Marijuana has momentum. Are you keeping score? In the US, four states have legalized marijuana for recreational use (Alaska’s law takes effect next month), 10 states allow medicinal use, a slew of others have lessened legal penalties, and the New York Times has exhorted the federal government to repeal a 40-year ban on “a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.”
Here are 10 tips to grow your own marijuana and maximize potency of the plant’s active ingredient, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol):
Photography by Michelle Slatalla.
1. Know your limits. State law varies when it comes to the legal amount of marijuana you can grow. For instance, in Alaska and Colorado, you can grow up to six plants for your own use. In Washington, you can only grow backyard marijuana for a medical use. In Oregon, personal growing is limited to four plants at a time–and only for medical use.
2. Grow the right type of marijuana. The two main types of cannabis are C. sativa and C. indica. Growers cross them to create hybrid strains. Sativa plants, which can reach heights of 20 feet, are best grown outdoors. Indica plants, which are shorter and bushier, grow better indoors.
3. Start with high-quality marijuana seeds. For a list of reputable seed banks, see High Times (which reviews cannabis seed banks and publishes a list of the top purveyors).
4. Start seeds indoors. Soak seeds for 24 hours before sowing them in potting soil. After marijuana seedlings reach a height of 6 inches and have multiple leaves, transplant them to a permanent garden site. For more on starting seeds, see Gardening 101: How to Sprout a Seed.
5. Plant in full sun. Marijuana plants like sunlight; if you grow marijuana outdoors, a garden bed with southern exposure that provides several hours of sunlight per day is ideal. If you grow marijuana indoors, use a grow light.
6. Plant in rich soil. Marijuana requires nutrients. Fertilize your plant if it has yellow leaves (needs nitrogen), curling leaves (needs phosphate), or spotted leaves (needs potassium).
7. Ask an expert. In states where marijuana is legal for medical or recreational use, visit a marijuana farmers’ market to get advice from other growers. For instance, in Seattle, the Northwest Cannabis Market is America’s only daily marijuana farmers’ market with (two locations).
8. Keep it warm. Marijuana is a warm-weather plant; transplant it outdoors after the last frost date. A marijuana plant will be happiest in a climate where the temperature fluctuates between 64 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
9. Provide support. Marijuana is a bushy plant. Like a tomato plant, it will benefit from being caged or trained against a trellis.
10. Cull male plants. If female and male plants grow together, female plants will devote energy to seed production, diluting THC potency. Female plants develop flower clusters that become buds; male plants produce green clusters at leaf joints.
11. Harvest and process correctly. After a majority of the hairlike pistils on a marijuana bud darken and curl, it is ready to harvest. Cut off branches, trim leaves, and hang stems upside down; when dry, clip off buds to cure in jars.
We’re experimenting with growing our own marijuana plant–how hard can it be? Follow the story at The Marijuana Plant and Me.
For more ideas, see:
- If you plan to sprout seeds, see DIY: Seed Sprouting Newspaper Pots.