Now that adult-use cannabis is legal in New Mexico, consumers can take matters into their own hands and grow cannabis at home. We asked Terra Vera’s Director of Customer Success Caleb Johnson—who has had years of experience growing, manufacturing and marketing cannabis—to give advice to budding pot growers who are looking for a place to start.
The Paper.: How hard is growing cannabis at home? Is there a steep learning curve?
I think that growing cannabis at home can be very challenging. Very challenging. But it’s also one of the most rewarding things that you can you can do if you enjoy cannabis. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be as easy as putting a plant outside. For less than $500 worth of investment, you can have an indoor setup in your house.
How does the difficulty compare to other home crops? It’s a weed, right? So it should be easy to grow.
If I had to give anybody a stark warning when growing cannabis for the first time or expanding their operations, it’s that there is the misconception that cannabis grows like a weed. It doesn’t. Cannabis is a plant.
I very much agree with Michael Pollan that cannabis has domesticated humans rather than the other way around. I think a lot of growers and people that get into it think, “Oh, I’m just going to plant the seed. I’m going to grow this beautiful plant. I’m going to have all this weed. It’s going to be great.” What they don’t understand is that cannabis has been genetically modified and expanded from what we started with—with these ruderalis strains and these direct descendants of sativas and indicas. As humans, we’ve genetically modified this plant through crossbreeding and other programs. And now we’ve created these plants that really require a ton of attention and a lot of science and work and time. It’s not as easy as just growing weeds, unfortunately.
For home growers, is it a better idea to start growing outside or inside?
It’s like red or green chili. They’re both absolutely phenomenal, and I think they both offer up different challenges. I recommend that people try both. I really do. There’s no light bulb like the sun, and there’s no control like growing indoors. So, you can do both. And both of them have completely different outcomes and a completely different set of challenges.
What what are some of the pitfalls home growers might bump into?
Time is probably one of the biggest ones. There is a time requirement to growing cannabis. It requires daily attention. And I think another one is money. People don’t necessarily understand the cost of growing cannabis. Not only are you dealing with your electric bill; you’re dealing with temperature and humidity, water, things of that nature—but then you’ve got to purchase nutrients and you’ve got scissors and you’ve got scrog netting. It starts to build over time the more serious you get.
Again, I think the misconception that you just grow this plant, and then you dry it, and then you smoke it. The hobby grower can really do something special, but they have to make sure that they’re educated and understand all of the different intricacies of growing cannabis.
So someone has heard your warning, and they say they have the time and the money. Where can they go to start getting that education?
There’s plenty of books out there. And online: There’s so many different forums. Reddit is a really good resource for people. There’s so many good online resources that people can utilize to help them get started.
Can we talk about some eco-friendly practices to protect plants against pathogens? What what kind of common pathogens might someone come across while growing cannabis?
A very common one is powdery mildew—often referred to as “PM” in this industry. It’s probably the first thing that people are going to see. You’ve also got botrytis or “bud rot.” That’s another very common one that people are going to see. There are also pests like spider mites, russet mites, gnats, aphids, you name it.
The first step to protecting your plants is ensuring that whatever your environmental control system may be—if you’ve got your grow on a timer with its own dedicated HVAC system, or things of that nature—find ways to track that. Know your high temperatures, your low temperatures, your relative humidity. If you really want to geek out, you can get into the VPD (vapor pressure deficit) and those types of things. But your environmentals is is the first step.
The second step is choosing what nutrients you are giving your plant and ensuring that, at each stage of life, the plant has the proper nutrients to help sustain the level of growth that it needs.
And then the last thing is understanding plant maintenance and how to properly and—most importantly—safely treat these kinds of issues and ensure that you’re allowing that plant to have a healthy immune system from start to finish. It’s not cutting corners or saying, “Hey, I’m just gonna cut this off or I’m gonna spray something toxic onto my plants.”
It sounds like a lot of work. What are the benefits?
You control your own destiny with growing your own product. I think another nice part about that is is that you know what’s in your product. You know what your product’s been treated with. You’ve seen it from start to finish. So that can kind of give you that warm fuzzy feeling. You’ll know that this is very clean. You only put organics into it. You get to reap what you sow.