Following the federal government’s 2018 legalization of recreational cannabis use, Atlantic Canadian households can grow up to four cannabis plants each. Here’s how to start your plants legally, safely, and cost-effectively.
The first thing you need is female cannabis seeds; only female plants produce cannabinoids, the chemical compound that gives cannabis its effect.
Authorized medical cannabis patients can legally buy seeds from a licensed producer (LP). As of mid-April, Health Canada approved LPs in all four Atlantic provinces. Find the one closest to you at licensedproducerscanada.ca. Those without medical authorization can purchase seeds at provincial-government cannabis stores.
Soak your seeds in a glass of slightly-warmer-than-room-temperature bottled spring water for 12–18 hours. When a seed cracks and a tap root appears, place it on a bed of folded paper towels on a ceramic plate. Keep the paper towel damp, but don’t overwater. Leave the plate in a dark space with good airflow.
When a root reaches one centimetre, place seedlings into soil or more expensive but reusable coconut husk. You can find it at cannabis growing supply stores and garden centres across Atlantic Canada.
Key to healthy growth is sunlight or a substitute. The law on outdoor growing varies by location, so learn yours before putting plants outside. If you want to keep plants indoors, there are a number of lighting options.
Stephanie Scammell runs Grow and Brew, a hydroponic gardening and home brewing supply store in Truro, N.S. She says beginners on smaller budgets should consider lighting seedlings with a 50–100 centimetre long T5 fluorescent strip light.
Scammell says growers can then set seedlings outside during spring and summer, to let the sun finish the plants’ vegetation cycles or leave them indoors, under the T5. This approach will add only a few dollars to your power bill each month, she says.
T5 lights are available online, at grow shops, and hardware stores. They plug into standard wall sockets.
Smaller light set-ups mean small yields and slow growing. Moving up to the next level of lighting, most hobby growers instead use ceramic metal halide (CMH) lights, or high-pressure sodium (HPS). Both are high intensity discharge (HID) lights. You can expect to pay about $50 for a basic light.
HIDs need a shoe-sized metal ballast. This provides enough voltage to start the lamps and regulate their electricity.
Assuming four plants in a 1-metre-square grow tent, a 315 Watt CMH light will increase your monthly electric bill by around $40–$50, concur several veteran growers.
Also popular with at home growers are grow tents, wardrobe-sized zippered canvas spaces that help contain and manage heat, humidity, light, and odours.
If you want an HID light, tent, and fan will cost about $1,000, says Luke Morine, owner operator of Valley Hobbyponics, a grow shop in New Minas, N.S.
Morine advises new growers to carefully consider if they also have a suitable growing space with accessibility, water, and ventilation before investing. Also make plans to keep children and animals out of your growing space. Ingesting even small amounts can be toxic.
To avoid a large electric bill, Racheal MacDonald, owner operator of Green Corner, a Moncton, N.B. grow shop, says some growers use LED lights, which use less power, and don’t need a ballast.
LEDs can be tricky, MacDonald says. Some underperform during a plant’s flowering cycle. Unlike HIDs, LEDs emit very little heat. Using LEDs in your basement in winter means you’ll probably need to heat your grow space.
And she adds that while $1,000 may be a big budget for many beginners, once you’re operational, that cost compares well against typical government retail prices of about $6–$15 per gram. Home growing also means less packaging than products from government shops, she says.
Once you install your lights, you can leave them on or set a timer to create four–six hours of darkness per night. MacDonald says some darkness is key for growth. “The aim is to replicate Mother Nature and very few places have 24 hours of light each day.”
It’s also essential to use a 10–15 centimetre inline fan to ensure air flow through your growing space. This helps prevent pests like spider mites and problems such as rot and mold, while also ensuring enough carbon dioxide. Keep your grow area temperature 21– 25.5°C and 30–50% humidity.
Fertilize with a cannabis-specific all-in-one regime to avoid overfeeding your plants, a common error for new growers.
After four to six weeks of vegetation, adjust your timer to only 12 hours of light. This triggers the flowering cycle. Now, temperature should be 18–27°C with 30% humidity.
During flowering, your plant’s height may triple. Morine recommends removing most of the unneeded lower leaves to send more nutrients to important areas of the plant, and to increase light penetration for healthy growth.
Midway through flowering, your plants will emit an increasingly strong smell. Morine suggests using a carbon filter to trap odours. Filters come in many sizes and can sit outside a tent to save space.
About seven to 13 weeks after flowering begins, your plants’ trichomes, tiny, crystal-like hairs covering the plant’s buds, will turn milky. These contain THC, cannabis’s psychoactive substance. Morine uses a microscope to be sure it’s harvest time. Others use a jeweller’s eyepiece.
When you’re ready to harvest, cut the plant at its base and pluck any remaining lower leaves. Hang it upside down to dry in a secure and airy space for four to six days, at around 21°C and 50% humidity. Check on your drying plant daily.
Once dry, remove buds from branches. Store in an air-tight container to cure for at least one month. You can grind your buds and smoke or vape them, drink them in tea, or make canna butter for baking into edibles such as cookies.
Know the Law
Laws vary by province and city, but these general rules and tips apply throughout Canada:
- Possessing seeds from unlicensed vendors is illegal, as is anything grown from them.
- Growers must be 19 years of age or older.
- Each household may grow up to four plants. Multiple apartments in one building are considered separate households. If renting, check your lease to ensure growing cannabis isn’t prohibited.
- Transporting cannabis in a vehicle follows the same laws as alcohol. It must be in a sealed package and out of reach of anyone in the vehicle.
- The maximum amount of cannabis you can possess outside of your home is 30 grams. There is no limit to what you possess in your home.
How much dried cannabis will I yield?
Veteran grower and grow shop owner operator Luke Morine says that a 315 Watt ceramic metal halide light and a ballast running 24 hours a day over four plants inside a ventilated 1 meter by 1 meter by 1.7 meter tall grow tent should yield approximately 1 gram of dried cannabis flower for each of your light’s Watts.
Under this scenario, four Indica-strain plants taking approximately 60–70 days from seed to harvest, should yield approximately 315 grams (about 11 oz.) of dried flower.