By Joshua Burman Thayer | Photos by Rachel Stanich
Each summer brings an opportunity to grow your own cannabis. Here is my journey from 2021, when I was able to grow two pounds of organic cannabis in one 8-x 4-foot raised bed.
To grow the best cannabis, you want sinsemilla, which means “seed free” in Latin. You also need to decide if you want to grow from seeds or clones (vegetative cuttings).
Starting From Seeds
If you wish to start from seeds, you will need to sprout them in February so they can grow large enough to plant in June. Here’s a good guide to starting seeds: cocoforcannabis.com/how-to-grow-cannabis-seedlings-in-coco-coir
You will also need to determine the sex of the seed starts to be sure all your cannabis is female. Here’s a site that tells how: homesteadandchill.com/sexing-cannabis-plants-male-vs-female
Starting From Clones
In mid-April, I purchased eight clones from an Oakland dispensary. I put them in my garage under a Vivosun grow light and left them there until June 1.
Materials you will need for planting, harvesting, and curing:
- 1 bag worm castings
- 8 bags O.M.R.I. rated planting mix
- 1 kiddie pool or similarly large tub
- 1 gallon calcium/magnesium organic fertilizer
- 1 gallon kelp meal
- 1 jar molasses
- Culinary herbs like mint, thyme, oregano, parsley, strawberries in 4-inch pots (optional)
- 100 3-foot-long stakes
- 1 roll green gardener’s tape
- Doctor Bronner’s peppermint soap
- Floral snips
- Mason jars or turkey oven bags
Planting: On June 1 or thereabouts, spread the planting mix evenly over your plot or raised bed. Dig holes two feet apart, one for each of your clones. Scatter worm castings into the bottoms of the holes and place the plants in the ground, filling around them with planting mix.
Nutrition: Water your plants two or three times per week. The day before each watering, fill the kiddie pool with 5 gallons of water and leave it exposed to the air overnight to let the water dechlorinate. The next day, mix the dechlorinated water with the following nutrients to make a rich tea for the plants.
In June, mix 5 gallons water with 2 cups kelp meal, 2 cups worm castings, and 1 cup calcium/magnesium.
In July and August, mix 5 gallons water with 2 cups worm castings, and 1 cup calcium/magnesium.
In September, mix 5 gallons water with 2 cups molasses.
I like to water twice with nutrients for each one time I water with plain water. Wait a day between each watering to allow plants to drink up the moisture.
Herbs under herb: My happiest cannabis patches have had a ground cover of aromatic culinary herbs growing below them. The herbs can help in many ways: Their leaves shade the cannabis roots from the drying sun, their flowers attract pollinators and beneficial bugs, and their aromas dissuade pests.
Staking: By early-July, you’ll need to stake and train the cannabis stalks. One reason is for support, since the plants will be very flexible as they are bursting with green growth (before the June 21 summer solstice). By late July, the plants become brittle as they are flowering.
Training your cannabis with stakes lets you open up the leafy center of each plant to admit more light to places that will then be able to develop buds. Tip the branches to 45° and set a 3-foot stake at a 45° angle, then tie with green gardener’s tape. Make it nice and snug. Each of my cannabis plants had between 12 and 18 branches and each branch received a stake.
Pruning: By late-July, you’ll want to prune away the leaves from the center and bottom two feet of the plant. This helps the plant receive light and air that help it stay healthy.
Foliar spray: From late-July to late-August, I like to use a peppermint soap spray on the foliage to help reduce growth of powdery mildew, which is your plants’ main threat. Mix 1 teaspoon of Dr Bronner’s Peppermint Soap with water in a 750mL spray bottle. Spray the upper and lower sides of the leaves at dusk after there is no longer any danger of sunlight hitting them.
Harvesting and Curing: I go against the grain on harvest date. For me, the main priority is clean, mildew- and mold-free medicine that my family can utilize all year long. I harvest right around the second week of September before the autumn dew point increases and brings evening moisture that can cause fungal growth.
It’s best to harvest at night so the sun does not stress the branches. Cut the branches into 3-foot lengths, trim off the largest leaves (called sun or fan leaves) and hang the branches in a garage or indoor space with a fan in the room to keep the air moving. Cure them this way for three to five days. The smaller branches are ready to trim off the main branch when the skinny parts bend before breaking.
Around day five, snip off the buds into a paper bag, where they will sit for two or three days until they become tacky hard. At this point, you may trim off any excess leaf with floral snips. Keep the trimmed-off pieces for baking into brownies.
A week later, the buds are ready for final trimming. Snip away any non-crystally pieces and shape each bud into a nice round shape. All the trimmings can get added to your baking supplies.
Once the cannabis has been trimmed, you need to cure it to activate the cannabinoids. Move buds into a mason jar with an airtight lid or into turkey oven bags tied closed with a knot. (I prefer the bags for the way they hold in the aromas and help the cannabis age into tasty smokable medicine.) During the first two weeks that the buds are in this airtight environment, it’s important to open the jar or bag every 24 hours to release any accumulation of moisture. After two weeks in the jar or bag, your cannabis will be ready to enjoy. I like to bake with it and find a micro dose that helps my body relax after days of plant ranching. Enjoy!
Want to learn more? Joshua offers community and home-scale food forest design! Visit his design website:
nativesungardens.com | 510.332.2809