The Long Game: Intro to Home Grow

Apr 11, 2022 | Blog, News

We are proud to introduce our newest course, Home Grow. The course was developed by expert home grower Jeff Hickey, an Oaksterdam alumnus who has chronicled his grows the past two years for our Oaksterdam blog. Here, read Jeff’s intro to our new course: 

I walked into Oaksterdam University for the first time in January of 2016. I was nervous while I looked around the classroom. A gentleman closer to my age stepped toward me and asked, “What brings you here?”

My answer was vague while being completely on point, “I need help.”

My wife, Karen, was sick, and we had begun an unexpected journey in our life together, with an uncertain future. 

We had decided that I was going to learn how to grow the medical cannabis she needed, and she was going to learn how to process that cannabis into pills and tinctures. We were both in our 50s at the time, and we were going to build our very own cannabis dispensary, but not one where there were products for sale. Instead, we would be making medicine to give to our family, our friends, and ourselves. We realized early in the process that it was not financially sustainable to buy the amount of cannabis we needed — we had to grow.

We were going to learn as fast as we could, but the process was going to play out without any consideration of our hurry. Learning to grow this plant at your home is going to be defined by an arc of progress. What you learn here will amaze you, but won’t be anything compared to when you’ve grown on your own for two or three years. And after five years, you’ll laugh at how little you knew after two or three years. At least, that was my experience. 

For all of you right now, newcomers to growing cannabis, allow me this observation: True gardeners are in this for the long game. It’s not about what we’re growing now, it’s more about how and what we’ll be growing in the future.

For me, the long game has been six years of working our soil into its best form. I’m never satisfied with what we’ve done. I am constantly looking for the next step in creating the best possible growing mediums, and then growing the cleanest and most potent medicine.

Mostly, the long game represents each individual step — and misstep — made along the way. The long game is recognizing and reacting to problems in the soil that prevent proper growth, and understanding that the solutions will take whatever time they need. When my garden started with sticky soil, we went all in on root vegetables for years. Lots of radishes to start, moving into turnips, parsnips and carrots. We needed plants that would begin the work of breaking up the stickiness of the soil. 

Getting your garden in its best possible shape is the practical definition of the long game. Another part of growing for the long game is understanding the relationship between what you grow, and everything growing around you. It’s not getting discouraged and stopping when something doesn’t work out well the first time, or the second. This holds true for any plant you try to cultivate, not just cannabis. It took years for me to find the right tomatoes for where I live. That means I grew a lot of tomatoes that did not turn out well. Like every single yellow tomato.

Instead of giving up, it is better to discover and correct the problem, even if it takes years to do so. That’s the long game.

Every year what we’ve grown has brought us joy and hope in each harvest. At the end of each growing season, I look through all my notes, and decide what I’m going to grow next year. I don’t wait until next year to decide — my garden for next season is already planned once this year’s plants start coming down. I already know what I’m going to focus on, and am making plans to facilitate my goal. I put out feelers for the specific cultivars I’d like to grow, and I have the time to be as careful as I can be about sourcing the seeds I’m going to use. 

The long game involves research and leg work. You should learn about the plants that grow well around you. Knowing this will help you choose the best plants to grow. Learning about what grows around you, going into the history of your region, will give you vital clues about what grows best where you live, and insight into the best techniques for growing there.

The long game is opening your ears and listening to what other farmers are doing where you grow. Even if their method of farming is different from yours, they have been growing in your part of the world far longer than you. They possibly have local knowledge that could prove to be vital to the success of your grow. A question I ask any local grower I meet is, “When do you start your plants? When do you move them outside?” Local knowledge for something like that could save you from having a bunch of young cannabis plants try to flower too soon. The long game is opening your mind to the remarkable resources and solutions to your growing problems that are all around you.

Mostly, the long game is about acquiring and maintaining a patient, steady approach to gardening. The perfect garden is not going to happen overnight. It requires time, and consistency. Good gardening is like any discipline. The rules and strategies must first be learned before they can be applied. Learning can be frustrating, but in the long game, learning is actually a source of joy. Solutions take time. Applying those solutions takes more time. Waiting to see if the solutions work means you can’t hurry the process.  

I took a lot of notes the first two years, and I read a ton. I’m still reading a lot, but my need for notes has diminished. Every step in the process is now committed to memory in a reflexive way. The timing, the duration, the goals, the problems, and the solutions. These are issues of the long game. When you embrace this process, you gradually come to understand you are actually doing this for the benefits of the process, as much as the vegetables or cannabis you actually harvest. 

To become a good, mindful gardener is a lifelong pursuit. No matter what you harvest, each year of growing brings more accumulated knowledge. Every plant has special needs. You are going to make mistakes. You are going to blow it. Just keep gardening. The process of growing, if done mindfully, will improve you as a person throughout this long game we call life.

Welcome to the Home Grow Course at Oaksterdam University!

Learn more about our Home Grow course or enroll here.

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