June 2012


Growing Cannabis Efficiently: Time is Money!

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Creating a home garden should be enjoyable and cost-effective. Spending more upfront can often save you time but only if you know which equipment to buy and how to properly use it. My caregiver, Aaron, and I have read all the latest material shared by the world’s most prestigious indoor growers from Jorge Cervantes, Ed Rosenthal and Greg Green. Their tips have greatly impacted our personal grow for my Lyme Disease pain. We are sure their prized secrets will come in handy for you as well.


Cannabis grows just like other plants. It requires light (not necessarily sunlight), a growing medium (soil), and water. The plant’s DNA does the rest.


So, you’ve decided where, what, and how you will legally acquire your medical cannabis clones (or seeds), the first step is to choose the best location in your home. At a minimum, a small two ft. x two ft. closet will do. You can fit either two small plants or one big plant snugly in this size closet for maximum flower production. If you have more space, feel free to adjust your number of plants (and lights) accordingly. Make sure that you can seal this area from all light in order to foster your plant’s night cycle. You should also research the strain you want to grow and check that you have ample space for your plant’s projected height and light requirements. Decide between seeds and clones. Clones are often more efficient for a small grow.


Depending on the needs of the strain, you may water as sparse as twice a week for soil plants. For hydroponic, the water should be changed once a week (or less, if you can afford some automation). Your time in a soil garden will be spent brewing a batch of nutrients, watering and allowing the pots to drain, and pruning. Schedule as much as two hours in your garden, twice a week.


Let’s go over the lighting: the cheapest and most efficient light that will produce a flowering plant is called a Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL). It’s a good idea to get the highest wattage CFL that you can find. No less than 32 watts per 1 square foot of plant. When it comes to lighting, the more the merrier; your plants will do better under more wattage, as long as they can stay cool (under 80 degrees Fahrenheit). Another cheap alternative is a T5. These are similar to the lights in the ceiling inside your local grocery store; they’re long and skinny and produce light on the blue side of the spectrum, which is better for the vegetative plant.


The plant will remain in the vegetative cycle as long as there are 18 hours of light per day or more. Once pre-flowers have developed and it’s time to flower the plant, switch to 12 hours of light per day and be sure the growing area can be sealed off for the plants’ essential 12 hours of darkness, in order to produce flowers. Professionals use what is called a High Pressure Sodium light that has the capability of shining 1000 watts of light onto the plant, optimizing its growth and resin (THC) production.


Do not make this upgrade without insuring you will be able to properly ventilate the light and keep the room below 80 degrees Fahrenheit. A portable A/C unit and/or fan may be necessary.


Now onto the growing medium: for an easy start use a basic high quality soil mix from your local gardening shop. It’s a good idea to go to a store that is known for selling cannabis related growing supplies. Never use cheap dirt. This is “fast food” for your plants and the results won’t be anything to brag about. The pros use what is called an aeroponic system, a.k.a. hydroponic. Here, the water is kept low enough so the root tips only dangle in the nutrient-enriched water, while the exposed roots are constantly misted. Essentially, the roots grow in a small box or bucket of air with a humidity level close to 100%.


When it comes to your water/nutrients, the sales pitch becomes confusing. Yes, you can do like the pros and spend hundreds on top-grade fertilizers but, as an amateur, you should start with a basic two-step, vegetative and flowering nutrient program. Follow the directions on the label and experiment with your strains to see if they can take a little extra fertilizer. They sell the nutrients in powder form for cheaper, but you’ll have to do a lot of heavy mixing (It’s not so much fun to shake 5 gallons of water for 20 minutes). I suggest the liquid nutrients to speed things up. It’s a good idea to purchase a digital Parts Per Million (PPM) measuring device. You’ll use this to ensure you are controlling the nutrient level.


Tap water works well but only if it has sat out uncapped over night to remove the chlorine. You can upgrade to bottled distilled water but this usually has to be pH balanced. It’s a good idea to get a pH test kit for your water to be sure your plants’ root system will be able to absorb the nutrients instead of being shocked by bitter water. It is often cheapest, but not time efficient, to use household grocery and animal scraps for feeding your plants. The list is virtually endless consisting of things from rabbit poop to coffee grinds, hair to molasses. Each organic material maintains its own levels of Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium.


Now, watch your extra bedroom or closet space turn into a better roommate then you ever had in college. She will slightly raise your electricity bill and demand your time twice a week, but she keeps quiet, pays her rent and then some. And sooner than you know it, you will be saving lots of money on your trips to the Dispensaries and Co-ops. Spending the money on equipment upgrades for your garden may eventually lead you to a fully automated garden that lives inside your home. Your extra plants and extracted THC from your leftover plant matter can be sold to dispensaries.


Remember: be frugal about your purchases and do your research on all investments before financing. Time spent is money lost. Only splurge on products that are proven to save you time or double your return. Most importantly, have fun and happy growing!

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