Spring Time Push
– Mike Martino –
There is an old saying in the growing community,
“You can’t come back from a bad start.”
As the days get longer and the nights get warmer, marijuana farmers are racing around the hills of the Emerald Triangle laying the groundwork for their season of growing yet another billion dollar crop. In case you haven’t noticed, diesel trucks are congesting the 101, 36, and 299 and they are out there with a purpose. Spring is an important time of year for any kind of farmer, as it is during this time that the foundation for one’s season is established. While many people take the view that marijuana farming is about counting big stacks of cash, there is a lot of work that goes into it. There are many challenges when working in remote areas of the Triangle. For most growers, trips to town and back are a four-hour affair, god forbid you forget something. Finding reliable and knowledgeable labor to help with the workload is a difficult prospect for any business, but especially so for marijuana production. How someone can fail at watering plants is a mind-blower, but it happens all the time. Also, it is important to keep in mind that any agricultural endeavor is a labor-intensive task, especially so in the beginning of the season.
There is so much work to be done, it can seem overwhelming at times. Greenhouses that have lain dormant during the winter have to be prepped. This means pulling 250 lb. tarps over 18 ft- tall frames, which usually takes around five guys and a whole day to do. Solar powered exhaust fans that are used to ventilate them have to be installed and re-wired in. Soil has to be re-amended to provide the ideal conditions for roots to flourish. This requires thousands of pounds of amendments; worm castings, chicken castings and bone meal to name a few, that all must be spread out by hand and then rototilled in. You really don’t want to be downwind of someone who spent the day doing that. The list goes on and on, but these are some of the tasks that have to happen before the crop is planted. Also keep in mind how cash intensive this is. Those amendments and man hours don’t come cheap and it is up to the grower to budget accordingly, as his nest egg must last the entire season.
It’s called weed, but it doesn’t always grow like one. It can be fickle and susceptible to insects and varying kinds of molds. There is an old saying in the growing community, “you can’t come back from a bad start.” There are important timetables that must be adhered too in order to have a successful crop or a multitude of successful crops. Plants must be a certain size by a specific date. That means clones must be taken or seeds germinated at a specific time. This is important because once June hits, if you don’t have established plants that are in full vegetative mode there is no way of planting a clone or starting a seed that will replace that. It’s surprisingly easy to limit a plant’s potential or flat out kill it.
The most common issues growers have with their plants are various pests and molds. They are easy enough to avoid when taking proper care and precautions, but when mismanaged can ruin a season before it even begins. One of the saddest moments I’ve witnessed firsthand in the marijuana industry occurred this time of year a few seasons ago. If you have never heard of broad mites, then let me tell you all about them. Not to be confused with spider mites, which are relatively harmless and easy to manage, broad mites are the bane of any grower’s existence. A few years ago a friend had 99 plants in a grow room and these pesky critters were introduced via an infected clone and proceeded to literally kill every one of his plants. Now, if you remember, plants that are three feet tall can’t be replaced in June, you can only start over with a new clone or seed and reap a rather lame harvest. It was like he CAMPed himself (CAMP – law enforcement that eradicates marijuana). Which is why it is so important to take proper care of plants during all times of the growing season, but especially in the springtime when plant size dictates the quality of one’s harvest.
Above is a textbook example of what excellent starts look like. Shown are some of a few hundred plants ranging from 6 inches to 1 foot tall. The leaves are just beginning to touch and there is not a speck of mold or mite damage. Some of the strains shown are OG Kush, Blue Dream, Green Crack, and Girl Scout Cookie to name a few. This right here is the most important part of the springtime push to prepare for the season. Without healthy plants in June there will not be a healthy harvest in the fall. Some important things to note about what you are seeing: Plants are transplanted from 4 inch cups into 1 gallon pots before they are root-bound, which accounts for the varying size of pots in the photos. This promotes faster and healthier growth. When plants are left in containers and get overly root-bound, they lose vigor in that they grow more slowly and are more spindly. There is not any one thing that a grower can do to have a successful season, rather it is the attention to every detail that separates master growers from everybody else. With starts like these in May plants can easily achieve a yield of five-plus pound each, or in other words are worth about $5,000 dollars a pop after trimming expenses.
The Springtime Push is about being organized and prepared for the tasks at hand. As the season progresses different challenges present themselves, but these are issues that will be covered in subsequent articles. For now there is a lot of work to do, so all you demon growers (just kidding) get out there and till some soil, plant some plants and get it on because you have a long season ahead of you. For all you non-marijuana growers, make your way to the local farmers’ market and grab some veggi starts. Gardening is therapeutic and there is nothing wrong with harvesting some homegrown greens of your own. Good luck and I’m sure it will be another exciting season of growing in the Emerald Triangle.
PS: This year is a mega drought, and as an avid fisherman I care very much about the health of our streams and rivers. Get a well installed on your property, they are not that expensive and can help keep our fish swimming, not floating.