"When it comes to growing weed, everyone's an expert and has their little tricks, their own little ways of doing things that they swear work. Most of it's bullshit."
This is Chris talking.
Chris really is an expert.
He's the closest thing our company employs, at least. Not only did Chris lead his department to glory in our inaugural Potlander weed grow-off, his advice, if heeded, would have saved at least one other plant from the big green compost bin in the sky.
This is the first lesson: Everyone is an expert, so choose your expert advice carefully.
That means if a seemingly reasonable ex-Deadhead-turned-HR dude gives you advice about your plant, and you can plainly see he has some idea what he's doing based on the condition of his own plant, you should probably listen to him.
What else did we learn from our four-month experiment growing six cannabis plants in our office? Bunches. The biggest lesson, though, was that successfully cultivating cannabis from twiggy starter to fully flowered bush is time-consuming and complicated work, no matter what anyone tells you.
In that spirit, we're not here to give advice on what you should do so much as to warn you about the dumb rookie mistakes we made.
Choose your strain carefully…
Pretty much any dispensary you walk into this time of year has a few clones on the shelves. Don't just buy something because they have it in stock, or because the price is right, or because you like smoking it. Pick something you'll like, but which also lends itself to your grow plan.
Last July, we were very happy and excited when our six starters of P91 arrived. But then they grew up a little and started to smell. We looked up the description and learned P91 is a super-drowsy "morphine replacement" designed to put users in a coma-heavy sleep. Fully cured, it smells like a cat pissed on a dandelion. Why does such a strain even exist? By the time we really knew what we had, there was no going back. You're going to spend a lot of time caring for this plant—especially if you don't have interns to do most of the work, as we did. Make sure it's something you like to do before investing time.
Understand it's going to require attention at inopportune times…
People will tell you that weed is a weed and will grow like a, uh, weed. Not in our experience. Of our six plants, the three survivors required daily attention at some point—the two indoor plants needed water and nutrients during the vegetation stage (our second-place team would like to thank Roots Garden Supply), the outdoor plant on the roof needed to be brought in and out of its house after the autumn rains came.
Know that indoor plants smell…
Like, a lot. Our reception area smelled like a dispensary for about a month, and that was with one plant inside a tent with a carbon filter.
Understand that outdoor plants, while less muss and/or fuss, will only finish on nature's clock…
Cannabis plants—the kind people grow for recreational use, anyway—begin flowering only when the day has 12 hours of darkness. In Portland, that's September. After that, you need to give the plant another month to
finish flowering. By that time, it's raining. This is not good.
Make deals up front so you don't have to re-enact a scene from
a Rick Ross record once harvest comes…
If you're involving anyone else in the growing process, determine the split when you plant the starter. We did not do this. Come harvest, we had some tense conversations about how to divvy up the proceeds. It turned into some Breaking Bad shit. It's all cool now—none of us liked the strain much anyway—but if we'd ended up with a bumper crop of premium Blue Dream, there would have been some angry memos.
If you're going to grow just one plant outside, get a little tent for it…
We bought our 4-foot-high tent for $60 from Walmart.com—which we patronized only after exhausting every local option we could think of—and it kept our plant safe until the very end, when two interns got sloppy about bringing it in and out of the tent.
If you're growing outdoors in northern Oregon, don't try pushing into November…
In early October, with the Portland skies still sunny and our rooftop plant looking fat and happy, we made plans to chop it down. It seemed like the smart play to us, and to Chris the office weed wiz who warned us that Willamette Valley grows are notorious for losing plants to rot just before harvest. Then we invited an expert over to show us how to trim it. This expert said the plant was nowhere near finishing, and to give it another three weeks. We gave it two, but by the time we cut it down, it had a bad case of bud rot.
Wear gloves while you harvest…
On one hand, I spent a workday morning with a weird high from harvesting our outdoor plant without wearing gloves. On the other hand, this was the only high that stupid plant provided us, given the mold.
Get your stuff tested…
Our friends at Cascadia Labs normally charge about $150 per plant for base-level testing. They tested our plants for free to determine how strong our stuff was—all three were around 15 percent THC, even though one was grown outdoors and one of the indoor plants was totally organic, while the other was not. We also got a terpene profile that showed our flower was chock-full of myrcene, an essential oil found in thyme, bay and parsley. More importantly, we found out that our outdoor plant was dangerously moldy and not fit for human consumption, even if we extracted the THC using butane. Yes, that was disappointing, but it was also much better than inhaling potentially dangerous mold.