People often approach me for advice on growing cannabis which, especially if used medically, would be a very good hobby to get into, so here’s an easy how-to-grow guide.
First choose a variety of cannabis seeds you want to grow. Ask your seed retailer all the questions you have and explain the way you want to grow the plants. If you are growing them outside it might be wise to choose a quicker flowering strain that will finish before it gets too cold. If you need cannabis for medicinal reasons you must be very specific when choosing your variety – make sure that you are growing the right medicine!
Most importantly, you must remember that cannabis is a plant and can be grown as easily as many other flowering plants. Nature takes care of most aspects when growing outdoors. As the seasons change, the plant receives the right amount of daylight for both growing and flowering. All you need to do is to give water during dry periods and perhaps add some organic fertilizer.
Indoor growing requires a little bit more work: you have to provide your plants with all the elements they need to survive: sunlight (specialized grow lamps), season changes (timers), fresh air (exhaust fan) and wind (circular fan), earth (pots with soil), and rain (water and nutrients). If these elements are provided all you need is a basic understanding of the plant’s natural life cycle.
The process of seed germination happens the same way for both indoor and outdoor growing. When purchased, the seeds are very dry and need to absorb a lot of water before they will open. This can be done in different ways, but the most natural way is to simply place the seed in between the 2 layers of kitchen paper on a saucer. Wet the plate so that the paper is fully moist, yet not soaking wet, and then place another saucer on top of the other to prevent the seeds from receiving any light.
Check the seeds periodically (every 12 hours) for signs of sprouting and to make sure the paper is still moist. This process can take anywhere from 12 hours to several days. Once sprouted, gently place the seedling about one cm deep in a small pot of soil with the tap root facing downwards. Using propagators can create a more stable environment which is best used for clones and seedlings, especially for the first few days.
Keep the soil moist (but not wet), until the first small leaves emerge. Once the plants have settled in the soil you can add some root stimulating fertilizers, but not too much or you will burn the roots Young plants don’t need intense light as much as flowering plants do. Do not place them too close to high intensity light or they will burn. Fluorescent tubes can be used for young seedlings as well as for clones.
The first set of leaves is called the Cotyledon. After this the first set of “true” leaves appear, these will be one fingered leaves, followed by a set of three fingered leaves and then a set of five fingered leaves or seven, nine etc.
GROWING (18 HOURS LIGHT,6 HOURS DARKNESS)
Outdoor: Cannabis can be placed outdoors as soon as your area receives enough hours of daylight, which is between 16-18 hours of light (required every day). In Europe, for example, this happens between May and June. During its “vegetation” the plant can be bent and/or trimmed to keep the size and shape under control. They will continue to grow until the autumn season, and when the days only receive about 12 hours of light their flowering cycle is then triggered. (Usually around the Autumn equinox).
Indoor: The plant requires 18 hours of light every day during the growing cycle, it is easiest to use a timer that turns the lights on/off when required. The entire growth cycle can take place in as little as one to two weeks for a small plant and up to four to five months for a big plant, that is up to you.
Equally as important as the lights is the period of darkness per every 24 hour period. This is also the cycle used to keep a mother plant alive, as well as keeping or vegetating clones until they are ready to start flowering.
Watering should be done only when the top layer of the soil is very dry. This means once every other day, and if the soil is still moist at the end of the second day then you gave too much water and should use less next time. This is to prevent the higher layers of roots from drowning. Organic fertilizers can be added to improve plant growth and health. The plant really likes Nitrogen during this cycle.
FLOWERING (12 HOURS LIGHT,12 HOURS DARKNESS)
Outdoor: As soon as you get only 12-14 hours of daylight every 24 hours. Cannabis will automatically start flowering. In the northern parts of Europe this occurs around August through September and usually takes 7-16 weeks, depending on the strain used. Make sure to use a variety that flowers quickly, growing in colder more northern climates.
Indoor: The plant needs 12 hours of light and 12 of uninterrupted darkness to be able to flower without “light-stress”, which could disturb the plant’s natural cycle and interfere with the flowering process. Leaves will slowly start turning yellow, usually after the third or fourth week into flowering. When a leaf turns yellow and shrivels it should be removed from the plant, but make sure to never take off too many green leaves, as this inhibits photosynthesis.
Watering should happen in a similar fashion as to when the plants were growing, but fertilizers containing phosphorus and potassium are now to be used for healthier plants with a higher yield. It is very important to stop adding fertilizers to the water during the last two weeks of flowering, this will flush most nutrients out of your plant and will improve taste and quality. When the plant has completed its flowering cycle and the buds or flowers are mature, it naturally wilts and then dies if left alone.
Male Plants: Male plants will not produce smoke-able flowers and when their pollen reaches the female flowers, the buds will produce seeds and the quality of the smoked product will be lower than when un-pollinated. Males should be killed as soon as possible unless you want to produce seeds.
Female Plants: Female plants can be identified by their small white hairs, or pistils. More pistils will appear during the first period of flowering and when the flowers reach maturity. They start to change in appearance. Most swell up and change color, brown, green, orange and purple are some colors seen in mature cannabis flowers. Usually the cannabis is ready for harvest when 60-80% of the pistils have changed and the flowers are covered with resin. This of course depends on the strain you have chosen.
HARVESTING & DRYING
This is a painful moment, as after taking care of the plant for so long it is now time to chop it down. As soon as the resin gland matures it is time to cut off the branches. They can then be hung upside down on a wire until they are completely dried, which can be tested by simply bending a branch. If it bends it is still moist, but if it breaks or snaps it is dry enough to be stored. The drying process can take as long as three weeks for bigger branches and as little as six to seven days for smaller buds. As soon as they are dry you can start removing the leaves, which should not be smoked, but can be used for tea, “space” baked goods, or hash making.
After drying, the cannabis is almost ready to be consumed, now comes the hard part. For a better product cannabis should be cured, this should be done in glass jars, stored in the dark for about two-four months. This will slightly change the color of the weed as the chlorophyll breaks down. The taste changes into a more distinct and pungent aroma, due to the fermentation process.
Think of your cannabis as a good mature wine.
Written and Published By Dee Mani-Mitchell In Weed World Magazine Issue 147