First Time Grow Blog, Legal In MA (Weeks 1-4)

December 24th, 2016 – January 25th, 2017

Week 1:

I haven't been this excited to play with a Christmas present since 1989 when the Gameboy came out.  That’s because my brother in law who lives in Colorado presented me with a package of 6 marijuana seeds at our recent family Christmas Eve gathering. The packaging on the seeds purports them to be some of the finest marijuana genetics in his state of residence which, if taken care of properly, could produce between 1 and 2 pounds of smokeable product. Seeds in hand I now set out on a long hoped for journey to start growing what I have been buying for the last 15 years.

That's because in Massachusetts it became legal to smoke, buy, and grow marijuana on December 15th, 2016. But the catch22 of this seemingly amazing news is that although it is now legal to grow and smoke pot, it is still illegal to sell marijuana or its seeds. As someone who smoke marijuana on occasion, I was excited about legalization but dismayed to hear it would still be another year and a half before the will of the voters would turn into the reality of picking up a sack at the local pot shop. Hence the idea of growing my own stash in the mean time and eliminating the need for those awkward interactions with drug dealers in which I have engaged over the last 10 years.

But more than just looking forward doing away with the illegal procurement process, I'm just pumped to start my home grow operation. I like smoking weed in probably in the same way that a lot of people like having a good beer. Like many of my friends who have taken their love of a good beer into the hobby of brewing their own at home, I’ve always wanted to grow my own weed. Sadly, I haven’t been able to partake in a home grow in the same way as my home brewing friends without risking being looked upon as more like Walter White than Sam Adams. And growing weed seems like it would be a lot easier than the complicated fermenting process of brewing beer. I started growing my own vegetables and herbs a few years ago and there isn't much to it. Why not slot the marijuana plant between the Tomato and Basil this time around. And its infinitely easier than making your own whiskey which takes years before you can taste your first batch, and involves the use of highly flammable materials. From what I can tell now that I have the seeds I'm only a few months away from joint rolling heaven. 

Before jumping into the home grow game I read through the regulations and the entirety of the new law in Massachusetts. From what I could surmise it is now legal for me to grow up to 12 marijuana plants in my basement. The 6 seeds I have come from a Colorado shop called Green Seeds Genetics, a premiere cannabis purveyor., so that I could pick out what kind of pot I wanted to grow. To be honest, even after many years of smoking pot and living in Oregon where Marijuana is also legal, I still haven’t developed an understanding for the differences between sativas and indicas, maui wowi vs. Presidential OG Kush. My pot palate is more along the lines of Good Weed (gets you stoned after a few tokes) vs. Bad Weed (gets you a little light headed after smoking an entire joint.) Green Seed Genetics seems to only produce the former as “Each strain is hand selected based on their look, flavor, yield, and effect.” I settled on the “Blue Dream x Barberry Brute” hybrid strain. According to the description on the website Green Seed genetics “selected Blue Dream for its legendary blueberry smell, high yield, and mild high.” Its counterpart, Barberry Brute, was selected for “its early resin production and spicy flavor.” Smoking spicy blueberry weed sounded intriguing, now all I had to do is grow it.

I began my weed grow the day I got home to Massachusetts. To expand my basic knowledge of growing vegetables and herbs outside in the summer, I know had to figure out how to turn these 6 seeds into flowering marijuana plants in my basement. I began where all new endeavors begin, on Google, and typed in “how to grow marijuana from seeds.” That search presented me with a bewildering array of you-tube video tutorials, PDF instruction manuals, and weed blogs, all offering different advice on the equipment and methods to bring my basement marijuana growing empire into fruition. Best as I could tell it would be easiest to start with a soil grow using CFL light bulbs (those spirally white frourcent lights that regular lamps use) which is the cheapest and most foolproof. The hydroponic soilless systems seemed a little too scientific and expensive for a first time grower. I’m not looking to set up a lab in my basement quite yet. I just want to grow some healthy looking weed bushes and see if they flower a few ounces of buds.

What I found most helpful for getting started is a website called growweedeasy.com. Despite it looking like a 2005 blogger site, growweedeasy.com is extremely informative yet easy to follow along with. Reading this “Beginners Guide” took awhile at over 20,000 words but it gave me the necessary background behind growing the plant through it’s entire cycle. From there you can proceed into the “weeds” of that site to get more info on things like “training” your plant by beding its stems to produce higher yields, and about “cloning” 1 highly potent plant into 12 identical versions of that same plant.

The other resource that I found was very helpful is the online weed VLOGER John Berfulo. John is a bit of an acquired taste, with a super stoner vibe who talks like the Ninja Turtle Michalangelo. He is a big fan of “growing his medicine” but beyond his happy enthusiasm he’s really good at breaking down the basic steps of getting a marijuana plant to go from seed to flowering. This 26 minute video is all you need to watch to get your plants up and running for the first 4 weeks.

My goal for my first round of home growing was to get 10 ounces of weed to flower from 12 potential plants in the first batch. According to the labeling these seeds had the potential to grow between 110-130 grams per plant which works out to around 4 ounces of weed. With 12 fully productive plants that means I could potentially produce around 48 ounces of weed which would probably last me for the rest of my life. 10 ounces seemed reasonable enough for my first grow from 12 plants which would be enough for entrance into the cup, enough for me to smoke for a year, and probably some to spare as house warming gifts and stocking stuffers next Christmas.

Step one is putting the seeds in a glass of room temperature water out of the sunlight and then letting them sit for around 24 hours. I just used a couple of highball whiskey glass.  One had a frosted outline of a deer head on it and the other a hand painted pheasant. The seeds floated at first but after 24 hours I was able to tap the tops of them and they sank to the bottom of the glass of water. That’s is a sign that they are viable seeds which will turn into plants if put under the right conditions.

The second step was to take those seeds and place them on a damp paper towel so that the taproot inside the seed gets the air it needs to start growing. You see each cannabis seed contains just enough energy inside of it that once it receives warmth and water (like it does in spring) it will begin to shoot out an initial taproot and thenwill produce 2 small leaves called cortedylons. The soaking for 24 hours in water allows the seed to open up faster and speeds up the sending out the taproot. The placement within a damp paper towel allows it to stay moist but begin to get airflow to help it grow. You can skip these steps and go straight to putting the seed in soil but it will add a week or more to the growth timeline.

I used a couple of sealable glass pyryx containers which I kept near a baseboard heater under a couch to minimize light they received.  The seeds that were in the frosted deerhead cup I named “Deerslayer.” And the seeds from the pheasant cup I named “Hawk-Eye. The names were taken from James Fennimore Cooper characters in his the Leather Stocking novels such as “The Last of The Mohicahns.”

After a few days in the moist paper towelI began to see the taproots coming out about half an inch which was the signal that they were now ready to be transferred to soil.

Training on the soaked seeds/damp paper towel can be found here.

Week 2:

After getting the seeds to produce a taproot it’s time to get them transplanted into their starter containers and under lights to start their “vegetative” cycle. From what I’ve read there are 5 general stages of a marijuana plant’s life, seed, seedling, vegetative, flowering, and harvesting. The seed to seedling transformative stage is where mine are at now. They are just little seeds with small white tails sticking out of them. After transplanting them into soil they will transition into the “vegetative stage” which means they start growing real leaves. Once they pop out of the soil and start to show leaves I’ll need to put them under lights 24 hours a day.

I’m trying to repurpose as much from my basement junk piles as possible for the first grow but after a week I’ve run into the first product I needed to buy, potting soil. I picked up some up from my local hardware store called “Fox Farms Organic Potting soil” which was recommended by the grow weed easy site. They say not to get anything with early start fertilizer like Miracle Grow potting soil because it can kill seedlings. I picked up the Foxfarms from a small Aubuchon store in our town which I was surprised to find had an entire hydroponics section which clearly had been picked through often. Either there is already a lot of old people growing vegetables in their basement or maybe a lot of people are up to the same thing as me around here and the local hardware stores are capitalizing on the new home grow marijuana industry.

To house the soil to plant my seedlings in I repurposed some sturdy plastic cups (Dixie Cup sized) that I had lying around the house. I poked some holes in the bottom of them with a screwdriver to let the water run through. That allows to circulate through the soil to the roots. That’s one of the very important lessons I’ve learned during this process. Healthy plant growth is not about keeping the plant wet all the time like cut flowers in your living room. Its about watering the full root system, letting the soil dry out almost completely so the plant gets air and then watering it again as soon as possible so the process can start anew without the roots drying up completely and killing the plant.  In order to speed up the process of seedling growth you are supposed to plant in small cups first. That way the growing plant gets just enough water to feed it and then goes dry quickly so it can breath. If you use a larger pot the seedling takes a long time to absorb that water through its tiny root system, which means longer before it gets air which means less cycles of watering and drying for best growth.

I filled each of my cups up to 1 inch below the top so that water wouldn’t spill over during future fillings. Then I made a small hole about the size of my index finger to the first knuckle in the center of the potting soil in the cup. Then I sprayed the whole area with a water sprayer and dropped the little seedlings in the whole with the root facing down and the seed area facing up. Another trick of the trade I’ve read about is not transferring wet seedlings to dry soil, you want wet soil to wet seedlings.

After placing the seeds in the small hole I gently rolled the soil back over the seedling and thoroughly watered the cup with the spray bottle until it was soaked and water drained out of the bottom of the cup. When they are young its best to use the spray bottle for watering so that you don’t disturb the soil too much by just pouring a bunch of water in from a bucket.

Sadly, two of the seeds never sported tap roots in the paper towel. I planted them anyways to see if that would help but unfortunately two would never emerge from their soil tombs.

At this point I was keeping all of the seedling cups on my dresser in my bedroom on a seedling heating pad that I picked up for 20 bucks at Aubuchon as well. It warms the ambient temperature of the soil inside the cup by 10 degrees and I’ve read encourages root growth for young plants. After planting I placed 4 lamps around them to help the new seedlings start to reach for the light and then went in search of another spot in my house that would be suitable for them to start growing. As seedlings they need a warm enviormet (70-80 degrees preferably) and lots of humidity (50-60 percent.) And they require light, pretty much constantly. They need a minimum of 18 hours of daylight and 6 hours of darkness per day to grow quickly. But according to many growers it’s better to give them 24 hours of light at first. Our bedroom was warm and humid enough for them, but my wife and I weren’t ready to try to sleep with 4 lights on 24/7 in our room.

The basement was the best place for them but I still hadn’t cleared out the final location for these plants yet and had to go to a New Years weekend adventure to Vermont with my wife. So I transplanted them to the bathroom which gets great heat and setup our humidifier in there and placed 4 house lamps with no shades on them over the seedlings.

My neighbor, who has been known to smoke a joint or two from her porch, was kind enough to offer to come by and spray the seedlings down once a day while I was away. I had thought about giving them 1 watering right before I left which might be enough to last 2-3 days. But with seedlings on a heat pad that soil dries out quickly (almost overnight from my first watering) so having my neighbor water a few times while I away made me feel much more secure from the prospect of losing these little guys and having to start the seed procurement process all over again.

Week 3

I had a great weekend of snowshoeing and fat bike riding through the winter trails of the Okemo/Killington Vermont area, but I was really excited to get back to my plants and see if they had sprouted in my absence.

And sure enough I got home to find 4 leggy sprouts with two small leaves having emerged from their soil cups towards to overhead lights. They had grown tall quickly while I was away, too tall actually, which I learned was due to the distance I had placed the CFL light bulbs away from the plants. Turns out that CFL lights work as growing lights and are cheap, but they are not powerful and need to be between 2-6 inches away from the seedlings so they don’t elongate towards the light and waste their initial energy on growing high instead of growing leaves.

So now I had to figure out a new system that kept the CFL lights closer to the plants so they didn’t continue to stretch. Plus, I couldn’t keep them in our bathroom any longer. My wife was already beginning to give me inquisitive asides wondering just how much longer our main bathroom for guests was going to be occupied by a humidifier, 4 table lamps without shades, and a bunch of tiny marijuana plants.

So I fast tracked cleaning out the basement on New Year’s day night to finalize a place for the plants to grow though the rest of their stages. I rigged up a system whereby I hung my lamps upside down from the PVC sub pump pipe and a placed the seedlings onto old side tables. It didn’t look terribly attractive but it worked for the time being and bought me some time to plan out a more suitable lighting plan.

I also brought down a space heater from our guestroom to warm up the basement a bit. The basement furnace did a decent job of heating the place up but seedlings need it to be a bit warmer than the older plants. And I bought a new humidifier for our bedroom so that I could use the old one from our bedroom for the plants. Again, thiscame from more asides about why our plants were in more need of our humidifier  New marijuana plants like a humidity level of around 50% and I now know that my winter basement hovers around 25%.

The transfer to the basement enviorment with the lights closer to the plants seemed to stop the plants growing any higher but for the next week their growth began to stall. I could see tiny new little leaves growing out of th. And sadly, the two seeds that didn’t really ever show much signs of sprouting a tap root during the wet paper towel phase never emerged so I took.

Fortunately, while I waited for my seedlings to settle into their new environment and to start producing bigger and bigger leaves, I was able to add an entirely new set of genetics to my home grow setup. That’s because in the latest bag of weed I bought, which was labeled “cheese”, was full of marijuana seeds. Usually, this would be annoying, but now that I know how to grow full plants from these suckers, and that it is legal to do so, I figured I would give a shot at getting these to sprout too. I had about 10 from the whole bag, and with a little luck I figured at least a few of them would be viable. I went about using the same process that I went through to get the Colorado genetics to sprout, soaked in water fro 24 hours, then paper towel, then into soil. To my great surprise 9 out of the 10 seeds sprouted, and 8 out of 10 made it through the soil and turned into viable plants.

Week 4

At this point it’s pretty much a waiting game. I water the seedlings every few days when the soil dries out. Give a spritz to the top soil every day. It’s slow bit kind of exciting. It has become a cherished part of my morning routine. I wake up, shuffle down stairs to make a pour over coffee and grab the morning paper, then head into the basement to check on my plants and examine every detail of their change in growth from the day before. At this point they are all growing at different rates, and starting to show a little personality. Deerslayer #1 is growing the best, not just in terms of height and width, but the leaves look the healthiest. I adjust the height on the lights every few days and added a few more lamps to accommodate the additional seedlings from the “cheese” bag.

And I have a new collaborator to discuss my newest home grow hobby with. My other brother-in law who lives in Massachusetts has decided to get into the home grow game as well. And because I now have 14 growing plants under my roof I was more than happy to give away 3 so that he could get started. Partly I wasworried about breaking the 12 plant limit home grow laws in Massachusetts (though I’m not sure 2 additional non-flowering tiny seedlings would count as breaking the law.) But I also was a little worried about keeping all these damn plants alive and growing.

While waiting for the seedlings to grow I’ve also been doing a lot more research on how to get as much yield as possible out of my plants. Mostly through reading the nearly endless amount of helpful tutorials on www.growweedeasy.com. I imagine this is quite common with first time cannabis growers. You go into the process content to grow a few plants and pull a few ounces out of the grow so you don’t have to ever buy weed again and learn a new skill in the process. But very quickly you become emmersed in the growing culture and the idea of not getting just a few ounces but potentially pounds of marijuana off each plant if utilizing the right methods. And there are a hundred different right methods. Some swear by a special mix of fertilzers. Some on lighting techniques, hps vs. cfl vs. led vs. a mix of all 3 at different heights and spaces. Some utilize complicated bonsai like pruning tecnhinvues to achieve multiple “colas”. In addition to words like “colas” “cortedelyon” I’ve added a new vocabulary of Fmin (Fuck I missed) and topping, manifolding, mainlining, super soil. It’s a bewildering world of techniques that mostly illegal marijuana growers have developed over the last 40 years which has taken pot from the 1960s brownishdry bags of leaves, to super high THC content neon green that is grown today. And I find all of it fascinating.

I even made a trip to the nearbye hydroponis store with my brother in law to get him a proper grow light (he lives in an apartment and doesn’t have access to 7 random and unused table lamps and a basement sup pump PVC pipe to hang them from.) What was supposed to be 15 minute stop to get a small grow light turned into a 2 hour conversation about growing techniques. Though the guy we were talking to, young though he is, showed some tell tale signs of smoking a bit too much of what he grows. Often times half way through a tangent about soil additives, he would stop and say, “what was the point of this conversation again.” And he even took a break to write down the latest pot strain name he thought was hilarious, “the midget.”

All the while my 11 plants are starting to actually look like marijuana plants. After the initial cortedelyon leaves the next set of two leaves has the distinctive serrated look of cannabis. Then the next set of leaves (called nodes) has 3 leaves, and the next node after that has 5. By the 4th node Deerslayer #1 is showing a leaf with the iconic 7 individual fingers which we all know from the tapestries of our favorite stoner buddies in college. At this point the width of the plant leaves has just about doubled the size of the width of the small cup containers and it is time to transfer them to larger pots.

Charles Pearce