You’ve likely heard of hemp at one time or another and assumed, because of its close association with marijuana, that it’s an illicit drug, and you would be wrong. But what is hemp really, and how can you benefit from it in the garden?
In order to realize its benefits, you first need to become more familiar with the plant. So, what is hemp and how does it differ from its marijuana cousin? This versatile plant, also known as industrial hemp, is the non-psychoactive variety of Cannabis that actually has a host of uses, most notably, as durable fiber material.
So, yes, while it is true that both plants come from the same Cannabis family, hemp is completely different, mainly in its chemical composition, specifically in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the stuff that gets you “high.” In marijuana plants, this content can be anywhere from 5-20% whereas hemp has no more than about 0.3%. That’s a big difference. Hemp does contain higher cannabidiol (CBD), which has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety properties without any of the psychoactive effects from THC. In fact, CBD oil from hemp is commonly used as a medicinal supplement…and it’s legal. Its use as fiber, however, is one of the greatest benefits to us, with hemp clothing at the top of the list.
Many materials, like cotton, are high maintenance plants, needing large amounts of water and upkeep, including the use of pesticides. Yet, hemp is a fast-growing plant that requires little to no maintenance with much less water, and produces more fiber per acre than cotton. It acts as a cover crop too, naturally adding nutrients to the soil. And the fabric produced from industrial hemp can be incredibly soft when blended with other sustainable materials. This is definitely something I can attest to after trying out the latest hemp clothing from prAna, a Southern California-based company that has been working with hemp since 2001. Their hemp plants are grown as organically as possible with no pesticides or insecticides.
So how does this translate into the garden? In addition to being a more sustainable crop, hemp naturally inhibits bacteria and has a thermo-conductive property that is both breathable and insulating, keeping you cool when it’s hot outside and warm when it’s cold. Additionally, this naturally UV-resistant material is stronger than most other fibers and much longer lasting – and this is all especially useful in a garden setting. Plus, the natural color of hemp easily accepts dyes and combines well with a wide variety of other fibers, giving you plenty of options, so you’ll not only feel good wearing hemp clothing in the garden, but you’ll look stylish too.
It’s unfortunate that hemp’s relation to marijuana has led to such a misunderstanding of all its benefits, especially in terms of gardening apparel. I must admit, even I was skeptical at first, curious of what it might look or feel like. But I was pleasantly surprised by just how truly soft and comfortable this clothing is, and it looks good too. Of course, you need not limit yourself to strictly wearing it in the garden, but during the hottest of summer days or the coolest autumn afternoons, you’ll be glad you did.