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Is That Dirt Weed? How to Rate Your Cannabis Quality

Is That Dirt Weed? How to Rate Your Cannabis Quality

Cannabis has come a long way just in the last decade. But just because there’s more high quality cannabis available doesn’t mean the dirt weed can’t still make its way into your sack.

There’s plenty of obvious dirt weed out there. The Mexican bricks, the seed-filled nugs, unflushed bud that won’t burn or tastes terrible. Luckily all of this can be avoided!

With a little bit of knowledge you can make sure your cannabis isn’t dirt weed before you even smoke it. Using your eyes, nose and fingers you would be surprised how much you can find out about your sack of bud.

Does it look like dirt weed?

The most obvious way to tell if you have some dirt weed is to just look at it. If it’s really bad, you’ll probably be able to tell.

Yellowing leaves, brown buds, and a lack of trichomes on the outside are typically signs of a bud that is not great quality. But there are plenty of strains out there that might not look good, but still taste great and produce great effects.

For this reason, some buds take a closer look. Maybe that’s with an actual loupe or microscope to analyze the bud more closely. But for your average consumer just checking out a fresh sack of bud, that means bringing in the smell.

How does it smell?

Interestingly and luckily for us, a lot of dirt weed smells the same. There’s a signature smell that bad cannabis has that resembles old, dry hay. Like if you went to a farm, grabbed a handful of hay that has been sitting outside for the last month and took a whiff. If you get that smell from your cannabis, it could be old, moldy, or just straight low quality.

Cannabis has a lot of unique terpenes that give it different odors depending on the phenotype and genetics the plant carries. There are plenty of cannabis strains that most would consider to be high quality that have a unique, and sometimes off-putting smell. For example there’s Cat Piss, which gets its name from the unique odor it gives off.

In case you aren’t familiar, cat piss doesn’t smell good. Yet the Cat Piss strain is a well-liked and even sought-out strain by connoisseurs everywhere for its rarity. So if even weird smelling cannabis strains can still be high quality, how can you tell if you have dirt weed? Fingers.

How’s it feel?

So your looking at your sack of bud; it doesn’t look great, but it’s not brown, the smell isn’t like your usual stuff but it doesn’t smell like hay either. At this point, you could be dealing with a pretty unique strain, a mediocre bud or you’re just missing one key thing; the feel.

An important thing to remember when it comes to feeling out a bud is that dry does not always mean bad. Colorado cannabis is naturally more dry due to the lack of humidity and elevation, which makes the cannabis buds almost crumble in your fingers with a little pressure (which is great if you don’t have a grinder). California cannabis on the other hand has much more moisture, and can even be difficult to break apart and grind up (but typically burns a little more slowly). Nevertheless the importance of checking a bud with your hands shouldn’t be overlooked. If the bud feels a little too wet, break it open and check for bud rot.

There’s one thing a good bud has regardless of it’s dryness, and that’s stickiness. Trichome content will tell you a lot about your cannabis’ quality just by look and touch. Not every bud is frosty and caked in trichomes, but if you break it apart in your fingers and it leaves some sticky resin on your finger tips and more smells come out when you break it apart, that’s a good sign.

Overall, if you get a bud that looks and smells questionable, you’re probably better off just avoiding it. However if you’re in a pinch and it’s all you got, always double check to make sure it is safe to consume by cracking it open and making sure it isn’t moldy. Let’s be real, we smoked a lot worse 15 years ago, and the odds of smoking some cannabis that will actually make you sick are pretty low. But it’s always better to safe than sorry, and with your eyes, nose and fingers you can tell if a bud is good enough for you, or if it’s just some dirt weed.

Budgeting Your Home Grow

Budgeting Your Home Grow

how to budget a home grow

Whether it’s your first time building out a home grow or you just haven’t bought new gear in a while, budgeting is essential.

If you don’t want any of the advice or details and you just want to know if it’s cheap or expensive to build out your own grow, the answer is yes.

In other words, you can do it the cheap way or you can do it the right way. That’s not to say setting up a grow as cheap as possible can’t work out, but in the end you might end up spending more with all the problems cheap set ups can cause.

Grow Space

Budgeting out your home grow space is one of the only aspects of home growing that you can potentially save some money on. This is because if you have a nice walk-in closet, or storage space you aren’t using, you have a grow space.

For others without the extra space, you either have to build your own grow space like a greenhouse in the backyard, or you can buy a grow tent. Grow tents make it super easy to get going because they come with holes to pipe in ventilation, reflective walls to help with light, and other features.

If you just have a closet space, you can just as easily line the walls with some plastic and pick up some reflective material to help with light penetration. The size of your grow space will also determine how many pots you’ll be able to fit and in turn, how many plants you’ll be able to grow.

When it comes to pricing out your grow space, you can spend close to nothing, or you can spend a lot. But on the high end, expect to pay a couple hundred for a grow tent or the supplies to build a small greenhouse.

Pots and Medium

You can save a lot of money on pots by using traditional plastic pots. They won’t cost more than $10 for half a dozen depending on the size you want, but plastic has its restrictions.

A lot of growers instead choose to use fabric pots because they provide more aeration and some brands have handles attached for easy transport. If you decide to set up a flood and drain hydroponic table system (if you have the space of course), fabric pots absorb water much better than the few holes in plastic pots allow.

Cost-wise, fabric pots aren’t too much more expensive than plastic pots, only a dollar or so more depending on size. As for mediums, the options are much more varied.

Potting soil is always a good option for your standard grow, especially just starting out. It’s affordable and cost-effective, though it limits how often you can feed, and depending on the soil blend, you may have to adjust pH or other nutrients to account for variations in nutritional content that might already be in the soil.

For this reason, you should consider a soilless medium. Coco fiber and rockwool are two of the most popular soilless mediums currently, mainly because of their inert characteristics that allow growers to feed more often resulting in bigger plants. Also, soilless mediums are typically the cheaper option.

A bag of basic potting soil will typically run you about $15, with higher end blends costing up to $20 or more. Factor in your pot sizes and you can determine exactly how many bags you need to fill all your pots and how much it will cost.

Lights

It might seem like the easy choice to go online, do a google search for some grow lights and pick one of the cheaper options. You’ll save a couple bucks, but the product you receive might end up a little different from the product that was advertised.

A lot of low end lights draw you in with their price point, but once your bulb or ballast stops working after a month, you’re stuck either buying from the same crappy brand, or buying new lights all together. You’ll thank yourself later if you dish out some extra dough for quality lights that will last a long time.

Before picking your lights, you need to calculate your space’s square footage to determine what kind of light would best fit the space. Higher wattage lights will cover a much larger area, and using them in a smaller space won’t help your plants. But you also don’t want to get a light that is too weak and doesn’t provide enough light for all of your plants.

If you decide to go the cheap route, you can get T5 bulbs for vegging your plants, and a 315W for flower without breaking the bank. But for the most effective growth, 1000W Double Ended lights will give the most bang for your buck, with the standard brands coming in around $400-500. Keep in mind if you don’t have the right size space or a means to keep it cool, 1000W bulbs can really heat up your room and damage your plants.

For this reason it’s always wise to invest in some solid ventilation.

Ventilation

When it comes to ventilation there are two essentials every home grow should have, no matter the size of your grow space; a carbon filter and a fan. These two items should never be overlooked when you’re growing at home.

Your plants might like a warm environment, but they don’t like a stagnate environment with stale air. With your lights producing so much heat, you need to move the air around your grow space to prevent overheating. Just having one rotating fan can make a huge difference in keeping your plants and your room cool.

Even if you’re growing the best smelling flowers in the neighborhood, nobody wants their whole house reeking. A carbon filter scrubs the air in your room by pulling it in and cleansing it before releasing it. If you have a closed system where you don’t need to pump the air out, you can recirculate it into your room with a carbon filter.

You can find a few different, quality, small carbon filter options for under $200, with prices rising steadily up into the $300s for larger filters. Fans are also pretty cheap, with 6″ clip-on fans for $20 or less, and higher end large standing fans for $70.

Water

One of the most common mistakes first time growers will make is using tap water to water their plants or mix with nutrients without proper precaution. Tap water contains chloramines, and these chemicals interfere with biological components of nutrients rendering them useless.

If you’re trying to save money and hand water because you only have six plants, that’s just fine. You can even avoid buying a water filter to deal with the chloramines by letting your water sit for 24 hours before mixing with your nutrients. But let’s be real, your plants need to be fed regularly and unless you get on a schedule of pouring water 24 hours in advance in a way that you have a steady supply of usable water, a water filter is the most efficient option.

Starting around $100, a water filter can filter out chlorine, sediment and other chemicals that naturally occur in tap water so you can mix right away without having to wait.

If money isn’t an issue, you can optimize your water and feedings with irrigation. On the cheap end the equipment will run you $500 or more, with the most expensive component being the water pump.

Basic Estimates

If you’ve made it this far, you should know well by now that the costs of setting up your home grow can vary greatly. But we can come up with some rough numbers for getting started from scratch.

If you’re really pinching pennies and just want to get going, you can buy the cheap lights, use whatever grow space you got with plastic pots and hand water, and you’ll still be looking at around $300 when all is said in done. For the average grower with a little more change to spare, $500 can really boost what you can get and help you get started on the right foot.

Of course there’s really no limit to how much you can spend to get the best gear for your home grow. If you’re really serious of growing and want to transition into a professional environment eventually, it’s smart to grow with good gear so you can advance your craft. Just remember that it won’t come cheap!

Wet vs Dry Trimming Cannabis

Wet vs Dry Trimming Cannabis

A better question might be, why does it matter?

When harvest time comes around, you need to get rid of the excess leaves and foliage around your flowers to make them look better. In reality, this isn’t something you really need to do, but a lot of people prefer more manicured flowers.

There are two options when it comes to trimming; wet and dry. Different growers have their preferences for both, but when it comes to which is really better, there’s always debate.

It’s up to you to decide when to trim, but here’s the pros and cons to each to make your decision a little easier.

Wet Trim

Wet trimming can be a more streamlined process for growers trying to dry their harvest faster. Wet trimming is possible when you trim your flowers right after harvest.

The plants are still full of moisture, which makes the leaves the freshest. With the leaves sticking out like they would on a live plant, they are much easier to cut without risking cutting the flower by mistake.

After these leaves are removed, the flowers will dry more quickly since the leaves won’t be there to add extra mass and shield the flowers as they dry. Proponents of the wet trim prefer this method because it’s faster, and some would argue more efficient for drying large quantities of flower.

Dry Trim

The dry trim is considered to be more difficult, but also more rewarding. Opposed to wet trimming, dry trimming happens after the flower have already had time to dry, leaves in tact.

Dry trimmers prefer this method because they claim it allows the flowers to cure more slowly, contained by the shriveled leaves that dry up and cover the flower. By almost sealing the flower, it helps maintain terpene profiles and prevents plant resins from drying out too fast.

But this is also what makes a dry trim more difficult. With the flower dried up and stuck to the flowers, the trimmer needs to be extra careful to only trim the leaves they want without cutting out pieces of the actual flower.

Some growers who prefer to trim dry will leave smaller leaves on the flower for a more natural look, and also argue that doing so helps preserve terpenes.

Is One Way Better?

No matter who you ask, some growers will prefer wet trimming, and some will prefer dry trimming. While newer growers tend to lean toward wet trimming for its accessibility, more advanced growers might prefer dry trimming for it’s near-artisanal practice.

But as with everything when it comes to growing, harvesting and trimming, it’s all preference. If you’re committed to the dry trim but it’s your first time, don’t stress. And likewise if you’ve been dry trimming for years and want to give a wet trim a go, do it.

To get the real dirt on wet vs dry trimming cannabis, listen to this episode of The Real Dirt Podcast featuring Cullen Raichart, founder and CEO of GreenBroz Inc, the leading dry machine trimmer company in the country.

Frequently Asked Questions about Organic Inputs

Frequently Asked Questions about Organic Inputs

Not all organic inputs are created equally, and not all organic inputs are sourced sustainably.

When it comes to cultivating organic cannabis, there is no shortage of products you can use and methods to try out. That doesn’t make it any easier to decide which products to use.

At The Real Dirt and Cultivate, we aren’t the type to judge regardless of what you choose, even if it isn’t organic. But should you choose to grow organic, here’s some common questions about organic inputs and our best answers.

Can I clean my compost tea containers with bleach?

A lot of compost tea containers are made from various plastics. If you clean them with bleach, over time it will break down the interior walls of the containers, breaking down the plastics. You can use bleach to clean but you need to immediately spray down and scrub the containers with water to remove any remnants of plastic particles or bleach that could get into your next tea.

It may not be the most efficient, but the best way to preserve you compost tea containers and keep them clean is to just user water and non-abrasive sponge. With a high pressure washer you can do just as good a job as bleach without eating away at the inner walls or having chemical residue left over.

Are perlite and vermiculite organic inputs?

Yes, but not in the same way as other organic inputs like bat guano, gypsum, lime, etc.. Perlite and vermiculite both act as additives to soil, whereas the former inputs are fertilizing components. Additionally, perlite and vermiculite have almost no nutritional value on their own, and mainly help aerate soil.

However these are also mined inputs which means they’re pulled up from the land with excavators and broken down into the little chunks you get in a bag of vermiculite or perlite.

What are the best organic inputs to use?

People will argue for their favorite products all day long, but the best organic inputs are those that are renewable and sustainable. A renewable organic input is any that is produced either as a byproduct or waste product of animal and other industries.

Some of the best renewable inputs to use include Feather Meal, Alfalfa, Chicken litter, Neem Meal, Composted Chicken “shit”, Crab Meal, Kelp, Bone Meal, Fish Emulsion, Fish Bone Meal, Fish Hydroslate, Earth Worm Castings, and Soy Protein Isolate, just to name a few.

Coco coir is also a great renewable organic input that is a byproduct of the coconut and textile industries in Asia.

Chip answered more questions about organic inputs during his seminar at Cannacon in Oklahoma City in September. To hear the full talk for free, click here and listen to The Real Dirt Podcast.

You can also subscribe and listen on iTunes, Spotify or your favorite platform to get every episode right to your library.

The Costs of Growing Organic Cannabis

The Costs of Growing Organic Cannabis

Everybody has their own personal definition of what “organic” means.

For a lot of growers, organic pertains to the nutrients you use to grow. To others, organic only means planting your plants straight into the ground and growing from there.

But what does it really mean to grow organic cannabis?

What is organic cannabis?

Contrary to what the lazy grower may wish to be true, you can’t just grow cannabis in the dirt in your backyard and call it organic. You have to feed organic too. But what can you feed cannabis that is actually organic?

An organic nutrient is anything that comes from biological life. This includes bone meal, feather meals, guanos, and the like. There’s also mined organics like gypsum, pumice and other natural resources. So just using any of those throughout your plants’ life cycle should be enough.

Not exactly.

Renewable Organic Inputs

To grow as organically as possible, you want to use organic inputs that are also renewable. The problem is that these inputs are few and far between. The reality is that a lot of organic inputs are strip mined, and cause irreversible damage to the ecosystems they impact.

Take guano for example. Bat and Seabird guano are two of the most popular organic nutrient products that growers love to use when growing organic cannabis. But have you considered how these products are obtained? Strip mining.

Surveyors look all over for bats flying in and out of caves, or bird flocking to a specific cliff face or perch. They then bring in excavators and dig in, ripping up the top layers of the cave or cliffs for the high nitrogen guano, and digging all the way down for the phosphorous and potassium-rich guano that has been sitting underneath. This displaces thousands of bats and birds, and destroys any other small life that could live in the area.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t any renewable organic inputs.

While it is still up for debate among growers and suppliers alike, many would say that peat moss is renewable. The debate is due to the time is takes for peat bogs — where peat moss comes from — to redevelop. Peat moss is the result of millions of years of decomposing biological life that piles on top of itself. After it is mined, it will not replenish for a million more years. So yes, peat technically renews over time, but not fast enough for us to constantly use forever.

One of the only truly renewable organic inputs is coco coir. It is a byproduct of the coconut and textile industries in Asia. Made from the short and long fibrous hairs that aren’t used from the shell of coconuts, coco coir does no damage to any ecosystem, it doesn’t impact the livelihood of textile workers, and coconuts fall off trees every single day. Coco coir is 100% renewable, and even reusable.

Should I even grow organic cannabis?

Of course you should. The reality is that most of us are wearing clothes right now that aren’t sourced or made ethically, and we just sort of ignore it. It isn’t the best approach, and I’m sure there’s some of you out there that try to avoid supporting these companies. But the same applies to organic inputs.

If you want to grow organic cannabis, you need organic inputs. To get organic inputs, they need to be gathered through different means, whether its a renewable byproduct like coco or a strip mined inputs like guanos, phosphates and others. Sure, you could just grow in some dirt in your backyard and feed nothing but water. That is organic cannabis. But don’t expect great results.

An important ethical question growers should start considering is the importance, and difference between their end consumer’s health and the health of the environment. Organic cannabis is rising in popularity, and will most likely end up becoming a major sector of the legal industry, which means demand is going to grow. Is the consumer’s health more important than the life that is potentially destroyed in the process of obtaining those organic inputs?

The reality is you can grow cannabis with no-organic, synthetic nutrients and still have a safe to consume end product. So the decision is really up to you as a grower; is organic cannabis just a marketing tactic, or a way of life?

Autoflowering Seeds: For the grower in a hurry

Autoflowering Seeds: For the grower in a hurry

Whether you need a quick turnaround or just want plants that take up as little space as possible, autoflowering seeds may be the choice for you.

Autoflowering seeds are vastly different from feminized seeds and traditional cannabis seeds. Instead of a simple hermaphrodite to female breeding process to create feminized seeds, or male to female breeding for traditional cannabis seeds, autoflowering seeds are created from a different breeding process.

Autoflowering seeds and cannabis ruderalis

Cannabis ruderalis isn’t like traditional Afghanicas (indica) or Thai-based strains (sativa). Ruderalis grew most prevalent in the northern hemispheres, like central and eastern Europe, as well as Russia. Growing more north, the light cycle is much shorter. Over time, ruderalis adapted to enter its flower cycle with age, as opposed to light.

Whereas traditional cannabis follows photosynthesis and the light cycle to determine when to start flowering, ruderalis does not depend on it so heavily. This gives ruderalis a unique advantage over its counterparts when it comes to growth cycles. Obviously this gave breeders some ideas.

A cross of cannabis ruderalis with traditional cannabis sativas and indicas resulted in shorter, more compact plants, that flowered twice as fast as traditional seeds.

A new kind of cannabis

As autoflowering seeds started to grow in popularity, more people started to recognize just how useful the new breed could be. The ruderalis traits are extremely prevalent, shown by autoflowering plants’ compact size. Add to that the biggest benefit, the shortened growth cycle, and lack of dependency on light.

While normal cannabis must be switched from a 16/8 light to dark cycle from a 12/12 to induce the flower stages, autoflowering seeds don’t need to be switched. They can stay in the 16/8 cycle, or the 12/12 cycle without it affecting the plant’s ability to flower. This means outdoor growers can grow later in the season, and fit in more harvests.

But not all of the ruderalis traits are positive. Ruderalis is easily the most “weedy” looking relative in the cannabis family. Due to its wild nature and lack of full-scale cultivation like it’s cousins, ruderalis has a much lower THC content than indica or sativa, which can result in autoflowering seeds producing less potent flowers.

Additionally, with the convenient, compact size of autoflower plants comes lower yields. So while autoflowering seeds may flower in half the time, they don’t produce the same yields, and what they do produce will almost always be weaker in terms of THC content compared to it’s traditional or feminized counterpart.

Not a sure thing

When it comes to autoflowering seeds, it is important to note that just because the seeds are guaranteed to “flower”, doesn’t mean they are female. A lot of seed companies will sell “autofem” seeds, which are feminized, autoflowering seeds. However, your average autoflower seeds may contain some males, which is why it is important to know your seed genetics!

This can cause some problems in the garden if you don’t know they’re male until they start producing pollen next your females. So, similarly to traditional cannabis seeds, make sure to keep a close eye on plants that start to show signs of being male. Luckily, with autoflowering plants, the plants will reveal their sex much more quickly than traditional seeds due to their shortened growth cycle.

Learn more about seeds from one of the most well-known breeders and seed experts in the world, Caleb, founder of CSI Humboldt and the Pirate of the Emerald Triangle. Hear him talk about breeding elite strains, feminized seeds and more on The Real Dirt Podcast! Listen to the full episode right here on the Real Dirt, or stream it on iTunes and Spotify!

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