You got your hands on a few seeds of your favorite strain and are now wanting to produce your own medicine. Cannabis cultivation can be tricky. A lot of aspects determine whether you will grow a healthy plant or not: from the right soil, to the right temperature, to the proper light conditions. The challenges home-growers face reach far.
With this article, we want to provide you with a guide about the various things to look out for when caring for your cannabis plants.
Depending on the strain, your marijuana plant will take up to 12 weeks to grow consumable buds. If you’re a first-time grower, it is best to start off with a couple of plants rather than a large amount. That way, if you make mistakes, it will end up being less costly. Know that the plants itself can triple in size, so make sure that there is enough room! If you grow indoors, it is recommended to set up a dedicated, closed off growing space, such as a closet, an extra room, or a growing tent.
Ladybugs are your friends! Even in a closed space, your plants can be victims of bugs, pest, and insects that mess with your crop. Do NOT use pesticides: they bring more harm than good. Instead, offer up your cannabis space for rent to some ladybugs; or use an organic solution, such as neem oil. You can read about the problems of pesticides in our last blog post "Do you know what's in your greens?".
You will need to learn on how to separate male from female plants. It is recommended to use clones or feminized seeds – this way you can make sure your plant is female. Only female cannabis plants will flower and produce buds.
LIGHT & GROWTH
Before we get into light spectrums and light cycles, it is important to know that there are no light leaks in your growing space. Daylight at the wrong time will disturb your plants: the flowering of cannabis is triggered when the plant is exposed to uninterrupted darkness for a specific time period.
The biological growing cycle of cannabis is separated in two stages: the vegetative stage, and the flowering stage. The vegetative stage of your plant starts after the first leafs break the soil after you planted the seed. In this stage, there will be nothing to harvest. Its purpose is solely for growth: allow your plants to get big and strong. That’s why you should provide your plant with 18 to 24 hours of light during this phase. Once your plant reached two thirds of the size of your total growing space, you can switch to the flowering phase. During this phase, your plants will grow between 30% and 50% of its current size, which is why it is important that you leave enough room. Most growers let the plant grow about 4 weeks. Then it is time two switch to a 12 hour schedule: 12 hours of light, 12 hours of total darkness. Your plant will develop gender specific parts after about 2 weeks around the branch joints. If there are male plants, you should remove them as soon as possible, as they can cause your female plants to grow more seeds instead of buds.
Normal light bulbs will not help your plants grow. If you grow indoors, you need to get special lights that make use of the same light spectrums the sun does. You can choose from a variation of light-equipment: CFLs, HIDs, fluorescent light, or LEDs. They do not only differ in price, but also quality. CFLs are great for first time growers who aren’t sure if home-growing is the right choice for them. They are very cheap, but they will not be able to reveal the full potential of your plant. LEDs are the most expensive choice, but the most powerful. Cannabis requires a lot of light intensity, which is why LEDs are the best choice for quality buds. HIDs are the golden balance, they’re affordable, yet powerful; they do however require some setting up.
TEMPERATURE & VENTILATION
Your lights will produce a lot of heat, which is why it’s important to add ventilation and air flow to slightly cool the growing environment. The best temperature for happy plants ranges between 22-27°C (72-81°C) during the vegetative stage, and 18-26°C (65-80°F) during the flowering stage. Further, just like any plants, cannabis needs carbon dioxide to thrive! An installation of an exhaust fan in combination with an intake fan can supply your growing space with “outside air” and ventilation.
Good soil make healthy plants with the best taste around. Cannabis requires many nutrients for growing, such as potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and iron. When you pick a soil, make sure it is organic and contains these minerals. It is also recommended to add extra perlite, because the roots of Cannabis plants thrive on additional air. If you are able to, consider composting your own soil for optimal results.
You can fertilize with extra nutrients during the growing phase. Use an organic fertilizer and make sure you stop feeding your plants at least two weeks before harvesting, so your buds actually taste like weed and not like fertilizer. Make sure the fertilizer is not too strong, as your plants’ roots are quite sensitive, especially in the first couple of weeks.
If you chose a good soil, you will not need to worry about the pH value unless your plant shows signs of unhappiness. If you are however concerned about the quality of your soil, you should measure its pH value. Your plants will not be able to absorb the soil’s nutrients if the pH value is not right. It is best to purchase a pH testing kit so you can keep the soil’s value between 6 to 7 pH.
You can also use water tanks as a way to grow your cannabis. It’s up to you! But we promise you will taste a difference.
In terms of water, the best pH value for cannabis plants is around 6.5. It’s best if the water has a lower pH value of around 5.5 to 6 – the value will rise with time once the water is given to the plants. One of the biggest mistakes many plant owners make is overwatering their plants, which causes rotting and molding. Cannabis plants do not like too much water; roots need to dry out a bit before being able to access air. Good drainage of the plants is important. The best rule of thumb is checking on the soil and feeling how wet it is. If the soil is dried out on the top, it’s time to water! Usually this will happen every 2 to 3 days. Depending on where you live, you might be able to use tap water for your plant. If your tap water is rich in limestone or chlorine, it may not be the best option for you. Check your supermarket for some bottled water instead.
Once your plants are flowering, make sure you follow rule Number One: don’t harvest before your greens are ready! Cannabis is like fruit - it’s no good if it’s not ripe enough. Only fully developed cannabis flowers contain the THC we all desire. A good tell whether your cannabis is ready to pick and consume is the smell of the buds. They should strongly smell like hash, not freshly cut lawn grass. Furthermore, ripe buds no longer form white hairs. Amber-colored trichomes, otherwise referred to as THC crystals, will be visible once the cannabis can be harvested, so make sure you get a close look. The use of a microscope can be very helpful in this stage.
Even if your calendar marks tomorrow’s date as the 12th week since planting the seed – if your plants aren’t ready, give them more time. It will be worth it, and the quality of your homegrown marijuana highly depends on it.
Drying your harvest is the smelliest step along the home-growing process. Make sure you are prepared, otherwise your neighbors will definitely get a whiff of what is going on in your home. An air filter is most suitable to reduce the odor of your plants.
The space in which you dry your buds should be both low in humidity and temperature, well ventilated, as well as dark. When cutting down your plants, use a good quality pair of trimming scissors. There is no special way in how to do the actual cutting – just do it in the most efficient way. Hang them upside down to dry, for example on a clothes-line.
Give your buds around 10 to 14 days to dry. The slower the drying process, the tastier your cannabis will be. Make sure you don’t over-dry them, and that no mold forms during the process.
Once your harvest is dry, it’s ready to be consumed. If you made it this far, congratulations, you are a successful home-grower! We hope that this article will not only help you watch out for all the challenges you might face along the way, but also provide you with the knowledge to overcome them. Don’t let the complexity of growing cannabis get in your way of consuming pesticide free and clean medicine of which you know all about its origins.
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