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Growing Together – Grow Tips from Medical Cannabis Grower Mandy Gosselin

The first in a new series of blog posts aimed at sharing the experience and knowledge of long-term growers around the world with the Seedsman community.

Why do you grow and how did you get into it?

I have used cannabis for over 30 years now for recreational purposes, in social settings and to help with my anxiety. Seven years ago my husband started to have back pain. He ended up breaking one of the disks in his lower back that left him without the ability to stand well and he lost most of the function of one of his legs. He had to have surgery and the pain medication prescribed left him feeling sick, depressed, confused and empty. Cannabis was the best solution to help him manage the pain, stress, anxiety and mental anguish that came from the impact of what he was going through. From our very first tent, we’ve added on several, and have had cannabis growing every single day in our house for the past 6 years straight. I gave up my master bedroom to use as my main grow room. Recreational cannabis is legal in Canada and it is legal to grow 4 plants per home. However, my husband’s medical license means we can legally grow a lot more than that.

What is your favourite strain and why?

Hard question.  Recently I’ve been enjoying a delicious strain called Space Queen. A tasty citrus flavoured Sativa that I love to start my day off with.  It has the perfect flavour profile, loads of punch and fills me with energy to start my morning. It has a very positive and uplifting effect. I’ve recently grown Seedsman’s Blue Ice OG and that is also an amazing taste profile! fruity and citrus, I really enjoy anything that tastes of grapefruit. It’s a wonderful stress killing strain and works well at helping keep my anxiety at a low.

What is your preferred method of germination?

With feminised and regular seeds, I soak the seeds in a glass of water for 24 hours. I then take a paper towel and empty the water from the glass onto the paper towel. Squeeze the paper towel to remove some of the extra water so the paper towel is not too drenched. Place the seed in the middle of the paper towel, fold it in two and place in a plastic sandwich bag. Place the unsealed bag on a plate and place in a dark cupboard for 24 hours. At this point we have the germ ready to place in soil. Auto flower seeds I plant into a fabric pot, directly into the soil, about half an inch under the soil. Water the top and in a few days it breaks from the surface. I always germinate them in their finishing pot. 

What makes a good soil?

Something rich in organic matter that has a good light feel to it. Porosity is important, letting the water pass through the entire root system until it flows through the bottom. Perlite is often used to help with drainage but these types of ingredients also increase oxygen to the roots.

What are the key considerations when setting up a grow space?

Growing indoors you need to check your power supply. What do you have the capacity to run in this space?  There is a lot of equipment that requires power. Lights, fans, dehumidifier, humidifier, timers etc.  You don’t want the fuses blowing when the dehumidifier comes on for example.   A clean and accessible environment is essential. You don’t want any disease or insects getting into your plants. You need to be able to access the area daily.  A water supply is needed.  If you don’t have a water supply on site you need to come up with a plan to get some. Outside is a bit different. The sun is your power supply.  Privacy is important! I love my plants but I’ve heard too many good people lose their crop because of thieves. Water is essential. It doesn’t rain every day, you need to water those plants! Some plants do very well in full sun and others require a little shade. 

What are the most commonly encountered pests and what are your preferred methods of dealing with them?

Aphids and thrips.  I like to use an organic product called Bug B Gone as an IPM (weekly preventive spraying) in the vegetation stage. It’s an organic soap type spray that can also be used if you have an infestation. Outdoors I use predator insects like the Praying Mantis or Ladybugs for example. 

For indoor growing what is your favourite lighting system and why? 

LED all the way! Energy efficient, full spectrum, less heat, don’t have to replace any bulbs.  

What are the main things to know about humidity and temperature control, and what is your preferred kit for this job?

You need to be monitoring them closely! You can follow basic guidelines at what the optimal humidity and temperatures are in the grow tent through the different stages of growth but if you don’t control them things can go wrong.  A dehumidifier, air conditioning, fans, carbon filters and a small weather station to monitor the temperature and humidity are the right tools for the job.  

How do you decide when to harvest and do you stress the plants prior to harvest?

I keep the recommendations of the breeder in mind but I will use a microscope to check the trichome production.  Once the heads have turned white and a portion of them have begun to turn amber it’s time, and yes, I will stress the plant by putting it in darkness for 48 hours prior to chopping it down. 

How do you harvest, dry and cure your cannabis?

I chop my plant when the soil is dry, never after watering. I like to chop the entire plant down at the base, leaving it completely intact. I flip it upside down and hang it to dry. If the plant is too tall or large I will break it up into 2 or 3 large segments and hang them to dry. I have a designated room to hang my cannabis plants that is an ideal environment to dry in but I also will use a grow tent as an area to dry if needed. You need to dry cannabis in a well ventilated area with a stable temperature with the humidity sitting between 55 to 60%.

I leave my plants dry for a minimum of 10 days and check daily for any issues.  I think it’s important to check in on every aspect of your grow daily. It’s the only way you can really be on top of everything.  When the cannabis is dry you will notice the branches will snap when you bend them. They should not be mushy, you want them to snap.

I hand trim all my buds. I use a trim bin to catch all the kief that falls from the buds and collect that later. I remove all the large leaves to expose the buds, snip them off the branches and put them in glass amber jars. The amber jar keeps the flower in darkness.  I fill the jar to 75% capacity leaving room for air so the buds move around more easily and don’t stick together.

Going forward I will burp the jars once a day for 1 to 2 weeks. This is done by simply removing the top from the jar and leaving it air out for a few minutes before placing the lid back on. I like to roll my jar around a bit before I open them, the buds will move around easily if you left that small amount of empty space in the jar. After the first week or 2, I will burp the jars every 2 or 3 days for another week or 2 until I think the buds are perfect. The ideal humidity to cure is 60-65% and the temperature around 18-22 degrees Celsius. 

Organic or not? What is the difference?

Organic by preference. Just like food, you want to be consuming something healthy and organic is clean and healthy. Unless I make the inputs myself or they are from someone I know, I am not very trustworthy of the term organic. 

In your view is there a noticeable difference in effect (both recreational and therapeutic) between indoor and outdoor grown cannabis?

Not that I have noticed to be honest. 

What has been the hardest thing you have encountered during your growing years and how did you handle it?

The hardest was managing the grow tents alone while my husband, my grow partner, was in hospital for cancer. With 2 surgeries and an insane amount of hospital visits for testing, it was really hard to manage everything alone and balance full and half days at the hospitals. With several grow tents and plants in different stages and plants ready to trim, I rushed a lot and made it through with some beautiful cannabis and most importantly my husband kicked cancer’s butt! 

Knowing what you know now, what is the information you wish someone had given you when you had started out.

Make friends with people who grow. Growing cannabis is a labour of love and it is very rewarding. Having friends to share your grow experiences with can be both helpful and fun. If you don’t know anyone local,  social media sites like Instagram are great for meeting people who grow cannabis for medical and recreational reasons. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, most people are very open to helping others. Feminised photoperiods and auto’s would be a good starting point. New growers can sometimes have trouble identifying female from male plants. 

What are your top tips to someone starting out growing cannabis?

Do some research before you start so you know the basics like what time schedule to keep. Start small. Take the time to inspect your plants daily. Don’t be intimidated. Drying and curing is important.

Follow Mandy on Instagram

Cultivation information, and media is given for those of our clients who live in countries where cannabis cultivation is decriminalised or legal, or to those that operate within a licensed model. We encourage all readers to be aware of their local laws and to ensure they do not break them.

This post is also available in: French

Mandy Gosselin

I work in a veterinary clinic as an assistant and clinic supervisor. I grow medical cannabis with my husband. I love animals and have 2 dogs and 3 cats that share our home here in Quebec. I have a passion for growing cannabis plants, trying different strains and training techniques. I am currently learning more about extracts and how to make them. Making my own bubble hash, rosin, oil and butter.