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For many Nova Scotians, the long-awaited legalization date has finally arrived and they will now try their hand at growing cannabis.
But before rushing off to the NSLC to buy seeds and the garden centre to pick up growing supplies, there are a few things to keep in mind. Only legal adults are permitted to grow cannabis and there are limits to the amount of cannabis you can grow.
Each household is allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants for personal use, but if you’re renting a house or apartment, check with your landlord to see whether your lease allows you to grow cannabis.
The more useful of the sexes
Dr. Av Singh of Flemming and Singh Cannabis, says that new growers should understand it is the unfertilized female flowers you want to grow and harvest. There are male and female cannabis plants but only the female plants produce the buds prized by cannabis users.
If growing from seed, you’ll end up with about 50 per cent male and 50 per cent female plants. The plants look the same as they grow, and it’s only when they switch from vegetative growth to flowering that you can tell whether they are male or female. Male plants are typically tossed out as they do not produce buds.
To be more efficient, Singh says that growers can buy feminized seeds, which are guaranteed to produce female plants. Another way to ensure female plants is to buy clones, cuttings taken from female plants. Cannabis seeds take three to seven days to germinate. After about a month of vegetative growth, the plants are encouraged to switch to flowering. Flowers form around two months later with the entire process of seed to harvest taking about four months.
Home growers will be happy to learn cannabis isn’t overly difficult to grow, but it does need the right mixture of light, water, and nutrients to produce a healthy crop of buds. When picking a site for your cannabis plants, look for a space away from children and pets.
Light and airy, or down and dirty?
There are two main ways to grow cannabis: In soil or hydroponically. Hydroponics is a soil-less method that uses water and dissolved fertilizers to grow plants. New growers often start by growing in soil because it requires less fussing than hydroponics.
“A nice starting mix contains peat, coconut coir, perlite, and some worm castings,” says Singh, noting organic amendments like bone meal, kelp meal, and alfalfa meal can also be added to the container. Choose pots that have drainage holes because well-drained soil is necessary for healthy growth.
If you decide to try hydroponic growing, do a bit of research before you invest in the equipment. There are many systems which range from small and simple to quite complex. Hydroponic growing allows quicker nutrient uptake, faster growth, and a larger harvest, but you’ll need to keep a close eye on the plants, making adjustments as necessary.
Some growers opt to grow cannabis in grow tents or grow rooms. Singh says these areas can be designed to house four plants and set up with a fan for air circulation, an LED light for photosynthesis, vents to remove humidity, and an air filter to reduce odours.
Proper lighting is essential for growing healthy cannabis plants, but it’s also necessary for the formation of buds.
“Most cannabis strains are photoperiod sensitive and require 18 hours of light during vegetative growth and twelve hours of light to initiate flowering,” says Singh. “Therefore, indoor cannabis growing requires supplemental light.”
You’ll find a wide range of grow lights available at garden supply stores, as well as timers to turn the lights on and off each day.
It’s also important to maintain a warm temperature for cannabis plants. Singh says cannabis grows best with daytime temperatures of 26C and nighttime temperatures of 22C. Plus, you’ll need to consider what to do about excessive humidity.
“Cannabis requires plenty of water to help move nutrients through the plant, and therefore transpires a lot of water,” he says. “That’s a lot of humidity for a home and to prevent mold and mildews, proper dehumidification and ventilation is a must.”
Right snip, right time
Smart pruning can increase the harvest. Singh advises pinching off the top of the seedlings to encourage a well-branched candelabra shape rather than a Christmas tree shape. This will result in more flowers, as will proper fertilizing. Cannabis is a heavy feeder and regular fertilizing will boost yield.
Like any indoor plant, pests can be a problem. Singh advises growers keep an eye out for common pests.
“Using beneficial insects is a great way to manage pests like aphids, whiteflies, thrips, spider mites, and fungus gnats,” says Singh.
Niki Jabbour is a columnist for The Chronicle Herald in Halifax, N.S., a radio host and the best-selling author of three gardening books, including Veggie Garden Remix. Find her on social media and at SavvyGardening.com.