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WHAT’S LEGAL POT GROWING AND WHAT’S NOT

Here’s a summary. For full legal information for Sonoma County, visit sonomacounty.ca.gov/Cannabis/Personal-Use-and-Cultivation/

Who Can Grow?

Medical: Any patient or caregiver with a doctor’s recommendation for medical cannabis. The cannabis cannot be sold or distributed

Recreational: Any adult 21 or older. The cannabis cannot be sold

Size of plants: Up to 100 square feet of grow area per residence

Medical amount: There’s no limit on the number of plants for medical use

Recreational amount: No more than 6 plants

Where: Cultivation must take place at the person’s full-time residence

Outdoor: Plants cannot be located in the front or side yard setback areas and cannot be visible from public streets or walkways. Outdoor growing is not allowed in multi-family units or in the medium or high-density residential zones (R2 and R3).

Indoor: Indoor grows must be in an accessory structure, like a greenhouse or garage. Growing inside a residential structure is not allowed, unless there is no feasible alternative.

WHERE DO I GET PLANTS OR SEEDS?

You can get seeds from suppliers on the internet. The Gage Green Group (gagegreen.org) is a reputable company selling organically grown seeds for medicinal or recreational grows. Close to home, The Cali Connection (thecaliconnection.com) is a website to look into. Farther afield, in Amsterdam in fact, is a fine company called Sensi Seeds (senjsiseeds.com) that sells medicinal, recreational and feminized seeds.

If you want to do more research, here are other seed suppliers to Google: Brothers Grimm Seeds, Swamp Boys Seeds, BC Bud Depot, MTG Seeds, DNA Genetics, TGA Genetics, Green House Seeds, Archive Seed Bank, Aficionado Seeds, Amsterdam Genetics and The British Seed Company.

You can also stop by the Emerald Cup at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in December. An Early Bird Weekend Pass is on sale now for $120 plus $12.74 fee, no babies in arms and no strollers. You probably don’t want to take the kids to this event anyway. For tickets, visit theemeraldcup.com/tickets/

For starter plants, talk to a growe.r

Identifying gender of cannabis plants

If you let the male plants spread pollen among the females, you’ll ruin your crop, unless your aim is to grow and harvest seeds. If pollinated, the females will put their energy into ripening seeds, not producing big kolas of flowers.

Male and female marijuana plants are identical for the first six weeks of life. After June 20, they will start to differentiate by gender. If you’re serious about growing quality plants, you must remove all male plants and get them off the property or bury them as soon as you can tell their gender.

Use a magnifying glass to look at the joints on the stalk where the branches meet the main stalk. At first both males and females will have small clusters of ball-like bulbs there, but soon small, hairy, translucent filaments will emerge from the female bulbs. When many of the female bulbs show these filaments, it’s time to remove the male plants, which will still not have filaments but will soon shower the patch with pollen. Pull them out and get rid of them asap.

For more information and pictures, visit wikihow.com/Identify-Female-and-Male-Marijuana-Plants

There’s a reason it’s called “weed.”

Cannabis is a weed — a C4 weed to be precise. C4 plants are tough, thrive in heat and dry conditions, and are an evolutionary improvement over the C3 plants that preceded them. Without going down the rabbit hole of organic chemistry, C4 means these plants turn sunshine and carbon dioxide into sugars built with four carbon atoms, and this tweak gives them their resiliency.

So, what’s this mean for the home grower, now that a few cannabis plants for either medicinal or recreational use are legal in California? (see sidebar) It means that you can kill your plants with kindness by over-watering them. Over-watering doesn’t necessarily drown them. They don’t like it, but they will recover unless you keep their soil sopping wet.

Growers I’ve spoken with, who asked not to be named, say the same thing: “Let the plants tell you when they need water.” When the leaves start looking a little droopy and lose a bit of their natural turgidity, water them and see if they perk up.

What will kill the plants, or at least ruin the crop, is white mildew on the leaves and mold in the flowers.

When you do water, don’t use an overhead sprinkler and wet the leaves, as that promotes the fungi. Use a soaker hose and let it run long enough for the water to seep deeply into the soil, where the roots are. Just watering the surface causes roots to grow near the surface.

What you want is for the plants to strike their roots deeply into the soil, scavenging for the rich nutrients you’ve put there. Make them reach for the water and they’ll also be well-fed.

The richer the soil, the bigger the plants. Enrich at least the top foot of soil with natural fertilizers for the best results. That means well-made compost, rotted manures and plant materials, and actively decaying organic matter. Never use fresh manure, especially from domestic pets that can carry human pathogens. Fresh manure is also too high in nitrogen and that can burn young roots. Worm castings are ideal. Well-rotted stable sweepings, especially where pigs or goats have been kept, are great stuff. Dig the actively decaying materials into the existing soil with a spade or spading fork.

Since each residence in Sonoma County is allowed to grow six plants on 100 square feet, that means two rows of three plants each in a square 10 feet on a side. Give each plant as much room as possible, and realize that as they grow into maturity, they will become very large — eight feet tall or more and six feet in diameter. Their branches will become heavy with flowering kolas (if you’re growing them properly). While they’re still young, think about how you may prop up heavily-laden branches. One way is to drive a wooden pole into the soil next to the spot where you’ll plant your seeds or seedlings. Then as the branches begin to droop as they grow heavy, run twine from the top of the pole to a spot about two-thirds of the way out on the branch and tie it there. Or prop up branches with slender poles, like fruit growers do to prevent heavy branches from breaking.

It’s a good idea to remove the lower branches from the female plants as they start to mature. This forces the plant to put its energy into the topmost branches, where the most sunlight stimulates the plants to make the most flowers.

Before flowers even form, however, you need to determine the gender of your plants. Cannabis plants are either male, female, or have both male and female reproductive parts on the same plant and are hermaphrodites. In order to produce female flowers without seeds you need to find the males and hermaphrodites and pull them out and get rid of them. See the attached box for further information.

As maturity nears and masses of flowers are forming, use a magnifying glass to examine the flowers for aphids, small caterpillars or other insects, and especially dark, sooty areas of mold. Remove any infested or infected buds. A few aphids aren’t much of a problem and will attract natural predators like ladybugs, lacewing larvae and other predatory insects that will keep the aphids under control naturally.

When planted in early to mid-spring, plants will start to flower sometime after June 20, when sunlight starts to wane. Flowering really gets going in July, and you get mature kolas in late August and September.

Harvest when the little hairs at the base of the flower parts take on a reddish hue and a magnifying glass reveals white crystals covering the flower parts. Dry the kolas on their stems by hanging them upside down in a dark, dry place that’s as cool as you can make it, such as in a basement if you have one, or an air-conditioned room. The kolas are dry when the stem breaks with a crack rather than bends.

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