What Patients Need to Start a Spring Medical Cannabis Grow
It’s almost that time of the year again. The snow is gone and spring weed fever is everywhere! Time to get a start on your spring medical cannabis grow!
The first thing anyone should think about before growing is the legalities of the grow. Here in Illinois, any medical patient with a medical cannabis card can grow five plants over 5 inches. If you need help obtaining your medical card, our friends over at Compassionate Clinics of America can help you get your medical card with a 10-minute telemedicine visit. Although there is a list of conditions you need to have to get your card, back pain is something many of us have that often qualifies you for a card, in addition to many other qualifying conditions.
If you plan to grow outside, I suggest that you contact your local authorities and ask them if your area is considered legal to grow. Illinois law states that your grow has to be in an enclosed and in a locked environment, out of public view. Some towns are okay with it being hidden behind a row of bushes in your yard, some require a fence with a lock, others are fine with a 4’ chain link fence, while others demand a 6’ wooden fence with a padlock. There is a lot to the interpretation of the law that is left to local law enforcement. Many of my grow class students have reached out to their cities and towns for guidance, and everyone so far has had a positive response.
The next thing you need is good genetics. These days, every grow store in Illinois sells seeds. My favorite “local” breeder is Mosca Seeds. There are many great breeders but be careful of sending money to anyone you meet online. We have heard so many stories of friends, customers, and students getting ripped off. If you’re not sure about a seed breeder, call your local grow store and ask them if they know of the breeder. Here at Aroma Grow Store, we are happy to help you out and share any information that we have with the community.
For outdoor grows you don’t need to purchase the equipment that you need for an indoor grow. Although you can grow in the existing soil, you will get a much better yield by growing in large fabric pots. As a general rule of thumb: the bigger the pot the larger the plant. The size of the area that you have available will depend on the size of a pot that you grow in. A 5-gallon pot is the minimum I would suggest, although 200 gallons is much better. The pots are very minimal in cost, ranging between $4 and $30 depending on size.
The soil will be a bigger expense, but it’s imperative that you use good soil if you want a good grow. There are a lot of great soils on the market. Some of my favorite soils are Coast of Maine, Nectar For The Gods, Bio Biz, Foxfarm, and Mother Earth. There are many other great soils that you will find at a grow store near you. I always suggest buying your soils from a grow store where they are kept indoors, versus a garden center where they are kept outdoors. Outdoor soils are more prone to having insect larva. Whatever you do, you want to stay away from products like miracle grow. A slow-release fertilizer like Miracle Grow will make your cannabis taste horrible. For me, flavor and effect are equally important attributes in my medicine.
Your next decision will be whether you are going to use nutrients or amendments. Some of my favorite nutrient lines are Lotus, Nectar For The Gods, Emerald Harvest, House and Garden, Earth Juice, and Humboldt‘s Finest. We carry all these lines and more at Aroma Grow Store. If you choose a nutrient line, the Grow Store where you purchased will set you up with a feed chart and explain exactly how to use the line. If you decide to go with amendments, you will have to decide what you’ll feed your plants. Amendments include alfalfa meal, bat guano, blood meal, fish emulsion, bonemeal, crab meal, humic acid, kelp meal, and so much more.
Whether using a nutrient line or amendments, the goal is to give your plant the correct amount of NPK that it needs at any given moment. NPK stands for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash which are the main nutrients that your plant needs. The needs of your plant will be different as it goes from the vegetative stage into the flowering stage later in the growing cycle. Calcium and magnesium are essential for plant development, but your plant also needs micronutrients which include sulfur, molybdenum, manganese, boron, zinc, copper, and iron. Other trace minerals thought to be essential include cobalt, silicon, chlorine, and selenium. Not all sources agree on their inclusion in the essential group, though they are important to support all plant life.
If you had a grow last year and you are reusing your soil, you will need to add fresh amendments because your soil gets depleted as your plant takes what it needs from the soil. Azomite is a great product for adding in natural trace minerals that your plant needs.
If you have the space, we suggest starting your seeds indoors around the beginning of April here in the Chicago area. You can start your seeds in a number of ways. My favorite way is soaking the seeds for 24 hours in water with a little bit of Fulvic acid. I use a product by Nectar For The Gods called Zeus Juice. Fulvic acid breaks down the outer shell of the seed turning it into an enzyme called Amylase, which then turns into a carbohydrate, and then into a sugar, and it feeds the seed.
I use Coast of Maine Organic Seed Starter and mix it up in a container with water and some beneficial bacteria to give some life to the soil. Make sure to not mix the soil too wet, as you want to lightly fill a small pot. Poke a hole with your finger or a pen, about a half-inch deep in the center of the pot, and drop in your seed. Put your well-draining small pots in a 10″ x 20″ tray with a dome over it to keep in the humidity, or get creative and make your own dome out of a clear plastic container.
Somewhere between 3 and 21 days, your seed should pop through the soil. Keep it under a dome for anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks to keep the plants under high humidity, which should be anywhere from 80% to 85%. It may be necessary to squirt the inside of the dome with water as needed to keep humidity high, and always pH balance your water. When you finally go to remove the dome, watch the plant for the first half-hour. If your plant lays down or starts to shrivel up, put the dome back on, mist the dome with water, and leave it closed for a few more days before you try to open it again. There is a great product by Clonex, called Clonex Mist, which is excellent for misting down your baby plants and keeping them healthy with a small amount of NPK.
In approximately 4 – 6 weeks, your plants should be ready to be re-potted. If you time it right, you can transplant them straight from the small pot into your yard. Remember, here in Illinois, you should wait until about the second week of May to plant outdoors in order to make sure we are past the hail season, minimizing the chance of hail or frost.
My favorite beneficial bacteria is a product called Fishsh!t. Fishshit has over 4,600 life forms that go into the soil which anaerobically digests the nutrients, making them bioavailable to the plant quicker. There are lots of great beneficial bacteria on the market, including Cultured Biologix Teas, Armory, Azos, Recharge, King Crab, and Photosynthesis Plus. Beneficial bacteria helps bring out the terpenes, makes your plants smell better, taste better, and yield a higher amount of medicine.
Most people think that the THC content equals the strength of the medicine. The truth is that there is an entourage effect between the terpenes, THC, and other cannabinoids, making them work together as a team. This entourage effect determines the total strength of your cannabis.
Another favorite thing of mine is Mycorrhiza, a beneficial mold that you add to your root zone. It attaches itself to the roots and grows up to 40 times as large as the roots. This mimics the root system, bringing more nutrients into the plant.
If you are new to growing, remember to make your area easy on yourself. A raised garden or a large planter is best so you don’t have to get down on your knees. Having a water source close to your garden area is best. Remember if you’re going to grow in a larger planter, like 150 gallons, you may be watering upwards of 20 gallons of water every couple of days. Water weighs 8 lbs per gallon so moving 20 gallons of water across a yard can be a bit of a chore. Make it as easy as you can.
You will need some kind of support system for your plants as they get larger. I like using a trellis system or trellis nets, large bamboo poles, or a custom-built trellis system works great.
You will want to monitor and adjust the pH of your water. pH is the measurement of acidity or alkalinity within your water source. When growing in soil, I suggest a pH value of 6.3, unless you’re using Nectar For The Gods which calls for a higher pH of 6.5 – 6.8. To achieve this, the easiest way is by using a pH meter or pH pen. pH pens start at around $28 for a Milwaukee brand pen.
My favorite is a Blue Lab multimeter where I can check the pH of my nutrient solution and also the pH of my soil. This tells me what is going on in the root system. A multimeter like that lists for about $280 in our store, and we can usually offer 20% off on that multimeter (all you gotta do is ask!). Meters need to be calibrated using a reference solution, and you will also need some pH up and pH down for adjusting the pH of your nutrient solution. Your local grow store will teach you all you need to know about how to adjust the pH of your nutrient solution.
You should also have a pest management program in place. There are many pests that love cannabis plants, including whiteflies, thrips, spider mites, and many other nasty little creatures that can decimate your grow quickly. There are lots of great products on the market.
I suggest that you stick with organic pesticides and fungicides since it’s best not to put any synthetic insecticide poisons on your medicine. A few of my favorites are “Environmental Protection Plus” which is made from citric acid and the products made by Sierra natural science like SNS209 which is rosemary oil that gets taken up by the plant and makes it smell unattractive to insects. These products will not harm your plant and they will leave no taste or smell for the consumer. When growing in Illinois, I also keep some B.T. on hand. B.T. stands for Bacillus thuringiensis, which will rid your plant of caterpillars and fungus gnat larvae which are definite nuisances here in Illinois.
For an indoor grow, everything is the same except that you need a good light source, fans, and either a grow tent or a dedicated area in a room to grow in. You also will need to be able to control the temperature and humidity within your grow space. This may mean having a humidifier, dehumidifier, air conditioner, and/or heater. Most people also prefer a carbon filter to help with smell and cleans the air of molds and other toxins.
If you are going to grow indoors, you will want to use a full-spectrum LED light. There are many great lights on the market, I suggest our own house brand: Aroma Grow Lighting. Recent science has discovered that the green spectrum, once thought useless to the plant, is actually very helpful. The green photons grab onto the red and blue photons and carry them deeper into the plant’s structure. Blue light helps the plants grow and is needed more in the vegetative stage, and red light helps the plant bloom and is needed more during the flowering stage.
A really great beginner’s light is our 320 Watt, 4-bar light. This light will easily produce a pound and a quarter of medicine or more and is reasonably priced at $299. We also carry smaller budget-friendly lights, as well as much larger professional lights. We will be displaying all of our lights at Cannifest Chicago coming up on April 9-10th at the Ravenswood event center in Chicago, tickets are available at Cannifest.com. If you are even thinking about growing, you should be there!
For much more in-depth free instructions, check out my FREE Grow class videos. You can find a link through our website at aromagrowstore.com. Use code TCC to save 10%*
I am always available at one of our stores to help you successfully grow your own medicine. Our classes are also available live and in person at our Wheeling, Illinois location. For more information contact either of our stores, Niles 224-567-8558 or Wheeling 847-947-2857.
Peace, pot, and frisbees,
Your growmie, Brian Marks