In addition to making high-quality CO2 extract cartridges, we started our company as a flower / bud producer. We wanted to share a few of things we’ve developed over our years of experience that go into making our amazing flower. We have our original facility in Washington and have our full, larger Oregon greenhouse up and running at full capacity now.
Photo credit: April Reynolds
The tl;dr version is the following points – if you want to know more about any of them, keep reading!
- We focus on great soil: that’s where it all begins!
- Use organic, living and biodynamic pest control
- Reproducible, consistent indoor conditions optimized for our strains
- Invested a lot of time and energy perfecting our drying, trimming and curing process–not as simple as it sounds.
- We’re our own harshest critic and only the best strains and finished bud make it to the shelves
- Have years of experience
Photo credit: April Reynolds
Great plants start with great soil:
We carefully mix every batch of soil with several amendments to enhance our plant’s natural immune systems and terpene profiles. Happy soil makes happy plants and consequently happy people!
- Earth worm castings: these contain a highly active biological mixture of bacteria, enzymes, remnants of plant matter and animal manure, as well as earthworm cocoons. The castings are rich in water-soluble plant nutrients, and contain more than 50% more humus (organic matter) than what is normally found in topsoil.
- Locally sourced organic compost: this energizes the soil food web, which is made up of microscopic bacteria and fungi, along with earthworms and many other life forms. Many fungi form mutually beneficial partnerships with plant roots, making it possible for plants to take up nutrients more efficiently. Research shows that compost enhances the ability of plants to defend against common diseases and may improve their flavor and nutrition, too. Compost provides nutrients and structure for many other living things in the soil, too. We consider this “black gold” in our greenhouse!
- Alfalfa meal: an all natural fertilizer made from alfalfa plants. It feeds both the microorganisms that live in the soil and the plants that grow in it. It can also be used as an accelerant in compost piles due to its high biological activity. It’s also a natural source of triacontanol, a plant growth stimulant.
- Crab meal: an organic amendment loaded with critical nitrogen, phosphorous, calcium and magnesium nutrients for the plants. It is slow release which is healthier for plants and can also prevent pest eggs from maturing in the soil through an interesting mechanism: The crab meal is made of chitin (the material shells are made from), so having it in the soil causes the natural microorganisms to release enzymes that break it down. The pest’s eggs also have chitin in them, so the enzymes also weaken the eggs, causing them to not form/hatch properly.
- Neem Cake: a byproduct of the neem tree and leaf extraction process. It is an organic fertilizer, but neem cake also contains salannin, nimbin, azadirachtin and azadiradione as the major components which have natural pest repellent, insecticide, and insect growth disruptor properties.
- Biochar: is made from plant and organic material waste and has been used as a soil amendment for thousands of years. It’s proven to improve soil health, and plant health but the mechanisms aren’t exactly clear -it’s not a nutrient itself. More recently as we understand the soil food web more, it’s been suggested that the high-surface area of biochar may provide “homes” in their microscopic nooks and crannies for soil microbes to live and thrive.
- Mycorrhizal root powder: Our mixture contains thirty species of beneficial soil organisms that colonize plant roots and expand into the soil to greatly increase the absorptive surface area of root systems. Mycorrhizal fungi, Trichoderma and a diverse mix of bacterial species work symbiotically to promote improved soil structure and enhanced root growth.
Most consumers know in general that chemical pesticides are “bad for you”, but many of these compounds convert into even more dangerous chemicals when smoked/combusted/vaped. One of our founding principles is to be committed to all-natural, organic growing practices to ensure the safety of consumers and patients. Avitas only uses natural oils, beneficial fungus, and living beneficial, predatory pests to fight the damage from harmful pests.
Employing a natural integrated pest management strategy with cannabis plants is not easy, partly because there are very few, if none established protocols or research data to help growers in this newly-emerging market. We have been utilizing beneficial mites and insects for some time and recently attended a Washington State University / USDA workshop on this topic to further our knowledge.
Here’s an introduction to our three main helpers:
Stratiolaelaps (formerly Hypoaspis): a beneficial mite (not an insect–they have 8 legs) that lives in the soil and feeds on other harmful mites, root mealybugs, spider mites and springtails. A good example of how you don’t have to be beautiful to be useful! (image: evergreengrowers.com)
Rove beetle (Dalotia coriaria) : Larger and easier to see in our greenhouse (it’s the black insect on the left), we use this to keep lots of small insects and mites away. They live in the soil and are aggressive predators. (image: evergreengrowers.com)
Amblyseius swirskii : the larger, round creature that can be seen eating a thrips larvae below. The swirskii are a great predatory mite that eats lots of soft-bodied pests: thrips, other pest mites, and the larvae of these species. A perfect friend to have around to “maintain” the bad guys! (Image: Steven Arthurs, Univ. of Florida)
We will be expanding our use of beneficial insects very soon with two more and adding in these cute guys soon:
Cucumeris: (image: http://www.biconet.com/biocontrol/)
and N. fallacis seen here feeding on a twospotted spider mite:
(image: North Carolina State Extension)
Are you noticing how many of them look very similar? We have regular checks of our plants and soil with a microscope to monitor the health of our system. We also need to be knowledgeable enough to tell the difference between a “good” mite and a “bad” mite.
Someone asked me once if these “good bugs” ever end up in the buds–Not to worry! They all live in or on the surface of the soil and don’t really venture out into the light much!
Growing indoors ensures a year-round, steady supply of “grade A” connoisseur level cannabis. Years of experience has allowed us to perfect our growing conditions (temperature, humidity, light/dark cycles, CO2 levels, nutrient levels, pH levels all contribute to overall plant health) and optimize our strains which reduces variability from crop to crop. The terpene profiles and consistent bud formation cannot be matched, and our customers know exactly what they are getting every time.
Drying and Curing
Our plants are dried to perfection beginning with the harvesting of the plants. We start by stripping the fan leaves immediately from the plants to help with the airflow around the buds as they dry. Once dried and trimmed from the stems, the buds undergo a final hand manicuring prior to being placed into a climate-controlled room in our glass curing jars with special humidity adjustment for a minimum of two weeks. Like a wine aging, the final curing cycle brings out the nuanced aromas and flavors of our product.
At Avitas, we only want to grow strains that we would like to smoke ourselves – in fact, our final decision to include a new strain or not is if we all agree on its flavor, aroma, and experience. We have over 30 years of cannabis experience so we know how to tell when the genetics start to drift, and we keep up on what’s new to always offer high-quality strains for our customers. We are always experimenting with our strain genetics and growing conditions and occasionally offer new varieties when we think we can improve on our already great harvests.
Photo credit: April Reynolds