What's Your Coronavirus Victory Garden Missing? Marijuana
Since quarantine started, you may have been feeling an undeniable urge to homestead. Maybe you've decided it's a good time to raise chickens, grow your own vegetables or get really... like really really ... into baking sourdough.
In case you want to DIY some of your vices as well on this hallowed 4/20, we've got you.
Why grow your own weed?
It's easier than you think and takes far less equipment than becoming a master baker.
To break it all down, we reached out to cannabis growing legend Jorge Cervantes, who gave us basic instructions for beginning gardeners. We've detailed them below.
Jorge started growing the sticky-icky commercially back in 1976 in San Ysidro Canyon, just above Santa Barbara, when information on the topic wasn't readily available.
Since then, he has published a number of books in different languages, put out videos and given talks around the world (sometimes in disguise) on how to grow and harvest marijuana. If you want to dive deeper than this guide, he recommends his book Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower's Bible.
But, he emphasizes, don't overcomplicate growing your own cannabis.
"They make too big of a thing out of it. It's very natural. It's been going on for millennia now," said Cervantes. "Don't kill [the plants] with kindness."
If you don't want to read 1,000 more words on how to grow weed, it's easy:
- Plant your cannabis clone in good soil and stick it in full sun.
- Water and fertilize regularly.
- Harvest and dry when buds are big and frosty.
- Consume responsibly.
If you're new to gardening or want more details, there's a breakdown below.
First, you should understand what is and isn't legal.
THE LEGALITY OF IT ALL
Marijuana has been legal in California since 2016 when voters passed Proposition 64. There are some basic rules:
- You must be over 21 to grow and consume cannabis, unless you've got a medical exemption.
- You can grow as many as six plants for personal consumption, which should be more than enough considering you can expect between a few ounces and a couple of pounds of bud per plant.
- You can carry and gift up to 28.5 grams of flower.
- You need a license to sell it.
As for driving under the influence, all of the laws that apply to alcohol (and other substances) apply to marijuana, so don't do it.
Cannabis is still classified as a schedule one drug by the federal government, so you shouldn't go to the airport with it, cross a border with it or get arrested on any sort of federal land with it.
Please, please, please consume responsibly.
GATHER YOUR SUPPLIES
"Mother nature tells you what to do. All you've got to do is pay attention," says Cervantes.
You can find most of the supplies you need at a big box store.
- Marijuana clone: Like those baby plants you buy in those plastic containers, these are clippings from a marijuana plant that have roots and are ready to be planted. These'll also be the toughest thing on this list to find as they're only available through dispensaries. The good news is that some pot shops have stayed open through the crisis, but you'll have to call around to see who's got some available. Often, serious growers snap them up.
- Fertilizer: Marijuana is a heavy feeder and eventually your clone will munch up the nutrients in the soil as it grows big and strong. That means you're going to have to fertilize every few weeks, which isn't as scary as it sounds. A basic all-purpose organic vegetable/tomato fertilizer will work. Well-composted chicken manure is also good to have on hand but not a necessity.
- Potting Soil (optional): Make sure it says "potting soil" on the bag, because you need a pre-made mix that both drains well -- crucial so you don't drown your plant -- and holds on to moisture. It'll usually have a whole bunch of soil amendments to feed the clone, like peat moss and those little white pebbles called pearlite.
- Pot (optional): You can plant your clone in the ground or in a container. If you choose to put it in a pot, feel free to use whatever you have as long as it has good drainage (plenty of holes in the bottom). Something between five and 20 gallons will work best, although the bigger the pot, the bigger the plant. If you want to go the extra step, cloth pots/grow bags are beloved by growers for a variety of reasons. They drain well and are readily available online.
What about seeds?
You could sprout your own but that's for Marijuana Growing 102, as the process can be hit or miss. It's also a bit late in the year to start sprouting, so if you can't get clones by sometime in June, at the latest, you should wait until next year.
PLANTING IN A CONTAINER
- Fill your container a few inches from the top with potting soil.
- Make a small hole just large enough for the clone.
- Gently remove the clone from the packaging, careful not to damage the roots.
- Place it in the hole about one inch above the soil in the container.
- Secure it by patting down the soil.
- Gently water until the soil is saturated.
- Extra credit: Shade your plant for 4-5 days because it may be sensitive to bright sunlight and heat as it gets acclimated to its new world.
PLANTING IN THE GROUND
- If you've got nice, beautiful soil that you know is good for gardening, follow the directions above.
- If not, dig a 1x1x1 foot hole (or larger if possible).
- Prep the site by mixing the native soil with an equivalent amount of potting mix.
- Refill the hole.
- Follow the above instructions for planting.
- Extra Credit: Add 10 percent chicken manure to the soil mix that you make.
KEEP THE PLANT ALIVE
Got the opposite of a green thumb? Take a breath. The clone doesn't know you've murdered 53 houseplants before it came along.
You've only got to keep this one plant alive until the fall when it'll be ready to harvest.
Don't over complicate it.
- Water: when you stick your finger into the soil and the top inch feels dry. That could be every two to three days if it's hot, but it depends on the weather, the makeup of your soil and whether the clone is in a pot or in the ground. Go by feel! The plant will need more water as it gets bigger. When it does, water the soil, not the plant, until it's saturated.
- Fertilize: as you would tomatoes. A good rule of thumb is to feed every three to four weeks, but just follow the instructions on the back of whatever fertilizer you purchase.
- Mulch: when it starts to get hot. Add a two to four inch layer of straw, grass clippings, shredded paper - really, anything organic - that'll cover the dirt and protect the clone's roots by keeping the soil cool and moist. You may have to add mulch a few times throughout the year as it breaks down.
- Extra credit: Switch from your all purpose organic vegetable fertilizer to one that's meant to boost flower production, in the first week of August. They're lower in nitrogen, and higher in potassium and phosphorus.
You should notice your plant go from growing mostly branches and leaves to flowers/buds (the things you smoke!), some time during the summer and into the fall. The buds will get bigger and bigger until they're ready to harvest.
You're going to harvest your plant sometime during the early fall.
This may feel like the most overwhelming part of the process because you've put so much time into tending your plant and a lot of what happens next comes down to feel.
Before we go any further, hear this: You may not get dispensary-grade marijuana but if you've gotten this far, what you've grown will certainly get you high. How much, depends on the strain and your growing process.
Don't stress. This is your first time growing weed and you're doing your best.
And your best is enough. <3
You'll know when the plant's ready to harvest when half of the little hairs on the buds turn brown.
- Cut the plant at the base, or trim off entire branches if the plant is too big.
- Hang it upside down in a place with good airflow, out of the sun.
- It'll smell initially, but less so as time goes on.
You're waiting for the buds to dry out to the point where they'll be smokeable.
Since we're going super basic, there are a couple of tricks to tell if the bud is dry enough to process.
- Do they weigh ¼ as much as they did when you first harvested them? Too complicated?
- Do the branches snap when you bend them? Still too complicated?
- Do the flowers burn when you put a flame to them? Pretty straight forward.
Once they're dry you can trim the excess leaves, remove and shape the buds with scissors.
- Extra credit: Place the buds in mason jars with hygrometers and humidity control packets to ensure your bud stays around 60-65 percent humidity.
You can do it! Just make sure to enjoy responsibly.