Should you grow your own pot at the cottage?

a-marijuana-plant-sprouting-in-soil Photo by DvorakPhoto/Shutterstock

You train tomatoes, jam strawberries, and ferment cider. Now that the Cannabis Act allows Canadian adults to raise up to four pot plants (expect in Quebec and Manitoba) is it time to add curing cannabis to your DIY repertoire?

“Absolutely,” says Bill Hunt, the assistant manager at Progressive Growth Hydroponics in Courtenay, B.C. “Anyone can do it with a little help.”

Hunt’s been selling indoor and outdoor growing material and advising cannabis growers on the subtitles of cannabis cultivation long before decriminalization. A lot of his clients cultivate indoors, but for most cottage growers an outdoor set up makes more sense, he says. It’s cheaper, requires no renovations, and is easier to leave for the week between visits.

Money signs

He figures most recreational farmers do it for the satisfaction of growing their own and knowing what went into what they’re consuming. Some do it to save money.

The math is compelling. A four pack of seeds costs about $60 and the rest of the materials won’t cost more than $150, he says. Each plant can produce more than 100 grams. Dispensaries sell a gram for about $18. But before money signs cloud your judgement, there are a few legal and practical things to keep in mind.

First, cottage growers can’t sell their crop. In some provinces, there are rules around how it’s grown: in B.C. it needs to be out of sight behind a fence and New Brunswick requires a locked space. To truly grow legally, the seeds or starters have to come from a legal dispensary or website. That’s a problem because right now, the Ontario Cannabis Store and B.C. equivalent both only have one variety of seed available. Newfoundland is the only province that sells clones, or starter seedlings, and they too only have one variety on the menu. This will change and online stores sell a bigger variety. However, they operate in the grey space, the legal limbo between legitimate and illegal.

Seed matters

Getting the right seeds is key to success, says Hunt, for two reasons. One, each type of cannabis delivers a slightly different high and medical benefits. And two, because successful outdoor growing is highly dependant on picking the right variety for the climate.

Cannabis is a higher maintenance crop than most of the produce cottagers typically grow. “You could be a great grower of tomatoes and beans,” says Hunt. “But if you try to apply the same techniques to cannabis it’s probably not going to work out that well. Cannabis is a little fussier about moisture, nutrients and PH of soil.”

Growing tips

That’s where getting good advice comes in. Hunt suggests growing each plant in a 10 gallon pot rather than in the ground. “It’s easier to control the enrichment of the soil and the pH,” he says. Use a nutrient rich, well drained soil, like CoCo Coir made from coconut husks. Place the pots in a location that gets lots of sun, but is out of direct rain as much as possible. “You want the leaves to dry off full when they get wet otherwise you get mildew problems,” Hunt explains. When the conditions are right marijuana tends to grow, well, like a weed, so give plants plenty of room. Once they flower cut back on fertilizing and watering. The tough love stimulates bud production. And then it’s just a waiting game until the buds are ripe — watch for the hairs on the flowers to turn from white to orange. After harvesting dry the bud out in a cool, dark place before smoking or processing it into edible form.

Bottom line

Four plants will probably require several hours of watering, fertilizing and care each week. But Hunt says growing cannabis is approachable.

“Whether you have a green thumb or have never grown anything before, it’s not that hard,” he says.

Hunt’s advice: to grow or not to grow should come down to whether you enjoy the satisfaction of watching something go from seed to plant. “It’s a pretty awesome feeling,” he says. “And even if it doesn’t work out it’s just fun to do.”

Note: If you grow cannabis at the cottage, make sure the area is secured away from wildlife and pets to avoid accidental consumption.

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