People ask us about outdoor growing all the time. Why is outdoor better than indoor? Wouldn’t you prefer full control over the environment? What do you get out of growing cannabis outdoors? First and foremost is the joy of being out in nature, watching your girls grow. You literally get recharged by putting your hands in the earth, savoring and smelling the soil, feeling the sun on your face, the wind blowing your hair, and listening to the birds sing in the trees.
At Ganja Ma Gardens, the home of Swami Select, we are privileged to be able to grow outdoors in full sun, which is why we call our cannabis, Sungrown, of course. It also means that on a full moon night in early September, we can walk through plants up to ten feet high, smelling the exotic fragrances that waft through the rows. We are old Hippies, after all.
Is Cannabis Spiritual?
Further, when you grow cannabis from seeds, you really are there from the inception, all the way through until harvest. The plants become your babies and later after they show their sex, they become your girls. As they develop into grown women, they need constant loving care until the flowers are rolled into a fatty. They are the daughters of the Divine Spirit of the cannabis plant, a spirit that imbues powers of healing, joy, inspiration, and spiritual guidance.
Delightfully, growing your own cannabis will often inspire one to grow other flowers and vegetables. The whole process gives you an intimate connection with the weather and the seasonal cycles of Nature, right in your own neighborhood.
Nonetheless, there are real practical benefits from growing your own. First, you know there are no pesticides because you didn’t use them. Second, you know it’s organic because you know everything you put in the soil is organic or mineral. In addition, you always have the cultivars you like, so are not worried your retailer will run out. Plus, you’re not going to pay $35 to $50 an eighth!
Since you trim it yourself, you also get leaf shake and smalls you can use to make cannabis butter for edibles, olive oil for salads, or even simple tinctures. You also know that it is “fair trade” with decent employee working conditions since you do all the work and are your own boss, plus you don’t use any potentially harmful CO2 or Sulphur sprays, which is often the case in large indoor and greenhouse grows.
What to do Before Planting your Seeds
In late winter, after numerous discussions, we choose the outdoor cannabis seeds we will plant for the coming season. It’s truly like being kids in a candy store, they all look so delicious. Once we make those decisions, we chant the sacred mantras for the blessed herb and put the chosen ones at the feet of the Goddess of Cannabis, Ganja Ma, for a moon cycle, to absorb Her Divine energy. As you can probably tell already, our cannabis growing stages outdoors are a little different from most growers!
Prepare the Beds or Pots
In March or April, when the weather and especially the soil warms up, it is time to begin preparing the garden beds. If this is your first outdoor grow, it’s time to select the best spot in the garden, deck, or balcony for the cannabis plants. Remember full sun and heat (up to a point) are the best things for your girls because they trigger the plants to make trichomes to protect any potential seeds from ultraviolet light.
Find the sunniest place in your garden or deck and take into account that in Spring and Fall the sun is lower down than in mid-Summer. There are phone apps for this if you need help; they show where to place solar panels. In fact, the big fan leaves cannabis produces in the summer are its solar panels for growth.
Whether you are a beginner or experienced gardener, if you are not bringing in new soil and are using the existing soil, it’s a good idea to have it tested and follow the laboratory’s recommendations for additives. If you are planting in the ground in a new place, you will definitely need to test the soil for anything that might be toxic, and, depending on the test results, you may want to bring all new soil.
If you are buying commercial soil, check with your nursery, as there are special soil mixes designed for growing cannabis. There are also commercial compost, worm castings, chicken and steer manure, as well as many other essential amendments for increasing yield and potency available at most nurseries. With these ingredients you can make your own soil. Look online for recipes.
In either case, using existing soil with amendments or using new soil, it is best to insist on organic and mineral products. We use chicken manure and even alpaca manure from our neighbor up the hill. We have also used alfalfa meal, sea kelp, wood chips, leaves, compost, worm castings, as well as rock phosphate, green sand, gypsum and azomite in small amounts.
Building up the fertility of the soil takes time, three to four years, which is a good reason to work on improving the soil you have, rather than throwing away the old soil and buying new soil every year. It is also cheaper and better for the environment.
Most conscientious, environmentally aware growers shy away from bat guano and sea bird guano because harvesting the droppings not only disturbs the nesting habitats of the animals, but the working conditions for the employees gathering it are deplorable.
Peat moss is also frowned upon because its removal changes the environment left behind and it takes centuries to grow back. Many other off-the-shelf and bottled ingredients, pesticides, etc, although tempting with their promises and ease of use, are dangerous or impactful.
As for blood meal, bone meal and feather meal—amendments often recommended for cannabis—make your own ethical decisions. As a vegetarian, I choose not to use these ingredients. Plus, they attract large animals such as bears!
Right in your own garden, you can be part of restoring the earth by your choices. When growing your own medicinal or inspirational cannabis you naturally want it to be pure, organic, and non-harmful with a small carbon footprint.
Sprout the Seeds
Now, back to the seeds. When the moon cycle is waxing at the beginning of April and in a fertile earth or water sign, we put the chosen seeds in small jars of water, labeled according to cultivar, on a table in the dining room next to the windows. Sprouting dates can be earlier or later, depending on one’s latitude and last hard Spring frost. We wait until the momentum of Spring is evident and start the seeds when everything else is also bursting forth: the oak trees, the grasses, wildflowers, daffodils, etc. Timing the start of the seeds is part of being in tune with your environment.
Into each jar, we add several drops of water from the sacred Ganges River in India. This water is called Amrit, the “Elixir of Immortality”. In this manner, we set the intention. This is a moment to offer your own prayer and state your intention for the healing and inspirational power of the plants to bless its eventual users.
It is important to place a pale-colored towel over the sprouting jars to trick the seeds into thinking they are just a half-inch deep in the soil. Without the cover, they won’t pop. They also need to be in a place that is warm and is exposed to the day/night cycle. After soaking in water for 24 to 48 hours, lift up the cover to see if the seeds have cracked their shells and stuck out the little white tendrils that will become the taproot. It is like witnessing a birthing.
Growing Your Own Weed Outdoors: A Spiritual Journey
I have been waxing poetic about our magical farm up in the mountains, but even in a garden in the back yard or on your balcony, you can truly experience the joy of growing cannabis outdoors. Just sticking your fingers in the soil is therapeutic.
Aside from the joy of being out in nature and watching your girls grow, there are real practical benefits from growing your own. First and foremost, you know there are no pesticides because you didn’t use them. Second, you know it’s organic outdoor cannabis because you know everything you put in the soil. You’ll always have the cultivars you like so you’re not worried your retailer will run out. Since you trim it yourself, you also get leaf shake and smalls to make cannabis butter for popcorn, or olive oil for salads or simple tinctures (outdoor medical cannabis strains tends to be richer, especially when grown organically). You also know that it’s “fair trade” with decent employee working conditions, since you do the work and you are your own boss, and you don’t use any potentially harmful CO2 or Sulphur sprays.
Most delightfully, growing your own cannabis is a gateway activity that soon leads to growing other flowers and vegetables. The whole process has given you an intimate connection with the seasonal cycles of Nature, right in your own backyard.
In our next installment, we will show you how to actually grow your own cannabis outdoors, or at least how we do it. The next article will walk you through our whole process, step-by-step.