I've been putting this post off for a while now. Marijuana offends some people and I'm sorry about that, but it's legal now, so we all have to deal with it. I don't smoke much anymore, so most of the final product I produce goes to friends and family. Also, the state limits how many plants you can grow, and as I'll detail, I limit myself even further.
Besides bud, I've tried my hand at making edibles, butters and oils, and that's something that really interests me going forward.
As I go into my third season of growing, I decided to document my successes and failures so far. I love hearing from others who are also giving it a whirl, so drop me a note if you want to chat.
Each time I've planted, it's been different so, while my knowledge increases, my repetition of process has been limited. As far as success, I guess that depends on your definition. In both of my two years, I've had decent success in quality of high (both for myself and detailed to me by others) from the buds, while the size and productivity of the plants could certainly be improved on.
The whole process from seed (or plant) to bud is Work (with a capital W), as I will explain. To get a plant to the budding phase takes a constant eye for mold and pests and constant pruning, something I still need to improve on. Pruning the bottom of the plant, makes for a bushier and more productive top part of the plant. The harvesting phase is ridiculous in that, due to possibilities of frost in October, you have to cut the plants down at a precise time, and therefore rush to get all the leaves removed from the branches and hanging in darkness very quickly. Weed Babysitter needed!
When you end up with a good final product, you'll be glad you did everything right, but anywhere along this process you can fall prey to some bad luck and lose your entire crop!
With this, here is a rundown of how my first two years have gone and what I've learned.
A relative gave me some seeds from an unknown strain. I started them in the house in mid-spring under a warm house lamp (not a real heat lamp). We had about 11 very leggy seedlings that honestly did not look like they would survive. I planted them outdoors in late spring and, miraculously, they did pretty well. By early summer, all but one or two had survived. We also had two feminized plants (male plants don't produce buds) we bought from a friend. So by mid-summer we were up to our elbows in decent-sized plants, each a 2-3 feet tall. It was then things started getting difficult. Some of the plants were too close together, which was a mold hazard. One thing about mold: If you get it on one plant, it's possible to infect your entire. crop. So we transplanted a few to different parts of the garden. We spent a lot of time pruning, feeding them organic fertilizer we bought from our friends at Here We Grow, a hydroponic grow store in the Valley. We were also on the constant lookout for insects, specifically cutworms, that will eat the leaves right off the stem of your plants.
By late summer as the buds started to grow, we lost 3 plants that we found to be male, and I believe another couple to mold. At one point, it rained so hard that we tried to go out and build a tent over the plants so they wouldn't get pulverized by the downpour!
By harvest, we had 7 plants with decent buds, a size of about 6 feet tall, but not particularly bushy. It is here where we learned a very valuable lesson: 7 plants is way too many to harvest!
Growing season in New England is short. Unlike, say Southern California or Hawaii, you have a very short window for the kind of sunlight needed to grow good weed, so you the plants need to stay in the ground as long as possible. The drop dead date, according to good growers, is the Fall Equinox in late September. If you wait longer, mold could kill your plants due to frost. So the day of the Fall Equinox, my son and I cut down all 7 plants and then, along with Sue, we cut off all the branches and removed all the leaves on each branch. This literally took us 4 or 5 hours! You can hang the branches with the leaves still on them and then de-leaf the plants after the drying process, but I don't recommend that. It's harder to do and takes twice as long after the leaves have dried.
We use our office as the drying room. So once all the branches had been de-leafed, leaving only the buds on the branches, we hung them on strings the full length of the office. It was a sight to see all that weed hanging to dry. Then we turned out the lights, hung a towel over the window and closed the room for 2 weeks. Once in a while, we'd go in to check if the buds were drying and make sure no mold was growing, but other than that, it's a waiting process.
When the two weeks were up and buds were dry enough, we took all the branches down, stripped the buds off them and put them in Mason jars, closed the lids up tight and again let them sit in the dark for about 2 weeks. We had about 10 jars of really great buds and a number of plastic food containers filled with what we called scrub -- smaller buds and leafy-resiny bits. For the first week, you have to go in and "burp"the containers -- open the lid, shake the contents and close the lid -- a couple of times a day. This lets out the built-up carbon dioxide and moisture the buds have shed and helps avoid mold. After that, another week in the dark, maybe only burping the containers once a day.
It really is a long and arduous process, but we ended up with nearly 2 pounds of pretty great weed that we were able to share with a lot of people! But after the fact, I did realize that 7 plants are really too many for one or even two people to handle.
So the big lesson learned: Just because the state allows you to grow 6 to 12 plants, doesn't mean you should. Start with something manageable, even if it means a smaller yield.
Now a little wiser, I decided I would grow only 4 plants. I also didn't have any seeds, so I lined up someone to sell me 4 feminized plants so I could have them in the ground in early May.
As I said, weed plants are temperamental, and I soon found out my plant guy's crop went bad and he had nothing to sell me. It took me till early June to find new plants. I ended up with an odd but interesting assortment of sativa plants: a couple of Blue Dream plants, a Cambodian strain and a Nigerian strain, each very different in growth and buds.
I won't repeat all the steps that I went through with these because it was similar to the first year, but because I didn't get them in the ground until June, they lost some valuable growing time and therefore didn't get quite as big, and the yield obviously wasn't as great.
I love the Blue Dream. Everything about it is great. The buds look amazing and the smoke is tasty and the high is very "dreamy." The Cambodian was very nice and the Nigerian, though it looked more like homegrown -- fewer buds and more leafy -- still produced a nice high.
In all, a decent year. Lesson learned: Giving the plants the longest growing cycle you can matters. Also, again, I'm still learning about pruning. You really do have to get rid of the lower limbs because they take away nutrients from the upper limbs which get most of the sunlight. The more you trim, the bushier the tops will get.
So we're on to Year 3, and we've already run into a few obstacles. Once again, I had it all lined up to get plants, 4 of the Blue Dream. But since the Coronavirus hit, I haven't been able to get in touch with my plant guy.
Luckily, I was gifted some seeds and have started them inside. My first group of seedlings had just pushed through the dirt and had their first leaves on them when our house mouse ate the tops off all of them! I have since planted new seeds and are watching them very closely.
That's where we stand right now. I'll post again as we go through the season.