Renowned grower Jorge Cervantes will answer readers’ questions and give advice on all things related to the cannabis plant. Got a question for Jorge? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: Laws for cultivating cannabis vary from state to state and city to city — before germinating any seeds or planting any clones, take care to learn what your local laws are.
Question: I’ve never grown a marijuana plant before. Can you give me the basics of where I should start? Seed or clones? Special soil or the good stuff from my vegetable bed? An affordable but quality light recommendation?
Answer: Cultivating cannabis is very similar to growing tomatoes, peppers or other garden vegetables in its growth requirements: plenty of light and rich, organic soil.
We’ll look at the easiest ways to achieve your goal.
You can cultivate indoors using a grow light — metal halide, high-pressure sodium, compact fluorescent, LED and several others. There are benefits and disadvantages to all types, and pricing varies widely. Read up on the laws in your area: Where it is legally permitted, you can grow outdoors and do not need expensive lights. In other places, an enclosed, locking greenhouse may be required to utilize natural light.
You can start with seeds, but they take about two months to grow big enough to move outdoors or into a greenhouse. Medical dispensaries and recreational shops often have clones (stem cuttings) available. Purchasing clones is much quicker, especially now!
Add amendments to your garden soil before transplanting clones — chicken manure, compost and potting soil are recommended. Cannabis loves raised beds full of rich, organic soil. Raised beds stay a little warmer and plants grow faster.
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Make sure to “harden-off” clones before moving outdoors. Move outdoors to a shady spot for a few hours the first couple of days. Then give them a little sunlight. Gradually let them adapt to the sunlight over a few days. Oh, yes — please keep the tender cuttings out of the wind. The wind sucks the moisture from leaves and taxes the plant’s vascular system.
Carefully transplant little female clones into the garden soil. Transplant late in the day when the area is shady. Do your best to not disturb tender roots. They are very fragile at this point and must be treated with tenderness and care. Dig a small hole in the soil and place the plant. Carefully fill the hole with rich organic soil. Water the little clones in after they have all been transplanted. Water them to saturation. They will not need water for several more days.
Shade the plants from direct sunlight. Fragile clones cannot take direct sunlight until their root system develops. If the soil surface is hot to the touch, apply mulch — straw, leaves, shade cloth, etc. — around the new transplants to cool soil and retain moisture.
Chilling wind sucks the life out of tender transplants. Building a small wind-block is easy. I like to purchase shade cloth from a local nursery. Permeable shade cloth blocks enough wind to avoid gusts.
Transplants will be shocked and grow slowly for about two weeks. They will take another week or two to start rapid growth. In other words, after a month, they will be growing fast and furious. Once transplants are established continue watering as needed.
Growth changes as plants mature. New shoots and branches will form more closely together and branches will elongate.
Cannabis is triggered to flower in the fall when nights grow longer and days shorter. This is called a photoperiodic reaction — the flowering cycle is prompted when nights become 12 hours long. Cannabis shares this characteristic with poinsettias, chrysanthemums, Napa cabbage and many others.
Cold, wet weather complicates flowering and harvest in some regions of the U.S. because 12-hour nights do not occur until the end of September. The simple solution is to cover plants with plastic or grow in an inexpensive backyard greenhouse.