GROWING MARIJUANA - PART 2 - LET'S GET GROWING!
Written by Kim Smerek
Starting with Seeds
If you are growing marijuana at home for the first time, choose the easiest marijuana seed strain to care for. It will help you learn about the plant, while not having to invest too much time, money, and other resources into it when growing marijuana at home. You'll have a couple of different choices of seeds to choose from.
• Pure seeds have been around forever, but are not as popular as other kinds due to their unpredictability.
• Feminized seeds are bred to grow only female plants (which are the ones that produce the buds you'll want), but require photoperiod control (careful control of light and dark periods).
• Auto-flowering seeds could be the best choice for novice growers. They produce 100 percent female plants that yield well. They also eliminate the need for photoperiod control in cannabis plants, making it easy for first-time growers.
Soak your seeds overnight in distilled or cooled, boiled water. Line a saucer with a layer of wet paper towel. Drain excess water from your seeds and place seeds on wet paper towel. Space the seeds a couple of inches apart and cover the seeds with a second layer of damp paper towel and a saucer and place in a dark, warm (about 21ºC) area for few days. Mist the paper towel as needed to keep them moist, checking every day to watch for developing roots. It usually takes about 2-3 days, but can take up to 7 days for roots to develop.
Once the roots appear, transfer them to a small container of growing medium. As the seedlings develop, give them lots of light and in about a month you can transplant to a larger pot or plant outdoors.
As discussed in Part 1, make sure you have created an area with adequate light, using either sunlight or investing in artificial lighting systems using LEDs, HIDs, or fluorescents. Measure the temperature and humidity levels and install ventilation mechanisms to keep these parameters in check when growing marijuana at home. In general, too much heat causes plants stress. When it is too hot, your plant is more likely to suffer from pest infestations and mold.
Choose Your Growing Medium
The growth medium is responsible for transferring nutrients through water. You can choose between growing in the soil, or soilless mediums, such as hydroponics. Although hydroponics boast specific advantages, using soil is the best choice for first-timers to make the process simple and straightforward. Check the pH levels of your growing medium. The ideal range should be between 6-7 for soil. If you're using soil as a medium (a damp peat-perlite mix or coco coir works best), carefully take the four seeds and put them in peat pellets or small pots with the growing medium about 2.5 to 5cm deep.
The seedling is now going to transition into a vegetative stage where you will see the sprout grow leaves and branches. The temperature requirement is slightly higher during this time, and all the essential nutrients need to be adequately available for healthy growth. Set a timer with a light cycle of 18 hours on and 6 hours off at night. Stalks will emerge in a week or two, and nutrients and water can be added. Vegetative growth will continue for a month or two, at which point the plants should be transplanted to larger pots. Trim away larger leaves. Be sure to raise the lighting system as your plants grow.
During the vegetative stage, young plants prefer a high humidity (70% or more) and temperatures between 68-77°F (20-25°C). However, as the plant gets older, a slightly lower humidity is okay. This is more of an issue for indoor grown plants, as outdoor grown plants are able to withstand more temperature fluctuations.
Monitor the growth and look out for any signs of plant deficiencies to provide the necessary remedies.
Pruning For Higher Yield: When pruning, start early and often. Cut or pinch branches just above the node where two new shoots will emerge. If you stay on top of this process, you’ll have plants that look like bonsai bushes, with plenty of bud sites but not a lot of stretching out and big gaps between nodes. This is the efficient way to get bigger yields out of small spaces but your vegetating time will increase so factor that into your schedule.
You’re ready to begin the flowering stage, when the plants reach between 30 and 60 cm. This is when your plant starts to form small flowers, which will eventually turn into buds. Switch your timer to a 12 hour on/12 hour off light cycle. Be sure never to interrupt the 12-hour dark period with any light. This confuses your plant and can cause serious problems.
They’ll start flowering and reach maturity within eight to 10 weeks, depending on seed variety. Maintain the temperature between 64° F and 78°F Don’t prune or pinch plants at all once they’ve begun flowering – you’ll only be decreasing your harvest at that point. Trimming the leaves two or three times during flowering allows more light to reach the flowers and buds.
Avoid overfeeding and overwatering your plants at all costs. Err on the side of caution as it’s always easier to add more nutrients or water than it is to take them away. Marijuana roots prefer a wet/dry cycle so lift up your buckets and you’ll get a better idea for if they need watering or not by the weight.
The first sign of overfed plants is burnt leaf tips. Change your feeding regimen to one suited for flowering. Plant nutrients generally come in vegetative or flowering formulations so switch over to a “blooming” solution.
Depending on the flowering time of your strain, determine when you have two weeks or so left and begin the flushing process by flushing your grow medium with only plain water.
Harvesting and Drying
This is the moment you've been waiting for! The colour depth of the pistils and hairs will indicate the maturity and potency of the buds.When they are about 50 – 70 percent dark, you will get a yield rich in THC content. If you wish to enjoy a relaxing effect from the buds, then wait for at least 80 percent of the flowers to become dark in colour to harvest.
You do not want marijuana to dry too quickly or too slowly, as the ideal drying time for a healthy and flavourful marijuana plant is 10 to 14 days. Cut off the larger branches and trim off the leaves. Hang them upside down in a dark environment for 5 days or so. Trim off any other leaves and remove the dried buds. Keep the jar in a dark, cool place like a cupboard, opening the lid to allow excess moisture to escape from the buds every few days. After a week or two they’re ready to consume.