PLANNING FOR HOMEGROWN SUCCESS
STORY BY BROOK C. • PHOTOS BY SKY PINNICK
THERE IS A new era dawning where people are increasingly able (state by state) to grow a plant that they love without fear of reprisal. With the advent of medical patient growers and states that have passed personal recreational grower laws, the common question, and the topic of my discussion: “Where do you start?”
Cannabis is a plant that will grow well for you and produce worthy flower material IF you attend to some basic parameters of her needs. Seasonal planting starts around the end of May into early June. For the first time grower, I would plant a clone directly into the ground. Choose your clone based on the type of flower that feels and smells good to you. If it looks healthy and is available as a female clone, grow that!
Amend your local soil organically with a coco fiber pumice/ perlite (soilless medium can be purchased in pre-mixed bags). Ultimately, you will want the top one to two feet of soil to be somewhere between 30/70 – 50/50 mixture of coco (and/ or perlite) and local soil (depending on your own particular native soil type). To this soil base, add a bag of compost and worm castings.
Next, you will have to pick both the types of amendments you want to use as well as the brands of nutrients to purchase either by asking at your local grow shop, doing some online research, or asking your favorite cannabis growers what they use. Pay attention to the levels of NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus , Potassium) in each of your amendments bearing in mind that more nitrogen is recommended in the early vegetative stages of plant growth and more phosphorus and potassium is recommended later in the cycle, during flowering.
Most varieties of cannabis like about the same things, but sometimes in slightly different amounts. We used to throw a handful of bone meal, bat and seabird guano, crab meal, blood meal and azomite powder into a hole. So long as you have all of the three major nutrients included, your plants will have a good shot at survival. Whatever you ultimately decide to use, mix it all thoroughly together and you’re ready to plant.
Dig a hole in the middle of your newly amended soil, a little bigger than your clone pot. Sprinkle fresh coco fiber in the hole first (this will be a softer zone for the fresh roots to enter the new soil) and then over the entire surface of the hole. If you can find Endomycorrhizal inoculant (Endo) at your local grow store, sprinkle the powder directly on and under the root system before placing the plant in the soil. This will greatly increase your plants’ ability to digest and absorb water and nutrients. After your plants are securely in the ground, bury an inch or two of soil over the root ball, press firmly, and your baby plants are going to be off to a great start.
Now, let’s talk a bit about water basics. Deep soak your new plants’ soil thoroughly the first time you water, but let it dry out a bit between waterings especially in the early stages to encourage root growth. Water before wilt but be careful not to water too much OR too frequently. If you notice pale yellowing in the leaves, it is likely you are overwatering. If you notice wilting, it is likely under- watering. If you are on a city water source, you will want to filter or de-chlorinate your water first (well water may also need to be filtered if high in pollutants or particulate matter).
Next, we’re getting a little fancy, but you will need a pH Pen and Ph Up / Down granules, to ensure your water is not too basic or too acidic. Some cheap pH pens work fine for the price $15-30. Just be gentle with them and always replace the cap with some fluid in it after use. Most cannabis plants like a pH range of 5.8-6.5. For those just starting out, keep it simple and simply set the pH of your water to 6.5.
Last but not least, you will want to inoculate your soil with predatory nematodes once every two weeks at the beginning and the end of the growing cycle – 2-3 applications at the start of the season and 1-2 times in the fall. Water them in after release. Ladybugs, lacewings, praying mantis, rove/ pirate beetles, and predatory mites are also great beneficial insect armies to protect your flowers. And, using one or two of these above ground predators should be very strongly considered as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
As the plants grow, you can top feed once a month with some or all of your chosen amendments (1-2 handfuls total application at a time) by sprinkling on top of your soil and watering the nutrients in. Other than that, enjoy watching this wonderful plant grow and feel the pride that comes from creating your own medicine. If you’re inspired enough by it, it just may become a lifelong passion. Happy Gardening!
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