Smokable Landscapes

Humboldt Cannabis publisher gets his hands dirty

Story and photos by Chuck Leishman

I’m a Bay Area baby boomer, which means that as a child I watched the Santa Clara Valley transform from the “fruit bowl of America” to the “Silicon Valley” in the blink of an eye. Flowing creeks and streams became cement waterways and one of the most fertile valleys on earth was covered in cookie-cutter houses and asphalt. I’ve also seen the transformation of attitudes and laws about cannabis. I witnessed firsthand both the hypocrisy of prohibition and the counter-culture movement, which took root right here in Humboldt County. Whereas for a majority of my life marijuana had to be enjoyed in secret, now, as a California resident, I can grow it right in my own backyard. So, during a conversation with Nat Pennington from Humboldt Seed Company at the launch party for the inaugural issue of Humboldt Cannabis Magazine in October of 2017, I decided to do just that. 

I knew nothing about cannabis cultivation but as an amateur gardener I have integrated herbs and vegetables with fruit shrubs and trees as part of an “edible landscape.” I jokingly mentioned to Nat that I wanted to plant a “smokable landscape” in my yard, now that it was legal. The idea stuck — it seemed like the publisher of a cannabis magazine should experiment with cultivation. Besides, I had access to the best products and the most knowledgeable farmers in the world — right here in Humboldt County. 

Progression of the plants.

A number of experts graciously counseled me during my journey. Jeff Poe and Daniel Hendricks of Hendrx Farms in Arcata were kind enough to provide clones for my smokable landscape. For those of you who don’t know, a clone is a rooted cutting from a mother plant. Clones are identical and used extensively by major grow operations to achieve consistency in a chosen strain. The other option is to sprout plants the old-fashioned way from seeds but for the sake of convenience and because of the generosity of the folks as HenDrx Farm, I went with clones. In mid-May, I planted two clones — a strain called Amber Glo because of the golden tinge to the leaves (the name of this strain was later changed to “Best of Show,” I wouldn’t argue with that decision) and a very savory aromatic strain called Big Bhang — in decorative 20-gallon pots. I wanted Blueberry Muffin, which I had originally taken a liking to while smelling Pennington’s vape cartridges during that fateful conversation but at that particular time it wasn’t available.

I used a mixture of organic compost, a locally sourced soil conditioner called Happy Frog and Fox Farm’s Ocean Breeze potting soil. I made sure the drainage was secure with terracotta shards layered in the bottom of the pots. I was instructed to regularly use organic fertilizers. I chose fish emulsion because that is my go-to choice for my fruit-and-veggie-bearing garden. Nik Erikson of Full Moon Farms diagnosed the plant conditions and recommended organic curatives to ensure healthy plants throughout the growth cycle. When the plants got big enough, Terra Carver of the Humboldt County Growers Alliance recommended plucking leaves from the bottom and center of the plants for optimum sun exposure. 

Locals know that Eureka is often overcast and cool because of its close proximity to California’s Northern Pacific waters so, for comic relief, I named my two-pot grow the Fog Mob. The plants immediately flourished and, much to my delight, were robust and strong. We enjoyed many sunny late spring and early summer days and the plants clearly appreciated the weather. Later on, the fog did roll in and the conditions formed a natural light deprivation situation that seemed to cause early flowering. From what I have heard, the harvest was early compared to plants grown in long-sunlight areas like Southern Humboldt and Willow Creek. This was just fine with me, I was in it for the smokable landscape, not for volume. 

Finally, in June, HenDrx Farm gifted me a Blueberry Muffin clone. Although it didn’t grow into a huge plant, it was healthy with deep green leaves, purple-tinged buds and that distinctive blueberry aroma that started the whole conversation about “smokable landscapes.” I spent many hours enjoying fine summer evenings with these beautiful, prolific plants enhancing the visual appeal of the rest of the garden. My baby boomer soul was, indeed, gratified by the fact that I had the freedom to grow them and that I had actually done it.