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Saturday, May 30, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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How does your cannabis garden grow?

A medical use recommendation from a physician is required in order to grow cannabis at home in Washington. (Getty Images)
A medical use recommendation from a physician is required in order to grow cannabis at home in Washington. (Getty Images)
By Kate A. Miner EVERCANNABIS Correspondent

Since 2014, 10 states and the District of Columbia have followed Washington’s lead and legalized recreational pot, but in almost all of them, from California to Massachusetts, adults have also been given the right to grow a few plants at home. Washington is one of the few states where you need a doctor’s approval first.

Although there is significant public interest to allow grows for personal use, Washington’s Legislature hasn’t seemed terribly keen on expanding access beyond certain medical patients. In the 2019 and 2020 sessions, a few Washington lawmakers sponsored legislation that would give adults the right to grow up to six plants at home. Neither effort gained enough traction to succeed.

Currently, someone with proper paperwork is able to grow a small number of plants. They can get permission to grow a few more if they register with the state medical marijuana database.

Here’s what you need to know to grow at home:

· Growing is limited to medical use and must have a recommendation from a doctor.

· Growers must be 21 or older.

· You can grow up four plants without registration, up to 15 if registered.

· Cooperative gardens are allowed, meaning up to four patients can grow together, with no more than 60 plants and a harvest yield of 72 ounces; the garden must be at least 1 mile or more from a retail location.

Registration to the state database is recommended but not required. Registering with the Department of Health as a patient will earn you a recognition card that can be displayed as proof of permission to grow.

Washington approves the medical use of marijuana for about a dozen physical and mental health conditions, including AIDS and cancer-related nausea and vomiting; pain from Hepatitis C; vomiting and nausea due to anorexia; muscles spasms from MS, seizures and epilepsy; blood pressure issues causing glaucoma; pain due to Crohn’s disease and other unmanageable pain.

Starting a home grow

If you plan to grow in Washington, especially Eastern, outdoors is the easiest. The trend towards indoor cultivation is more about control over the growing conditions for the sake of producing enormous buds. But if your sole goal is to grow some decent weed for your aches and pains, you may as well plant it alongside your basil.

Growing a successful cannabis crop is slightly more complicated than your average vegetable. Washington State frowns on plants that could be publicly viewed. So, it’s best to keep your plants out of sight, requiring some thought about location, fencing, sun and irrigation.

Unfortunately, master gardeners have been told not to instruct people on the best way to grow it, which means you will have to look to the private sector for help.

There are many wonderful online seed stores and books for marijuana horticulture. You may want to do some reading before you start because, marijuana, fondly nicknamed “weed,” doesn’t actually grow like one. A healthy, productive marijuana plant requires specific growing conditions.

If you are looking for natural ways to improve the conditions of your cannabis garden and take care of pests, companion planting is a great way to go. Companion planting is the strategic planting of fruits, vegetables or herbs alongside cannabis plants in order to improve the natural ecosystem, without turning to pesticides or additional supplementation.

Companion planting is a natural and effective way of controlling mites and other pests, enhancing nutrient uptake and soil quality, as well as providing a habitat for beneficial creatures. Companion planting is also a useful way to disguise your plants from nosy neighbors and provide protection.

A few excellent companions

Beans are a great way to supplement nitrogen in your cannabis. Beans absorb nitrogen from the air and convert it into a form more readily available to your cannabis.

Herbs such as chickweed are excellent for adding supplementary nutrients to your soil. Basil is great for pest control due to its pungent smell, and chives, cilantro, and sage deter aphids, spider mites, beetles, and flies.

Chrysanthemum flowers help protect against nematodes – microscopic worms that can infest and damage root structures making them great organic pesticides due to their high pyrethrin content.

Peppermint is another plant that is commonly used as an organic pesticide by converting it into pesticide oil. It acts as a repellent of harmful insects and has the potential to attract beneficial ones.

Garlic works as a natural fungicide in your garden.

Alfalfa is used for soil nutrient supplementation as well as a soil base component.

Chamomile is one of the best all-around companion plants for cannabis. It can capture accumulated calcium, sulfur, and potassium, and as the plant breaks down, these nutrients become embedded in the soil and help strengthen your plants.

Kate A. Miner has a degree in visual anthropology, and has worked in marketing and advertising for many years. She writes, takes photos and teaches yoga.

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