Johanna SilverJune 17, 2020
Welcome to Leafly’s cannabis homegrow! Watch as our writer Johanna Silver grows a set of marijuana plants from seed to harvest in her backyard. Follow #Leaflyhomegrow on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Also, check out her book, Growing Weed in the Garden: A No-Fuss, Seed-to-Stash Guide to Outdoor Cannabis Cultivation.
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Sexing your weed plants
Cannabis plants are dioecious, meaning males and females are on separate plants—that is super rare in the plant world. This is the most fun part of the process, sexing the plants: learning to tell the difference between those males and females.
When you buy weed from a dispensary, you are always buying female flowers—ideally unpollinated female flowers. That is how you get beautiful bud without seeds. So long as you’re after a crop of unpollinated female flowers, you’ve got to learn to tell the difference and you’ve got to chuck the males.
Of course, you can hang on to a male if you’re looking to try your hand at backyard breeding, maybe for some seeds for next year’s crop (but it’s very difficult). There is no guarantee they’re going to come out anything like either one of their parents.
So just know that if you hang onto a male plant, you are going to pollinate your entire crop, probably your neighbor’s, and your neighbor’s, neighbor’s crop. You’ll have weed full of seeds.
Identifying weed sex organs
Flowering won’t kick off in earnest until after the Summer Solstice, but with plants just over two months, you can most certainly sex them from their pre-flower.
Helpful tools: magnifying glass or a jeweler’s loupe.
When you’re growing outside, they will be ready to sex around 8-10 weeks.
- Find a node (between the stem and the branch—it’s like the armpit of the plant)
- There you’ll find a flap that looks like a flag, and that’s called a stipule
- Peel back the stipule, right where the next branch is starting to grow out, and you’ll find a sex organ
Males = Balls
Females = Round thing that’s not quite a ball and has a white hair (that white hair is a pistil)
If you think you see all balls, or you can’t quite tell, give it another week or so. Female sex organs are round, but they don’t scream “ball”—they look like something’s about to grow from them. In another week’s time, you’re likely going to see a hair or two.
Not everything is going to be a male—there’s no way you started all your seeds and they’re all males.
If you want to keep a male, give it a snip, strip it of its leaves, and put it in a glass jar inside. Grow it like you would a cutting or a flower and it will continue to grow.
When the pollen is released, it won’t get everywhere so long as it’s not near an open window. Once released, you can scoop up a little and selectively pollinate some flowers that you’ve got outside for seeds next year. Be careful not to pollinate your entire crop!
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How to pot up your weed seedlings
Hey, this is Johanna and we’re back talking weed in my backyard, and we are going to pot up the babies into their next home.
I am potting these from their 4-inch containers where I sprouted them into gallon-size containers, where they will live for a little bit while longer.
You know your plants are ready for a bigger home when they’ve grown past the seed leaves—the cotyledons—and they’ve sprouted a few sets of their first true leaves. You want them to be looking healthy, not stressed out, so they can handle being moved to a new home.
These are about five inches tall. That’s great. You just want to have a few sets of those true leaves.
To transplant your weed:
- Give the weed seedlings a splash of water
- Use fresh potting soil—always fresh, do not reuse potting soil
- Everything should be moist, including potting soil—it doesn’t need to be dripping wet, but you want to minimize the shock for the plants
- Fill up the gallon with potting soil—you can sink the 4-incher in there to see how much to fill in advance (you want to submerge the cotyledons and even go a little deeper)
- Hold the plant upside-down in your hand
- Gently take off the 4-inch container
- Place it in the middle of the container
- Fill in the rest of the gallon with potting soil
I like to give mine a little shake to get them level and a little pat because potting soil is pretty fluffy. It will settle a bit. You don’t need to tamp it down with your hand.
I’ve left a little bit of a gap, about an inch at the most, for water to have a place to drain.
Important: Label goes back into the plant.
Give the new container a sprinkling of water to help everything feel real good in its new home. Keep them in the shade the rest of the day and throw them back in the sun first thing in the morning.
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How to pop (germinate) your weed seeds
Wondering when you should start your weed seeds? Use the Farmer’s Almanac to find out dates for starting tomato seeds in your region and use those.
Before you get started, you will need:
- 4-inch containers (left over from whatever other stuff you’ve grown in your garden)
- Tray (for moving them around)
- Fresh potting soil—important: it says “potting” on the bag and you haven’t used it to grow other stuff
- Optional: Sharpie Extreme (it’s permanent and weatherproof)
- Weed seeds
I’m growing three cultivars this year:
The legal limit in my area is six plants. I’m only looking to grow three. So I am going to pop a few seeds of each cultivar and trust that one or two is a lady.
Make sure you know the laws in your area.
How to germinate weed seeds
- Fill up 4-inchers with fresh potting soil. Fresh, has not been used for other things
- Write labels. I’ve made the mistake of only writing one label for a row—inevitably, you mess yourself up and you don’t know what your plants are
- Place labels in containers.
- Plant one seed in each container.
- Rule of thumb: Plant a seed twice as deep as the seed is wide
- Make a little indentation in the soil with your finger, drop the seed in, and pinch it shut
- Give the pot a little shake to make it level
- Give it a gentle splash of water either with a watering can or with the shower setting on a hose nozzle—make sure they’re drenched, but don’t blast the seeds away
- Optional: Put them in a small greenhouse to keep them safe and warm
All you have to do from there is make sure the little containers are watered thoroughly for the next few days. You want to see water coming out the bottom and see that they’re thoroughly wet. They don’t need to be soggy, but you don’t want them to dry out.
They can germinate anywhere between 3-12 days.
In no time, you’ll see little green sprouts pop their way up.
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How to pick a spot to grow weed
What’s up fellow weed growers!
I’m Johanna, coming to you from my Berkeley, California backyard. I grow fruit, veggies, herbs, cut flowers, and yeah, weed. I grow weed entirely outdoors, in the sunshine, no fancy equipment, not a lot of fuss. And I’ve actually found that information for that type of a grower is incredibly hard to come by. So I’m here to help show you how to do it.
And what’s the very first thing you need to do when growing weed? Find a spot to grow it.
What to look for when picking a spot to grow weed
Full sun. In the outdoor world of gardening, full sun means at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. Just six to eight hours of direct sunlight and nature is going to do the rest. Morning sun is always a little bit gentler and more loving than afternoon sun.
Super good soil. When you’re gardening you’re actually cultivating soil more than you’re cultivating the plant. So you want some nicely amended, well draining, yummy soil.
Plenty of room. Weed is pretty variable in size so allot five to six feet of width.
Other considerations: If you live somewhere crazy windy, you’re going to want to plant them with a barrier—either a wall or other plants.
Privacy. In many locations, it’s only legal to grow weed behind super tall fences. You also don’t want your neighbors stealing your stuff.
Access to water is absolutely key. Plants need water to grow.
Here are three spots I’m going to grow in my backyard:
- Existing veggie bed—Looks nice, has drip irrigation, full sun in the afternoon. I don’t love that the soil has been cultivated a lot.
- The graves—They get incredible full sun all day long and also have incredible soil—super juicy, full of worms (the grass has acted as a cover crop for the last three years). Not ideal: sprinkler heads are going to make things a little wet.
- A container—A good choice if you don’t have access to in-ground planting. It should be 5 gallon minimum, 15 gallon ideal; use fresh potting soil. I can make a really cute little scene with a couple pots, some flowers, and I feel like an utter badass that a big weed plant is the main attraction.
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