How to Grow Cannabis
How To Grow Cannabis
“Doesn’t the idea of making nature against the law seem to you a bit . . . unnatural?”
With the legalization of cannabis just around the corner, there are (understandably) a million questions crowding our minds. As a gardener, though, the one that intrigues me most is growing this once-taboo species that is now totally kosher.
What is Cannabis
Cannabis is a tall plant with pointed, serrated leaves that produces buds with little, hairy flowers adorning them. These blooming buds are what transform into marijuana, the actual dried and cured product that all the ruckus is about.
What makes cannabis so controversial is the two, powerful chemicals that react in just the right way with the brain: CBD and THC. CBD is pretty basic and creates a therapeutic response in the brain, much like a painkiller. THC is the madman, not only amplifying the therapeutic effect to sedative levels, but also causing the “trippy” psychoactive reactions, too.
Getting started with growing your own cannabis can be quite the project. Here’s what you’ll need to get your green on:
Lights. If you aren’t growing outside (which is probably best, since Alberta laws prohibit us from having them in areas with easy access for kids and youth), you’ll need some lights to mimic the plant’s full-sun needs. There are plenty of options on the market, like HIDs, LEDs, fluorescents, and incandescents, all with their own merits. My advice for the best bang for your buck? Fluorescents.
Growing Medium. If you’re going with soil, grab yourself a good, quality, organic soil that has been pre-fertilized. If you’re going soilless, rockwool, vermiculite, and perlite are most popular. For hydroponics, you’ll need a good starter kit from the greenhouse to get started.
Container. No matter how you’re growing your cannabis, you’ll need to give it a space to grow with excellent (and I mean excellent) drainage. These plants can’t stand wet feet, and you’ll be drowning your investment in no time without it.
Fans. For the indoor grower, making sure your plants get the air circulation they need can be tough. A couple of strategically placed fans should be enough, though.
Fertilizer. Cannabis, like many kids, is a picky eater and has very particular fertilizing needs. Thankfully, to save you the headache, you can find ready-made mixes just for cannabis to mix in water and use as needed.
pH Kit. Cannabis is very sensitive to pH and needs to be between 6 and 7 in soil and 5.5 and 6.5 in hydroponics to grow.
Seeds. Last, but certainly not least, you will need your actual cannabis plants. Whether you go with sativa or an indica, make sure you legally purchase from a Health Canada-approved retailer and only get as many as you’re allowed (4 plants per household).
How to Grow Cannabis:
Now for the tricky part. If you ask any professional grower, growing cannabis is a fine art that requires careful attention to detail. In fact, you can find hundreds of pages of growing advice across the internet that detail all the nitty gritty of it. Here are the basics, though:
Find a space. Whether you’re using a spare room, a tent, or even a closet, make sure you have enough room to work with these tall, bushy plants. An added tip: to save yourself the hours of scrubbing with Mr. Clean, avoid being around fabric or wood for faster clean-up.
Germinate the seeds. Cannabis seeds need a warm and moist environment to germinate. The easiest ways to do this are with starter cubes or even just damp paper towel.
Set up your lights. Cannabis needs 16-20 hours of light per day in the young, vegetative growth stage and 12 hours per day in the budding growth stage.
Set up your fans. The fans not only help the air circulate, but they also cool the plants from the melting heat of the lights, so set one above and one on the side to circulate best.
Keep even temperatures. Cannabis prefers the same balmy weather we enjoy in the summer, between 20℃ and 30℃. If it’s too hot or chilly for you, same goes for your plant.
Water as needed. Cannabis hates wet feet, so only water when the soil is dry or when the leaves start to droop slightly.
Fertilize regularly. You’ll know when your cannabis needs another hit when the leaves start to curl or yellow.
Check the sex. There may be no such thing as “boy” and “girl” colours, but there’s definitely a difference for cannabis plants. Females are what produce the flowery buds that we harvest, while males only produce useless pollen sacs. Look for wispy white hairs at the base of branches for females. If you only see little sacs, that’s a male, so give him a toss.
How to Harvest Cannabis:
Depending on the strain, it can take months for your cannabis to be ready, but you can generally expect a yield after 8-9 weeks. You’ll know it’s good to go when the plant is luscious and fragrant, with lots of buds, and the white hairs start to darken and curl. When you see this, cut your buds off with scissors, leaving plenty of stem. Then, hang them upside down by the stem in a cool, dark place to dry before curing.
To cure, place your buds in mason jars and store in a cool, dark place once again. For the next two weeks, give your buds a daily visit, opening the jar for just a moment each time to let them breathe. After two weeks, space out your visits and only open the jar about once a week for 2-4 weeks. If at any point you open the jar and find moisture building up, leave the jar open until it dries out before sealing again to prevent mould.
Once you’ve got your crop harvested, dried, and cured, you can successfully check off “growing cannabis” from your bucket list. While it may be a complicated and delicate process, the reward is an intriguing and highly sensationalized product that is worth the work, even just to say, “I’ve done it.” Before embarking on your adventure through the weeds, though, be sure to check the regulations for Canada and Alberta to make sure you stay 100% legal and safe.