How to grow Dagga in South Africa
Since the recent high court ruling in mid-2018, Cannabis Sativa aka Dagga has been legalized to possess, consume and cultivate privately, at home. This signals a massive change in South Africa and introduces the possibility of a full-scale weed industry in the country.
Now, while this is the case, it’s still technically illegal to buy or sell dagga. The framework for the sale of the plant has not yet been laid out, and while some parts of the plant such as a CBD extract are legal to sell, good old simple dagga isn’t yet.
Thus, one of the best and easiest ways to get your hands on some is by growing it yourself. South Africa has one of the best climates for growing worldwide, with an average of 300 sunny days in a year, meaning you can grow a lot further into autumn and winter than most other countries.
We’ve put together this guide to help you learn how to grow weed at home, outdoors, using our idyllic climate to the best of its potential. While indoor growing allows for a much finer quality control, as well as more accurate growing conditions, outdoors is a great way to start off, and a sworn by method for many. You’ll find that even the highest quality dagga seeds get their own extra little twist when grown outdoors. Now let’s get down to business.
What you need to grow Dagga in South Africa
There’s not much you need when you’re growing outdoors in South Africa. The climate is perfect, and in most places, the tap water is ideal for watering plants.
We’ve put together a list of all the items and tools you’ll need for the duration of your growing process to produce lovely organic buds, outdoors, at home:
- Cannabis Seeds
- 1-2m2 of ground for each plant
- Some good soil
- A source of water
- Bamboo Stakes and string (optional)
- pH strips
- Molasses, Coffee Grounds and Manure
- A clean pair of clippers, and a small pair of fine-nosed scissors
- The usual gardening tools (trowel, gardening-fork etc)
The size of the plot you’re growing on can be smaller than what’s listed here, however, if you want to grow big plants, 1-2m2 is ideal.
The optional Bamboo Stakes and string are for training your plant – essentially making it grow how you want it to. This is a good way to increase your yield in trying conditions, and while not necessary, you may want to give it a shot on just one or two of the plants in your crop.
We’re going to use molasses, coffee grounds and manure to create a natural nutrient mix that the plants will love, and that won’t add any chemical compounds to your smoke that you’re not looking for. Molasses naturally has the perfect N-P-K ratio for cannabis plants (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium), while coffee grounds and manure help with a number of other nutrients that the plants love.
A look at the Cannabis Seeds South Africa has to offer
There are a number of options to look at when growing from seed. One of the easiest ways to go is to simply pick some seeds out of your favourite bud, keeping in mind that these seeds will not always produce the highest quality plants. At times this route may even have a low yield rate too – it all depends on what you’re smoking.
There are a number of baby seed suppliers in South Africa, but your best bet is to order online from an established supplier in a legalized country such as Amsterdam or Colorado.
This way, you’ll be able to pick your strain, find out exactly what conditions the plant best grows in, what the THC/CBD content average is, as well as the flowering time and size of the plant. Picking a common or popular strain, that many others are growing, will also give you the ability to ask around for advice pertaining to your particular plant if issues should arise.
Here are some strains we’d recommend for first time, or casual growers in SA:
- Durban Poison (Landrace Sativa)
- Cheese (Indica Dominant Hybrid)
- OG Kush (Indica Dominant Hybrid)
- Cannatonic (Unique Hybrid Strain)
- CD1 (CBD Strain)
- Girl Scout Cookies (Hybrid)
- Charlotte’s Web (CBD Strain)
These strains are easy to grow when bought auto-feminized and will each have a plethora of information online from growers around the world on how to grow cannabis of these particular strains.
Using a Grow Tent in South Africa, outdoors
While most prefer to grow naturally under the sun, or under shade cloth, using a grow tent outdoors can be beneficial should you wish to give it a try.
It allows for easier capturing of humidity, allowing the plant to stay warmer at night and not dry out. Grow tents also have the obvious bonus of preventing many bugs from getting to the plant. It’s also a nice way to keep the plant out of sight should you prefer visitors not to know you’re growing.
How to Grow Dagga at home in South Africa
Growing is pretty straightforward and simple, but at the same time, there are a number of challenges one can face. So, we’ve outlined this guide in the simplest possible manner so you can preemptively know what you’re doing, and do it right. This way, you should avoid any serious issues that might occur during your growing process.
Let’s get started.
The Seedling Stage
During this first stage of the plant’s life, we’re trying to root out our bad seeds, and get the good ones started right. One can simply plant seeds in the ground and hope for the best, but germinating them ensures that far more of the seeds you plant will see daylight the full way through to flower.
How to Germinate Weed Seeds
Germinating dagga seeds is really simple – akin to those bean-in-a-jar projects you probably did when you were very young in school. You’ll need:
- Two plates
- Tissue Paper
Firstly, place some tissue paper on a plate and dampen it. Don’t wet it too much, think freshly watered soil – you want to rather have the option of adding water later rather than adding too much from the start.
Next, place your seeds on the moist tissue paper, and fold it over, enclosing them. Place the other plate upside-down on top of your prepared plate, making a seed sandwich.
Your seedlings will germinate best in a warm-ish, moist and dark environment (yes, like the ground during spring!). Check them every 2-3 days to see their progress.
Finally, once the taproot shows (a small white root, which will end up being the main root of your plant), and is around 2cm long, your seedling is ready for transplant.
Transplanting your Seedlings
Poke a hole with your finger or a clean pencil into the ground where you will be planting your seed, and drop it in the whole, around 2cm deep. Cover it with a little bit of soil and pat it down gently.
It’s normal to have a few seeds not make it through, and a few more that take a little longer to pop up, but you should see your seedling emerge in the next week.
Once the first pair of curled, trademark leaves start to show, you’ve entered the vegetative stage.
The Vegetative Stage
During this stage, your plant is going to spend its life growing and preparing itself for flower. It will grow the most during the vegetative stage, and this stage naturally happens when the days are longer and nights are shorter (ie. late spring through summer). The indoor specifications for vegetative lighting, for comparison, are usually eighteen hours of daylight, and six hours of night.
It’s also here where we’ll start adding some nutrients. Start slowly at first, with maybe a teaspoon of molasses and a tablespoon of coffee grounds, with a handful of manure left for at least 24 hours in a bucket of 4l of water.
Once this mixture begins to ferment a little, it makes for the perfect plant food. You don’t want to give your plants nutrient burn (when they’re getting too many nutrients too young/small), so alternate with your nutrients only using them once or twice a week as opposed to normal water.
You should only use full strength nutrients when your plant is showing signs of nutrient deficiency.
Trimming / Cropping
There are a number of methods that many growers use to increase the yield and shape of their plants. All of these methods center around shaping the plant so it grows wider instead of taller, allowing for more surface area to suck up those rays of sun that these plants so crave.
Some of these cropping methods, in short, are as follows:
- Low-Stress Training: This is a very simple method, similar to how many people treat their tomato plants. Simply bend any offshoot stems away from the plant and tie them down. This way, the offshoots will grow outward rather than upward, increasing the area of the plant that’s in the sun during the daytime.
- Supercropping: Supercropping is a more advanced version of LST or Low Stress Training. With supercropping, you’ll take thicker stems of your plant, and bend them like you were going to LST, but take it even further and bend them till they feel like they’re going to snap.
Do this slowly, and bend the stem a little back-and-forth first before doing the big bend. After this, a knot should form as the plant grows on, forming almost a kind of notch keeping the stem at an angle.
- Topping/FIMming: This is a far more simple method of getting your plant to grow in a more bushy manner. Simply cut the stem when it has around four sets of leaf growth on it. Cut between the top and second from the top, and the plant will grow into two stems from there. This is referred to as Topping the plant. Some say the best way to grow weed using training techniques is to simply top it into an easily managed bush.
The “FIM” in FIMming literally stands for “F*ck, I missed!” and refers to topping a new leaf site improperly (usually with scissors or your thumb and index) and cutting through two pairs of new leaves. This will double-top your plant and cause the stem to split into four.
Trimming your plant and using cut Dagga Leaves
You can also trim away leaves on your plant that aren’t getting sunlight, or that look ill or diseased. You should especially cut off any leaves where you notice insects might be roosting or laying their eggs.
Remember to always to take a step back every few leaves and look at the plant from a couple of steps away, as it’s super easy to get into the zone and accidentally leave your plant with an all-round buzzcut.
You can save these leaves and use them in smoothies or make cannabis tea too!
You want to make sure that any of your trimming tools are cleaned before use so that the plant is at no risk of infection or disease. Simply wash them with soapy water before using them, or preferably with rubbing alcohol (which will kill all germs and bacteria).
Final Stages of Vegetation
Growing outdoors, your dagga plants will naturally transition from the vegetative to flowering stage. At this point, when charge starts to occur and you see small white hairs appearing on the plants (pistils), it’s best to hold off on the nutrients till you’re set in the flowering stage.
The Flowering Stage
At this stage of the plant’s life, small bud sites will start to appear which will later grow into big, juicy buds that you’ll be able to smoke and do with what you want.
The next step we’ll enter is sexing your plant. Determining if it’s male or female is really important as females are the bud-producing gender.
Sexing, and What to do with the Male Weed Plants in your crop
This is quite easy once you’ve done it once or twice, but can be very confusing at first. Essentially, female plants grow little white feelers called pistils where the buds are going to start growing. Males, on the other hand, grow little balls where the pistils would be, which will later grow to become pollen sacks.
If you don’t take care to remove your males at the earliest opportunity, it’s very likely your entire crop could become pollinated (weed pollen can travel up to 10km in wind), which will cause your buds to start growing seeds and lose varying amounts of potency.
Males once identified, are best simply ripped up and thrown away, or used for tea or ointments. Be very careful if any of these pollen sacks break when removing these plants, and make sure you wash your hands and clothes after handling male plants.
Final Flower Stages
Now that you’ve got rid of all your male plants, the rest of your crop should be shooting through flower. Depending on the strain, flower might last from 4 weeks to 12 weeks – it really depends. If you think your buds are ready to harvest, it’s always best to wait another 5-7 days just to be sure – unless you’re having issues with mites or bud rot.
The best way to tell if your plants are ready for harvest is by using a combination of two techniques. Firstly, on most strains, the pistils will dry out turning from white strands, and slowly turn yellow and then orange. Your buds should start to smell quite strongly at this point, as well as become quite fat.
Once around 40% of the hairs have darkened, you’re entering your harvest window. In short, the earlier you harvest the more THC the plants will contain, causing a more speedy or mental high. The longer you wait to harvest, the more body-high or couch-locking the weed will be. This is caused by the THC and CBD containing trichomes on the plant. You can also use a jewelers loupe to identify the stages your trichomes are on for a more accurate harvest using this trichome guide.
Harvest at around 50-70% darkened hairs for the highest THC content, or at around 80-90% darkened hairs for a more anti-anxiety and chill high.
Once you’ve decided on a chop date for your plants, you’re gonna need to get ready to trim and cure your weed – but that requires a whole guide of its own.
Final Notes on Growing
While we attempted to cover every aspect of your first grow in this guide, and it is indeed very comprehensive, it’s still important to do your own research before and during growing. Arguably the most important part of growing is enjoying it, and remaining in touch with your plants. This is a lot easier to achieve when you know the process well and know what’s going right and what’s going wrong (as well as why).
We hope this guide can help you through to your first harvest, and we would absolutely love if you shared some of your results with us when your harvest is cured and ready to smoke.
Anyhow, it’s about time for you to head out and get those green fingers even greener, so let’s end off here and get back out into the garden.