Calgary

The Grow Project: From total disaster to green shoots of possibility

The Grow Project checks back in with Homestretch director Tracy Fuller, who talks about the trials and tribulations of trying to grow a pot plant on the cheap.

College pals come to the aid of beleaguered radio show director

This is CBC Calgary's homegrown pot plant. (Tracy Fuller)

Earlier this spring, Homestretch director Tracy Fuller set out to grow a pot plant. She wanted to grow it the same way ordinary people do, minus all the gear and accessories that corporate cannabis industry types use to grow theirs.

It has taken a few weeks — and all the seeds in her pocket — to produce quantifiable data.

According to Fuller, who delivered an update to host Doug Dirks on Thursday, it could have gone better.

A lot better.

"The only fair way to say it is to say that it's been a disaster. A totally serious disaster," Fuller said.

Fuller explained how she'd purchased four seeds for $72 at a Calgary cannabis shop — the maximum number allowed per household.

It took more than a month, but each met an untimely demise.

"I followed all of the instructions to a tee," she said. "I swear I did.

"I even called the company and I talked to a local grower and everything."

This is the plant a few days after being planted. (Tracy Fuller)

Sprouted seedlings

Fuller germinated seeds in a paper towel, stashed inside a closet. She transferred a sprouted seedling into a soil puck. She did everything just the way they tell you to, with both of the first two seeds, then waited a week for something to happen, and nothing did.

She planted a third seed but moved it from the germinating Ziploc bag a day earlier than recommended, which may have damaged it.

Whatever she did or didn't do, nothing was growing quite the way it was supposed to grow, much to Fuller's chagrin.

"I did what any other terrible gardener might do. I called up other frustrated pot gardeners and I commiserated," she said.

That included Globe and Mail feature writer Ian Brown, shortly after that paper published a story about Brown's frustration at failing to grow a pot plant himself.

Final Chance 

Once the calendar turned to June, Fuller revealed a twist in the tale.

"I felt like I really needed to give it one last kick at the can," she said. 

There was a single, lonely Baker Street cannabis seed left — or so she thought, until one day, when she came to work and discovered she had acquired a few sympathy seeds.

It turns out that back in school, Fuller got into biology, including a class where you had to buy potted plants and keep them alive at least until the end of semester.

"I really had no skill at keeping those plants alive," she said.

It became a talking point among her classmates.

"Some of my college roommates would actually hold funerals for those unfortunate plants," she said.

When those same college roommates heard about the Grow Project through social media, they knew exactly what to do.

"Let's just say they thought about old times and they didn't have a lot of hope," she said. "So they decided to give me some backup seeds that they said might come in handy when I killed all four of our seeds.

"That was a bit hurtful," she said.

Down to a single original seed, Fuller dutifully followed the instructions.

"I stuck it in my wet paper towel and I put it in the Ziploc and I put the Ziploc in a warm dry dark place and I waited days," she said. "The only difference this time was instead of planting the germinated seed in a  soil puck, I decided to stick it in a Jiffy pellet."

These were the first two cannabis seeds planted as part of the Grow Project, a summer project devoted to growing pot on CBC Radio's The Homestretch. They sprouted but then stalled. (Tracy Fuller/CBC)

The Jiffy peat pellet was a departure from the Rockwool cube she had used previously on the first three unsuccessful seeds.

"You can buy it (a Jiffy pellet) at any gardening shop, even at Home Depot. They're super cheap and they're what average gardeners use to germinate everything from flowers to fruits to vegetables," she said.

"So I transfer that [final] seed into the pellet," Fuller said.

Then she had an idea.

"I figured, well, I've got these sympathy seeds," she said. "Why don't I just drop one of those seeds — with no germination, no pressure prep, just a dry, straight-out-of-the-package seed — into another Jiffy pellet at the same time and see what happens?

"Five days later," she said, "it sprouted."

Homestretch director Tracy Fuller (CBC)

Sympathy seeds

After following all the best laid plans, and instructions, and YouTube videos, the seed that has taken root is the sympathy seed that Fuller paid barely any attention to.

"It was the low maintenance one, the one I didn't encourage at all," she said. "I did nothing to this seed. I just dropped it in and there she grows.

"She's so beautiful.

"She is about two inches tall and she's got little originating germinating leaves, which sort of have rounded edges and look a little bit like teardrops," she said.

"She's also sprouted these beautiful first and second set of cannabis leaves," she added, "and those are the ones that have the serrated edges that people know so well. So she's really starting to take shape."

The plant is now growing comfortably, with some 24-hour-a-day light shining on it, and one thing that Fuller learned from Brown can be the difference maker.

"We are also using distilled water," she said. "We've tested the pH levels to make sure they're not too hard or not too soft for these tender little seedlings.

"And we've added a really little amount of plant food … so apparently we just need to keep feeding it."

Next step: Start thinking about transplanting it, and start calling it by its name.

"Mary Jane 5," she said.


With files from The Homestretch.

About the Author

Stephen Hunt

Digital Writer

Stephen Hunt is a digital writer at the CBC in Calgary. Email: stephen.hunt@cbc.ca

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