Nick Clifton special for the Roanoke Times
I have a feeling, on this new day of legalized cannabis possession, many readers will try to grow their own weed this year, but may never have grown another crop. Today’s column focuses on some fundamental tips to get you started.
Hopeful gardeners can apply all of this information and the skills you learn along the way to growing vegetables, too – something I highly encourage you to try. In my opinion, nothing (except cannabis) beats homemade tomatoes in the summer.
In the previous herbalism, I indicated the reasons for growing indoors or outdoors. Both have their merits, but if you have the space and privacy to grow outdoors, we are well past the expected last frost date for this region, and it is safe to plant seeds if you don’t. haven’t already done so. (Don’t worry, indoor growers: much of the information I share here also applies to growing indoors.)
One of the considerations for novice growers is whether to grow in a container or in the ground. Either way, people will probably head to a big box store for a bag of soil and some fertilizer. Before you pop your seeds or go shopping, I’d like to give you some advice on containers, media (otherwise known as the materials you grow plants in), and fertilizers. These basic elements can have a huge impact on the quality of your finished flower. Let’s get into the weed(s)!
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I stick to the KISS principle, which is to say: “keep it simple, stupid”. There are many choices of media and products to feed cannabis plants, but soil with organic amendments is my favorite. The first gardening book I read, “Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew, is a good starting point for any gardener.
Mel offers lots of simple tips, and “Mel’s mix” is a simple soil recipe he recommends. I say give it a try if you’re interested in making your own blend. Simply, it’s ⅓ peat moss, ⅓ coarse vermiculite or perlite, and ⅓ quality compost. If you prefer to purchase pre-mixed potting soil, visit one of our local grow shops. I have had good experiences with “Stonington Blend” from Coast of Maine and “Ocean Forest” from Fox Farms. There are others with a good reputation, but these are the only two I’ve tried so far.
If you’re curious about my recommendations for pot size/type, it depends. When growing autoflowers, which I highly recommend, a 3-5 gallon nursery pot should suffice. Note that autos are best grown from seed to harvest in a single container, without “repotting”. Transplanting is not a problem for photos, as they have a long vegetative period to recover. Some people say that smaller pots make autoflowers smaller, but that could be an advantage if you want a small plant. Just remember that smaller pots mean more frequent watering.
If you are growing a photoperiod, keep in mind that your plant will vegetate (grow, but not flower) until around August 15th. If you start a seedling in May, you could easily have a plant taller than you, depending on genetics/size. If you plan to do this, I recommend using the largest container possible.
A bigger pot equals more media to buy. Larger pots have the advantage of less worrying about watering/fertilizing, as they store more water and nutrients for your plant. However, you can’t easily move them to hunt sunny places or hide when your in-laws visit you. If you don’t want to deal with a large pot, I recommend you either wait until later in the season to start your grow, grow autoflowers instead of photos, or build a raised bed and skip the crop altogether. container.
Cannabis is a hungry plant. You need to feed it regularly to get those beautiful blooms you are looking for. When you buy fertilizer, you will notice that the container has three numbers labeled on the front. These numbers, known as the NPK ratio, are the proportion of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). So, in a one-kilogram sample of 2-2-2 fertilizer, there are 20 grams each of N, P, and K. There are other nutrients essential to a plant’s health, but these are the 3 most important.
Sticking to the KISS principle, my advice to a new grower would be to mix a little fertilizer into your soil when planting, then feed your plant every two weeks, using a balanced organic fertilizer such as a 4 -4-4 at the recommended amount for your pot size according to label instructions, up to a week or two before flowering begins.
Switch to a “bloom fertilizer,” such as a 3-9-4, at this point and feed at the same rate. Stop fertilizing and only use water for the last 2-3 weeks of flowering. Keep notes and make changes to future attempts based on your notes. Remember that some strains take heavier feedings than others, and many breeders will make recommendations regarding a feeding schedule for each strain.
I use “Premium Gold” and “Flower Girl” from Dr Earth to feed my plants. I like that they’re OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) listed and they’re both affordable and easy to get. An added bonus is that Dr. Earth’s has a cannabis feed chart available online.
When you start researching your culture and the supplies you will need, you might be overwhelmed. There are many cannabis-specific products out there, and a lot of marketing to make you feel like you MUST have product X to grow successfully. All of these products will probably help you grow some great weed if you master all the basics first, but I recommend sticking to the KISS principle until you do.
Simply put: give your plant full sun (or strong light), size its container correctly, fill the container with quality substrate, alter regularly, and water properly. Pay attention to your plants and try to learn what they tell you; you will begin to recognize their needs as you grow. Now scatter some seeds and get ready to share your harvest with your friends!
Nick Clifton is a hobby grower who lives in Roanoke.