Today’s episode covers all of the essential questions to ask before starting your own cannabis garden. Explore the choice between growing indoors or outdoors, and learn about the pros and cons of starting with seeds, clones, or autoflower plants. Our expert guests offer practical insights to assist both seasoned growers and first-timers. And don’t forget to tune in next week, where we’ll guide you through the post-harvest phase!
Ellen Scanlon (00:00):
This podcast discusses cannabis and is intended for audiences 21 and over.
Imelda Walavalkar (00:06):
My dad, actually, he’s like this old Indian guy. He’s an engineer and he’d never smoked before. When I started getting into this business, he actually turned my old bedroom into an indoor grow and built out a pretty impressive… Taught himself how to do it all. He put so much love and work into it and actually had a really good yield. I also tried growing outdoor and that was really hard. I should have just planted it in the soil and let it go because I think that’s a lot easier, but I tried to do the whole nutrients and all of that, and it was very challenging for me. I think I need to revisit it now that I have a little bit more time, but I’ve never been that patient with plants.
Ellen Scanlon (00:45):
Welcome to How To Do The Pot, a podcast demystifying cannabis for women. I’m Ellen Scanlon. You just heard from Imelda Walavalkar, the co-founder of Pure Beauty. I love her story because I feel the same way. When you’re around a lot of people in the cannabis industry, it’s easy to be inspired to figure out how to grow your own, but there are several steps to growing weed at home. It takes a lot of dedication, and we’re going to break them all down into easy pieces so you can decide whether you’re ready to try.
Today’s episode covers all the questions to ask before choosing to grow indoors or outdoors and whether to start your plants from seed, from a clone, or from an autoflower plant. We’ll also share the story of what one experienced grower learned from her very first cannabis plant and why every cannabis consumer should probably grow once in their life.
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I am really excited to one day grow my own weed plants, but I live in an apartment in the city, so this was not the year. I’m very grateful to the women I’ve talked to who have a lot more experience than me and who have been so generous with their knowledge. Books like the Cannabis Grow Bible and Feminist Weed Farmer have been a really big help in my learning process. But the one that I’ve leaned on most is called Grow Your Own: Understanding, Cultivating, and Enjoying Cannabis. Nichole Graf is its co-author, so she literally wrote the book on growing weed at home. But before she wrote her book and before she co-founded Raven and Organic Cannabis Farm in Washington state, she was a beginner grower too.
Nichole Graf (03:31):
We tried to grow weed in New York back before it was legal, but we had this beautiful rooftop garden that we had built out. We had one of those fairytale of New York stories that maybe it still exists for some people now. We got kicked out because our property got developed and turned into high-rise condos, but we were right on the East River. We had an outdoor space that was the exact same footprint as our indoor space, so we spent one summer and hauled up just so many yards of soil. We built these huge raised beds. We had a full city garden going on. And of course we’re like, “We should grow weed up here too, you guys. How cool will that be?”
Well, at the cannabis garden, we knew nothing about what we were doing, and the funny part of all of this is the people who were selling us cannabis at that point in time were some of our closest friends. We had a very open relationship with them and they had maybe less of an idea of what to do than we did, like way less of an understanding of the cannabis plant and what part you’re even smoking and what a harvest looks like. And this is a thing that comes back again and again and again is realizing how disconnected most consumers or vendors of cannabis are from what the actual plant looks like, how you process the plant, how you grow the plant.
Ellen Scanlon (05:00):
Even once Nichole decided to become a professional grower, the first time she was the only one in charge on the farm was nerve wracking.
Nichole Graf (05:09):
I remember the first time David went out of town and left me in charge for a week and a half or something of all the babies, and I was like, “Are you kidding me? I can’t do it. I’m going to have to… Hour by hour, let me know.” And he’s like, “They are fine. You’re with me every day. You know what to do.” I have a hard enough time co-parenting a dog, the stress level I feel of being protective and anything happening to that other creature. I would be obsessively looking at the bottoms of leaves, looking for pests, totally micromanaging the tiny curl of a leaf. I think my biggest lesson was you don’t have to be so precious about it. There’s definitely a lot of a learning curve to growing.
Ellen Scanlon (05:54):
And just how much of a learning curve is there? I’ve talked to a lot of women about growing and my answer is that being committed and excited about the project is the best way to get the best results. But cannabis is still federally illegal, so remember to be super, super clear about the laws in your state.
Nichole Graf (06:15):
Start with figuring out the legal restraints in your current state. Obviously, if you’re growing somewhere like Wisconsin where it’s not currently legal to grow cannabis, be really careful with what you’re doing outside. We all know who our neighbors are. We all know what are local municipalities, rules against growing cannabis are, double check, triple check. The last thing you want to do is get yourself in unintentional trouble that can often be much bigger than you realize when it comes to local drug laws.
Ellen Scanlon (06:46):
The next major decision to make is whether to grow indoors or outdoors. Within the cannabis industry, there’s some controversy about the pros and cons of growing indoor or outdoor, and we’ll cover those in a future episode. But today we’re just focused on you thinking about growing a few plants at your house.
Nichole Graf (07:04):
Obviously the main difference is going to be supplemental lighting, so if you’re working with the sun, that is your primary source of lighting. If you’re working indoors, you’re going to have to figure out the best light for your space. A lot of times that’s going to be limited by power constraints and it’s going to be limited by how much space you actually have to hang a light. So certainly much easier and more affordable to just start with growing outside.
And I would recommend any home grower, if your locale is friendly to growing outside, start there first. It’s way less investment and way less headache about troubleshooting electronics and space requirements. And then from there, checking out your gardening zones online is a really easy thing to do and I often recommend people look at growing conditions for tomatoes as an indicator of how well cannabis would grow, so check and see where a nice heirloom tomato is zoned and see how you would do from there.
Ellen Scanlon (08:07):
Not everyone has the space and the climate to grow outdoors. Sandra Guynes is a professional nurse, not a grower, and she has some tomato related advice as well.
Sandra Guynes (08:18):
I think indoor is honestly so much easier to manage. Use your current growing knowledge from other plants. If you can grow tomatoes, you can grow cannabis. If you went out there and looked at those tomato plants, you were like, “Those plants need water. The leaves are curling down.” Same thing goes for your cannabis plants.
Ellen Scanlon (08:37):
If you decide to grow indoors, there will be some startup costs and gear related decisions to make.
Nichole Graf (08:42):
It can often feel really intimidating to get equipment to invest in a setup, invest in a grow tent. A lot of people who are growing this because they want access to medicine or they maybe want a more affordable option than the markups at the retail shops and their location, or whatever your reason is, I would really encourage people to look secondhand. Or to work together and have a communal indoor garden with a couple of friends. You can share resources, and we really encourage people not to buy cannabis branded things when they’re trying to buy gardening equipment, when they’re trying to buy pruning shears, trimming scissors, all of that. You’re going to pay a pretty high premium and/or get something that was made in maybe not the greatest conditions. I think just doing a little bit more work to get something that like, “Oh, this is the scissors that the weed store says I need. I can just go find a scissors like that from maybe my local nursery.”
Understanding what’s best suited to your space where you’re growing is also really helpful, and start small. Have one nice small baby in the beginning and see how it goes and do a practice run, and let it be really low stakes for yourself. Or the other side is go big and worst case scenario is you have a bunch of underwhelmingly finished product that you can turn into something else and you learned a lot of lessons your first year. For people who are really overwhelmed by the curing and drying process, don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re winding up with so much product from your first harvest and now you have nowhere to put it, nowhere to cure it, nowhere to dry it.
Ellen Scanlon (10:27):
Maggie Connors is the California-based VP of marketing at the women-Owned cannabis brand, Garden Society. A few years ago she started growing weed indoors at her house. I asked Maggie about the challenges of indoor grows.
Maggie Connors (10:45):
I think the learning curve was biggest at the beginning, of course, and we had the same problems that I think most amateur growers do. We had mold at one point and we had mites at another point. You’re creating an ecosystem and a problem comes up and you have to figure out how to solve for it, but whatever you’re introducing to solve for it, it’s likely to affect some other aspect in some other way. And so it really is this beautiful scientific puzzle, and I think that’s what makes it both cool, but also that’s the stressful part, that’s the learning part, is having problems and addressing them. But of course, I also think that’s the very best way to learn is often the hard way. Once you’ve done it once and gotten frustrated and had to throw out moldy weed or send 1,000 butterflies from Amazon into the tent, you’ll make sure not to do it again in the future.
Ellen Scanlon (11:47):
This is where you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions. How much money are you willing to spend on this project, how much space do you have to grow, and how much time do you want to spend on it? The books I’ve mentioned, and I’ll link to them all in the show notes, and YouTube will be most helpful here. You can check out all the different options for grow rooms, or maybe grow closets, and light and humidity setups. This also leads to your next big decision, whether to grow from a seed, a clone, or an autoflower plant. The pros of starting from seed are that you have a wide variety of strains to choose from and you can be sure you’re not bringing any bugs or bacteria into your garden, which can happen when you buy a more mature plant. Nichole shares another special thing about starting your plants from seeds.
Nichole Graf (12:40):
If you’re a bit more advanced of a grower, the neat thing about seeds is the same way when two parents have five children, all of those children turn out to be different human beings, so every seed that comes from the same breeding of two plants is going to produce a unique offspring.
Ellen Scanlon (12:59):
One of the challenges with growing from seed is recognizing the sex of the plant. You only want to grow female plants. Kendra Stocking, the California-based VP of sales at Natura shares how to tell which are the male and which are the female plants.
Kendra Stocking (13:20):
You can tell them right away. It’s so insane to watch as they’re developing which ones are male and which ones are female. It’s like they actually have these little nodes on them, the male plants, and they’re unmistakable. As they start growing, the male plants get these little nodes on them. There’s none of the little white hairs that would usually come out of a bud kind of a situation in a female plant, so they’re very easy to tell the difference. We did have one or two even hermaphrodites where it has both male and female attributes and you just need to get rid of them as soon as you see them because otherwise all of your flowers going to be pollinated and none of it’s going to be usable. As soon as you see the nodes with no hairs on them, get rid of them.
Ellen Scanlon (14:06):
There’s no right answer to whether to start from a seed or a clone. Sandra Guynes has tried both.
Sandra Guynes (14:12):
We started from clones at first and then we’ve grown quite a bit from seeds. Seeds tend to be just way more complicated sometimes than the clones, but then we’ve had clones that have died, so it just depends.
Ellen Scanlon (14:26):
So what exactly is a clone? It’s a cutting from a cannabis plant that will have identical genetics to its mother plant
Nichole Graf (14:34):
Starting from clones, you eliminate all of your sexing difficulties and starting from a clone, from a reputable grower, pretty much guarantees you’re going to wind up with a female plant so you’re not going to be producing any pollen, which means you’re going to get harvestable cannabis and you’re not going to accidentally pollinate any of your neighbor’s plants in the process.
Ellen Scanlon (14:55):
You can buy clones from a dispensary and look online at different dispensary menus to see the strains they have available. The root systems of clone plants tend to be more shallow than plants that are grown from seed. It can be a bit harder to start clones outside, so you might want to use a clone with an indoor growing system. Another choice definitely gaining in popularity is an autoflower plant.
Nichole Graf (15:20):
The rule of thumb for planting in most grow zones is get your plants in the ground by Mother’s Day weekend, and that’s an old Farmer’s Almanac trick that works. If you miss that or if it’s your first harvest, autoflowering is a great option. The thing that triggers plants into flowering is this hormone they produce called florigen, and usually that’s triggered by light cycles. As day and night cycles start to approach the 12 and 12 marker, 12 on 12 off, florigen is produced by the plant, and that cues the plant to start producing flowers rather than just focusing on leaf and stem growth. With an autoflowering, it’s not based on light cycle at all, it’s just based on the age of the plant, and it’s kind of auto programmed into the plant to just autopilot flower.
So a lot of times from sprout to harvest, you can get an autoflower in and out in about 10 weeks, and that’s very, very fast for a traditional flowering plant, it’s pretty much not possible. I would say like a 12-week minimum. And the other way that that autoflowering sort of pads you out as a beginner grower is if you are growing indoors and you’re unsure about how well you’ve blocked out your light in your little grow tent or your grow room or whatever, or if you’re having issues with your power, getting your lights in and autoflowering can be a good way to sort of bulletproof yourself on that.
Ellen Scanlon (16:50):
It used to be that strain choices were pretty limited in autoflower plants, but supply has been increasing as more people seek them out. If today is the first time you’ve ever thought about growing weed, I may have thrown a lot at you. Take some time, check out some books or videos, and Kendra Stocking shares why she thinks it’s worth it to give growing a try.
Kendra Stocking (17:15):
Everyone needs to do it at least once in their life. If you smoke weed, if you enjoy cannabis, I think every user should do it, even though it’s hard. I think it gives you a massive appreciation for the growers who have been doing it forever back when things were much more difficult, like there was no such thing as being allowed to have six plants at your house. You watch all these documentaries about the hills of Mendocino and these people lugging up nutrients and doing all this hard work in a hard environment where they’re hiking all over the place to make this happen. I think it’s super important to be able to understand the perspective of the growers. And once you do it yourself, you get a better appreciation and understanding of why things are as expensive as they are and what people have to go through in order to make that weed accessible to a lot of people. I think it’s a good learning lesson to go through it and understand it and watch it sometimes fail and understand that that happens in real life.
Ellen Scanlon (18:26):
Stay tuned to our next episode where we’ll talk about what happens when your buds are ready, the curing, drying, burping process, and how much weed you can expect to get from your plants. Michellee Fox is a Washington state based farmer and a chef, and you might remember her from our cooking with cannabis episodes. She’s going to help us out with some really great tips for how to feed your cannabis plants from things you already have in your kitchen. And she has one last word of inspiration.
Michellee Fox (18:56):
All it takes is trying, because like any other plant, if you give it a little love, a little attention, a little water, it will grow beautifully.
Ellen Scanlon (19:07):
If you’re getting started with a growing project, please reach out to us. We’d love to hear your story and maybe even bring it onto a future episode.
Thank you for listening to How To Do The Pot. For lots more information and past episodes, visit dothepot.com. Are you one of the thousands of people who love How To Do The Pot’s newsletter? If you’re not getting it, please sign up at dothepot.com. And if you like How To Do The Pot, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. It really helps people find the show. Thank you to producers Madi Fair and Nick Patri. I’m Ellen Scanlon, and stay tuned for more of How To Do The Pot.
So you must be legal, too. Age 21+ invited to continue.