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Though I don’t grow cannabis, legalization of marijuana on Oct. 17 has me musing about what it would take to grow the plant. The following are words of wisdom from those who grow it for their own consumption.

It’s safer and easier to grow pot outdoors rather than an expensive hydroponic indoor grow-op, which uses masses of electricity and runs the risk of developing mould, mildew and a skunky smell radiating from ripening plants. Outdoors, you have only the neighbours and the weather to contend with. By law, according to the federal government’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations, you can’t plant near a school, a public playground and anywhere else where children gather. On the government of Canada’s website (, a high fence and a strong gate lock are recommended.

The seeds, however, are expensive (anything from $5 to $25 per seed) and should be labelled “feminized” so they produce no pollen, which would lower the efficacy of the bud crop. Seed described as “best for hydroponics” tends to grow to one metre in height; but outdoor seeds can grow from two to four metres. Whatever variety you decide on, keep pinching them back much like you do with asters.

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You also need space. You can only have four plants per household (not person), but each will take up to 60 centimetres between plants. One of my marijuana moles says his most successful plants grew in a sandy loam watered by hand once a week when it did not rain. He fertilized every few weeks and cut back on the nitrogen when it came to bud production. Too much nitrogen means whacking away at giant plants and losing a lot of buds. He says good compost will give the plant everything it needs. When hit with bugs, he used a mild soap and water spray to keep plants healthy – there is no need to pamper them.

Like poinsettias, their flowering is daylight time sensitive and starts bud production Sept. 21 every year. Hybrid “auto” seeds with a built-in clock are best for growing under lights over winter.

At first plants bud slowly, then burst out almost like popcorn popping.

Between Sept. 21 and the first frost, observe the trichomes: little hairs covering the buds and the surrounding small leaves where THC is ripening. The trichomes slowly develop from clear to brown during the stinky stage. The harvested plants should be dried upside-down in a well-ventilated place. When the buds dry, or cure, they can be stored in a clean jar in a cool dark place. It’s a bit like good wine, the longer it matures, the better it’s likely to be.

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