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Bay Area Cannasseur: Save green by growing a ganja garden

by Sari Staver

Cannabis can easily be grown in Bay Area backyards.<br>Photo by Sari Staver.
Cannabis can easily be grown in Bay Area backyards.
Photo by Sari Staver.  

Interested in stretching you cannabis budget? Read on.

You might be surprised how simple, easy, and inexpensive it is to start an outdoor cannabis garden at home. And it is really fun, at least it has been for me in the decade I've had a garden in my south-facing backyard in San Francisco.

The timing is perfect right now, because in the Bay Area the optimal time to get clones (small cuttings) started in pots outdoors is mid-May through mid-June, said Erich Pearson, a co-founder of San Francisco's SPARC dispensary. Pearson, also a member of the city's cannabis legalization task force, has been growing cannabis in northern California since he moved here two decades ago.

And, oh, in case you're wondering, it's all perfectly legal, assuming you have obtained a physician's approval identifying you as a "patient" who uses cannabis to treat a medical condition. Depending on what county you live in, you can check the regulations about how many plants and/or how much space you're allowed to devote to your garden at the California NORML website, http://canorml.org.

Because of space constraints, this column will only focus on planting clones outdoors. There are many books written about gardening indoors (which is more complicated and expensive) as well as gardening outdoors with seeds (which should be started earlier in the year).

For under $100, you can grow at least a couple of plants, which will be ready to harvest before Thanksgiving. With a little luck, you'll have holiday gifts for all your stoner friends (a list that will grow when acquaintances learn you are gardening), as well as plenty for yourself to enjoy and share until next year's growing season. If you're slightly ambitious, you can make homemade hashish as well as edibles.

I'm no expert but I've had quite a bit of luck over the years, using clones from random sources, a soil mix specially made for cannabis and sold at Flowercraft Garden Company (550 Bayshore Boulevard or http://www.flowercraftgc.com, and a moderate amount of attention to watering and nutrients. Like everyone I know, I've had occasional insect infestations, which seem to disappear quickly with simple treatments.

Last summer, I had a 16-foot Blue Dream plant in my yard, which I like to think was a result of my increasing knowledge about how to carefully tend to the needs of my "girls." But it was probably random.

So, where to begin? If you have a deck or yard that gets some sun, it's worth trying to plant a garden, said Pearson, who is currently growing both indoors and outdoors to supply his two San Francisco-based dispensaries.

Once you've located that sunny spot, the next step is finding strains of clones that you want to grow. If you've been buying cannabis at a dispensary for some time, you've probably found some favorite strains, or you might want to just experiment with whatever clones you find for sale.

A cannabis plant grows in a backyard garden in San Francisco. Photo by Sari Staver.

Unfortunately, for those living in the city, none of the dispensaries here are selling clones right now, at least according to the two-dozen places I called. Pearson says selling clones is "a difficult business and a lot of work," given the city's regulation limiting a dispensary to having no more than 99 plants on site at any time.

Regulations in Alameda County are more flexible, making it feasible for many dispensaries to stock the plants. The regulations may change in 2018, when new rules will govern both the medical and recreational sales of cannabis, including plants, Pearson noted.

In Oakland, you can find clones at one of my all-time favorite dispensaries, Magnolia Wellness, 161 Adeline Street (http://www.magnoliawellness.org) Magnolia's Executive Director Debby Goldsberry is an award-winning activist and the author of the upcoming "Idiot's Guides: Starting and Running a Marijuana Business," to be published in June and now available at https://www.amazon.com/Idiots-Guides-Starting-Marijuana-Business/dp/1465462066.

Goldsberry runs a tight ship, having several months ago returned Magnolia's entire stock of clones and changing suppliers when staff discovered an insect infestation. At press time, the dispensary had 10 varieties available, priced from $10-14 each.

She is emphatic about the importance of supplying clones to Magnolia's members.

"It's empowering to take charge of your own medicine. We have many people who want to grow their own and know how it was handled, start to finish," said Goldsberry.

To support members who want to garden, Magnolia offers free classes on gardening. (Check its website for dates and times.)

Another good source for clones is Harborside Health Center (https://www.shopharborside.com/) with locations in Oakland and San Jose. I've had excellent luck in the past shopping at their Oakland location, which has a separate room dedicated to clones. According to Harborside's website, at press time the dispensary had 12 varieties for sale, priced from $14-30.

If you do go to Harborside, the largest dispensary in the Bay Area, within a block is Oakland Garden Supply (1035 22nd Avenue or https://www.oaklandgardensupply.com/), one of the few, or perhaps only, garden supply stores that specializes in supplies for growing cannabis. Owner Jesse Porter, who has been growing cannabis for over a decade, points out that the store is open seven days a week and the staff is happy to spend time with customers, offering advice about growing.

In Marin, the Sausalito-based collective Caregiver Compassion Group will sell and deliver clones to patients who are members, according to co-president Berta Bollinger, who can be reached at (415) 289-1111.

If travelling across the bridge or to the South Bay to get plants is just too much trouble, check Craigslist by searching for "clones" for sale. Most who advertise are NOT in the city and some require a minimum purchase, but if you're persistent, I'm sure you can talk someone into making a deal with you.

Once you get the clones home, I like to start mine in a small clay container, repot to a larger size as needed, and ideally, if you have a garden or yard, get them into the ground when they reach adolescence.

"Cannabis is relatively easy to grow," said SPARC's Pearson. "Be sure to get a good rich soil, preferable organic. That will be the key to a good crop."

Bay Area Cannasseur runs the first Thursday of the month. To send column ideas or tips, email Sari Staver at sari@bayareacannasseur.com.

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