We’ve picked the brains of ganja gurus in several parts of the world, and by all accounts, 2001 was a banner year for outdoor growing. So as you prepare for next year’s victory garden, sit back and enjoy these hot-off-the-presses harvest reports from several corners of the ganja globe.
The good news is that production in Northern California is reportedly up overall and the quality is better than ever. Some growers are celebrating their good fortune with harvest parties, vacations to faraway lands, and customized cars and trucks.
Not all folks are celebrating though; they’ve had their crops confiscated in the war on weed. With a Bush in the White House, CAMP (Campaign against Marijuana Planting) is back in full swing, and many thousands of plants have been confiscated. In one series of raids, over 59,000 plants were taken in southern Humboldt County. Some Northern California restaurants are once again refusing to serve the pot-eradication commandos, and local radio stations have daily warnings where agents have been spotted patrolling that day.
The war is not limited to locals. There have been reports of heavily armed Mexican drug gangs funneling their meth-lab profits into large marijuana gardens. Many of these “tourist” gangs are planting in remote federal and state-owned forests. In one case, antidrug agents found a garden of nearly 7,000 plants. Gunshots rang out, and a Mexican national was killed.
To avoid the increasing activity of CAMP, a move towards indoor gardens and greenhouses is continuing. A lot of outdoor growers have gone underground–literally. There are cases of underground gardens with three and four levels, elaborate setups with over 200 lights. A few underground growers are setting up gardens in semitruck trailers and large shipping containers. Commercial growers are employing wine-cave technology, digging grow spaces right into the sides of mountains. Unfortunately, environmentally unsound diesel generators are powering many of these gardens. Leaks and spills are common, and the federal Environmental Protection Agency has joined the war wagon.
This year we visited a couple gardens in wine country, where some truly spectacular grow ops are reaping the benefits of what winemakers are declaring one of the finest harvest seasons in recent history. Around 4 million years ago, an east-facing slope of Sonoma Mountain blew open, sending molten rock and hot ash raining out over the valley. This catastrophic event provided future local farmers with rich, aerated soils that are excellent for outdoor growing. While a lot of area pot farmers have gone the high-tech indoor route, a few have stayed true to the old school, growing in local soil augmented with high-quality potting mixes and fertilizers. The quality of this year’s outdoor Sonoma crop speaks for itself.
Both of the growers we visited used a local outdoor strain called “The Weasel,” a potent indica variety. The growers of this strain love it because it’s a heavy producer that keeps a low profile, as most of the plants we viewed were less than five feet tall. The first garden we visited was as plump as the local grapevines, with huge colas blowing in the late summer winds. The plants smelled of fruit and were dripping with resin. The gardener grew them in a mixture of Black Gold (a high-quality potting soil) and the prized local soil. The soil was then fortified with fish emulsion and chicken manure. In the flowering stage, he used Peters brand fertilizer to boost the plants’ output, giving them that extra kick.
Next we visited a garden on the outskirts of town, far from the prying eyes and sticky fingers of the local rip-offs. We traveled down a dusty road to reach the garden that was rampant with farm critters, including chickens, a head-butting horse and a single wild turkey that refused to use his name in the article. The animals provided fertilizer and security services in exchange for free room and board.
The garden boasted several huge plants in a single plot. According to the grower, each plant would easily produce a pound, if not more. For the plant’s bedding he used the local nutrient-rich potting soils and fortified them with his own special blend of fertilizers, including the collective leavings of his animal guests. Because he grew in a flood plain, the soil stayed rich with moisture, which made watering a less frequent chore. Like the first garden, these plants too smelled of fruit, but with a hint of wild turkey.
These growers have once again proven that you don’t need exotic and expensive ingredients to get great results. All you need is a quality strain, the right environment and nutrients, and a whole lot of TLC. –Chutney
The Northeast and specifically New York City aren’t well known for outdoor harvests, but we have our share of guerrilla farmers. The smart ones plant small patches, as it’s much better to reap some than none. Water-polymer crystals are well worth the expense for those too far from their site to water during dry spells. Staking your plants during mid-flowering may save it from rotting after it falls over from wind, rain or the weight of juicy flowers.
This year a variety named Strawberry Cough dominated fire escapes, closets, bedrooms and deep forest areas. An extremely robust plant that came from a Connecticut cultivator who crossed Strawberry Fields with Haze, this superb indica x sativa blend produces complex branching and berrylike buds. It displays strong genetic stability, as all plants have similar traits regardless how it’s grown. Interestingly, the flavor varied dramatically, from fruity to misty morning dew.
Harvest season was permeated by roadblocks on all major roadways in and out of the city due to the World Trade Center attack. How the hell are you supposed to get your weed home from the woods? Very carefully…. Nonetheless, New York managed to cull its share of kind from upstate, Vermont, Massachusetts and Canada, including varieties like classic Orange Bud, Fruity Pillow (a.k.a. Freezeland), Afghani, Purple Kush and even a little Skunk.
New to the outdoors this year were Dutch strains like Jack Herer and Sensi Star, and, of course, Strawberry Cough. The buds from each were fully mature, tasty and potent. This year the word is out on “the cure,” helping to mellow the bite for those unable to score prime colas. Grow for freedom until we’re free to grow! –Kyle Kushman
Spanish growing surged ahead by globs of resin in 2001, fueled by a desire to enjoy long-season sativas that thrive under abundant sun and an influx of new seed varieties. My fifth annual tour of the Spanish scene yielded more quality smoke than in any years past. Sun is omnipresent in two-thirds of the Iberian peninsula, occupied by Spain and Portugal. Climate zones parallel those of the US, but sun is more plentiful and law enforcement minimal. Combine these qualities with good seeds, knowledge and a year of early rains, and a bumper crop abounds!
With more than 300 “grow shops,” most of which are seed outlets that function as a clearinghouse for information, growers have a base to grow from, and grow they do. Marijuana-growers can be found everywhere in Spain–from the rainy Atlantic Galicia and the Basque country, to sunny southern Andalusia just north of Morocco, to central Estremadura, to Madrid, Lerida, Zaragosa, the mountainous Pyrenees, sunny Barcelona and south past Valencia. They are growing some of the best dope in Europe on their balconies, rooftops, backyards and country courtyards.
Spain is a major tourist destination, and hash (costo, chocolate, pedaso, huevo, hashish) was the only cannabis outsiders could find until this year. Life has changed! Now the 2,000-year-old tradition of smoking exclusively Moroccan hash is at a pivotal point. It’s similar to the change in Holland during the early ‘90s, when quality marijuana became more sought after than Moroccan hash.
Blueberry, Jack Herer, Super Silver Haze and White Widow are quickly becoming household names. At one harvest festival, proud growers chucked entire plants on the table, each trying to outdo the other. The nugs are bigger than ever this year and the majority that I personally saw and smoked well were well grown. Sativa buds rule! Spanish growers have mastered the basics and then some. This year I saw some of the strongest, best-grown plants in all of Europe. Next year will bring even more donkey-dick buds. Viva sativa! –Jorge Cervantes
Weather is everything to outdoor growers in Switzerland. It dictates their life and the success of their crops. The last few years were plagued with schimel (mold) that devastated field after field of flowering plants virtually overnight. If cool, moist weather moves in before the first of September, fortunes can disappear before your eyes. Damp, dank weather even caught many greenhouse growers off guard. This year in all regions of the country, the weather was merciful to cannabis farmers, and they packed in record harvests.
I always start the harvest tour in the German-speaking Zurich area, where it is coldest, and then head west to Bern, the capital and home of the CannaTrade show and Swiss Cannabis Cup. Next, I go south to French-speaking Geneva and Martigny. This region is always windy in the autumn, which keeps gray mold (botrytis) from ravaging buds. From there, I go east over the mountains through Heidi-land, and on to the canton of Italian-speaking Tecino, the palm-growing banana belt of Switzerland.
Drying space is the second major obstacle farmers confront. Imagine hacking down 20 acres of cannabis plants 8-10 feet tall, removing the big leaves and hanging them to dry. An acre equals 4,840 square yards. If planted on 6-foot centers, one acre contains 2,420 plants; 2,420 times 20 acres equals 48,400 plants! If each plant weighs in at one pound of dried nugs… that’s a lot of dope! Weather also affects the rate at which it dries. Warm, arid temperatures speed drying and avert post-harvest molds like aspergillus, mucor, penicillium and rhizopus. Outdoor farmers are planting one early variety and another that matures two to three weeks later.
Greenhouse growers avoid many outdoor problems to some degree, but still feel the affects of cool damp weather. Once started, botrytis can move through a greenhouse in less than a week. Years of selective breeding have truly paid off. Top breeders like Felix (Owl Productions), Breeder Steve (Spice of Life/Legend) and Scott (Mr. Nice) have developed some of the most mold resistant varieties growers. Purpeana Trecincis is the best known of the high-THC (20% plus) varieties. Seeds from the above companies are available in Canada and Europe. Hit the following Websites for more information: ironseedsales.com, mrnice.co.uk, spiceoflifeseeds.com. –Jorge Cervantes
The people who keep the record books here in the Netherlands say this is the warmest October on record for the last 300 years, and since it hasn’t been as wet as usual, the outdoor harvest is good. The trouble with outdoor cannabis here in Holland is that it is too cold and wet when September and October come along. This year I’ve seen some of the best-tasting outdoor weed in years. I guess global warming is good for something.
Here you’re not supposed to grow more than four plants outdoors, but many people do because enforcement is lax. I had a friend who had no problems growing four plants in his backyard, but when he was curing them in his house it started smelling so much that his neighbors complained to the cops. The cops dropped by and told him to finish quick and that they were going to come back and visit in a few days to make sure he was done. He took the crop to his mom’s house and finished it there.
All commercial grow operations in Holland are indoors due to the weather. Still, people plant outdoors for themselves. A purple Afghani strain called Big Purple is the preferred outdoor variety, because it finishes fast. Unfortunately, it is not very strong.
Here it is very common to put plants on your balcony, rooftop, or backyard in the springtime, grow them all summer and harvest them in the fall. Every week I go to the sauna, and I’ve been watching this one plant grow from when it was a baby. It grew next to the sauna and all these people could see it all the time. There is something so nice about the fact that no one got arrested for it, or, as happens sometimes, no one stole it before it got harvested. I pray for the day when it will be like that in America. Of course, here in the marijuana capital of the world there are constant harvests all year round. I include a photo of some Somango that just finished getting cured. I don’t know about anyone else out there, but to me, in times of war, growing cannabis seems to be one of the least criminal acts a human being can perform. –Soma