivation experts. Before you start a veganic feed program, contact DEM, telling them of your gardening situation, and asking them for advice on how to make veganics work for you. They’re happy to help.
There’s an art to veganic gardening that’s rewarding and calming, kind of like gourmet cooking. I mix batches of Dragonfly products and let them brew for a day or two, hand-stirring them every few hours. The brews have a beautiful smell. Using the DEM feed program is the ultimate way to nurture and pamper my marijuana plants.
I have to admit…I envy and admire Kelly and Josh. Their friendly, passionate, ethical vibe is rare in the cannabis growing industry. Their integrity and ingenuity are a breath of fresh air. They created their own Eden using rugged individualism, self-sufficiency, horticultural expertise, and love of Nature and cannabis. When you look at their health-giving lifestyle and supremely bountiful cannabis plants, you realize that veganic growing and the veganic lifestyle are blessings for people and Nature.