Gardening is no longer illegal. You can now grow up to four marijuana plants at home without going to jail. But growing smoke-grade weed is a hell of a lot more complicated than, say, that wilty stem of basil on your windowsill. That’s why there are things like the annual Cannabis Cup—coming soon to Portland, allegedly—where chemically precise, professional growers compete for the best bud. As for us, we sought out a guru. I found Sean, head-shop employee, seasoned grower and all-around stoner who uses an alias to protect his identity—mostly out of old habit at this point. “Weed is a weed,” Sean assures us. “If you plant it, it will grow.” 

Outdoors 

The simplest way to grow cannabis is to throw it in next to your tomatoes. Both plants are soft annuals, meaning they don't survive the winter, and they do well with the same nutrients. Get seeds in the ground around April, and they'll begin flowering and be ready for harvest in August or September. Was this July 1 legalization date a wicked government trick to bypass the growing season? Maybe, but you can retaliate: Little starter plants—clones—need only weeks in the ground before flowering. You could plop them in your yard now, although they can be tough to find except maybe on Craigslist. 

You can find seeds for mail order all over the Internet, including at greenhouseseeds.nl and theseedsdepot.com. Depending on the strain, 10 seeds will run you between $28 and almost $200. Germinate them indoors by wrapping them in a damp paper towel and storing them in a plastic sandwich bag. When a tiny sprout emerges, transplant them to an egg carton filled with nutrient-rich soil. (Sean suggests Ocean Forest by FoxFarm, $8 a bag at Portland Nursery.) Continue using your fertilizer when you move the plants outside. About two months after you plant your seeds, it's time for the "sexing period." Only female marijuana plants grow bud. "Males grow balls, females grow hairs," says Sean. Uproot all the guys.

Note that when you grow outdoors you're at the mercy of the elements. Your plants may get tough and spindly as they reach for the sun, so your bud may not be very tasty or potent. But it sure is easy.

  

Indoors

Indoors and outdoors are similar. You'll still want to germinate your seeds, weed out the males and feed your plants nutrients. But there are three main differences: First, you need a room to store your plants. A closet is probably your best bet; it will contain the marijuana smell, and you have better control over the small environment. Keep it a warm 70 to 75 degrees. Second, you need a pot with good drainage to hold your plants. And third, you need grow lights. The basic deal with lights is this: Use fluorescent light and keep the top of your plant about a foot away from the bulb. When your plants reach sexual maturity (between 6 inches and 2 feet tall), add more light (i.e., more bulbs), and start leaving your plants in blackout for 12 hours a day. This induces your plants to start flowering by simulating the shorter days of the fall harvest season. You can use any fluorescent bulbs you have lying around the house, but you'll have your best luck with long, skinny T-5 bulbs with 54 or more watts.


Hydroponic 

In hydroponic systems, plants send roots through an inert growing medium (clay pellets for example) toward a liquid solution that is pumped with nutrients at timed intervals. This method can produce bigger and better buds in three-fourths the time it takes to grow in soil. But it requires money, advanced equipment, vigilant maintenance and a developed understanding of your plants' cycles and needs. If you want to grow hydroponic, you're going to have to seek information further afield than here. Try Portlandsterdam University, which offers cannabis classes ($75) every weekend (9123 SE St. Helens St., Clackamas, 788-2349, portlandsterdamuniversity.com).

Drying and Curing

No matter which grow method you use, here’s how to get from farmer to stoner. Snip your plant free of its roots. Clip off the sun leaves—the bigger leaves without crystals. These contain CBD (cannabidiol), the chemical in marijuana that relieves aches and pains without getting you stoned. Throw them in a smoothie or something. Wrap the rest of the plant in newspaper and hang it upside down to dry for about a week. When the plant no longer bends, but snaps, this step is over. You can stop here if you want. Or you can move on to curing, which Sean describes as the plant “infusing itself with its own flavor.” Put the bud in a sealed glass container. Open the jar once a day to let out excess moisture. In about a month, your bud is ready for the bowl.  

Willamette Week is holding an office grow-off using different methods—outdoors, indoors, hydroponic—so check in at wweek.com/weedgrowoff in the coming weeks to follow our progress.


Most Common Weed Problems

Powdery Mildew

This is a white fungus that grows on the leaves of the plant. Unfortunately, a good grow environment for your pot is also a good grow environment for powdery mildew. To get rid of it, spray your plant with a dilution of hydrogen peroxide and let it dry in front of a fan.


Root Rot

This water-borne disease results from poor drainage or overwatering. Wilting is a common symptom. There are cures, like RootShield ($100 online), but they only slow things down. Instead, cut your losses. "I've never been able to find a method for cleaning root rot," says Sean. "Such a brutal one."


Spider Mites

These are more common indoors and are usually caused by unsanitary growing conditions. You can identify them by counting their legs: Mites have eight while insects have six. The first step is to blast them off with water. If that doesn't work, try an organic miticide like pyrethrin (about $20 at Portland Nursery).