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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A Guide to the Sea of Green Method (SOG)
The sea of green (SOG) method is a technique used to maximize yield in a limited grow space. It is done by growing many small plants in a compact area rather than focusing on a few larger plants. This tight packing of the plants in a smaller space causes the plants to grow together and create a canopy of buds, hence the name “sea of green”.
With this method, you force the plants into flowering much earlier, which trains them to use their canopy in the most efficient way. The compactness of the plants results in them focusing less on their side blooms and instead focusing on developing one main, heavy bloom. They can begin flowering when they are much smaller since they only need to support a large single cola (a cluster of buds that grow tightly together), rather than having to stay in the vegetative stage longer to get big enough to support multiple. This expedited growing process allows for a greater yield in a much shorter harvest time.
How To Practice the Sea of Green Method
1. First, like with any grow, you need to germinate seeds or get cuttings to create clones. For this method, it is more ideal to use clones since they flower faster than seeds. Also, with clones, you can guarantee they are all identical, which is important in the SOG method since you need an even-height canopy.
2. As for which strain to choose, not all strains are suitable for the SOG method. Indicas are preferable since they grow shorter and bushier compared to sativas, and also have a faster flowering cycle.
3. You want to use smaller pots (around 4-6 liters) for the SOG method to help prevent plants from growing too tall and to force them to focus resources on the single main bloom. The pots are also placed much closer together (1-2 plants per square foot is typical), but make sure they are not too concentrated to the point where plants become stressed from competing for light. SOG growers typically have 4-6 times as many plants compared to what a standard grower would have in the same space.
4. Netting is also recommended since plants in SOG are top-heavy. It is suggested to install netting at the beginning of your grow, since it becomes difficult to access the centrally located plants as they grow bigger and are so close together.
5. Once you are ready to start the vegetative stage, you will grow the plants with 18 hours of light and 6 hours of complete darkness. The vegetative cycle will be much shorter than a typical grow, only lasting 4-6 weeks until they reach about 10-12 inches in height. Some growers even switch to flower as early as after 2-3 weeks when the plants are around 6 inches tall.
6. As your grow develops, make sure the plants are at an even height and are all getting equal amounts of light. This is when your lighting choice becomes very important. You want to make sure the design layout of your light has evenly distributed diodes, rather than having light more concentrated in specific areas. VOLT Grow®’s FL-1 Full-Cycle LED Grow Light has a ladder design with evenly spaced diodes that allows for a very uniform spread of light optimal for the SOG method.
7. Once you switch to flower, the light regimen will change to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. This will force the plants to widen their canopy and concentrate their energy and resources on the main cola.
8. After the canopy forms, you can trim the branches underneath it, so no energy is wasted developing side branch growth. You can propagate these trimmings and use them for clones in the future.
9. Lastly, once your plants are ready, it is time for harvest. The time spent in flower will vary and depend on the specific strain you grow. If the trichomes of the buds are white and cloudy, they are most likely ready for harvest. In the SOG method, the plants will be smaller, however, the yield quantity per square foot will be larger than traditional grows because of the extra plants.