Home Growing 101

Growing at home for the first time can be an exhilarating experience, especially when your state says it’s okay for you to do so. The legalization of medical and adult-use cannabis in certain states allows residents to exercise their right to grow cannabis in their own closets, basements, spare bedrooms, and creative spaces. Before you head over to purchase your dream grow kit, be aware there are many variables that can make or break a successful grow cycle.

Landlords

The State of Oklahoma allows you to cultivate cannabis at home with just a few important rules. Be sure to follow them! You must ask permission from your landlord before you starting your grow. If you rent or lease, your landlord can deny you the right to grow on their property. Don’t spend thousands of dollars on a cultivation setup only to find out you don’t have permission. You might be surprised to know that many landlords openly rent to growers—but they expect and deserve full disclosure.

HVAC and Ventilation

Now that your landlord has agreed to let you start your personal home grow, you’ll want to research the best temperature and humidity that your plants will need through each phase of their grow cycle. Cannabis loves high-intensity light, heat, and water, but you’ll want to ventilate the air to control the temperature and humidity. This will prevent mold and mildew from growing on your plants and mildew contamination inside your home. The correct environmental controls will prevent you from costly repairs or heated discussions with your landlord. Consult your local grow shop for assistance, read books and magazines, and search YouTube for great instructional videos.

Cultivating cannabis will ‘stink out’ the entire neighborhood. Trust me. I know. Don’t be that grower. Use charcoal filters, PCO technology (Photo Catalytic Oxidation), ozone generators, or a combination of processes to eliminate or mask the smell. If neighbors become upset with the odor, local authorities will be called, and harassment will ensue even though you are legally exercising your rights. It’s better not to invite trouble. Be a good neighbor and don’t draw attention to yourself.

Photographer: Jake Baum Grower: Kris “Sparky” Molskness

Growing Styles

Hydroponics, aeroponics, geoponics? Where do you start? Shopping at your local grow shop can be overwhelming for the budding cultivator. Aisle after aisle of colorful bottles of nutrients line the shelves and choosing from the hundreds of products can be daunting. If you find yourself just this shade of confused, I’d advise you to K.I.S.S, Keep It Simple Stupid. It’s easy to get carried away with all of the different products available but start with a simple growing style with easy recipes and nutrients that fit your budget. Each season, you’ll become more familiar with your equipment and can begin to branch out into new techiques and equipment. Growing can be expensive and understanding all of the input costs is crucial.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

BUGS, MOLD, and MILDEW! Everyone gets them so be aware. By the time you visually see you have an issue or outbreak the problem is already bad. Visit your local grow store or use Google to search the web and diagnose your problem. Once you have identified the issue, you can set a plan of attack in place to correct it. After you have the pest or pathogen under control, maintain a consistent schedule of treating your plants. Keeping your approach proactive versus reactive will serve your crop much better and your rate of success will be much improved. A reminder that poor environmental control can be the root cause of molds and mildews, so pay attention and manage temperature and humidity as an IPM protocol will only get you so far.

Genetics

When Colorado legalized medical cannabis, you could purchase clones from dispensaries. In those early days, I remember the feeding frenzy of strain collection. The grower community was eager to which varieties we could obtain and what their properties were. The quality of your genetics will dictate the quality of the end product. If you start with inferior genetics, you will end up with an inferior crop. So, do the research and find a reliable resource for your starting material whether it’s seeds or propagated clones.
As a side note, be very careful to vet your source plants. Many diseases and pests are passed along to growers when genetic exchanges occur. When receiving clones/plants be sure to inspect for pests and disease while following a strict IPM intake protocol for all new plants, utilizing a heavy dose of organic pesticides and fungicides.

Lighting

Lighting is a wormhole that you can get lost in while researching. Back in those early days of legalization, we only had access to metal halides and high-pressure sodium (HPS) lighting technology. Now there are hundreds of LED companies and products, not to mention many other types of lighting. Most lights will grow plants but finding the right light for your personal grow has many variables to take into consideration. First up, budget. HPS cost $300 to $500 a unit while some LED equivalents can cost up to $2000. Second is understanding your work space. One type of light may work better than another when considering low ceilings or lack of ventilation options.

Photographer: Jake Baum Grower: Kris “Sparky” Molskness

 

Resources

There is no better teacher than getting some dirt under your fingernails. Don’t be afraid to learn as you go in your garden. Successes may taste sweet, but failure brings the opportunity for deeper learning. Be sure to arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can. From print publications to online cannabis community forums, you’ll find a plethora of information—and opinions. Get to know the players and read some of the classics of modern cannabis cultivation like ‘Ed Rosenthal’s Marijuana Grower’s Handbook.’

There are thousands of YouTube videos discussing every topic you will ever need for growing. Some may be useful while others not so much. The more you learn from trusted resources, the more you’ll be able to see through flawed advice. YouTube is a great resource for sharing information, but it helps to know if the author is better at social media videos than they are growing cannabis.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ellis Smith is co-founder and Chief Development Officer of American Cannabis Company (ACC). He has more than 20 years of horticulture experience in the specialty cut flower market, operating indoor gardens which helped him understand complex growing systems. As a cannabis grower, he developed an all natural soil medium known as SoHum Living Soil® which is used by hundreds of commercial cannabis operations. As CDO of ACC, Mr. Smith is also responsible for the design and construction of more than 1 million square feet of cannabis grow space in the U.S. and Canada.

Cloning 101

Cloning, also known as propagation, is not as hard as some folks make it out to be. With healthy plants, good techniques and environmental controls you can easily create many clones with ease. There are many things that can cause clones not to root and by having a clear checklist you can prevent clone loss and improve your technique for your business success. The information discussed below is not the actual steps to physically cutting a clone but things to think about when completing the task.

First you must start with healthy plant stock. Can I repeat, “You must start with healthy plant stock”! If you have mold or plants infested with pests then you will have a very hard time reproducing healthy roots and clones. If you have good Integrated Pest Management (IPM) protocol then you will see how much easier it is to reproduce healthy strong rooted clones. Dirty mother plants are the reason for perpetual pest problems, if you start with dirty mother plants then you can guarantee dirty infested clones. Stop the madness and don’t repeat the cycle…

Secondly, please be clean as possible. You don’t need to have vacuum hoods or take a physical shower to reduce contamination. What you do need to be cognizant of is using clean tools during the workflow process. Scissors, razor blades, or whatever you use for cutting should always be wiped down to clean the surface and disinfect. This simple task gets overlooked so many times and is usually one of the relevant issues for roots not popping on a clone. Dull scissors and razors are easy to replace also so don’t be cheap and spend the few dollars to guarantee you are working with the proper tools that are sharp.

Lastly, your environmental control settings with proper temperature and humidity needs to be precise when cloning. This is where many who attempt to clone fail. Too much humidity in your clone dome can cause water droplets to fall into the center of your clone and collect water to rot out the meristem. You will see yellowing from the center outward once this happens. In contrast, not enough humidity can reduce your success rate of root development since the plant has no other way of water uptake except through its leaves. Running higher temps in the 80 to 90s is great for root production but be cautious of cooler temps as this will slow down roots from growing.

Other cloning tricks…
-Use a heating pad for higher success rate.
-Turkey basters work great to help water your clones while in clone domes.
-Don’t be afraid to cut the leaf tips to allow for more area for water uptake while roots are forming.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ellis Smith is co-founder and Chief Development Officer of American Cannabis Company (ACC). He has more than 20 years of horticulture experience in the specialty cut flower market, operating indoor gardens which helped him understand complex growing systems. As a cannabis grower, he developed an all natural soil medium known as SoHum Living Soil® which is used by hundreds of commercial cannabis operations. As CDO of ACC, Mr. Smith is also responsible for the design and construction of more than 1 million square feet of cannabis grow space in the U.S. and Canada.

Trellising and Staking Cannabis Plants for Support

Cannabis plants can grow very tall and most likely will require you to give them some sort of support to keep from falling over causing irreversible damage to the plant. This support is crucial to ensure the crop can be systematically grown to its’ full potential until your desired harvest date. There are several methods that can be used to ensure the safety of your plants. Depending on the plant’s growth stage will determine the best time to set up a trellis or scrog (acronym for Screen of Green), use stakes, tomato cages or whatever else you have available that can support the plant. I have even seen growers place thumbtacks in the ceiling and tie strings to buds to provide support…so don’t be afraid to get creative with your plant management tactics.

My preferred method of growing requires that I set up trellising during the 2nd week of the flower stage. Due to the size plants, I am growing I will not need to support them until this stage. I usually see extreme growth early in flowering and wait until that growth slows before setting up the trellis/scrog. I personally prefer using trellising versus other methods of support as it is easier to install and work within indoor settings. Trellising provides more flexibility when rearranging the plant canopy, allowing more freedom when spreading out the canopy in ways that other support systems limit you. I also like how easily I can super crop tall stems under the trellis to ensure they hold in place due to the trellis to provide a higher flower count. See Pruning & Training Cannabis Plants for Maximum Production for details on this yield enhancement method.

Stakes are effective and can serve a great role in supporting plants however there are a few drawbacks when using them to scale into large facilities. The first concern is contamination as they must be cleaned and sterilized after each use to prevent any kind of cross-contamination on the next plants that will use them. The second concern in using stakes is a safety issue as stakes can puncture an eye very easily. In smaller grows and home grows I have learned over many times into the canopy only to catch a stake in the cheek or face narrowly missing my eye.

Tomato cages are a great support system as well and can be highly effective when used properly for plants grown outdoors. Once again, your plant’s size will determine when to start supporting. My preferred method for indoor grows start during the flower phase but when growing larger plants outdoors I start using tomato cages earlier in the vegetative stage, so I can support them plant against wind damage.

Supporting plants with trellis, tomato cages, stakes or whatever you use can bring great improvement in yields when applied properly. I have seen yield increases by up to 30% simply by just rearranging the canopy to maximize light exposure to the plant’s grow points. This is one of many methods you can use to increase productivity from your crop. Treat your plants like a bonsai tree and learn what it requires when trellising, staking or caging for maximum production.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ellis Smith is co-founder and Chief Development Officer of American Cannabis Company (ACC). He has more than 20 years of horticulture experience in the specialty cut flower market, operating indoor gardens which helped him understand complex growing systems. As a cannabis grower, he developed an all natural soil medium known as SoHum Living Soil® which is used by hundreds of commercial cannabis operations. As CDO of ACC, Mr. Smith is also responsible for the design and construction of more than 1 million square feet of cannabis grow space in the U.S. and Canada.

When to Harvest 101

HARVEST….It’s the time you have been waiting for! In preparation for your big day, you will want to be sure to flush your plants with water only for at least 7 days prior to harvest
to ensure the removal of any salt build up and remaining nutrients from the soil to reduce
the harsh sensation that may be experienced when smoking finished product. Ideally, by
the time of harvest, your plants will be yellowing, further aiding in the reduction of any harsh
flavor. Remember, flower will burn to white ash as an indicator that your plants have been
properly flushed. Please note that if you are using living soil as your selected medium,
you will not experience any salt build-up and therefore will have no need to flush your
plants.

Knowing when to harvest your cannabis does not need to be scary or overwhelming. As
a grower, you have just spent the last 90 to 120 days taking care of clones or seedlings
to create strong roots, vegging your plants to perfection and finally, flowering your plants
for peak performance. So, when is the right time to harvest? There is no definitive answer
as everyone has their own metrics and ideal characteristics for determining the best time
for harvesting plants. The technique that I have developed through years of experience,
is a combination of trial and error and the knowledge that has been bestowed upon me
by masters of the craft.

Please utilize the following information as a basic guideline for monitoring your plant’s
trichomes as you experiment to find what works best for your desired preference of your
end-product. Trichomes (traɪkoʊmz or trɪkoʊmz), from the Greek τρίχωμα (trichōma) meaning “hair”,
are fine outgrowths or appendages on plants, algae, lichens, and certain protists that are
of diverse structure and function. On the cannabis plant, they are the source of the
cannabinoids, the molecular chemical compounds such as THC, CBD, CBG, and CBC
among others. In the final flowering stage trichomes appear clear like a
crystal.

Step 1. Examine the trichomes, using a magnifying glass or scope for an enhanced view,
to observe closely enough to allow you to see the full spectrum of color contained within.

Step 2. Through your magnified observations, trichomes should ideally appear as either
clear, milky or cloudy in color, indicating that the plant is ripe and is ready to harvest. By
contrast, clear color is a sign that trichomes are not yet ripe and are not ready for harvest.
An amber color means the trichrome is naturally converting to CBN, which provides for a
calming relaxing effect.

Step 3. Everyone has a different ideal trichome ratio, however, I look for at least 75%
milky trichomes with roughly 5% to 10% turning amber in color, and the remaining
trichomes being clear. Depending on the desired end effect when consumed, you can let
the trichome ratio go up or down on the amber scale to give you a more relaxed experience with more amber trichomes versus a less relaxed experienced with fewer
amber trichomes.

The white and/or red hairs, known as pistils, on the flowers are another vital indicator to
identify when harvesting. These hairs will appear as white throughout most of the flower
cycle, turning either yellow, orange and then finally red as the plant begins to mature.
Most experienced growers will harvest at the plants’ peak potency when the hairs have
turned 70% to 80% red. For new growers who are not sure when to harvest, wait for at
least 50% of the hairs to turn red before harvesting. This will give you enough
understanding of how to improve your process for the next harvest by adjusting the
ratios for your desired results from the effects, taste, and experience.

Harvesting plants can be the most exciting time for a grower. Ensuring you harvest plants
at their peak potency can be a calculated process with minimal trial and error. Get to know
each strain and the unique characteristics and nuances that make each one unique and
learn when the best time is to harvest for peak yield, cannabinoid profile, terpene
expression, and overall performance.

Stay tuned for “How to Harvest” and “How to Cure”.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ellis Smith is co-founder and Chief Development Officer of American Cannabis Company (ACC). He has more than 20 years of horticulture experience in the specialty cut flower market, operating indoor gardens which helped him understand complex growing systems. As a cannabis grower, he developed an all natural soil medium known as SoHum Living Soil® which is used by hundreds of commercial cannabis operations. As CDO of ACC, Mr. Smith is also responsible for the design and construction of more than 1 million square feet of cannabis grow space in the U.S. and Canada.

Get to Know Super Soil

Super Soil?

What makes super soil “super?” The term “super” is a connotation given to potting soil that maintains and delivers all the necessary amendments to the plant, at exactly the right time during its growth cycle and without the need to manage pH or add extra nutrients. The Term “Super Soil” was coined by an organic farmer known as Subcool to describe a super soil recipe designed to help simplify the growing process while still maintaining quality control. Subcool is a published author and an award winning grower with over 30 years of agricultural and horticulture experience.

Low-Maintenance Organics, really?

Super soil was developed around the theory that a properly balanced, nutrient-rich soil would never have a pH or nutrient imbalance. A Super soil potting mix like SoHum Living Soils™ eliminate the experimentation needed to achieve these proper levels, thereby freeing up time without risk of human error. All you must do is ADD WATER!

Organic Pottin mix Soil

Why should I switch to a Super Soil?

It’s hard to argue with quality, especially when it comes at a lower cost. When using super soils, plant quality remains high while still maintaining consistency. Whether you are gardening peppers, tomatoes or cucumbers, you will see the same fantastic taste and smell across the board.

In terms of cost, consider all the different nutrients you would spend money on to facilitate plant growth at each stage of development. When comparing two plants growing in 5-gallon pots under a 1000W double ended bulb, with one pot containing super soil and the other pot comprised of a soil base and nutrient additives, you are looking at 4x less in cost.

To answer this question, point blank, super soil will save you time and money while highest quality product.

How can I obtain Super Soil?

I’m sure you have already googled recipes at this point to find the best super soil potting mix. SoHum Living Soils™ takes care of the hard part for you and packages it up so you can make your garden grow. This super soil was designed in Southern Humboldt County, California and perfected in Denver, Colorado. We make this super soil potting mix by hand, with premium organic amendments. Stop by our office in person or visit our shop at sohumsoils.com.