Proper sanitation is crucial to a healthy garden, but what exactly does sanitation mean in the context of a commercial grown cannabis operation? Simply put, it refers to the processes you need to put into place to ensure that your operation remains free from contamination. Within the context of large-scale commercial cultivation, the key issue to worry about in terms of sanitation is cross-contamination from mites and other common cannabis pests.
Eriophyid mites like hemp mites and russet mites are very common in Oregon and can wreak havoc on even the best-managed cannabis grow operations. Unlike spider mites, eriophyid mites do not create webbing, so actual plant damage beginning at the base of the plant is the first indication of a mite infestation. Unfortunately, at that point it’s usually too late to control the situation, especially without professional organic pest control intervention.
Practically microscopic in size, mites can hitch a ride on your shoes, your clothes and even your skin without your even being aware of it. All it takes to contaminate your commercial garden or farm is a few russet or broad mites brought in unintentionally from an outside source. And these sources can be surprisingly varied – mites are commonly found in garden centers and can easily make their way onto grow supplies, tools and even plant starters and seedlings. In fact, one of the most common sources of contamination for any grow operation comes from clone plants sourced from a nursery or a different grow operation. Mites can also be found on seeds, so growing directly from seed is not necessarily a reliable means of avoiding contamination.
So what can you do to protect your grow operation from the insidious effects of mites and other cannabis pests? The answer is actually surprisingly simple and it has everything to do with basic sanitation practices. Ant & Garden Solutions in Beaverton Oregon recommends the following best practice standards for grow operation sanitation:
- Seed examination and treatment: It’s a common misconception that growing from seed is a surefire way to guarantee pest-free crops. Unfortunately, seeds can carry mites as well which can lead to sickly, unhealthy plants if the seeds even germinate at all. In the worst case scenario, these mites can spread throughout your operation and ravage any healthy plants you have. To make sure your seeds are safe and pest-free, they need to be examined under a high powered microscope for mites and treated if necessary before planting.
- Quarantine: All new seedlings, starters and cloned plants need to be placed in a separate quarantine facility before they are integrated into your existing grow operation (a small portable greenhouse or a separate room will do). It is recommended that this quarantine period is no less than 14 days long and preferably up to a month long. Plants in quarantine need to be regularly inspected. If you purchase clones from several separate sources, make sure that you have a separate quarantine facility for each set of clones to mitigate the possibility of cross-contamination across your new plants.
- New tools and equipment: All new tools and equipment, regardless of where you purchase them, need to be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before initial use. This applies to every single piece of equipment you use, from grow lights and tools to garden hoses and sprinkler heads. Even if you source your equipment from an online retailer like Amazon rather than a garden center, you still need to make sure you follow this crucial step.
- Clothing and shoes: This might seem like a step too far, but it’s impossible to overestimate the importance of changing your clothes and shoes every time you enter your garden or grow operation. Keep a comfortable set of clothes and shoes at your grow site that you can change into once you get to the site – it’s very important to change into your gardening clothes before you enter. When you’re ready to leave, change back into your regular clothes and make sure to leave your gardening clothes at your grow site. This way, you can be sure that you’re not bringing any marijuana bugs and other cannabis pests in with you.