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first layer on cannabis seed

First layer on cannabis seed

Weeds are everywhere. If we could add one more thing to life’s certainties I would argue “weeds” should be added to the list. Our soil is full of seeds, lying in a dormant state waiting for the right conditions to germinate. Each time we disturb our soils through tilling, planting, raking, even pulling existing weeds, we provide the opportunity for new weed seeds to sprout in those locations. So if you are just starting a garden, or are a green thumb backyard grower – what can you do to help manage the weeds that will undoubtedly pop up in your tomatoes and salad greens? Let’s examine some methods for weed management that could be used in your garden.

Weed management strategies: garden preparation

As was stated above, the soil is choked full of weed seeds (known as the “weed seed bank”). These seeds may be generations old, or blow in every year on the wind, or deposited by a bird or other animal. As an example, when a neighbor’s brush pile fire got out of control and burned my parent’s cow pasture, this created quite a disturbance. Following that fire, we saw native plant species that likely haven’t grown in that pasture for decades.

Garden preparation for many involves tilling or killing off existing plants. These are major disturbances that can lead to weed woes throughout the growing season. Here are methods for garden preparation that can minimize weed problems:

Till and cover

Some gardeners need to break up heavy clay soils or add in a type of amendment (always amend based on a soil test) to improve their soil health. Often they will turn to running a tiller over the future garden bed and then raking the bed smooth. Some may even water the bare soil to encourage weed growth. After watering, they will cover the bed with a silage tarp or some type of black plastic that impedes light and water from reaching the soil. They newly disturbed and watered weed seeds will germinate, only to be met with an impermeable black membrane. The weed seedlings will starve from lack of photosynthesis and die. This creates a “stale seedbed”. After three to four weeks the tarp is removed. Any straggler weed seedlings can be hit with shallow cultivation, flame weeder, or pulled by hand. Because of the time it takes for the tarp to remain on the soil, this takes some forethought and planning to make sure your tomatoes aren’t delayed in planting until July. Also, once the tarp is removed this technique relies on limiting soil disturbance afterward. Light cultivation with a long-handled hoe or hand-weeding minimizes soil disturbance. The last thing you want to do is till again before planting your crops.

Suffocation

Avoid the tiller altogether by laying down some type of suffocating mulch. My preferred mulch is arborist wood chips. These are often plentiful and depending on where you live, many tree-care and electric companies will deliver their wood chips for free. Apply a layer of arborist wood chips 4-6 inches deep early in spring. This height will settle over a few weeks. Pull back the wood chips where you plan to plant transplants and recover after planting, but leave a slight gap between the woodchips and the plant stem. If you are sowing seeds, pull the woodchips back in that spot or row and allow the seeds to germinate and get some growth before replacing the woodchips. Other weed suffocation options include – straw, black plastic tarps, shredded leaves. For walking paths between rows, some gardeners use cardboard, newspaper, even old carpet squares. I often leave my garden walking lanes wide enough for my mower and just keep the lawn (or weeds) mowed.

Avoid the existing soil altogether

Installing raised beds is another way of weed management before you even plant your veggies. Raised beds allow you control of the soil that you will be growing your tasty tomatoes. A mixture of topsoil and compost works well in raised beds. Some gardeners will use manure-based composts, which is perfectly fine, but many manure-based composts can contain lots of weed seeds. Mulch your raised beds to help suppress any weeds you bring in with your soil and compost.

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Plastic Mulch

In my opinion, we should avoid the use of plastic in the yard and garden, but this is one exception to my rule. Black plastic mulch is commonly used by home and commercial growers. The plastic is laid out over the growing beds and holes are cut where the plants will be transplanted. It is often necessary to install drip irrigation under the plastic. I have also noted you will need to weed around the openings in the plastic. Make sure not to damage the crop when doing so. If possible, reuse your plastic. Some plastic mulches are touted to be biodegradable.

Cover Crops

These are not just for big farmers. Cover crops are being used by more and more home gardeners. These are often divided into spring and fall cover crops. Spring cover crops grow early in the season and are then terminated with herbicide, a crimper, or tilled into the soil. I prefer fall cover crops that winter kill. I sow them under actively growing crops like tomatoes and peppers in late August (for Central Illinois). They will grow even after the first frosts kill your summer veggies. The winter kill crops will eventually succumb to a hard freeze, creating a fantastic, once-living mulch for spring.

Herbicides

The use of targeted (grasses or broadleaf) or a general-purpose herbicide can be used in killing off existing lawns or other weeds where a garden will be located. Make sure to follow label directions as there are only a few herbicides listed for use in vegetable gardens. If you are killing off a lawn, it may require two applications of a broad spectrum herbicide like glyphosate. Keep application two to three weeks apart according to label directions.

Weed management during the growing season

The strategies outlined above are your best bet to minimize weed pressure in your garden. However, keeping the weeds under control during the growing season is a task that should become a routine for your garden.

Cultivation

The act of cultivating is a fairly low-energy task. It uses the same muscles as if you were sweeping the floor. For most home gardeners, the best cultivating tool is the long-handled hoe. The names of these vary depending on the type of head they have. Some with a rectangular metal head with a sharp blade are called collinear hoes. Others have a stiff wirehead and are called wire hoes. An internet search will yield many more types of cultivators to choose from. Most of us were raised using a digging hoe. This tool is often used in the imagery of gardening. However, this type of hoe requires bending over and is more suited to moving soil, not cultivating it.

Cultivating soil is a simple process. Stand upright with a straight back and slide the head of the cultivator along the soil surface, applying slight pressure to just barely disturb the soil surface and dislodge any weed seedlings. If you cultivate once or twice a week, this reduces a lot of bending over for hand-weeding. The point of cultivation is to prevent the weeds from moving past the seedling stage. Once they grow larger, cultivation get’s more difficult. It also minimizes soil disturbance, that way we are bringing fewer weed seeds up from the weed seed bank. Don’t be too aggressive and ‘dig’ with your cultivator near the base of vegetables as this may damage the plant’s roots.

Hand-pulling

No matter what tools and tricks you employ, you will still have to pull weeds by hand. How you pull weeds is based on your physical capabilities. The best posture for hand-weeding is to bend over at the waist with your feet straddling the bed. Stick out your rear like a male peacock showing off his tail feathers. Some with hip problems or replacements cannot bend at the hip and need to bend at the knee. And still others with hip and knee problems should use some type of kneeler or stool.

Maintaining your mulch

Keeping up with your mulch layer will suppress weed seeds and make it difficult for any germinating weeds to push through the mulch. Any that do, tend to be very easy to pull.

Drip Irrigation

Yes, a drip irrigation system can help suppress weeds. The key is to place drip emitters only where your plants are growing (or place your plants at the drip emitters). That way you are not watering the soil between plantings and creating more conducive spots for weed seed germination.

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Planting Density

Some gardeners use an intensive style of gardening by planting closer together in blocks as opposed to rows. Square-foot-gardening follows this style. The idea is that as your crops grow and cover the soil, their canopy will suppress weeds. This works for some crops, but others do need good airflow to limit disease development and to make picking fruit easier.

Herbicides

As was mentioned above, there are not many herbicides labeled for use on a home vegetable garden, and even fewer for when the garden is actively producing food. If you use herbicides in the garden, make sure to follow label directions and only use those listed for vegetable gardens. On several occasions, I have encountered homeowners using a pesticide on their garden not labeled for vegetables and creating a potentially toxic environment that must lie fallow for an entire growing season.

In the end, keep in mind weeds are simply plants growing in a spot that you deem as unsuitable. Some plants classified as weeds can be edible themselves. Dandelions are the classic example of a plant that is edible from root to shoot, but we often try to kill it with extreme malice. For the desperate gardener facing a vegetable patch overcome with weeds, the main thing is to keep the weeds out of the growing row or away from the base of the plant. From there you can work little by little to remove overgrown sections, making sure to go back and cultivate cleared areas. And call your local arborist wood chip supplier!

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Ohio’s first legal pot growers plant seeds

Cultivation facilities deal with security, potency, oversight

Along a wide meander of the Muskingum River southwest of Zanesville where the ruins of an abandoned strip mine scar the landscape, some of the state’s most valuable and sought-after crops have sprouted.

Behind a high chain-link fence, past multiple layers of armed security, and always within sight of surveillance cameras, dozens of thin green shoots, each a few inches long and topped by a spray of dark green leaves, are growing in plastic domes that look like big rotisserie chicken containers.

These precious things are some of first legal cannabis plants ever grown in Ohio.

“We are growing marijuana,” said Caroline Henry, vice president of compliance and communications for Grow Ohio, which owns the Muskingum County facility. “Right now they are tiny little babies.”

Those seedlings, and the new market they represent, contain so much promise that Jeff Sidwell, the owner of the property and a partner in Grow Ohio, and his fellow investors poured $20 million into Grow Ohio’s facility.

Sidwell, a soft-spoken businessman who also owns an aggregate company just down Route 22 from Grow Ohio, had no prior experience with the cannabis industry. His partners didn’t either. They saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a burgeoning industry and gave it their best shot, he said.

Grow Ohio scored second, out of 109 applicants, for Ohio’s bigger, level 1 growing licenses. Getting a license was “like catching lightning in a bottle,” Sidwell said.

How it grows

The cultivation facility is nothing like your college roommate’s closet or the grow tents in your cousin’s basement.

The soon-to-be dozens of employees at Grow Ohio will wear full-body Tyvek suits inside the stark interior of the building, which features white walls and a lot of stainless steel. Grow Ohio split its facility into quadrants so that cannabis can be grown at different phases, in slightly different ways and using different strains. The system helps maintain a consistent supply year-round while protecting plants from disease, system failures and other issues that can be contained to a single quad.

Vegetative rooms, where baby plants grow into adults, are lit by a matrix of blue and yellow lights, air is moved by fans and two huge HVAC systems control the humidity and temperature. Separate rooms in each quad allow for transitioning plants and flowering plants, plus areas for nutrient mixing tanks, water filtration systems and other infrastructure.

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More than 100 video cameras can see the plants, and later the flower material, throughout the process and can be viewed anytime by people in Ohio’s Department of Commerce, which oversees medical marijuana growers and processors.

The state awarded 13 level 1 licenses (up to 25,000 square feet) and 13 level 2 licenses (up to 3,000 square feet), but just 10 of the licensees received the green light to start growing. The state’s first level 1 grower was Buckeye Relief, near Cleveland, which hopes to harvest its first plants in December.

A few small growers plan to have initial harvests next month, according to Mark Hamlin, a senior policy adviser for Ohio’s Department of Commerce.

“It is important to manage expectations,” Hamlin said during a Thursday hearing of the Ohio Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee. “You’ll see a handful of batches by the end of the year, very small amounts of product that will serve patients numbering in the hundreds, not the thousands.”

Cannabis plants require four to five months to mature, so Grow Ohio foresees its first products reaching dispensaries sometime early next year.

Growing cannabis isn’t all that Grow Ohio will do. The company also received a provisional processing license, which will allow it to turn its plants into tinctures, lotions, capsules, vape pen cartridges and more — products that patients with a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana can buy in a dispensary.

Sites delayed

While some of the 56 dispensaries are expected to be open when the first products arrive later this year, there havehas been trouble with locations.

“A number of them are having more zoning issues than anticipated,” said Steven Schierholt, the executive director of the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, which oversees the medical marijuana dispensaries.

The state is short on processors so far, with just 13 of the possible 40 processing licenses awarded. None will be up and running before December, Hamlin said.

While the target date for medical marijuana to be available in Ohio passed last month with none available, state officials and grow operations are not panicking.

“We will be operational late first quarter in 2019,” said Jeremy Unruh, spokesman for PharmaCann, which grows cannabis in Illinois, New York and Massachusetts.

PharmaCann is building a new facility in Buckeye Lake, the closest growing operation to Columbus. The company plans to use a greenhouse-style production system, unlike the more laboratory-style setting that Grow Ohio built.

Hamlin said the rollout so far is typical of other states that have some sort of regulated marijuana market. The state has certified about 300 doctors to give patients recommendations — marijuana cannot be prescribed — but needs hundreds more to come on board.

PharmaCann sees a more mature market next year, which aligns with its facility plans.

“Our production facility will be comfortably putting out a consistent amount of product in about a year,” Unruh said.

Strains vary

The cannabis grown at these sites isn’t uniform. There are thousands of strains. Some have higher levels of THC, the compound that makes people high, some flower earlier, some grow taller, or wider.

Grow Ohio has about 30 or 40 strains that it will work through before dialing into a smaller number. Given the clandestine history of marijuana cultivation in the U.S., the names given to strains tend toward the colorful like Facewreck Haze, Confidential Cheese and Shark’s Breath. One in Grow Ohio’s facility, Alfred Packer, is named after an infamous 19th century prospector who was convicted of eating five people while trying to traverse Colorado’s San Juan mountains.

Ohio’s program forced companies to get very serious about their operations. The growers have to track every seed to its final sale and figure out how to do that.

“We’ve had to build this from the ground up,” said Josh Febus, director of sales for Grow Ohio, and a graduate of Dublin Coffman High School.

The deeply regulated and ground-up approach has led to better results so far, said Nick Cline, head of cultivation at Grow Ohio. Cline worked at grow operations in Massachusetts and Colorado before coming to Ohio, and he’s seen some sketchy stuff.

“I’ve been in a lot of grow places,” he said. “This is by far the nicest.”