By: JOHANNA SILVER
There’s no turning back with this backyard cannabis project. My seed-grown babies, which I started in March, are a foot tall and sporting classic, palmately compound leaves with serrate leaflets — the stuff dreams are made of. The clones have been acclimated to the outdoors. Clones and seedlings both grow in 4-inch or gallon pots, but now it’s time to move these babies into their homes for the remainder of the season.
The majority of the babies will grow in a raised bed alongside thyme, sage, lavender and lemon balm. I refer to the bed as “the new herb garden” (get it?). I like this location because it’s reliably full sun — a must with cannabis — and has the most well-amended soil. It’s also already connected to a drip irrigation system, id
eal for slow watering and keeping moisture off the leaves (preventing mildew and other problems).
And yes, they need full sun. All that nonsense about grow lights and specific light needs is for indoor-grows only. Outdoors, nature works. The plants grow bigger, and are in what’s called a vegetative state until summer solstice, when the shortening days trigger their flowering stage and bud formation. If it sounds simple, it’s because it is.
A handful of plants will be in containers. I’ve opted for 15-gallon Dirt Pots, The Dirt Pots are lightweight fabric planters. I needed planters because I didn’t have any 15-gallon ceramic containers lying around, and I wanted something a little prettier than black plastic nursery containers. At $6 per bag, these are a score. The fabric is supposed to prevent plants from getting root-bound and support great drainage. We shall see. I plan to pot up sweet little marigolds or cosmos and have an entire little container cannabis situation in the back. The best part of the pots being lightweight (and having handles!) is that I can lug them around easily, making sure they stay in full sun.
Sweet, sweet soil
Yet another realm of cannabis cultivation that’s unnecessarily overcomplicated is soil and nutrients. That’s because the majority of cannabis resources are geared to indoor growing — at least I think that’s why. I can’t really imagine how complicated it is to try and make an indoor garden. Think about it: What crazy lengths would you have to go to in order to grow a tomato in a dark room? It’s so unappealing to me.
I’m treating cannabis like any other crop that goes in the ground. It gets well-drained soil and plenty of organic matter. It’s going exactly where my tomatoes would go if I weren’t turning into a small-scale pot farmer (I kid, I swear). I added compost and bat guano to the raised bed. I’ve been told that bat guano is “classically cannabis” by Nat Pennington of Humboldt Seed Co., and thus I can’t resist. I also added bone meal, which should be a nice source of phosphorus to help with flowering down the road. No jugs of gross chemicals. That’s really it. I forked it all in and raked the bed smooth. I’ll talk fertilization schedule next time.
The container cannabis will get planted in primo potting mix. Cannabis folk seem to be united around Fox Farm. That’s a soil and fertilizer company with a heavy emphasis on “indoor gardening,” which is basically a wink, wink toward cannabis cultivation. I jumped on the bandwagon, and the plants going in containers will be in Fox Farm planting mix. But because it was expensive (around $30 for 1.5 cubic liters), I’ll supplement with whatever extra potting soil I already have.
These are some prized plants. It’s in my best interest to keep these puppies safe and sound. For that reason, each gets its own tomato cage to prevent breakage from heavy wind and to support the heavy flowers they’ll produce in a few months. I could have gotten fancy and made my favorite tomato cages — rigid wiring with rebar anchors — but I have an 11-month-old, I’m tired and I’m optimistic that these cages will do the trick.
The takeaway: Sun, soil and water
Don’t overthink growing cannabis. Here are the tips to remember:
Cannabis plants need full sun.
Grow them in well-amended soil with great drainage.
If growing in containers, use quality potting mix.
Be sure your plants are hooked up to a drip system, or that you’ve got easy access to a spigot. Cannabis needs regular water.
Provide trellising support to prevent breakage from wind or heavy bud formation.