Answers & Photos By Jorge Cervantes

I’m a first-time grower. I just moved to Texas, where it’s hot and humid. What do you think about using a 5-gallon black plastic planter with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage? What’s the best type of soil to use? I was thinking Miracle-Gro potting soil that you can buy at Lowe’s or Home Depot, but what are your recommendations?
Houston, TX

Dear Ruben,
Drill at least a dozen quarter-inch holes or more; drainage is super-important for a good crop. You should also mix 10% to 20% coarse perlite with the soil to provide more drainage. If you’re growing outdoors, remember: Containers heat up in the sun. If the container heats up, it’ll kill the roots. Shade containers with a piece of cardboard or set them inside another container. The air space will insulate the soil from the scorching sun.

Miracle-Gro soil is probably as good as most others. If you happen to have a hydroponics store nearby, go there and ask for a local recommendation. You may also want to try a soilless mix like Peatlite or Promix; both are consistent and drain well.

Always remember to add a handful of fine dolomite lime to every 5-gallon container—add a cup per cubic foot. Dolomite is made from calcium and magnesium; it will supply those two elements as well as keep the soil pH relatively constant, just below 7.

Also, remember to leach 5-gallon containers with about 15 gallons of water every month. Flushing soil with copious amounts of water will wash out any built-up fertilizer salts.

Grow in Amsterdam
I’ve been looking at real-estate sites for places to rent in Amsterdam. Even though Amsterdam is a grow-friendly city, are there still special laws that would prohibit growing indoors? Is it better to grow in a house or an apartment? What about growing outdoors? What about rooftops?
Via Internet

Dear Tare,
After the law that prohibited growing seeds in the Netherlands was changed in 2001, other things changed as well. Amsterdam has about 800,000 residents, and the pressure on housing is unending. Police moved many of the growhouses to outlying areas to make room for people. There are plenty of grows in the southern Netherlands and Belgium, plus in northern and eastern Holland.

Even so, the easy days of growing in the Netherlands are over. The police are quite familiar with indoor grow operations and use thermal-imaging devices to find them. But many grow operations don’t get discovered and supply much of the cannabis in the coffeeshops.

Amsterdam is way up north, at 52ºN latitude (about the same as Edmonton, Canada), and outdoor crops are few and far between. It’s seldom freezing for long, but the rain is persistent and the wind’s unending. Wind makes rooftop gardens difficult to grow unless they’re in greenhouses. Also, the Netherlands is the most densely populated country in Europe.

You’re a foreigner, and I assume you don’t know Dutch. This means you must stay in a larger city where the residents speak English, and you’ll have to rent a house or apartment. Both are about the same for setting up a grow operation; the apartment is less expensive but requires more security.

Also, you’ll pay more for your apartment since you’re not Dutch. Once you get your resident papers, you can be put on a waiting list for a rent-controlled apartment. Have at least enough money for six months’ rent. You’ll have to start growing right away in order to harvest before you run out of money.