On March 31, Democrat Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced proposed changes to legislation passed in that state earlier in the year that would speed up the legalization of marijuana for Virginia residents by three years.
The law that passed through the state legislature in February would have allowed adults in Virginia to legally possess and grow weed at home, but not until 2024. That time span left much to be desired by advocates for legalization, until Northam proposed a change that would accelerate the process and allow the law to take effect as early as July of this year.
With this news, North Carolina’s refusal to even begin to take steps toward legalization became all the more archaic. While state legislators like Rep. Kelly Alexander continue to carry the torch for legalization, there simply isn’t enough support in the North Carolina General Assembly to report on.
So what we did instead was reach out to a local resident who we know to have 20+ years experience in growing marijuana at home, for those who are sick of waiting around and continuing to risk it in the black market. You can be growing weed at home in just eight easy steps.
Take note: Implementing the following tips in North Carolina is highly illegal. We do not encourage you to risk jail time by doing so. For those of our readers who live in Virginia or other more enlightened states, here’s a detailed guide at how to cultivate your green thumb. For those stuck behind here in North Carolina, grow at your own risk.
Growing container(s) with drainage holes
Grow light (wattage information below)
Small table fan
Grow tent or a small light-proof area
Misting spray bottle
Step 1: Germinating your seed
So you got lucky and found a seed in that last bag you got from your boy. What to do now? You want to make sure that seed is viable before you plant, so you want to germinate your seed. Start by taking a clear Ziploc bag with a damp (not dripping wet) paper towel and fold your seed in the paper towel, close the bag and put it somewhere slightly warm — think of the top of your cable box or refrigerator kind of warm.
After one to three days you’ll see a tiny white tail poking out if the seed is viable to grow. If you don’t see a tail within five days you need to find another seed.
Pro Tip: Germinate more than one seed at a time. You can’t tell if your plant is male or female until you begin flowering. Having more than one plant ensures your chances of getting a female plant. Male plants only produce pollen for reproduction and don’t produce flowers, which are what you want. Female plants have tiny hairs that appear at the base of the stems, or “nodes” as their called.
Step 2: Plant your seed
Use a standard potting soil mix and preferred container with drainage holes. The easiest, most used container is just a plastic Dixie cup with drainage holes poked in the bottom. Plant your seed in the soil about 1 inch deep with your exposed tail pointing down, then slightly mist the top of the container with clean water and put it somewhere it can get some direct or indirect light, be it sunlight or from a grow light (using a compact fluorescent [CFL] light works well here).
After about two to three days you’ll see your first set of baby leaves emerging from your soil. SUCCESS!! Be proud! One of the most difficult steps is done!
Pro Tip: When watering baby plants, use a misting spray bottle to apply your water the first few weeks of its life instead of pouring water directly on top. Because it has a juvenile root system it isn’t anchored into the soil yet, and sometimes the seedling will “float” after the first few waterings.
Step 3: Bring it to the light
Choosing the right kind of light is important and there’s almost an endless amount of options when it comes to lighting. It is often the most overthought and debated subject for an indoor grower. With so many options for indoor lighting, I find using inexpensive LED lights to be a great choice for the new grower. LEDs can be used for all stages of plant growth. They give off a great quality of light with a low initial investment and often less heat than traditional indoor plant lighting, i.e high pressure sodium (HPS), metal halide (MH), or good ole’ fluorescents (FL or CFL).
Pro Tip: Stay away from “Blurple” colored lights. They’re often cheaper but the purplish hue makes it hard to see the real colors of your plant and can be hard on the eyes. Working under natural looking lights helps you see the real color of the leaves.
Step 4: Vegetative growth
Before your new baby is ready to flower you need to grow it a little more and let it become sexually mature so that it’s big enough to give those beautiful flowers that you’re looking for. This step is highly personalized; it all depends on how much space and how many watts of lighting you’re using. But a good rule of thumb is to have 75 watts of lighting for every square foot of gardening area.
Let your baby grow (or veg) for at least three weeks, but you can let it grow as long as you’d like, leaving your grow light on for at least 18 hours a day but up to 24 hours a day if you prefer. Most standard potting soil mixes have enough initial nutrients where you don’t need to fertilize or amend your soil; there’s enough of what your baby needs already mixed in.
Pro Tip: Don’t skimp out and use cheap soil. Pitching out a few more bucks for quality soil will make your life easier in the long run and help ensure there’s enough nutrients available to the plant for it to grow strong and healthy. You want plants that have a medium dark green to the leaves and no brown spots.
Step 5: Transplant into a flowering container
This is where you’re going to put your baby into her final home, where it will live for the rest of its short life. This is a highly personalized step as well but you want to use a container that holds roughly one gallon of soil per foot of expected plant growth. Before you transplant you want to add a quarter cup of granular bloom fertilizer mixed into your soil before planting. Bloom fertilizers have a lower mix of nitrogen and higher levels of phosphorus and potassium often listed as NPK (5-10-10).
Using a slow-release granular fertilizer makes for easy growing for the rest of the plant’s life. Because of its slow release action the plant is fed every time you water it, ensuring that it has all the nutrients it needs for the rest of its life cycle and taking away that lack of surety: “Did I give it too much or too little?”
Pro Tip: Be gentle when transplanting into larger containers. The roots are often delicate and can be damaged easily. If using a Dixie cup, squeeze the side of the cup until the plant becomes loose and gently flip the plant into your other hand while making sure to support its root mass.
Step 6: Forcing it to flower
Since marijuana is a photosensitive plant you need to “force it to flower,” which is its natural cue to begin reproducing by giving it equal times of light and uninterrupted dark periods. This is where you often hear of the 12/12 cycle: 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. The final resting spot for the rest of your plant’s life needs to be an area where it can get uninterrupted dark time.
The classic area is normally a small closet or grow tent if you can afford the investment. You just need a simple 24-hour appliance timer and set it for 12 hours on and 12 hours off.
Pro Tip: Make sure your flowering area is somewhere that can get uninterrupted light cycles. Interrupting the night cycle can cause your plants to “herm,” meaning they will create pollen sacs on your female plants that will then pollinate your female plant and produce seeds. It’s not the worst thing that can happen but when a plant produces seeds, the quality of your flowers will be diminished.
Step 7: Let it grow
For the next eight to nine weeks, just allow nature to do its thing. You only need to water your baby with normal tap water whenever the top 3 or 4 inches of soil are dry and make sure you’re moving your grow light up as it grows. You want to keep your light 12 to 24 inches from the tallest point of your plant to ensure that the tops aren’t getting too warm, an issue known as “light burn.” Flowers begin to form at week three of this stage and most finish with eight or nine weeks of growing in the 12/12 light cycle. You know your plant is ready when the larger leaves have started to turn yellow and when 75% of the pistols have turned red or brown on the flowers (also known as buds).
Pro Tip: Make sure your grow space has air movement. When growing in an indoor space you need air circulation. Adding a small oscillating fan helps bring fresh air into your garden. Plants use CO2 during photosynthesis, so you want to give them as much air circulation as you can.
Step 8: Harvest Time!
After all these weeks of waiting and watering, the day is finally here. It’s harvest time! After the eighth or ninth week your baby is ready to be chopped.
Simply cut your plant and hang it upside down in a cool dark area. You can use the same place you grew it in — just turn the light off. After letting the plant dry for about seven to 10 days you’ll want to manicure it. You do this by trimming off all the remaining leaves and trimming around your bud sites removing any leaves that are not connected to bud sites and any smaller leaves that don’t look “frosty.” At this stage you’re done!
For the smoothest and most quality smoke, you want to cure your flowers simply by putting them in an airtight container and “burping” them once or twice a day. The reason this is done is to allow the chlorophyll to break down inside the leaves and flowers, revealing its flavor and preventing you from having buds that taste grassy or fresh. This step is also very personalized, but most people cure it for at least 10 days, or as long as three months — it just depends on what flavor profile you’re looking for.
Pro Tip: When harvesting, and in the few weeks leading up to harvest, your plant will smell fantastic — fantastic to the point that if you have visitors over they will definitely smell it. It’s advised to use some kind of smell control. They make multiple products to help alleviate this but the most common is known as a carbon filter, which are mesh tubes that are filled with activated charcoal that use a fan to pull air through the filter, absorbing particulates and leaving the air smelling clean and removing the odor. It’s worth the small investment to make sure the only people that know you are growing are people that you want to know, which honestly should be no one.
Stay safe and happy growing!
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