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It wasn’t long ago that the idea of growing an acre of cannabis in California was just a fantasy. But in 2016, citizens in California voted affirmatively on a partial legalization initiative. Now we can see the short-term results.

Commercial cultivation sites have since expanded from Mendocino-type gardens typified by large plants, and each had a yield of 10 to 15 pounds. Back in the day, cultivators were able to harvest relatively large crops, while staying within the plant limit, which usually ranged from six to 49 plants. Indoors, a 100 light facility with a canopy of 1,500 to 2,000 square feet was considered large.

Those are antiquated numbers now. In California, the law allows outdoor farms to contain at least one acre or more. There are a number of outdoor farms in legal counties, but most of the large ones are in rural areas, where there is ample space to spread out.

However, in an urban area of California there was an acre-plus lot that had just been cleared of derelict buildings. The soil was suspect. Before it was cleared, abandoned cars and old machinery had been dumped there. However, the land was level enough to cover it with 20-gallon bags irrigated using a drip system.

The new owners were planning to construct a greenhouse on the land, but that was only in the planning stages. The space was not scheduled for improvement after the growing season was over. However it needed some modifications before it could be used. City water would have to be hooked up, which wasn’t much of a problem. However before plants could be planted, a chain link fence marking the perimeter was needed in order to make the lot visually impenetrable.

Rather than buying pre-filled bags of soil, the cultivator decided to buy bulk soil and have laborers fill the bags from a soil pile dumped in the middle of the space using shovels. As the bags were filled, they were set in place and then planted.

Once the containers were in place, the stakes and netting were installed. The stakes crossed each other and were tied. Then the netting was attached to the stakes. Finally, the branches were spread apart and attached to the netting using twist ties. Unfortunately, the final garden design was not followed and the netting was set at an oblique angle to the sun. As a result, portions of the plant that would have been in sunlight were partially shaded. The correct angle would have been for the plants to face north and south, perpendicular to the sun. This becomes especially important in the fall, when the sun drops in relationship to the horizon, casting longer shadows.

The cannabis plants had been growing under lights for several months before being planted outdoors, but the intensity was low so the stems were somewhat stretched and the leaves were small. The six-inch containers were slightly root-bound. The situation wasn’t critical and the roots would be able to grow into the new planting mix.

It turned out that the planting mix was not ripe, so the plants were held back a little for the first two weeks by pH instability, causing unavailability for some of the micro-nutrients. Another problem that the plants faced was sunburn. The plants had been growing indoors under HPS lights, which emit no UV light. The old leaves were easily sunburned as a result.

In spite of all these problems, the plants adjusted to their new environment and the newest growth showed that the soil problems had been resolved.

 

Once the plants were set outside they suffered from sunburn (bleaching), and nutrient imbalance including magnesium and potassium.

The stakes were tied together and then the netting was attached. Finally the branches were tied to the netting. No branches stuck out from the rows, much like the way wine grapes are trained.

A plant tied to the netting. Photo taken about a week after the plants were set.

Ten days after the first photo, plants have recovered somewhat, and new growth is healthy.

Looking down a row. 3,000 containers were planted. They are irrigated using drip emitters.