Getting The Girls in The Ground

How to start a cannabis garden. Don’t worry, it’s easy!

When it comes to growing an outdoor cannabis garden, the Bay Area is a great place to start one. Not only is the climate perfectly suited for it, but growing your own weed can help you save tons of money, too.

One cannabis plant and a sack of good soil — which can cost less than $30 — can produce at least eight to 16 ounces of flowers, according to Brent Saupe, a cannabis cultivation expert who’s been growing in California for the past 30 years. Compare that to the average price of a store-bought ounce of cannabis — which costs around $300 — and growing your own may seem like a no-brainer.

And it’s all perfectly legal if you are a medical marijuana patient. City regulations allow patients to grow up to 24 plants, and when Proposition 64 goes into effect, any adult over 21 will be able to buy and grow as many as six plants at a time.

Aside from the money-saving aspects, the best part about growing your own weed is that it’s easy. Anyone can do it — and if you want help, dispensaries like Oakland’s Magnolia Wellness offer 10-week gardening classes year-round.

“Growing weed is simple and unbelievably easy,” Saupe says. “I sometimes
think people in the industry make growing sound a lot more complicated than it is.”

The best time to start a weed garden is in May and June so that your flowers will be ready to harvest by the start of the rainy season in early November. To get started, you’ll need to buy a clone — a baby plant — which are typically sold in four-inch pots and embedded in rock wool. Dispensaries sell them for between $12-$20, but don’t head to a dispensary in San Francisco, because you won’t find one there. The city regulates how many clones a store can sell at one time, so you’re better off heading to Magnolia Wellness or Harborside
Health in Oakland to get one.

Clones can also be found on Craigslist, but though they might be cheaper than what dispensaries sell them for, Saupe warns that they carry a higher risk of being infested with pests or not being the strain you thought you were buying. If you’re looking to grow a particular strain, Dan Grace of Oakland’s Dark Heart Nursery advises against growing Indica strains. They tend to be dense and susceptible to damage from moisture, he says, adding that he’s heard a lot of positive feedback about planting Blue Dream.

To prevent infestation and fungal infection — known as powdery mildew — Grace suggests spraying plants with a mixture of 2 tablespoons baking soda to 1-quart water and a drop of dish soap. Mix the ingredients and spray it on the plant once a week.

“It’s much easier to prevent than to cure,” Grace says, noting that you should stop spraying two weeks before you plan to harvest.

When it comes to soil, go for quality, and one of the best potting soils is Recipe 420, which is sold at Flower Craft in S.F. for as little as $17.50. Spend more on high-quality soil and you’ll be saving money in the long-run because you won’t have to add nutrients or fertilizers.

Keep the clone indoors but exposed to sun for a day or two before planting it, because after living indoors its whole life, it needs to adjust to the outdoor light. You can plant your clone in either the ground — which allows the plant’s roots to grow larger — or in a pot. It doesn’t matter what size pot you get so long as it’s big enough to house the clone. You’ll have to transfer it to a larger container anyways once it starts to grow.

There’s no one answer to how often you should water your plant because it depends on the weather in the area and how much sunlight (or lack thereof) it receives in a day. But you should water it at least once a week — just make sure not to overdo it.

“Watering properly is crucial,” Saupe says. “The most common error of new gardeners is overwatering. Patience is an important quality in a cannabis gardener.” A typical gardening cycle lasts about five months, making plants started in June ready to harvest in November. Another way you’ll know when it’s time to harvest is when at least 70 percent of the pistils — the white hairs on the buds — have darkened. With some strains, it may be harder to tell when the time is right; different strains can look different at harvest. It’s best to reference pictures of buds ready to harvest online, and Grow Weed Easy (growweedeasy.com) is a good resource for that.

To harvest, simply clip off the branches. For one to two weeks, dry them indoors, which many people do by nailing a heavy string between the interior of a doorway and clipping them to it. When the buds have dried, cut them from the branches using a pair of gardening scissors. Trimming is an art, like a good haircut, and it’s a good idea to reference pictures online before trying it out yourself.

Buds should be stored in airtight containers in a cool, dark place and will keep well for up to two years without significant loss of potency.

And while smoking your weed is always an option, for those who are creative, there are endless opportunities beyond that, like cooking and baking it or turning it into a high-grade hashish.