How to start? The first question you should be asking is: Why do I want to grow?
The spirit of Cannabis is known for being very arrogant. Just looking at the plant you see an air of self-confidence as it stands praising the Sun.
You have to ask this question because you have to know why YOU are growing or at least wanting to grow. Are you growing medicine, growing for your personal smoke or are you growing for cash?
Answering these questions before you start growing will save you time and money, but most importantly, the Plant will give you what you need, and trust me, if you see Dollar signs all over the show, then that is exactly what the plant won’t give you, but if you need medicine this plant will produce a beautiful personalised medicine, made for you if grown by you. The right intent goes a long way.
So once you are ready to start your growing journey you will need the next basic things as a minimum:
A Seed, some soil, water, the Sun and some love. Those 5 things are the minimum requirements that will enable your plant to grow. Remember, it is in the Cannabis plant’s interest to grow. To grow vigorously that is and to grow it as vigorously as humanly possible, you need to get sciency…
The Seven Key Stages Of The Cannabis Plant Life Cycle
Are you curious about the natural life cycle of the cannabis plant? Do you want to try your hand at producing your own harvest, but are unsure about how exactly to go about it? Well have we got a treat for you!
We’ll discuss the importance of labeling the sex of your seeds along with the difference between the male and female plants. We’ll also show you why you need to isolate the female plants if you want to produce the most bud for smoking. After that, we’ll guide you through the entire growth process of the plant—from germination to seedling; through vegetation, pre-flowering, and flowering; to harvesting and the next seed life-cycle stages of your pot plant. So strap yourself in for a wild ride through the basic biology of your favorite weed. It’s sure to be an enjoyable trip. We’ll start our journey where all good journeys begin: at the origin, the source, the seed.
Starting with seed
Pick up any seed and examine it closely. Turn it over and around. Feel the weight. Notice the shape and the color. Now tell me if that seed is going to produce a male cannabis plant or a female plant.
Can’t do it, can you? Don’t feel bad. No one can.
This introduces a major problem into the world of do-it-yourself ganja growing: how can you be sure the seeds you plant will produce the cannabis you want? This is an important question because only the female plant produces the trichome rich cola buds that you can harvest to smoke, eat or make medicine from. The male plant produces none of that. In fact, the male plant can actually be a detriment to your cannabis harvest if grown together with female plants. This is because the male plant’s sole purpose is to pollinate the female plant. While that doesn’t sound like a bad thing, it actually is. When female cannabis plants are pollinated, they start using their energy to produce seeds and stop using their energy to feed the buds that we all know and love. Allowing a male plant to grow alongside a female plant is a recipe for reduced bud harvest and can ruin the euphoric properties of the female cannabis plant’s high-inducing “fruit.” Be sure you separate all male and female plants right away.
So as you can see, it’s good to know if your cannabis seeds will produce female plants or male plants before you begin growing them. This brings us back to the earlier question: how can you be sure the seeds you plant will produce the cannabis you want? Many cannabis seeds can look alike so, really, the only way to know for sure if the seed you’re holding is male or female is to label it immediately after removing it from the plant.
Now, obviously, you can’t label the seed itself, but you can put the seeds in a container with other seeds of the same sex. The simplest container is a paper bag or envelope, but other types will work as well. Just make sure that you don’t store your seeds in a plastic bag or some other airtight container. The moisture that gets trapped inside will cause the seed to mold and become useless. Whatever container you choose, be sure to mark it with the strain name and the sex of the plant so you can keep your strains separated.
The Seedling Stage
During the seedling stage, two embryonic leaves will open outward from the stem to receive the sunlight that the baby plant needs to completely break out of its underground seed casing. The embryonic leaves will look nothing like the cannabis leaves that you’re used to. But the next pair of leaves to grow from the baby plant will be the first to have the classic rounded points that makes the cannabis leaf stand out from all the rest. The cannabis leaf is so recognizable that many people in the cannabis community use it as a symbol to represent their lifestyle. The image below shows the contrast between the two sets of leaves.
The first pair is the embryonic leaves. See how they’re smooth and fairly indistinct? The next set is the cannabis leaves that you’ve come to know so well and love so much. See the serrations along the edges? These are a classic feature of the cannabis leaf.
All in all, the seedling will grow between 4 and 8 leaves during this stage of its development. The seedling phase can last anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks depending on the soil, the amount of water the seed receives, the environment, the quality of the sunlight, and a whole host of other variables.
During the vegetation phase, the stem will grow thicker and taller and will begin to develop new nodes. These nodes will produce yet more leaves and even new branches.
Because it is growing and producing leaves and branches, your plant will need plenty of fresh warm water along with flowing, dry air, lots of nitrogen rich organic nutrients such as liquid fish or seaweed, and as much soil space as possible. All of this together allows your cannabis plant to grow from a 15cm baby plant into a metre or more tree within the span of three to six weeks.
The plant’s growth largely depends upon the rate at which its leaves can gather in sunlight and transform it to chemical energy (photosynthesis). This fact explains why the vegetative plant will need long hours of summer sunlight (12 to 15 or more in the wild) or 18 hours of fluorescent light per day. The tree will halt its upward growth once it starts receiving less natural outdoor daylight or when the indoor grower reduces the plant from 18 to 12 hours of fluorescent light per day. It’s at this point that the plant enters the pre-flowering phase.
It can take anywhere from 1 to 5 months for the growing plant to enter it’s pre-flowering stage. When it finally does, you’ll be able to determine the sex of the plant. If the plant is a male, you will see little green banana-like sac structures on the node regions of the plant where the leaves meet the main stem. These male plants must be separated from the female plants before the little green sacs burst open and release their pollen. If you don’t find the male plants in time, and the sacs do burst, the pollen can fertilize the cola of the nearby female plants. This pollination ruins the psychoactive potential of the trichome the female plant may grow.
When you keep your female cannabis plant from being pollinated by a male plant, you produce what is called a sinsemilla. Sinsemilla (Spanish for ‘without seed’) refers to a female plant that does not have any seeds because it has not been fertilized by pollen. Sinsemilla plants produce large amounts of resin as well as fake seed pods, both of which contain high percentages of THC, and really, that’s the goal of every grower, isn’t it?
You can identify sinsemilla plants by the white hairs that emerge from the pear-shaped bracts at their plant nodes. Keep in mind that sometimes, a plant can be hermaphroditic. This means that it has both sets of reproductive organs (glands and leaves). Hermaphroditic cannabis plants can actually pollinate themselves and ruin your THC or CBD harvest. For this reason, it’s important to remain vigilant and to separate and destroy any hermaphroditic plants with female glands and male leaves which carry the potential to pollinate and ruin your psychoactive sinsemilla.
Once the light duration begins to decrease (whether naturally or artificially), the cannabis plant moves into the flowering stage. That’s where we’ll go next.
Your plant will continue to grow into sticks and leaves without producing any of the flower’s medicinal qualities unless its light exposure is gradually reduced. This may mean less time spent in the daylight or by artificially decreasing indoor fluorescent light time from 18 to 12 hours. During the flowering stage, your pot plant will also require potassium and phosphorus-based nutrients, such as bat guano, in order to properly set flowers. When it does, though, you’ll begin to see and smell dank trichome-saturated cola buds growing from your plant. These buds will also produce long, thin, milky white hairs, or pistils, that will begin to emerge over the next 8 to 10 weeks. All of this flowering activity is triggered by a simple reduction in light. Amazing!
You’ll know your cannabis plant is ripe for harvest when the hues of the pistils on the cola buds transform from milky white to reddish orange. You’ll also want to use a microscope to check the color of the heads of the trichomes oozing out from the ripe cola buds. You’ll know that your buds are ready for harvest when the trichome heads turn from clear to milky and opaque and eventually amber. The presence of more amber trichome heads will likely indicate a higher CBD and THC cannabinoid profile ratio in its trichome resin.
If want to harvest your cannabis plant for its full THC or CBD effects, you DON’T want the trichomes to fall off. If that happens, that means that you let the plant grow too long. The majority of the cannabinoids are now gone, you won’t enjoy the psychoactive or medicinal effects, and you’ll have to start growing a new batch of cannabis. Instead, many growers suggest harvesting the crop when half the trichomes on the plant are opaque. In theory, this produces the highest level of THC with the lowest level of CBD (which counteracts the euphoric effects of the former).
The little hairs that grow from inside the calyxes or the pistils are another clue that help you determine when to harvest your cannabis for the specific kind of chemical properties you want it to contain. The color of the pistils changes from bright white to rusty orange or brown at the end of the plant’s flowering phase. On one end of the spectrum, if you notice a higher ratio of white to red pistols, that means your pot will produce more of a euphoric THC high. On the other end of the spectrum, if you notice a higher ratio of red to white pistols, that means your pot will produce more of a sober, calm CBD stoned feeling. Squarely in between those two extremes, cannabis crops harvested in the middle of the flowering cycle when roughly half the trichome heads are opaque and the pistils aren’t yet brown should produce a more balanced THC:CBD blend of cannabinoids.
When you’ve determined that it is indeed time to harvest your bud, you’ll need a good pair of scissors or a sharp pruning tool to cut the trunk from the roots so it can be dried. Make the cut as close to the base of the plant as possible. Then proceed to cut the tree into smaller branches. Doing so will make it easier to dry the plant. Once you’ve cut your plant into small sections, string up the pieces and hang them upside down from lines of twine in a dark, cool room with a humidity level of 40 to 50 percent. The plant matter should remain hanging in this way and in these conditions for 4 to 6 days.
While you’re cutting your pot plant into sections for drying, trim the leaves and stems and set them aside. This material can be trimmed away, saved, and eventually processed to make cannabutter and cannabis concentrates after your buds have dried.
Once your buds are done drying, place them in a wide-mouthed glass mason jar with a screw-top lid. Fill the jars to just below the top but don’t pack the buds in. Doing so will decrease air flow and cause problems later on. Store the mason jars in a closet or cabinet where the temperature stays between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius. Your jars should remain here for 1 to 3 weeks in order to cure the buds and finish the harvesting process. That said, once a day you need to briefly open the jars. This allows fresh air to get in and any gases produced by the curing process to get out.
Breeding And Cloning To Continue The Cannabis Life-Cycle
As we touched on above, new, viable pot seeds (able to be planted and produce a new plant) will grow in the colas of the female plants in the 2 to 16 weeks after they have been pollinated from by a nearby male plant. The pistils on the seed pods may change colors before the pods burst and the new seeds are scattered to the soil below. However, this isn’t the only way to get ahold of pot seeds in order to continue the strain.
You can avoid having to germinate new unidentified male seeds and continue the cannabis life-cycle of your most successful plants through a process known as sensimilla cloning. You can grow new, genetically identical versions of your favorite strains year after year by cutting a branch of four or more inches from your best plant and planting it in rooting solution. This process will stimulate the cut branch into growing a new root which you can then replant. If you do this after every growing season, you will always have new material with which to start your next year’s harvest.
Summing Up The Lifecycle Of The Cannabis Plant
Soak your pot seeds in water or a paper towel to sprout their taproots which will fasten into your soil and germinate into seedlings. Keep checking the plant’s nodes during the vegetative phase to ensure that you don’t have any unwanted male plants among your crop. If you do find male plants, be sure to separate them from the female plants. The cannabis plant will continue to vegetate until it begins to receive less light from natural or artificial sources. This will trigger its flowering phase. Pay attention to the colors of the thin hairs or pistols and the color of the heads of the trichomes in order to determine the right moment to cut and harvest your plant. Hang the wet weed buds up in a cool, dark, dry space with low humidity for approximately a week.
Before you can enjoy your glorious new buds, you’ll need to cure them in glass mason jars for 1 to 3 weeks while ensuring to open them once per day. If you’re interested in growing a future set of buds, you can continue the growth cycle by allowing a male plant to pollinate a female into growing seeds with which you can experiment with, or you can cut a branch from your favorite plant and place it in rooting solution to clone it season after season!