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Cannabis Garden Preparation & Set-Up

Posted August 4th, 2017 by Dustin Fraser in

Once the location for the grow site has been determined and all of the necessary arrangements have been made, then comes the time to begin preparing and setting up the garden. The success of your garden will depend on the sum of its parts. Give every detail, from the minute to the grandiose, careful attention. Properly think through each step along the way. Do not cut corners or do anything halfway.

The results of a high performance garden will directly reflect the work that went into it. If you want to achieve notable outcomes that are deserving of praise, you need to put in the hard work, time, and effort that excellent results require. Some of the hardest work in creating a high performance garden will come at this stage of the endeavor. Preparation and set-up of the garden can be a grueling and bruising task but, when done in a thorough, well thought-out manner can result in the perfect canvas on which to create a masterpiece.

Ground Preparation

Creating an adequate surface for production is the platform of a successful outdoor cannabis garden. The plants should be grown in Smart Pot® fabric aeration containers and can easily reach heights of over 10 feet, so it is imperative to find or create the flattest surface possible. There are several reasons for growing in containers instead of the earthen soil. Some terrestrial soils can hold unwanted contaniments such as excessive heavy metals or chemical residues from previous misuse and management. Other soils may have an undesired composition like heavy amounts of clay that can lead to poor drainage with a texture that is too dense for delicate roots to effectively traverse through. The best, fool-proof way to avoid these issues is to grow in containers and to know exactly of what the growing medium is comprised.

Given the fact that the plants can grow to extreme heights and will be top-heavy come maturity, it is extremely important that the growing surface be flat. Depending on the current lay of the land this may entail using tools or possibly machinery to create the flattest surface achievable. If the ground has a natural slope, it is recommended to utilize a method of creating flat strips of land along the grade of the slope which is referred to as terracing. If this would entail more work than is feasible a grower can make individual flat spots for each container. The reason why a flat surface is of such high importance is because once these plants reach a massive size any slight angle, along with a strong gust of wind, could result in the whole thing, both plant and container, ending up in a horizontal mess on the garden floor.

Having a flat surface will also make any regular maintenance and upkeep chores much easier to complete. While the leveling of the surface is being completed this is also an excellent time to clear out any rocks, grass/weeds, and any other avoidable obstacles from the garden area. Clearing of grass and plants is important because it can be an invitation to bugs and other critters. Doing so will also help lessen the possibility of them growing into and around the containers. The removal of any rocks and other hard pieces of earth is needed because of the next step of the preparation process.

After creating as flat a surface as possible and removing all rocks and other debris, cover the entire garden area with a heavy-duty landscape fabric or weed mat. The mat should be laid out to cover the whole garden surpassing the containers by at least five to six feet. This will create enough space to allow ease of maneuverability when working in and maintaining the garden. Use the thickest heavy-duty fabric available to ensure that it does not easily rip or tear due to the heavy amount of traffic it may experience. Using cheap, thin fabric will result in rips and tears that allow weeds and grasses to infiltrate the garden. When laying out the weed mat, overlap the edges by 6 to 12 inches and secure in place with ground stakes similar to those used with tents for camping. Overlapping the weed mat will help to create a sort of single-layered structure that is more impervious to weeds, grasses, and small animals.

By mapping out the garden in a grid-like fashion, determine the placement of each individual Smart Pot® Fabric aeration container. Before the containers are set in place and filled with the growing medium it is an excellent idea to lay down either gopher or chicken wire so it will be located underneath the stationed container. Do so by cutting a square length of wire at a size that will completely contain the circumference of the round container and secure it in place with more ground stakes.

The size of the wire square will be directly determined by the size and circumference of the container being used. The wire will act as a barrier to help prevent small burrowing creatures, like gophers and moles that may dig up through the ground and weed mat, from getting into the container and causing unwanted damage to the plant’s root system. This can be especially important during seasons of drought when the most abundant source of water may just be what is being irrigated into the containers when the plants need a drink. The weed mat and wire are important preventative measures when designing a high-performance outdoor cannabis garden and can help assure that no unwanted weeds or critters/pests can enter into the containers causing either competition for water and nutrients or severe destruction of the root zone.

Container Size

Which container size to grow in can be determined by how much space is available and how many plants are to be grown. For a high-performance outdoor cannabis garden, a grower will want to use the biggest container size that will fit the area for however many plants are intended to inhabit the space. The performance garden method is scalable to the size of any garden, but is designed to maximize plant size and yield; therefore, containers no smaller than 100 gallons are preferred. Two hundred or 300 gallon containers are frequently the most often used. These container sizes work great, but the larger the container; the more plant performance will go up.

The difference between a 200 gallon container or a 400 gallon container with regards to inputs and expenses is not all that substantial, but the difference in yields can be. I recommend using Smart Pot® fabric aeration containers for several reasons. Most important of which is their ability to encourage natural root pruning and the development of a substantial root zone.  Along the inside edge of the fabric containers is a thin space where oxygen is plentiful, but water is scarce. When the growing end of the root reaches this point the tip of it dies back. This encourages more lateral root growth to take place at the die back point, creating many more root tips than in a normal plastic container.

Plants take almost all of their water and nutrients in through the actively growing fibrous feeder root tips. More root tips means a greater ability to uptake substantially more water and nutrients than a plant with fewer growing root tips. This leads directly to an increase in robust top growth. More top grow means more flower sights and more flower sights mean bigger yields. Plastic containers do not offer this thin gap for oxygen to reside so when the growing root tips hit the edge of the container they don’t die back, but instead are simply diverted and continue growing, leading to a spiral effect that will lead to the plant becoming root bound and unable to take in as much water and nutrients as in a Smart Pot® fabric aeration container.

The maximum size container for a high-performance outdoor cannabis garden is 1,000 gallon for plants started by seed and 600 gallon for rooted cuttings or clones. The important thing to remember when choosing the container size is that enough space needs to be provided between each plant to allow for easy access and maneuverability while performing regular maintenance and other garden tasks.

Spacing & Floor Plan

When determining the spatial aspects of the garden floor plan, be sure to leave enough space in between each container to allow for easy movement throughout the area. This aspect should not be taken lightly as there will be lots of garden maintenance to be done and being able to maneuver easily around and between the plants will make everything go much smoother. The space allotted between each container will also need to reflect the size of the plant when it is in the mature, flowering stages of development. It is also important to space the containers far enough away from each other so that they do not shade each other from the sun during the major portion of the daylight hours.

The location of the garden and the layout of the containers must be done in a manner that allows sunlight to reach every part of the plant canopy in as long of duration as possible. If sufficient light does not reach a portion of the plant, the canopy will start to form into a hedge-like structure as the plant develops and leans towards the point of optimal sunlight. The portion that is not receiving proper sunlight will end up being underdeveloped and may not even produce flowers. If even a small amount of the plant does not receive adequate sunlight photosynthesis rates will be lower and overall yields will be reduced.

Leave plenty of space from container to container. It is important to have easy, clear access to each plant, and it is important to keep and maintain that unfettered access throughout the growing cycle. Remember, you will be bringing equipment, including a step ladder, to each plant. Give yourself plenty of room to work and maneuver. When using Smart Pots sized 100 gallon to 400 gallon, space your containers 10 feet apart. This means the space from container side to container side is 10 feet. Remember as the plant grows, the plant will overhang the Smart Pot by 2 or 3 feet. Therefore, if each plant has a three-foot overhang, your 10 foot walkway between containers will become a four-foot path, barely enough room to do good work. When using Smart Pots sized 500 gallon up to 1,000 gallon, space the containers 12 to 15 feet apart. This will leave a walking space of perhaps six-to-eight feet between plants once the garden matures. On a really large cannabis plant, you will want that much room to work. Do not space your containers more than 15 feet apart. Fifteen feet is the maximum distance needed.

Irrigation

Water conservation has become a very real environmental concern. Prolonged droughts and unpredictable weather patterns have led to regulations that restrict the amount of water a home or land owner can access in several regions. A high-performance outdoor cannabis garden will require relatively high amounts of water, especially in the mature flowering stages, and aggressively restrictive water use will lead to smaller plants and yields. Depending on the location of the garden the sources of water can range from plentiful to rather limited, so it is important to make the most of what is available and to manage water distribution in the most thoughtful and efficient way possible.

The best way to ensure proper water distribution while avoiding potential waste is to set up a relatively simple drip-line irrigation system. Drip-line irrigation is the best method of water delivery for a container garden. The slower dispersal is the most effective use of water when compared to a sprinkler system or other means of irrigation. Arguably, the most important benefit of a drip-line irrigation system is the fact that the water is distributed through the emitters at low levels over a desired amount of time. This allows the rooting media to more readily absorb higher levels of moisture directly, resulting in less run-off from the bottom of the container and a decrease in potential water waste. As the years go by, water is becoming an extremely precious resource. Properly managing your water in the garden and limiting or eliminating any excess runoff is a huge responsibility for the grower.

Regardless of whether the water supply source is a well or an external containment tank, a pump that is strong enough to move the water from the source location to and throughout the garden is required. There are a multitude of pump styles available on the market today and they range from gasoline fueled to electric powered, even some that utilize solar energy. It is up to the grower to choose the pump that best meets the qualifications for each particular situation. If the property has a well on sight it will come equipped with a submerged pump that should be strong enough for any type of application. When drawing water from an external containment tank, the grower will need to do some research to determine the correct pump size for the operation. Taking into account the amount of water to distribute, the distance from the water source to the containers, and whether or not the ground is sloped, will help a grower to determine which pump is most ideal.

The irrigation line will run directly from the pump to the garden. A ¾-inch main line is ideal and will split off into a ½-inch drip line at each container. Run the main line through the garden so that it passes the sides of every container. At the point where the main line reaches the base of the container place a “T” splitter with the perpendicular side directed towards the container. From that point run the ½-inch drip-line up and into the container with enough hose length to create a spiral from the outer edge of the container to near the base of the plant.

To simplify the installation process a grower should purchase pre-set ½ drip irrigation hoses that have the emitters already in place at 9 inch intervals. Simply cut off a section that is long enough to spiral around the inside of the container, connect it to the main line, and place a proper sized cap on the end. If a grower does not buy a pre-built drip line with the emitters installed they will have to place all of the emitters into the hoses themselves which can be an extensive task. A soaker hose can also be used for the drip-line section of the irrigation system, if desired. After the complete drip-line irrigation system is installed, cap the entire system and secure the main line with the help of “U” shaped ground stakes or something similar.

Selecting a Growing Medium

When selecting a growing medium choose the best medium that the budget permits and one which will be most suitable for the given situation. The main type to avoid is terrestrial, earthen soils because they are far too dense for container culture and will have poor drainage as well as aeration. A lighter, fluffier soil-less growing mix is preferred and will help prevent over-compaction of the rooting medium which will lead to decreased root growth and lower levels of oxygen in the root zone. If a limited water supply is not an issue, a mix containing more perlite and peat moss is desired. For gardens that are limited in water supply, mixes containing coco-coir

or similar materials may be desired as they will retain moisture for a longer duration of time.

Fully complete and fortified mixes can be purchased or a grower can create their own custom blends containing both inert and nutrient laden ingredients, if desired. Buying soil mixes in bulk is often a more financially sound method, but the grower should be careful and wary when doing so. Depending on the source of the ingredients, bulk mixes can potentially contain unwanted contaminants and even pests. A grower should use due diligence when selecting a bulk mix and perhaps even have a sample tested ahead of time to see if the mix contains any undesired components. Additional ingredients can be added to nearly any mix and a layer of materials, such as river rocks, may be added particularly to the bottom of the container to enhance its stability as well as drainage capacity.

The overall outcome of a high-performance outdoor cannabis garden is dependent on the grower’s ability to avoid cutting corners or taking the cheap way out. The garden is meant to result in a positive financial return in the end. Utilizing the best materials and committing to a “no short cuts” method of development is the best investment a grower can make toward a big return come the end of the season. Paying close, unwavering attention to each aspect of the garden is the best way to ensure success. The following is a short rundown of the main materials needed for proper set-up of the high-performance outdoor cannabis garden.

Supplies Needed for Garden Preparation & Setup

  • Heavy Duty Landscape Fabric / Weed Mat
  • Gopher / Chicken Wire
  • Adequate Sized Smart Pot® Fabric Aeration Containers
  • Soil-Less Growing Mix / Growing Medium
  • Water Pump For Drip-Line Irrigation
  • ¾-Inch Main-Line Drip Irrigation Hose
  • ½-Inch Drip-Line Irrigation Hose with Pre-Set Emitters / Soaker Hose
  • Or Drip-Line Irrigation Emitters

This article is an excerpt from Outdoor Performance Cannabis written by Dustin Fraser and published by High County Publishing. For more information visit HighCountyPublishing.com.

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