Growing Tips from the 101
Part I – Know Before You Grow…12 things to consider before you commit to cannabis.
- Time— Make no mistake, growing cannabis is a commitment. It is much like having a pet, sometimes worse because there is no veterinarian to call when your plants get sick and die. Generally, strains flower 8 weeks from the time you start your indoor grow cycle but it will take a couple months for the plants to be ready for a grow room after being cloned or started from seeds. From germination to almost harvest the plants need water every other day. That means no vacations or commitments that take you away from home (or your grow site) for over a couple days unless you invest in automatic watering equipment. From clone to pipe an indoor plant will take 4-5 months and an outdoor plant will grow from late march to September/October.
- Cost— Just watering a plant in the window will not yield good weed. If you are planning on growing your plant in department store potting soil and watering out of the sink then you should just give up now. Much like pets…plants need things, and tap water is not going to cut it. First off, you’re going to need some nutrients. Again, department stores are not the place to go for these items. This series from Coastal Cannabis Couriers will give you the knowledge you need to acquire the necessary growing tools and use them properly. However, those tools are quite costly (especially lights and electricity), the pots and dirt are costly and the nutrients are not cheap. Your electric will go up according to your light purchase….the more you spend and the more advanced your lights are, the less your electric bill will be. If you buy some cheap old hoods and ballasts off E-Bay or Craigslist your light bill will go up dramatically. The costs are constant and go up the less diligent and responsible you are…much like a pet. We do not want to discourage you…but we want you to know exactly what you are in for. If you can’t give it your all you will not produce weed better than what you can get from a dispensary, sack slinger or medical grower. You will end up spending way more time and money to grow worse weed than you could have scored for a couple hundred per ounce.
- Legalities— Even in weed-legal states there is a limit to how many plants you can have, there are usually many regulations and requirements that go with those limits. Here in Oregon cannabis is legal both medically (only cardholders can grow or use) and recreationally (anyone over 21 can use or grow). Recreational growers can have 4 plants while medical patients can have 6. If you want any more plants than limits allow commercial permits start at four thousand dollars…that’s right, $4,000. Obviously, legalities in states where cannabis is still illegal move way further up the priority list. Some states have very strict no tolerance laws, even if it’s legal in the state next door to them. Growing in these states becomes very risky, especially if you want a future in the cannabis trade. While some states seem lenient on possession charges that state may have harsh penalties for growing and those penalties become life changing if you have the intent to sell. Getting misdemeanor or felony cannabis charges in an illegal state will prevent you from getting a grow license or even a job in the cannabis trade…you can’t even be a budtender. So keep that in mind when you contemplate throwing your hat in cannabis ring. Know where you grow and learn to lay low.
- Security— Not only do your plants need you to care for them, they need you to protect them as well. If you have the ideal remote location, is it fenced? Can animals get in? Can people get in, or even see it? Is your indoor location locked? Whether it’s in a closet in your guest room, a grow tent in the garage or a shed out back…is it locked? And how many of your friends know where the weed is? How many people know when your plants will be harvested? The last three days before harvest and the days your buds are curing after harvest are when they are most vulnerable …and so are you. Having a lot of weed in the house is like having cash in the house, except that criminals desire weed sometimes more than cash. Weed can easily be turned into cash…but cash cannot easily be turned into weed. Not only do you have to protect your weed from criminals but in states where cannabis is still illegal you have to keep your plants (and yourself) safe from authorities which means strong, high fences and/or hidden, sealed indoor grow rooms. The security factor and where you live should be one of your biggest considerations. We have had clients that would not maximize their grow space or would even hide their grow from friends and family. In contrast, we have also seen friends and acquaintances arrested because someone saw the plants or smelled the ganja. Your state, your neighborhood and the social traffic in your life should all be huge factors in your consideration.
- Smell— The odor of flowering marijuana is strong. When plants are healthy and strong their odor will start emitting once they reach 12-14 inches high. When marijuana plants are ready to harvest they will again let their odor be their voice. The smell is unmistakable and if your plants reach a large size much of your existence will carry that odor to some extent. It will linger in hair and beards, be faint in your clothes and very strong in and around your grow room or outdoor grow site. On days where you work with the budding plants and especially during harvest time you will need to carefully plan your interaction with others. Cannabis is a lifestyle, once you start growing large plants those plants become a large part of your life…much like a pet. And much like a pet, smell is a big factor and varies according to your own proactivity and responsibility. We will give you the knowledge to keep your room sealed and your life odor free for most day to day activities. But on harvest and work days the smell is unavoidable.
- Space— If you only want to grow one plant and do not expect much out of that plant you can grow in a relatively small space. If you choose to grow outdoors you need a space with good (usually south facing) sun exposure. However, sometimes the best grow site for sun exposure is not the best grow site for sight, smell and security. Growing primo plants in perfect sunlight within view of the people around you is a waste if those people around you harvest your nugs (or take the entire crop) when you’re not looking. Your space has to not only nourish the plant but secure the plant as well. This is true for indoor rooms as well. In an indoor scenario, you control the light exposure with your pocket book so space and security become top priorities. A good outdoor plant can become as tall as a small tree or shrub and an indoor plant with 10-16 ozs of bagged buds growing on it will be 3-5 feet high and a 3-4 foot girth. You will want to be able to reach all areas of your plant so it is best if you can walk around each plant. A 4’x4’x6’ space is minimal for each plant. They need air, space they can call their own with room to stretch and grow…much like a pet. Along with space for each plant, you will need a water container to mix nutrients in and a place to store those nutrients. If you follow these instructions you will need a 30 gal water container for every four plants. You will also need a place to keep momma plants and younger plants under constant light. Our last two grow rooms were parked semi trailers, we have clientele that have converted closets and many clients that have converted an entire spare room or garage. Finally, remember that any space can only hold what it can hold. If you are planning on twelve plants but learn that your space can only hold four then it is your plan and plant count that must change. Trying to fit all twelve plants into a space for four of them will yield the same results as putting twelve dogs in a kennel that will feed and shelter four. Plants will not excel in a space they are crammed into to fit their owner’s needs….much like a pet they have needs of their own.
- Method— How are you going to grow? There are many ways to produce quality marijuana. Unfortunately, placing a plant near a window with Miracle Grow and potting soil is not one of them. A marijuana plant has a vegetative growth cycle and a flowering cycle. An outdoor plant needs to be in the ground ASAP in springtime so it can grow strong enough to support the buds it will produce during its last two months of life before winter. This life cycle is what we mimic and maximize in an indoor setting. This means you will need a clone room or junior room to prepare your young plants for the harsh life of nature or your indoor room. Once you have figured out how to get your babies from birth to the end of their vegetative cycle you need to switch gears and figure out a different plan for their maturity…much like a pet. When plants transition from the “veg” to flower phase in an outdoor scenario the plant knows summer solstice has passed and days are shortening, it knows its life is coming to a close. At this point fruit production becomes the organism’s #1 priority and the buds begin to appear on female plants while the pistols males produce will turn to seeds….and turn every pot plant it can into seeds as well. In an indoor setting, you must create this veg to flower transition by timing your lights. During this time you must create many facets of nature in your room. You need to be the squirrel and rabbits nibbling on leaves (picking), you need to be the larger animals like elk and deer brushing by (training stems and branches), you need to be the wind and rain storms (fans and leaf polish). Nature may seem brutal but it all works in harmony and every piece of nature needs each other. You have to fulfill as many of those pieces as you can in an indoor setting. Just creating perfect temperature and humidity is not enough. Solitary confinement in prisons proves that light, temperature, and food is not enough. Just placing a plant under a light in a climate controlled room will have the same result as throwing a prisoner “in the hole”. Whether you grow indoor or outside you need to interact with your ladies. Before choosing your space you need to decide how you will grow and again, your space and plants might make that decision for you. Will you use soil? If so how will you battle over-watering, insects and mold? Will you use soil-less or grow media and if so how will you deal with drainage and nutrient costs? Are you going to grow hydroponically and if so do you have the proper nutrient vs PH knowledge? Equipment? A plan is a must but more importantly, you must have an acceptance that the living organism you’re bringing into your world is probably going to change that plan….much like a pet.
- Knowledge— Is your knowledge of marijuana confined to smoking marijuana? It is actually staggering to all of us here at Coastal Cannabis how many times a week we hear phrases like “what’s a Sativa and Indica?”, “I thought weed was weed and high is high”, “my water is from a well, why would I bother to PH it?”, “I bought more plants, I could not resist” or my personal favorite “I know what I’m doing I’ve been smoking weed for decades”. Keep in mind we are hearing things like this from people applying for dispensary jobs or dumping money into a grow. Again, we are not trying to be mean but let’s relate that to some other professions. Trying to grow weed without knowing the difference between Indica and Sativa is like trying to be a truck driver without knowing the difference between cab-over and conventional trucks. Thinking that weed is weed or it’s all the same high is like thinking you can drive a stick because you drive an automatic. Anyone can get on strain sites like Leafly and memorize or copy/paste strain information to appear knowledgeable but that’s like memorizing the on-line color chart for Mac makeups and thinking you’re a makeup artist. Your marijuana plants need marijuana plant care. A large percent of clients seeking grow knowledge or repair is actually gardeners that are stumped. They care about their crop so they finally call 911. Nine times out of ten it is a simple repair, one of many mistakes that would be “common sense” if they were growing tomatoes in a greenhouse. If you give a Willies Wonder plant the same amount of water you give an ACDC plant you will drown it and if you feed an ACDC plant the diet of Blueberry Headband you will starve it. Your plants will not need a rose gardener, they need a marijuana gardener. Your plants do not need a statistician, they need you to know them….much like a pet. And also just like a pet, you will reap more reward from time spent on the plant as opposed to time spent on search engines, laptops, and cell phones.
- Trust— Who Do You Trust? This is an area that will evolve as you go. Friends, associates, co-workers and even lovers come and go in our lives. It’s common knowledge and somewhat cliché to even mention but the importance of the cliché is not understanding that people come and go, it’s understanding that some things are a common reason for those arrivals and departures…marijuana is one of those reasons, much like a pet. Some other clichés will start to sound familiar and ring true the more open you are about growing. The ego in the weed industry is enormous. “What is the difference between a marijuana grower and a rock star? A rock star doesn’t think they can grow weed”. The information highway is wide open in the cannabis trade but the experience highway is not. Actually getting your hands on quality medical plants to “learn with” is a very difficult thing to do. Because trusting someone to be in your grow room (especially alone) is also a very difficult thing to do. Most of your hands on learning as a grower will be with your hands on your own plants. Should you reach even half the level of expertise we all aspire to within our own ego you will be extremely proud of yourself, and you should be. The best weed you ever smoke will be weed you grew, and it should be. There will come a day with every successful grower you will exhibit the ego you cringed at while learning. There are two more clichés that will both ring true no matter how contradictory they are to each other: “Are you ready for some new friends?” and “Well, when you come out of any closet you’re bound to lose some friends.” The more open you are about weed, the more both these instances are true. Once you produce quality cannabis, people will want it and others will want NOTHING to do with it…or you. If you choose to grow over 5 plants or are growing for more than yourself you are going to need some help. Although all the above sentences seem to mention irrelevant things like ego and distrust among family and friends they are very things that break friends and families apart. The stigma, salability, and responsibility of medical marijuana are all very real and when it comes to who you let come into contact with your medicine or your money, things like ego and distrust become extremely relevant.
- Intention— What are your intentions? This concern comes with a plethora of questions to ask yourself. Are you just growing for yourself and if so how much do you smoke in a year? A month? A week? Are you growing for a medical card user and if so do you have the space, commitment, and resources to actually hand that patient medicine? Are you going to grow for profit? If you answered “yes” to the last question are you going to bear the risk of the black market or the expense and intrusion of the commercial cannabis industry? One of the most important of these questions to ask is “Do I want to grow marijuana or do I want to be part of the marijuana culture/trade?” Way too many times I come across people and crops where this question was answered wrong. Being “the grower” in your cannabis crowd is not all the fun or accolades you might think it is. Truthfully it’s the sack slingers and budtenders that have all the fun. Dispensary management and owners are buried in laws that constantly change with a paper trail to nowhere and the daunting task of finding growers who jumped through enough legal hoops to sell them weed. When everyone does have time off it’s the grower that is often tied to the crop. And if it all comes falling down in a legal or illegal scenario it is the grower who takes the fall (usually turned in or reported by the sack slinger or budtender). Very rarely will you be complimented for your dankness and often you will be criticized by other growers. I had no idea an ego the size of the cannabis industry’s could exist….and I was a motorsport announcer, think about that. If your intention to grow is to fuel your ego in any way shape or form then you will most likely damage that ego in the process. Again, the point is not to be negative or scare anyone away but approaching things without open eyes is the quickest way to close open hearts and open minds. If your intention is for a patient as a grower then your intention must be pure and committed. Too many time people think a friend’s anxiety is a valid ticket into the weed trade but once you allow a medical patient to list you as their grower it becomes that patient’s crop. So if you think being someone’s caregiver or grower is your passport to carry a pound and a half across state lines…think again. If your intention is to grow more than you or a patient can use then #11 should be right up there with security on your priority list.
- Marketing— Getting rid of your harvest. There is such a demand for marijuana that this is usually not a problem even for mediocre crops. However, getting rid of your overages comes with risk or cost. If you live in a weed illegal state your only option is the black market. And let me just clarify, giving your yuppie girlfriend a few ounces to unload at the gym or botox boutique is just as black market as the stigma fueled myth of the pothead street dealer standing on the corner. Sending a quarter pound (QP) to the races with a buddy just in case your brothers at the dirt track need a poke? Yup, that’s black market too. And let me reiterate that if the black market is your direction of choice the clichés about friends in and out of your life. Selling weed illegally is black market no matter how you sugar coat it. The black market exists even in weed-legal states if you are not selling it to a dispensary or giving it to a card holding patient you are moving your buds illegally ….and that’s the black market. Now, illegal as they may be the above-listed ways of moving cannabis are well practiced all over this already great America of ours and they remind me of yet another cliché that will ring true should you choose the dark side: “A friend that moves weed is a friend indeed.” If the risk of the black market is too much for you then you have the option to sell in America’s new economic phenomenon…The Green Rush! That’s right you can mosey right into a local dispensary and sell your Sativas or unload your Indicas there. But this is where cost will become a huge factor. The commercial cannabis trade is confusion wrapped in corruption and served on a plate of hypocrisy. No one knows what they are doing simply because everyone is concerned with what everyone else is doing. If someone happens to figure out what someone else is doing they are instantly concerned with something else that someone or someone else might do. That sounds like a word game but it is an absolutely accurate description of the cannabis industry. One day your plant or concentrate is legal, the next day it’s not. Plant counts, THC limits, reporting requirements and tracking procedures change daily from town to town and county to county even in weed-legal states. For example, a commercial grow, dispensary license or processing license starts at four thousand dollars ($4,000) to apply. To be approved you need video surveillance accessible by phone (they do check this in person) and oh ya,….you can’t take your money to the bank even after you trudge through ten times the red tape and cost any non-cannabis business incurs. Sadly, what Oregon producers are most unsatisfied with is that even after complying with ridiculous limits and laws…the laws keep changing. These laws vary from state to state but the frustration with the evolution of cannabis legality seems to be common state to state. Raising the costs of production is how corporations eliminate smaller competitors. Those lobbying for stricter guidelines are eliminating smaller producers as legalization sweeps state to state. By the time cannabis is legalized federally the production costs will be so high that only corporations can incur them. Once it’s all legal the newly named “canna-corporations” will lobby to back off those laws. This will take their production cost to the levels you and I should incur today and their profits to the moon. The best canna-tip ever is to pay attention to the changing laws. Not only your area and state laws but your region and the nation as well.
- Stigma— Can you take the stigma? If you’re setting out for the joy of gardening cannabis then I hope you enjoy the ride. If you have discovered cannabis’ healing power and wish to use it on yourself or others then I hope your ride leads you to the peace and healing you are looking for. And if you are trying to cash in on cannabis I hope you find riches beyond your wishes, but you better buckle up for your ride. Regardless of your intention, we at Coastal Cannabis are on an eternal quest against mediocre marijuana so we are happy to help your buds be the best that they can be. However, there is a stigma associated with marijuana that is far from diminished. This stigma should not sway your decision to grow weed or stop you from growing out of fear but make no mistake, you should let that stigma guide how open or discreet you are about your cannabis plants. I can promise you that for every friend you lose because “they can’t deal with the pot thing” there will be a new friend that wants to smoke out with you. We hope this series gives you the tools you need to give growing a try. If you cannot meet and conform to the commitments described in this article we hope these words discourage you from wasting your time and money. Anyone can grow weed but not everyone can grow medicine. So before you step out of the cannabis closet be committed or maybe consider leaving the plants in the closet. Unfortunately, the cannabis closet is not one you step back into, once you are labeled a stoner that label will stick with you. It doesn’t mean you have to stop using or growing but it does mean you need choose who you share with. But until this great nation of ours grows completely out of stigma and into legal healing we will do a little growing of our own.
Let’s get started……Welcome to the Green Rush.