6 Steps to Growing Your Own Backyard Pot Plant


It's not that hard. They call it weed for a reason. And if you threw a bunch of pot seeds out in a field and did nothing else, you'd probably get a pot plant—scraggly, runty, thirsty, starved of nutrients, but a living plant. You might even get a few buds off it, if it happened to be a female plant.

But you can do much better than that with just a little bit of care, effort and common sense.

You know you want to, at least if you're one of the 44.5 million adult Americans a new Harris Poll says would grow their own if it were legal. That's nearly one out of five adults nurturing a would-be green thumb for the green stuff.

It's not legal everywhere—in fact, not in most places—but that isn't stopping a lot of people. If it's illegal to grow pot where you live, that's something to take very seriously. Growing even a single plant can be a felony in some states. Factor that into your calculations, budding gardeners. But for those people who live in grow-legal states and people who don't but who are willing to take their chances, here's a brief sketch of how to grow your own outdoor pot plant from a clone.

You can, of course, grow from seeds, but that involves a couple of complications (germination, and later, sexing to get rid of unwanted male plants) we want to avoid in this simple introduction. And you can grow your plants indoors with electricity, but that too adds whole new levels of complications, so we're going to stick with plants from clones, grown outdoors in the sunlight.

That means we are bound by the seasons. Planting time will soon be upon us. It's time to take action now to ensure you enjoy the fruits of your own garden come fall. Here's what you need to do.

1. Find a location. There are two prime considerations here: privacy and sunlight. If growing pot is illegal, you want privacy for obvious reasons. But even if it isn't, you want privacy to protect yourself from prying eyes, whether those of disapproving busybodies or larcenous teen night-stalkers.

If you're not isolated from neighbors, an eight-foot fence would be preferable. Within your space, be it backyard or isolated garden plot, you can also make your plant less obvious by planting amid other greenery, but keep in mind that your plant is going to grow and grow. Low shrubs that camouflage it early on aren't going to hide it when it's four, five, six feet tall.

You want a spot with as much sunlight as possible. Observe at different times of day to see where the shade goes, then try to avoid those spots.

2. Find a clone. Clones are nothing more than cuttings from a "mother" pot plant, so they are genetically identical to mom, and unlike seeds, guaranteed to be female, which is what you want. If you're in a grow-legal state, just go down to the pot shop. If they carry clones, they will have a nice selection. They typically go for $10-15 each. If you're not in pot-friendly territory, you will have to know somebody who knows somebody. They are out there, but it might take some detective work to find them.

You will be looking for a clone from a strain that fits your needs and desires. Do you want the stoniest weed? Look for high-THC strains. Do you want an "up" high? Look for sativas or sativa-dominant strains. Are you seeking narcotized couchlock bliss? Look for indicas or indica-dominant strains. Are you seeking medically active strains? Look for high-CBD strains.

3. Plant it. Okay, you've obtained your clone. They typically come in two- or three-inch cubes and should be around a foot tall with several sets of leaves on them. Your clone will need to be repotted before it outgrows its cube. You're going to need some good potting soil (I mix in perlite for an airier soil mix) and an 8-inch pot. Put some small rocks in the bottom of the pot so water can drain more easily through the holes in the bottom. Fill it with potting soil, wet it down thoroughly, then scoop out enough to make a hole big enough for the base of the clone to fit in. Put the clone in, tamp soil down around it, and voila!

Keep your new clone shaded for the first few days. They need to adjust to being out in the bright sun after their cloistered indoor existence. That eight-inch pot is only good for a few weeks; after that, the roots will want more room to expand and suck up nutrients. You must then decide whether to replant it in a bigger pot or in the ground. Pots have the advantage of mobility—you can move them to stay out of the shade if necessary, or if your mother-in-law is coming over. Plus, you don't have to dig a hole in the ground.

But pot size will limit how big your plant will get and how much it produces. A five-gallon pot might get you a few ounces, while a 25-gallon pot might get you a pound or more. The same principle applies to holes in the ground: The bigger the hole you make and fill with potting soil, the bigger the plant. A 2' x 2' x 2' hole—about enough to empty a bag of potting soil—will grow you a respectable plant. Do a hole twice that size, and you can grow a 10- or 12-foot, multi-pound-yielding monster.

4. Feed it. Plants need nutrients to grow and thrive. It's up to you to see that your plant is well fed, and that means applying organic—please!—fertilizer on a regular basis. To keep it simple: Early on, you want fertilizers that encourage leafy, vegetative growth; as flowers begin to form mid-summer, you want to switch to a fertilizer for blooming or flowering. Use liquid organic fertilizers. You can use a gallon milk jug for diluting them properly. Just follow the instructions and you should be good to go. Don't give your plant more fertilizer than called for; that can burn it. Quit fertilizing about October 1, or three weeks or so before you plan to harvest.

5. Water it. It's not that tough. If you have a plant in a pot, water it every day until water starts running out the holes in the bottom. Then wait a few minutes and repeat to ensure that the soil is thoroughly moist. If you have a plant in the ground in a two-foot hole, give it a gallon a day, jacking it up to two gallons a day during flowering. That will produce a healthy harvest. Bigger pots or holes, more water, more buds in the fall.

Be careful not to overwater your clone when you first get it. You want to keep it moist, but not sopping. Apply the finger test: Stick your finger in the top of the pot, and if the soil is dry more than a half-inch down, water. If not, don't.

6. Let nature take its course. Now you have all the ingredients to grow a nice, productive marijuana plant. By midsummer (August), flowers should be forming; by mid-October or so, they will be ready to harvest. Wait until about half the little white hairs on the buds start turning brown. Some varieties take longer to flower than others. Try to have some idea when yours should be ready.

You shouldn't have a lot to do other than watering and fertilizing your plant and basking in the gratification of growing your own buds. You can prune the tops of the shoots if you want a bushier plant with more buds, and/or you can prune the bottom branches (small buds and all) later in the year if you really want to concentrate on the bigger buds on top. If you're lucky, you might have to tie up branches that become so laden with buds they want to flop over.

This is growing a pot plant in a nutshell. Anyone who is actually going to try this should go further in depth. There are numerous how-to books out there, including offerings from longtime cultivation experts like Ed Rosenthal or Jorge Cervantes. There's a load of stuff online, too. Take advantage of the information that's out there. You don't have to be a master horticulturist to grow a pot plant, but it can't hurt to listen to what they can tell you.

What you do when you harvest the plant will have a big impact on how good it is when it's ready to smoke. We'll save the harvest how-to for this fall, closer to harvest time. In the meantime, if you're going to put a plant in the ground (or in a pot), you should act now. You want them in the ground by around June 1. You can put them in later, but they're not going to be as productive if you wait.

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