‘They’re all plants:’ 10 questions answered about growing cannabis at home in Arizona
The passage of Proposition 207 in Arizona, legalizing recreational cannabis, ushered in a new opportunity for the home gardener. Adults ages 21 and older are now allowed to grow a limited amount of cannabis plants at home for personal use.
“We don’t see any difference between growing cannabis and growing vegetables and growing lavender, they’re all plants,” said Ryan Jerrell, co-owner of Dig It Gardens in Phoenix.
But like growing any plant, it can be easy to overthink it, he said.
The Arizona Republic asked two experts to share their tips for beginners: Noah Wylie, master grower at The Mint Dispensary based in the East Valley, and Josh Sundberg, farmer and co-owner of Community Roots AZ in Cornville, southwest of Sedona.
Wylie has been cultivating cannabis since 2002, when he first started growing for patient use in California. Sundberg cultivates cannabis for personal use and offers workshops for other growers.
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How many cannabis plants can I grow?
Adults can grow six cannabis plants at home or no more than 12 plants in a house with more than one adult.
People can grow plants from seeds or cuttings off an existing plant, also known as clones. Sundberg said cuttings are a gray area because it’s unclear whether a cutting that hasn’t taken root yet is counted as part of the six or 12 plants Arizonans are allowed to grow.
How long does it take to grow cannabis?
On average, a plant takes 50 to 60 days before it’s ready to harvest, Wylie said. Once harvested, the plant needs to be dried for about 10 to 14 days. Growers then have the choice of consuming their cannabis, or curing the flowers another week or two for higher quality, he said.
Where can I buy cannabis seeds?
At local supplier Phoenix Seeds & Clones, people can purchase a grow consultation ranging from $75-200, including 5 to 20 seeds. Strains offered include Gorilla Cake, Tangie Cookies and Kino Vision, a high CBD strain.
As of Oct. 19, the company was sold out of seeds, but people can join an email list for an update when seeds are back in stock: phoenixseedsandclones.com.
People can also purchase cannabis seeds on websites such as Leafly. Sundberg warned that quality seeds can be pricey. Seeds are also a gamble because only female plants flower, and there’s no guarantee how many female seeds are in a packet. Feminized seeds are genetically engineered to grow only female plants, but tend to cost more.
Buyers should go with vetted sources to avoid fraudulent sellers. Sundberg recommended Canna Genetics Bank, a retailer that sells seeds from various breeders, and Neptune Seed Bank, both based in California.
Growing from seed is a trial and error process and people should be prepared to “have a few rounds that are really disappointing” before they find that one best phenotype, he advised.
Eddie Smith, co-owner of The Plant Stand of Arizona, confirmed his south Phoenix nursery would be selling cannabis seeds in the future.
Ryan Jerrell, co-owner of Dig It Gardens in central Phoenix, also said his nursery plans on selling cannabis seeds in the future, as well as “starter kits” for first-time growers.
Where can I buy a cannabis clone?
Phoenix Seeds & Clones also sells clones.
A clone is a cutting from a living cannabis plant, which can grow into a plant itself. The new plan has the same genetic makeup as the original plant, hence, a “clone.”
Wylie believes cuttings are easier than seeds for beginners., but as Proposition 207 is so new, he isn’t aware yet of any legal businesses in Arizona that sell cuttings.
If people want to clone their own plants, he recommended they plant multiple seeds at once, label each plant, and take a cutting from each one before they flower. People can then grow the cutting from whichever plant yields the best harvest.
What’s the easiest cannabis strain to grow for beginners?
Wylie suggested first-time growers start with a hybrid strain and stay away from strains that have OG in the name or are labeled “exotic,” which tend to be finicky. Popular 50/50 hybrid Blue Dream, for example, is a resilient plant that can take higher and lower temperatures, he said.
Other hybrids he suggested for beginners include Green Crack, Grape Diamonds and Cherry Garcia.
What else do I need to grow a cannabis plant?
Both Wylie and Sundberg said the key items you need to grow cannabis are nutrient-rich soil, water and light.
Both The Plant Stand and Dig It Gardens sell FoxFarm soils, a popular brand in the cannabis-growing community. Sundberg likes to use Nectar of the Gods, Blend #4, which he said can be found at PHX Hydro in west Phoenix.
Indoors, cannabis thrives best in full spectrum light similar to sunlight, so a standard incandescent bulb won’t cut it, Wylie said. He recommended starting off with an inexpensive light made for growing. Sea of Green Hydrogardens in Tempe sells various grow lights.
“I warn people… crawl before you walk,” Wylie said. “Learn to get your plant to grow all the way to fruition, harvest it, dry it, cure it. Then you can build from there. Don’t run out and buy thousands of dollars of equipment.”
Sundberg described living soil, which has active microorganisms in it, as a major game changer. Compost, mulch and worm castings can be found at the Arizona Worm Farm in Phoenix.
Where is the best place to grow my cannabis plant?
Wylie said most people will likely grow indoors, in a closet or garage, for example. About 75 degrees, more or less, is an optimal temperature, he said. In a small space with stagnant air, he suggested using a fan to move air in and out. A beginner can start in a closet with a 100-watt grow light and oscillating desk fan, and it’s enough to get going, he said.
Some people use grow tents, which look like black boxes, but cannabis can really be grown most places as long as people are able to adapt to the environment, Sundberg said.
Sundberg said cannabis can be grown outdoors in Arizona, where come August the plants flower as the days get shorter and they’re ready to harvest by about October. It’s doable in Phoenix, even with the heat, but extra steps have to be taken to protect your plant, he said.
He recommended adding mulch to keep the soil cool. For a pot, the bigger the better for creating a buffering zone — five gallons is a good minimum, he said. Putting the pot in another pot or putting some sort of insulation barrier around it can also prevent the pot from directly baking in the sun.
While it may be tempting to spray your plants in the middle of a burning, sunny day, the water droplets on the leaves can act like tiny magnifying glasses. As with other types of plants, it’s best to water early morning. If you have to water in the middle of the day, first discharge the hot water from your hose if that’s what you’re using, and water the soil around the plant, not the leaves, he advised.
How much light does my plant need?
Once planted, the cannabis plant needs a ratio of about 18 hours light, 6 hours darkness to grow in what’s called the vegetative stage, which doesn’t produce flowers. How long you let the plant grow in this state depends on your space constraint, but Sundberg recommends beginners start small.
After a few days, growers can switch to a ratio of 12 hours light, followed by 12 hours of consecutive darkness to activate the flowering stage. If growing outside, the light of a full moon is about the maximum amount of light a plant should receive during the darkness period, Sundberg said.
How often should I water my plant?
Wylie recommended plants should be watered when the soil is dry. Growers can test this by sticking a finger into soil about halfway between the plant and edge of the pot. If the soil is warm and dry, it’s time to water.
Quality of water can make a difference in the quality of flowers. It’s worth filling up a jug of distilled or purified water at one of the various water dispensers around town to use specifically for your plants, rather than use tap water, Sundberg said.
When can I harvest my flowers?
Wylie said that after switching to the 12 hours light, 12 hours darkness stage, it takes about 50 to 60 days until it’s time to harvest. People can additionally purchase an inexpensive jeweler’s loupe if they want to look at the trichomes, or crystals, on the flowers. The plant will be ready to harvest when the majority of the trichome caps turn from translucent to milky-looking and about 10% of the caps turn an amber color. The plant can still be harvested a little earlier or later, however.
After harvesting the plant, the grower should hang the plant upside down to dry for 10 to 14 days, he continued. The stems should feel brittle when dried. After that, trim the leaves off the flowers and put the flowers in an airtight container, like a mason jar. While the flowers are consumable at this point, the flowers can be cured for a better quality.
To cure the flowers, seal the container and open it up for 20 minutes every 24 hours. It’s important that the flowers are completely dried before they’re sealed up because moisture could lead to mold, Wylie added. After a week or two, you should have the highest quality flower, he said.
Black medic ( Medicago lupulina )
Black medic is a low-growing summer or winter annual broadleaf plant that sometimes behaves as a short-lived perennial. It is found throughout California, except for deserts, to about 8200 feet (2500 m). Black medic is common in turf and inhabits agricultural land and disturbed areas. It is good forage for livestock and sometimes is cultivated for pasture or as a cover crop. However, black medic seed is a common contaminant in commercial alfalfa and clover seed.
Grassland, pastures, vegetable and agronomic crop fields (especially alfalfa), orchards, vineyards, gardens, lawns, roadsides and other disturbed, unmanaged places.
Cotyledons (seed leaves) are oblong, smooth, and about 1/6 to 1/3 of an inch (4–9 mm) long. The first leaf is oval and broader than it is long, with a smooth edge. True leaves are fully subdivided consisting of three egg-shaped leaflets with toothed edges and resemble leaves of the mature plant.
The main stem branches near the base. Stems grow prostrate or prostrate with tips pointing upward and can reach 1-1/3 feet (40 cm) long. The plant is hairy, especially the stems. Leaves are alternate to one another along the stem. Leaves are fully divided into three egg- to heart-shaped leaflets with somewhat toothed edges. Leaflets are about 2/5 to 7/10 of an inch (1–2 cm) long and finely toothed at the tip, which often bares a tiny, slender tooth. The stalk of the middle leaflet is longer than those of the lateral leaflets. Black medic is distinguished from California burclover by its hairy leaves; the latter has nearly hairless leaves. Also the small leaflike structures (stipules) at the bases of leaf stalks are not deeply lobed and have smooth edges or a few shallow teeth in black medic, whereas those of California burclover are deeply lobed, slender and curved.
Flowers bloom from April through July. Usually ten to twenty yellow, slender, pealike flowers densely cluster to form a rounded flower head.
Fruits are kidney-shaped pods about 1/12 to 1/8 of an inch (2–3 mm) long, strongly veined, and black at maturity. Each pod contains one seed, but does not open to release seeds.
Seeds are oval to barely kidney shaped, smooth, yellowish to olive green, about 1/12 of an inch (2 mm) long, and have a small sharp point on the concave side.