About Growing in California
While writing this article I realized I need to state: everyone seems to have an opinion about what is the best way to grow cannabis, and egos seem to play a huge part in that at times. I can only draw on my own growing experience and what has done best for me. I predicted five years ago that in the state of California, when the dust settled, the only people left growing, besides the six plant recreational growers, would be the big mass growers and the small top shelf growers with strains that the big boys did not have. Only by going to the small growers could you really get organic grown product.I do not use any form of chemicals and certainly no pesticides, even in supposedly organic form. I do not grow indoors, so I will not be covering anything regarding these subjects.
How many plants?
One of the first things to consider is how many plants can you grow and the space you need. In my county I am legally allowed up to thirty plants on our parcel of five acres in the Sierra Foothills for two people with medical cards or licenses. I like to have at least ten to twelve feet between each plant for spacing, with full sun exposure.
What strain to grow
Then you need to decide what strains you want to grow. With over 8,000 strains now available that task can be daunting unless you want to stick with the latest crosses. Because of my limitations of only thirty plants, yield per plant plays an important part of what strains I pick or what I have hybridized for. I like some of the older strains that are the backbone of the best genetics. I personally brought back Durban seeds from a landrace strain in South Africa as part of my genetic program. I also prefer the cookie strains that have Durban in their backgrounds. D J Shorts original Blueberry also play a huge part of my other side of my breeding program. The Chem Dawg strains also can be good as well as the White Widow or Chernobyl crosses. Some people prefer the fruity sweet strains and others like the Diesel gassy taste of strains such as Chernobyl.I know what grows well in this region and have capitalized on this knowledge. We have hot dry temps here in the summer. You can plant feminized or regular seed or do clones. I have found yields in clones to be inferior to seed and lacking in the vigor a seed plant has. Of course the clones have the advantage of every plant being exactly the same. Feminized seed guarantees all female plants, but generally are more expensive as they have been treated to make them all females. I plant what are called regular seed that produces males and females, because I actually use pollen from select males in my breeding program. All other males are destroyed. I like to see what are called different phenotypes in my plantings. Fortunately my genetics have come up with some very stable crosses that vary very little from each other. So much inbreeding has taken place, that some very unstable strains and what are called Hermi plants have evolved from some breeders that do not know much about genetics. I use strains that have a background with similar roots. My Girl Scout Cookies of course are different from Blue Cookies. My Steel Blue Cookies vary very little from pot to pot.
Seeds and Germination
Look for dark green or brown, well developed seed and by from reliable sources such as Exoticgenetix out of Washington. I also have bought reliable seed from MSLN in Europe. Some of the Dutch breeders are also good. After deciding what you want to grow, it's time to get down to business.I like to grow in what are called plugs. Some people like rock wool plugs, while I prefer the organic versions of it. They are spongy and totally organic. I never put the seed on wet paper tissue to germinate. I do not believe in handling the seed to much after germination takes place. My plugs come with a hole in the center to place a seed in. I place them in 6 pack grow trays and set in water that is about a 1/2 in. deep. The plugs absorb the water and moisturize the seed. I keep the room they are in set at 76 degrees. All these trays are set on heating pads that keep the seed at the same degree. Ph is also important and I keep the water at 6.5 on the PH scale, the same level for everything during the whole growth from finish to end. I also mix Great White Mycrozoae with my water to promote excellent root growth. No fertilizer at this stage.So now a few days have gone by, and your little seeds will be showing a white root that descends back into the plug and the first little two cotyledon leaves have all the nutrients that the plant will need for a while. Soon you will see the main stem start to grow as the seedling searches for the light it needs. I do not provide anything but water at this stage and use fluorescent lights, usually T-5s. I also use a few LED's in the mix.I also have two high pressure sodium lights that I used to use, but with the price of power now days and the heat generated in my grow room, they have been shelved.After the plants have reached about 4 inches of height and I see roots growing from the bottom of the plug into the tray, I transfer them into half gallon pots filled with my own organic mixer of compost, and of course I make sure the is a source of mycrozoia added to the mix. I continue to grow them in this room at about 74 degrees. Usually in about 3 weeks my babies have reached about 18 inches in height. I have by now given them their first dose of my fertilizer and just sit back and be amazed by the rapid and robust growth that is generated. It is at this time I move my little babies to the green house for sexing as I use my own strains of feminized seeds.
Strains I Use
A list of my strains is included at paragraph end.
One of my great strains is called Blue Durban. While working in Sierra Leone, Africa for three diamond seasons with Savanna Engineering. I managed to make my way to Durban where I purchased 20 pure Durban Landrace seeds. This was for my use in a topical to fight my wife's 4th stage ovarian cancer. Which at this time, she is now 6 years cancer free because of our topical. I managed to bring the seed back and introduced them into my breeding program. My first attempt was with an ExoticGenetix strain out of Oregon, named Blue Steel; Blueberry OG x Starfighter. With having a botanical genetics background I was impressed with Mike's strains. I picked Blue Steel as my first cross to use as a father plant. I also ended up crossing Blue Steel with GG4, Chronic Widow, Blue Cookies, GSC, Pineapple Kush, Oaksterdam, Candyland, and Platinum Cookies.
* Mariposa Wildfire Blue Steel x Blue Cookies
* Armageddon Chernobyl x Blue Steel
* Pale Rider Blue Durban x Armageddon
* Narcolepsy Blue Steel x Armageddon
* Steel Cookies Blue Steel x Girl Scout Cookies
* Blue Gorilla Blue Steel x Gorilla Glue#4
* Sweet Tarts Blue Steel x Blueberry
* SlumberLand Chronic Widow x Blue Steel
* Blue Burban Blue Steel x African Durban
Some of these seed I have yet to plant, because I can only grow 30 plants here in Mariposa County, California. I actually like this as it keeps out large cartel grows. The Sheriff dept here is outstanding for crushing illegal grows. This is where my original Blue Durban originated. Even with my back ground this hybrid surprised me. I figured a pure Sativa with a Indica Hybrid would produce another predominantly Sativa dominant strain. Nature has a way of screwing with your mind. It turned out to be a couch locker. So with this in mind I adopted Blue Steel into my growing program and ended up crossing it with some of the more popular strains. I have always been a BlueBerry fan, so I crossed Blue Steel with Blueberry OG and got a great strain I call Sweet Tarts. My wife named it for the aroma it produced when being hung on the curing racks.
Growing Season Notes
In March my babies in the greenhouse were showing their true identities and males were pulled daily, and burned immediately. In April I broke a rule and planted the females in 100 gallon pots that I had spent the winter getting ready, some of these pots already had five growing seasons. I left last year's root ball rot in the pots as the Mycrozia loves eating old roots. Just remove about ten gallons of old root ball and fill with my soil and you are off to a new season. Usually Mother's day is the date most people plant outdoors in this area. There were torrential rains storms, but no freezing, so my babies showed how tough they were and grew phenomenally well. I did have one plant switch sex because of the tremendous strain it received, but in my book only the tough survive. I do not like weak strain or strain so inbred that they flip at the slightest moment of change. My grow program is totally organic and I use my grow formula every three weeks of the grow season. By this time you will notice the plant roots growing into the fertilizer deposits that accumulate around your soaker hoses. By June some of my strains are 8 x 6 green luxurious giants. Come July they have hit 9 to 10 feet in height.
Mites, Bites and Trimming
July is when I introduce praying mantis in addition to the ones that hatch from the egg cases they laid on my trellis stakes cages from last year. I also introduce predatory mites that consume any kind of spider or rust mites that might have made their way into my plants. They also devastate any thrip colonies that might start. Beings as my plots are within 50 feet of our creek, the little frogs also make my plants their personal home. I always notice jumping spiders in the plants and spider bites on occasion. Well worth the little bite that disappears in a couple of days. So, all in all my garden has turned into a cannabis paradise. During this growing process I have usually topped the plants at least 5 times. I will get into how I construct my plant cages and branch support systems that I build next, as well as cover some other important issues. Pulling yellow leaves becomes a daily chore also.