2020 Isolation Grow: Summer Solstice

Jun 19, 20202020 Isolation Grow Blog

Prior to cannabis, prior to illness, and way, way before Covid-19, we used to have a Summer Solstice party. I’m sure some of you did, too. Remember going to a party? With lots of friends?

Solstice evokes memories, and awakens ghosts for me. There are many great moments associated with this day. There were Irish musicians playing outside by the fire and in the dining room from start to finish. When they were all playing together, about 20 or so in our dining room, it sounded like the roof was being raised. There were a lot of adults, and a great many children, giggling and scampering in the twilight, taking careful turns on the rope swing.

Summers hold a special place for me. Going all the way back to chasing fireflies in the Ozark mountains of Arkansas. At our parties, I attempted to emulate the fireflies with morphing lights placed all over the property that would turn on automatically at dusk and change colors all night.

The parties stopped after Karen became ill. It was too much work for us, and our priorities had changed. Solstice became a source of memories with a strong scent of melancholy.

The last couple of years have provided a different solstice experience. On the longest day of the year, we are now out in the beds until near dark, working. Solstice has become a day where I save work for that day, and especially for that evening. There is nothing like watching the longest day of the year in real time.

“There’s another hour of daylight left,” shouted the boxelder bug (in nymph stage). 

Evenings are unique around the time of solstice. Twilights are so long, and drawn out, it actually feels like the day is slowing down. There is also an overwhelming sense of deja vu. Has another year passed and we’re back in the garden again? Are those voices we hear from another party, or an echo from years gone? There is now joy in this feeling, where there had been bittersweet. For me, there is also the deeper sense of having evolved from one happy event to another. The two events are on a completely different scale, of course. One of our parties had approximately 150 people and a literal orchestra of Irish musicians. That party felt like it lasted days, (it was one loud night) and I periodically still find things left up our hill from the event.

Now, there is the quiet satisfaction of helping things grow, and providing both medicine and food from our labors. Now is the deep contentment of watching Karen working in the beds on her own, something she could not do for years.

On Summer Solstice, in our garden, everything slows down. The light is filtered through the far trees and lingers on each plant in the shadows. Karen shot this video in the twilight yesterday:

Solstice is a day I used to spend in revelry, and I now spend in reverence and quiet contemplation, with gratitude at our blessings, and dirt under my nails. 

I walk from plant to plant, touching and inspecting them, silently conveying my best intentions. I’ve got scissors, and the jar of honey is nearby, so the plants know pruning is likely. Today’s task is simple, begin pruning the bottom growth that is never going to become anything. It’s time to rid each plant of burdensome weight, and of low lying leaves sampled by slugs and other pests. When I remove low level growth, I’m also beginning to carve a path for any breeze to fully enter the inner region of each plant. I cannot emphasize the importance of this point enough, when you grow along the coast. We are used to coastal breezes, but it is essential for cannabis to have unimpeded air flow through each plant. Some are easier to accommodate than others, like AC/DC or Ringo’s Gift. A dense growing plant, like Bubba God or CBD God, requires inner pruning on a regular basis, to keep the inside open to whatever breeze passes by. The circulation helps keep the plants dry of active pathogens. Another tip is if you ever find a leaf on the plant with moisture on it in the middle of a warm day, carefully remove that leaf from the garden. That moisture is probably a pathogen, just looking to spill and spread.

Solstice is also a day for taking stock of each plant. They have another six weeks of critical veg growth time, before the sun begins to slip back behind the trees on our southern hill, and each plant starts to move into the flowering zone. 

On Solstice, the plants are still relatively young. They are approximately just past one third of their way to harvest. The most dramatic sustained growing period has only begun. Before plants become comically large, it is good to take stock, acknowledge what looks good, and honestly assess any concerns.

I have four AC/DC, and these are the slowest to take off. They are growing like true ruderalis, tall, thin, wiry, and very spread out. Two of the four attempted to flower and had to be stripped of any semblance or hair of flowering growth. They have both returned to veg growth, but they are having to find new paths to grow. It takes a couple of weeks for early flowering plants to fully adjust back to veg growth. Two have not attempted to flower. One of those is growing slowly, but steadily, and looks quite healthy. One them, the oldest, looks like this:

She was only recently topped, so her spreading out has just begun. I anticipate the next month will be very active for this plant. The weird, sort of papery first fan leaves are not untypical of early growing ruderalis. I’ve seen the same thing in early growth from Sour Tsunami and Harle-Tsu. More vibrant and typical leaves are beginning to emerge. I am constantly reminded that growing half ruderalis plants are completely unlike the more typical high THC cultivar. A huge advantage to these plants is the amount of space between branches. It makes for a plant that is much easier to maintain. It also makes pruning easier. The branches to remove become obvious.

The same branch space advantage can be attributed to Ringo’s Gift. The one that did not try to flower is the tallest plant in the beds by a large margin. I know Ringo’s Gift grows well here. But this one is a sprinter. Because they are such different plants, these ruderalis take a bit less time for care. Not all ruderalis is like this. The Sour Tsunami I’m growing, as well as the CBD God, are high maintenance plants. But a cultivar like AC/DC, which is half ruderalis, grows like no other plant I’ve grown. Watching her fill out will be a treat.

Shiatsu Kush also attempted to flower, but is back to veg growth now, and is looking fine. Same with Bubba God, which tried harder than any other THC plant to flower, but is now happily back into veg growth. 

For those of you who have problems with early flowering plants, I hope you notice how casual I am about turning these back into veg growing plants. Using the tea as described, it’s simple. Brenden can tell you that I used to STRESS over this. Not anymore.

Both Rainbow Kush are sprinting. I topped one of them yesterday, and the other one last week. We are expecting both of them to be giants; especially the one in bed 16. That bed has produced the two tallest plants we’ve ever grown. The more this plant gets used, the more all of us enjoy her. Rainbow Kush is a lovely, balanced plant, with a true medical terpene profile. 

Sour Tsunami is looking happier and healthier than last year, when she attempted to flower early. This year, she is growing perfectly, and I’m grateful to know we’re growing a CBD plant with a fair amount of THC. This cultivar can vary from seed to seed. It can be a high CBD/low THC plant, or it can be close to a 1:1 ratio. Last year’s test showed close to a 3:1 ratio.

In general, I’m thrilled with the state of most of the plants. I’m confident the AC/DC are about to settle into their long period of growth. These are auto flowering plants, so some might not be harvested until November. Patience is important for any gardener; especially so when growing ruderalis. Despite the size of some of the other plants, when I look at AC/DC, I’m reminded that it’s still early in the growing season.

Summer Solstice is one of my favorite days, and long twilights are one of my favorite things. As a writer, I’m more comfortable in the shadows, the barely seen spots, the places where secrets flourish. It’s more interesting than what is obvious under the sun.

Solstice brings out the poet in my soul, even if I’m unable to access the right words. Ordinarily, this would frustrate me, but not on this day. I like being able to linger in the loam, to listen and witness, notice and feel, rather than note and pass on, like most day to day events.

As I get older, summer days are precious to me. So much around me has sped up, and I understand this is the way of things, the natural order, and so forth. I accept this, but cherish the sweet moments, especially Summer Solstice, when the day stretches out like a dream or slow play flashback, and life seems to ramp down for a few precious hours, to my pace.

85 ℉ 43% Humidity

Jeffrey Hickey
Oaksterdam Alumni

Jeffrey Hickey is a 2014 IPPY award winning novelist, performing in over 900 Reader’s Theater shows that featured his authorship of adult novels, and books for children. His accomplishments include a program of self-empowerment and effective oral communication, “Find Your Voice,” that he taught in public and private schools throughout Northern California. Jeffrey is the father of twin sons, and is arguably the happiest married man on the planet.