Spring and 420

Amethyst, my first ever cannabis plant. It was a patient and resilient teacher.

It has been an unusually cool and wet Winter and Spring (so far) in the mild weather bay area where I live and garden.  In past years I’ve had to resist the urge to plant my cannabis seeds by now.  Usually our weather is full-on brilliant sun with temps in the 70s by mid March, and so it’s very tempting to get those cannabis plants in the ground sooner than later. But each of the past several growing seasons has impressed upon me the need for patience.

The first year I grew weed in my small backyard garden was one of learning: aka I learned a LOT of what not to do just by doing it. For instance, I planted a tiny little seedling and one clone in mid March. The clone did exactly what it should have. It flowered immediately, while growing only about a foot tall, and then promptly died by the first of May. But that little seedling? It persisted, struggling through a couple weeks of coldish nights and warming days as the earth silently rotated through the Vernal equinox. That little seedling turned out to be a magnificently healthy plant, and my first harvest ever. It was my best teacher about what works, and what doesn’t, in the outside cannabis garden. And it was my first step to becoming a cannabis educator and author.

This season I’ll sprout my seeds in early May – two whole months later than my first season. It took me resisting my natural impatience and the false warmth of a California spring to learn that when I sprout cannabis seeds later I get healthier, younger plants at harvest. While this means that each plant is smaller as September dawns, it also means that I have less problems with diseases of the aging plant: powdery mildew, brown rot, even bud worms.  

As April dawns (it’s almost 420!) I am delighted that the pandemic has released its grip enough that I can do public events in person. I have four upcoming events, just in time to get people ready to grow their own cannabis in their gardens. April 15 noon at Berkeley Horticultural Nursery, April 16 1:00 pm at Flowerland Nursery in Albany, May 7 1:00 pm in a private East Bay home with Wondering About Weed, and May 21 with the San Francisco Botanical Gardens. Check out my Events and Collaborations page for more info. If you can make it to any of these events please introduce yourself to me!

For us all, I hope that the 2023 growing season is one of bounty and learning. Cannabis belongs in the garden, just like we do.

Magic Salve on the Pacific Crest Trail

One of the reasons that I wrote The Cannabis Gardener is to help people grow and make their own healing salve.  Over the years, I’ve gifted little tins of my creation to friends and family, and have been met with gratitude, surprise, and thanks for the help it provides.  Years ago I was at an event, and met a friend there. She was suffering from shingles, with a large and painful rash on her abdomen.  She shared that the drugs that had been prescribed for her weren’t working.  I tossed her a small tin of some cannabis salve I had in my purse. She texted several days later and in all caps shared her amazement that her pain was largely gone – and she named my salve “Magic Salve”.  Recently, I ran into another friend. She was suffering from neuropathy in her leg, having had multiple surgeries.  Her leg aches, goes numb, feels freezing even when it is warm.  I offered her a tin of salve, hoping it would provide some relief. She massaged in the magic salve – and the next day texted “Thank you! my leg feels like my leg again! You are an angel.”  This is why I wrote my book – for moments like these.

But wanna know the biggest fan of my salve?  Me!  I rub a little salve somewhere on my body on most days. I use it especially often during hiking season, as it offers just what my feet need to stay healthy and ready to hit the trails.  A couple years ago my husband and I went on a quick camping trip near the Sonora Pass.  This striking Sierra Nevada pass is also a crossing for Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) through hikers.  We happened to be on the pass at just the right time to become impromptu Trail Angels.  We gave rides to several small groups of through hikers from the pass down to Kennedy Meadows, a popular restocking point for those continuing on the trail.  We shared cold fruit with them and heard some of their stories.  Each person was on a journey, a quest, or a pilgrimage of sorts.  It was about being in the natural world, yes, but more importantly it was about working something out in their lives, gaining strength, testing limits, grieving the past – so many reasons were propelling these people on their treks. Each of them looked tired, and mentioned the physical toll that being on the trail took on their bodies, most especially on their feet.

Sunset over the Sierras near the Sonora Pass

I’m a hiker, but I don’t think I’ll ever complete the whole PCT. And I’m OK with that!  But I love doing smaller hikes on the PCT, and want to honor the journeys that these hikers are making by offering what support I can. Recently, I had an idea to share my love for cannabis and for people in a tangible way. I am planning on making lots of small tins of Magic Salve, and giving them away to hikers on the PCT. This combines two loves of mine: hiking in nature and cannabis.

Making Magic Salve is pretty simple – but there is one special ingredient that takes time to make. The limiting factor for making my salve was creating the cannabis concentrate. My little extractor (Source Turbo) is great – but only for small quantities. I reached out to the fine people at Extract Craft and bought a gloriously fast and efficient new tool:  The EtOH Pro by ExtractCraft.  It’s definitely a Big Girl extractor and I’m ecstatic about how easy it is to make the concentrate that puts the magic in my homemade salve.

Magic Salve starts in the garden – then moves into the kitchen, and out onto the trail.  I’m looking forward to getting into the Sierras this summer and sharing the love.

Pack and Cure

Dry cannabis bud, just after packing in 1/2 gallon glass jars

I walked into my garage today to check on my drying branches of cannabis – it’s been about two weeks since I picked and trimmed them. They’ve been drying nicely, with constant gentle airflow to speed the process and check mold growth. I checked to see if they were ready to pack by wiggling some of the buds, and listening for the brittle little snap of the tiny branches. They all snapped rather than bent. This was my cue to pack and cure. Curing is an important step to finish the drying process while preserving the most terpenes. Curing also allows the remaining sugars and chlorophyll in the green material to slowly dissipate. Here’s how to preserve your homegrown cannabis.

  1. Pack.  Snap the dried buds off the branches, then pack them into your glass jars.  I find that ½ gallon or 1 quart glass canning jars are ideal for storing cannabis.  There is a subtle art to how densely to pack your bud in the jars.  Give them a gentle push but don’t crush the buds.  Leave some air pockets in the mass of bud, but aim to leave little headspace.  You want to give the bud air, but not allow too much oxygen into the jar.  But sure to label your jars of bud with the cultivar name and date packed. Close up the jars with the lids and store them in a dark, cool spot.
  2. Burp.  For the first week after packing, you’ll need to burp each jar once a day. To burp the jar open the lid and take a deep whiff. It should smell like weed – not mold. Look at the under surface of the lid. It should have no moisture condensation. If you do see any moisture, you need to remove the bud from the jar and allow to dry on a tray for another day or two and then repack. For the second, third and fourth weeks, burp the jars of bud twice per week.

Your bud is now all ready to store!  Congratulations – you just completed your harvest.  Enjoy!

Planting your cannabis seedlings

Planting cannabis in a felt grow bag

An easy, flexible and portable way to grow your cannabis seedlings is to plant in a felt grow bag. These are fabric bags that offer excellent growing conditions for your cannabis. They are usually made from polyester and come in a variety of sizes, with and without handles. The smallest size grow bag to grow a full size plant is 10 gallons (except for autoflowering cannabis – 7 gallons is a great size for these plants). A 10 gallon grow bag is the same volume as a 1.5 cubic foot bag of soil. I recommend a high quality planting mix that is optimized for cannabis or vegetable gardening. Recipe 420 is a great brand to choose. Then, get planting — It couldn’t be easier! Just fill up a grow bag with the planting mix, add your seedling, water in and place in a full-sun location. Keep it watered appropriately, and you’re done! Cannabis plants grow quickly and are beautiful, lush green plants as they mature.

Sprouting cannabis seeds

cannabis seeds emerging from the soil

I’m preparing to plant my 2022 cannabis garden tomorrow! It’s such a thrilling time of year for the gardener. Planting seeds is an act of hope. It can also be a fraught time for gardeners, especially if your seeds cost $10 each – the going rate for good quality, feminized seeds at dispensaries. There is a lot of conflicting information available about how to sprout seeds – some of it helpful, some of it confusing. If you give it what it needs to grow, then you’re going to do well. Here are a few pointers:

  1. Soak the seeds in lukewarm water in small, clean glass containers for 12 to 24 hours. This will hydrate the seeds and encourage quick sprouting. Don’t allow them to soak for more than 24 hours (give or take) because they need oxygen as soon as they begin to sprout – even before you can see signs of sprouting.
  2. While the seeds are soaking, prepare your sprouting pots. Fill small pots with moistened seedling mix. Be sure these little pots have drainage holes.
  3. Plant one seed in each soil-filled pot, about ¼ inch deep.  Cover with soil, label, and place in a warm spot: 75 degrees F is great.
  4. Wait and watch – keep the soil evenly moist, but never soggy. Germination can be within a couple days to 2 weeks! It all depends on the age of your seeds, temperature, and strain. Be patient.
  5. When the tiny plant emerges from the soil, make sure your baby plants get plenty of light – 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Natural sunlight is ideal, but artificial light is a fine alternative.

Remember that cannabis is a hardy, easy to grow, annual plant. Do not be intimidated by the opinionated, conflicting voices on the internet. Sprouting cannabis seeds is simple, straightforward gardening.  All of your seeds might not sprout, and that’s to be expected when dealing with living beings, which is what seeds are. All you’re doing is approximating what nature would give these seeds – a bit of moisture, warmth, light, and soil. They will do the rest.

Curing your homegrown cannabis

It’s almost Halloween, and that means that my cannabis is almost cured.  I harvested my first cannabis this year on September 5, finishing on October 1. For those of you growing in the northern latitudes, with later harvesting, your cannabis may just be starting to cure.  So, just what does it mean to cure our bud and why do we do it?  What’s the difference between drying and curing cannabis? 

For most home growers, drying is the primary method by which we preserve and store our amazing cannabis bud. As I outline in The Cannabis Gardener, drying is a simple process. Time consuming, but simple! After your cannabis plant is mature, and the buds are sparkly with resin, clip the branches, strip off all or most of the leaves allowing the bud to remain attached to the stem. Hang the branches in a dark room with good airflow and allow the bud to dry for a week or so. Monitor humidity and temperatures for evenly based drying. When the branches snap rather than bend, your bud is ready to store for the cure. For more detail, read The Cannabis Gardener.

Curing the cannabis is the next phase in preparing your dried cannabis bud for long term storage. Curing is an important step for creating the best quality bud with the longest storage time, and ensuring a smooth, tasty smoke or vape experience. Caveat: you don’t need to cure fresh or frozen cannabis intended for preparations that utilize fresh or frozen weed.  Curing is just for dried bud.

Dried cannabis bud is dead, but still biologically active. There are all sorts of enzymatic processes at play as this plant material changes over time. The curing process creates a stable, oxygenated environment in which starches and sugars remaining in the bud are allowed to be used up by naturally present aerobic bacteria. Chlorophyll is also given time to break down. During the curing process, moisture is allowed to slowly and evenly distribute throughout the whole of the dense dried bud, helping to stave off future mold growth. The ideal moisture content for your dried but is between 10% – 15% of total weight, BTW.  Dry, but not totally desiccated.

How to cure:

After packing your dried cannabis bud into appropriate containers, you’ll need to provide air to the packages on a regular basis during the curing stage. For most of us home growers, we’ll pack the dried cannabis into sealable, airtight glass jars or mylar bags. These are great for long term storage, but you’ll need to burp the containers during the curing stage to allow for oxygenation. For the first week, open every container each day. Take the time to smell your weed each day!  Not only is this fun and delicious smelling, this is also an opportunity to determine whether or not there is mold growing in your weed.  Don’t underestimate the power of your nose — we walk around every day with an exquisitely sensitive chemical detector right in front of us.  If you get a whiff of mildew, or mold, or something just smells weird about one of your bags of weed, then take it right out of the package and visually inspect the bud. Maybe you’ll need to allow the bud to dry some more before placing it back into the jar or bag.  And certainly if you see any moisture condensing inside the container, whip that bud out and allow it to dry before repacking. Honestly, I’ve never had a problem with mold/moisture – but that’s probably because I grow weed in a dry climate — not because I’m particularly meticulous.  If you live in a humid environment, be especially vigilant about moisture levels in your bud, especially at the beginning of the curing stage. 

After the first week, you can move to burping your containers every three days for the next couple of weeks. Then after a month, your bud is cured and ready for long term storage — or smoking, vaping, and using in tinctures and oils.  Congratulations!  You just completed the harvest.

Penny’s homegrown bud, ready for packing and curing

Male Cannabis plant

Male cannabis plants look just like female cannabis plants when they are young. But as they enter sexual maturity the differences become obvious. The photo below is of a mature male cannabis plant. It is vital that you remove the male plants from your female plants as soon as the males begin to shed pollen, or you’ll end up with poor quality, seedy bud. Cannabis flowers are wind pollinated, and the male cannabis plant produces abundant pollen. Be kind to your neighbors, and their female cannabis plants! I’ve heard that cannabis pollen can travel up to a mile if the winds are brisk. If you want to do some selective pollination of your female plants – you can! This is covered in The Cannabis Gardener, p. 96.

Cannabis Seeds – it’s planting time!

Cannabis Seeds from my 2020 harvest – my cross

It’s early March, and that means Spring is coming — at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. For the cannabis gardener, that means getting your seed game on. You may have heard “Time to pop your seeds” or “Let’s crack some seeds”. What’s up with that? These are just different words for sprouting your seeds. I just LOVE this time of year. It’s all about potential – and seeds are the embodiment of potential. A seed is a tiny nascent genetically unique plant folded between two food sources, covered by a protective seed coat. Seeds are alive, and are quite aware of their surroundings. They will stay put in their little seed coats until they sense that conditions are right for them to sprout — they’re waiting for just the right combo of warmth, soil and moisture. The sprouting process could hardly be simpler! Just place your seeds into a small pot of seedling mix, cover 1/4 inch deep with soil, water, and set in a windowsill (keep the temp around 70° f). The seeds should all sprout within a week. Then give them nice, strong light, temps around 70° f and they’re off to a good start. I cover this in detail in The Cannabis Gardener.

One common question I receive is “Where can I get good cannabis seeds?” followed quickly by “Why are cannabis seeds so expensive?” The answer is that because cannabis is still (ridiculously!!) Federally illegal in the US and in much of the world, seeds can be scarce and tricky to find. You’ll need to buy your seeds either online or – my preferred way – at a local dispensary. A couple of things to consider:

  1. Standard or Feminized: Both are good, but standard seeds will contain both female and male seeds — generally, you want to grow just the girls.
  2. Harvest date: Good growers will list the date that the seed was harvested. Make sure your seeds are fresh — especially because they are expensive (like $10 per seed expensive)
  3. Call before you go to a dispensary! Be sure you know what’s in stock before arriving to avoid disappointment.
  4. Genetics matters – sort of. If you’re not too picky about your cannabis, and someone has free seeds — go for it! I’ve had great results from unknown crosses. If you’re interested in more particular weed, it’s a good idea to do your research before purchasing seed. My go-to is Humboldt Seed Company. They are an excellent source for quality genetics and healthy seeds, sold at many dispensaries.
  5. Trade! Most seeds are sold in packs of 10. But few home gardeners need that many of one cultivar. I recommend that you and a couple friends go in on a couple of varieties and then trade. You’ll be able to grow a couple different sorts and save cost overall.

The Cannabis Gardener is almost here!

I am delighted to announce that The Cannabis Gardener is hitting the shelves! This beautiful book is the culmination of years of learning, growing, enjoying, and cooking with my home grown cannabis. I’ve taught about cannabis as I’ve explored this plant’s amazing healing properties through the company I co-founded, Let’s Sesh for the Cannacurious. And now? Let’s Sesh co-founder & friend Kaisha-Dyan McMillan will interview me on IG Live @letsseshworkshops101 on February 2, 2021, 4:00 pm to 4:30 pm PST. Everyone is invited to join in the fun! I hope to see you on IG live this Tuesday, 4:00 pm PST.



The sun sets early now, and the seeds of my cannabis plants are safely tucked away in jars. They, like me, are waiting for Spring. Welcome to the beginning of the 2021 Growing season! I hope you’ll grow your own cannabis victory garden this Spring.