Important Lessons I have Learned Growing Cannabis for 30+ Years
I have been growing cannabis for a very, very long time, ever since I was a teenager I have fallen in love with this amazing plant called cannabis. I will never forget growing my very first cannabis plants in my greenhouse that my father helped me build. Also getting snow in middle May of that year which is pretty unusually for the East Coast. My wooden framed greenhouse was covered in snow inside with a heater were my amazing first cannabis plants. These seeds were given to me by another teenager on my school bus on the way home from school. He said “hey you should try growing these seeds in your greenhouse!”.
Illegal Cannabis Seeds
When he gave me the seeds, I remember kind of knowing that they were not legal. However I had no idea how much trouble they could get me into if I were to be caught growing them. I guess for a young naive teenager, it was pretty hard to understand that a simple plant could send someone to jail, and for a long time. But as someone that has always been interested in new things I figured it was worth the chance and planted my first cannabis seeds! This would have been around the end of April 1993.
Having No Idea what I was Doing
Of course back in those days there wasn’t any internet, no books you could buy at the bookstore to learn to grow like nowadays. I was completely on my own, luckily at the time I had a keen interest in gardening, so I was able to carry this over into my very first cannabis cultivation project. I remember the plants coming up out of the soil, (lucky for me the seeds were good) and looking so different from anything I had ever cultivated before. To me as a new gardener these little plants just seemed to look exotic once they emerged from the soil, so different from all the other plants I started that season.
Growing Cannabis Was Awesome!
I grew these plants out till they were about 4 feet tall, no trimming or pruning. However the neighbor saw them and told my father who said I would have to sell them to the same neighbor. Trust me I wanted to keep some so I took some down to the wood and made a plastic greenhouse with some trees. Dad knew how many there were and told me to bring them back lol. Sadly that first year I never got to know the joy of flowering my cannabis, however people could see the plants from the road so I luckily never got to know the joy of getting charged for growing cannabis… ugh.
In the next few years my parents let me grow a small amount of cannabis in my closet, this was great because I was able to grow cannabis year round in a small amount and learn the basics of growing cannabis. One of the first cannabis strains I ever grew was an Afghan strain from Marc Emery (one of the few places you could order seeds online back in the 90’s also Heaven Stairway, (C-Bay). This was a short stocky cannabis plant so it worked very well for my setup. In the late 90’s I was able to get my own place and this is where I became interested in breeding cannabis and working with all the strain out there. Thanks to the internet I was also able to find more growing resources online, as well as some early places that were selling cannabis seeds.
Over the years I became more interested in breeding and working with the plant, I think I enjoyed this just as much as smoking! To this day I still love to breed cannabis and create my own “works of art” and share these with new growers to my seeds.
So What have I learned from growing Cannabis?
There are so many different things I could most likely write a book about (and maybe someday I will!) cannabis however in this article I will attempt to take the most important things that I have learned and share them with you here.
Growing up most of your life with Cannabis being illegal and cops and government pretending how dangerous this plant was security just seemed to become part of your life. Making sure as few people (if anyone) knew about your garden was top of mind. These days even with legalization in many places it is still important to have good security just because it’s legal doesn’t mean someone still wants to steal your hard work and time. Make sure to only tell people you trust 100% about your garden. If you still live somewhere the plant is still illegal, telling no one is your first best option.
Control the smell of your plants as well just because the police can’t bust you for cannabis smells anymore doesn’t mean someone driving by doesn’t smell it and attempt to steal you beautiful cannabis plants. Pro Tip: If you live somewhere legal, grow a few male plants and use them for decoys, to keep eyes off your prize plants hidden somewhere else. Better the scumbags get a few male plants then your prized female cannabis plants.
Nothing when growing cannabis is more important than IPM or integrated pest management. It doesn’t matter how awesome your growing space is, how good your lighting is, or how healthy your plants are when something like spider mites come marching into your plants. Pest can destroy a perfect crop of flowers, and they can do it faster than most growers realize.
Prevention is the best method of all, however it will not stop them and pests can still get in and on your plants. Keeping your grow room clean is a big help to prevent pests. It is always a good idea to integrate some pest prevention in your growing space. We recommend using something natural that will do little harm to your plants. We like to spray our plants every couple of weeks (whether we have or have seen any pests at all) with neem oil. This natural oil will kill most cannabis pests and will help to prevent them from getting a foothold on your plants as well.
Making Sure your Plants are As Healthy as Possible
This leads into our next lesson, because healthy cannabis plants are also great for fighting off cannabis pests in the room. Many growers don’t know that if you have very healthy cannabis plants the plants themselves will actually keep pests from being able to damage the leaves by sucking out the sap they are looking for. If pests like spider mites, aphids and thrips can’t get food out of the leaves of your healthy plants then they will die and these may be the easiest way to keep them out.
Understanding the Difference between Nutrient Deficiencies, PH and Pests Damage
I think one of the hardest things new grows getting into cannabis cultivation find is that they have a hard time telling the difference between PH issues, deficiencies with nutrients and damage from pests. This can cause many issues quickly that can actually make the plants less healthy. By misdiagnosing issues the plant can end us suffering even more then it would otherwise if the issue was diagnosed correctly from the start.
Having good knowledge of all types of issues comes with time and experience in years of growing. Also it can be very helpful to study these things online or by reading good cannabis books.
Setting up your Growing Room Correctly
Another very important thing we have learned growing cannabis is to set up your grow room correctly from the start. What does this mean, well it means making sure everything is taken care of like heating and cooling, ventilation intakes and outtakes, and lighting. We have learned growing cannabis that any of these things can and will cause crop failures if done incorrectly.
We have seen many grow room setups that didn’t factor in summer high temperatures only to have their buds be loose and stringy due to high heat. Or super slow growing plants in the winter because the growing space was not warm enough for the cannabis plants to thrive.
Thinking about these things in advance can really help you when they happen. Such as growing in an attic and understanding that, that same attic is going to get cold in the winter and super hot in the summer. So instead of winging it, you spend a little extra on insulation and an air conditioner and space heater to manage these things when the time comes.
Also make sure you have a good supply of fresh air entering the grow space, to keep the air movement in your growing space for the plants. Creating a light tight room so when you start to flower your beautiful cannabis plants, they will flower and grow as intended.
When to Turn Up or Turn Down Grow Lighting
With the rising prices of energy these days it pays to know when to turn up your cannabis grow lighting and when to turn it down. Having a light that you are able to adjust watt is very important today. Growers can use less energy in germination and vegetative growth, and even in flowering by waiting a couple of weeks into the flowering cannabis growth. After a couple of weeks you will turn up the lighting to get the best buds but also to save money on the power bills when they come in. This isn’t so much from the things I have learned growing cannabis, but what I have learned from very high power bills and breeding cannabis over the years.
Understanding the Nutrient Needs of your Plants
Keeping your plants healthy involves keeping your cannabis plant supplied with the right nutrients not only at any time but the correct ones when the plant needs them the most. You may know that cannabis needs more nitrogen in the vegetative growing stage, and more phosphorus in the flowering stage. However it is also important to know how much and when to start giving the nutrients to the plants.
I have seen many growers with yellowing cannabis plants that are a few weeks old and they were told not to give them any nutrients. If your plant is yellowing no matter what its age, it is time to start giving the plant a small amount of nitrogen and keep the plant growing healthy and green.
Go by what the Cannabis Plant tells you not what someone told you
This leads up into this section on reading your plants, if you see any issues with your plants, learn how to read them. If they are showing signs of yellowing, and someone has told you that they don’t need nutrients for three weeks, well the plant is telling you otherwise! I think we all know who we should be listening to in this case.
One of the most important things that was learned growing cannabis for me was reading the plant and that if there is something wrong with your plant, you will get 20 different reasons why the plant is unhealthy. Understanding how the plant grows is the best way to troubleshoot plant issues. Sure asking for help online is great, but knowing your plants is the best way to keep them healthy.
I hope this article can help grower from the things that I have learned growing cannabis over the years.