Sundberg described living soil, which has active microorganisms in it, as a major game changer. Compost, mulch and worm castings can be found at the Arizona Worm Farm in Phoenix.
Quality of water can make a difference in the quality of flowers. It’s worth filling up a jug of distilled or purified water at one of the various water dispensers around town to use specifically for your plants, rather than use tap water, Sundberg said.
Indoors, cannabis thrives best in full spectrum light similar to sunlight, so a standard incandescent bulb won’t cut it, Wylie said. He recommended starting off with an inexpensive light made for growing. Sea of Green Hydrogardens in Tempe sells various grow lights.
Where is the best place to grow my cannabis plant?
People can grow plants from seeds or cuttings off an existing plant, also known as clones. Sundberg said cuttings are a gray area because it’s unclear whether a cutting that hasn’t taken root yet is counted as part of the six or 12 plants Arizonans are allowed to grow.
But like growing any plant, it can be easy to overthink it, he said.
“I warn people… crawl before you walk,” Wylie said. “Learn to get your plant to grow all the way to fruition, harvest it, dry it, cure it. Then you can build from there. Don’t run out and buy thousands of dollars of equipment.”
How often should I water my plant?
Wylie said that after switching to the 12 hours light, 12 hours darkness stage, it takes about 50 to 60 days until it’s time to harvest. People can additionally purchase an inexpensive jeweler’s loupe if they want to look at the trichomes, or crystals, on the flowers. The plant will be ready to harvest when the majority of the trichome caps turn from translucent to milky-looking and about 10% of the caps turn an amber color. The plant can still be harvested a little earlier or later, however.
Some people use grow tents, which look like black boxes, but cannabis can really be grown most places as long as people are able to adapt to the environment, Sundberg said.
In 2013, the city declared a fiscal emergency to avoid filing for Chapter 9 for a second time, the Los Angeles Times reported. The city had emerged from its first bankruptcy filing in 2004, but less than 10 years later its reserves were dwindling again after an economic downturn and decreased development.
Gold Flora owns and operates five warehouse-size buildings, some of which are rented to other cannabis businesses. The sprawling campus, covering about 23 city blocks, was built from the ground up.
Last year the industry contributed more than $4 million to city revenue, overtaking real estate as the biggest generator of tax profit, Matas said. City officials anticipate an even higher revenue stream from cannabis businesses this year.
A city brought back from the brink
The tax revenue has already helped to pay for a new City Hall, a library and roads, as well as more police officers. Housing developers eye the area as jobs attract more people to the desert. Residents also benefit from the boom — of about 29,000 residents, at least 2,300 work in the cannabis industry, Wilms said.
Neighboring Palm Springs, with its rows of midcentury modern homes and golf courses, has already capitalized on the tourism side of cannabis. Retail stores and consumption sites are sprinkled among clothing stores and spas. Last month, the latest cannabis dispensary and lounge opened in an old bank building following $1 million of renovations. On Mother’s Day, the Four Twenty Bank — a dispensary lounge, not a bank — offered all moms who visited free flowers, according to its website.
A new industry blossoms
“The city has been awesome to work with,” said Holcomb of Gold Flora. “You have to remember that four to five years ago, people didn’t want to touch [cannabis], but Desert Hot Springs had the foresight to enter the industry early on.”
“There was really no reason to cross the [Interstate] 10,” Matas said. “People ignored the north side of the freeway for so long.”
The first outdoor desert cannabis cultivation operation in Nevada just finished harvesting its second crop. This operation utilizes a fully enclosed mesh tent with dirt floors and no lighting system. This kind of structure has a capital expenditure of around $17 per sq. ft. (most costs are specialized cannabis security needs) and can only do one or two crops a year with growing costs of around $150 per pound. The recent results have shown THC levels between 13-23 per cent, around 24 per cent total cannabinoid count, and total terpenes around 10-15 mg/g.
Despite deserts being inhospitable environments for growing plants, the right greenhouse can facilitate exceptional cannabis cultivation in a challenging desert environment, so long as there is plenty of water.
Hybrid greenhouses incorporate a style of cultivation that combines tightly controlled indoor growing conditions and the natural abundance of sunlight offered to outdoor growing. These designs are typically very high-tech and provide for the ability to control all aspects of the environment, which in turn allows for higher, more sensitive genetics to be cultivated. Data is also easier to accumulate and analyze since the environment is more stabilized.
These designs are exhibiting THC levels historically around 14-24 per cent, with around 26 per cent total cannabinoid counts and terpene profiles that show promise around 12-18 mg/g. These grows have traditional greenhouse wet-pad and heating systems to combat the 115°F heat and 32°F-cold to control the environment properly. They also have the traditional door entrances and pad walls open to the outside. All these traditional structures are more than an hour drive from Las Vegas and are located over the third-largest aquifer in the US, so free water is clearly a large benefit which more than offsets any additional IPM needed deeper into the Mojave. They also require long drives and/or specialized housing for growers and employees.
Traditional Greenhouse Operations
Deserts cover approximately one fifth of the Earth’s surface. When most people think of deserts, they picture large sand dunes and camels like those of the Sahara, but in fact, there are four types of deserts: subtropical deserts, coastal deserts, cold winter deserts, and polar deserts. In the US, all the deserts — the Chihuahuan, Sonoran, Mojave, and Great Basin — are considered subtropical. Subtropical deserts are categorically dry year-round and can get to deathly high temperatures during peak summer months. Rainfall happens rarely and usually only in short bursts. The soil in subtropical deserts is usually either sandy or coarse and rocky and very warm.
Of the few traditional greenhouse operations originally built in the Mojave, all exhibit traditional poly-film and polycarbonate roofs with aluminum side walls. With a capital expense that ranges from roughly $50 to $100 per sq. ft. and around $400 per pound in costs. These structures can achieve perpetual harvest schedules with their lighting grids and blackout curtains.
After their first summer grow, they have proven that simple mesh can protect the plants from the harsh summer sun, regular 30-90 mph wind storms that occur in the deep desert, and most importantly, that cannabinoids can be produced under extreme heat and cold night conditions with no environmentals. The first cycle occurred from May to November, and they are gearing up for a winter 2020 cycle, which will be interesting to see the results. For this style grow, the IPM is constant and heavy. The same antifungals and preventative pest maintenance, plus addition of beneficials, exist like the traditional greenhouse growers. With a great IPM and pre-drying cleaning protocol, passing results can indeed be achieved with a highly simplified structure practically open to all elements.
Hybrid Greenhouse Operations
Since Nevada legalized adult-use cannabis in 2016, growers in Las Vegas have consistently been proving that potent indoor strains of cannabis can be cultivated and nurtured in a harsh desert environment. Las Vegas is home to the first pioneers of desert greenhouse cannabis growing in the world. These pioneers include hybrid greenhouse projects, traditional greenhouse projects, and an outdoor-style, mesh-tent grow. All these operations are currently cultivating top-shelf cannabis in the Mojave.
Las Vegas is also home to the most stringent cannabis testing rules on molds and contaminates. Even though the dry environment of the Mojave has geographically low mold counts, we still have airborne molds with June being the high season. Las Vegas also has pests that can smell the sweet cannabis and water for miles, so proper camouflage, treatment, and beneficial microbes need consistent applications. Hybrid greenhouses use technology mostly to combat these.