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It’s easier than ever to be a lowkey gardener of homegrown weed

senior lifestyle correspondent

I do not have a particularly green thumb. Any gardening success I’ve had—mostly with the pots of cherry tomatoes and herbs on my patio—has been due to good luck and strong sun.

I’m a lazy gardener, not a farmer. This is the same approach I’m taking to growing my own weed.

For the last year or so in Los Angeles, I’ve enjoyed legal access to marijuana. It’s easy enough to go to a dispensary or get it delivered. But you know what might be more fun? Growing it—and spring 2018 seems just the time to give it a go. (Here in California, adults over 21 can grow up to six plants at home for personal use, so long as they’re locked up and not publicly visible. Several US states and Washington, DC have similar laws.)

“You don’t have to have a gigantic grow room, or a huge outdoor cannabis farm,” says Grace Olivia Hicks, the co-founder of Green Carpet Growing, a San Diego, CA-based cannabis cultivation consultancy. “Cannabis doesn’t have to be far away—it’s within reach now and it’s also legally acceptable.”

Still, it’s not quite so easy as plopping a pot of basil on the windowsill. Yes, it’s called “weed” because it grows like one, but cannabis is a complicated plant, and its cultivation has many steps where things can go wrong.

“It’s like a recipe,” says Hicks. “There are certain parts that have to be done correctly and at a certain time to get you from point A to point B to have product at the end.” (See: Willamette Week’s accidental “Pot Massacre of 2017” due to heat and over-fertilization.)

If you live in a place where it’s legal, here are some basics to know before you get started:

Clones vs. seeds

Just like those of us planting tomatoes in the spring, weed gardeners are faced with a choice between starting with seeds or small plants. In the cannabis world, many start with the sprouted cuttings commonly known as “clones.” While sprouting a seedling in a wet paper towel has its charm, clones leave far less margin for error.

What’s more, with a clone you can be sure you’re obtaining a female that will produce desirable flowers, also known as buds, if you play your cards right. (“Male plants are the bane of marijuana growers,” wrote Mel Frank in the Marijuana Grower’s Insider’s Guide. “They’re necessary for breeding and hybridizing, but otherwise they’re in the way.”)

In places where recreational marijuana growth is legal, you can find clones at cannabis nurseries, farmer’s markets, dispensaries, and even delivery services.

A wealth of resources

The resources for prospective pot growers today are incomprehensibly vast.

A recent search of WeedMaps, which is sort of like a cross between Seamless and Yelp for cannabis companies, showed that a clone of LA Confidential—a strain with a reputation for being easy to grow, according to the online resource Leafly—was available for delivery in Los Angeles for $12.

Once a person gets a plant, they can continue to read about how to cultivate it on Leafly or High Times, consult a go-to guide like Frank’s aforementioned Insider’s Guide, or even attend a workshop with the author himself, who occasionally teaches at Fig Earth Supply, a Los Angeles garden store. That’s not to mention the highly personalized consultancy services like those offered by Hicks at Green Carpet Growing.

The minimalist’s setup

All these resources can be overwhelming to the casual gardener, as they’re often geared toward those who are willing to invest lots of time, space, and money to harvest the highest yield possible: High Intensity Discharge lighting! Grow tents! Exhaust fans!

What if you just want the herbal equivalent of a handful of cherry tomatoes? “There’s nothing wrong with having a teensy tiny plant with buds on it,” says Hicks. “It’s cute, it’s ornamental, it’s fun.”

Rather than investing in a high-powered indoor setup, Hicks says using the natural power of the sun—either outdoors or on a sunny (but private) windowsill—is a good approach for the minimalist. And while many are particularly nervous when it comes to growing pot, looking at the plant itself will give you some guidance, Hicks says.

“A good window to the soul of your plant is to look at the leaves and know what’s going on,” she says. “It can be really difficult for people to trust what they see with their eyes when cannabis farming. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a plant that people who are growing it are so nervous to grow it… People don’t necessarily trust their instincts with cannabis, but they should.”

To flower or not to flower

The quantity of light that cannabis is exposed to—also known as the photoperiod—will determine whether the plant enters its flowering phase. And because it’s an annual, you’re only going to get those flowers once. That’s why many growers try to save the flowering phase for when the plant is bigger and will produce more buds.

More than 16 hours a day of light will keep plants in their vegetative state, when they’re growing stronger and bushier without producing flowers. So if you wanted your outdoor plant to get a little bigger before it flowers, you might prolong its vegetative state by bringing it into a warm closet with the lights on every night.

Less than 12 hours of light a day will trigger the plant’s flowering phase. So, if you wanted to force a plant to flower, you should time its exposure accordingly. Or, just wait a few months until the days grow shorter, and let nature run its course.

Depending on where you live, if you got a healthy clone from a dispensary today, there’s nothing to say you couldn’t just plant it in nutrient-rich soil in a sunny spot, and have flowers in the fall. By then, you will have read all about how to harvest, dry, and cure them.

And if you fail miserably, just think of it like growing your own veggies. Sometimes gardening is a disappointing heartbreak. But it’s still fun, and you can always buy your kale at the store. And once in a while, you get to have your own homegrown tomatoes, warmed from the sun, sliced and salted on sourdough toast.

As marijuana continues its march into the mainstream, why not give it a go?

Growing Marijuana:

A s you may know, the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana across several states has enabled many consumers to become accustomed to purchasing cannabis from a dispensary. Even more intriguing though is the opportunity that legalization has created for adults and medical patients to cultivate cannabis in their own homes.

While the laws, limitations and regulations are different for each state, almost every state with some form of legalized marijuana does allow home cultivation to some extent. Even though it’s completely legal, some people do not take advantage of their right to grow cannabis due to the perception that it is too difficult, expensive or time-consuming.

Interesed in growing? Click here to purchase your own seeds and start growing today!

Don’t let the lack of ambition from others discourage you though. If done correctly, growing cannabis at home can be fun, simple and cost-effective! We believe everyone should have access to their own clean cannabis. That’s why we decided to bring you a comprehensive guide to growing marijuana, created specifically with beginner growers in mind.

With essential grow knowledge, you’ll learn the benefits and tips of different grow methods, how to maximize plant yields and grow times, the best harvesting, drying, curing methods and much more! Who’s ready to start their cannabis growing journey?

Part 1 – Understanding Marijuana Grow Mediums

Deep Water Culture Hydroponics

Before starting your cannabis grow, you must decide if you want an indoor growing system or an outdoor growing system. When it comes to indoor growing mediums, DWC, or deep water culture, is a type of hydroponic growing method where each plant’s roots are growing in a tub of water.

One of the main benefits of a DWC system is that it promotes faster growth. Unlike growing cannabis in soil, roots grown in DWC don’t need to expend energy to search for what the plant needs; nutrients are easily accessible by the roots.

Plants have an unlimited supply of oxygen because of added oxygen from the air stone in the reservoir. Since the plant is spending less energy finding what it needs to grow, it channels that energy to plant growth. In addition, with proper guidance and a quality set up, DWC takes less time to maintain than an average grow.

When implementing a DWC system, a bubbler bucket reservoir system is recommended.

A bubbler bucket reservoir is a simple system that suspends the plant’s roots in a highly oxygenated nutrient solution. The roots are submerged in the nutrient-water solution in the bucket and are then replenished, as needed.

The most important growing tip is to check on your cannabis plants daily. As with many processes, the easiest way to fix a problem is in the beginning stages! If something is wrong with your plant in a DWC system, your first step in remedying your plant should always be to change out the reservoir. It is common for root rot to occur when roots are consistently in water, therefore, it is imperative to establish a preventative routine of changing out the reservoir every seven days. Adding beneficial bacteria to the reservoir is also effective in avoiding and combating root rot.

When growing from seeds in DWC, use each reservoir port (or net cup) to vegetate, then pick the strongest looking females to continue growing.

Keeping air and water temperatures under control are also very important measures to take. Air temperature should be 75-85°F when the lights are on and will drop by 10 degrees when the lights are off. Water temperature should remain at a constant temperature at all times. Your empty portholes can be used to change out the reservoir water by using a pump, allowing you to easily inspect what’s going on inside.

A common mistake to avoid when growing with DWC is not checking the pH levels of the water. This is important for any grow! Dirty reservoirs or not using an aerator 24/7 are two additional crucial mistakes, as roots must have excessive oxygen so they don’t drown. While some people like to maintain a completely sterile reservoir with just nutrients and water and no traces of anything alive, there are some good sources of beneficial bacteria that can be added. Bad bacteria is obviously, bad, but we wanted to emphasize the possibility of bacteria that can benefit your grow. To avoid potentially harmful bacteria, be proactive about changing the reservoir water.

In addition, having too many plants in one reservoir can lead to problems such as white powdery mildew. Don’t cramp your plants, instead, we recommend growing one plant per reservoir to allow the roots to spread out and give the leaves and buds more space.

Setting up a water transfer pump for this task can speed up the process. For best results, learn how to flush your cannabis plants.

Flushing your plants by removing any nutrients and salts improves the quality and taste of your final product. By simply draining your bubbler bucket reservoir and adding plain (pH neutral) water for two-three days before harvest, the plant will use all its existing nutrients contained in the stems, leaves and buds.

Growing Cannabis with Coco Coir

Coco coir is another great growing method, especially for beginners. It provides the ease of soil gardening with the rapid growth of hydroponics by using fibrous coconut husks instead of a potting mix. Compared to just soil growing, it absorbs moisture much easier, allowing plants to take up more nutrients and retain oxygen more efficiently because of its lighter texture. It also provides a forgiving buffer by reducing shock stress when human errors are made, such as adding too many nutrients, a common mistake.

Coco is much easier to flush than DWC because you aren’t changing an entire water reservoir. In fact, watering coco coir is very versatile. You can use a flood and drain hydroponic system, which is when the nutrient system temporarily floods from beneath the plant, controlled by a pump and timer, instead of dripping from above like most hydroponic systems. You can also use the most recognized top water to waste system, which is simply taking a water pail and watering your plant until water comes out of the bottom of the pot.

When growing cannabis with coco, good quality coco coir makes an immense difference, especially regarding root development. For beginner growers, a three-to-one coco to perlite mixture is recommended as it requires less watering frequency and holds moisture and nutrients better.

For more experienced growers, a one-to-one coco to perlite ratio is recommended as you are able to water more frequently, giving the plant more nutrient uptake and allowing more aggressive root growth.

With coco, water around the outside of the pot in early stages of growth to encourage roots to reach out and fill up the entire container.

Some common mistakes can occur when growing with coco if a grower allows the coco to get too dry, as the mixture dries quickly. Not checking the pH of the nutrient-water solution and not flushing on a consistent basis are also critical errors, as you are using more nutrients with coco and the excess residual nutrients can cause common nutrient deficiency symptoms.

It’s also very important to use Cal-Mag, or Calcium and Magnesium, in your coco growing medium. Calcium plays a direct role in a plant’s root development, nutrient uptake and protein synthesis. Magnesium is an essential part of chlorophyll production, helping your plants with photosynthesis, as well as aiding in the synthesis of sugars and proteins. Together, the correct amount of magnesium and calcium will help keep your cannabis plant healthy.

Outdoor Growing

Outdoor soil growing is a common gardening technique that most people with house plants or vegetable gardens are familiar with. Using techniques such as top-fed watering, deep irrigation or wicks are all viable methods to water your plants. You can either use organic, composted soil, or store-bought soil with added liquid nutrients.

To make organic soil, you need a mixture of biolive, alfalfa meal, oyster shell for calcium, blood meal and bone meal, humic acid to keep the roots clean, and kelp. With store bought soil, use organic nutrients and start adding them about three weeks into the vegetative stage. With synthetic nutrients, you must flush them out regularly. Flood the soil with as much fresh water as it can withstand and leave it for a few minutes to allow the nutrients to be picked up, then flood it again to get the nutrients away from the plant.

Always remember, less is more with non-organic nutrients. If you are adding nutrients, a good rule-of-thumb is to add them about once a week.

A benefit to outdoor soil growing is that if you have a good base-soil built up, it’s not necessary to add nutrients throughout the plant’s life cycle. That means less work for you! It is also likely that the smell and flavor profiles of your buds will increase as well.

A common mistake when growing outdoors is overwatering. Wait to water your plants until the first three inches or so, or about knuckle depth, of soil is dry. You can gauge your soil by pulling the container it is in slightly outwards. Not checking the pH after mixing nutrients, or using nutrients too frequently are also common mistakes that you’ll want to avoid.

Don’t use miracle grow or other similar slow release soils. Your plants will not get the correct amount of nitrogen needed during vegetation and they will receive too much nitrogen during flowering.

Part 2: Learning Cannabis Grow and Plant Maintenance Techniques

Growers have recorded a plethora of marijuana growing techniques over the years to ensure you make the most of your crop. If you want to maximize yield and maximize the amount of light your cannabis plant receives, it is important to practice bending and securing parts of the plant, or removing parts of the plant altogether. While there are many different methods, it is important to note which ones will be the most sustainable for your growing medium.

Bending & Securing Your Cannabis Plants

Screen of Green (ScrOG)

One technique for bending and securing parts of marijuana plants is ScrOG, or Screen of Green. ScrOG is perfect for an indoor grower who is only growing a small number of plants. In places like Colorado, for example, this method is ideal as the legal growing limit is three flowering plants at a time.

ScrOG is designed to optimize the energy from a light by creating an even canopy space where bottom growth of the plant is forced upward to form a flat canopy. By spreading out the canopy and growing the plant horizontally until a few weeks into the flowering stage, more main cola budding sites will take place. The canopy of one plant can be grown as large as a four-foot canopy.

New to growing cannabis? Don’t worry, our beginner’s guide to growing marijuana will help you through the process. From seed to harvest, we have you covered with tips, tricks and step-by-step procedures.