Growing Your Own: How to Keep Cannabis

Just as there is an art (and of course, science) to growing cannabis, there’s an art to keeping it properly, too. We here at Leafwell are all about patients getting the best access possible to their medical marijuana, and growing your own is one of the best ways of doing that. Here are some of the best ways to keep your cannabis. And remember, the way to ensure you are growing legally is often to get a medical marijuana card which allows you to grow your own medicine.

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Benefits of Growing Your Own Cannabis

We know, growing your cannabis seems like a lot of work, and how do you know your cannabis will be the same quality as what you get at the dispensary? When you’re using marijuana medicinally, quality and consistency are essential, so it’s understandable if you’re unsure about growing your own medicine.

However, there are many benefits of home growing like…

  • Access to the strains you need all the time. No more hoping the dispensary has the strain you rely on most when you run out.
  • The long-term savings. Yes, you will probably put a decent initial investment into supplies, but from there, the upkeep cost is low, and according to Grow Light Info, you can expect an ounce of bud per foot of plant, and that’s a lot of money not spent at a dispensary.
  • You have complete control over everything from start to finish, including seeds, soil, potential pesticides, plant food used, and more.
  • You can save the trim that you usually wouldn’t have access to, which can be made into butter or oil for cooking, topicals, and more.

Growing cannabis can be a challenge, but it can also be gratifying. While it might take trial and error to get the quality and consistency you want, it will be well worth it when you never have to rely on a dispensary to have the medicine you need in stock when you need it.

Don’t Get Discouraged …

Many growers often fail on their first attempt. Learning to grow is a learning curve and, while the basics of plant-growing aren’t that difficult, becoming an expert takes years of growing experience. Now, we are talking about the keeping of cannabis, but it’s crucial to get the growing part down pat.

For a first-timer, here are some golden rules to go by when growing cannabis:

  1. Learn how to identify male and female plants – male plants tend to have “balls,” female ones, “hairs,” or “pistils.” Males mature faster than females (unlike humans, ba-dum-tish) and grow taller. Female plants also tend to develop more complex growth patterns, but you can usually see the difference by the end of vegetation/beginning of flowering (4-5 weeks). Male plants can be removed, but it is advisable to keep one good specimen (away from your female plants!) for future breeding purposes and to save genetics. You will sometimes get hermaphrodites as well, which can form due to either environmental stress or because it’s carried in the genes. Hermaphrodites can have their balls cut off (ouch!) to prevent self-pollination and the pollination of other plants. Some people get rid of hermaphrodites entirely or let them grow in another room to harvest the bud but prevent future pollination.
  2. Healthy roots are essential – this is the best sign of a healthy plant that will give you bountiful buds. You can check on healthy roots every time you re-pot the plant as it grows larger.
  3. Don’t overfeed – just like with edibles, you can always add more nutrients if needed, but you can’t take them away. Overfeeding leads to plants “burning out.”
  4. Start simple – many dispensaries carry cuttings of some of their best plants. Rather than going from seed straight away, getting your grower’s license and starting from dispensary cuttings means you don’t have to wait for the plant to vegetate (time and energy saved) with the added advantage of knowing that – if appropriately grown – you’ll get some great products from good genetics. Success on a first try is much easier this way, and you’ll also avoid male plants this way.
  5. Start with forgiving strains – hybrids like Skunk #1 are far easier to grow than landrace hazes, which are usually less forgiving of mistakes, take longer to grow, have a lower yield, and need a tightly-controlled environment to grow in when out of its home soil.
  6. Always “flush” your plants properly – this means giving your plants just water and no food for about a week before harvesting. Starting flushing depends on the plant and growing medium, as flushing too early can lead to lower yields, while flushing too late can lead to lesser-quality produce. 7 – 9 days of flushing is generally recommended for soil growth.
Download Free Beginner’s Guide to Growing Cannabis

Drying Out Your Herb Properly

Drying marijuana plants after harvesting usually takes between 7 – 12 days in a clean, dry space with no direct sunlight. Proper drying is essential to getting your buds to last longer, and not doing so is one of the leading causes of moldy buds. For immunocompromised patients, this could potentially (but thankfully rarely) be dangerous. You can usually tell when a plant is appropriately dry by quickly snapping the twigs inside the buds.

Drying cannabis buds.
Drying cannabis. Author: Cannabis Training University. Source: Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0.

Proper Curing

Curing your bud properly is an art of its own. Once your plant is dried correctly, you can start storing the buds in airtight mason jars that are two-thirds full. Then it would help if you opened up these jars to “burp” them regularly, improving the bud’s smell and flavor. When burping the jars, check your buds for mold and mildew and remove them if any is present. Place any clean buds back into the jar and toss them around a bit to ensure even curing.

Burping and proper curing will ensure the buds don’t get moldy/mildewy, break down the sugars & chlorophyll, and provide a much smoother, fuller, and pleasant-tasting yield. It usually takes about a month to cure buds properly, but some prefer to cure for 2-3 months. The difference between cured and uncured bud is night and day. Longer cures can improve the taste immensely, and sometimes even bud that looks scraggly and with no bag appeal can become a one-hit-wonder after a couple of months’ good curing.

Properly cured and sealed bud can stay potent for up to two years if kept out of humid areas and direct sunlight. However, many say that well-cured marijuana is at its best between 3 – 18 months of age, with potency reducing after the 18-month mark.

What’s the Best Storage Method?

If it’s at home, then good-quality glass mason jars that can form an airtight seal are your best bet—airtight containers explicitly made for storing cannabis that you might be tempted to invest in. A mason jar may feel old fashion, but you know what they say, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Perhaps a mini-mason jar or stainless steel, airtight, screw-top container is a good bet for carrying around. It would help if you avoided plastic bags, as these can leach toxic materials onto the cannabis as the bag degrades. It also provides a moist environment in which the bud can “sweat” and cause mold, mildew, and an unmistakable pong noticeable to anyone who walks by you. Plastic bags also cause static, meaning that they will attract the trichs from your bud and stick to the plastic – one reason so many hate baggies.

What About Freezing My Weed?

Cannabis contains water. Putting it into a standard home freezer will freeze the water in the cannabis and damage the buds, meaning you could also lose lots of vital cannabinoids. Should you want to freeze your cannabis, it is perhaps best to freeze-dry it in a frost-free freezer after vacuum-packing it, as this will ensure that the terpenoids don’t become damaged.

Ed Rosenthal recommends freeze-drying buds before putting them in mason jars, whereas some will keep their buds frozen until they need to take them out of the freezer. The only problem with this method is that you have to wait for your bud to defrost before using it in a vape or pipe, but this isn’t too much of a problem when it means you’ve got excellent-quality flowers on your hands.

Any Other Storage Methods Lasting 2-Plus Years?

Cannabis is a plant, meaning it will degrade over time, no matter how well you store it. Some people get bumper growths and yields so large that they don’t know what to do with it all. Sadly, keeping it around for fallow seasons is not always possible. Many people use these massive bumper crops to create hash, tinctures, and other extracts, which will all last a lot longer than buds do. Tinctures stored in a cool, dry place can last many years and will make a regular appearance in your pantry once you find your favorite way of making it!

There’s no one right way to store your cannabis. As long as it’s kept in an airtight container, out of the heat and humidity, and was correctly cured, it will keep well for months without any concern.

Once you’ve figured out the best storage method for yourself, you will begin to realize that how well you keep your cannabis is just as important as how well you grow it. Many people have grown unique plants, only to let themselves down in the all-important curing phase. Others have turned mediocre plants into superstars by treating them with a bit of care. Interestingly, knowing about this will also help you find high-quality dispensaries as you start to understand what you’re looking for in good MMJ!

Download Free Beginner’s Guide to Growing Cannabis
Written by
Dipak Hemraj
Dipak Hemraj

Dipak Hemraj is a published author, grower, product maker, and Leafwell’s resident cannabis expert. From botany & horticulture to culture & economics, he wishes to help educate the public on why cannabis is medicine (or a “pharmacy in a plant”) and how it can be used to treat a plethora of health problems. Dipak wants to unlock the power of the plant, and see if there are specific cannabinoid-terpene-flavonoid profiles suitable for different conditions.

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