Ever dreamt of having your own huge outdoor ganja garden? Now, you can watch the WAMM garden grow with regular updates throughout the cultivation season. You’ll see sprouts mature into giant cannabis trees, and, along the way, you’ll learn how America’s oldest collective grows their own all-organic medicine.
As spring draws near, the members of the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) prepare to begin anew. The beginning of a new growing season offers opportunities to improve, to do over and to get it right this time. For people struggling with persistent, chronic or terminal health conditions, second chances and new beginnings don’t come along too often, but WAMM has distinguished itself as the real deal, a collective in spirit—not just in name—where everyone is made to feel welcome. It’s been praised as “the gold standard” of medical marijuana with deep roots in the movement, having faced down the DEA and emerged triumphant.
Herbal marijuana medicine is offered on a sliding scale, making it affordable for the most vulnerable members of the community. Volunteer labor runs this terraced garden, which will hold hundreds of plants by harvest. For many years, a painted sign hung above the garden gate proclaiming that “Love grows here,” and that’s been true for the last 20-something years that the crop has flourished. Healing is provided not only by the plant, but by the people, with their camaraderie, forming a social safety net of support and understanding. Being part of the garden, tending to it and watching the plants thrive becomes therapy in and of itself.
WAMM members volunteer to grow plants and process medicine.
Managing those volunteers and teaching them the tasks of weeding, watering, planting and leafing falls to Mark Stone, a recently arrived garden manager. I listened as Mark outlined his goals for the unfolding growing season and explained to new members how the whole system works.
First, the bushy cover crop of mixed legumes needs to be rototilled and mixed into the ground, making essential nitrogen more accessible to the plants.
“It’s really important when you’re growing organically,” Stone explained. “Mixing the cover crop into the ground forms a sort of compost.”
After the tilling has been completed, holes will be dug for the incoming transplants but not before amendments like worm castings, kelp, microbiological teas and fish emulsion are added.
While WAMM members clear the weeds and get the ground ready for planting in early April, Stone gives a tour of the newly built greenhouse sheltering mother plants and seedlings. WAMM has traditionally grown from seed, which Stone said “grow better and more vigorously,” but cuttings taken from seed plants that have shown their female sex will also be used this year. Seeds go right into Fox Farm soil mix, and Stone has discovered the importance of maintaining soil pH, especially when dealing with well water.
“It changes frequently, so I test to make sure we’re around 5.5 – 5.6 for the seedlings,” Stone said. “You’ll notice them perk up immediately.”
Delicate seedlings are sheltered in the climate-controlled greenhouse, awaiting their turn to be transplanted into the fertile soil.
“This year will be more about quality than quantity,” Stone asserted, explaining how adding more space between plants, pruning more aggressively and increasing airflow will hopefully reduce dreaded bud mold, a persistent problem near the coast.
WAMM’s heirloom strains have been bred for resistance over many generations, with a Sativa African Queen, an Indica Afghani and sativa and indica-dominant crosses of the two forming the backbone of the collective’s genetic legacy. New strains have been added over the past few years and will debut novel offerings this season, like Blueberry x Afghani, Cadillac Purps, Girl Scout Cookies, and Monkey Bliss. CBD-rich varieties like Harlequin and AC/DC will “make up fully half of the garden,” Stone promised, “even more than last year.”
Volunteers sort buds that will be processed into extracts for needy patients.
While still staying true to its mission, WAMM has adapted to the rapidly changing cannabis marketplace, adding more strain choices, as well as concentrates and extracts (made with CO2), to its menu and expanding its membership base to include all California patients with valid recommendations, not just the patients with the most dire qualifying conditions.