Why do you grow and how did you get into it?
I first started growing because I wanted to know that the ganja I was smoking was clean. I soon discovered about breeding as I accidentally had a male and three females in my very first outdoor grow and ended up with a load of seeds. This luckily turned out to be a really good cross and I soon became fascinated by the whole process. Now growing cannabis and breeding/creating new strains has become one of, if not my main, passions in life.
What is your favourite strain and why?
At the moment my favourite strain to grow is one of my own strains ” LP” which stands for Lion Paw or Lost Parish. It’s an indica dominant plant in terms of lineage but grows tall and the leaves are quite fine. It’s very pungent scent of grapefruit/ over ripe pineapple is a real head turner, and it is a high yielder with very large uniform colourful buds with deep purple hues and full of resin. It is very mould resistant and can withstand heavy rain, is a very good hash producer and produces great weed that is very popular here in Jamaica. It’s clone only at the moment but I should have it stabilised for seed production in the new year.
To be honest though, my favourite strain to smoke changes all the time depending on how I am feeling, what effects I am after and what is available at the time etc.
What is your preferred method of germination?
I use coco jiffy plugs and water to germinate seeds and keep them protected under mesh to avoid any mice, rats, lizards or insects troubling them, and I start them indoors under a high output florescent light. I like jiffy plugs as they are small and easy to organise in trays, especially when working with large numbers of seeds and more than one strain. I get a good success rate with them. If the seeds have been around a while and are bit old you may wish to try soaking them in a glass of fresh clean luke warm water over night to soften up the seeds outer shell this will help germination but don’t leave them in too long as they can spoil.
What makes a good soil?
Good soil in my opinion is organic soil and preferably virgin topsoil. The soil should be a living ecosystem that generates all the micro and macro nutrients your plants need to make them thrive. The soil needs to be alive and it needs to have ample drainage; worms are always a good sign that soil is living. If you are mixing your own soil recipe I would suggest that you use some worm castings and also some mycorrhizal fungi during transplanting whether it’s in the ground or in pots. I am about to build a new wormery to create my own worm castings. I get cow manure from an organic steer farm and also chicken manure ( make sure its not too fresh and that its been sitting curing for a few months or it can burn the plants ). Ideally the soil should have everything in it that the plant needs for its life span, I often go to different spots to collect top soil and mix them together to get a wider range of nutrients. I add river sand and crushed rock for drainage and also peat moss or coco coir dust helps with drainage. I also add some perlite. Watering with a table spoon of molasses per gallon of water also helps give life to your soil (molasses is also helpful with bud growth as it has an average npk of 1:0:5). I also recommend the use of compost teas which we can go into more depth with another time.
What are the key considerations when setting up a grow space?
When setting up a grow space outdoors in the ground choose a spot where water doesn’t collect and sit ( somewhere where the water will run off when it rains to avoid over watering and roots rotting). Choose a place that gets lots of sun and make sure you have a good reliable water source. If you are in an equatorial country you may want to keep the plants in a vegetative state of growth for longer to get bigger plants so electricity will be needed too. If your grow area is in a place that water collects and becomes like a swamp, then its best to use pots and put them off the ground on some pallets. The soil is important too, but you can always amend soil with compost and manure and inputs if your soil is tired and needs adjusting in terms of NPK values, drainage or PH.
What are the most commonly encountered pests and what are your preferred methods of dealing with them?
The main pest problems I have to deal with in Jamaica are caterpillars. For these I use a rotation of “Dipel”,”xantari” and “Agree”. These are all certified for organic production. I spray every 5 days. Other problems are leaf septoria, powdery mildew, mites ,aphids and some beetles. To avoid the spreading of all of the above the main thing is to have enough space between your plants so none are touching each other. At any sign of leaf septoria ( yellow spots on leaves), the leaves should be removed from the plant. Neem oil mixed with insecticidal soap is a good organic pesticide and works well to prevent leaf septoria spreading. The key is to have healthy living soil; using compost teas regularly will improve soil health and help reduce the chance of getting leaf septoria.
For powdery mildew, I use potassium bicarbonate spray. This changes the pH on the leaf surface and kills the mildew. UVC-A lamps can be used to kill off mould and mildew and unwanted bacteria, but make sure that you wear the correct safety gear as this can damage eyes and skin.
How do you decide when to harvest and do you stress the plants prior to harvest?
I choose when to harvest by calendar and experience of flowering times from previous grows as well as keeping records and notes of the previous grows of each individual strain. I also use a magnifying glass to inspect the trichomes. I check the whole plant top to bottom and go for clouding milky trichomes with a touch of amber starting to appear. I don’t stress the plants ever unless its by mistake, I don’t like stress full stop!
How do you harvest, dry and cure your cannabis?
In Jamaica we have very high humidity, so for AC is a must for drying. I don’t use a dehumidifier as an AC unit can do the job on its own. I set it to 18°c on cool setting and de-limb the plants and hang them on lines of string. I have a small oscillating fan to keep the air moving around the room to help prevent any hot spots and also to stop any mould starting. Usually within a week its ready to start trimming. Once its trimmed I cure it in glass jars kept in the fridge and I burp the jars daily and make sure they are 20 percent empty for air space. I store all my weed in glass jars and burp them regularly and check on them. I will leave it for at least a month to cure before its packaged.
Organic or not? What is the difference?
For me its got to be organic. I try to eat organically grown veg and fruit as much as I can as well. With fruit and veg, the organically grown ones tend to be slightly smaller, but far more tasty and much better for you because of their superior nutritional value. The same goes for cannabis. Cheap salt-based fertilisers make big vegetables and big buds but I know which I prefer the taste of. Size is not everything and organic does not always mean smaller – I have seen many very big yields from 100 percent organic grows. Organic is better for the world, better for you and for everyone.
In your view is there a noticeable difference in effect (both recreational and therapeutic) between indoor and outdoor grown cannabis?
I prefer outdoor growing and I also prefer smoking outdoor weed. I guess I am an outdoor person. Outdoor cannabis is more natural and usually more organically grown and a cleaner final product with a smoother smoke and very strong terpenes. I find that you can never really beat the sun at its own job. In my opinion sun grown outdoor cannabis, when grown well, is by far the best weed in the world and most indoor growing is trying to imitate this because the conditions are not suitable for growing outdoors. When I smoke outdoor organic weed I feel good about smoking it as I know its good clean medicine. This has an effect on how I feel when I am high as I am at peace with myself and what I am doing in the moment.
If growing outdoors, how do you plan for and protect against adverse weather conditions?
For extreme rain, use felt pots on pallets with a light grow medium/soil mix with lots of drainage. Use steaks to hold up plants. For wind, use lots of steaks (bamboo works well), tie up and support as many limbs as possible at the first warning of high winds. Sponge can be used where the steaks meet the stems to stop any damage . For frost – cover during the night with plastic. For protection from extreme heat and sun burn for new seedling use shade cloth. For lack of daylight and continuous cloudy dark days you may want to consider some extra lighting.
What has been the hardest thing you have encountered during your growing years and how did you handle it?
The hardest thing I have come across in my growing career was starting a new job as the main grower and R & D manager for a big corporate cannabis company. I lasted a whole year much to the amazement of my brother who thought I would have left after the first month. I learnt a lot but was happy to leave and be free to do my own thing again. Cannabis is the only thing that could have ever got me into the corporate world and I didn’t move to Jamaica to end up in a corporate job. I moved over here to live off grid and be free and to plant my own food and plant medicines up in the jungle, cook on a wood fire and make music. Not to sit in meetings for the rest of my life.
When I arrived at the job I was told that the whole grow was infested with spider mites, so I suggested they move the entire grow from the green house veg area to a new outdoor veg area with outdoor floodlights, to extend the daylight hours to keep the plants in veg growth. The natural predators (lady bugs mainly) ate all the spider mites, the green houses were cleaned throughout and then only used for the last 2 to 3 weeks of flowering, if needed due to rain, and all plants were grown in pots with a top soil/coco coir/compost/perlite and manure. They don’t have anymore spider mite issues and are still using this method of growing today.
Knowing what you know now, what is the information you wish someone had given you when you had started out.
Knowing what I know now I would say just go for it and do it guilt free. Grow and smoke until your heart is content and be a proud grower and consumer of this magical medicinal plant. I was always told that its bad for you and against the law etc. when I was a youth. This teaching can and will likely give you a negative relationship with cannabis, a plant that is now finally becoming more widely recognised as a medicine, legal in many places and something positive. So “enjoy” (responsibly of course) and don’t live in fear and shame. Cannabis is good for you and can fix all sorts: I even fixed a mobile phone with some hash once and it stuck it together and held well for months until I dropped it and ran it over in my van by mistake while opening the gate to the farm.
As far as tips on growing for beginners, all I can say is get some seeds from this site and get germinating them (as long as its legal where you live). All the info you need is out there. The main thing I will suggest though is to try to let the plants just be free to do their thing and grow without fiddling with them. I see first time growers getting bored and researching far too much, and wanting to be giving the plants something new all the time. Like pulling off all the leaves because their cousin said its what you do etc. The leaves are there for a good reason and unless the plant is sick and has contagious leaves that need de-leafing to stop disease spreading, then just “LEAF DEM ALONE!!! Plants have leaves for photosynthesis so they are meant to be there or they would have never been there in the first place. Thats the way nature planned it so leave it to nature as much as possible. The leaves are like solar panels giving power to your buds and the buds will even eat the nutrients from the leaves as they get ripe and the leaves start to go yellow and drop off. So by stripping green leaves from your plant, unless you are topping them, then you are just likely to stunt growth and have a smaller yield. Learn as you grow and use grow forums online, like this site, to see how other people are growing. There are more ways than one to skin a cat!