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Alberta Home Growing 101 - Growing Cannabis in Canada

Have you ever considered trying your hand at growing you own cannabis plants? Believe it or not, Canadians living in Alberta still have an opportunity to grow outdoor cannabis, but it does take some careful preparation and timing. March is the month to start your seedlings! Continue reading to understand the legal parameters, and find a step by step guide with how-to, and what types of cannabis plants tend to do best for our Alberta climate.

Under federal legislation, adults can grow up to 4 plants per household from seeds bought from licensed cannabis retailers. Always check with your by-laws or rental agreements as some renters, condo-dwellers and those who live in multi-family dwellings may have restrictions to growing cannabis. You will want to ensure your dwelling or growing space receives enough daylight, has certain protections from the elements, and is within the boundaries set by your bylaws or agreements.

Preparing to Grow:

Consider the space in which you wish to grow. Will you start the plants inside, with the end goal of moving them outdoors? Will you convert an empty closet to control 100% of external elements? Cannabis is not a large plant initially- but can grow to multiple feet in height and produce intense aromas- so ensure you have proper capacity as to not waste your time or money.

What do you like to smoke? Dispensaries and legal online seed banks have the same broad spectrum of options we have become accustomed to in the days of legalization. Consider what effects, cannabinoids and flavours you wish to eventually consume. Obtain seeds or clones from reputable sources to ensure the quality and genetics of your plants. Autoflower and feminized seeds are known to provide greater success in homegrown flower and can be more resistant to illness or infection, but have other genetic caveats for long term growers.

Create an Ideal Growing Environment:

  1. Lighting: Provide adequate lighting, whether natural sunlight or artificial grow lights. Cannabis plants grown in pure sunlight receive the fullest-possible spectrum of the sun’s rays. Planting outside usually takes place in Alberta around the May long-weekend, although it may be later, depending on how far north you live. The temperatures will rise throughout the summer with the days will become longer as we approach the summer solstice. After the solstice the steadily shortening days will encourage the plant to trigger flower production. For indoor grows, a ratio of 18 hours of light to 6 hours of darkness is a good place to start.

  2. Temperature and Humidity: Maintain a suitable temperature and humidity level for the specific growth stage.

  3. Ventilation: Ensure proper airflow to prevent mold and optimize plant health. Constant air circulation allows plants to breathe. Air movement will also help prevent mold and mildew. Make sure to space your plants far enough apart so they don’t limit each other’s airflow. It’s also a good idea to keep the plants away from windy areas. The plants appreciate a regular breeze, but a strong wind can damage young plants.

It's Grow Time:

You have your seeds- now time to germinate them! This means giving the seed enough time, water and light under the proper conditions to activate and crack open with a rooting tail. How can you get this done?

  1. Paper Towel Method: Wet your paper towel. Squeeze it out so it’s damp but not soaking. Place the seeds on the paper towel and fold it over four times. Put the paper towel inside your resealable sandwich bag capturing as much air as possible. Maybe inflate it a little. Place it in a warm place, away from direct light.

  2. Cup of Water Method: Place your seeds into a glass of room temperature water. Place in a warm spot away from direct light. If any seeds are still floating after a few hours, gently poke them down.

Around day four (timing can vary from seed to seed), your seeds have cracked, and the taproot is showing. Your seed is alive and ready to plant.

Planting Your Seed:

Select a high-quality soil or growing medium and consider adding nutrients as needed. What medium is that? A cannabis-specific super or ‘living’ soil can be bought online or in-person from your local plant shop. In Calgary, you can find soil and other nutrients at Golden Acre or Quick Grow, both conveniently located a short drive from Bridgeland. Other choices include ‘soilless’ mediums such as peat, coir (coco fibre), or rockwool. A super soil contains most of the nutrients a plant needs to begin to grow. Consider purchasing additional ‘top dressings,’ which can be added to the surface of the soil and watered in for extra nutrients throughout growth and flower development.

After a couple of weeks, your plant should have grown into a stalk with multiple baby

leaves. It is now ready to be transferred to it's new home for the next 2-3 weeks, until the plant is 12 inches tall. These seedlings are delicate and should be monitored for proper watering; be careful your baby plants aren't too wet, or too dry. Allow soil time to dry out before watering again. This allows oxygen to be drawn into the roots but also prevents algae growth.

To prepare your plants for the transition from indoor to outdoor, start your process six days before your intended enterrement date. For the first two days place your small pots outside in shade for a few hours. For the following two days place the pots in a partially shaded area, allowing them to feel no more than a couple of hours of direct sunlight.  For the final two potted days, place the pots outside mid-afternoon for a few hours of direct sunlight and leave them outside undercover overnight. This must be done after the last frost.

Now your plants are "hardened" to outside life. Now time to move them to 20-gallon pots outside under the summer sun. The plants will live here for another two months. Place a layer of gravel at the bottom of the pots ensuring the roots always have adequate drainage. Fill the pots with super soil a couple inches from the top. Do not pack the soil too tightly, as it will compact naturally over time, allowing for even airflow and water saturation. The outdoor vegetative cycle lasts for approximately two months, but make sure to check in regularly, paying special attention to the dryness of the soil. Around the first week of August, consider a de-leaf. Start at the bottom of the plant, removing the large fan leaves at the base of the branches, as well as the lowest branches that may be blocking bud sites. This increases airflow in the canopy and focuses the plant’s energy on flower production.

The plants will start producing flowers when the summer is over as the days shorten and light reduces, generally when we start receiving a perfect 12 hour of daylight cycle is when you will see the most bud growth. Maintaining a consistent watering and feeding cycle from here on will keep the plants healthy and stress-free. The next couple of weeks will be observation weeks as the flowers continue to increase in size.

The buds have now reached their ultimate weight, which may cause the plants to lean over. Support the heavy branches with bamboo stakes or tomato cages.

When To Harvest:

Here are a few key visual indicators that will let you know when the plant has hit its peak maturity:

  1. The fan leaves have changed colour from green to yellow and may begin to curl at the ends.

  2. The hairs have changed colour from white to orange or dark amber.

  3. The trichomes will change colour (visible under magnifying glass, or even through your phone’s camera), which can provide the most accurate indicator of potency and flavour:

  • Clear and glassy: low potency, not ready

  • Milky: peak of potency, ready

  • Amber: past the peak, but still potent

First, cut the plant at the base of the stalk and remove the large fan leaves. Hang the plant upside down to dry using clothespins, wire or twine. If the plant is too big, trim the branches to 2 foot lengths. For optimal drying conditions, hang the plants in a cool, dark, and dry room with good circulation and low humidity. The plants will dry over the course of 5-10 days, depending on the bud size. Over this time, watch for any signs of mold or mildew. If you notice any, promptly remove it by trimming the affected areas away. If a bent stem snaps under pressure, buds are ready. The final harvest step is to trim the excess leaves from the buds- wear disposable gloves! Those home-grown buds are sticky.

Finally, the curing process is what helps preserve the flavours and potencies of your freshly

harvested buds. Place the trimmed buds into large, airtight, and resealable canning jars and fill almost to the top. Store them in a cool, dark room, opening them once a day to allow for an exchange of fresh air, a process known as ‘burping*.’ Check for signs of mold or other contamination. Do this every day for a week, then leave the jar sealed for an additional 2-3 weeks minimum. Once the curing process is complete, your flower is ready to be enjoyed.

Grow Season Is Right Around The Corner!

FivePoint Cannabis is currently stocking three varieties of seeds, healthy and ready to be germinated now for a May long-weekend start. Indulge in the process and become a cannaseur!

Natural History Black D.O.G - 5 Pack -$39.99

This easy-to-grow plant can turn just about anyone into a true cannabis cultivator. A hybrid variety with an indica lean, this cultivar boasts a synergistic terpene and THC content with a quick-flowering time. Expect a terpene profile of berries, blended with classic diesel aroma. This is a photoperiod seed which makes it a perfect option for first time outdoor growers.

Produced in: Alberta, Canada

Customer Grow/ Image Credit: @thetraveljack

Weathered Islands Craft Pink Plum Kush 5 Pack - $42.00

Everybody’s favourite strain, the Pink Plum Kush combines the strength of Texada’s outdoor genetic heritage with sweet and flavourful high THC strains. These plants love to show off their pink and purple tones, creating majestic and beautiful buds. The Pink Plum Kush finishes early and is an easy strain to grow. Perfect for Greenhouse or Outdoor. Finishing mid-late September with approximately 8 week flowering time.

Flowering Time: 8 Weeks

THC: Range 17-25%

Indica Dominant

Terpenes: 2-3%

Terpene Flavors: Pine, Turpentine, Mint

EVERE5T 4 Pack Seeds - ON SALE $31.99

This is the fifth release of their M O U N T A I N series- an indoor indica dominant strain that is sure to be a classic. With genetic heritage from Mendocino Purps and OG Kush, this F3 cross has pedigree for greatness. The nose is a familiar cannabis skunk aroma as the terpene profile includes caryophyllene, myrcene, humulene and ocimene. This traditional indica dominant strain will yield large sticky flowers with high THC frosted peaks in 8 weeks with 12 hour light.

Thank you to Pure Sunfarms and Weatheard Island Craft for their bountiful information and education on growing quality cannabis in Alberta. Please note that indica dominant strains grow best in the Canadian outdoors due to their stockier growth patterns. Indica plants originate from the more mountainous regions of Asia, whereas sativa varietals tend to grow more upright as they originally competed for light in more sub tropical regions and are not ideal for outdoor growing in Canada. Find some classic Canadian strains such as Northern Lights which grows into substantial trees in the Kootenay regions. Good luck, Green Thumb!

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