CJ Jones, a secretive fellow with sixteen years of growing experience, is the paid caretaker of 950 plants in a jam-packed two-room garden in British Columbia. The first room is 140 square feet, while the second room is 256 square feet, and both have 8-foot ceilings. Twelve 1,000-watt High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lights are in the larger room and eight are in the other.
The Purple Kush plants in these photos are exactly fifty days into flowering, and were harvested the next day. CJ claims the strain Purple Kush tops out at 1.2 pounds per light and he gets $2,900 a pound. “Hash Plant puts out much more weight than Purple Kush, but the market is saturated with Hash Plant right now so you only get $1,800 to $2,000 a pound. I get considerably more with this Kush.” However, Purple Kush is starting to saturate the market too, so he plans to switch strains again. “There’s great demand for Jack Herer, but it’s more challenging to grow and takes seventy days to finish, whereas this Purple Kush needs only fifty. But high-quality Jack Herer is rare in the market right now so I’ve decided to put nearly a thousand Herer clones into the rooms after I’ve harvested the Kush. It will be worth investing the extra twenty days required to finish, because it’ll fetch a higher price than Hash Plant or Purple Kush.”
The plants are grown in Sunshine Mix #4 soil medium. “I learned aeroponics and hydroponics,” CJ explains, “but decided soil is the most reliable and forgiving grow medium. I never ran into a problem that I couldn’t remedy with plants in soil, while I lost entire crops with other methods.”
CJ alternates between water one day and nutrient solution the next. He has used Sensi Bloom A and B nutrients from Advanced Nutrients® for four years, but this crop of Purple Kush was grown with a new Advanced Nutrients product called Ultra-premium Connoisseur A and B. As such, CJ had to reconfigure how much nutrient in parts per million (ppm) his plants would need. “ I used Sensi A and B at 1,600 ppm in the nutrient solution, but Connoisseur hits harder so it’s around 850-900 ppm. And you get big bang for the buck: I usually spend over $2,000 on food for a twenty-light crop, but with Connoisseur I only needed half the volume so I cut my cost to $1,000,” he boasts.
CJ has some advice for trying new nutrients. “I recommend aiming low with the nutrient ppm when you start growing, especially when you’re growing an unfamiliar strain. I’ve certainly burned and killed a few plants in years gone past, but it always happened when I was trying a new strain,” CJ explained. “It takes about three crops to really understand how much nutrient a specific strain can absorb at the right time and what brings out optimum growth. So whenever I try different strains I learn all about the characteristics and try to be a neutral influence. I only begin minor nutrient tinkering and experiments with the second crop, and if I think the third crop has potential to be incredible, I pump up the nutrients. I always finish with an eight-day flush before I harvest.”
When I asked CJ if he thought the rooms were overly crowded (there are no aisles) he conceded, “this sea-of-green is not my preference for growing, but that’s where my partners got their way.” He has a few complaints about the method used. “The plants are jammed so tightly together it takes a lot more work to water and maintain, and they don’t get rotated. There’s also a lot of moisture in this many plants and it’s a challenge to keep mold-causing humidity levels from rising in the final three weeks, so we’re at greater risk of getting powdery mildew. You really need great air circulation to combat that.”
This set-up has a unique air circula-tion system. Most growers have an “open air exchange” ventilation system, which means they bring air in from outdoors via vents and fans to let it circulate throughout the room, then it passes through a carbon filter before being exhausted outdoors. These two rooms, however, utilize a “closed air exchange” system in which the air never leaves the space. Each room contains a 6-inch inline air fan and a 3-ton industrial air conditioner. A 6-foot metal can carbon filter cleans the air as it moves throughout the two rooms and the air conditioners, meaning no fresh air needs to be brought in from outdoors. One CO2 burner set for 1,100 ppm feeds both rooms and runs 24 hours a day. CJ balances the temperature at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. In the fourth and fifth week of flowering, he raises the CO2 levels to 1,300 ppm until the temperature gets to 82 degrees. As for dealing with problems like bugs, “I use Neem Tree oil with complete success.”
CJ is like a few other growers in that he plays music for the plants regularly, mostly
classic rock radio. He’s also a man on the move, staying in any given location for two years at most before finding a new place to grow. I asked him how he first got involved with cannabis and growing. “In high school I smoked weed, then I started to grow it. There were 2,600 students in my school, and at the age of 16 I was making a lot of money selling them my pot. Soon I was moving over ten pounds of weed per week, and could sell up to three pounds per day to students alone.” Like any smart businessman, he also made sure he had inside connections: “I supplied my own high school principal with pot, so he gave me warnings when the police were coming to search students for drugs!”