COVID-19 continues to paralyse the economy and keep the world in lockdown. For many dispensaries, this has lead to closure or a shortfall in supplies. Is now the time to learn how to grow your own supply?
We note that the subject contained in this article represents illegal activity in certain jurisdictions. Whilst we do not condone any acts which are contrary to any such laws, we understand that readers in those jurisdictions which have decriminalised cannabis may find this article of interest.
The Coronavirus crisis rages on, with an exponentially expanding number of known cases worldwide – moving toward 2 million confirmed cases rapidly. Whether you have the virus or not, COVID-19 has managed to affect us all in some way. The pandemic has ravaged health care systems and economies all over the globe, heavily impacting our population and the industries we belong to.
The cannabis industry is just one of many that have been impacted by the virus in numerous ways. Governments around the world are enforcing new laws and restrictions on social interaction and encouraging self-isolation in order to control the spread of the disease and to protect health services. Not only has this lead to the cancellation of cannabis events and conventions, but it has also lead to the closure of many businesses deemed 'non-essential'.
When the Coronavirus first took hold in North America, many dispensaries managed to stay open as they were deemed essential by state governments. The reasoning behind this was that cannabis could be used medically, as an alternative to prescription medicine, for conditions such as chronic pain, inflammation and insomnia.
However, as the virus has progressed and laws surrounding social interaction have become stricter, a change in their status as essential could occur. Recently, the provincial government of Ontario announced that cannabis dispensaries would no longer be considered essential businesses, with many being legally forced to close up shop. Currently, the only legal avenue for Ontario residents to purchase cannabis is online through the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS).
The outlook isn't much better for dispensaries which have managed to retain their essential status. While the North American cannabis industry appears to be booming, with states such as Nevada and Florida hitting record sales numbers, these types of profit margins aren't sustainable. Faced with the prospect of indefinite isolation, cannabis consumers are purchasing (and perhaps panic-buying) raw cannabis flower in ridiculous numbers in order to bunker down and endure.
If this trend continues, it could lead to a shortage of available cannabis products. Not only has coronavirus made cannabis harder to purchase, but it is also more difficult to cultivate and distribute. With more people seemingly stocking up, it seems like the demand may catch up to the supply. This is especially tough for medical consumers who rely on the plant to treat conditions where other medications have not been as successful.
As Coronavirus continues to impact global supply chains, we find ourselves living in a time where there is a new emphasis on self-sufficiency. Since regular cannabis consumers are a resourceful bunch, many are trying their hand at growing a green thumb. Lots of people are finding new hobbies or developing new skills with all the time they have off in isolation. Perhaps growing your own supply is the one for you.
But how do you get started? Here are some tips on how to grow your own cannabis indoors. To clarify, we do not endorse personal cannabis cultivation in places in which it is illegal to do so.
How to Grow Indoors
One of the first things you'll need to consider when deciding to grow your own cannabis is whether to plant indoors or outdoors. However, depending on where you live and what your laws are like, growing outdoors might not be an option for you. Don't stress over this though, as there are multiple benefits to growing your new pot plant indoors.
Although growing indoors may require more resources than growing outdoors, it can actually result in higher quality produce, as you are able to have more control over the environment in which you grow. Because your plant isn't subject to the sun and different seasons you can achieve multiple harvests, resulting in larger yields. You can even grow right through winter. Lastly, growing indoors adds an extra layer of privacy and security, concealing your crop from nosy neighbours and potential thieves.
The Space & Equipment
The first thing to consider after deciding to grow indoors is which room or space you would like to grow in. This can be any type of space, not just a typical room, so things like closets and cabinets will suffice. You'll just need to ensure that this space is big enough for all your equipment (there's a lot) and the potential growth of the plant, as cannabis plants can double in size during the early stages. If you're a first-time grower you'll definitely want to start small. This is because it will be less expensive (especially if you make mistakes) and easier to monitor.
You must ensure that this space is easy to clean and that there are no light leaks. These leaks can confuse your plants whilst growing in the dark, leading them to produce male flowers. Others variables to consider are the temperature and humidity of the room. Choose a dry and cool space with fresh air, as warm and humid conditions will give you less control over the growing environment. Finally, choose a space that is convenient to access because you'll want to be checking on your plants daily, especially if you're a first-time grower.
As the sun won't affect an indoor grow, the quality of light your plants receive is the biggest environmental factor in the quality and quantity of your yield. For this reason, many growers choose to invest heavily in the best lighting that they can afford. The most common types of lighting setup are HID lights, fluorescent lights, LED lights and induction lights.
HID (high-intensity discharge) lights are widely used due to their output, efficiency and value. They are more expensive than fluorescent lights but produce far more light. They are not as efficient as LED lights, but they are far cheaper. HID bulbs produce a lot of heat, so if you have chosen this option make sure your room has lots of ventilation, otherwise you will probably need to purchase air-cooled reflector hoods.
Fluorescent lights are cheaper and do not require a cooling system. Efficiency and size are the biggest drawbacks for this type of lighting setup. LED (light-emitting diode) lights are super-efficient. They have a long life, use less electricity and create less heat however, they are by far the most expensive type of lighting setup. Induction lamps are a more efficient and longer-lasting version of the fluorescent lights, but they are also expensive and harder to find.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an essential molecule for photosynthesis, so you will need to ensure your plant has access to fresh air. An exhaust fan is the most popular choice in order to achieve this and to maintain the room at a steady temperature. A constant light breeze is advised as it strengthens the stems of the plant and can repel mould and flying pests. A circular fan is usually all that is required, just make sure it isn't pointed directly at the plants, as this can cause windburn.
As you won't be spending all day in your grow room, you will probably need to automate your lighting and fan setups. There are many expensive options for this, but typically a 24 hour light timer and a thermostat switch for the exhaust fan are all that's needed. The light/dark cycle is super important in growing cannabis. The recommended amount of light is 18 hours a day when your plant is vegetative and 12 hours a day when in bloom. A timer for the lights is essential as you want to keep the lighting periods consistent every day in order to not stress the plant.
The traditional and most forgiving medium for growing indoors is soil, making it a popular choice for first-time growers. Make sure to choose a high-quality potting soil because any soil that contains artificial extended-release fertiliser is unsuitable for growing cannabis. Organic pre-fertilised soil is a good choice for beginners as this can grow cannabis plants without any added nutrients if utilised properly.
Soilless alternatives generally require a hydroponic setup. This involves feeding your plants with concentrated solutions of salt-based nutrients which are absorbed directly into the roots via osmosis. This method results in faster growth and bigger yields but is much more difficult to set up and monitor. Some of the different materials used in this process are clay pebbles, rockwool, perlite and vermiculite. Commercial soilless mixtures are also widely available.
The type of container you end up using is largely dependent on the medium you've chosen and the size of your plants. Some relatively cheap options include normal pot plant containers and perforated plastic or cloth bags. 3-5 litre tubs are also a popular and inexpensive choice for first-time growers. Whichever container you decide on, ensure that it has good drainage as cannabis plants are very sensitive to water-logged conditions.
In order to grow high-quality cannabis, you will need more fertiliser and nutrients than normal for other common crops. Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are the macronutrients that are essential for high-quality cannabis. Calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), iron (Fe) and copper (Cu) are also required nutrients, but in much smaller quantities. You can find these nutrients in a concentrated liquid or powder form, both of which are to be mixed with water before being applied to the plant and medium. These nutrients are usually formulated for either the vegetative or bloom stages, as cannabis has different nutrient requirements throughout its lifecycle. More nitrogen is required in the vegetative stage and more phosphorus and potassium are required in the bloom stage.
Combine these nutrients with water as advised and water your plants with the solution. Start slow, as overfeeding your plants is usually worse than underfeeding. In time you will be able to read your plants and notice any deficiencies or excesses it may have. A pH meter for your solution could be a wise investment, as cannabis prefers a pH between 6 and 7. A pH level outside of this range can result in a nutrient lockout, where your plant isn't able to absorb the required nutrients.
Many growers choose to filter the water they use for their cannabis plants. This is because, depending on your location, some water contains a high concentration of undissolved minerals which could affect nutrient uptake. There is also the chance that the water contains a fungus or other pathogens that are not harmful to humans but can cause root disease. High levels of chlorine in the water can also be harmful to important soil microbes.
When watering your plants, it is important to remember not to overdo it. Cannabis plants are extremely susceptible to root diseases caused by fungi, which thrive in damp and wet conditions. Overwatering is a common mistake for many novice growers. The amount you'll need to water your plants is dependent on the grow medium you have chosen, size of the plants and room temperature.
Once you've gained a bit more experience in cannabis cultivation, you'll be able to alter all these variables as you please and add new growing techniques into your arsenal. These tips will hopefully help to get you started. Remember to stay inside, stay safe and have fun with it.
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