In case you're stuck at home with an abundance of time but seem to be running out of absorbing pastimes to indulge in, you may be getting some wild ideas in your head, like what if you created a short film? or started trading stocks to earn big money or the wildest of them all - cleaned your room for once?
During your daily brainstorming sessions, if you do ponder upon the idea of growing a certain plant with potential psychoactive effects, we might be able to guide you. Before that, here is a disclaimer - growing marijuana in India is illegal and a punishable offense that, under section 20 of the NDPS Act, 1985, will result in rigorous imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine of up to one lakh rupees. Admittedly, a very harsh punishment for growing a plant with proven-medical benefits but that is the risk one takes when they decide to cultivate cannabis in their home.
However, if you were to knowingly take such risks and engage in cannabis cultivation, here are the basics of gardening this versatile plant.
To begin with, you need to decide if you're going to grow your plant indoors or let it bask in the sunlight outdoors. Both ways are deemed advantageous for cannabis cultivation, however, there are also shortcomings for both the methods so you need to weigh out the costs and benefits before you decide.
One major drawback of growing pot outdoors is that you'll be risking people recognizing and potentially reporting your pot-growing operation, which can be paranoia-inducing to live with. However, if you decide to shift the marijuana cultivation inside your home, it will require a huge financial investment to grow quality cannabis bud especially if you're a novice.
To somewhat overcome these obstacles, you can consider growing smaller potted plants in your balcony discreetly. You can take a decision after learning about the requirements for a potted plant, further in the guide.
Cannabis plants can either be male or female. You want to make sure to grow a female plant because that's the one which will yield the plumb flowers or buds, filled with psychoactive compounds such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that ultimately gets you high. Male flowers, on the other hand, yield much smaller flowers which people usually avoid consuming. The bottom line is if you want to indulge in your plant, you'll want to grow only female plants.
According to Ron Johnson, author of How to Grow Organic Cannabis: A Step-by-Step Guide for Growing Marijuana Outdoors, if you're a total newbie, instead of seeds, you should opt for buying clones. Clones are cuttings from a 'mother' female plant with stable genetics, they're easier to grow and negate the risk of getting a plant that’s male or with poor characteristics. In places where marijuana is legal, you can procure clones from dispensaries and nurseries. Unfortunately, that's a pipe dream in India so your best bet is to buy seeds and ensure they're feminized or prevent male plants from growing.
To buy seeds, you can browse your local seed bank, however, most Indian seed banks may not provide cannabis seeds. So, here are alternative international seed banks that ship worldwide discreetly:
Sowing your seeds
Johnson tells Mic that the outdoor growing season starts in April and ends around October. But since it's August, it's a little late in the season to sow new seeds, this means if you sow your seeds now, they would yield flower but not as much if you had sown them in March.
According to a Redditor and an experienced cannabis cultivator in India, the best season for sowing cannabis seeds is March which yields flowers in September and October. However, do not plant your seeds too early in the season as your plants might grow up to be monstrous in height and proportions, which can pose a risk of getting busted. Therefore, even if you sow the seeds during the end of April or May, they'll have adequate time to flourish and grow.
Blooming times for different cannabis plants
There are two different ways you can control the blooming or bud production of your cannabis plant. It depends on the type of plant you want to grow - Photoperiod or Autoflowering plants and the level of commitment you're willing to offer. Photoperiod cannabis plants depend on light cycles to begin blooming; meaning that the hours of daily sunlight or artificial light they receive can influence their blooming season.
When the photoperiod cannabis is grown during months that have longer days or around 18 hours or more of daily light, then the plant goes through vegetative growth. This means the plant will develop roots, leaves, and branches, but no buds. Later in the season, when the daily light hours are reduced to 12, flowering will begin and female plants will produce those cherished buds.
So, in the context of months in India, March to May would be the correct season to grow photoperiod cannabis as they offer longer days and more light. October would then become the harvest season, offering shorter days and decreased daily light hours, inducing flowering in the plant.
However, if you do not want to wait for the next appropriate season to come by, you can try auto-flowering strains that aren't bound by any light cycles for growing and flowering.
According to Dutch Passion, a cannabis seed company, auto-flowering seeds are one of the best choices for novice growers as it is less daunting and complicated than keeping track and modifying daylight cycles, especially if you are looking to grow a small quaint pot of 'pot'. Autoflowering strains are super convenient as they can provide you with yields in just 2-3 months, cutting down the hassle and wait time by a few months.
Consider growing auto-flowering strains if you are dealing with a more restricted and discreet set-up. However, if you want to go all-out and your set-up can accommodate more yield and you have the patience to carefully monitor your plants' light cycles, a photoperiod strain can be the right choice for you.
Choosing a place to grow
The next step is deciding where your ganja will grow - the open soil or a potted container?
Unless you're one of the lucky, rare individuals to own a backyard or a hidden garden, planting your pot in the open soil isn't a recommended option. Even though marijuana growing in the open will have the ability to spread its roots, becoming larger in size and giving a substantial yield, it's not worth the risks. By growing your plant in the wild, open, bare soil, you're making it vulnerable to unfavorable weather that can damage the plant beyond repair. Additionally, you'll have less control over pests and molds that may attack your beloved plant.
Pots are much more flexible and great to practice growing your cannabis plant as you might not get it right the first time. Potted plants can be transported to a safe location in order to protect them from bad weather and you can even hide it if you begin feeling overly paranoid. Apart from that, if you suspect the soil is contaminated or diseased, you can effortlessly transfer the plant with fresher soil. The best part about potted plants is they tend to flower earlier and can, therefore, be harvested sooner.
The only drawbacks with these compact potted plants are that they might be smaller in size and need to be watered by hand. But these are trivial downsides that would hardly matter once you have your hard-earned yield in your hand.
To grow a healthy cannabis plant with thick buds, its growing medium needs to be nourished with all the required nutrients. According to Leafly, these are the main mineral nutrients that must be added to your soil (if you're procuring new soil) - Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K), Calcium, Magnesium, and Sulfur. (You can buy them at a nursery or an Indian farming supply shop)
However, make sure to not over-fertilize the soil as it can stunt the growth of your plant. According to Dengarden, excess fertilizer can damage the roots and limit moisture intake which in the worst-case scenario will lead to your plant's death.
Apart from ensuring the mix of the right amount of fertilizers, you ought to add certain soil ingredients as well. According to Spring Pot, a company based in California that sells fabric potting, indoor growers should use soil ingredients such as vermiculite, peat moss, or perlite in their potted soil to keep it healthy. You can easily procure these ingredients at a local nursery and while you're there, get your soil tested for its pH too. According to the Cannabis Business Times, a pH of 6.0 to 6.5 is optimal for growing a marijuana plant.
After your soil is properly nourished, put it aside for a week so that the nutrients blend in the soil and are properly absorbed by it. Throughout this nutrient absorbing period, keep watering the soil but don't excessively hydrate the soil.
After the soil has bathed in nutrients for a week, you may fill your designated pot with this soil. In case, the soil feels too heavy or dense, you could add some perlite to it to help aerate the soil. Also, don't forget to add an efficient drainage system to your potted container by punching holes in the bottom of the container. This protects your plant from overwatering - a deadly problem that can destroy your plant.
How to aid in germination of seeds
Wait, don't sow your seeds yet! First, we need to help the seeds germinate; usually, seeds require the simple triad of water, heat, and air to germinate. Leafly explains the easiest and most common method with paper towels, two clean plates, water, and of course, the seeds.
1. Take four sheets of paper towels and soak them with water. Make sure they're soaked enough but they shouldn't have excess water dripping off them.
2. Place two of the soaked paper towels on a plate and then place the cannabis seeds an inch apart from one another. After that, cover the seeds with the other two soaked paper towers.
3. The goal is to create a dark, protected space. To ensure this, take another plate, flip it over, and cover the seeds.
4. Ensure that the environment they are kept in is warm around 32 Celsius.
That was simple, wasn't it? Now, it's time to wait; it's something you'll be doing a lot when cultivating this coveted plant. While you wait, keep checking if the paper towels are moist enough, apply more water if they're drying out. It's the key to keeping the seeds happy.
Once the process begins, your seed will split and a single sprout will appear emerging from it. You can view how it’s supposed to appear here. This little sprout is the taproot that will grow into the main stem of the plant. Make sure you don't touch this area to maintain sterility and don't remove the seeds yet.
According to Leafly, it generally takes 3 days for a cannabis seed to open after it's exposed to the germination medium. You'll recognize your seed has germinated when you notice the first few millimeters of root growing from the seed. You're getting closer to your bud! Now, transfer the seeds orderly into the growing medium.
How to sow the seed in the pot
1. Dig a small hole in the soil measuring about twice as deep as the seed's size. This is to make sure each germinated cannabis seed sits 2-5 millimeters below the surface.
2. Gently place the cannabis seed, with its root first, into the tiny hole and cover it with a small amount of soil - enough to block the light but not enough to obstruct the seedling's path when it emerges.
You've buried the seeds and now it's again time to sit tight and wait for the plant to come alive. Marijuana seedlings will generally take 1-3 days to emerge out of the soil.
After they emerge, you need to treat them as delicate new-borns, so exercise extreme caution and keep your eyes on them as much as you can. Practice watering your seedlings in small quantities and make sure to expose them to sunlight right from the beginning.
Since they will eventually be moved outdoors, slowly acclimatize them to sunlight by placing the container by a window for indirect sunlight. Along with this, increase their exposure to direct sunlight by an hour or two every day.
Maintenance of the cannabis plant
Avoid over-watering: We cannot stress this enough - be cautious while dousing your plant with water. Cannabis plants don't grow well in wet conditions as it can stunt growth and even lead to root rot. Before watering the plant again, check the top layer of the soil, if it's too moist, wait until it's dry to water it.
Vegetative growth: This is when your cannabis plant truly starts growing into its adult form. According to Leafly, this is when the roots and foliage develop rapidly and the plant starts producing jagged leaves while the spacing between nodes increases. If you've planted an Indica, it will look short and tense, while a Sativa will be taller and more open in foliage. During this growth phase, increase the watering of your plant and keep in mind that as your plant's roots grow outward, start watering further away from the stalks so the roots can stretch out and absorb water more efficiently.
Feeding your plant
According to the Redditor and experienced cannabis-grower in India, organic nutrients are the best way to feed your plant. Here are the best organic nutrients for Indian soil and climate:
1. Vermiculite and Perlite, the soil ingredients we earlier mentioned are effective organic fertilizers. They're helpful as they keep dense potting soils from hardening into solid masses when the soil dries.
2. Cow/human urine is an easily-acquired and nitrogen-filled fertilizer that will boost leaf and stem production. However, do not pour fresh urine onto your plant; it's unsafe for the plant! First, it must be decomposed, and then the urine should be diluted with water and sprayed.
3. Compost is an all-time favorite fertilizer and you may remember it from your Environmental Science textbook. You can acquire it from your local nursery or make it at home with this guide.
4. Cow dung has high nutrient content and can easily be procured from a nursery, however, make sure it's not fresh as it must be dried out for at least 2-3 months.
Protecting your plant from pesky pests
Yellow or brown leaves: Throughout, your plant's growth, it's crucial to keenly observe your it. The first thing to notice is the color of the leaves because they indicate the health of the plant. Yellow leaves are a bad sign, it could mean that the soil is overly acidic rendering the plant unable to absorb certain nutrients resulting in a nutrient deficiency. On the other hand, brown spots on leaves indicate a calcium deficiency which could be due to a low pH.
Excess water can also discolor the leaves yellow as over-watering. According to Growing Weed Easy, your cannabis plant acquires oxygen from its roots and if you swamp its roots by over-watering, they will begin to drown. This starvation for oxygen by the roots can be indicated by yellow leaves or a drooping plant.
Bud rot or fungus: During the monsoon season in India, when the weather is moist and rainy, there's a sizeable risk for your plant to develop fungus that can spread at an exponential rate. Additionally, strong winds and storms can damage your plant's branches or a marijuana cultivator's worst nightmare - blow the whole plant away. To prevent this, routinely check the buds for fungus and if found, remove the infected buds completely.
Ants and fruit flies: Look out for possible ant invasions as these tiny insects can damage your plant's root system putting your yield in jeopardy. To get rid of them, Analytical Cannabis offers cinnamon as a repellent for people with small gardens. You can sprinkle or water it into the mound of soil under which they are nesting.
However, if their damage is significant, you might want to spray your plant with an organic bug repellent.
Harvesting your crop
According to Royal Queen Seeds, the color of trichomes (small hair or outgrowth from the plant) can indicate what kind of bud you will receive after harvest. Since trichomes cannot be observed by the naked eye, you'll require a magnifying glass to zoom in and get a better look.
If the trichomes appear translucent, the plant isn't ready for harvest as it's still producing cannabinoids. But don't worry, your buds will grow rapidly in the last 2 weeks.
When the trichomes begin to turn milky white, it means the buds are close to being harvested. And when the trichomes turn from a milky white to a cloudy white appearance, it implies that the psychoactive levels have peaked and if you harvest the buds at that time, it will give you the highest 'high'.
But you can wait for the trichomes to turn amber which will reward you with a harvest that will create more of a body high. When they begin turning amber, you only have a small window to harvest the buds before the THC starts degrading, so be sure to harvest it during that time.
Drying your weed plant
When you've ascertained the buds are ripe, it is time to dry the plant in an area with a low humidity level. A temperature between 17 and 21 degrees Celsius (63-70ºF) is ideal for the drying; the process might take up to 2 weeks to complete.
Curing your weed
Now that you have your well-deserved harvest after a taxing a few months, all there's left to do is curing it and then storing your stash safely. To keep it fresh, we'd recommend storing it in airtight containers in a dark, cool place. While you cure the weed, you must check on it twice a day and keep a vigilant eye for any pesky mold formation.
According to Royal Queen Seeds, you'll need to open the lids for a couple of minutes each time you check, for fresh air exchange. The curing period should be over after 3 weeks, however, the longer you wait the better. Who knew growing your own bud required such persistent patience?
Growing your first bud can be a great learning experience and you can finally have control over the marijuana you'll consuming - none of that spiked stash anymore. As liberating and exciting this opportunity sounds, be mindful of the heavy penalty you'll have to pay in the very unfortunate circumstance of you getting caught. It's a real dilemma, isn't it?