Maximum Yield Cannabis USA March/April 2019 | Page 67

S Marijuana grows exceptionally well hydroponically and, as writer Wiley Geren tells us, cannabis also does very well in its natural environment, growing outdoors in a raised garden. M ost states, with the exceptions of South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Idaho, have legalized marijuana in some form. Whether it’s decriminalization, medical use, or recreational legalization, America has been shrugging off historic stigmas associated with cannabis. Brewers and beer enthusiasts can make their own brew, while gardeners and green enthusiasts can cultivate (where legal) their own cannabis. Each state has unique possession and growing laws that must be adhered to. If you are interested in growing cannabis, please research and understand the laws and regulations in your state. Cannabis, just like any other garden plant, has its growing preferences including season, soil, watering, and spacing, along with the different varieties to consider. Indoor growing gives gardeners complete control over the environment, but control can come at a cost. Follow these guidelines for cultivating marijuana successfully outdoors in a raised garden. When to Plant: Avoid the Cold Marijuana is a warm-season plant, preferring warmth and humidity to cooler, dryer temperatures. It is advisable to begin planting after the last frost but note colder temperatures will adversely affect growth and flowering. It’s important to provide cannabis with direct sunlight, however, too much heat can be just as damaging as cold. Prolonged direct sunlight (more than eight hours), paired with temperatures higher than 90˚F can be detrimental, but easily remedied. If plants begin to wilt or develop burns, simply provide some shade. By using screen material or some light cloth, you can erect a covering to limit some of that direct sunlight. Raised Bed Square-Foot Gardening Raised bed square-foot gardening is celebrated for its simplicity, structure, and growing efficiency. Coupling the advantages of a raised bed (accessible, controlled soil, and great drainage) with square-foot gardening (organization, efficient space utilization, and reduced watering needs), creates the ideal conditions for nearly any plant to thrive, including marijuana. Matthew Sokolowski, operations manager at True Plant Science in Seattle, says cannabis loves nutrient-rich soil, good drainage, and at least four to six gallons of soil per plant. One square foot in an eight- inch tall raised bed provides a gardener roughly five gallons of soil. So, if a grower wanted to exclusively plant marijuana and they had a 4x4-foot garden bed (16 square feet of planting space), they could plant 16 plants. Sokolowski notes cannabis is fairly adaptive to the space given, producing a smaller yield with less space and a larger one with more room. Here are two spacing options using a 4x4-foot raised garden as an example. Soil, Drainage, and Watering Marijuana plants require plenty of nutrients to grow strong and vibrant. Backyard soil isn’t known for being nutrient-rich, but raised beds avoid this issue by letting gardeners add their own pre-mixed nutritious soil. Soil will settle naturally, so be sure to add about two inches of soil above the top of your raised bed. That way it remains full to the top after settling. Also, don’t tamp down the soil when you add it. Leave it loose. Plants prefer looser soil so the roots can grow without obstruction. Loose soil also provides for better drainage, unlike yard soil which has been compressed over time. Cannabis plants, in typical conditions, should be watered every few days. Every morning, check to see if the soil is moist up to an inch below the surface. If the soil is crumbly and dry an inch or more down, then it’s time to water. “Raised bed square-foot gardening is celebrated for its simplicity, structure, and growing efficiency.” Which Strain? Sativa Optimum for Square-Foot Gardening There are two primary strains of marijuana. Sativa is more prone to growing up/elongating, while indica tends to grow bushier and outward. For those who intend on growing weed in a square-foot bed, sativa is preferable as it won’t crowd as much as indica. Air flow is important when gardening, and dense plant-clusters can keep air from moving freely, resulting in mold. Overall, you can treat growing marijuana in a raised garden the same way as growing other warm-weather garden plants. Problems with the plants can arise (mold and pests) and if that does happen, research the issue as you would for any other plant. If you give the plants good soil, avoid weather extremes, keep an eye out for concerns, and water well, you should have a great cannabis harvest this season. Maximum Yield 67