Soil and Containers

Pots and Other Containers

In its natural state, marijuana may grow an extensive root system – a fibrous network of fine, lateral roots that branch off a main, carrot-shaped tap root. In dry areas, the tap root can grow more than six feet deep in its search for water. In moist areas with fertile soil (such as in potting mixtures), the lateral roots are able to supply water and nutritive needs and the tap root remains small, often only three or four inches long on a seven-foot-tall mature plant.

The purpose of the growing medium is to provide adequate water and nutrients in addition to anchoring the roots, which hold the plant upright. By watering and fertilising as needed, you could grow a six-foot plant in a four-inch ((Pots are measured by diameter across the top.)) pot or in a three-foot layer of soil over your whole garden; but neither of these extreme procedures is very practical.

Most growers use containers that will hold between two and five gallons of soil. These are a good compromise in terms of weight, space, cost, and labour. They can be moved easily and hold an adequate reservoir of water and nutrients to support a large mature plant.

Some growers use a single large box or several long troughs that hold a six- to 12-inch layer of soil. These have the advantage of minimal restriction of roots and less frequent waterings, but they require more soil and make rotating or moving the plants impractical.

Determine the right size pot to use in your garden by the amount of light per square foot. For a moderately lighted garden (15 to 25 watts per square foot and most window gardens), use one- to three-gallon containers. For gardens with more light energy – over 25 watts per square foot or one-half day or more of sunlight – use three- to eight-gallon containers. The smallest pot we recommend for a full-grown plant is eight inches or one gallon. This is also a good size for starting plants to be transplanted after two months.

Practically any container that can withstand repeated waterings and has a top at least as wide as its base will do. Each pot must have several holes in the bottom to assure drainage. Growers use flower pots, institutional-sized cans and plastic buckets, baskets and small trash cans, milk crates and wooden boxes.

Plastic trash bags are sometimes used when other large containers can't be found. They must be handled carefully, since shifting the soil damages the fragile lateral roots. They are also more difficult to work with when transplanting. However, a roll of trash bags is an available and inexpensive substitute for other large containers. Plastic bags should be double or triple bagged. Small holes should be punched in the bottom to drain excess water. Use masking tape to patch any unwanted tears. The capacity of the bag should be no more than twice as many gallons as the amount of soil used. For example, with four gallons of soil, the bag should be of a five-gallon, but not more than eight-gallon size. Otherwise, it will not form a cylinder, and the bag will remain a shapeless mass.

Use as many pots as can fit in the lighted area to make the most efficient use of space. Many growers prefer to start the plants in smaller pots, transplanting into larger pots when the plants are larger. There are definite advantages to this method in terms of the yield in the garden, given its space and light energy. Seedlings and small plants take up much les space than they will at maturity, so they can be placed closer together. As the plants grow and begin to crowd each other, remove the less vigorous (to smoke, of course) and transplant the rest into larger pots. Start plants which will be transplanted later in four- to eight-inch flower pots, or one-quart to one-gallon tin cans or milk containers. Peat pots or planting pots are made of compressed plant fibre for the purpose of starting young plants. They are available at garden shops and come in several sizes. Use at least a four-inch pot so that the roots are not restricted in early growth. Peat pots are supposed to break down in the soil, but marijuana's delicate lateral roots may not be able to penetrate unless you score or break away the sides while transplanting. Wax paper cup (six to eight ounces), filled with a soil mixture, work as well as peat pots and are cheaper.

BOX C Finding Large Containers Use your ingenuity in finding large containers. Large clay flower pots do not work any better than the large metal and plastic containers discarded by restaurants and food stores. Various milk containers are good starting pots. Many garden shops sell used pots for a few cents each. Wholesalers sell plastic pots by the carton at a discount. Large plastic pots and pails can sometimes be picked up inexpensively at flea markets or variety stores. Any vessel that holds an adequate amount of soil and does not disintegrate from repeated waterings is a satisfactory container.

Properties of Soil

The soil or growing medium serves as a source and reservoir for water, air, and nutrients, and to anchor the roots. Since marijuana grows extremely fast, it has higher water and nutritive needs than most plants grown indoors. The success of your garden depends on supplying the plant with a medium that meets its needs without creating toxic conditions in the process.

There is no such thing as the perfect soil for Cannabis. Each variety can grow within a range of soil conditions. For healthy, full, growth, marijuana prefers a medium with good drainage, high in available nutrients, and near a neutral pH (7.0). These conditions result from a complex set of physical, chemical and biological factors. We will refer to them simply as: (1) texture; (2) nutrients; (3) pH.

Most indoor growers prepare the growing medium using commercial potting mixes. These mixes are usually sterilised or pasteurised and have good general soil properties. Since they seldom list the contents, nutrients, or pH, do some simple test of your basic soil whether you buy or dig for it. Then you can adjust the soil to meet the basic requirements of the plant.


The texture of the medium determines its water-holding and draining properties. Marijuana must have a well-drained medium for healthy growth. Soils that hold too much water or hold it unevenly can drown the roots, leading to poor growth or death of the plant. In a well-drained soil the roots are in contact with air as well as water. Soils that have too much clay, or are overly rich in compost or other organic matter, tend to hold too much water and not enough air. This condition worsens in time. This is especially true of the soil in pots.

You can determine the texture of your soil from its appearance and feel. Dry soil should never cake or form crusts. Dry or slightly moist soil that feels light-weight, airy, or spongy when squeezed, and has a lot of fibrous material, will hold a lot of water. Mix it with materials which decrease its water-holding capacity, such as sand, perlite, or even kitty litter.

Wet soil should remain spongy or loose and never sticky. A wetted ball of soil should crumble or separate easily when poked.

Soil that feels heavy and looks dense with fine particulate matter, or is sandy or gritty, will benefit by being loosened and lightened with fibrous materials such as vermiculite, Jiffy Mix, or sometimes sphagnum moss.

Soil Conditioners to Improve Texture

Perlite (expanded sand or volcanic glass) is a practically weightless horticultural substitute for sand. Sand and perlite contribute no nutrients of their own and are near neutral in pH. They hold water, air, and nutrients from the medium on their irregular surfaces and are particularly good at aerating the soil.

Vermiculture (a micaceous material) and sphagnum moss contribute small amounts of their own nutrients and are near neutral in pH. They hold water, air, and nutrients in their fibre and improve the texture of sandy or fast-draining soils. Jiffy Mix, Ortho Mix, or similar mixes are made of ground vermiculite and sphagnum moss, and are fortified with a small amount of all the necessary nutrients. They are available at neutral pH, are good soil conditioners, and are also useful for germinating seeds.

Sphagnum and Peat Moss (certain fibrous plant matter) are sometimes used by growers to improve water holding and texture. Both work well in small amounts (10 to 15 percent of soil mixture). In excess, they tend to make the medium too acidic after a few months of watering. Use vermiculite or Jiffy Mix in preference to sphagnum or peat moss.


Nutrients are essential minerals necessary for plant growth. The major nutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), which correspond to the three numbers, in that order, the appear on fertiliser and manure packages, and that give the percentage of each nutrient in the mix (see section 9).

Marijuana prefers a medium that is high in nitrogen, and mid-range in phosphorus and potassium. Generally, the darker the soil, the more available nutrients it contains. Commercial soils usually contain a good balance of all nutrients and will support healthy growth for a month or two, even in smaller (one gallon) containers. Many growers prefer to enrich their soil by adding sterilised manures, composts, or humus. All of these provide a good balance of the three major nutrients. They also retain water in their fibre. In excess they cause drainage problems, make the medium too acidic, and attract insects and other pests. A good mixture is one part compost or manure to five to eight parts of soil medium. In large pots (four or five gallons), these mixtures might provide all the nutrients the plant will ever need. {Table 13.}

The many prepared organic and chemical fertilisers that can be mixed with the soil vary considerably in available nutrients and concentrations. Used in small amounts, they do not appreciably effect the soil texture. Many prepared fertilisers are deficient in one or more of the major nutrients (see Table 14). Mix them together so there is some of each nutrient, or use them with manures, which are complete (contain some of all three major nutrients). When adding fertilisers, remember that organic materials break down at different rates. It is better to use combinations which complement each other, such as poultry manure and cow manure, than to use either fertiliser alone. (See Table 22 in section 13 for a complete list of organic fertilisers.

Table 14 – Prepared Organic Fertilisers Type of Percentage by weight of Availability to fertiliser N P2O5 K20 Plant —————————————————————– Blood meal 13 0 0 Rapid/medium Bone meal 0.5 15 0 Medium/slow Blood/bone meal 6 7 0 Medium/slow Cottonseed meal 6 2 1 Slow/medium Fish meal 8 2 0 Slow/medium Hoof and bone meal 10 2 0 Slow Rock phosphate 6 24 0 Slow Wood ash 0 1.5 3-7 Rapid Greensand 0 0 2-8 Medium/slow Chemical fertilisers are made in about every conceivable combination and concentration. Pick one that is complete and where the first number (N) is at least equal if not higher than both P and K. For example, rose foods may be 12-12-12 or 20-20-20, and work very well for marijuana. Others are: Vigoro 18-4-5 and Ortho 12-6-6. The higher the number, the more concentrated the mix is, and consequently, the more nutrients are available.

Don't use fertilisers which come in pellets or capsules, or that are labelled "timed" or "slow release." They do not work as well indoors as do standard organic and chemical fertilisers. Chemical fertilisers seldom list the amount to mix per pot. You can get some idea by the instructions for application per square foot. Use that amount of each one-half cubic foot of soil mixture.

Many growers add no nutrients at this time but rely on watering with soluble fertilisers when they water. These fertilisers and their application are discussed in section 9.


The pH is a convenient measure of the acidity or alkalinity of the soil medium. It is another way of expressing whether the soil is bitter (alkaline) or sour (acid). The pH is measured on a scale of 0 to 14, with 7.0 assigned neutral; below 7.0 is acid and above is alkaline.

You can think of the pH as a measure of the overall chemical charge of the medium. It affects whether nutrients dissolve to forms available to the plant or to forms the plant can't absorb, remaining locked in the soil medium.

Marijuana responds best to a neutral (7.0 pH) medium, although in a fertile, well-drained soil, it will grow well in a range of 6.0 to 8.5. The simplest way to check the pH is with a soil-test kit from a garden shop or nursery. Test kits are chemicals or treated papers – for example, litmus papers or Nitrazine tape – that change colour when mixed with a wet soil sample. The colour is then matched to a colour chart listing the corresponding pH. Nitrazine tape is available, inexpensively, in drug stores. Some meters measure pH, but these are expensive. Agricultural agents, agricultural schools, and local offices of Cooperative Extension will test a soil sample for pH and nutrient content. Occasionally, a garden-shop person will check pH for you or will know the pH of the soils they sell.

Highly alkaline soils are characteristically poor soils that form cakes, crusts, and hardpan. Soil manufacturers don't use them, nor should they be dug for indoor gardens. Alkaline soils are treated with sulphur compounds (e.g., iron sulphate) to lower the pH.

We have never seen commercial soils that were too alkaline for healthy growth, but they are sometimes too acidic. The pH of acid soil is raised by adding lime (calcium-containing) compounds. Liming compounds come in many forms and grades. Some are hydrated lime, limestone, marl, or oyster shells, graded by their particle size or fineness. Use the finest grade available, since it will have more of a neutralising potential than a coarse grade. You need to use less and are more interested in immediate results than long-term soil improvement. For indoor gardens, use hydrated lime (available in any hardware store) or wood ashes to raise the pH. Hydrated lime is rated over 90 percent for its neutralising potential. Wood ashes will neutralise soil acids roughly one-half as well as hydrated lime. However, they also contain some nutrients (potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and micronutrients) and are handy and free.

There is no exact formula we can give you for raising the pH. The pH does not have to be exact; it's and approximation. At low pH it takes less lime to raise the pH one point than it does when the pH is near neutral. Sandy soils need less lime to raise the pH one point than soils high in clay or organic matter. In general, add three cups of hydrated lime or six cups of fine wood ash to every bag (50 pounds or a cubic foot) of soil to raise the pH one point. For soils that test slightly acid (about 6.5), add two cups of lime or four cups of wood ash.

Soil that tested below 6.0 should be retested in about two weeks, after thoroughly mixing and wetting the soil. Repeat the application until the pH is in an acceptable range. Check the pH of plain water to see if it is influencing the tests. Distilled water is neutral, but tap water sometimes has minerals that can change the pH. Hard water is alkaline. Sulphurous water and highly chlorinated water are acidic.

If you have already added lime to a soil that now tests from 6.5 to 7.0, don't add more lime trying to reach exactly 7.0. Too much lime will interfere with nutrient uptake, notably of potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

General Soil Characteristics

The texture, pH, and available nutrients of the soil are all related. The most important single factor is texture (good drainage). When soil drains poorly, it creates anaerobic (without air) pockets in the soil. Bacteria or microbes that live without air will begin to multiply and displace beneficial microbes that need air to survive. The anaerobic microbes break down organic matter to a finer consistency, and release CO2 and organic acids to the medium. Drainage worsens, the acids lower the pH, and nutrients, even though present, become unavailable to the plant.

The result can be a four-month-old marijuana plant that is only three inches tall, especially if you use high concentrations of manures and composts, peat and sphagnum moss. If your soil lists manures or composts as additives, add no more than 10 percent of these on your own.f

Drainage problems sometimes develop after several months of healthy growth. It is a good idea to add about 20 percent sand or perlite to even a well-drained soil. You can never add too much of these; they con only improve drainage. They dilute the nutritive value of the soil, but you can always water with soluble fertilisers.

Mixtures using many components in combination seem to work particularly well. This may be because, at a micro-level each component presents a slightly different set of physical, chemical and biological factors. What the plant can't take up at one point may be readily available at another.

Preparing Commercial Soils and Mixes Garden soils (or loams) and potting mixes are actually two different groups of products, although they are frequently mislabelled. Some companies sell soil in large bags and a potting mixture in smaller bags, while labelling them the same. Soils and potting mixtures are usually manufactured locally, since transportation costs are prohibitive; so they differ in each area.


Texture and Nutrients

Soils and loams are usually topsoil blended with humus or compost for use as a top dressing in gardens, for planting large outdoor containers, or for the soil part of a potting mixture. They may have a tendency to compact under indoor conditions and will benefit from the addition of perlite or vermiculite. Soils and loams usually contain a good supply of nutrients and may support a full-grown plant in a large container. Commercial soils that are heavy generally work better than lightweight soils. Heavy soils usually contain topsoil, in which marijuana grows very well. Lightness indicates more fibrous content.

For example of possible soil mixtures, see Box D. pre?

BOX D Examples of Soil Mixtures* 1. 5 parts soil 2. 8 parts soil 2 parts perlite 3 parts sand 1 part cow manure 1/4 part 10-10-10 chemical fertiliser 3. 5 parts soil 4. 4 parts soil 2 parts perlite 1 part sand 2 parts humus 1 part vermiculite 1/2 part cottonseed meal 2 parts humus 1/2 part poultry manure 5. 3 parts soil 6. 6 parts soil 1 part perlite 2 parts perlite 1 part sand 2 parts vermiculite 2 parts Jiffy Mix 1/2 part poultry manure 1/2 part blood/bone meal 1/2 part cow manure 1/2 part wood ash 1 part wood ash *Almost all fertilisers are acidic, and need to be neutralised by lime. For the above mixtures, or any similar ones, mix in one cup of lime for each five pounds of manure, cottonseed meal, or chemical fertiliser in order to adjust the pH.

Potting mixes are intended to support an average-size house plant in a relatively small pot. They are sometimes manufactured entirely from wood and bark fibre, composts, and soil conditioners. These mixes are made to hold a lot of water and slowly release nutrients over a period of time, which is what most house plants require. For marijuana, these mixes seldom contain enough nutrients to support healthy growth for more than a couple of months. (Their N is usually low, P adequate, and K usually very high.) They work best when sand or perlite is added to improve drainage, and fertilisers are added to offset their low nutrient content.

The pH

Most commercial mixes and soils are between 6.0 and 7.0 in pH, a healthy range for marijuana. If you buy your soil, it will not be too alkaline for healthy growth, but it might be too acidic. You can minimise the chances of getting and acid soil by avoiding soils with "peat" or "sphagnum" in their names. Avoid soils that are prescribed for acid-loving plants such as African violets or azaleas, or for use in terrariums. With common sense, you can buy a soil, add two cups of lime to each large bag, and not have to worry about the pH. However, the surest procedure is to test the pH yourself.

Probably the best way to find the right soil for your garden is to ask long-term growers. They can relate their past experiences with various mixes and blends. Most long-term growers with whom we have talked have tried many of the mixes available in their areas. A reliable, enlightened nurseryperson or plant-shop operator may also be able to give you some advice.


Buying Soil Components



All the materials discussed here are available at farm and garden stores or nurseries. Many suburban supermarkets sell large bags of soil and humus. Always buy your materials in the largest units possible to reduce the cost.

Large bags of soil and humus come in either 50-pound bags or one- to four-cubic-foot bags. A 50-pound bag fills about six gallons. There are eight gallons to a cubic foot. Perlite is sold in four-cubic-foot bags (thirty-two gallons). Jiffy Mix and vermiculite are sold in four-cubic-foot bags and in 16 pound bags (about 18 gallons). Sand, perlite and vermiculite come in coarse, medium, and fine grades. All grades work well, but if you have a choice, choose coarse. Sand (not beach sand) is an excellent soil conditioner. The only disadvantage is its heavy weight. Buy sand from lumber yards or hardware stores where it is sold for cement work. It will cost from 1/50 to one-half the cost of garden or horticultural sand. Sand from piles at construction sites works very well.

Calculating the Amount of Soil

The maximum amount of soil mixture for any garden can be found by multiplying the capacity of the largest pot you plan to use by the number of pots that you can fit in the garden. In many cases, the actual amount of the mixture used will be somewhat less. Two illustrations follow.

1. A small garden with a two-tube, eight-foot fixture (160W). Using 20 watts per square foot for fast growth gives 160W divided by 20W/sq.ft. + eight sq.ft. The largest pot needed for this system is three gallons, but two gallons would work. You can fit about 10 three gallon pots in eight square feet; so 3 * 10 + 30 gallons of soil mixture are needed (see Box E).

BOX E Examples Showing How Much Soil Material to Buy to Fill a Known Number of Unit-Volume Containers Example 1. For a garden eight square feet in size, Buy Component Which amounts to 3 50-lb (6 gal. ea. ) bags of soil 18 gallons 1 cubic foot of perlite 8 gallons 30 lbs of humus 3 gallons 10 lbs of chicken manure 2 gallons TOTAL 31 gallons Example 2. For a garden 24 square feet in size, Buy Component Which amounts to 4 1-cu. ft. bags of soil 32 gallons 2 1-cu. ft. bags of perlite 16 gallons 1 1-cu. ft. bag of vermiculite 8 gallons 20 pounds of cow manure 3 gallons cottonseed meal 2 gallons wood ash 2 gallons TOTAL 63 gallons 2. A large garden with two two-tube, eight-foot VHO fixtures (four times 215 watts or 860 total watts) illuminating a garden three by eight feet, or 24 square feet.

860 watts divided by 24 sq. ft. = about 36W/sq. ft.

The largest pot size for this system is about five gallons. About 16 five-gallon containers can fit in 24 square feet; so 16 * 5 + 80 gal. of mixture are needed. But you could start many more plants in smaller containers and transplant when they are root-bound. You do not use more soil by starting in smaller pots, since all soil is reused. In many cases, you actually use much less soil.

In this system you could start and fit about 40 plants in one-gallon pots in 24 square feet. When the plants begin to crowd each other, some are harvested, making room fir the others, which are transplanted to larger pots. In practice, a high-energy system such as this one (36W/sq. ft.) will grow large plants whose size is limited mainly by the space available. Twelve large female plants are about the most you would want in the system during flowering and for final harvest. Sixty gallons of mixture is all that is needed for the seedlings and the mature crop. This is one-fourth les than the original estimate of 80 gallons, and you actually will harvest a lot more grass (see Box E).

Mixing and Potting

Mix your soil in a large basin, barrel, or bathtub. Individual pots are filled with mixtures by using a smaller container to measure out by part or volume.

Perlite, sand, and dry soil can give off clouds of dust. When mixing large amounts of these, wear a breathing mask or handkerchief over your nose and mouth.

To pot any of the mixtures, first cover any large drainage holes with a square of window screen or newspaper to prevent the mixture from running out. Place a layer of sand, perlite, or gravel about one inch deep to insure drainage. Fill the pots with soil mixture to within three-fourths of an inch from the top of the pot. If your mixture contains manures or composts, cover the last inch or two in each pot with the mixture minus the manure and compost. This will prevent flies, gnats, moulds, and other pests from being attracted to the garden. Press spongy soils firmly (not tightly) to allow for more soil in each pot; otherwise, after a period of watering, the soil will settle and the pot will no longer be full.

Some growers add a few brads or nails to each pot to supply the plant with iron, one of the necessary nutrients. Water the pots and allow them to stand for a day or two before planting. As the soil becomes evenly moist, beneficial bacteria begin to grow and nutrients start to dissolve. {Figure 40.}

Digging Soil

Most growers prefer to buy their soil, while some prefer to dig it. Marijuana cannot tolerate heavy clays, mucks, or soils that dry to crusts. Choose a soil from a healthy garden or field, or from an area that supports a lush growth of annual weeds.

Fields that support a good crop of alfalfa, corn or other grains will support a good crop of marijuana. Fields with beets, carrots, and sugar cane indicate a well-drained soil, with near neutral pH. Red clover, sweet clover, and bluegrass have soil requirements similar to those of marijuana. Garden soils are usually fertile and well-drained, but often need lime to counteract soil acidity.

Take the topsoil layer that starts about two inches below the surface debris. Good soil will look dark, feel moist, and small clean and earthy. Use all of the topsoil layer that maintains its dark colour and is interlaced with roots. Your hands should be able to easily penetrate the underlying topsoil if the soil is in good condition. When the soil changes colour, or roots no longer apparent, then you are past the fertile topsoil layer. Abundant worm, millipedes, and other small lifeforms are a good indication that the soil is healthy. A rich layer of topsoil collects by walls, fences, and hedges where leaves and debris collect and decay to a rich humus. Sift the soil to remove stones and root clods. Also, shake out the root clods, which are rich in nutrients.

Soil that is dug should be tested the same way as already prescribed. It should be adjusted with at least 30 percent sand or perlite (vermiculite for very sandy soils), since potting will affect the drainage of even well-drained soils. Never use manures or composts that are not completely degraded to a clean-smelling humus.

Soil that is dug must be sterilised to kill weed seeds, insect eggs, and harmful moulds and fungi. Some chemical treatments (e.g. formaldehyde) are mixed with water and poured over the soil to sterilise it. Soil can be sterilised in a pressure cooker at 15 pounds pressure for 15 minutes, or by baking wet soil in a large pot at 200 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Be advised that baking soil will release some formidable odours.

Growing Methods As we said before, there are probably as many growing methods as there are marijuana growers. These methods are personal preferences or adaptions to fit particular situations; one method is not necessarily better than any other. However, the value of a garden is often based on the amount of high-quality grass it yields. Since indoor gardens are limited in size, you want the plants to quickly fill the garden with lush growth in order to use the garden efficiently. Otherwise, for the first couple of months, the lights are shining on empty space.


Secondly, the possession of small quantities of marijuana will probably be decriminalised nationally within the next few years. Decriminalisation for personal possession will open the way for decriminalisation for cultivation for personal possession. But small quantities are more difficult to define for cultivation than for simple possession, which is done by weight. Several possible ways to limit the amount for cultivation have been raised: by the number of plants, by the area cultivated, or by the number of plants at a particular stage of development. The outcome may determine whether you try to grow the largest plants possible or the most plants possible in a given area.

There are several ways to increase your garden's yield.

1. Pinch or cut back the growing shoots when the plants are young. This forces each plant to develop several strong growing shoots and generally yield large robust plants. 2. Plant a number of plant in each pot. 3. Start many plants in small pots and transplant the best plants to larger pots when the plants crowd each other. 4. Use different light systems to grow plants at different growth stages. Here are some examples of how to carry out each of these four methods.

1. Fill the growing area with large containers (about five gallons each). Start several plants in each pot but thin the seedlings over a period of six weeks to two months, until one plant is left in each pot. During the fourth or fifth week of growth, pinch back the plants to about equal heights. Cut the growing shoot at about the fourth internode. Each plant will develop a sturdy stem which will support four to eight growing stems and will quickly fill any empty space in the garden. The whole garden is the treated like a hedge. After another month or two, you cut back the growing shoots again to have plants of equal heights. Remove the male plants as soon as they begin to release pollen (or before any male flowers open for sinsemilla). This will leave more space and light for the females to develop. By the time females flower, they've been cut back two or three times or more, and form a dense growth of growing shoots that fill the garden with a cubic layer of flowers. Some growers maintain the plants for up to a year before the final harvest.

{Figure 41. Plant clipped at fourth internode.}

2. This method also requires large pots. Instead of thinning the seedlings to leave one per pot, leave at least three. After a few months of growth, remove any plants that lag far behind or any plants that show male flowers. The value of this method is that the odds are at least seven to one that any pot will have at least one female plant.

Most of the plants you'll grow will fill out with branches by four months at the latest. Often the branches develop young seedlings. The plants may begin to look like small Christmas trees by the second to third months of growth.

Generally, you don't want to have more than three or four plants in a five-gallon container, because growth will be limited by competition for light and space.

{Figure 42. Basement growing factory in Atlanta.}

Some varieties never do fill out. The branches remain small, only two to three inches long, and yield very little grass. We've seen plants like this grown from grass from Vietnam, Thailand, Afghanistan, and Africa. These plants are also quite short, being four to six feet tall fully grown. With varieties like this, it is better not to pinch tops, and to start about six plants per square foot of garden space. At harvest, the garden will be crowded with top stems that are laden with flower clusters.

Of course, you don't know what varieties will look like until you've seen them grow. For most varieties, each plant will need at least one square foot or space at maturity. It is much less common to find varieties that naturally grow small or especially thin, and, therefore, are those of which you would want to plant more than a few per large pot.

3. Another popular way to grow is to start plants in a large number of small pots. As the plants crowd each other, some are removed and the rest transplanted to larger pots.

4. To get the most for your investment requires conservation of light and soil. When the plants are young, a large number fit into a small place. Some growers take advantage of this fact by having several light systems, each with plants at different growth stages. The plants are rotated into larger gardens and pots. This method conserves space, materials, and electricity, and yields a harvest every two months. Using this method, "growing factories" turn out a steady supply of potent grass. {Table 15.}

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