Category Archives: Cultivation

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.

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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.

 

Using Tents vs. an Open Grow Room

One of the many decisions that you will have to make as a cannabis cultivator is how exactly you want to use the available space at your disposal.  If you have a bedroom or basement that can be transformed into a cultivation facility, should you purchase and put up a bunch of separate tents or just use the space as it is?  I would like to say that it’s a straightforward answer and everyone should be using tents but like most things in life each option has it’s benefits.

To start off, lets go over why I have used grow tents in all of my medical marijuana grows.  In my situation space has always been a constraint when it comes to producing the amount of plants that I would like to.  If you only have one room that you can dedicate to your garden there is no reason why you shouldn’t be using tents unless you’re really short on cash for equipment.  By adding tents you can have multiple stages of growth going on all contained and controlled separately.  This is a huge advantage because if you have grown cannabis in the past you know it takes a minimum of 3 months for the entire process from plant to harvest.  If you didn’t buy any tents and didn’t go through all the work of separating your room into a bunch of individual sections, your entire garden will be in the same growth stage.  To trigger flowering requires that there is only 12 hours of light per day, so if you want to have different growth stages you have to block the light from entering the flowering area.  In this business it’s all about the turnaround and if you can have another tent right behind your flowering one, there will be many more harvests in the same amount of time.

Tents are great for more then just separating the light cycles from the different areas of growth.  They also make containing the scent of your buds much more manageable than an open room full of skunky scents.  Adding a carbon filter to the air that is trapped inside will make it near impossible for uncleaned air to exit the tent.  In addition, all tents that I have installed also have hanging poles on the top making it easy to hang fans, lights, and carbon filters without any extra equipment.

If tents are so great then why do so many people still opt to go with the open grow room?  The most likely scenario where you would see rooms with no tents is in warehouses full of 5,000-10,000 plants.  If you are going to be producing on a large scale then using tents is going to be a waste of resources and just more unnecessary costs that you don’t need.  People that have multiple rooms can do the same separation I spoke of before, but on a much larger scale and without tents.  Rooms can be climate controlled just as easy as a tent so that is not an issue either.  When it comes to smell, the warehouse cultivation centers in recreational states don’t have to worry as much as most home growers with neighbors.  Hanging all your equipment and keeping plants of different heights at the appropriate distance from lighting will just take some extra creative designing on your part but still makes much more sense than installing a bunch of separate tents.

For those that grow on a small to medium sized scale at home,  I would highly suggest using tents to get the most money out of the same amount of time.  There is no doubt in my mind that it’s possible to grow high quality buds without containing your grow inside tents, but at the end of the day you might just have less bud and a stinky house.

 

 

 

Growing with High Pressure Sodium Lights

If high pressure sodium lights aren’t the most popular lighting systems used in cannabis grows, they are most definitely among the top 3 with florescent and metal halide.  These lights in the flowering stage, will provide the required energy for a bigger yield per wat in comparison to any type of grow light out there.  That’s a perk most growers can’t ignore, despite their higher electrical usage than alternatives like LED or CFL’s.

I like to start off the seedlings and the first few weeks of vegetative growth under a compact florescent set up.  After i feel the plant is strong enough to take the intensity from the high pressure sodium(it has several sets of leaves), I will replace the CFL”s with a 1000 watt High pressure sodium light.  I think this light works great for both the vegetative and flowering cycle of the plants life.  You most definitely can get away with using a different lighting system for the entire vegetative cycle.  I would highly recommend using these type of lights for flowering though because that’s where these bulbs really separate themselves from the rest.  Plants respond better to the red spectrum of lighting for flowering, as it promotes the plant to stretch and bud more efficiently.  Plants may also have a faster transition to flower under a light that is closer to the red spectrum.

One of the most important things to consider when choosing to go with a HPS, is cooling the growing environment.  There has to be a fan attached to the reflector at all times or it will emit too much heat for your medicine to be grown optimally.  As long as the area is well ventilated and you have hot air going out with fresh air coming in, there is no issue with using these lights.  Remember that growing temperatures should be between 73-85 during the vegetative stage and you’ll have to compensate for this added heat.  A couple feet is a good maximum distance to separate the plants from the glass.

These lights are very powerful and they produce powerful medicine.  I remember my very first grow when I wasn’t too sure what I was doing outside of reading, and I purchased a high quality HPS bulb.  My first harvest turned out to be surprisingly good quality and I was quick to give credit to the expensive light.  My yield was low, but that was because I was still trying to figure out the correct nutrient mix and wasn’t using proper pruning techniques.  Now that I have a few years of growing experience I can say for sure that these lights will produce wonderful buds if you know what you are doing.  Start growing now and as young as you can, I can only imagine the quality of medicine you and I could be producing 20 years down the road.