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The Growing Process
Growing cannabis is rather straightforward, provided a couple of things are kept in mind.
Firstly, cannabis is an annual plant. Its life span is one growth cycle, like tomatoes and other plants in one’s garden. Two, cannabis plants have a gender, male and female. The flowers that produce the cannabinoids are from the female plant.
The male produces pollen to fertilize her flowers, thus producing seeds. One male plant can potentially pollinate an acre of female plants. Female plants that have been fed produce way less THC and other cannabinoids because they spend energy making seeds instead.
In subsequent articles, the flowering cycle, harvesting, and curing will be explained.
In state’s where recreational and the medical pot is legal and highly regulated, some growers use rock wool as a growing medium, or full on hydroponic setups. For this article, we will use good ol’ dirt, for growing inside.
Although I have no empirical evidence to back this up, I’ve had the best results starting the germination of seeds so that they are transplanted at the Vernal Equinox. Growing bushy through summer and then flowering during autumn. Even inside.
Growth Medium and Germination
Mix well a 2:1 ratio of premium plant/ garden soil with organic compost. Next mix in a high nitrogen pellet fertilizer, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Too much fertilizer can burn the roots and kill the plants.
Fill a plant tray with your soil mixture. Be sure there are holes in the bottom of the pot to let excess water to flow out to prevent root rot.
Place one seed per container 1/2 inch or so under the soil. Gently cover with soil and water with room temperature water. Place the tray(s) in a warm place that maintains it’s a temperature at a constant 70-80 degrees. Light is not an issue right now.
So, they can be kept in a cupboard or closet. Always make sure to keep the soil moist. Again, with lukewarm water. Germination should happen in about a week or so.
The Vegetative Process
Once the plants are 3-5 inches, it’s time to move them to larger pots, carefully transplant them to the gallon (4 Qt) sized pots or cut milk containers can also work, in a pinch, with the same soil mixture described above.
Pea gravel in the bottom inch or so of the pot will help drainage. 1-gallon (4 Qt) pots of soil can produce plants 3 or so feet tall. The size of plants will determine your yield, and that size will be determined by the space you have for them, and the size of your pots.
If you want, you can use clean 5-gal buckets available at hardware stores if you’re going to grow big ones. There is anecdotal evidence I’ve heard that it’s best to transplant at night, but again, it’s anecdotal, so you decide.
Place each plant in the pot, so the juvenile leaves that are smooth and without ridges on their edge are at the soil line. Water thoroughly.
Next, you will need some light. Full spectrum LEDs are quite affordable and work well without too much heat. The number of plants you have will determine the quantity you need. The light manufacturers have coverage statistics for their own products. Use those.
A timer is also needed. Once you have your pots arranged, your lights hung and plugged into the timer, set to the correct time, the timer should be set for 20 hours of light, 4 hours of darkness.
It is best if the grow space has no windows, as the plants will try to sync to the sun, not your lights. Strange things can happen when this occurs like female plants can become hermaphroditic and pollinate themselves. Or start flowering too early. Or grow meekly or give up turn yellow, brown and wilt.
Water them when the soil is dry, a finger knuckle down, or about once a week. More if it’s hot and dry. I’ve heard others have used club soda to water as it contains extra CO2.
Again, anecdotal and I’ve never tried. But I would suggest spending time with them, our breath is their air, after all. Even sing to them if you want, can’t hurt.
Soon some will grow taller with less foliage than others; these are most likely the males.
When genders have been established, and the females have reached three tiers, it’s time for “topping” as this will give two tops for every one cut, thus making the plant more of a bush and increase yields. When those 2 reaches three tiers top again and so on.
As for the males, as stated earlier, one male can fertilize quite an area, even if one pollen sack pops, your whole crop will go to seed. However, if you can, harvesting the pollen can be useful for precise pollinating to get more seeds for the next generation.
Consider letting males mature away from the female plants and when the sacs open you can put the plant in a plastic bag and shake the pollen out collecting it the corner of the bag, cut the corner of the bag and transfer the pollen to an airtight container.
Again, FAR away from the females. Another way is to sacrifice one female to be a seed plant. Have the happy couple separate from the rest and just let nature take its course, quarantining the others in a “pollen free zone.” If neither is an option, sadly those fellas have got to go.
I cannot stress enough how active that pollen is, on your clothes, your hands are all that’s needed. Treat it like plutonium.
Another crucial thing is always to have an oscillating fan blowing on them. This serves two purposes: First, the wind forces the stalks to strengthen and stiffen. If you do, your job right; they will need that strength to bear the weight of the swollen colas that is the end game.
Second, the windy conditions make it extremely hard for the enemies of your plants, Spider Mites, Aphids, and other pests. The fan blows them off the plant, keeping them from establishing themselves. Excellent growth and pest control are achievable without any chemical pesticides.
If you do have an issue with bugs, a solution of natural dish soap in a spray bottle. 1/2 a teaspoon per gallon or so will work as an irritant for the little pests, once gone, regular sprayings of water will eliminate any residue left behind. Or the introduction of ladybugs works well too, but now you have ladybugs in your house.
I would stick with the fan. Growing time is 3 or 4 months, depending on how big you want them to get. After that, it’s time for flowering.