The Best Way to Grow Weed, According to Home Growers
It’s been a long time coming but cannabis legalization is officially rolling out across Canada in October. You may not 100 percent know what that means, and honestly I think most of us are still a little confused as the rules and regs are still kinda murky. For BC, essentially it means that the liquor distribution branch that controls and retails alcohol in the province will now be BC’s wholesale distributor of non-medical cannabis too; meaning we will have cannabis retail stores in a similar vein to liquor stores…eventually. Plus you, as a humble home grower, will be permitted to grow up to four plants legally in your own home—sounds like good times.
If you’ve ever been curious about growing your own, it looks like now is the perfect time for you to pick up some seeds and give it a go and, spoiler alert: it’s just like growing tomatoes, apparently. For all you budding growers out there I thought I would speak to a few people who have been mastering the art of growing bud for years and who have heightened horticultural experience—from professional licensed home growers to just good amateurs. But FYI, if you’re growing in Quebec, Manitoba, or Nunavut home cultivation is sadly still illegal so remember to be extra discreet.
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VICE: Hey Mark, so help us out, what are your top tips for growing?
Mark: Number one, understand what you are getting into. It can be very enjoyable to grow your own cannabis, but it requires a commitment of time and money. Find a mentor if possible. Two: Pick one or two easy to grow strains and keep it simple and don’t give up when you experience challenges. Don’t cheap out on equipment. You may wonder why some equipment is so much cheaper than others, that is usually because it’s a knockoff, old technology, or unreliable. Oh and, don’t overuse fertiliser, more does not get you better results, less is better if anything. Be sure to flush with just water for the last 10-14 days.
And what if we want to grow the best bud to get the most stoned, what are your secrets?
Getting blasted is quickly is becoming a fad of the past. Very high THC cannabis or extracts are not as enjoyable as a high terpene product that tastes great and leaves you feeling good. I suggest growing a few strains of varying THC content and work to maximise terpene production. Growing indoors with synthetic nutrients will generally yield the highest THC, while growing organically under the sun often produces higher terpene content.
Have you ever named your plants?
No, that seems slightly crazy. Would you name your carrots?
Honestly? Probably. So do you have any home growing horror stories?
One time a chicken completely stripped one of my plants of all leaves. Surprisingly it recovered after a few weeks, but was a bit smaller than the rest.
More importantly, what happened to the chicken?
It lived to see another day. I can hardly blame a chicken for loving cannabis, most creatures do.
VICE: Hey Ash, what are your three top tips for growing?
Ash: Be disciplined, have patience, be proactive. Basically, the key to cultivating cannabis is to be OK with failure. We live in a world which prides itself on perfection and some have a problem with knowing that they aren’t organically the best cannabis grower on their first try.
Over time, the appearance of the plant will change but its needs will also change. Different stages require different quantities of light, water, training techniques and nutrients. That’s why I run ganja school classes—it’s complicated!
Is there another crop people grow that is similar to cannabis?
I would say tomatoes. Although, they are quite different, they grow in similar conditions and both plants do quite well in rich soil.
So what’s your secret for an extra healthy crop?
Connecting with your plants. I speak to them and I play a lot of music for my plants. Literally, every type of music from classical to dance hall. There is nothing better than seeing your plants praying while rocking out with your air guitar [laughs].
Awesome stuff, but how can we make sure what we do grow will get us good and stoned?
It all comes down to the trichomes—aka that sticky icky when you touch the buds. Understanding the best time to harvest your bud is answered through analysis of the trichome heads. Do you prefer milky trichome heads (that cerebral high) or amber heads (more of a body high)? The choice is yours.
How often are you having to tend to your plants?
My plants are like my children so I tend to them daily.
VICE: Hey JW, what’s your best growing advice?
JW: Know what seed/strain you are growing as genetics play a big role in the timing of the light cycles. Do not over water. Overwatering and overall stress to the plant will kill it quickly. Use half of the recommended nutrients if it’s a first time grow. And don’t constantly stress about them—after all it’s just a plant and can be grown again. Being impatient will kill plants faster than anything.
How do you grow discreetly?
I use a two-by-four foot grow tent that conceals everything inside. A carbon filter cleaning the smell from the air is necessary if you want to remain discreet. The trash you throw away is probably the biggest giveaway. I’m sure to toss my trim or nutrients or packaging in the dumpster right before the truck picks it up. This way I know only my eyes see it until it gets to a landfill with thousands of others people’s garbage.
Do you have a favourite variety?
That depends on when you ask me. Right now I really like Blue Dream, Northern Lights and Flow. These first two for me work best for bipolar insomnia, depression and anxiety. Flow just tastes amazing and has a very high potency. (Not to mention its colours look incredible when growing!)
Have you ever named your plants?
No, I’ve never understood with the human need to name something you want to and eventually will destroy. Seems cruel to the psyche [laughs].
Sunshine Coast, BC
VICE: Verena hey! So do you have any growing advice for us?
Verana: Sure, if you are growing inside: Keep your space, tools, stakes, pots, walls and everything you can think of tidy, clean and sterilised where possible. It helps to keep contamination levels down. Monitor your room temp, humidity, water temps and pH levels—if you can keep a stable and consistent environment on all accounts, the girls stay healthy and strong and have a much easier time blooming to full potential. We are trying to mimic mother nature—though immense forethought is required [laughs]. For pests I recommend essential oils, compost teas and other pest and fungicide sprays that are safe and easy to spray and contribute to the strength and vitality of your plants—I alternate sprays every three days.
How do we grow the strongest stuff?
Grow organically! It’s super easy and the product you get in the end is way better on so many levels. I find terpene (essential oil) profile is far more complex and interesting plus you can use your ladies’ product on a far more medicinal scale i.e.. juicing, topicals, extracts.
Proper pruning is number one if you want big dense buds—the girls respond well to aggressive pruning.
And how often are you having to tend to your plants—sorry *girls*?
The more daily work you do while they are growing the less work you ultimately have to do and the more usable product you get in the end without having to put out fires constantly—if you get lazy it shows! I tend to all of my gardens every morning.
Have you ever named the girls?
I haven’t [laughs] but I do sing and talk to them. They have done studies showing that plants respond to contact, thoughts and communication.
VICE: Hey Luce, so what are some of your top tips for growing the good stuff?
Luce: Grow inside! By growing inside you can properly control your environment—water, light, pests, etc. For a new grower this is important. Don’t walk before you can run. Buy a light and work out a good lighting schedule, and make sure to lightproof your room. Make sure your temperature stays constant and that your room has good circulation so your plants can breathe! Don’t be cheap with your soil mix; you want a nice well-draining soil; half good quality fertiliser and half unfertilised potting soil.
Also, be honest with your roommates.
Ah, has this got you into trouble before?
Well, it’s hard to explain that electricity bill without being honest.
And how do you stay discreet?
If you’re growing in your room it’s fairly easy to keep things under wraps. The larger the number you’re growing the more you’ll have to be careful about how you’re disposing your trim, but if it’s just a few plants you won’t have too much of a problem.
VICE: Hey Jake, so what’s the best way to grow for us mere amateurs?
Jake: Take your time with a strain and get to know it. Due to the illegality of the plant and it’s underground breeding, every strain, even phenotypes of that strain, can be very different in its nutritional, water and lighting needs. Treat each plant the way it wants to be treated. You can cheap out on lots of things, but never cheap out on quality air exchange or the quality of your lighting. Try to make the grow space similar to how the plant would grow in nature on a perfect day.
Do you have a favourite variety?
My favourite cannabis strain to smoke growing up was OG Kush. It has a pungent taste that sticks to your tongue and lingers in your nose. This stuff, when I got a good batch, would knock me out every time. Now there are so many available that are great and range in so many different flavour profiles; you can have a different strain for different times of the day. I loved smoking something citrusy like Thow toangie in the morning. Midday I’d generally prefer something fruity like Blueberry Headband. But at night, I still love my Kushes. Doesn’t have to be OG, there are many greats out there.
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VICE: Hey Travis, what are three top tips for growing?
Travis: For one, pay attention—successful cultivation is all about observation and adjustment. Watch plants closely, write stuff down, and remember that these are living things you are taking care of. Two, learn pest prevention. Everyone should plan for worst case scenarios. Prevention is everything. And three, don’t hurry. Build your space properly, without cutting corners. Don’t try to pump the plants full of fertiliser. Let them mature before cutting them down. Take time to cure the product. In general, just slow down a little.
How often are you having to tend to your plants?
Small-scale success is largely about observation and adjustment. Ironically, the plants really do grow themselves in many ways, despite my early failures.
Do you have a favourite strain?
I have my favourite cuts, for sure. From PNW classics like Congolese and Romulan, to racy Hazes, to the rare Lime and Cookie clones that I have, I have accumulated a bunch of stuff I like.
Do you have any home growing horror stories?
I do. Many. I left the water on and flooded my basement once. Water requires attention, and one should always have proper drainage. I learned that early.
There was also a time when I was walking home from the grocery store and saw cops surrounding my house. I had a tiny grow space, just a few plants, but this was before I had even thought of licensing. I was sure they were raiding my little basement grow, so I walked right past and went to sit down in the park. I walked back 20 minutes later to see them pulling cut down plants out of my neighbours’ house. In the end, I think half of that Vancouver neighbourhood had grows downstairs.
*Some names have been changed.
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There’s more than one way to (legally) start a grow-op in your apartment. Just be honest with your roommates.
Former NASA scientist creates DIY marijuana grow system
It started on the forbidding terrain of Mars and is ending in the marijuana grow rooms of Colorado.
“The classes have been overwhelming, in that most everything that goes on in that class is knowledge you cannot find anywhere else,” Chamberlain said.
Operating out of Loveland, Dale Chamberlain — who received a Bachelor’s of Science from CSU in 1993 and holds a Master’s in Aerospace Engineering from CU-Boulder — has taken the same scientific rigor he used to study advanced life support systems for future colonies on lunar and Martian environments, and applied it to creating a self-contained hydroponic chamber system for the “do-it-yourself” marijuana grower in Colorado.
“Now that it is legal to possess and grow your own cannabis in Colorado, one now can legally design a chamber around the growing of cannabis,” Chamberlain said.
He designed and built the Colorado Grow Box with the average grower in mind, someone who probably doesn’t have the time to dedicate to a complex, time consuming marijuana grow operation.
In compliance with state law, which mandates grow spaces have to be an enclosed, lockable space, the Colorado Grow Box is a lockable, self-contained system that, once up and running, requires little maintenance to produce consistent yields of marijuana.
“The bottom line is people don’t have time, they don’t have time because of a job and other things to deal with,” Chamberlain said. “With my background with plant chambered automation systems, it is a natural conclusion to build a chamber that would be like a refrigerator, where all you need to do is go and open the door and get your bud.”
“You worry about it once a week, maybe,” he added.
After working at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in the 1990s, he landed a job as a bio-system engineer for a private space technology firm in Boulder, and helped construct a plant growth chamber that was used on the space shuttle.
Although the the career track from the world of NASA scientist to pot growing expert may seem unorthodox, Chamberlain said it’s a natural extension of a lifelong passion and fascination with astronauts, space exploration and plant growth.
Ever since elementary school “I always thought ‘Well, astronauts are gonna need some kind of food, and so I’ve always been inclined to deal with, like, aquariums, terrariums and greenhouses,” Chamberlain said.
The grow box isn’t the only mark Chamberlain is making on the burgeoning marijuana industry in Colorado.
After years spent as a consultant for private and industrial medical marijuana growers in Colorado, Chamberlain decided to use his expertise to start a marijuana growing school with his cousin Chuck.
Students attending the High Altitude School of Hydroponics (HASH) can choose from three levels of classes designed for the casual grower all the way up to a graduate studies class that teaches advanced concepts like genetics and physiology of marijuana plants.
With such a wide variety of information — some more reliable than others — about marijuana growing available to the public, Chamberlain said he wanted to eliminate confusion and provide people with scientifically sound procedures to have successful grow operations that operate within state law.
“The classes have been overwhelming, in that most everything that goes on in that class is knowledge you cannot find anywhere else,” Chamberlain said. “You go search the web, get on YouTube and everyone will tell you all these great ways of doing stuff. Well, yeah, not all of them are correct.”
Demand has been so high the classes at HASH have sold out and private consultations with growers are increasingly taking up what little free time Chamberlain has. Up next for HASH is a video to reach customers who can’t attend classes.
When talking about medical marijuana and legalization in Colorado, Chamberlain’s passion for the plant, and what it means for society, cannot be overstated.
He said it’s an exciting moment in our country’s history, and to be a part of the first wave of entrepreneurs paving the way for others is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I really feel that the historic nature of this will be a benefit to not only the state, but the nation as a whole, because … I feel this personally, this is a very personal thing with me,” Chamberlain said. “In that the Cheech and Chong attitude towards marijuana must disappear.”
Former NASA scientist creates DIY marijuana grow system It started on the forbidding terrain of Mars and is ending in the marijuana grow rooms of Colorado. “The classes have been