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Q & A: A gardening guru shares tips on how to grow your own cannabis

London Morning gardening guru Riley Irwin sat down with Rebecca Zandbergen to talk about how to grow your own cannabis plant at home.

Growing a cannabis plant takes about six to eight weeks, according to horticulturalist Riley Irwin

Under Canada's new cannabis laws, homeowners are allowed to grow up to four pot plants per household.  (Associated Press)

Unfortunately for many would-be gardeners, cannabis doesn't grow like a weed. In fact, it takes a green thumb and some thoughtful planning. 

That's according to gardening guru Riley Irwin, who sat down with London Morning's Rebecca Zandbergen to share her tips on growing cannabis at home. 

Read an excerpt from their conversation below.

How difficult is it to grow a marijuana plant?

There's certainly a time commitment, like a six to eight week crop. Whether you're able to add something new to your daily routine and stick with it for six to eight weeks, that's a good question.

The other thing I think is important is location, location, location. We've got choices of indoors and outdoors this time of year, so I think there's a few things to consider. You need to think about where you're located, are you near a school, do you have under-agers that are in the neighbourhood? Is your yard fenced?

Also, the height of the plant is something to consider, knowing that there are varieties you can get that are auto-flowering—they're naturally short stature plants—so they're not going to peek over the fence to say hi to your neighbour or anything like that.

What about going it indoors, in a pot?

That is also a tricky process, there's a lot to think about too. Initial startup cost, you need to have a growing tent, and you need to have a large tent because these plants do want to grow tall.

The other thing to consider is that you need a strong lighting source, because you don't have natural sunlight happening. You need to make sure you've got the right lighting source, you need to think about ventilation, you need to think about air circulation in there, you need to think about are you using synthetic fertilizer, what size pot do you do?

Pests. Oh my goodness, pests. There are three pests that very much do enjoy cannabis plants and those would be fungus gnats, spider mites and flower thrips. Are you able to apply something to control these pests? If not, than maybe you've just wasted six to eight weeks of your time, energy and money.

What about the smell? 

From what I understand, it's certainly more pungent whenever it's in the flowering process. If you've done a good job of screening in your yard, perhaps your neighbours are going to think that you've got skunks in the neighbourhood. 

So it's that bad?

It can be. I think that it's also strain-related, so some are more pungent than others. 

Is there a certain kind of soil that this kind of plant prefers?

It certainly likes moist [soil], but it depends on the situation as well, if you're going indoors or outdoors. Certainly you need to control the environment a bit more if it's indoors, to allow the soil to dry out a smidge in between watering is helpful. It'll help deter fungus gnats in the soil.

Outdoor you can grow right in the garden, like right in the soil itself. You can also purchase a growing medium, so there's lots of options out there. Perhaps finding one with mycorrhizal, a benefical root fungus that will help develop the root system within the medium that you choose. You can do an organic blend as well, so there are other fun ways to mix up soils to get something that's right for the plant. 

How do you know when it's ready to harvest? 

There is a window in which you should be harvesting. Like I said, it's between six to eight weeks, so that is again a little bit strain-dependent. It does depend on what mother nature is doing. You need to be aware of the conditions, you certainly don't want to be harvesting after a lot of rain.

If you have an auto flowering plant, it's going to do it regardless. It's got a genetic plan and it blooms at a certain time period.

Knowing that, you do need to know the differences between male and females. Most of the seeds you can buy these days are feminized, however if they're stressed out enough they will hermaphrodite and will have male flower parts on them too. So then, you'll end up with a lot of seedy cannabis,which is not ideal. 

Have you been educating yourself further on this as we've been in the legalization process?

I think I learn tips and tricks from others, and I pick up things. It's relatable to other things I know. So if you know about ph and how to keep a rhododendron happy, than you can relate that information to keep a cannabis plant happy. 

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