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Modern gardener: Cannabis cultivation alluring to Okanagan green thumbs

Harvesting marijuana.
Image Credit: YouTube

KELOWNA - Graeme Smith is a backyard gardener.

He grows beans, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber and zucchinis.

He’s also become quite proficient at cannabis cultivation and four pot plants are tucked between the other edible bounty his garden provides.

“It’s an interesting hobby,” said Smith, from his home in Kelowna, when asked what the appeal to growing was. 

As of October 2018, adults 19 and older were permitted to grow as many as four plants. The limit is based on household, not the number of people, and exceptions are in place only if an adult is authorized under the federal Cannabis Act to grow medical marijuana at home.

Also, the plants are supposed to be out of view from others.

The rules aren’t onerous, nor do they offer the appeal of growing to the rising number of people who are taking up the hobby.

“Part of the appeal is the ability to grow something you are able to enjoy later on — a bit like making wine,” Smith, who asked that his real name be withheld, said.

“With wine, people don’t make it because it’s cheap, they enjoy going in and improving it every year.”

Getting started offer the baseline.

When Smith started growing the first question he had to address was how he was going to start.

“I looked online at seeds, and a single seed is about $10 each,” he said.

It seemed a bit steep for something he couldn’t guarantee would work, so he spent $20 and got four clones off of a friend’s plant instead. Clones are obtained by slicing trimmings off of a more mature plant and dipping them in some rooting hormone and replanting them.

Both options provide “female” plants, which means they flower — the flower is the part people smoke.

The next thing he did was invest in some potting soil and fertilizers that cost around $100.

From there, he basically lets nature take over, pruning and watering as needed.

“I try to pick fertilizers to maximize the growth, and with my friends, we compete to see who has the nicest, biggest and best plants,” he said. “There are a lot of people who are doing it as a hobby and have been for a long time. You have perfect weather in the Okanagan to garden, so if you’re interested in gardening why wouldn’t you throw a few seeds in the ground and see what happens?”

Kyle Martin, manager of Better Than Nature in Penticton, said that he’s seen a steady flow of interest from Okanagan gardeners in recent weeks wanting to try their hand at a new project.

“In my opinion, what I’ve noticed that nine out of 10 people coming in these days over the age of 60,” he said, adding that he was surprised by the sight of a middle-aged person in a BMW wandering into the store with their children in tow. It bucked stereotypes even he didn't realize he held.

“We are seeing an older crowd taking advantage of being able to grow because the stigma isn’t there anymore. A lot of people don’t even smoke it. They're just gardeners who want to grow.”

Martin said that it’s an interesting plant and growers, like Smith, like experimenting with fertilizers and what results in the greatest yield.

The biggest hurdle for most is the harvest and the lead up to it — something that Martin said can be best learned about through manuals or online.

It can be complicated and time-consuming to make sure plants are cut, dried and cured properly. 

The payoff, said Smith, is a supply of pot that lasts the better part of a year.

That said, he still shops at the retail outlets, which are finally starting to open around the Okanagan.

The reason for this is also simple.

“I may make my own wine, but occasionally I like to go to a liquor store for a nice Chilean or French wine,” he said. “People are going to supplement their pot with some store-bought product because it is very good.”

Better — albeit pricier and over-packaged — than was available when buying pot was something relegated entirely to the black market.

“Quality control from the legal stuff is better,” he said.  

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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