What I Learned My First Year of Gardening Part II

Part II

Welcome back to DIG’s blog! To pick up where I left off, I was in the middle of contemplating what kind of soil to purchase or create. I chose to buy pre-made soil. What did I choose? 

I chose Nectar For The Gods soil. It was a tough choice as the internet has tons of opinions about what soils, cannabis strains or styles of growing are best. I spent the better part of two weeks deciding what soil to choose. My choice was based on regional growing ideas. Nectar For The Gods is an Oregon based product. A pattern that emerged in this process was what works in one area of the world, won’t work in another. So I chose Nectar For The God’s soil and an Oregon clone strain from my local cannabis shop. Ghost Train Haze. 

My reasoning was, the soil is put together by an Oregon based grower, so they know the climate and Ghost Train Haze has already proven itself a hardy strain adapted to Oregon’s weather patterns. I like the idea of removing some unknowns from my learning experience. I’ve read many an article about how difficult cannabis is to grow. My experience showed me that growing anything can be difficult. When the results aren’t great, growing can be very frustrating. Especially when we don’t know why our results are poor. Cannabis, while it has specific characteristics that every plant has, it isn’t any more difficult than any other common plant. 

So, I have my soil and chose to put it in a grow bag. Which I highly recommend for cannabis. It needs lots of water during its peak grow phase. At the same time, it doesn't like to have its roots sitting in wet soil. So soil that drains quickly and dries fairly efficiently is prime for cannabis. A grow bag is the perfect complement to any fast draining soil. Not only does it allow drainage through its pores, but it also allows for evaporation and a more thorough drying of all the soil. The result is more uniform soil moisture. 

Did I mention I grew other things. Tomatoes want moist or wet soil, compared to cannabis. You don’t want a rice patty situation but these are just three examples. Cannabis, tomato and a rice patty. All with different needs in regards to their soil. 

Advice: To give your plants the best chance, do your research about the best soil for what you are growing. 

Learned: Plants are mostly robust. At least as much as we are in regards to standing in the weather. I think a good measure for a plant outside is, would you want to be out there? If the weather is freezing, you will need to keep it warm. If it’s raining like a monsoon, you're going to need to dry it out, or keep it dry. If the plant is still young and not very strong, you are going to need to support it so it doesn’t blow over. See, just like us. 

So I have a cannabis clone I named Princess as she was going to get constant attention. At first I had Princess under some grow lights inside since she was still pretty fragile. I put her outside in the sun when the weather was mellow so as not to stress her out. You know how princesses are. 

When I first put her in the sun, she reached for the sky praising the sun's rays. After about a half hour, it was clear she wasn’t ready for full sun. Her leaves began to droop and she became sad. So back inside she went. I did this for about a week until she could handle the full sun for the full day. This was the first time I saw how quickly a cannabis plant will show you it isn’t happy. I was amazed!

Under grow lights, I started her with a sixteen hour cycle and put her outside when the sun was shining in our backyard. This was late April and the days were still getting longer. My goal was to match the length of the day to her indoor life cycle, at which point I would put her outside full time. In my area of the North West, the longest day is about fifteen and a half hours. The main challenge was to delay placing her outside 24/7 until she was ready to handle the elements all by herself. 

This process of moving Princess inside when the weather was bad, or the clouds were thick lasted about a month and a half. During this time she went from less than a foot tall to about two feet. She became root bound in her clone container somewhere during this time. So, time to transplant. 

This is the first time I transplanted anything. It seems like such an invasive activity. I was overly gentle with her roots. I barely removed the soil from them before I placed her in her final thirty pound grow bag. As the growing season continued, I transplanted more plants. Not cannabis, I realized dipping the roots in a bucket of water to gently remove most of the loose soil around their roots was perfectly good and suggested. This way the current roots can get access to the fresh soil you are about to place them in. 

So one cannabis plant, about four varieties of tomatoes, two artichoke plants and my girlfriend's cucumber. Everything is in its final container and I go out of town for about a week to visit family. The pest we don’t all think about is very large, has fur and horns. Deer! I watched the deer in my neighborhood leap over a six foot fence from a stand still. Well, I’m out of town and they had a party in my backyard. 

Fortunately Princess was inside since I couldn’t monitor her every need while gone. But everything else was topped. I just had a solid month of growth gone. Basically it set us a month behind and we planted late. My girlfriend was more than skeptical that we would have much yield. Meanwhile, Princess is looking good! 

So how to keep the four legged pest out? Well, we ordered a motion activated sprinkler. It took some time to learn the angles that would set it off and adjust the distance and swath of property it should target. With much contemplation, way more than the soil consideration. I finally came up with a plan that was not what the manufacturer of the motion activated sprinkler intended. I disassembled the contraption and added two sprinkler heads. With the sensor detached from the sprinkler heads, I could locate it in the best spot to detect deer and the sprinkler heads we’re strategically placed to target said deer. It worked like a charm! I highly recommend a motion activated sprinkler system. 

Read again next week for the conclusion to my first year gardening!