Cannabis Cultivation: An Introduction to Growing Marijuana

Cannabis Cultivation

Cannabis Cultivation can be divided into both male and female plants. In order for cannabis plants to reproduce, male plants produce pollen that is needed by female plants to produce seeds. In grow operations, male plants are generally discarded before producing pollen or are avoided completely by using feminized seeds. This is because only the female cannabis plant can produce major cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are the compounds found in the plant and are what is responsible for the plant’s effects. Aside from these cannabinoids, there are many other compounds called “terpenes” and “flavonoids” that help enhance the effects of these cannabinoids.

Plant Shapes

If you have ever seen more than one cannabis plant, you would possibly have seen some that are short and bushy, tall and lanky and even a combination of these. This is because the cannabis plant can be divided into 3 species.

Cannabis CultivationThese 3 species are:

  • Sativa
  • Indica
  • Ruderalis
Throughout history, cannabis has been used for so many things. Every part of the cannabis plant has been used for 3 main reasons:
  • Fiber: Using hemp stalks to produce fiber.
  • Seeds: Harvesting seeds from a pollinated female hemp plant. Seeds are used to make oils that are very rich in proteins and omega oils.
  • Drug Cultivation: Growing and harvesting cannabis varieties for their psychoactive cannabinoids.
Every cannabis grow cycle has three main stages. These are:
  • Germination
  • Vegetation
  • Flowering

From seed to harvest, most cannabis plants life cycle will last between 10 and 26 weeks. Cannabis will require light, air, nutrients and some sort of medium such as soil to hold roots. Light period and duration will indicate to the plant what grow stage to begin.

Anatomy

Cannabis plants, both male and female share the same basics. They all have roots, stems, and leaves. At first glance, plants can look similar but beyond this, cannabis anatomy can be very different between males and females.

Female Plants

Female cannabis plants develop pistils and stigmas during the flowering stage. These are required to catch pollen and reproduce seeds. Most growers will ensure males are removed so as to avoid pollination. Female plants that have been pollinated and produce seeds will produce a much less potent flower with less flavor and aroma.

Male Plants

As we know now, male cannabis plants produce pollen in order for female plants to produce seeds. Male plants are not sought after by the grower seeking psychoactive bud. Instead, these plants are grown for fiber and for breeding. Male plants can and do produce cannabinoids but they are too few and far between compared to females.

Hermaphrodite

These plants are to be avoided at all costs by cannabis growers. They are a rare find and are generally a result of a female plant being put through extreme conditions. If this is the case, the female plant can be forced to produce both male and female sex organs. The sign of a hermaphrodite will usually show late into flowering and should be removed if found. The pollen produced in an attempt to self-pollinate will in most cases be useless.

Starting Out

In order for you to begin cultivating cannabis, you need to start somewhere. This has to begin with either a cannabis seed or a cannabis clone. You can begin growing as soon as you have successfully germinated seed or rooted a clone or cutting.

The biggest disadvantage of growing from seeds is inconsistency. Plants that are grown from seed will never look exactly the same or contain the exact traits from generation to generation. Some growers do cultivate on a large scale using seeds. This is done to choose certain plants that have the desired characteristics and suit growers needs. This is called pheno hunting and is a great way to breed your own line of unique plants.

Germination

Germination is the very beginning of the growing cycle. This can only happen if you choose to start from seed and the duration of germination depends on a few things. The moment the seed is exposed to water, germination will begin. This stage of growth can take anywhere from 12 hours to 3 weeks and depends on:

  • Seed Health
  • Seed Age
  • Germination Technique

There are two simple methods to germinate your seeds that we will cover. The first is to simply place a seed about 3mm deep in moist nutrient-rich soil. Most growers choose the second method which is to place a seed between two moist pieces of paper towel until a root develops. After this, the seed will be transferred into a medium.

Choosing Mediums

This can be based on availability, growing space, and even down to personal preference and budget. Regardless of seed or clone, a growing medium will be needed as the start of a healthy life cycle.

No matter what type of cultivation method you use or whether you choose seed or clone, your medium needs to provide:

  • Air
  • Water
  • Nutrients

Soil

The most common and definitely most stable of all the growing mediums. A good, healthy soil that can provide the right amount of water retention is a great option. The soil is great as it can be used to grow both indoors and outdoors and suits the newbie and the seasoned pro. Feeding is made much easier with soil and doesn’t require strict watering times as other mediums do.

cannabis cultivationHydroponics

When choosing to grow indoors, many growers choose hydroponics over other mediums. Soil cannot be used to hold plants with this system. Instead, growers use mediums such as vermiculite, perlite, and coco coir. These only provide enough nutrients and water through a feeding schedule of liquid food.

The disadvantage of growing hydro herb is the major attention to detail that is needed to be successful. Hydroponic grows are very sensitive to feeding and temperature. PH and nutrient levels will also need close attention to be kept at the right levels. Hydroponics are much less forgiving than growing in a basic soil medium.

Cannabis Vegetation

After our seeds have sprouted and completed their germination phase, we then begin the vegetative stage. During this, we will see our plants develop roots, stalks and major fan leaves. This stage of growth is vital as the fan leaves turn sunlight into the sugars that produce flowers and seeds. Most growers typically germinate their plants under 24 hours of light. For the vegetative stage, we want to turn this to 18 hours and no less than 16 hours.

During the vegetative stage, many growers choose to manipulate their plants both indoors and outdoors. Plants can be trained to grow in certain patterns or be forced to develop multiple flower sites.

Training Techniques

Cannabis plants have the potential to be manipulated to produce the highest possible crop or grow in the smallest possible space. This is usually done indoors but growers can use some of the methods in their outdoor garden.

Super Cropping

This method relies on using the plant’s reaction to stress as an advantage to us. Specially placed stress on a cannabis plant will encourage the plant to produce more cannabinoids and terpenes as a defensive reaction. This can usually be achieved by pinching areas of the stems and tying them down.  You must take care as growers can sometimes apply too much stress and end up using duct tape to fix a broken stem.

Low-Stress Training (LST)

When growers use this method, care is taken to avoid any breaks and only light bending and tying of stems is used. Bending and tying is used to achieve maximum light penetration and growth while keeping the vertical height to a minimum.

Screen of Green (SCROG)

This method of training uses a combination of super cropping and LST to encourage horizontal growth. A horizontal screen is suspended above the plants and they are then forced to grow across exposing areas that would otherwise never see as much light. This allows the plant to develop colas along its entire main stem and maximize yield. This is a great technique for the grower that is limited by law to only one plant.

Topping

Cannabis plants that are left to grow without being manipulated will develop a Christmas tree shape and a single main cola. Topping a plant will prevent this and instead cause two colas to develop. This is done by clipping the plants’ main stem at 45 degrees and allows the lower branches time to catch up growth. Topping can be done multiple times to different branches of the plant and will cause the plant to develop a bushier appearance.

Flowering Stage

The flowering stage begins when the male plant develops pollen filled sacks and the female develops flowers. Cannabis plants react to light change in order to begin flowering. This happens indoor when plants receive 12 hours or less of light and outdoors when the autumn equinox arrives. The daylight hours slowly reduce and the cannabis plant begins flowering.

When to Harvest?

Harvesting times can vary greatly depending on strain and growers preference. In general, harvesting happens when trichomes turn from clear to milky or when pistils change from either white to orange or from orange to brown.

Harvesting

Harvesting your bud is a very important time. It is the payoff from weeks or even months of hard work. Extreme care must be taken during this stage as the trichomes are very delicate. Heat, oxygen, and light can damage terpenes and cannabinoids and rough handling can break off if mishandled. The best method for drying, trimming and curing should be one that involves the most care and least amount of agitation.

Drying

The drying stage is extremely important and will affect the final product. When you are ready and have cut your plant it should then be hung upside down and major fan leaves must be removed. The area you choose to hang your plants should not be too dry or humid and must not be in direct sunlight. Plants must be left hanging upside down until the stems can snap when bent. Depending on your environment, drying should take between 3 and 7 days.

Trimming

After your flowers have dried enough, you can then begin removing excess leaves. Do this by holding the colas by their stems and cutting away any sugar leaves around the buds. This must be done very gently and over a screen to catch any trichomes that may fall.

cannabis cultivationWet vs. Dry Trimming

The most common method is to dry your bud and then trim the remaining leaves. However, some growers like to trim their bud straight after harvest. This is an option but you will get a very grass-like smell to your final product.

Curing

Curing is the final and to many the most important stage in the growing cycle. This process breaks down any remaining chlorophyll and allows you to get the flower that is neither too dry nor too wet.

Curing should never be rushed and should be approached as aging wine would. In most cases, a period of 1-2 months is long enough to cure bud to an acceptable level. This is the very minimum and if stored and done correctly, time will only improve quality.

Curing is best achieved by placing your dried buds into an airtight glass jar. The initial stage requires you to “burp” the jar daily. This is done by simply opening the lids and allowing some fresh oxygen to replace the old air. Moisture content must be watched and burping can be done every 2-3 days in the last two weeks.

~ Seedly

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