Newspaper Attempts to Explain Marijuana Growing
A highly entertaining article appeared in The Willits News yesterday and quickly moved to the top of their "most viewed" story list.
The article, written by Linda Williams, takes a stab at explaining typical marijuana plant yields and growing techniques, but unfortunately leaves out a lot of information. Also, we were greatly disappointed that no photo of any kind was included with the online version of this story.
Williams writes about the differences between indoor and outdoor growing, stating that outdoor plants have higher individual yields than typical indoor plants, which is generally true. She says that in recent years outdoor growers have been moving their gardens out into the open more frequently to take advantage of full sunlight conditions. This used to be a big no-no, because it was common practice to attempt to hide outdoor gardens from the DEA and CAMP helicopters, but once everyone realized that these agencies are using infrared signatures and other high-tech tools to identify marijuana plants from the air, it made little sense to continue planting crops inside manzanita bushes and underneath cammo netting.
So it's out in the open these days, with some growers clearing entire mountaintops and cultivating hundreds of gigantic pot plants without any concealment. They figure that with so many thousands of outdoor growers in the state, CAMP can only bust a small percentage of them each year, so it's safety in numbers all the way. One Willits career grower who has been operating a large outdoor garden for nearly 30 years was raided by CAMP in 2005, but the end result was little more than the loss of his crop. No arrest, no search warrant, no follow-up of any kind, and the very next year he simply tried again and succeeded. It seems that, while CAMP and the DEA seem to be aware of nearly every outdoor garden in the state, they pick and choose which to raid, and rarely raid the same garden twice.
Anyway, back to Linda's Willits News story. She explains that, in Humboldt County, growers with Prop 215 recommendations are legally entitled to 100 square feet of canopy, but no more than 99 total plants. And here's the news to us: No more than 1500 watts of light! Does anyone in this county actually garden under less than 4000 watts of HID lighting? Maybe now that 600W digital ballast technology is stable, some growers may garden with just 2400 total watts, but seriously, most 215 patients are unable to grow enough medicine under 1500 watts to actually support their needs. Especially when the cost of electricity, garden supplies, and especially rent forces most growers to sell at least part of their harvest to cover the extreme expense of growing marijuana in Humboldt County.
And let's talk about electricity costs for a moment. PG&E charges residential customers depending on their home's "baseline" usage. This means that they use square footage, number of appliances, and perhaps some other criteria to determine how much electricity a given residence should be using. Once the customer burns through that baseline quantity, the rates start to increase dramatically. Once you burn up 3 times your allotted baseline amount, the price per kilowatthour more than triples to 37 cents in the Eureka/Arcata area. If you own a personal computer, you probably exceed the baseline quantity each month. If you have a 2400 watt marijuana garden in your spare bedroom, your energy costs per month are over $500, sometimes double that depending on how efficient your garden schedule is and your non-garden energy usage.
Why does PG&E triple the price of electricity for high-use customers? And why is the baseline allotment so low that running a personal computer bumps us over the limit? Because they know they can get away with it. Growers aren't going to say anything, and every last one of them pays the high prices without complaint, because they don't want to bring attention to their gardens. It's a big time grow tax, and PG&E is cleaning up with it. Unfortunately this forces medical growers to sell major portions of their harvests to cover the high electricity costs, which means growing more, which means buying more electricity, which quickly turns into a vicious cycle.
Just another aspect of the marijuana economy here. We sure hope that PG&E is doing something for the community with that triple-cost power money. At least there haven't been as many massive blackouts in Humboldt since the typhoon of 2006.
Anyway, back to pot plant yields. Yes, some people get a pound or more per plant growing outdoors, but indoor is a much different story. Indoor growers are forever chasing the "pound-per-light" goal, that is, trying to get 1 pound for every 1000W lamp per grow cycle. Some growers pull it off, but in general this yield is not realized in normal gardens. Instead, smart growers try to speed up their grow cycle times to get more harvests in shorter periods, thereby gaining higher overall yields from their gardens by doing more turnovers per year. Typical yields per 1000 watts? Half to three-quarters of a pound is probably normal for the average indoor grower. Those who do actually get one pound per light are likely operating their gardens on 3-month cycles, which means they are only realizing four grows per year. Shorten the length of the cycle and you can get higher annual production despite lower individual cycle yields.
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