This bud’s for you: Canada’s first legal cannabis harvest is in full bloom

On apartment balconies, rooftops and in backyards large and small, Canadians are picking their first legal marijuana crops

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If you haven’t noticed, there’s a “natural mystic blowing through the air” this fall.

On apartment balconies, rooftops and in backyards large and small across Canada, weed plants are in full aromatic bloom. Canadians are experiencing their first legal marijuana harvest.

In Toronto, the country’s largest city, it’s been a good growing season. June was cold, but the rest of the summer was sunny and hot with just the right amount of rainfall.

Down in the heart of Queen West, I met one local growing a variety called Happy Kush on her third-floor condo balcony. She says she purchased the plant “from a nice man with a wheelbarrow” while wandering through Kensington Market in early July. He was selling “healthy-looking little plants in plastic bags filled with soil” for $20 to $35.

She says the growing process “has been a lot of fun.” The plant thrived on the organic soil and worm castings her son contributed. Visitors have been impressed.

“It has been an easy-to-please and healthy addition to my balcony garden,” she says. “It’s been exciting to see the buds form and begin to swell, and it’s fun reading about what to expect next.”

Overall “the plant has been a good buddy – not too demanding, strong, and satisfying to grow,” she says.

A little further north in the Regal Heights area, another gardener shows me his backyard where he is growing a variety called Green Crack. It’s a hybrid of Skunk and Afghani developed by the rapper Snoop Dogg. He’s also growing some Jack Herer, a strain created in the Netherlands in the mid-1990s and named after the American marijuana rights activist and author. The Green Crack was ready for immediate harvesting, while the Jack Herer needed a few more weeks to ripen.

Some newer converts to cannabis also tried their hand at growing during Canada’s first summer of legalization.

A non-dope smoking couple I visited in the north end of the city say they decided to see what all the fuss was about. And scored a clone from a friend in the spring. They were surprised by how quickly their plant grew and the powerful aroma.

“You could especially tell when you walked in the house from the outside. It became quite the conversation piece when we had guests over. That might be what we enjoyed best about the whole experience. We would hear all sorts of interesting stories from other people’s experiences.”

A septuagenarian I met in Hillcrest Village invited me into his backyard vegetable garden to proudly show off his plant. It was clearly Sativa dominant. I told him it was dicey that it would make it to full maturity. But that made no difference to him. He was simply growing it for fun.

All the new weed growers I came across say growing marijuana has been an elevating experience.

To be sure, the weed you grow is easily superior to anything you can buy, legal or otherwise.

Pot producers today, government inspected or not, use an ever-widening array of chemicals. When you grow your own you have the peace of mind of knowing that what you’re smoking is free of unwanted (and unhealthy) substances.

You become a little wiser, too. You learn that the authorities have been feeding us a load of reefer madness for the last century about the so-called “evil weed.”

Here are a few growing tips to keep in mind for next year.

Before you start planting

Cannabis plants are a beautiful thing, but you want to stay away from male plants. They have no potency. And they only cause trouble. You want to plant females.

Weed plants that do well in Canada are a combo of the two strains, Indica and Sativa, but with Indica being more prevalent in the genetics. Indica varieties grow naturally in colder climates where the season is shorter.

Here’s the rub for the inexperienced grower – if you are growing a Sativa dominant plant outdoors, it will not reach its full potential the same way an Indica dominant variety will. Sativas thrive in warmer climes. Sadly, you could have a three-metre monster weed plant that won’t produce a single bud.

When to harvest

The best way to determine precisely when to harvest is to examine the plant for trichomes. Those are the fine white crystals that form on cannabis and contain THC. A microscope is ideal, but a very strong magnifying glass will work.

In the beginning, trichomes appear clear. They look like icicles with a round top, which is called a resin head. As the buds ripen, the trichomes turn white or opaque and may even have an amber hue. The amber colour indicates that the cannabinoids have begun to decompose. Ideally, you want trichomes to be opaque but with a touch of amber. Too much amber means you are losing potency.

It’s important to get the timing approximately right. If you pick too soon – or too late – your pot will be less potent. Use common sense. When the big weed leaves (or fan leaves) start to turn yellow or fall off – and you’ve got large, sticky, sparkly, smelly buds – your plant is nearing harvest time.

Flush your fertilizer

If you have been adding nutrients to the soil (and hopefully you have), you need to stop doing so at least two weeks before harvest. This is called “flushing.”

You’ll be smoking (or eating) any fertilizer or soil enhancer you’ve been using if you don’t flush. It can affect the taste, as well as the burn of your pot. We’ve all come across weed that tastes like shit and burns poorly (like government weed). Now you know why.

Other cannabis considerations

Your leaves may be green, your buds may not be as pungent, fat and juicy as you might like, but the snow is about to fall, you should probably call it a day and harvest your herb.

Cold wet weather is a fast recipe for bud rot. That’s when the buds start to decompose from the inside out. Also, as the weather cools, pot plants become susceptible to bug infestation. So you have to find a balance. It’s better to harvest early than late.

Getting your weed to the finish line

Drying your weed is the final step in the harvesting process. Hang your plants upside down and trim all the fan leaves. You can discard or bake with them. But make sure to keep the leaves that grow on the buds. They are called “sugar leaves,” and are as good as the flower. Most of the pot that you buy will have had the sugar leaves trimmed.

Don’t crowd the hanging plants. You don’t want any ailments to spread. So give them as much room as you can. A fan to circulate the air is a good idea. Everyone’s basement or attic or garage or shed has a different level of humidity. And buds can be thick or thin. As a result, the time to cure them will vary. Your plants could be done in a week or a month.

Staying out of the danger zone

Even though your buds appear dry, deep inside moisture can still lurk. After your plants have been hanging for a couple of weeks, gently move them into a large garden waste paper bag, seal it up and keep it in a warmish place for a day, no longer.

You may notice the buds are moist again when you remove them from the bag. So give them another day or two to cure and Bob’s your uncle. You should now store your weed in someplace airtight like re-sealable bags or mason jars. Then call your doobie brothers and sisters and let the celebrations begin.

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