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Bay Area Cannasseur: A cannabis garden: The best bud for your buck

by Sari Staver

A variety of products can help your outdoor cannabis plants thrive. Photo: Sari Staver
A variety of products can help your outdoor cannabis plants thrive. Photo: Sari Staver  

Thanks to new laws and regulations legalizing cannabis, it's easier than ever to grow your own, still the best bud for your buck in San Francisco.

According to state Proposition 64, which legalized the adult recreational use of cannabis, and local regulations implementing the law, people over age 21 can "plant, harvest, dry, and process" up to six cannabis plants in their private residence or on the grounds of your home, said Nicole Elliot, director of San Francisco's Office of Cannabis.

In an email to the Bay Area Reporter, Elliot pointed out that people cultivating in their private residences "are still subject to state law, meaning they need to grow in an area that is not visible to the public" and is secure.

For less than $100, you should be able to grow six plants. If you get them into the dirt this month, by Thanksgiving you should be able to harvest enough fresh flowers to make holiday shopping a thing of the past.

Getting started
Here are some suggestions and ideas on getting started.

While you don't need any gardening experience to successfully grow cannabis (it's a weed, remember?), you will need a patch of sunshine in your yard, deck, or balcony; lacking that, I bet you have a friend who will let you use theirs, with a promise of a split of the finished product. (While indoor gardens are also legal, this column only deals with the cheap and easy method of growing outdoors.)

The hardest part of creating a garden is buying some starter plants, or clones, because in recent years cannabis dispensaries in the city have stopped selling clones. Although dispensaries selling retail cannabis are allowed to sell plants, I have not found any in the city that do so, probably because local regulations make it complicated. But if you're willing to cross the Bay Bridge, there are a number of places to find high quality plants in Oakland. I've had excellent experience buying from both Magnolia (www.magnoliawellness.org) and Harborside (www.harborsidehealthcenter.com).

And if you want to take it to the next level of sophistication, and figure out which strains you'd like to grow, there's a goldmine of information at the website of Dark Heart Nursery (http://www.darkheartnursery.com), an East Bay wholesale grower that will not only give you detailed descriptions of each strain, but will tell you when and where they will be "dropping" plants that you can purchase.

If you don't want to leave the city, there are several online companies that will deliver or meet you in San Francisco, with a minimum purchase. I've never used either of these companies, but I've confirmed by phone that they are selling plants this season.

A Marin County nursery, https://www.gardenofzensf.com/, has 18 different strains available, mostly $7 apiece, according to a man who answered the phone but preferred not to give his name. The Petaluma nursery will deliver to the city, with a minimum order of $25, or will allow you to pick up near its headquarters if you have a smaller order.

The site https://clonesbros.com/, which has greenhouses in central and southern California, will deliver to San Francisco with minimum $200 orders, plus a $50 delivery fee. The company has "dozens" of varieties available, currently priced at $12 each, according to a spokesperson.

I'd also recommend two classic books - "Marijuana Horticulture" by Jorge Cervantes and Ed Rosenthal's "Marijuana Grower's Handbook" - as reference guides for growing. You don't really need them but if you find yourself curious about the intricacies of the cannabis lifespan, they are worth having and fun to read. There are now hundreds of websites and YouTube videos about growing, with new ones added daily. Google "cannabis garden" and browse.

After you obtain your plants, you'll need some soil and you're set to go. I've had great luck using FoxFarm soil, although I've not seen any hard data that specialty products like this actually produce bigger or better plants than generic soil found at Lowe's or Home Depot. A useful website on soil for growing cannabis is https://www.leafly.com/news/growing/finding-the-best-marijuana-growing-soil.

Before growing cannabis was legal, people working in garden stores were often uncomfortable discussing pot or recommending products. That has all changed now and I've found that most stores have someone who is knowledgeable.

You'll also want to pick up a few plastic or clay pots for transplanting your clone, which is typically about 6 inches tall and growing in rock wool in a plastic container. I've had good luck transplanting a few times as the plant grows, eventually renting an auger to dig deep holes in my back yard when the plant is a few months old. If you don't have a back yard, you can grow the plants to maturity in a pot.

I've had success with growing both ways - in pots and in the ground - but if you have a back yard, it's probably worth the time and trouble to dig a large hole for your plant. Remember the common guideline, "the bigger the pot, the bigger the pot." Even with the help of a couple of strong friends, the rental of an auger at http://www.actionrentalsonline.co/ makes the job a lot easier.

The only other products you might want to consider are the myriad selection of fertilizers and soil supplements. I've had good results with the popular brand FoxFarm, (https://foxfarmfertilizer.com/) but full disclosure, I've never done or read about a double blind, placebo controlled study to see if the plants that I've fertilized actually yield more flowers than those grown in just plain soil.

While it's common wisdom that a south-facing yard will get enough sun to succeed, if your outdoor space is less than ideal, go for it anyway. It's a weed, and weeds grow anywhere and everywhere.

Finally, and this part can be a little tricky, you'll need to figure out just how much water your plant needs and how often you want to water. It's hard to generalize so best to speak to the person selling you the clone. The secret is to avoid drowning or starving and learning the signs that your plant may not be happy with the mixture of sunlight and water it's getting.

Harvesting and drying your plants are, for many gardeners, the most exciting part of the process, because you are finally approaching the day you will get to enjoy homegrown, organic pot.

Figuring out the optimal time to harvest your plant - beginners tend to do it too early - is made easy by examining the ripened flowers and comparing it to buds you see on cannabis websites, such as http://ww2.marijuanagrowing.com/.

Drying is the simplest step; simply hang the branches on string or rope in your doorways. In a few weeks, you are ready to trim and store in an airtight container.

If neighbors complain about the skunky smell coming from your yard, be sure to tell them you're planning to share the crop. If that doesn't work, assuring them that what you're doing is 100 percent legal may help.

Enjoy.

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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