Perfecting the Seedling Stage of Growth

When a seed has visibly sprouted above ground and its first set of leaves are visible the seedling stage has officially begun.  There are several different environmental conditions you can control to help your young plant grow a strong root system and a supportive main stem.  One of these conditions is keeping a consistent air flow present at all times.  It is crucial that there is some wind resistance blowing against the support system of the plant.  I’m sure you have witnessed the images of long skinny cannabis stems that are stretching like crazy for the light without any root support.  The wind that comes from your fan will signal to the plant that it needs to build a stronger foundation in order to survive its conditions.  Cannabis is amazing at adapting to whatever environment it is placed in and that’s why it can grow in climates throughout the world.  Be sure when first adding wind to the environment, that you gradually get your plant use to the airflow.  At first, it’s going to be extremely weak so putting the fan on a medium/high setting could really stress out the plant beyond the point of recovery.  As the stem continues to grow stronger, kick the fan up to its usual setting.

Humidity should also be in central focus early on in the plant’s life cycle.  It is crucial to maintain the appropriate humidity throughout the entire growing process because humidity affects the rate at which your crops will transpire.  Cannabis plants will always try and maintain a equilibrium when it comes to the water levels inside and outside the plant.  So if the humidity in the grow room is too low the plant will begin to transpire dangerously quick and lose its necessary nutrients.  New stunted leaves, dying flowers, and older shriveling leaves are all indications of rapid transpiration.  In the seedling, stage humidity needs to be at its highest levels.  I would recommend aiming for 70% and decreasing by around 5-10% each week until reaching the 40% mark.  Until the plant has fully developed roots, lower levels of humidity in the air will cause stunted growth.  It’s important to understand that levels above 45% are usually dangerous and unwanted in a grow room because they can cause mold and mildew in mature plants.  It’s often hard to reach 70% humidity for your seedlings without the help of humidity domes or using a humidifier.

Another important determination to make is when to begin adding nutrients to the plant.  I would say that it should be right around the same time you set up the fan and begin building its root structure.  Up until the point where it shows its first set of leaves you should be fine using plain water that has been PH’d correctly.  When you do begin adding nutrients, remember less is more and that the last thing you want to do is cause nutrient overload this early on.  General Hydroponics brand has a chart that includes the appropriate amounts for the different stages of growth, including the seedling stage.  I would use this as a guide more than a precise measurement.  They often overstate the amount of nutrients you need in order to sell their product more quickly.  I would also start smaller than the recommendations for other brands too until you know exactly how your plant will react.

The last important thing a grower should monitor is the space between the light and the top set of leaves.  During this stage, I would highly recommend only using compact fluorescent lighting due to the intensity of other lighting sources.  Just like with high winds, high voltage lighting can cause irreversible damage that the plant may never recover from.  Even with CFLs, not maintaining the right distance can cause similar problems.  The ideal height should only be 2-4 inches above the highest point of the plant.  Any higher than that, and you’ll likely see it begin to stretch into a skinny long stem.  These lights still emit heat and if they are really close will cause leaves to wither and dry up.  Make sure to check the height at least once a day and make adjustments as needed.  Maintaining the perfect environment early on always pays off and leads to a strong support system capable of holding the densest of buds.

 

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Strain in Rotation: Wonder Woman

The most recent strain in my rotation that I have had the chance to grow several times over the past year is Wonder Woman.  This indica dominant hybrid has a fruity/piney taste on the inhale that cannot be ignored.  The flavor that this strain brings to the table is the reason why it has been a repeat in the garden this year.  Yes, the yields are on the heavier than average side when compared to other strains, but it definitely isn’t the highest I’ve seen even in my own small garden.  It likes to grow short and bushy like most indica strains tend to do.  If you give it enough time in the vegetative cycle, it can grow some monster branches.  The typical 2 months in veg 2 months in flower time frame has yielded as much as 8.5 ozs per plant.  This is really impressive considering the premium quality of the buds it is capable of producing in the right growing conditions.

Wonder woman originates from breeding the 1998 cannabis cup winner, Ice, with a strain known as Top 44.  Ice is sativa dominant and Top 44 is a pure indica strain.   This results in wonder woman initiating more of a heavy body high than an energetic one.  It’s an extremely relaxing feeling that also comes with a strong appetite boost.  It’s best used for medical conditions like depression, insomnia, anxiety, and PTSD.  This is because the mind is put at ease and there isn’t a ton of racing thoughts that many people experience from sativa strains.  For those who don’t suffer from any medical conditions, it tends to bring a lot of euphoria and laugher.  I know that it will stick around the rotation for years to come because it is extremely popular among consumers for the flavor and growers for the shorter flowering period.  Expect it to be ready after 8 complete weeks although I have seen better results from adding an extra week.

 

 

My Personal Germination Method

Throughout the cultivation process, every grower uses their own unique technique in the way that they care for their plants.  There are a ton of paths one can take to end up with a premium grade harvest.  The germination stage is just one step in that process and there are also a variety of unique ways this stage can be initiated by the grower.  Like most new growers, when I first started I went with one of the more popular methods using paper towels.  There is no doubt plenty of growers who have had success using this technique, but I still would not recommend pursuing it unless you have a lot of time on your hands.

The paper towel method involves placing one or more cannabis seeds between a few moist paper towels and placing it in a dark area of the house.  It seems that the main issue with this strategy is the fact that paper towels are very absorbent by nature and will not stay moist for a long period of time.  So unless you are able to dampen the paper towels every few hours, the environment will be far to dry for the taproot to emerge.  Remember that moisture and darkness are the two key environmental factors that a seed needs in order to start germination.  Another reason I avoid the paper towel method is that the taproots are extremely delicate and can be exposed to potential damage when transplanted to the growing medium.  Taproots are the foundation of your plant’s structure and should not be touched or exposed outside of the soil.

The number one method I have had the most success with and find the easiest is germinating directly in the soil or another preferred growing medium.  It’s simplistic, but every time I have tried it with healthy seeds a stem broke the surface just 5-6 days after planting.  Make sure that the seed is not too deep below the surface of the soil.  This is a common mistake and for whatever reason people assume the seed should be a half inch or deeper into the dirt. Ideally, there should only be a 1/4 inch of space or a sprinkled amount of soil covering the seed.  It’s important to keep a thin layer of growing medium above the plant so that moisture is still present and it also won’t take too long to break the surface once sprouted.  Leave 7 days time before digging up the seed to see what is causing it not to sprout.  Patience is key and checking on its status too early could damage the taproot and potentially kill your plant before it can even grow.

There is some disagreement among growers about when exactly a planted seed should be exposed to a light source.  I would argue from experience that the seed will sprout just fine without any light.  The optimal time to turn on the light would be right after the main stem becomes visible above the soil.  This is when the plant will need UV rays in order to continue to grow more sets of leaves and stronger roots.  Others have claimed using a light before the seed sprouts add heat to the process which helps speeds it up.  In my opinion, if you can’t wait 4-7 days for a sprout then growing isn’t the hobby for you.  Either way, the best type of light to use for the beginning of the seedling stage is CFLs or Compact Fluorescent Lights.  They generally have the spiral design and do not generate much heat which is perfect.  Young plants shouldn’t be exposed to high wattage lighting because it will be overwhelming and can drastically stunt growth.  It’s best to change the light type after the seedling stage has passed and there are several sets of mature leaves and branches.

Michigan Increases it’s Number of Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana

Yesterday was a major victory for patients suffering from a variety of serious diseases in Michigan.  People who couldn’t qualify to use marijuana legally either risked prosecution or continued to use less effective pharmecutical drugs.  The existing list before the change took effect only included eight conditions.  They more than doubled that list by adding 10 new qualifying conditions that a physician can legally recommend marijuana for.  The old list included cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Chron’s disease, Alzheimer’s, chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  Now protection will be expanded to those suffering from arthritis, autism, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, spinal cord injury, Tourette’s syndrome, and colitis.  I would expect to see an explosion in the number of registered patients in my state as a result of this change.  The number of people who have one of these new conditions is enormous, but many will not take advantage of the expanded coverage.

I think that the most noticeable difference will be an increase in the amount of elderly medical marijuana users.  One of the key conditions that now qualifies is arthritis.  This disease is more common among the older generation and its addition to the list will likely attract some senior citizens.  I also believe that with the success of marijuana legalization across the country and in Canada, more people will be questioning their negative attitude surrounding the plant.  When I have visited local dispensaries rarely did I see anyone over the age of 65 in there.  However, this is likely because they have registered caregivers that grow or acquire their medicine for them so they don’t have to travel.  This age group is generally known for their opposition to drugs that have been illegal their entire lives.  Those facing old age are the ones who need cannabis the most and hopefully, these new conditions will lead more elderly patients to try alternative medicine.

There seems to only be positive results when more conditions are allowed to be treated using marijuana.  If I were to write the law it wouldn’t be a list of qualifying conditions, but rather discretion would be given to physicians. They should be able to recommend marijuana whenever they feel it could positively benefit their patient.  Leaving it up to the government to decide what conditions should qualify doesn’t make sense.  Doctors are the ones who have the most knowledge regarding the side effects of diseases and are familiar with each patient’s unique scenario.  Either way, there will be a noticeable growth in the economy of medical marijuana businesses in order to meet the demand of more registered patients.  More jobs are going to come to the state if recreational marijuana passes in November and now we don’t need to wait until then.  Dispensaries and cultivation facilities will need additional help and more new facilities will probably start springing up as well.

Compared to other states medical marijuana programs, Michigan is definitely blessed.  Looking at Ohio cities banning home cultivation or other states like Texas only allowing CBD oil for seizures makes our laws feel relaxed.  We pretty much lie right in the middle of the spectrum of marijuana enforcement.  There are lots of dispensaries to shop from across the state but only in large cities like Detroit, Ann Arbor, Lansing, and a few others.  For people who live far away from these areas, their selection is limited to the black market or what they themselves can grow.  At least these patients are still being provided protection from the law despite accessibility issues.  Ten years down the line I envision Michigan’s marijuana industry to be developed like the west coast currently is.  We are just a little behind the marijuana pioneers but still on the right track.

Growing Buds with Noticeable Flavor

Outside of paying close attention to your plant throughout its entire lifecycle, there are two specific stages that a grower can strategically use to maximize the flavor of their harvests.  They include the flushing period that makes up the last two weeks of the crop’s flowering cycle and the final step to the process, curing.  It blows my mind when growers spend 5 months or more of their time and effort growing their plants but then destroy their crops flavor by failing to flush nutrients out of the buds.  This causes an extremely harsh taste that will likely mask any flavor that your crop may have contained.  Not only will there be no taste, but you’ll likely find yourself coughing much more than normal.  People new to marijuana or occasional users may not notice any differences because they likely find any smoke to be harsh.  It takes some experience to differentiate from batch to batch which still contain nutrients.  Another way to tell if weed has been properly flushed outside of the taste is to look at the ashes.  If they are completely black and do not contain any white coloring, that is indicative of a poor flush.

There are a few easy steps a grower can take to avoid any issues with nutrient build up.  The most important thing is not to get caught up in abnormally fast growth that results from feeding the plants too much at a time or too frequently.  Do not get impatient with your garden and give it the required time it needs to grow at a healthy, natural rate.  Otherwise, you will be dealing with nutrient burn or best case scenario, some large plump buds that burn extremely harsh.  Cannabis should be given just water for a complete two weeks at the end of its growing cycle.  If you were using the correct amount of nutrients throughout the process, this is an adequate amount of time to ensure great flavor and a smooth smoke.  However, if you were just boosting your plants with as many nutrients as possible, then flushing all that out will be very tricky.  Cutting out a plants nutrients before the final two weeks could really impact the bud production negatively.  It’s extremely important that during weeks 5-7 the plants are absorbing a lot of phosphorous so giving them just water is not a good plan.

Just like following a proper flushing technique it’s also super easy to correctly cure your buds.  This is where a grower’s patience is really going to be tested.  There is nothing like having smokeable buds lying around that you must resist breaking into.  The difference between cannabis that has just finished drying and one that has been placed in jars for weeks, is night and day.  You won’t gain any weight to your buds over time but the flavor and scent profile will be recognizable.  I would argue that they also gain potency throughout the curing process.  The buds are still maturing just like they do as you progress through the flowering period of growth.  The texture and taste change and bud that has been cured always has a stronger scent.  So I would bet there is going to be some maturing in the potency from my personal experience.  Even if it didn’t increase the strength of the weed it is worthwhile to wait it out for 2 weeks.  For the first week be sure to burp the jars for 10 minutes of open time a day.  For the second and following weeks just leave the jars closed.  I usually always break into my stash after 2 weeks, but if you want to wait longer, it is supposed to get even better with time.

 

Arizona Marijuana Initiative will not make the 2018 Ballot

The state of Arizona has not had much luck when it comes to passing marijuana laws.  Despite their geographic location putting them close to many states that have progressive weed laws, they still only permit those with qualifying medical conditions to indulge.  Nevada, California, and Colorado all allow different legal protections for those older than 21, with some minor differences in what exactly is allowed.  This week on July 5th, was the deadline for The Safer Arizona Cannabis Legalization Act to submit the required amount of signatures to qualify for the ballot.  Altogether they were able to collect just over 75,000 but the requirement calls for over 150,000.  So this initiative missed by a long shot.  This is extremely disappointing news and yet another heartbreak for those living there.  Just two years back in 2016, a similar initiative had qualified for the ballot but narrowly failed to receive the popular vote.  The opposition received more funding than those supporting legalization and it had a major effect.  One of the largest donors was Insys Therapeutics a company that produces synthetic painkillers.  The pharmaceutical companies have no shame in admitting with their large contributions that they don’t want their drugs to be replaced by something they can not sell and is also not physically addictive.

These large contributions from companies help spread a lot of misinformation about the post-legalization effects that have yet to happen in the 9 states that have legalized it.  While different businesses have targeted every single state that has successfully got an initiative on a ballot, they have had very little success outside the state of Arizona recently.  Within the past four years, the only other legal marijuana ballot initiative to fail was in 2014 when Florida tried to pass medical marijuana.  Many attribute that failure to the high supermajority requirement of 60%.  It narrowly missed it with a 57.6% approval vote.  These opponents should stop wasting their money on funding the opposition and use it to innovate and react to the change in the economic environment.  It should make it easier for them to do so considering people are being thrown in jail and having their future destroyed as a result of their contributions.

This year it seems it should have been easier to reach success considering as more time goes on more people seem to join the marijuana movement.  The group collecting signatures, Safer Arizona, claims that the main reason they were not much able to get support was medical marijuana dispensary owners.  I believe there are plenty of dispensary owners out there who might not want recreational marijuana to pass yet so that they can cash in as long as possible.  However, I also know there are plenty of dispensary owners who can’t wait for legalization because that would give them the opportunity to apply for a license and expand to a larger market with an advantage of already having a location and experience.  It would not be easy for dispensaries to convince patients at their stores and other people they know to keep weed illegal and have people continue to get prosecuted for possession.  This ballot failure more than likely came down to the group doing a poor job of hiring volunteers or targetting the right locations for signatures.  Polls nationwide have shown over 60% of the population wants weed to be legal for adults.  There simply is no excuse for them to fail to meet even half the required number of signatures.  Hopefully in the future, a more organized campaign can spread the word more efficiently and develop a more solid framework for the bill.