Gardening Tips From ... Pot Farmers?

Aerogarden AeroponicsI was just reading about a local garden show that featured special products designed specifically for "medicinal gardeners." For people who don’t live in this very hippie-friendly part of Northern California, let me do the translation for you: "Medicinal gardens" are where people grow marijuana for medical reasons, which is indeed legal in certain parts of the country.
 
Well, that’s genius, I thought. People growing pot have to be some of the most dedicated, careful, and skillful gardeners out there. Even if I’m just growing herbs, not herb, couldn’t I take advantage of some of their expertise?
 
Turns out that many innovations have been brought to us by the proud tradition of cannabis farming.

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I talked to Jeff Jones of Oaksterdam University and The Patient ID Center in Oakland, California, where glaucoma patients (who need eye pressure relieved) and people undergoing chemotherapy (who need their appetites stimulated), among others, learn to responsibly grow and use legal amounts of cannabis. He confirmed my theory. Just like pornography was the unsavory reason for tons of useful Internet innovations, pot farming is the unspoken impetus behind many innovations regular gardeners can use.
 
Let's start with "grow lights." When I lived back East, every October heralded a giant pain-in-the-butt weekend of composting the annuals, dragging the perennials inside, and hoping for the best. It wasn’t pretty. If you have a plant you want to keep harvesting all year long, you can create an artificially mild and sunny environment, where you adjust the hours of daylight.

"If I drive by someone’s house and see an orange light in their window, I know they’re growing one of two things: fine orchids ... or cannabis," says Jones.

Orchid growers have benefited from the development of better, cheaper, more efficient bulbs that were, shall we say, not necessarily developed for orchids, he adds. There are tons of varieties to match different kinds of plants, and prices vary.
 
The brilliant invention I am about to get is called a “plant yo-yo” ($1.89 at Horticulture Source, also called the Nie-Co-Rol). The thing that always messes me up with tomatoes is having to re-stake them every few days during high growing season. I’m way too lazy for that. These pull the tops of the plant gently skywards as they grow -- no re-staking necessary!

Cannabis can be cut and grafted like roses, apple trees, and trailing vines: It’s a not-too-complicated process, but can be delicate. Marijuana farmers have not only tried and perfected various techniques for cutting, cloning, and storing new plants, they’ve driven the market for "cutting mediums." To sprout roots, the cuttings need to be in something not too watery, not too soil-y -- aka a cutting medium like Rockwool or Gro-Blocks that allows air, water, and light to get to the roots as they sprout. They can be easily re-planted into actual dirt. This is going to be a big help with my latest project Wiseria Quest 2011.

You’ve surely seen the upside-down tomato containers -- those are a low-fi version of "aeroponics," a method of growing plants so more light and air can reach the roots. "Hydroponics" are the more common innovation in which only water is used. Hydroponic systems like the AeroGarden can be expensive to run, but if you're fully committed to having fresh tomatoes all year round, this is your option.

Most importantly, cannibas farmers are sure to use the larger-scale development of organic plant food, nutrients, and bug sprays. After all, if what you’re growing is medicinal, you don’t want it to poison you. Jones wouldn't recommend any one brand because there are so many, but anything kid-friendly is going to be safe.

If you learn only one thing from this post, it’s this: Don’t be afraid to walk into the local hydroponics store and ask for products to help you bring your garden inside.

"I welcome more regular-type folks into our industry," Jones says. "Hey, most cannabis growers are small-time hobby farmers who found that what worked for their cannabis also worked for their roses. An herb garden is an herb garden."
 
Just don’t go asking about pot plants. As far as anyone is concerned, they're all just there to grow tomatoes. Say anything different, and you could get someone in trouble!

Did you know pot farming could help your herb garden?

 

Image via AeroGarden.com

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