How Growing Weed at Home Changed, According to a Skunky Veteran

Follow our mystery grower on Instagram, at @bunker.weed.
Follow our mystery grower on Instagram, at @bunker.weed. Jacqueline Collins
You can buy pot at nearly 750 dispensaries around Colorado, but that doesn't mean you have to. Colorado is one of the few states that allows residents to grow their own cannabis, and plenty of them are all too happy to do so. Still, why put all the work in, when you can go to a store and buy something grown professionally?

To find out, we asked a veteran home grower in Aurora, who was happy to answer our questions but asked to remain anonymous.

What made you start growing cannabis?

I first started growing in 2003. I retired from the Air Force in 2002  and used documentation from service-connected disabilities to get my medical marijuana card. I've been on the MMJ registry ever since. At first I would go to dispensaries for my medication, but my goal all along was to grow my own. Within a year of getting my first card, I bought some lights and set up a small area in my basement.

I was able to get a doctor's recommendation for an extended plant count, so staying under my limit was easy. I grew my first plants in organic soil. Within the first year, I bought a Hydrofarm eight-pot system. It uses clay balls as the medium, has a continuous feeding reservoir and an air pump to recirculate the water around the plant roots. I ran that system for about four years with awesome results.

Then I expanded my grow into a bigger room in my basement to take advantage of my expanded plant count. I set up four trays, each with six plants in small pots. Each tray had its own reservoir and a pump that recirculated the nutrients. I changed the nutrients each week. I was able to harvest a tray and start over every two weeks. The garden was beautiful.

Eventually I started having huge problems with bugs that live in Colorado basements — mostly spider mites and white flies. I’ve never used pesticides — only treatments approved by the Organic Materials Review Institute. It took me a year to finally figure out how to deal with those bugs. But I did.

I eventually built an aeroponic system. The idea was to grow 100 tiny plants, but I got scared of the plant-count laws and retired it after a couple of grows.

How have your growing techniques changed since you started?

Due to changes in the rules, my extended plant count is no longer recognized by my local fuzz. I still grow my legal limit...but I grow them huge. I get two to three pounds per plant. Longer vegetation means bigger plants. I use a soil-free medium in cloth bags, which is completely sealed against white fly infestation. My irrigation is drain-to-waste and completely automated. I can disappear into the Colorado mountains for five or six days at a time and am never disappointed when I return home

How far have the quality of cannabis and genetics come since you started?

Genetics have changed a ton over the years. I’m not sure if today’s genetics are any better, though. The main improvement is in the availability. It seams easier to get really good genetics today.

Why not just shop at a dispensary instead?

I still grow my own pot because I love doing it. I also consume way too much to make purchasing it an option.
I spend at least an hour or two in my grow each day. It's really peaceful in there. Zen-like, even. I have a stool with wheels, and I roll around under the canopy and hang out with my plants. It feels good.

Do you ever shop at the dispensary? If so, for what?

I don’t go to dispensaries often. When I do, it’s for specific strains of clones. I tend to clone my own plants, but sometimes I'll get bored with a strain and want something new.

What are some of your favorite strains?

I prefer indica-dominant strains. They typically take eight weeks or less to flower. Some of the new hybrids are fun, also. I like growing with Alien genetics, but lost my mother and haven’t been able to find any of the original genetics since. I recently picked up Tahoe Alien from Kind Love. It’s amazing. I also love Ghost of Lee Roy.

I’m currently growing Tropsanto, from Oni Seeds. I bought seeds and sprouted them. From those twelve seeds, only five were girls, which is unusual. From this five, I am playing with three distinctly different phenoms. Not sure which one is going to be the keeper — maybe all three. I had a good run with Gorilla Glue #4. I love growing that strain. I also like anything cheesy.
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for
Contact: Thomas Mitchell