Seeds in soil: Pots

I prefer to grow marijuana in soil, and that’s what I will write about here and in my book. The segment I’m writing now is on tools, and the first tools to consider are the pots you grow your plants in. After the jump is a first draft of information about choosing types and sizes of pots to grow marijuana indoors.

Like everything I write, this information is geared to new gardeners in Colorado, where home growing is now legal in certain amounts and in certain situations. This information does not apply in any state other than my own.

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And the buds grow

And this second grow is 112 days from planting the seeds. The plants have been in a 12-hour light regime for 51 days.

Marijuana bud

The buds are growing nicely. Pistils are browning, as you can see, but the trichomes are still clear, which means they are not mature yet. I estimate another month before harvest.


The plants: what they’re doing now

The buds are growing, with lots of pistils but no trichomes showing yet. We’re probably six to eight weeks from having any mature bud from this grow.

Budding plants

I grow using a technique called “low stress training”, which I want to talk about in some depth. I don’t have time this week, but I did want to leave you a picture at least. More soon.


How they begin: seeds in soil

As soon as Amendment 64 passed, I got some seeds from a friend (Aurora Indica, a Northern Lights x Afghani breed) and started a grow. For that first grow I began my babies as seed in soil, starting in cream cheese tubs.

Cream cheese tubs are great for starting seeds, as long as you poke drainage holes in the bottom. They are waterproof and pretty much unbreakable. From the tubs, which are about three inches across, I repotted to four-inch plastic pots, then to six-inch, then to pots that were approximately 11 inches across. Finally I moved them to the five gallon pots where they lived the rest of their lives.

That was a lot of repotting, and each time there is the danger of damaging the roots or breaking the stem if you don’t handle the plants carefully. I’ve been growing houseplants for years so I’m pretty good at repotting, but it seemed like wasted effort. So for this second grow, I started the plants directly into six-inch pots and moved them only once — to the five-gallon pots where they are now.

Baby marijuana plants
Baby plants in six-inch pots.

Seeding directly into the larger pot, or moving a plant up to a much larger pot, also has its dangers. Mostly you have to water very carefully, making sure that you neither let the edges dry out nor let the soil get too waterlogged. I’ll have a lot more to say about watering as I go on. For now, I’ll just note the picture above, which shows that my seeds sprouted nicely and grew well when sown directly into six-inch pots.


Historic day!

Today the first legal retail sales of marijuana are taking place in Colorado. Watching the news reports on the Denver Post’s new Cannabist liveblog, it sounds like everything is smooth and peaceful. Demand is strong and there may be shortages at some stores, but I’m sure that will all work out over time.

Here at our house, we’ve had legal weed for months, because I grow my own. In fact, my second crop is full of young buds now.

Young female buds

Both of my plants turned out to be female, so no pollen-gathering this time. After this crop I need to clear the shelf for my garden seedlings for spring and summer, so the next crop won’t start till June or July. Fingers crossed that we get a good supply from these. Still it is very nice to know that we can always waltz out and buy some bud, legally, any time we want to now.



For this home grow, I’m using a set of metal shelves in my office. They are ordinary Whitmor shelves, like you might find in Costco or Target. I like them because the shelves are easily movable, making it easy to keep the correct distance from the lights as the plants grow. I started with one 125-watt Fluorowing compact fluorescent bulb. Later I added two 60-watt CFLs at the sides. This gives roughly 10,000 lumens in my three square foot growing space, with much of the light concentrated under the larger 125-watt bulb.


This is a minimal amount of light for the space. I have roughly three square feet of shelf space, and up to six feet vertical space. Marijuana plants want as much light as they can get, and the more light the better your bud production will be. With a total of 245, I have roughly 80 watts per square foot. If you used LEDs you could double that and the plants would be happy. LEDs are pricey, though. My own plan is to replace the 60-watt circular CFLs with a second fluorowing and use the circular CFLs in a cloning area once I get one set up.

I notice a definite increase in the electricity bill when I am growing even with these efficient bulbs. They also put out more heat than I would have expected, which is nice when it’s this cold out, but not so pleasant in the summer heat.

Originally we hung the lights from shelf brackets mounted with some sturdy wall drillers. But they couldn’t handle the weight, and after I had a near-accident when the wall mounts failed, Mr. J built me this extremely sturdy wooden frame that fits around the shelving unit. It is bolted to the wall and reinforced with metal brackets. We put an assortment of eyehooks at intervals to string chains from. Using S-hooks, it’s easy to move the lights up and down as needed.



Hey Colorado! Grow Your Own.

I live in Colorado and last year the state passed Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational use. Unlike the law in Washington state, Colorado’s law allows private citizens to grow marijuana for their own use (not for resale).

There are limits on the number of plants you can grow (six) and how many can be in flower at once (three). The plants have to be out of public sight and in a locked space. You can share with friends only if the friends are over 21 years old, and you can give away no more than an ounce at a time, nor can you carry more than an ounce outside your home. Otherwise, you are free to grow what you can in the privacy of your home.

I immediately got some seeds and started my first home grow in years.

There are some tricks to growing marijuana, but not too many. If you can grow a decent tomato—and lots of us can—you can grow decent-to-great sinsemilla in your home. Sinsemilla (literally “without seeds”) refers to growing strong female buds in the absence of pollen to fertilize them. Their strength goes into creating and ripening all the medical and psychoactive chemicals that the marijuana plant provides.

A marijuana bud grown by me

I had great success. The picture above shows one of my buds from the first grow. In total I got about five ounces damp weight, which dried down to about two or three ounces. The process took about six months from seeds to cured buds.

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Best reads

This week, try these three.

Harold Myerson at the American Prospect, on a new labor alliance in California. L.A. Story, The Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy: a new model for American liberalism?

From reporters at the Arkansas Times, working with InsideClimate News, The path of the Pegasus pipeline in Arkansas, Exxon’s pipeline cuts across the watersheds that provide drinking water for 770,000 Arkansans.

And James Fallows at the Atlantic presents an analysis of the situation in Syria, Your Labor Day Syria Reader, Part 2: William Polk. An in-depth, step-by-step account of how we got here and what might come next.

All are well worth your time.


Equality Day

On August 26, 1920, women were at last granted the right to vote. Today is Women’s Equality Day. The picture below is from 1918. In a time when voting rights are under constant attack, I hope we show the same courage as those who fought for our rights so many years ago.


Irin Carmon at MSNBC’s site has an interesting round-up from those days, predicting the evils that would befall if women were allowed to vote.



That in the richest country on earth we refuse to feed poor, hungry children.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that SNAP benefits will be cut automatically in November of this year, as the additional funding that had been allocated to feeding people will not be renewed by this Congress.

The amount this saves is miniscule, as you can see in the graphic below. But these small amounts make a lot of difference in the lives and the nutrition of the families who need them. I know, because my mother raised us on welfare (AFDC it was, back then). What this says about us as a country (and particularly about the Republicans in Congress, who hate poor people passionately) is shameful.

SNAP cuts per month