Q: I love the top-notch cannabis in the pharmacy, but I’m tired of paying $60 per eighth. How long does it take to grow such a pot?
— TK, Petaluma
Anyone can grow world-class weed. But just like any other skill, growing cannabis like a pro takes time. You have to make a lot of mistakes, learn to recognize problems early and solve those problems as quickly as possible. This requires experience and there is no substitute for experience.
Flowering plants develop very quickly and can change their appearance every day of their 8-10 week cycle. This requires daily vigilance – and the margin of error is small. One wrong move by the gardener can hurt the potential of the finished product, even if the mistake is corrected within a day or two.
In the past 19 years of growing, seeing different activities, and speaking to countless other growers, the most common problematic theme I’ve come across is growers using overly complex, inconsistent methods. Good growers need both a logical and intuitive approach to gardening. A professional grower can quickly sense that something is slowly becoming unbalanced (an intuitive skill), make an informed guess as to what it might be, and then systematically correct it in a way that “regulates” or precludes the accuracy of their diagnosis (a logical ability).
For example, let’s say your plants looked good yesterday, but not so good today. Be concerned. Get started right away, but don’t change too many things at once.
Without expensive scientific instruments that analyze the leaf tissue, root zone and nutrient mix, we often cannot know exactly what is causing the plants to suffer. What we can do is rely on the insights of experts and review what we’ve done leading up to the issue.
Here’s a simple troubleshooting checklist.
• Is the water drainage from the plants within the desired range of 5.7-6.3 pH and 700-1800 parts per million? Outside of the 5.7-6.3 pH range, plants cannot get the nutrients they need. Outside the 700-1800 ppm range, they are fed too little or too much food.
• Has the lighting changed?
• Have the plants been recently sprayed or treated with a new substance?
• Are new insects flying or crawling around?
• Have there been any recent changes in ambient temperature, humidity, or ventilation?
TOO MUCH CHANGE WILL JUST DO YOU
Hardly any grower gets the same quality of harvest every time, but the best growers come very close. This is done by finding a system that works and sticking to it.
You can spend a lifetime trying new products to make your harvest even better, but if you change things too often, you’ll be lost in a sea of confusion for the entire life of your business.
If you stay consistent and make small changes, your skills will improve and you will focus on a system that works for you with every bloom cycle you complete.
Here is a basic list of requirements for growing great ganja.
• Use at least 750 watts of HPS light (or the equivalent) per 25 square feet of grow space. If plants seem unhealthy, reduce the light intensity until they bounce back.
• Use a pot that is no less than a third the size of the mature plant. In other words, if your pot is 5 gallons in size, the plant can grow up to three times its size. Any larger pot for the same pot size, and bud development will be limited.
• Check the pH and ppm of your draining water each time you water and immediately correct anything that has gone out of range with a compensating water mixture. This is how you manage your medium. This requires a good nutrient/pH meter, a must-have for any grower. I like the Bluelab Guardian.
• Keep the pH of the medium in the range of 5.8-6.2.
• Keep the ppm of the media between 900-1500.
• Use a fertilizer made for cannabis plants, such as fertilizer sold at a hydroponic store.
• Drain your plants every three weeks to reset nutrients that are often out of proportion to each other. This is done by running clean 6.0 pH water through the plants in an amount that is three times the total volume of the pot.
• Provide plenty of ventilation and air movement.
• Do not give too much water. Fully grown plants that are healthy and in good proportion to their pot need water every three to four days. If they dry out faster, they will need larger pots. If they dry more slowly, they are either too small for their pot, or one of the above issues is out of balance, preventing them from growing normally.
Keep a notebook of all the changes you’ve made and the results those changes have had, and try to make only one change at a time. Most changes, both in the environmental environment and in the root zone, show their effect in one to three days. On day four, if the plants look the same, you can most likely view your change as unimportant.
With all these factors in mind, if you are committed, you can grow great quality herb in a year or so.
If you’re lucky, even sooner.
Photo by Gabrielle Lurie