Outdoor Cannabis Cultivation Is Easier Than You Think
Clearing up the myths and misconceptions about this centuries-old plant.
As the former garden editor of Sunset, I’ve written about plenty of plants—peonies, proteas, and pollinator-magnets come to mind. One thing I never wrote about—pot. But when recreational weed became legal in California in 2017, I found myself curious to grow the plant. Now, with cultivation (either recreational or medicinal) legal in 33 states (and counting) the plant is going more and more mainstream. But a hundred-ish years of clandestine cultivation—largely confined to basements or forests—haven’t done the plant any favors. Solid, gardener-informed growing information is hard to come by. Seed packets boast more about what the plant will do to you than about how to grow it. Books read more like electrician’s manuals than garden primers, and any nods to outdoor growing are about hiding tracks or having scary dogs. I set out to change that. In Growing Weed in the Garden (Abrams, 2020), I treat weed exactly as it deserves to be treated—as another plant that can grow absolutely beautifully in the garden.
Weed is one of the oldest cultivated plants on the planet. If fact, some people surmise it’s the very plant that settled us from nomadic to agricultural. The plant has been hauled to every location inhabited by humans, regarded as food, medicine, clothing, and sacrament. There is certainly no reason to be scared of it. And I’d argue that, because of its fast-growing nature and other-worldly smells, there’s every reason to give it a try.
The Five Most Common Misconceptions about Growing Weed in the Garden
1. Weed Only Grows Indoors
Cannabis was brought indoors due to prohibition—not because of any benefit the plant derives from being grown inside. In other words—weed will be so happy outside. And frankly, so will the gardener! Indoors, you have to worry about artificial lights, pest infestations, air circulation, complicated pruning practices, and on and on. Outdoors, well, it just grows. Sunshine, compost, water. There’s a lot less fuss when you let nature do its thing.
2. It’s Very Different from Other Plants in the Garden
The lingo might be different—for example, somewhere along the way, people started saying “strains” instead of cultivars or varieties, but the plant is no different from any other. It’s a fast-growing summer annual, just like a tomato or a pumpkin. Seeds sprout easily and the plant grows beautifully alongside other summer staples or surrounded by flowers, including marigolds, cosmos, or yarrow.
3. You Have to Care about Getting Stoned to Grow It
Despite hating eggplants, I include some in my garden every year, as I like to grow various varieties from around the world and I love how they look in the veggie bed. At the end of the day, I give them to a friend who loves to cook them. Similarly, I’ve had a total blast growing weed, despite being a total non-stoner. The reasons are many—it’s a historically important plant that’s just become legal to grow in many of our yards—why not give it a try? It’s also a very fun plant to grow—even a great starter plant for newbie gardeners—because it grows crazy fast and doesn’t need much. Plus, the flowers and smells are out of this world—unlike anything I’ve ever seen or smelled before.
4. You Have to Smoke It to Use It
Think again! Homemade extractions—medicinal tinctures, topical salves, and infused oils for cooking—are three great smokeless ways to enjoy your harvest. There are even ways to take advantage of cannabinoids (the chemical compounds that may offer therapeutic benefits) without having any psychoactive impacts—so long as the plant isn’t heated, it isn’t psychoactive. Many folks swear by juicing the leaves.
5. CBD Will Fix All of Your Problems
You’ve likely heard that cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid can treat everything from autoimmune diseases to sleep problems to acne to cancer. The truth is that at this point—we don’t have that the data to support that. CBD holds great medical potential—in 2018, the FDA approved the first CBD-derived medicine to treat seizure disorders in children and is currently being studied for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antipsychotic, and neuroprotective properties. But as of now, there are simply more unknowns than knowns, so use caution with any product claiming to be a magic bullet. In fact, recent tests have found that the majority of CBD-infused products only have the trace amounts of the cannabinoids they’re claiming to, and even scarier—some have THC (the psychoactive one) despite saying they didn’t.
There you have it, folks. Will you grow weed in your garden? Shop Johanna’s book, Growing Weed in the Garden, to get started.