Welcome to the world of legal recreational cultivation, Michigan and Illinois! While all closets might be created the same, outdoor conditions vary greatly by region. Knowing the specifics of your climate will go a long way in your success as a grower.
Know your local homegrow laws
Michigan went legal on December 1, 2019. Michiganders 21 and up can grow 12 plants at their residence—if multiple people live in a house, there can still only be 12 total. Plants have to be out of sight from the public and in an enclosed area that can be locked, even if it’s outside.
On January 1, 2020, cannabis goes legal in Illinois. As the law currently stands, only medical cannabis patients will be allowed to grow at home—and only five plants at a time—so you’ll still need a medical marijuana card to homegrow, even though pot’s legal to buy for folks 21 and up. There will be a civil penalty of $200 for anyone growing up to five plants without a medical card.
Check your frost dates
Weed is a warm-season annual. Frost kills it, making your region’s frost dates—first and last—of utmost importance. You’ll want to pop seeds indoors while it’s still too cold outside and have the seedlings ready to go into the ground once all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed some.
If this sounds daunting, don’t sweat it: The crop that weed most closely lines up with in terms of planting time is tomatoes. When in doubt, consult the Farmer’s Almanac guidelines for sowing tomatoes in your region and use those dates as a guide. In the Midwest, you’re looking at starting seeds indoors sometime in March and getting them into the ground sometime early to mid-May.
Choose seeds and clones suited to a northern climate
Certain cannabis varieties evolved in equatorial climates—typically sativas—meaning they can take an extra long time to finish (before their flowers are ready for harvest). Other varieties hail from harsher, northern climates, and finish before the frost arrives, typically indicas.
While pretty much every cultivar you get your hands on these days is a hybrid of these two, look for any clues in the description that points to “early finishing.” This helps in a climate where eventual frost will happen without a doubt.
Understand the impact of humidity
The Great Lakes and Midwest regions are known for hot, muggy summers. While this is less of an issue during the early part of the growing season, it can be troublesome come flowering time because buds are susceptible to mold.
A few things you can do to mitigate problems include making very certain your plants are sown in a spot in your garden where they’ll get the fullest amount of sun—at least six hours of direct sunlight a day, with plenty of breathing room in between them to allow for air circulation. Also, use drip irrigation instead of overhead watering.
Brace for thunderstorms and wind
Wild storms are a part of life in the Great Lakes and Midwest. To help see your plants through, consider the following tips.
Cage or trellis your plants at planting time. While they seem itty bitty when they go in the ground, those ladies will grow to be large and in charge, not to mention heavy, as they begin to flower. Strong winds have a lot less of a chance to knock them over or break branches if a plant is supported properly.
Also, consider placing a few tall stakes around the perimeter of each plant, so you’re ready to drape a tarp or canvas over them should hail be in the forecast. This security blanket will help prevent damage.
Keep pests—big and small—at bay
While we’re massive fans of gardening outdoors, it’s true that cultivating outside puts you in close contact with other of Mother Nature’s glorious creatures.
If deer are an issue in your locale, grow your crop behind a deer fence. Cats go a long way in deterring gophers and other rodents. If you’ve not got one on hand, consider sinking cannabis plants into gopher cages at planting time.
Handpicking slugs and snails in their shady daytime hideouts is your best bet for squashing them.
Use blasts of water to rid plants of aphids, and be diligent—you might have to do this several times.
Lastly, applications of neem oil help with infestations of spider mites, white flies, and fungus gnats. It’s a great organic option for the garden. But we definitely advocate a less-is-more approach to pest control.
Give your plants optimal conditions from the start—full sun, healthy soil, the right amount of water—and you will be less likely to battle bugs. Remember that anything you put on your plant might make it into your eventual crop, so be careful with any chemicals.
Most cultivars are ready to harvest between September and October. While weed can survive a light freeze (28-32°F for up to three hours) with no trouble, a hard freeze, any lower temps or longer hours, will kill it.
If a hard freeze in the forecast, cut your losses and harvest your crop even if it’s not fully finished. If humidity is nuts when it’s time to harvest, you could get a little crazy and haul box fans powered by extension cords out to your garden and dry things out a bit before you chop. It’s certainly not pretty, but we’ve absolutely seen it done.