[Canniseur: The expression; “There’s an app for that” has never been more appropriate. And now there’s an app so you can watch your cannabis plant grow or at least control the grow box. One plant might give you several ounces or more, so it could be worth your time and effort to consider it. As an added bonus, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting from your plant.]
With the array of cannabis legalization laws taking effect in the U.S. and around the world, it’s becoming much easier to grow your own crop. By becoming your own master cultivator, you gain autonomy throughout the entire growth process, ensuring both safety and quality.
Home cultivation can improve your health and wellness. Certain pesticides, funguses and fertilizers found in cannabis originating from industrial cultivation facilities can have detrimental effects. Having control and full transparency of your cultivation process will help to avoid these harmful health effects.
Home growing allows patients to make sure they’re never left without the specific strain they require, which their dispensary may one day decide to stop selling. With lots of skepticism surrounding the pharmaceutical industry, home growers can also ensure their medicine is of pure quality and natural ingredients.
It’s the Era of the Grow Gadget
As with any agricultural crop, there’s a lot of knowledge required to grow a high-quality product. Tech is having a huge impact on home growing with helpful gadgets at your fingertips to make the process more efficient and doable. For instance, Kamoer’s automated plant irrigation system for home gardens allows you to water cannabis plants anytime and anywhere by using a smartphone to keep them healthy when you have a busy schedule.
Maintaining optimal plant growth can be difficult. HHHC’s Xiaomi plant monitor permits you to follow plant vitals by sticking the device in the soil and pairing it to your smartphone. The monitor helps determine whether the plants are thirsty or need a bit of sunshine.
Home cultivation can be a solution to the risk of consuming a laced product and the instability of cannabis throughout the industry.
For the amateur, Leaf’s grow box can be useful. It’s essentially a mini fridge-like contraption that incorporates all elements of the growth process. Elements such as air control, hydroponics, LED lighting and automated nutrient dosing can all be controlled by any smartphone.
These gadgets will help the first-time grower get started. More and more people are considering home growing now that cannabis laws are rapidly changing. Many now realize that home cultivation can be a solution to the risk of consuming a laced product and the instability of cannabis throughout the industry.
The home cultivation movement could play a significant role for patients suffering from the unstable nature of the industry. While analysts predict home growing will die out as the industry consolidates, the specific issues of this young industry pushes the trend the other way. Expect to seeing increased numbers of home cultivators in the next few years.
The industry will continue to grow and expand into the homes of individuals who’ve never considered cultivating their own cannabis, helping people take control of their health and wellness like never before.
[Canniseur: There’s nothing as good as lighting up a bowl of your favorite flower and enjoying the taste. There’s nothing worse than lighting up a bowl of your favorite flower that’s not been dried and cured properly. The process of drying and curing your cannabis is as important as growing it. Once you’ve harvested, the important process of drying and curing begins.]
Properly dried and cured cannabis flower buds burn evenly and have a smooth, rich taste. When smoked, the embers have an even glow and enter the body smoothly. When vaporized, there should be no apparent “green” taste.
If flower buds are dried too quickly, chlorophyll and other pigments, starch and nitrates or other fertilizer salts are trapped within plant tissue, making it burn unevenly and taste unpleasantly “green.” If buds are dried too slow, or not at all, they rot.
Gardeners can lose some or all of their crop to poor drying and curing. Here’s how to do it right:
Drying converts 75% or more of a freshly harvested plant into water vapor and other gases and converts carbohydrates to simple sugars. Drying also converts chlorophyll and other pigments so that no “green” residuals remain.
You can harvest an entire plant, individual branches or strip flower buds from branches to dry. When stems are severed, the transport of fluids within the plant continues, but at a much slower rate. The natural plant processes slowly come to an end as the plant dries. The outer cells are the first to dry, but fluid still moves from internal cells to supply moisture to outer cells, which are dry. When the drying and curing processes occur properly, plants dry evenly throughout. Removing leaves and large stems upon harvest speeds drying; however, moisture content within the “dried” flower buds, leaves and stems can become uneven.
Drying time depends upon temperature, humidity and bud density. Ideal temperature is 60-70°F and the best humidity range for drying is 45-55%. Most flower buds will be dry enough in three to five days before passing to the curing process, but they may take longer. It can take up to two weeks before all chlorophyll — the stuff that gives the “green” taste — has dissipated from foliage. Big, fat, dense flower buds can take three to four days longer to dry than smaller buds. Gently squeeze buds after they have been drying for a few days to check for moisture content. Bend stems to see if they are dry. If the stem breaks rather than folds, it is ready to cure. The bud should be dry to the touch but not brittle. The bud should burn well enough to smoke when dry.
Even after plants, branches or buds have dried on screens or been suspended in a drying room for five to seven days and appear to be dry, they still contain moisture inside. This moisture affects taste, fragrance and cannabinoid content (potency). Curing will remove this excess moisture and all it contains.
Curing makes buds uniformly dry and pleasant to consume, and preserves natural cannabinoids and terpenes. Curing after drying helps remove any remaining chlorophyll, other pigments, latent fertilizer salts and so on that have accumulated in flower buds, leaves and stems. If dried too quickly, flower buds retain more chlorophyll and have a “green” taste, and when vaporized or smoked are harsh on the pallet and often burn too hot. For some, curing is not essential. In fact, some medical patients prefer the often minty flavor of uncured cannabis.
Curing also allows cannabis to fully dry so that mold does not grow when it is stored. Well-cured flower buds are soft and pliable but dry inside. Flower buds should feel like they are dry and only the dry pliable foliage is holding resin onto stems. Here’s how to cure bud:
Gently place “dry” flower buds in an airtight container. Clear and opaque turkey bags are popular. So are food-grade sealable plastic buckets. There are also bags that reflect heat and are airtight (when properly sealed) and infrared-proof, which protects them from heat.
Write the date on the containers and place in a cool, dry, dark place. Moisture inside buds will migrate from the center of the stem outward. Check the container after two to four hours to see if buds feel different. Gently squeeze a couple of buds to see if they feel moister now, but be careful, resin glands bruise easily.
Open the drying container two to three times a day for the first seven days to release moisture. Take a whiff the instant you open the container. The fragrance should be sweet and somewhat moist. Close the container quickly. If necessary, remove buds from jar for a short time to inspect for mold and disease.
After the first week, open containers once or twice a week for a quick whiff. Do not open too many times or the slow-curing process will stop. Some gardeners cure flower buds slowly for six months or longer. However, after two to three weeks they should be fully cured and remain fresh, firm and pliable. Flower buds can be sealed in containers and stored.
Things to Avoid
Light — especially ultraviolet (UV) rays from natural sunlight — heat and friction hasten biodegradation of resin glands and cannabinoids. Do not place dried cannabis in hot automobile glove compartments, and keep it away from heat vents and so forth. Friction and rough handling can bruise and rupture resin glands. Even with proper drying and curing, brutal handling of harvested cannabis will diminish cannabinoid content.
By Jorge Cervantes
Jorge Cervantes is a world-renowned expert on indoor, outdoor and greenhouse cannabis cultivation. His articles, books (“Cannabis Encyclopedia” and “Marijuana Horticulture”) and YouTube videos have helped teach millions of people how to grow top-quality cannabis. Connect with Jorge on his site, marijuanagrowing.com.
[Canniseur: Ridgeline Farms in Humboldt County is the kind of craft cannabis farm we want to thrive in the new world of legalized pot. Jason Gellman tends to the land with love and his winning plants shine.]
Ridgeline Farms has won some of the biggest awards in cannabis in recent years, all while working to stay afloat as they watch a sea of their small farmer peers fail to make the bar set by cannabis legalization in California.
Jason Gellman is a second generation Southern Humboldt cannabis farmer, hailing from lands known to produce some of the finest outdoor cannabis on the plant. He says the lands are a part of his blood and his way of life, which is why he says he hopes the culture of the hills will survive through this tumultuous period in California cannabis.
Gellman, who is the founder of Ridgeline Farms, recently took home that culture’s biggest prize. In December 2018, the farm won first prize in the full sun category of The Emerald Cup for their strain Green Lantern. For those uninitiated, the Emerald Cup is essentially the world championship of outdoor-grown pot — and winning in 2018 was a huge deal, since it was the first competition since California’s adult-use market officially opened on Jan. 1, 2018.
Following the Emerald Cup, on March 28, a limited line of Ridgeline Farms’ Green Lantern is now available (while supplies last) for purchase in a few select California dispensaries, through a partnership with Flow Kana.
Like many other growers, Gellman spent years working under the guidelines of California’s medical marijuana law, Proposition 215, as well as the guidelines that then-Attorney General Jerry Brown provided the California cannabis industry in 2008. But a new era began following the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016, which legalized adult-use cannabis in California and ushered in the brand new world of permitting.
While the challenges of regulation proved too much for some, Ridgeline has survived so far. But Gellman admitted that it’s been an uphill battle.
“I don’t even know where to start. This has been a part of my life forever and it is for everyone else around here,” Gellman told Cannabis Now. “I’ve been working on the permitting for about three and a half years — and it’s been nothing but a struggle, to be honest.”
Surviving California’s Regulations, With a Little Help from the Emerald Cup
Gellman said at times it has been very difficult to come out from behind the curtain of the past. The first challenge was becoming a business, as Ridgeline Farms is a family-run and owned operation without the backing of any mega-investors. Gellman is still jumping through the hoops that followed in getting his permits with the county. He said he had to downsize from two properties due to the challenges he faced with regulations.
Prior to the Emerald Cup, Gellman said he wasn’t sure what he was going to do about staying in the cannabis industry or not. Farmers were finding various methods to get their legal product to the world, be it organizing amongst themselves or signing on with large distributors who have made their way through the hills. But even then, their cannabis wasn’t really getting out there.
“Everyone was struggling, nobody was moving product,” Gellman said. “There has to be money to make the wheel spin. We’re paying taxes from every end. To grow is super expensive.”
He noted that the kind of soil used to produce champions takes a lot of love — i.e., time and money — just like the plants do.
“Then, you add in the county fees and the state fees. So, we’re doing all that and then you grow all this product and suddenly there is nobody there to buy it,” Gellman said. “[Licensing] made a real roadblock for a lot of people.”
After winning the Emerald Cup, Gellman was finally pushing his product out to the masses.
“It’s funny because I’ve been growing Green Lantern for years, and nobody has ever wanted it,” Gellman said. “I mean, they like it, but our town has kind of been in the OG Kush or Sour Diesel generation for about 12 to 15 years.”
Green Lantern: The Award-Winning Strain
Gellman first got his hands on the Green Lantern strain from a good friend. He says back in the day there were barely any strains, and Green Lantern was one of the few on offer. “Not like nowadays where there are a million different crosses, there was just a couple,” he said. Gellman and all his buddy’s parents were growing seeded weed.
Gellman’s pal had some OG seeds from many years ago and was always doing crosses. On one of the pairings, he got a lone seed in a bag of some high-end full sun cannabis. He paired the OG-heavy strain with something a bit fruitier, eventually finding single bag seed. After more seeds were produced, Gellman weeded out his winning phenotype from between 50 and 100 plants. It was the combination of fruit and gas he was looking for.
“We stuck with that one and we’ve been growing it a while. Now I know people like it,” Gellman said. The Green Lantern has topped off at over 30 percent THC.
Gellman is proud of the hype being driven by Green Lantern, despite its old school roots.
“We didn’t send out genetics off, we didn’t test it, we didn’t know any of this stuff,” he said. “Everyone getting into it now is so scientific. Listen, I can tell you it will knock your butt on the floor. I can tell you it’s really strong and good. And that’s how we test it.”
Gellman admits the next generation of Green Lantern genetics he’s working on will have some lab work involved, as he hopes to get the genetics out to an even wider audience. He says what people notice about the strain — if they’re lucky to get some, because there isn’t that much out there — is it’s not a pungent smelling strain to grow. However, when you grow it to perfection and dry it to perfection, it smells great.
The batch that won the Emerald Cup was a random 20 plants they threw in late and let go the full light cycle and it came out amazing.
The Future of Ridgeline and Humboldt Cannabis
As for the future, Gellman said “we’re staying small.” Despite a flurry of folks that would love to financially back an Emerald Cup champion looking to scale up their operation, Gellman said he’s not interested. “I’ve been growing for my whole life, and so I’m kind of burnt out a little bit,” he said. Gellman said he wants to focus on doing the best he can at a smaller scale.
Gellman spoke of looking up at the ridgeline of King’s Peak, the namesake for the farm. “I just love my home. I love Southern Humboldt. I love this way of life. It’s a really great community — and 99 percent of the people grow weed, even if they say they don’t,” he said.
He also hopes the recognition he is receiving at the moment is passed on to the Garberville community that been such a major part of cannabis in America for decades with little to no props given.
“Everyone knows the Humboldt name, but we’re starting to get pushed out,” Gellman said.
“More than anything, I just really want people to know this recognition I’m getting, is because Southern Humboldt grows some of the best weed. I have so many friends and family members, you can’t beat it,” Gellman said.
[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.”
[Canniseur: Want to grow purple cannabis? Here’s how it’s done. And yes, it actually exists in nature.]
Weed porn spreads in magazines usually feature one plant with insanely purple flowers. Chemovars or strains like Purple Pineberry, Grape Ape, Grand Daddy Purp, Mile High Purp, Purple Kush, and KF7 can more closely resemble violets than they do cannabis. How does cannabis get such a wide range of colors? And how can a growers cultivate these hues in their own plants?
Cannabis Chemistry: Anthocyanins
The cannabis plant, like any other plant, contains several classes of chemicals. Cannabinoids like THC and CBD remain the most famous, but terpenoids like pinene and myrcene are gaining popularity as the public learns more about cannabis. Flavonoids and polyphenols are additional compound categories slowly coming to the forefront as researchers continue to crack cannabis’s biochemical profiles.
The purple color found in cannabis comes from another category of molecules called anthocyanins. Technically a blue-purple pigment, anthocynanins are responsible for the full range of cooler colors displayed by cannabis plants, from blue to violet. Other purply plants, such as plums and eggplants, also produce anthocyanins. Additionally, these compounds may confer health benefits, such as antimicrobial or antioxidative properties.
The green in cannabis comes from chlorophyll — the little verdant organelles that generate the plant’s energy from sunlight. Anthocyanins naturally reside in all cannabis plants, but the presence of chlorophyll often buries the purple light that would otherwise reflect from the flowers.
Because of chlorophyll’s purple-masking effects, anthocyanins become most visible after the curing process breaks down some of the buds’ chlorophyll. Growers can also force the coloring by fiddling with temperatures in a grow room.
How to Grow Weed So Purple It’s Practically Black?
Black weed? That’s a real thing. BC Bud Depot in Canada sells a plant called The Black known for its unusually dark, deep violet shade. Although The Black’s lineage is a mystery, it likely doesn’t grow this way on its own.
In fact, it’s possible to cultivate purply cannabis plants in a way that minimizes chlorophyll production. To do this, simply lower the temperature during the 12/12 light cycle to 10°C (50°F) during the dark phase.
By lowering the temperature, the plant behaves as if autumn just started. Like brown and red maple leaves littering the streets in the fall, triggering a false autumn forces cannabis to cease chlorophyll production. If the plant already produced ample amounts of anthocyanin – strains such as Black Widow, Black Mamba, Black Diesel, or The Black – with the green gone, it will eventually appear black due to the anthocyanin concentration.
For growers looking for feeds or nutrients to jack-up anthocyanin production, there aren’t any. Only climate changes and genetics can get Mary Jane looking so regal.
[Canniseur: A book for the conscious consumer. Learn to grow your own in a way that is sustainable in all ways.]
In a how-to grow guide that covers all the basics of outdoor cannabis cultivation, Madrone Stewart’s “Feminist Weed Farmer” sets itself apart from other grow books by remembering to provide its readers with heartfelt words of encouragement along the way. If you follow the steps Stewart lays out in her book, the author believes that “you, dear reader, can grow the dankest, stickiest, tastiest, loudest, highest-vibration cannabis on the planet.”
Throughout the book, practical tips on everything from starting seeds to processing your harvest are thoughtfully framed by the author’s philosophy of growing and consuming cannabis with integrity.
While the book is helpful for all new growers, Stewart has women, queer folks and people of color in mind when she writes that “growing your own weed in your backyard, just like growing your own veggies, can be a radical act that frees you from the cycle of spending way too much money at your dispensary.”
As a backyard home grower myself, I can attest to the fact that the sense of pride that comes along with a successful harvest is deeply rewarding.
When asked what inspired her to write the book, Stewart said it was “the empowerment of all people, especially when it comes to the access of information that can transform our lives in wholesome ways.”
“This is rooted in my belief that all people have the right to thrive and we cannot thrive without access to the skills to improve our lives, which includes the skillful use and cultivation of plant medicine,” she said.
In the book’s introduction, Stewart lays out more reasons why growing your own cannabis crop can be profoundly liberating: the current industry is male-dominated, market-driven and generally not in line with feminist, environmentalist or social justice values. As a conscious consumer, there isn’t yet a reliable way to know where or how your cannabis was produced.
“What a sad twist that this plant that has the potential to cure cancer and when grown, pumped and sprayed with chemicals, ends up being cancer-causing,” Stewart said, adding that she strongly believes your best chance to know that your weed was produced in a sustainable and ethical way is to grow your own.
Stewart wrote the book after years of working on farms in Humboldt County. “Feminist Weed Farmer” is broken up into five main parts: The Plant Life Cycle, Creating a Good Growing Environment, Protecting Your Plants, Harvesting Your Medicine and Hash Making. Some of the tips offered in the conclusion, “Twenty Ideas for Enriching Your Cannabis Growing Experience,” stem from Stewart’s background in Zen Buddhism, such as “meditate and chant in your garden” and “work mindfully, in silence.” Other tips are gentle reminders not to take the whole thing too seriously: “Relax and have fun. Do not let this project stress you out.”
“I am a big fan of focusing your attention on your experience and that fits with Zen ways of thinking,” Stewart said. “When it comes to farming, I encourage folks to make the experience enjoyable, stimulating and empowering.”
The book also includes ideas for what to do with your flowers after harvest, utilizing a “whole-plant” approach — making hash from your trim, using stems and stalks as kindling when making a fire and making your own coconut oil-based lube.
Ultimately, “Feminist Weed Farmer” is much more than just a how-to grow guide, it is a call to action to decentralize and diversify the industry. Stewart sees the current power shift in the industry from small-business owners to big business as “depressing” and devastating to communities in the Emerald Triangle whose economies depend on cannabis. Her vision is of a “diverse industry where people embrace the principles of compassion, collaboration, sensitivity to diversity and respect for the earth and the medicine that she shares with us would stand as a model for all other industries.” This includes other “psychedelic industries to come.”
She believes that women, queer folks and people of color — those who are most often excluded from the cannabis industry — will lead the way in making this vision into a reality and feels that process is in itself as a feminist act. For Stewart, gender equality in cannabis doesn’t look like more women becoming CEOs of canna-businesses, rather, she imagines a more communal, DIY, self-sufficient approach.
“I want weed, kale, sunflowers and Echinacea cultivated in every backyard, terrace and rooftop,” she said. “I would love for the corporate-controlled cannabis farms to fail and I would love to see women and genderqueer cultivators put them out of business. This will only happen if we all roll up our sleeves and sow our own seeds of insight, freedom, beauty and dignity.”
Stewart envisions a world where this powerful plant medicine is shared amongst friends and used to shift perspectives, expand consciousness, inspire creativity and help us tune into our true selves — a future where cannabis is abundant and accessible to all.
[Canniseur: California can lead the way in ensuring smaller legacy farmers stay in the cannabis business. Or, they can make it difficult, allowing large corporate farms with generic weed to flourish. Which will it be California?]
Farmers are worried. We are worried and tired of continually getting slammed with new rules and regulations. And don’t even get me started on taxes. Just when you think things are beginning to settle into some sort of acceptable pattern, they slap you again and you just have to figure out how to deal with it.
The latest was a splash email sent out to all applicants to the California Department of Food and Agriculture cannabis cultivation license program. It was a warning that if you don’t have your Annual Permit in process — and almost completed — by the time your Temporary Permit expires, you are basically screwed. Well, they didn’t exactly use those words, but it felt like they did.
There are now almost 7,000 Temporary Cultivation Licenses issued across the state of California. Each of those represents a hard-working farmer who is determined to become legal. These are a small fraction of cannabis growers who have stuck in the game thus far and do not intend to strike out now. Turns out it’s an expensive and time-consuming sport. Maybe if we’d all known how much so when we started to play, we would have walked away from the field. But here we are, tens of thousands of dollars into it, bound and determined to finish the game.
From my vantage point in the heart of the Emerald Triangle, it’s like watching a fog creep over Mendocino County, obscuring thousands of cannabis farms which will eventually fade into oblivion. There are a handful of clearings where a few survivors tentatively hang on. In the distance are the Big Guys, with large open fields of green, flourishing in the sunlight — the corporate giants itching to be able to put “Grown in Mendocino” on their labels. They want to claim they grow “heritage craft cannabis,” even if they arrived from another state, or country, only a few months ago.
It’s just not the same thing as pioneer cultivators on longtime farms hidden deep in the hills.
“Three years from now there won’t be hardly any growers left in the mountains, you watch,” predicts Tim Blake, founder of The Emerald Cup. “By the time Fish and Wildlife gets done with everyone, fewer than half the people who think they’ll survive now — they simply won’t survive.”
It’s starting to feel like the same old story, just those grumpy farmers complaining again. Even our Board of Supervisors doesn’t want to hear about it anymore. But the anxiety is palpable – the fear level is rising as we approach the Third Extinction Event.
The First Event was Jan 1, 2018 when the new law went in to effect. The Second Event was July 1, 2018, when people were told there would be an extension, but the rules were changed anyway and people were not prepared. The Third Extinction is starting now.
Most farmers have Temporary Permits, which began to expire in February and will continue expiring through July. The reason they are expiring is the absurd time limit set in the state law combined with a logjam of thousands of applications to the CDFA, which has totally overwhelmed them and their new computer program. In 12 months, they have awarded just four Annual Licenses. The procedure for coming into compliance is so complex and time-consuming, the small farmers need to hire expensive professional help. Many applications are incomplete because they are still waiting on clearance from other agencies to complete their submissions.
If the state does not come up with an emergency fix soon, another group of our already vanishing breed of craft cannabis farmers will go bankrupt and lose their farms. No doubt some of these will be “originals” who were literally the first to sow Her seeds in the Emerald Triangle. These are the farmers who have voluntarily come forward to enter the legal market, and they won’t be able to return to the illicit market because now the state knows exactly where they are.
For those farmers who have already applied for their Annual Licenses and are in process of hopefully getting approval by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, chances are good they will receive a “Provisional Permit” and be good to go until their Annual is complete. But if they are among the approximate 4,000 who did not submit their Annual Applications in time, they may have to begin the entire process all over again. At the rate they are progressing, that will take a very long time — long enough to put many farms out of business.
I recognize that opening any kind of business can be a challenge and the government will always do its best to impose as many rules and regulations as possible, especially here in our beloved California. But in the cannabis profession, yet a whole other level of stipulations enters the picture. I envision legislators staying up late at night, drinking alcohol and snorting coke, contemplating how to torture us next. We represent the lazy, good-for-nothing hippies who avoided paying taxes for years, I know it.
The mess we are now facing can only be blamed on the legislators who know nothing about cannabis and so made bad laws, and the unknowing bureaucrats who created such unwieldy, stringent, punitive regulations. Each law change means more work for the staff at the Department of Food and Agriculture, the Bureau of Cannabis Control and the Department of Public Health, who are already swamped with thousands of permit applications. The ones I really have compassion for are the very helpful staff at CDFA. Somehow, they almost always have a smile in their voices when I call, even though they must be inundated with callers. We may grow cannabis, but they cultivate patience at CDFA.
There is no question that it will still take several months for the various agencies involved to catch up. If a solution is not found to supply Provisional Permits to as many farmers as possible, many people predict that by early summer there will be a shortage of flowers and other products on the shelves of cannabis retail shops across the state. Naturally, the Big Corporate Boys will manage to get some permits, so there will be generic cannabis available, stuff that has been grown indoors or in giant greenhouses. The small farmers will be the ones to suffer the most, along with the small manufacturers, distributors, shops and all their thousands of employees.
The glimmer of hope on the horizon is SB-67, recently introduced to the State Senate by Senator Mark McGuire. This bill would allow Temporary Licenses to be extended so that businesses may carry on until receiving their full Annual Licenses. If it passes in the Senate it goes to the Assembly, sponsored by Assemblymember Wood, so it can take 60 to 90 days before finally reaching Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is expected to sign it into law. Such is the turtle speed of democracy.
As spring approaches, cannabis cultivators begin to consider their cultivars for next season and to prepare the soil and garden for the coming crop. Imagine living in the limbo of not knowing whether or not to start your seeds and prepare your gardens. Will the plants you start today, fully legal by California law, still be legal at the end of the month, if your Temporary Permit expires? And now they know just where to find you? Get the picture? Yes, this is every grower’s worst nightmare.
Prayers that this impending disaster is avoided are now being accepted. Thank you.
[Editor’s Note: Here’s another somewhat complex technique for growing to harvest the best and biggest buds. Yesterday we published a pruning technique called schwazzing. Today’s technique is called scrogging.]
Even if you haven’t grown cannabis, you’ve likely seen pictures of cannabis crops, both indoor and outdoor, with bug buds growing up through a nylon screen. This screen is called a scrog, short for “screen of green.”
Scrogging will improve the quality of your cannabis plants and increase yields. There’s an art to putting a set of plants together and stretching out their limbs so they don’t grow on top of each other or shade each other out, but we’ll demystify the process.
Keep in mind that each plant is different and there’s no specific measurement for how close or far apart each plant or branch should be. Scrogging involves reading a plant to see what it needs and usually involves some fine-tuning. But with a little time and patience, your plants will be healthy and lush.
Why Scrog Your Cannabis?
Put on during the flowering stage or right before it, a scrog has a few main functions:
It stretches out branches to expose more nodes to direct light, thereby increasing your yield.
Stretching branches out increases the airflow through a plant, helping to prevent bud rot.
A scrog adds support to branches so they won’t flop over or break as buds get bigger.
All of the branches above the screen will fill out with thick buds and most of the foliage below the screen will get shaded out. You want to prune these bottom branches and dead leaves because they either won’t produce buds or will produce subpar buds. You’ll get the most out of your plant if you can redirect resources from those branches to the quality buds above the screen.
To start, pick a set of plants, ideally of the same height and size. It’s hard to scrog plants of different sizes because the screen needs to be level across the whole canopy in order for light to distribute evenly.
Nylon screens come in different mesh sizes, usually 4-6” square. For a smaller grow, try a 4” mesh.
When Your Plants Don’t Have to Move
Scrogging is easier when your plants stay in one spot throughout their entire life, from vegetative stage to flowering, but depending on your setup, you might have to move them.
In this situation, you can just set the screen (more below) after you’ve done all of your topping and let the plants grow into it. You’ll have to touch up the screen a few times over the coming weeks to make sure branches are spaced out evenly and not too crowded.
When Plants Have to Move Into a Flowering Space
Make sure your plants are in their final place because you won’t be able to move them once under the screen. Plants also need to be transplanted to the appropriate size of pot.
A scrog over an outdoor cannabis crop. (SEASTOCK/iStock)
Plant Placement and Spacing
Plants need to be placed so they aren’t crowded, but not so far away that there are big gaps in the canopy. You do want some space in between plant branches when they are pulled up through the scrog—plants will still grow and fill in a little bit because they have at least eight weeks to go through the flowering cycle.
As a guideline, for a 4’ x 8’ tray, try putting in 18 or 21 plants in 5-gallon pots. That would give you three rows of either six or seven plants and should give you a sense of how many plants will fit together. You can adjust accordingly, based on tray and pot size.
Once all plants are in place, it can help to fold the branches back a little bit to get them ready for the screen. Be careful during this step! It’s easy to snap branches.
Fold branches out and away from the main stem, like a flower opening up or peeling a banana. Also keep in mind that some strains are sturdier than others and can withstand more bending.
Stretching the Screen
You’ll need at least four points of contact to put the screen on. Most growers will use a vertical extension that can withstand some force, like a two-by-four or a T-post, at each edge of the canopy.
There are two ways to put on a screen:
Place each corner of the screen on one post at a time, stretching the screen as you go.
Put the screen on all four contact points somewhat loosely and tighten it down later.
After the screen is on, shimmy it down until it’s on top of the plants. Ideally, you want the screen about 6-9” above the lowest branching of the plants—this is the first topping you gave the plant and the first point at which the plant starts branching, after the stem comes out of the soil.
Once the screen is set in place, make sure it’s tight, especially the edges. The tighter it is, the more it will be able to hold shape and hold the weight of developing buds. Zip ties come in handy here.
You can grab a part of the screen and pull it back and zip tie it to a post to tighten it up. Each point should be tighten about the same amount, so that the screen doesn’t come out lopsided. Be careful not to pull the screen too tight, as it might snap.
At the end of the day, the branches in the screen should interlock with the branches of all the other plants around it. Think of spreading out your hands and putting the fingers of one hand in between the fingers of your other hand.
An important question to ask before putting branches into the scrog is: Where does the branch want to go? If a branch doesn’t want to stay where you put it, you might need to place it somewhere else. Don’t force it.
Try to fill each square mesh of the screen with a single branch—avoid putting two branches in one square and try not to leave a square empty. This will ensure that each branch gets enough space and light and that the screen is utilized to its maximum potential. You may not be able to do these depending on how much plant material you have, but they are good guidelines to follow.
Stretch a branch out as far as it can go, pull it up through the screen, and rest it on the screen. If it falls through, pull it back one mesh closer to the main stem of the plant.
A good place to start on the scrog is a corner, at one of the posts. Work your way down one of the edges to the next post, and then do another edge until all edges are filled in, then work on the middle.
Work methodically, putting the branches of one plant into the screen before moving on to the next plant.
If you’re having trouble with a certain branch, one trick is to rotate the entire plant—by grabbing the pot and turning it—so that the branch in question is now facing where you want it to go.
After you’re done, it’s a good idea to look below the screen to make sure you didn’t miss any branches. If so, just pop them back in the screen.
Scrogging can stress a plant out, stretching all of its branches around. You’ll probably notice that your plants look a little wilty, or like they “took a hit” after doing it. But fear not—under some direct light, they’ll bounce back, and putting them through the scrog will be worth it in the long run.
It’s a good idea to water your plants within 24 hours of scrogging them, just to give them a little boost to pass the stress of the procedure.
It’s also a good idea to check the scrog 2-3 days later to touch it up. The plants will have grown into the screen a little bit in those couple of days, and you’ll have a better sense of where each branch wants to go and where all the buds will develop.
Above the screen, a beautiful canopy of buds will develop and fill in. But because the canopy becomes thick with buds, anything underneath the screen will get shaded out and most likely die. It’s important to clean up dead leaves and prune small branches that don’t receive light under the screen.
These branches may start developing buds, but they won’t be worth your time and effort. It’s better to get rid of them and have the plant redirect resources to the buds above the screen, making those better and more vibrant.