The Nitty Gritty on Light Dep Book Review

I gotta confess, when our publisher Christina DeGiovanni handed me The Light Dep Growers Guide: How to Harvest Marijuana Multiple Times a Year to review, I was sure she had picked the wrong person. I can kill any houseplant in a few weeks and have the track record to prove it. I love plants, all kinds, but have never gotten the hang of raising them. That’s why I ‘cultivate’ gardeners for friends. (That was a joke, sort of.)

James Defenbaugh’s self-published book won me over. It reads like a series of conversations with the author. Chapter after chapter he talks you through the pitfalls and possibilities of light dep growing, all clearly from the perspective of someone who has made and learned from the mistakes he writes about.  So you don’t have to.

James is a Humboldt County local and a 2011 graduate of Humboldt State University (HSU) with a degree in Environmental Resources Engineering. In 2015 he founded Humboldt Light Dep, LLC to develop and sell affordable light dep greenhouses and retrofit kits. He says his studies at HSU, “expanded my mind and my vocabulary” and sensitized him to the ongoing environmental damage caused by large, outdoor cannabis grow sites. A self-described wake-and-bake stoner without direction in his youth, he got busted and served a 30-month sentence. James called this time and the probation that followed “a good experience” through which he got his feet on solid ground and found a life path. He still maintained his love for growing cannabis, but found new, sustainable ways of expressing it.

After working in a nursery in Santa Barbara, California and operating a lawn care business there, he came back north, went to college, wrote what he said is the only book solely dedicated to light dep and set up his business. Now a very active dad, his focus has again deepened. When asked about his experience of fatherhood, James said right away his kids gave him two gifts. One, he likens to the Dr. Seuss story of the Grinch. Suddenly, his heart grew two sizes bigger. As for the other gift, James simply said, “Now I feel I’m a part of humanity.”

James brings all that heart into the book, though sometimes in quirky ways. He decided to write like he speaks, leaving out fancy scientific language for the most part, and to reach people like himself just wanting to learn the nuts and bolts of successful light dep growing. His vivid, detailed descriptions read as if you are actually working on a light dep installation alongside him. Even I could picture what he was saying about different kinds of structures and individual plant idiosyncrasies. He also uses expletives freely, to convey the massive dismay of a failed harvest, for example. It’s all meant to motivate the reader to follow his carefully laid out guide.

The six months James took to write the book will save you immeasurable time and headaches. You’ll gain full confidence as you read chapters on choosing tarps and cannabis strains, hiring help, and working with soil, microbes, and plants with different, demanding needs. His mantras are “plan ahead” and “find out what the plant wants and provide it.” When I asked him if he considers himself a “weed whisperer,” he said, “Absolutely not around here!” Though he qualified that by adding, “Anywhere else in the country, yes, I suppose so.”

As a CBD infusion user, I particularly appreciated his inclusion of some good information about the exciting and expanding medical uses for strains rich in cannabidiol. The CBD section is not as detailed as the rest of the book, though. James said he has not worked with any CBD-rich strains himself yet. In our conversation, he mentioned Cannatonic, Harlequin and the now famous Charlotte’s Web, though he did not know which are eight-week versus 10-week (to flowering time) plants. Perhaps a second edition someday will have more to say on this. Right now, James says his life is quite full with kids to care for and a business to run.

Crediting Kevin Jodrey, founder of Wonderland Nursery in Garberville, California as a mentor, James said he has been inspired by Wonderland’s free gifts of CBD starts. James’ fledgling business is already set up to “pay forward” too. You’ll read at the business website ( about the amazing work of Engineers Without Borders.  Like Doctors Without Borders, these engineers take on crucial, life-saving projects around the globe. There’s even a student chapter at HSU. He also mentioned that the Humboldt Homebrew Festival in Arcata is a fundraiser for them. You can learn more about last April’s Homebrew Fest at their website

December is a perfect time to study up on James’ carefully planned out light dep method and to organize your own light dep garden. He insists he learns as much from his customers, if not more, than he gives to them, saying his business has turned into “a hub of information sharing.”

And don’t be shy if you’re not a twenty-something. James says lots of his customers are 50- and 60-somethings. Whatever your age or knowledge about light dep, this book will have something to teach you. And, now that we’ve passed Prop. 64, perhaps more novices like me will follow James Defenbaugh’s great leadership in light dep as “maximum return for minimal costs to you and the environment.”

Written by Molly Cate

Emerald contributor since July 2015


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