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Growing Culture

Lessons From A Jamaican Winter Grow




The dream and demand, “Legalize It!” has finally come to pass in Jamaica. People aren’t going to jail for cannabis. It is used freely in more places. However, licensing legal cannabis companies is a different story. As in many states in the U.S., it can be costly to go legal, so there is still a large alternative market. And naturally, the retail market is but the tip of a vertical alternative supply chain. It all starts with the farmer.

In February I took a trip to Jamaica and happened to be walking in the woods in one of the island’s agricultural areas. As we made our way through brush, my guide casually mentioned that there was a squatter grow nearby. I decided to make a detour and visit the pop-up farm.

The garden’s perimeters were marked by barbed wire that was only symbolic—it was only four feet high. Inside there were rows of plants spaced about 30 inches apart and the plants were spaced four to six inches apart in the rows.

There were two groups of plants in the garden. The first group was planted from seed three to four weeks ago. The plants were all under a foot tall, but were beginning to show the first signs of flowering.

The second group were plants that were about half way through flowering and would be ready in three or four weeks. These plants had straight stems that ranged in height from one and a half to two and a half feet.

None of the plants looked particularly vigorous. The reason was that they were growing in an alkaline clay-loam soil that was not particularly fertile with nutrient insolubility and lockout caused by the clay’s high pH. The field was flood irrigated and little fertilizer, if any, was used.

Jamaica has a 12-month growing season, because the weather stays warm and the sun shines most of the time. However, it is close to the equator so it has far less seasonal variation in day length than high latitude areas. It ranges between 15 hours and five minutes on June 22, the first day of summer, and nine hours and 15 minutes on Dec. 22, the first day of winter. Most varieties respond to the long night period by changing growth from vegetative to flowering all year.

This commercial garden was not sophisticated and had lots of room for improvement. However, there are things to be learned. First, close planting discourages plants from branching out. Instead, the plants put their energy into growing a single straight stem. When they flower all their energy goes into growing bud along it.

Because the plant puts little time into vegetative growth it takes less time from seed to maturity, about 90 days. This can be duplicated outdoors using light deprivation, and indoors by limiting the vegetative period once the plants grow 10-15 inches tall depending on variety.



The field was about an acre. There were two sets of plants. The ones close-up were about a month old and were transitioning to flowering. For the first weeks the long night was interrupted by lighting the plants for a few moments by walking a portable light along the rows.


Cows walk in the field with the mature plants. They avoid eating the buds.


The rows were about 30” apart and the plants were spaced 3-4 inches apart in the row.


The single stems of the plants grow a bud 8”-15” long.


The single stem plants started flowering within three weeks of planting.


The plants would have fatter buds and more potency had the soil been improved with with organic matter an been fed adequate amounts of fertilizers.




Are you planning to grow an outdoor garden this year? Here are some ideas you can start now.


If you live in the southern tier of the U.S., where the temperature consistently rises to 65 degrees daily in spring you can plant outdoors NOW. If the plants are large enough for you to consider placing them into flowering just put them outdoors and the long dark period (more than 10.5 hours daily) will induce them to flower. Toward the end of flowering they may need to be covered to increase the dark for an hour or two every day to maintain the 10.5 hour dark period.


If you want big plants that flower later in the season, grow the plants vegetatively outdoors, or indoors in the northern tier with cool weather. Outdoors, break up the dark period by flashing red or white light at the plants several times each dark period so the plants receive fewer than six hours of uninterrupted darkness.


Indoors give the plants 18 hours of continuous light daily. Or, an alternative is to give them fewer hours of light, but to break the dark cycle as described above.