Growing Your Future
Part One: Getting Started
by: Paul Josephs
You’ve got your medical Cannabis card or live in a state where it’s legal and you want to start growing. We can help! If you have never grown Cannabis before, you are in for a treat. Cannabis is very easy to grow and a serenely beautiful plant to nurture. This series will take you through the fun, easy and rewarding process of growing your own Cannabis. We will start out with the basics involved in getting a growing area set up to meet your needs. In future installments we will learn about germinating seeds, growing plants, inducing how to handle flowering, harvesting, drying, trimming and curing your own personal Cannabis.
Where, what, how, why and when?
When is easy – right now is a great time to start! If you aren’t already growing, let’s start now. Why is easy too, it can be much more economical to grow your own, and you have complete control over what happens to your plants and what goes into or onto them. What varieties to grow will depend on your personal preference, tempered by the situation you have as far as available space is concerned. How will be covered in the following installments of this series. But for now, lets focus on the where and get a suitable area prepared for growing some cute seedlings into scrumptious nuggs.
Determine your size
Not everyone has a big basement, unused room, garage or outbuilding to fill with plants, and there are specific regulations in each state that does allow medical Cannabis or legal recreational Cannabis cultivation concerning the number of immature and mature flowering plants an individual can grow. Please check the regulations where you live.
Lets assume you don’t have a lot of room. You can look around your apartment, condo or home and pick a spot that has these features: access to electricity for lights and fans, can be made private (not that the plants are shy, but they do need their beauty sleep to flower well), and allows relatively easy access to the space and the plants inside. A spare room would be fantastic and if you have one, use it. Some dwellings have spaces or closets under staircases and those are often a good option. Closets work well as they may have electrical outlets and a door already in place. Sheds can be used as well, especially in milder climates. If you don’t have these spaces available there are a lot of grow tents available on the internet and they are an excellent option.
Prepare your space – protection
Protecting your house or apartment from potential problems is best handled proactively. You don’t want the carpet or flooring to get damaged or stained, so take some preventive steps. Putting plastic sheets or plywood directly on the floor seems like a good idea, but often humidity can condense underneath and cause mold or mildew problems. Put a few blocks of wood or plastic under some trays or plywood to allow air to circulate underneath. If possible paint the walls with a few coats of white paint, this will protect the walls, can be easily wiped down to clean and most importantly will reflect valuable light back onto your light-loving plants.
There are a lot of options out there with some new technologies emerging. It’s best to stick with tried and true methods if you are just starting out, and then try other techniques as you get more experience and have a benchmark to compare with. Most growers use High Intensity Discharge Lighting (HID) These come in two types, High Pressure Sodium (HPS) and Metal Halide (MH). Plants use all but the green part of the visible light spectrum for growth. The spectrum is seen in the rainbow after a rainstorm – red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. The bluer part of the spectrum encourages vegetative growth, and the redder part of the spectrum promotes flowering. Generally, HPS lamps emit a light color biased toward the warmer red to yellow side of the light spectrum and MH lamps emit a whiter light biased toward the bluer end of the light spectrum.Both can be used for the entire growth cycle of the plants with good results. There is a lot of information on the web to look at to help your decision. How much wattage of a lamp you will need depends on how much area needs to be illuminated. As a guideline, plan on one and one-half square feet of floor area per mature plant. Since I have yet to grow a square plant, think of 18 inch circles overlapping somewhat. I can grow my three allowed mature plants easily in my nine square foot area – four would fit if allowed. Generally four square feet needs a 175 to 250 watt system, nine square feet a 400 watt system and 16 to 25+ square feet need a 1000 watt system. Figure out a way to hang the light so it can be easily raised and lowered. You will find this very important, so look at pulleys or other ways to do this. There’s nothing worse than dropping a hot light fixture onto your plants when struggling with raising or lowering it.
Temperature and air movement
Most larger HID systems have a ballast, or transformer that is separated from the light reflector by a power cord. These generate a fair amount of heat, as do the lamps themselves. If you are growing in a cold basement or unheated crawl space you might welcome that heat. If not, consider moving the ballast outside the room or tent. A fan is crucial to generate gentle air movement in the room. Fans can also be used to vent the space to keep temperatures reasonable. 70 to 85 degrees is ideal for optimal growth and lowers the stress of your plants. Some lights have vented reflectors that can be used with flexible ducting and an in-line fan to remove excess heat from the lamp.
Containing the light
This is a two-way street. You may want to keep the light in your room from leaking out for a number of reasons – glare on your awesome TV screen, keeping you up at night, avoiding questions from certain visitors or children, you get the idea. You are paying for the light, so keep it where it is most useful. It is also equally important to keep light from getting into your room from outside, as the plants require complete darkness during their dark cycle to prevent problems with flowering.
Soil or hydroponics?
We are going to grow in soil in this series. It is the only way I have ever grown Cannabis and in the last few years I have committed to growing organically. It’s my personal choice, some of my friends grow hydroponically and kid me about it. It’s all good, just a matter of preference. There is a lot of information on the web and in bookstores and libraries about hydroponics if that is the way you choose to grow. The basics of Cannabis cultivation are the same regardless of whether the plant is growing in soil or a soilless medium and will be covered in this series.
Do a dry run
Get your room, closet, tent or creative space set up before you start growing. Run the lights, make it easy to adjust the height. Put a thermometer in the room to see what temperature range the room experiences and adjust the ventilation accordingly. Check to see how much light escapes out of and into your room. Make it tidy as far as cords and equipment are concerned. The more prepared the room is before you start actually growing in it the easier it will be on you and your plants.
We will discuss how to prepare a suitable soil mix and germinate seeds. There will be an overview of different Cannabis varieties and growth patterns to be aware of. We will also learn more about Cannabis cultivation in the vegetative stage. Get your grow space ready and get excited!