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Growing Your Own: How to Keep Cannabis

Just as there is an art (and of course, science) to growing cannabis, there’s an art to keeping it properly, too. We here at Leafwell are all about patients getting the best access possible to their medical marijuana, and growing your own is definitely one of the best ways of doing that. Here are some of the best ways to keep your cannabis …

Don’t Get Discouraged …

As Swerve from Cali Connection mentions, many growers often fail on their first attempt. Learning to grow is a learning curve and, while the basics of plant-growing aren’t that difficult, becoming an expert takes years of growing experience. Now, we are talking about the keeping of cannabis, but it’s important to get the growing part down pat as well.

For a first-timer, here are some golden rules to go by when growing cannabis:

  1. Learn how to identify male and female plants – male plants tend to have “balls”, female ones “hairs” or “pistils”. Males tend to mature faster than females (unlike humans, badum-tish), as well as grow taller. Female plants also tend to develop more complex growth patterns, but you can usually see the difference by the end of vegetation/beginning of flowering (4-5 weeks). Male plants can be gotten rid of, but it is advisable to keep one good specimen (away from your female plants!) for future breeding purposes and to save genetics. You will sometimes get hermaphrodites as well, which can form as a result of either environmental stress or because it’s carried in the genes. Hermaphrodites can have their balls cut off (ouch!) to prevent self-pollination and the pollination of other plants. Some people get rid of hermaphrodites entirely, or let them grow in another room to harvest the bud but prevent future pollination.
  2. Healthy roots are key – this is the best sign of a healthy plant that will give you bountiful buds. You can check on healthy roots every time you re-pot the plant as it grows larger.
  3. Don’t overfeed – just like with edibles, you can always add more nutrients if needed, but you can’t take them away. Overfeeding leads to plants “burning out”.
  4. Start off simple – many dispensaries carry cuttings of some of their best plants. Rather than going from seed straight away, getting your grower’s license and starting from dispensary cuttings means you don’t have to wait for the plant to vegetate (time and energy saved) with the added advantage of knowing that – if grown properly – you’ll get some great produce from good genetics. Success on a first-try is much easier this way. You’ll also avoid male plants this way.
  5. Start off with forgiving strains – hybrids like Skunk #1 are far easier to grow than landrace hazes, which are usually less forgiving of mistakes, take longer to grow, have a lower yield and need a tightly-controlled environment to grow in when out of its home soil.
  6. Always “flush” your plants properly – this means giving your plants just water and no food for about a week before harvesting. When to start flushing depends on the plant and growing medium, as flushing too early can lead to lower yields, whilst flushing too late can lead to lesser-quality produce. 7 – 9 days of flushing is generally recommended for soil grows.

Drying Out Your Herb Properly

Drying marijuana plants after harvesting usually takes between 7 – 12 days in a clean, dry space with no direct sunlight. Proper drying is essential to getting your buds to last longer. Not doing so is one of the leading causes of moldy buds. For patients who are immunocompromised, this could potentially (but thankfully rarely) be dangerous. You can usually tell when a plant is properly dry by being able to snap the twigs inside the buds easily.

growing your own cannabis

Proper Curing

Curing your bud properly is an art of its own. Once your plant is dried properly, you can start storing the buds in airtight mason jars that are two-thirds full. You then open up these jars to “burp” them and to improve the bud’s smell and flavor. When burping, check your buds for mold and mildew and remove them if any is present. Place any clean buds back into the jar and toss them around a bit to ensure even curing.

Burping and proper curing will ensure the buds don’t get moldy/mildewy, break down the sugars & chlorophyll, and ensure a much smoother, fuller and pleasant-tasting yield. It usually takes about a month to cure buds properly, but some prefer to cure for 2-3 months. The difference between cured and uncured bud is night and day. Longer cures can improve the taste immensely, and sometimes even bud that looks scraggly and with no bag appeal can become a one-hit-wonder after a couple of months’ good curing.

Properly cured and sealed bud can stay potent for up to two years if kept out of humid areas and direct sunlight. However, many say that well-cured marijuana is at its best between 3 – 18 months of age, with potency reducing after the 18 month mark.

What’s the Best Storage Method?

If it’s at home, then good-quality glass mason jars that can form an airtight seal. For carrying around, perhaps a mini-mason jar or a stainless steel, airtight, screw top container is a good bet. Avoid plastic bags, as these can leach toxic materials onto the cannabis as the bag degrades, as well as providing a moist environment in which the bud can “sweat” and cause mold, mildew and an unmistakeable pong noticeable to anyone who walks by you. Plastic bags also cause static, meaning that they will attract the trichs from your bud and stick to the plastic – one reason so many hate baggies.

What About Freezing My Weed?

Cannabis contains water. Putting it into a normal, home-based freezer will just freeze the water in the cannabis and damage the buds, meaning you could also lose lots of vital cannabinoids. Should you want to freeze your cannabis, it is perhaps best to freeze-dry it in a frost-free freezer after vacuum-packing it, as this will ensure that the terpenoids don’t become damaged.

Ed Rosenthal recommends freeze-drying buds before putting them in mason jars, whereas some will just keep their buds frozen until they need to take them out of the freezer. The only problem with this method is that you have to wait for your bud to defrost before using it in a vape or pipe, but this isn’t too much of a problem when it means you’ve got excellent-quality flowers on your hands.

Any Other Storage Methods Lasting 2+ Years?

Cannabis is a plant, meaning it will degrade over time, no matter how well you store it. Some people get bumper growths and yields so large that they don’t know what to do with it all. Sadly, keeping it around for fallow seasons is not always possible. Many people use these massive bumper crops to create hash, tinctures and other extracts, which will all last a lot longer than buds do. Tinctures stored in a cool, dry place can last many years, and will make a regular appearance in your pantry once you find your favourite way of making it!

Once you’ve figured out the best storage method for yourself, you will begin to realise that how well you keep your cannabis is just as important as how well you grow it. There have been many people who have grown amazing plants, only to let themselves down in the all-important curing phase, whereas others have turned mediocre plants into superstars just by treating them with a bit of care. Interestingly, knowing about this will also help you find high-quality dispensaries, as you start to know what you’re looking for in good MMJ!

Written by
Dipak Hemraj
Dipak Hemraj - Chief Research Officer

Dipak Hemraj is a published author, grower, product maker, and Leafwell’s resident cannabis expert. From botany & horticulture to culture & economics, he wishes to help educate the public on why cannabis is medicine (or a “pharmacy in a plant”) and how it can be used to treat a plethora of health problems. Dipak wants to unlock the power of the plant, and see if there are specific cannabinoid-terpene-flavonoid profiles suitable for different conditions.

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