#5 – Let’s Grow

Getting ready to grow can be very physical, I hope that everyone that has bodily limitations can find someone to help with this endeavor. To help prepare you physically and mentally for the job ahead, I will include our Daily Routine and fuel for the day recipe link here.

Site Selection-

When considering your site selection for growing cannabis, there are many cannabis plant requirements, (weeds have needs), to  take into account.  If you live in an apartment and have a balcony with a minimum of 5 hours of light you can grow 3-4 cannabis plants.  If you live in a house with a yard, you can grow even more, depending on your local laws and regulations.  I will give you a list of cannabis plant requirements to think about when selecting your location, and it’s always a good idea to check in with local growers to see what local environmental conditions you have to account for, like; wind, light, water, soil, hours of sunlight, critters, etc. and how these local growers deal with any of these environmental factors. 

I won’t go into indoor growing, as the lights and other equipment needed are very expensive, as well as the electricity itself, and indoor growing presents more avenues for pests and diseases to get a stronghold.  If you need to grow indoors, there is a host of great information online.

I will tell you how I deal with my, Susan’s, local environmental conditions.  I live in a Mediterranean climate, with no summer rain, beach like sandy soil, and gentle wind.

I’ve grown cannabis plants successfully in straw bales, grow bags, keyhole gardens and in gopher baskets in amended garden soil, in a greenhouse and outdoors.  I’ve had success with each of these strategies.

Straw Bales 

To grow in straw bales, you need to condition the bale first, as well as have the room for this type of planting method.  Here is a link with the info you need to condition your bales, it takes about ten days.  

https://preparednessmama.com/how-to-condition-straw-bales/

Be sure to use your homemade compost mixed with bag or homemade soil as the growing medium that you’ll put in the planting hole.  Please use drip irrigation, the plant can dry out rapidly in straw bales.  Transplant a seedling directly into the hole.  This is a plant I grew a few years ago.  I used the straw the next year as compost material.  This method is really great for people with back pain, no need to bend over.  I used a combination of diluted compost tea, diluted old coffee and tea for fertilizer, all with great results!  Dilute compost tea and coffee to about 10 parts water to 1 part coffee or compost tea to prevent a nutrient overdose resulting in leaf burning, regular tea is safe to use straight.

Grow Bags

This is my personal favorite method.  The grow bags are fairly inexpensive, last several years and are easy to transport when empty, they are perfect for apartment balconies and other small spaces.  Other benefits over plastic pots include:

  • Healthier Root Systems – Encourage root pruning rather than root circling
  • Temperature Control – Shed excess heat through breathable fabric
  • Prevents Over-watering – Excess water will percolate through the fabric  material
  • Easy Storage – Can be folded up and stored with minimal space
  • Versatile – Can be easily moved (when empty) or planted directly in the ground

What I especially love is that once you make or buy enough soil to fill these bags, I use 200 and 300 gallon bags, (small space dwellers can use 25-50 gal bags, just remember the bigger the bag, the bigger the plant) you can amend them every year by composting in place or growing cover crops in the fall and winter, so that your bags are ready to go in the late spring.  

After the fall harvest, I start by pulling out any residual roots to dry (ground roots make great tea and bath salts- we will have recipes for roots in future posts), placing a layer of cardboard and newspaper on top of last season’s soil, then adding shredded leaves and stems (my shredded raspberry canes are turning out to be my favorite), manure, compost, weeds, then topping the whole bag with plant trimmings.  The reason I put a large pile of plant trimmings on top is to keep the critters out that might think these bags are a buffet of worms just for their enjoyment, I currently have a family of skunks, which I love, but they make a  mess out of the bags without a barrier of some sort.  The worms eat the leaves, manure, compost and weeds and in return leave worm poop, which is ultra beneficial for cannabis cultivation.

Keyhole Gardens-

A keyhole garden is a two-meter-wide circular raised garden with a keyhole-shaped indentation on one side. The indentation allows gardeners to add uncooked vegetable scraps, greywater, and manure into a composting basket that sits in the center of the bed.

An easy keyhole garden made with pavers, mine is made from recycled pallets. Lots of ideas online.  If conserving water is an issue in your area, this might be the perfect solution for you.

Gopher Baskets in Amended Garden Soil

Seedlings can grow to be vigorous plants with enough compost in my sandy soil. Gophers love cannabis, so if you have local gophers, please spend the extra funds for baskets,  they can be used year after year… for about 5-10 years.

All plants are planted in gopher baskets

 Granny got creative with her mobile grow container!

Other Cannabis Plant Requirements to plan for-

Adequate water:
Marijuana Plant: What Do Weed Plants Need? [Updated Guide]
Adequate Water – Image powered by Leafly.com

Water is the foundation of life. All living things depend on water for nourishment. This is especially true for cannabis, as water plays a variety of crucial roles for sustainability. Water is what gives cannabis its vigor and flexibility. It also regulates the plant’s internal temperature.

I cannot overemphasis the importance of proper watering.

  • Overwater: the roots can choke as they struggle to get oxygen. 
  • Underwater: the plants become thirsty and unable to regulate their temperature.

So, before you start growing, learn the correct way to water your weed plants to avoid newbie mistakes. The good news is watering problems are often easy to fix. A great way to give yourself some wiggle room on this is to grow in straw bales, grow bags or keyhole gardens.  Using these growing mediums takes a lot of the consequences out of overwatering.  Plastic pots or hard soils can hold onto water, potentially leading to an overwatering situation.  Remember that the #1 cause of plant death is overwatering and the #2 cause of plant death is under-watering.  What often happens is that your plant wilts from underwater and then you overwater, sealing the plants fate.  A better way is to add small amounts of water, wait, and if the plant still needs more, add again.  It’s way easier to add more than take away excess. Take the guess work out of this with straw bales, grow bags, and keyhole gardens and be sure to always stick your finger in the soil to evaluate moisture. Perfect soil moisture results in a moist, crumbly texture.

Cannabis likes to dry out then be watered thoroughly.  As you grow through the years, this will become second nature to you.  The first year, think of as your learning year, write everything down in your grow journal, then adjust as needed.

Correct Temperature and Humidity:

My personal local weather is very dry, and I successfully grow cannabis.  If it’s too humid, the plants will suffer from conditions such as powdery mildew if you don’t provide ventilation.  In an outdoor situation, this might be a little tricky, so experiment with planting close to large trees to mitigate the extra moisture.  This is where it’s a great idea to pow wow with other local growers, to see how they solve this issue.

For high wind areas please refer to Madrone Stewart’s book, “Feminist Weed Farmer”.  She deals with high winds where she grows in Northern California.

Cannabis is structured a lot like a tomato plant.  Large plants have a lot of branches and not a strong core like a tree trunk, so wind can cause a lot of damage.

Good Soil:

In a future lifetime I want to be a soil scientist.  Soil is super cool!  It is where all the magic happens.  Cannabis absorbs water and nutrients, as well as oxygen through their root systems. This might be a good time to say if you want to grow hydroponically, there is a lot of info online.  I for one, am a soil advocate! For your first year, I’m recommending bag soil with your homemade compost mixed in.  But for next fall we will be sharing soil recipes for the following season, to give your plants the most optimum inputs.

Proper Nutrients:

Cannabis is a heavy nitrogen feeder, just like tomatoes.  I find that using diluted leftover coffee, tea and compost tea gives me all the nutrition I need with homemade soil.  There are many troubleshooting sites online, where they show a pic of the plant with what issue…. I’ve used these sites many times.  Who knew what a manganese deficiency looked like?  But take my advice and go slow on the inputs,  I killed a 6 footer with too much manganese.  It was a quick death, but it hurt me. I used the pics below to identify the problem then crushed a manganese supplement and added it to the water, I should have diluted it about 100X.  Rule of thumb start with less than you think you need, you can always add more later, don’t try and fix a nutrient deficiency all at once.  Here is a great place to start-https://www.growweedeasy.com/marijuana-symptoms-pictures

Light:

Cannabis plants require at least 5 hours of full sun a day for growth and bud production.  If you live in an apartment, and want to grow on a patio, depending on your exposure, you might need to add lighting.  I have to admit this isn’t my specialty… but lots of advice online.

 One way to tell you don’t have enough light is what is called “stretching”. 

You can see in the pic how there is a long distance between buds, this is usually caused by inadequate light.  The reason it’s called “stretching” is because the plant is stretching toward the light.  

On the flip side, there is a thing as too much light, this is usually from an indoor grow situation, and too intense lights.  Here is a pic of light burn which is often confused with nitrogen deficiency.

Air Circulation- 

Air circulation is critical for cannabis in outdoor and indoor cultivation.  Stem strength is the direct result of constant air pressure, as well as keeping molds and mildew at bay.  When planting outdoors, try to find a spot with a constant breeze. On patios, greenhouses and tents you need to add fans.  When you look at the weather in Mongolia, where Cannabis evolved, you can see that they have high spring winds when Cannabis will be forming its structure and support system for future buds.  Mongolian wind speeds slow down in the summer months, but remain steady.

Cannabis evolved on the steppes of Mongolia in compost piles.  From this information we can see that Cannabis is a heavy feeder and can grow in a short grow season and needs consistent wind.  Whether you can provide this for the plant naturally, or you have to supplement with fans is dependent on your personal grow situation.

All of this information might feel daunting, the best way is to learn by doing, realize the first year is your learning year… by year two and three you’ll be doing great!

Please email us with your questions, ideas, comments, or suggestions.  As always, we want to hear from you!

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