growing cannabis outdoors in desert

Wylie has been cultivating cannabis since 2002, when he first started growing for patient use in California. Sundberg cultivates cannabis for personal use and offers workshops for other growers.

Both The Plant Stand and Dig It Gardens sell FoxFarm soils, a popular brand in the cannabis-growing community. Sundberg likes to use Nectar of the Gods, Blend #4, which he said can be found at PHX Hydro in west Phoenix.

Indoors, cannabis thrives best in full spectrum light similar to sunlight, so a standard incandescent bulb won’t cut it, Wylie said. He recommended starting off with an inexpensive light made for growing. Sea of Green Hydrogardens in Tempe sells various grow lights.

How long does it take to grow cannabis?

Buyers should go with vetted sources to avoid fraudulent sellers. Sundberg recommended Canna Genetics Bank, a retailer that sells seeds from various breeders, and Neptune Seed Bank, both based in California.

Adults can grow six cannabis plants at home or no more than 12 plants in a house with more than one adult.

He recommended adding mulch to keep the soil cool. For a pot, the bigger the better for creating a buffering zone — five gallons is a good minimum, he said. Putting the pot in another pot or putting some sort of insulation barrier around it can also prevent the pot from directly baking in the sun.

Some people use grow tents, which look like black boxes, but cannabis can really be grown most places as long as people are able to adapt to the environment, Sundberg said.

Eddie Smith, co-owner of The Plant Stand of Arizona , confirmed his south Phoenix nursery would be selling cannabis seeds in the future.

Wylie said most people will likely grow indoors, in a closet or garage, for example. About 75 degrees, more or less, is an optimal temperature, he said. In a small space with stagnant air, he suggested using a fan to move air in and out. A beginner can start in a closet with a 100-watt grow light and oscillating desk fan, and it’s enough to get going, he said.

What else do I need to grow a cannabis plant?

If people want to clone their own plants, he recommended they plant multiple seeds at once, label each plant, and take a cutting from each one before they flower. People can then grow the cutting from whichever plant yields the best harvest.

The passage of Proposition 207 in Arizona, legalizing recreational cannabis, ushered in a new opportunity for the home gardener. Adults ages 21 and older are now allowed to grow a limited amount of cannabis plants at home for personal use.

Sundberg said cannabis can be grown outdoors in Arizona, where come August the plants flower as the days get shorter and they’re ready to harvest by about October. It’s doable in Phoenix, even with the heat, but extra steps have to be taken to protect your plant, he said.

Wylie suggested first-time growers start with a hybrid strain and stay away from strains that have OG in the name or are labeled “exotic,” which tend to be finicky. Popular 50/50 hybrid Blue Dream, for example, is a resilient plant that can take higher and lower temperatures, he said.

Where is the best place to grow my cannabis plant?

Once planted, the cannabis plant needs a ratio of about 18 hours light, 6 hours darkness to grow in what’s called the vegetative stage, which doesn’t produce flowers. How long you let the plant grow in this state depends on your space constraint, but Sundberg recommends beginners start small.

A clone is a cutting from a living cannabis plant, which can grow into a plant itself. The new plan has the same genetic makeup as the original plant, hence, a “clone.”

Wylie said that after switching to the 12 hours light, 12 hours darkness stage, it takes about 50 to 60 days until it’s time to harvest. People can additionally purchase an inexpensive jeweler’s loupe if they want to look at the trichomes, or crystals, on the flowers. The plant will be ready to harvest when the majority of the trichome caps turn from translucent to milky-looking and about 10% of the caps turn an amber color. The plant can still be harvested a little earlier or later, however.

After harvesting the plant, the grower should hang the plant upside down to dry for 10 to 14 days, he continued. The stems should feel brittle when dried. After that, trim the leaves off the flowers and put the flowers in an airtight container, like a mason jar. While the flowers are consumable at this point, the flowers can be cured for a better quality.

While it may be tempting to spray your plants in the middle of a burning, sunny day, the water droplets on the leaves can act like tiny magnifying glasses. As with other types of plants, it’s best to water early morning. If you have to water in the middle of the day, first discharge the hot water from your hose if that’s what you’re using, and water the soil around the plant, not the leaves, he advised.

Silt soils have lots of minerals and retain moisture well. Like clay, however, this type of soil can become compacted and hard in certain conditions. It can also form a crust, making it difficult for moisture and nutrients to reach plants’ roots.

Sand is easily permeable for root growth, for instance, but it does not hold on to water or fertilizer well.

You will want to provide the proper amount of light and water to your plants, of course. A drip irrigation system can cut your water bills while improving the health of your plants. Kits are available that give you everything you need to get started. If you prefer, you can start from scratch and obtain separate components to put them all together.

Soil Types.

Test kits are available to measure your soil’s acidity, or you can take a sample to your friendly local extension agent. If your dirt does not have the proper acidity, soil amendments are available to lower or raise the pH level in your soil. Your local nursery, garden store or extension agent can make some suggestions.

Clay is just the opposite. When it’s hot and dry, clay can become hard as a rock, making it difficult for roots to penetrate. Clay drains poorly and is hard to cultivate. On the plus side, it is rich in minerals and natural nutrients.

Loam is ideal for containers as well as for outdoor growing. Unfortunately, it is usually the most expensive soil to buy. But if you are interested in growing the best plants possible, it can pay big dividends in the long run. You can also build up your own loam soil by adding organic matter to it. If you have a compost bin, you can use the compost to improve your soil. This will be a time-consuming and ongoing process but with grit and persistence will pay off in the long run.

Just like humans, plants need the right nutrients. The most important ones for your cannabis plants are nitrogen (N), potassium (K) and phosphate (P). These make up the ratios you will typically see on fertilizer labels.

In addition, you do not necessarily have to provide costly soil for your plants outside. But for the best results, you want good marijuana soil that will help your plants grow healthy and happy. DripWorks is here to offer you a few simple tips for finding and creating the best soil for growing marijuana outdoors.

Of these types, loam is by far the best soil mix for growing marijuana plants and many other types of crops. Loam is a mixture of clay, sand, and silt, bringing forth the best qualities of these disparate types of soil while minimizing their worst attributes.

Four basic soil types exist: sand, clay, silt, and loam. Each has its pros and cons for gardening.

Loam for Growing Marijuana & Other Crops.

The optimal ratio for loam is 20% clay, 40% silt and 40% sand. Most folks think a pH of 6.0 is best for cannabis, with a range of 5.8 to 6.3 being acceptable. With a pH close to neutral, loam is typically in that zone or close to it.

Growing cannabis outdoors offers many benefits. Firstly, it can be very affordable. You do not need to provide a structure like a greenhouse or high tunnel. In addition, artificial light is not necessary if you place it in the right spot in your yard, because your plants can benefit from the sun’s abundant and free energy.

The right balance is essential for healthy growth. Many pre-mixed marijuana fertilizers are available, making your job easier. But if you prefer, you can also formulate your own.

Water, Light and Nutrients.

Neighboring Palm Springs, with its rows of midcentury modern homes and golf courses, has already capitalized on the tourism side of cannabis. Retail stores and consumption sites are sprinkled among clothing stores and spas. Last month, the latest cannabis dispensary and lounge opened in an old bank building following $1 million of renovations. On Mother’s Day, the Four Twenty Bank — a dispensary lounge, not a bank — offered all moms who visited free flowers, according to its website.

Desert Hot Springs and Palm Springs are in a kind of cannabis tax war as they now compete for new business. In February, Desert Hot Springs lowered its cultivation tax — $25.50 per square foot for the first 3,000 square feet and $10.20 per square foot for each square foot over 3,000 square feet — to a flat rate of $10 per square foot. Palm Springs already charges $10 per square foot, and it offers a $5-per-square-foot rate in its “Cannabis Overlay Zone” north of the I-10 corridor.

“These spaces aren’t just a place to light up,” she said. “It’s a place to have a night out.”

Last year the industry contributed more than $4 million to city revenue, overtaking real estate as the biggest generator of tax profit, Matas said. City officials anticipate an even higher revenue stream from cannabis businesses this year.

Only medical marijuana was legal in California at the time, but city officials decided to take a risk on what appeared to be a growing industry as states like Washington and Colorado legalized recreational cannabis. Adult-use recreational marijuana became legal in 2016.

‘Cannatourism’ could be the future.

“There was really no reason to cross the [Interstate] 10,” Matas said. “People ignored the north side of the freeway for so long.”

Desert Hot Springs, once a sleepy retirement community overshadowed by its more glamorous neighbor, Palm Springs, to the south, is transforming into a cannabis-growing capital as businesses lured by tax incentives and a 420-friendly local government pour into the small city.

Gold Flora and other companies like it represent a major shift for the desert economy. Matas, who was re-elected to a third term in November, remembers a time around 2011 when the city had just “$400 in the bank.” City officials froze salaries, cut programs and considered filing for bankruptcy protection, Reuters reported. The city had previously filed for bankruptcy in 2001.

In 2014, Desert Hot Springs became the first city in Southern California to legalize large-scale medical cannabis cultivation. Palm Springs followed, as did other desert cities in the Coachella Valley. Marijuana growers and real estate developers rushed to buy dusty plots of land even when the parcels came without infrastructure, including roads and utilities, hoping to cash in on the state’s promise of becoming the biggest cannabis producer in the country.

Gold Flora owns and operates five warehouse-size buildings, some of which are rented to other cannabis businesses. The sprawling campus, covering about 23 city blocks, was built from the ground up.

In 2013, the city declared a fiscal emergency to avoid filing for Chapter 9 for a second time, the Los Angeles Times reported. The city had emerged from its first bankruptcy filing in 2004, but less than 10 years later its reserves were dwindling again after an economic downturn and decreased development.

Fast-forward to 2021 and that side of the freeway, which connects Southern California to the rest of the country, is dotted with hundreds of thousands of square feet of warehouses. There is no cannabis smell and there are no retail shops in the industrial zone. Instead, warehouses remain inconspicuous except for flashy cars and security guards outside the buildings.

The tax revenue has already helped to pay for a new City Hall, a library and roads, as well as more police officers. Housing developers eye the area as jobs attract more people to the desert. Residents also benefit from the boom — of about 29,000 residents, at least 2,300 work in the cannabis industry, Wilms said.

In eight growing rooms inside Gold Flora’s cultivation facility, insulated metal panels similar to those in walk-in coolers shield more than 9,000 cannabis plants from the unrelenting sun. Even without air conditioning, the building will never heat up beyond 80 degrees inside despite triple-digit temperatures outside, facilities manager Adam Yudka said. Plants are stored atop rolling benches that use an internal irrigation system to water crops individually.

“The city has been awesome to work with,” said Holcomb of Gold Flora. “You have to remember that four to five years ago, people didn’t want to touch [cannabis], but Desert Hot Springs had the foresight to enter the industry early on.”

A city brought back from the brink.

The idea behind cashing in on cannatourism comes from “treating cannabis like anything else,” said Jocelyn Kane, vice president of the Coachella Valley Cannabis Alliance Network, which advocates for cannabis businesses in the desert.

It took Gold Flora CEO Laurie Holcomb only 48 hours to decide to open a cultivation business in Desert Hot Springs after it began to allow large-scale operations. She already owned a real estate development company and saw an opportunity to expand into the growing industry.

Desert Hot Springs, about two hours east of Los Angeles near Joshua Tree National Park, boasted more than 200 spas throughout the 1940s and the 1950s that were fed by a natural underground aquifer, which still provides water for much of the Coachella Valley. But the city had fallen on hard times financially in the last 20 years.

In December, the City Council unanimously approved two measures to grow “cannatourism” in the region. One allows for the creation of cannabis “entertainment facilities,” and the other gives hotels the green light to sell cannabis inside their properties. A House of Blues-style concert venue is already in the works, although under state law businesses cannot sell both cannabis and alcohol at the same time.

Deputy City Manager Doria Wilms said: “It’s been incredible to see the transformation. We don’t see it slowing down.”

“Most people, when they think about the desert, they think they’re going out in the middle of nowhere,” Holcomb said. “It made sense that if you build it, they will come.”

DESERT HOT SPRINGS, Calif. — Along a hot, dusty stretch of freeway in California’s Coachella Valley, a green rush is booming that not even the coronavirus pandemic can slow.

A new industry blossoms.

“It’s fun times right now to be the mayor,” said Mayor Scott Matas, who has been in city government since 2007 and once voted to implement a moratorium on cannabis businesses.

Business zones were established to quarantine large operations in an industrial section away from residents. Much of the land remained barren and untouched until companies with a little sense of adventure decided to break ground.

Kings Garden, one of the first companies to break ground in the otherwise unforgiving landscape, operates 300,000 square feet of warehouse space near the overlay zone between Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs.