Category Archives: Cultivation

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.

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.

 

Maintaining Stealth in the Grow Room

It’s always a pleasure for me to show close friends and others also in the cannabis industry the beautiful results of the garden.  There’s nothing like impressing others with high quality medicine that took hours of tedious work every day to create from a simple seed.  The process of growing is expensive and time consuming and the worst nightmare of any cultivator would be the discovery of the garden by unwanted visitors.  Whether it’s the police or someone looking for the five finger discount, there is far too much at stake if the garden were to be detected.  There are several precautionary steps that can be done to maximize the chances that the flowers are safely harvested and consumed.

The first thing that growers are conscious of when it comes to being compromised, is the strong pungent odor the plants emit while flowering and/or drying.  The most popular solution to this problem is the use of carbon filters.  Regardless of your lighting setup, the filter would be hooked up to a ducting fan, pumping the now clean air out of the tent/room.  The high pressure sodium setup is going to require more equipment then LED’s to effectively clean the air.  In a high pressure sodium grow room there must also be fans used to remove hot air from the hoods of the lighting system before it reaches your plants.  So there needs to be a ducting connector used to combine the hot air from the lights with the clean air coming from the filter.  This is going to use more fans and incur more overhead than LED grows.  LED lighting does not emit anywhere as much heat as a HPS, so there is no need to have a separate ducting fan.  I’s also important that all the air exiting your tent will need to be vented outside to ensure an optimal growing climate is maintained.

Equally important as masking the identifiable smell of cannabis, is avoiding suspicions from the neighborhood.  It’s human nature to get a little to nosy, and there’s plenty of people with too much times on their hands.  The home being used to cultivate needs to look as inhabited as possible.  Many times people transform a properties bedrooms and living rooms into a full blown growing operation, containing plants in various stages of growth.  It’s going to have a much higher chance of drawing attention if someone is going to the house for a few hours a day and leaves, instead of appearing to spend a reasonable amount of time inside the home.  There’s numerous ways to do this so get creative.  It would also be smart to leave designated spaces near the front door and windows full of furniture and other decor.  For those with smaller less organized operations, it’s much easier because they often live where they cultivate.  These types of grows have a far different risk than not looking inhabited.  Other types of activity like having lots of traffic that doesn’t seem to hang out long, is a quick way to receive complaints from neighbors and put you on the radar of the local task force.  The sounds of high output fans combined with bright lighting systems can also give you away if not properly contained.  In a small apartment or condo with neighbors close by, the more centered the grow is in the unit, the better off you’ll be.  Walls aren’t going to block the sound of multiple fans if they’re just feet away from the source.  Both high pressure sodium and LED lights will completely illuminate a room and all windows in that room.  This is one reason why I prefer using tents then an open room.  If you don’t utilize tents, it will be tricky to both ventilate air and block light from the same window.  This is why many people choose use the basement as an open growing space.

Taking steps like these and consistently investing money back into the security of the grow will help your odds and reduce the chance of becoming the target of a violent robbery or a drug investigation.  While cannabis is legal in more and more places each year, it remains illegal federally and attention from law enforcement in this industry is yet to prove beneficial.  Never get to comfortable and cut corners when it comes to operation security.

 

 

Side by Side Grow LED vs HPS

This past year I have had the opportunity to complete several harvests using an LED grow light for the first time, alongside the usual high pressure sodium set up. It was a great learning experience to see how the same strains responded to alternate lighting environments. The first and more obvious trait that differed among the two, was the final yield. Using feminized white widow seeds for both growing environments, I saw a difference of 4.5 ounces of dried flower. Not only was there more weight overall, but there was also a much higher weight per bud. My LED simply could not compare when it came to the main colas produced via the high pressure sodium. While both crops used the same growing medium and nutrients, the wattage on the lights used were not equal. The HPS uses 1000 watts, while the LED puts out 600. There is no doubt that a 1000w LED would have increased my yield to a noticeable degree. However, I know the buds would remain smaller and it still wouldn’t reach those monstrous HPS yields.

Getting a bigger harvest is always an attractive sales pitch to us cultivators, but it certainly isn’t everything. The quality was comparable in both environments and
it would be hard to judge a winner when it comes to potency, flavor, and duration of effects. They would also be hard to distinguish visually had the buds been of a comparable size. Controlling the temperature and minimizing electricity are where the LED lighting systems shine. They don’t generate much heat and are easy to cool a tent or grow area without a bunch of ducting and high powered fans. Your electric bill will hardly notice a difference ( definitely not the case for HPS).

The last difference I would like to mention was noticed while harvesting one day with a friend. We had knocked out the high pressure sodium grow in as few as 3 hours just between the two of us. Yes, there were only 2 plants, but there was a lot of buds. The leaf to bud ratio was low and after pulling the fan leaves the fine trimming was minor. It was great and we both couldn’t believe how fast we had finished in comparison to past grows with high pressure sodiums. A few months later, it was time to cut down the ladies under the purple lights. We had also left an entire afternoon/evening to complete the job. Unbelievably, after 9 hours we still hadn’t finished. There were so many leaves to manicure, and it simply was an extremely tedious process. We finished it the next morning, but in all it took us over 3 times as long as the previous crop! So if you plan on using LED’s to begin or to experiment with I highly suggest consistent manicuring and trimming during the vegetative stage to keep things under relative control before harvest day.
The final decision comes down to performance and budget but either route can lead to beautiful medicine.

Cannabis Drying Technique

In order to grow the best quality medicine, you need to have an understanding of the techniques growers have been using for decades to dry their harvests.  Nobody wants to put 3 plus months of effort and investment into a beautiful crop that will not burn or taste right due to poor drying technique.  There is far too much at stake to rush the process or not research what methods work best for your precious flowers.  Just like the cultivation process, there are many different ways to accomplish positive results.  Whether you decide to whole plant dry, trim when you harvest, or some sort of combination, with the right technique the drying stage will go smoothly and you’ll be left with some top shelf buds that are ready to cure.

The method that has brought the most pleasing results to my harvests, is to trim each branch as you go before placing them on hangers.  This is my favorite method because not only has it brought great results, but it makes the trimming process easier as leaves and stems are easier to remove when the plant is fresh.   Once all the small leaves harden and dry up into the buds, it becomes very difficult to get stems without removing parts of the flowers as well.  When you are dealing with large yields, trimming is enough work on its own so there is no reason to make the process more tedious then it has to be.

In the drying area your nipples should be hard because you’ll need a cool dark and well ventilated space.  It is definitely important to have a fan circulating the air around the buds but you do not want to have the fan blowing directly on them.  The buds will dry up much faster and have the potential of being too crispy and breaking up into dust when you grind it.   In these environmental conditions the drying stage should take around 4-5 days.  Another good way to verify that they are actually ready to begin curing is to break one of the branches.  If it snaps clean then it’s already too dry and you left them hanging too long but if you break it and it fractures slightly without much resistance that’s the sweet spot.  Getting it down inside the correct time frame is so key because curing too early leaves the possibility of molding out your due to trapped moisture.  Taking them down too late will also make buds lose the sticky feel connoisseurs are looking for.

Timing and using your best judgement on buds appearance/feel is essential to maximizing your product’s potential.  I don’t think people weigh the importance of the drying stage and treat it as a minimal stage in the cultivation process instead of a determining one.  While the method of drying can change, the drying environment can not so don’t settle for using drying racks or not properly controlling/ventilating the designated drying space.  I truly wonder how much of the lower shelf medicine available was actually grown professionally but ended up how it did due to poor processing techniques.