Looking to grow your own cannabis? Fertilizing and knowing when to plant is key

You don’t necessarily have to have a green thumb in order to grow up to three to six personal use cannabis plants. However, if you’re new to growing and to cannabis, there are a few important steps to keep in mind before starting.

Sonoma West Publishers sat down with Mitcho Thompson, a certified organic grower, to discuss the steps of growing your own cannabis outdoors.

Step 1: Take a closer look at your local city ordinance

“Outside is easier. People spend a lot of money on indoor growing equipment when it’s actually quite difficult,” Thompson said. “People should check with their city, sometimes the city ordinances can have some issues like it has to be indoors, but most of the places in Sonoma County you can grow outside, at least three plants.”

Sonoma, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Healdsburg and Windsor have banned personal outdoor cultivation. Santa Rosa allows up to two plants outdoors. In Sebastopol you can grow outdoors and indoors, and in a greenhouse according to Shivawn Brady, who works at Justice Grown and is a member of the board of directors with the Sonoma County Growers Alliance.

She said the city of Cloverdale also allows for outdoor personal cultivation.

“Each city has their own ordinance, so depending on where you are in the county, for instance the city of Sonoma, that’s going to look very different,” Brady said.

Step 2: Determine which strain you want to grow

In regards to this step, Thompson said the most important thing to know is that there is a big difference if your starting with seeds versus clones.

“You can start your own plants from seeds but you get all kinds of things, just like getting a bunch of different puppies from the same two parents, you’re going to get all kinds of maybe wonderful plants and some maybe that aren’t so wonderful,” he said.

Thompson added that the real issue with starting with seeds is that you have the possibility of getting male plants.

“You only want the female plants. The male plant really isn’t used that much in the industry,” Thompson said.

He said if you have seeds, then you should put them in the ground by early summer, however, most people go with clones, a replica or a cutting of a mother plant.

Brady said clones can range in price from anywhere between $14 and $21, but often the excise tax is not included in the retail price.

There are several different types of cannabis, however the main two types are sativa and indica.

Sativa is a subtropical variety that can have a lot of CBD and THC, whereas indica is shorter in size and has higher amounts of THC and according to Thompson, can often make the user sleepy.

Thompson said sativa provides more of an “up” while indica provides more of a “down.”

“People generally have a sense once they start using cannabis what they like and what they are using it for. If you’re growing your own cannabis to help sleep then your going to want indica and if your growing your cannabis for more recreational reasons or for anxiety reasons then you want sativa,” he said.

If you want it for an anti-inflammatory or pain relief, then picking a strain that is strong in CBD is a good idea.

“You can get strains at dispensaries that are really rich in CBD,” he said.

THC on the other hand has a stronger high, which Thompson said could be useful for people suffering from things like PTSD.

Step 3: Plant in a three to four inch pot or gallon pot

“It is a good idea to put them in a one-gallon pot, but don’t disturb the root system and then you can put them into your prepared spot,” he said.

Brady said this is an important step to start out in a pot and then later transplant it into the ground so any transplant stress on the plant occurs more gradually.

“Start in a four of five inch pot and typically you’re not staying in there for more than two to three weeks,” Brady said.

She noted that the quicker the plant is growing, the quicker it will need to be transplanted to a bigger pot or in the ground.

“You’ll have a healthier root zone if you transplant at the right time,” Brady said.

Step 4: Transplant It

Thompson advises to get the plants in the ground before Mother’s Day.

When preparing the transplant spot, it is a good idea to add some organic compost into the space, however, he warned not to overdo it.

Step 5: Keep up on maintenance

So what about maintenance like watering and dealing with pests?

Thompson explained that there isn’t a lot concern with pests as it can be more common to get bugs like aphids indoors since there are no “checks and balances that have all of the other good bugs.”

He said if the leaves start to get yellow while outside then pick off the leaves and keep the branches thinned out a little to allow for good airflow.

And in terms of watering, “The more water you give them the more they will grow, they’re the second-fastest growing plant,” he said. The fastest growing plant in the world is bamboo, with a growth rate of 35 inches per day according to Guinness World Records.

For sun exposure if your growing for THC, you want full sun and if you are growing for CBD you want partial shade.

Cannabis is an annual plant, meaning it completes its life cycle within one growing season and dies, so growth time is about six months.

“They go from a teensy seed to this 15 foot plant in about six months, Thompson said.

According to Thompson when the days become shorter than the nights that’s when the plant growth kicks into high gear.

He said the best time for getting the most out of plant is fertilizing.

Step 6: Harvest

Harvest time can happen any time between September and October.

“The longer you wait the more you get, but you have to watch your plants, you don’t want to wait too long,” he said.

He said you can use the whole plant for CBD — you can cut up leaves, buds or stems and use it in tinctures or oils.

“The reality is you don’t need that much to make enough medicine for your family for a year,” he said.

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