The holiday season is here and while many people are jetting south to some warm climate or getting together with friends and family, for others it’s all about planning to grow out some plants next year.

Now that the Canadian Liberal government has said it is going to legalize marijuana for recreational use by adults — and add to that the Ontario government just gave the okie dokie for medical users to smoke almost anywhere in public — I know that a lot of people are starting to think of putting in some kind of garden, either an indoor setup or they’re planning to grow out some plants next summer. In this next series of articles I plan to focus on how to put together a small garden in the summer, and the things you can do that will give a better chance for a good harvest.

As always the first thing you have to decide is where are you going to grow? Site selection is pretty easy if you plan to just grow a few plants, but if you are ambitious and need pounds of weed for whatever reason things get a bit more involved. I’m going to focus on the smaller, personal-sized garden as, myself, I plan to grow some plants on my balcony. I’ll be updating this page with more info and photos as that takes shape.

So what of growing on a balcony or patio? As with any grow site, two big things to consider are natural light and security. I have a south-facing balcony with almost no obstructions to block the sun so that makes it a natural choice and perfect for crops while being twelve stories up gives me good security. For those not so high up, another security measure is screens — it is easy to put up bamboo or rattan screens to block unwanted prying eyes while still getting full sunlight for your plants. You want a spot that gets at least eight hours of sunlight a day, and if possible you should know the path of the sun already in your chosen spot. In past patio-grows, I’ve had to move the plants around chasing the sunny spot.

The next most important decision you need to make is what strain or strains to grow, seeds or clones, autoflowering or feminized? The list of choices is long and will depend on how large your grow space is, the length of the season where you live, and your experience.

Feminized autoflowering seeds are a great way to bump up your chances of success of a small patio grow for any beginner. And one of the nice things about autoflowering strains is that they are all fairly short, most topping out around 24–32 inches, making them ideal for keeping a low profile.

A grower in Montreal with a south-east view will not do well growing eight-week-flowering-cycle indicas but might have better luck with some autoflowering hybrids. And those with smaller balconies like mine might want to consider doing a single plant in a SCROG (screen of green) system; more on those in a future article.

Another trick that is easy to employ when container-growing on balconies is force-flowering the plants in midsummer, giving you the chance of a bumper crop and also getting the benefits of flowering during great weather and intense sunshine.

I feel the best advice I can give when selecting strains to grow out is not to make your decisions based on what looks good or strains that you know are amazing, but rather based on your growing area, geographic location, season, plus your ability and experience.

Myself, I plan to grow out some Candy Cane from Crop King Seeds given to me by the Vancouver Seed Bank. Candy Cane is an autoflowering, feminized hybrid that will finish in seven weeks, making it perfect for my needs: a 70% indica 30% sativa strain that I look forward to growing out and that boasts a strong body buzz.

I also plan to do one plant in a SCROG system and then force-flower it, but haven’t decided on a strain yet — I’ll keep you posted as it happens. Autoflowering strains are not suitable for SCROG growing as you need a plant with a vegetative cycle; autoflowering plants have very little or no veg time.

Once you have your grow site picked out and have selected the strains you want to grow get your orders in for the seeds you want ASAP. Even the best seed banks are limited to what’s supplied to them, so from experience now is the time to start buying your seed for next year. Don’t wait to order in late winter when everyone and their dog is thinking about growing, get ahead now.

The next thing to figure out is what are you going to grow in? There is lots of information out there on ‘container gardening’ and much of it can be used for growing ganja in containers, so do some web browsing — the only thing you are limited by other than your imagination is space.

Most folks will opt for pots (like me), but I know others who swear that planter boxes are better. I prefer pots as they are easier to move than a large box of heavy, wet dirt with growing plants in it.

A three- or four-gallon pot will work fine for autoflowering plants, while I know from experience that you want a seven-gallon pot or larger style planter box for big plants.

Next month I’ll go into more detail about soil, nutrients, organics versus chemical fertilizers, etc. But for now, as the days get longer and the winter solstice passes make plans and gather the best seeds you can for your setup. Think of how your garden will look in May next year, and what plants you are going to grow to accent and ‘blend’ your victory garden into your lifestyle: the 420 lifestyle.

After all, the coming legalization is a victory after these decades of prohibition and no matter what regulations may come, nobody but you can cultivate your freedom.