[Canniseur: Grow season is here. Get fabulous basic grow tips for growing your favorite cannabis strain.]
For home cannabis growers, springtime means laying the groundwork — literally — for a successful harvest come fall.
It’s the end of March, and that means it’s prep time for marijuana home growers.
While cannabis is similar to plenty of other crops that home gardeners might be used to, given that the same key ingredients are soil and light, the cannabis plant still requires some unique expertise. Ahead of the 2019 planting season, Cannabis Now spoke with two experts to get their take on how home growers should prepare their gardens for a successful marijuana cultivation season.
The first expert is the legendary Ed Rosenthal. Rosenthal has spent decades educating people on marijuana cultivation, and he said that this year, he will be personally working with mostly older genetics this year. He expects the strains he’ll be working with will be a bit closer to landraces than some of the newer stuff out at the moment.
The second expert is Dark Heart Nursery founder Dan Grace. Grace’s catalog of genetics provides a big chunk of the clones that make their way to California home growers.
Both Grace and Rosenthal said that there are four main things that every cannabis cultivator should consider when setting up their home garden.
1) Building Healthy Soil
“Your garden’s success depends on the quality of your soil. Invest now to feed your soil,” Grace said. “Compost, Guano, worm castings — these are all great.” He added that you’ll want some nitrogen to get your plants off to a strong start, and some phosphorous and potassium to promote flowering later into the season.
“But one overlooked element is calcium,” Grace said. “Cannabis plants consume as much or more calcium as nitrogen! So bulk up.” He noted that oyster shell meal is a great organic supplement for calcium.
Beyond the compounds in the soil, the soil’s structure also matters. The experts recommend turning your soil over with a shovel while amending it with new nutrients in order to improve structure. With enough time, you can even plant a cover crop like clover, which naturally improves the quality of the soil. When it’s time to plant, you can till in the cover crop — and the decomposing vegetation helps build soil.
Rosenthal said that it is “ideal” for home cannabis growers to also have a vegetable garden. He says the similar soil preparation can save you time — and who doesn’t love fresh tomatoes?
2) Selecting the Proper Site
Rosenthal next stressed that home growers should make sure that they choose a spot that’s sunny in the fall, which is when the plants will be flowering — not just in the summer. “You get long shadows and blockages in the fall because the sun is at an acute angle,” Rosenthal said. He also noted if the grower feels another part of the yard is going to be sunnier in the fall, maybe they should plant the cannabis in movable containers.
“Cannabis thrives in the sunlight,” Grace said. “Even partial shade can cause cannabis plants to flower early, especially if they’re planted early in the season.”
Grace also mentioned that if you’re not sure how the sun travels across your garden, try Google Earth’s sun feature. “It’s a great way to see how sun exposure changes over the course of the year.”
3) Thinking About Appropriate Plant Size
If privacy isn’t a concern and you want to go as massive as possible in your home garden, you need to start the vegetative process inside, Rosenthal said.
“People who grow these big plants outdoors, in general, they start them indoors and they’re already three to five feet high when they plant them outside,” Rosenthal said. This saves the plant an extra two months of vegetative growth.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if privacy is a concern over size, you can just plant a bit later in the season as to not worry about height. Rosenthal says sometime around July 1st should do it.
4) Investing in Simplicity
Grace’s next tip for making life easier this summer is cheap automation.
“We all get busy, and a few missed waterings can really hurt your plant health,” Grace said. “Invest in the spring in a simple drip irrigation system on an automatic timer. This will save you when the summer heat comes around.”
Another time-saving idea for keeping a low-maintenance garden is to cover your soil with a layer of 1-ply cardboard and cover with 3 or more inches of mulch, making sure to leave a few inches between the mulch and the plant stems.
“The sheet-mulch will prevent weeds and retain water,” Grace said. “If you do this on top of a drip irrigation system, you’ll have a practically care-free garden.”
Grace’s final advice was to have fun.
“Don’t stress out about it too much,” he said. “Think about placing your plants someplace you’ll most enjoy them. If you’re concerned about visitors or the neighbors, hide them in the back. If you want to enjoy the aroma from the porch, put them in the porch.”