Spanish grower's paradise
Twenty-four years ago, I moved to North America from Spain, where Franco the fascist was at the helm. Franco and his Guardia Civil were feared and loathed. They were similar to the DEA, jerks with automatic weapons and a power complex.
Today however, life is different in Spain, for much has changed and Spanish cannabis laws are much more tolerant.. Spanish law considers privacy more important than drug control, so people can grow and smoke whatever they like in the privacy of their own homes.
Ca?amo & Sativa
Two days after seeing copies of three new Spanish magazines, Ca?amo, Cogollo and High Espana! at the 1997 CannaBusiness show in Germany, I was on a plane to Barcelona, a city of 3 million located on the Iberian peninsula, just south of the French border on the Mediterranean Sea.
Gaspar, publisher of Ca?amo, met me at the airport. We were toking on a tasty sativa spliff before we got out of the parking lot.
A Grower's Paradise
Bordered on three sides by water, Spain is on the same latitude as southern Oregon and northern California. The sun shines virtually all year round in this grower's paradise. Even in the middle of the winter, the sun shines more days than not!
Coastal areas of the peninsula are buffered by a mild marine climate. Heat and low humidity dominate much of Spain's desert-like interior. The northern coastal zones from La Coruna to San Sebastian receive more rainfall than the interior or the Mediterranean coast. Growers in the Basque provinces to the north enjoy more rainfall and a milder climate similar to coastal southern Oregon.
Alex's Rooftop Garden
Our first stop was Alex's rooftop garden, located on one of the historic plazas in Barcelona. It was not really hidden at all; we could see the distinctive leaves of the rooftop garden from four stories below in the plaza. A few minutes later we were on Alex's roof, inspecting well-kept sativas in full flower.
"Interesting garden you have here, Alex," I said. "How did you get to this point?"
"Well Jorge, I'll tell you." said Alex, passing me the never-ending cone of sativa?
Egg Cartons & the Moon
"A day or two before the full moon in March, I soak the seeds in water up to 48 hours to soften them up and begin the germination process.
"On the full moon, I plant the sprouting seeds in egg cartons filled with soil. I plant one seed per compartment and poke holes in the bottom for drainage. A few days later, little plant tips have broken through the soil and are searching for sunlight.
"About two weeks later, I select the strongest plants to transplant out on the patio. My space is limited and I have to be careful and only grow the strongest plants.
"I like transplanting plants in cardboard egg cartons. It's easy. I cut each compartment with a plant in it from the egg carton. Then I transplant the entire container in another pot. There is no damage to the tender root ball and roots easily penetrate the moist cardboard. Remember to bury the entire egg carton. If it is not completely covered with soil, the egg carton will decompose very slowly.
"Once they are transplanted into a medium sized container, and are about 12 inches tall, I cover them every night so they receive exactly 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. About two weeks later, the males show themselves, and I am forced to sacrifice them.
"One day, I saw a seed in one of the buds. I knew there was a problem, but there were no macho plants in my garden. The pollen must have come from my neighbors' plants, most of them are growing and learning as they grow. I had to educate more than a dozen of my neighbors about male pollen. They did not know how to tell a male from a female plant.
"Next year we are forming a neighborhood committee to teach new growers about marijuana sex. I have to follow the Pope's advice here, abstention is the only way!"
"I decided to experiment with tall narrow containers and compare them to normal pots. The idea is that the roots will grow long, all the way to the bottom of the container. Water flows down and the roots follow. One of my friends grew this way last year; he said the plants don't suffer water stress and the containers take up less room. What he didn't tell me was the plants would be stunted in a container that got so hot it cooked the tender feeder roots.
"Now that we are close to harvest time, and I found that the tall containers do not work that well. The roots get too hot and the feeder roots don't grow very deep. The result is a stunted plant that does not produce as well as a plant in a larger container. Next year, I'm going to grow in 40-litre containers!"
On to the next garden
Great tour Alex, and thanks for the sativa spliffs!
Gaspar looked at me as the clock in the plaza chimed for the 12th time. "It's noon and we need to leave now so we can see a garden on the outskirts of the city. You'll like this one," he assured me as he opened the door to go.
On the way, Gaspar told me that growers in Spain plant from New Year's day through the end of June. One intrepid grower nursed a crop of clones under HID lights through the winter. He transplanted the foot-tall clones outdoors in late February when the days were short and the nights long. He harvested the sticky resinous crop in mid April. The grower also left about thirty percent of the foliage on the harvested crop, which helped them rejuvenate back to vegetative growth for a second, later harvest.
A Stand of Sativas
Twenty minutes later, we were standing in a 6 x 12 metre patio of 15-foot pot plants. Typical to Spanish architecture, the patio was surrounded on all four sides by the barn. Branches folded or snapped from the weight of the massive buds.
I couldn't believe my eyes. Before me was a stand of sativas that would land any poor American in jail for 10 lifetimes. But here, it's just another garden, and what a garden! This was too much for my first day back in Spain, and it wasn't even lunchtime yet.
The soil in Spain is predominately clay or rock, yet the soil in this garden was more fertile than most on the Iberian peninsula. Years before, the enclosure was a barnyard for livestock. The manure built up over the years, then the livestock left and the land lay fallow for some years, before it was cultivated and planted with a menagerie of Mexican, Colombian and Thai seeds.
I was totally amazed at the size of the garden and the plants. I couldn't help asking the owner why he didn't take better care of the garden. With a little work, it could produce at least fifty percent more. He replied, "The marijuana grows so well that all I do is plant the seeds in the spring, cut them down in the fall and hang them in the barn. I get 20 kilos of buds. I have a lot of friends and that's more than enough for us to smoke. We can't smoke any more."