Cannabis Coming of Age – First Weeks of Flowering
Know Before You Grow Part VI
Coming of age by definition is that certain age when the transition from childhood to adulthood takes place. However, that certain age can be dictated by many different things and changes from culture to culture. The young teen daughters of aristocratic families come of age around 16 years old as debutantes with glamorous coming out parties. Some teens in families stricken with poverty or tragedy come of age much younger with no party and very few choices. Reasons for coming of age vary from finance to religion and the rituals associated with coming of age vary from harsh to luxurious. They are all a celebration of that transition from child to adult.
For your marijuana plants …that means it’s time to make some buds!
Whether you want to throw your cannabis plants a lavish coming out party and celebrate their adulthood or you just want to throw them into a new environment and force them to deal with their new reality….that time has come. Puberty is here and your girls need to become ladies.
In this installment of our “Know Before You Grow” series, we are going to give you the tools you need to deal with your cannabis plants as they make that transition from child to adult. The vegetative stage of the cannabis grow cycle is forgiving and the flowering cycle of the cannabis plant is a simple cycle to master….but maximizing quality and yield from that grow cycle is not. Although caring for a couple or even a few flowering cannabis plants does not take much time, it does take time. You cannot neglect them or even care for them only when you want. Not touching your plants, not thinning them, not picking leaves and not training them is the equivalent of trying to raise a teenager without support and hugs. The next twelve steps will show you how to love your ladies, how to handle them, how and when to train them along with what to expect the first half or their flower cycle.
So dress up the debutantes, spike the punch and strike up the band…let the coming out party begin.
- Trial and Error
- Keeping Track
- Picking and Thinning
- Working Out
- Function and Form
- Week 1
- Week 2
- Week 3
- Week 4
- All Grown Up
- Environment – At this point, we have told you the basic and advanced need of an environment, showed you how to build that environment, instructed you to check that environment and then to double check that environment. Although we realize at this point you are getting tired of environment talk we are going to remind you one more time how important that environment is. When the lights are on your temperature should be no lower than 70 degrees Fahrenheit and no more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit, 80-85 degrees at the top of the canopy and 75 degrees on the walls are what I shoot for in rooms I manage. When the lights are off they need to be off, meaning total darkness. The temperature should not be above 65-70 degrees and not drop below 40 degrees when the lights are off. Colorful indicas will flourish in colder sleeping temperatures while some sativas will suffer if it gets too chilly when the lights turn off. Your humidity should always be under 50%, it will be more difficult to accomplish this with the more plants you have.
- Trial and Error – Okay, okay….this will be the last time I urge you to experiment with and double check your environment, I promise. At this point, I won’t even give you any more advice about it. Instead, I will simply describe what we did with our project crop and encourage new growers to do the same. Our plants were all 18” – 24” tall and about 16” in circumference when we decided it was time for them to come of age.
Our plants were vegetating in a separate nursery while our project room was being built. They were vegging under very basic fluorescent grow lights. We let the plants vegetate under the new Gavita lights for 10 days which served 3 purposes: It gave our new Gavita lights the proper uninterrupted break in…..Our plants got huge…..and It gave us over a week to play with the environment. Once we were comfortable with the rooms ability to maintain temperature and humidity throughout the grow cycle we programmed the lights to be on for 12 hours and off for 12 hours. We programmed a sudden change with no sun setting or sun rising. The lights came on at 6 pm and went off at 6 am. Do not program your lights to your convenience, consider the temperature outside and how much it influences the temperature in your room. The cold coastal nights allow us to run our lights at night without additional cooling and the temp is just right with mild coastal days. Whether you have to heat or cool your room will greatly influence your light cycle times.
- Keeping Track of Problems and Progress — This step is an easy one to tackle. Your crop will need your attention every day but that daily time commitment is not a big one. Some days I will stroll through a grow and just adjust a few needless things on the ladies or pull a leaf here and there just so I touch them….I’m in and out in ten minutes or so. However, I still take the time to record that the ladies looked wonderful and I describe EXACTLY what I did with them, even if it’s routine duties. I cannot express how this has helped me save a crop from what were sometimes my own mistakes. Over time my notes became helpful even from grow to grow. I use a white wipe board in all my rooms. Both clients and I record every task we do and every item we add or eliminate along with the progress of the plants. At the end of each grow cycle, the notes are summarized. A chalkboard…a wipe board…dry erase….or even a journal…record your activities every time you leave the ladies.
- Picking and Thinning Leaves —- Now it’s time to get serious, review time and double checking is over. Picking and thinning leaves is very simple but one of the most important tasks you can learn in cannabis cultivation. Cannabis plants make an unbelievable amount of leaves when they are healthy and happy. The more leaves you pick…the more leaves the plant will make. I have had clients scream, throw fits and simply leave the room in silence after picking their plants. Two weeks later each of those clients were describing to me how bushy and beautiful their plants were. Some even described the new growth as some extraordinary event that only their garden or strain could produce. You cannot pick and thin enough in the first 4 weeks of flowering but it is important which leaves you take and how you take them. Always pull down or toward the main stalk when removing a leaf no matter how big or small the leaf is. Do not leave any part of the leaf’s stem attached to the plant. Take leaves that are mature. Once the leaf is huge with a purple or red stem the leaf is mature. The big huge leaves look cool in photos but they are actually shading your smaller inner leaves…and those are the leaves you need to grow. Leave a few big gorgeous leaves up top or on the perimeter but get rid of the big ones within the plant. Obviously, any dead, brown or yellowing leaves have to go. Even if the leaf is dead pull down and toward the main stalk when removing and leave no part of the leaf’s stem attached. You should pull a leaf or two every day and your crop should get a thorough picking after week 1 and week 3 of the flower cycle. After week 4 the cannabis plant’s leaf production will decline as more energy is focused on big, sticky buds. When the plant slows down production of leaves you should slow down picking them. This change will be obvious and occur shortly after your buds start forming.
- Working Out With the Weed —- Hold your hand in front of your face like you are holding a light bulb or egg at your fingertips. This is how your cannabis branches will try to grow. Whether outdoor or indoor the branches will stay close to each other and race each other to the light. Now open your hand wide. This is how branches need to grow to maximize the air, nutrients, and light they receive which in return maximizes your quality and yield. Your branches become stronger and your buds become better with each bend Keep bending branches downward and away from each other from the time your plants are strong clones through the 4th week of flowering. Bend the branches downward between your fingers working the branches both outward into the stalk and from the stalk out.
- Cropping…When Training Isn’t enough —- Just like training is sometimes not enough for people training is sometimes not enough for plants. No matter how much you bend branches or try to manipulate with yo-yos there is always a branch or two in every crop that shoots for the stars. Some plants grow wide at a very young age while others produce one singular, terminal shoot hell bent on reaching the light six weeks before the other branches. While zeal like that might be rewarded in people it will only get a plant’s branch cloned or super cropped. Topping, FIMMing and super cropping are all discussed in the previous installment of this series and are recommended whenever needed to keep your plants short and wide with many branches. However, any kind of cropping like topping or super cropping should be done within the first 3 weeks of the flower cycle. After buds start appearing and forming cropping methods like topping should stop. You can super crop branches a little bit later into the flower cycle but if the branch is big enough to super crop that late in the cycle it should have been dealt with much sooner. Once buds appear on your ladies you want their energy and nourishment focused on the buds rather than repairing picked leaves and super cropped branches. When leaves get picked and thinned after week 1 and week 3 of the flower cycle the branches should get worked (and super cropped if needed) during those pickings. These workouts should be thorough and extensive but just like picking leaves stops with bud production bending branches should stop once buds appear.
- The Function and the Form —- We have all heard the commonly used phrase “form follows function”. This is an architectural design law coined by a young architect and writer named Louis Sullivan in an 1896 article he penned. “Whether it be the sweeping eagle in his flight, or the open apple-blossom, the toiling work-horse, the blithe swan, the branching oak, the winding stream at its base, the drifting clouds, over all the coursing sun, form ever follows function, and this is the law” For a long time I thought this meant there was one and only one way to do things. When I first started working in the cannabis trade I was employed by and surrounded by young millennials, everyone around me was at least 15 years younger than me. Once a fact was established it became “the right way” and they would race to their phones to establish whatever method or fact was needed to make their way the “right way”. Methods and techniques were argued more than they were tested. We all picked up a tip or two from each other but we all grew amazing weed before it was legal so we all became pretty hard headed and stubborn about our “techniques”. After I began consulting my own clients I was soon surrounded by people who were all 15 years or older than me instead of younger. Several of them altered a method or changed a technique, some of the changes made by different clients were changes that I had argued about or gotten in trouble for doing myself when working with my younger peers of the pot world. The difference now was that my clients were not making these or other changes to show the new guy the pecking order. These alterations were not to vie for position on the dispensary owner’s totem pole and none of these changes were made to neither serve nor slam someone’s ego. Each and every one of the changes or alterations that would have caused an argument with my younger peers was made to accommodate the handicap or lifestyle of my aging clientele. I learned that form truly does follow function with my younger peers but I learned that functions change with time by working with my older students, clients, and friends. The point of this segment is to not get too set in my ways or any other ways you learn, respect or admire. Find your own happy place in the grow room and don’t ever stress about doing or not doing something outside of the plant’s basic necessities. The best way for your plants not to be stressed is for you not to be stressed so make it easy on yourself. There is no strict method for growing cannabis and nothing will make you think that you have a green thumb like weeks 2 & 3 of the cannabis flowering cycle. Be creative or bring out your organizational skills in the grow room, you can even make it a place where you don’t do a damn thing. We have had several clients take no active role in their grow room. They have us do everything and just sit among the plants when they want to escape. We have some clients that try to do way too much and only contact us when their plants are screaming for help. But to date, we have never had a client kill a plant or fail at producing dank buds so don’t be too hard on yourself in the grow room. The following steps describe what to expect out of your teenager and young adult cannabis plants for the first four weeks of their flower cycle. Make sure that both function and form follow your priorities and abilities.
- WEEK 1 Flower Cycle — If you are using old school lights like HPS or magnesium halide your lights should be 18″ – 24″ above your plants. Newer lights like double ended HPS and LED should be 3 -7 feet above your plants. Whatever type of lights there should be at least 2 feet of room to raise as the plants grow. Your plants’ leaves will droop and the plant will droop for a couple days. If the top and most exposed side leaves yellow your lights might be a little close. I don’t mind if a couple leaves get sunburned. If a couple leaves burn and the plant recovers your lights are fine. If leaves continue to turn yellow after a couple days your lights are too close. If your plant won’t come out of droop even when the lights are on or if it has a withered look your lights are too far away. Adjust by inches…not feet. If even inner leaves or shaded leaves are yellowing or the leaves are curling this indicates a nutrient problem. Your plants will show trauma for 24 – 72 hours once the light cycle starts but if they are not recovering in 3 days and/or thriving again in 5 days there is a problem. The end of week 1 begins the fun and your plants should be thriving.
- WEEK 2 Flower Cycle — As week 2 begins you should be feeling like quite the gardener and your plants leaves should be multiplying like it’s springtime in New York. By day 10 you should give your plants a thorough picking. Hopefully, they are thick enough you cannot see through them. When you are done picking you should be able to see through them. When you are done give the plants a good dowsing with the neem oil mixture ( 1 ½ tbsp. neem plasma, 2 drops dish soap, 1 qt water in a spray bottle). They will look traumatized for a day or so but recover stronger than ever. Give your room a sulfur burn at this same time if you like as well. By the end of week two, your plants should be flourishing and keeping you very busy picking leaves and bending branches (training). As you begin week three your plants may be starting to make little fluting flowers….these will become buds.
- WEEK 3 Flower Cycle — Picking leaves and bending branches should be a habit when you walk in the grow room now. You should be able to spend a few minutes grooming your ladies and leave with more than a handful of leaves whenever you want. Your thoughts of “oh man, I hope I didn’t take too much” should have turned into thoughts of “Oh man, I didn’t take enough”. That’s Ok, you get another chance because the ladies get another workout this week, and it’s best done toward mid-week. Leaf polishes, even natural polishes like neem or garlic can’t be used after your buds become little hairy balls. No pun intended, there’s just no better description for marijuana buds late in week 3. You need to give your ladies another workout, keep in mind this time that they will recover just as fiercely as they did 10 days ago. Pick the leaves and take even the little buds that haven’t developed as well as the others. Be picky. Take out anything struggling, bottom leaves, big shading leaves and extremely under-developed buds that won’t amount to anything. This is your last chance to clean her up and let the light shine deep within her. You can pick leaves late into week 3 and you can bend branches late into week 3 but leaf polish spray should not be used once there are buds throughout your plants. At the end of week 3, your plants should be large in size, thick with leaves and buds should be appearing all over the plants.
- WEEK 4 Flowering Cycle —- After coming of age a young teen’s life literally flies by in a wink and before you know it that young teen is out of college, married with children and settling into adulthood. That’s exactly where your plants are in week 4. The hustle and bustle are behind you and all that picking, thinning, training, spraying and cropping comes to a stop. Your nutrients will change to a more adult diet. Root enhancers will be replaced with bud building nutrients and if you give the room a sulfur burn it will be the last one these plants will see. By the end of week 4, your plants should be recovered from their last workout with an abundance of dark healthy leaves. Your plants should now be covered in buds and some of the bigger limbs should see buds growing together to form bigger buds and kolas should be forming on the main branches. Your plants should be gorgeous at the end of week 4. And if they are…you should feel very proud of yourself. Good job!!
- All Grown Up —- Once you have reached week 4 the light at the end of the tunnel should be getting a little brighter as harvest is rapidly approaching. Now that your plants have reached adulthood they will stop growing so rapidly in size. If you have no room left to raise your lights you’re probably going to be fine as the plants are approaching their growth cap and focus energy on buds. Working the plants and spraying the plants is no longer an option so we are right back to environment regulation. All the review and double checking we did is for this time in the grow cycle as temperature and humidity must remain consistent for the second half of the cycle. Your plants will now transition quickly from young adults with the zeal and strength to take on anything to senior citizens that are obsessed with the weather.
The first four weeks of the cannabis flowering cycle are the most exciting times of growing. The growth and size of your plants will make ya’ feel like a rock star grower. You should feel like a rock star grower because harvest is just around the corner and the best weed you will ever smoke is the weed you grew yourself.