Cannabis Seeds, Clones, and Plants
Know Before You Grow Part V
Bringing Home Your Babies —At this point in your cannabis journey your room is complete and can sustain marijuana plant life. Turn your room on without any plants in there and make sure everything works. If your lights or even your bulbs are new they need a break in period. For example, Gavita recommends that lights be left on for 72-100 hours continuously before cycling the lights. Use this time or at least 48 hours of consistent light to take temperature and humidity readings in the room. Plants like the temperature to be a tropical 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit when the lights are on and the temperature should be a calming 50-65 degree Fahrenheit when the lights are off.
Humidity should be at least 25% and never above 50%. The humidity will lower when the lights are on and it will rise when the lights are off. Fans should keep the air circulating when the lights are both on and off. Remember that there has to be total darkness in your room when the lights are off. At the end of your light break in period or after ample time to get temperature and humidity readings shut down your lights and close the door to your room. Make sure it is pitch black in your room.
Now that dress rehearsal is over ….it’s time to go live….let’s get some plants!
On both the legal markets of weed-legal states and the black markets of weed illegal states cannabis plants can be purchased in any strain and in any form. Seeds, clones, and room ready plants (mature clones over 18” tall and ready to flower) are all available in any strain or flavor you wish. Knowing what each of these strains does for your health and for your high is important before you go shopping.
Part 5 of this series will acquaint you with the life cycle of the cannabis plant along with few of the reasons behind the health benefits and the highs. Plant strains provide different highs just like different breeds of dogs have different traits and behaviors. High THC strains are going to be more psychoactive and high CBD strains will be more calming…both heals and help different symptoms. Some strains will make you feel focused with a clear mind while other strains will make your mind cloudy and your body in search of a couch and food. If you have trouble focusing a heavy indica is not going to help and if you have anxiety or depression strains with worry or paranoia side effects will make things much worse for a couple hours.
You would not put a medicine or liquor in your body if you did not know what it is…so why do that with weed? Growing an indica when you need a sativa is like being served white wine when you ordered a cold beer. It’s all alcohol, drunk is drunk …right? Of course not. In this installment of the series, we are not giving you the tools to be an expert or connoisseur as that only comes with time and experience. But we do want you to have the confidence to make your purchases knowing the proverbial difference between the beers, wines, and whiskeys of cannabis. Know before you grow…let’s get started!
- What is THC
- What is a CBD
- What is a Sativa
- What is an Indica
- What is a Hybrid
- The Growth Cycle
- Starting from Seeds
- Clones and Cloning
- Topping and Super Cropping
- Rules of 5 and 7
- Listen To Your Leaves
- What is THC — In the 1820s the medical professionals of our then only 44-year-old nation got together and put their knowledge into a book that was called the U.S. Pharmacopeia. The book’s purpose was to share and intertwine their knowledge providing treatments and medicines for people that were known and proven to be successful. It was the foundation for standardized medicine and the Pharmacopeia is still published annually today. From 1851 to 1942 marijuana was listed in this “bible” of medicine. It was listed as both Extractum Cannabis and Extract of Hemp. It was recommended for treatment of many symptoms from pain and nausea to headaches and seizures. It was medicine, no one really talked about or chased the high….then the 1960s happened. It was in a lab in the nation of Israel that a young scientist in his 30s discovered and identified Tetrahydrocannabinol…or THC, the fun part of weed. There are over 500 compounds in marijuana and until this pivotal point in history, no one had defined the chemical structure of or even identified the compound that made the happiness and the healing possible. THC has the power to heal and relieve by attaching to certain receptors in the body, it also has the power to fade these receptors and communication between these receptors which cause the “stoned’ feeling that comes with using cannabis. Some see these psychoactive traits as a liability or side effect of the medicine while others see it as the best part of the plant.
- What is CBD — Isomers are two compounds that share the same formula but in the molecule, the atoms are arranged differently giving them different traits. CBD…or Cannabidiol and THC are isomers. Again, many see the “high” of marijuana as a bad thing or a negative effect of an otherwise useful medicinal tool. However, the different trait of THC’s isomer CBD is that the CBD actually manages or in some strains eliminates the psychoactive effects of the THC. CBD is not to be confused with CBDs or cannabinoids. There are over 60 different cannabinoids in weed and there are cannabinoid receptors in all of us. In laymen words, the cannabidiol acts as a manager of the THC directing it to which receptors the THC can attach to. It seems to prevent THC from binding with CBD receptors that will get you high while encouraging bonds with TRP receptors for temperature, pain, and hunger. It is an exciting time as we are learning so much about this powerful compound. It is known to curb pain, nausea, seizures and used to manage epileptic seizures. We are learning that it acts as an antioxidant and a strong anti-inflammatory medicine. Studies are ongoing right now exploring its interaction with certain proteins in adults which may help with Alzheimer’s disease. However, both CBD and THC research is very new and although more proof of both their healing traits is being revealed every day the reasons behind the highs and the healing remain a mystery. The high CBD strain is popular right now and both hippies and scientists alike have boarded the high CBD train out of reality. But there are many scientists, pot pioneers like Rick Simpson and old hippies like myself that still believe it’s the whole plant that is most beneficial. While a bold new world tries to separate the healing from the high there are those of us that believe the healing is actually in the high.
- What is a Sativa — Although there are countless strains of weed there are only three categories to fit these strains within. If the many strains of weed were a spectrum on one end you would have the Sativa and on the other would be Indica…everything in between is a hybrid. Sativa strains are favored for outdoor growing but can be grown indoors as well. Sativa plants generally have a longer flowering time and lower yields than indica strains. However, they are also thought to be more potent and pungent than their indica sisters. Iconic strains like Sour Diesel and Purple Haze are Sativa along with younger strains like Alaskan Thunder Fuck (ATF). Some sativa strains like Jack Herer are so pungent and unique in taste and odor they are easily identified with just a whiff. Sativa strains generally come from warmer climates and are no stranger to the sun. Sativa strains will carry a lighter color and the leaves will be narrow, long, thin and the edges will be a bit more jagged. The plants themselves will be larger, taller and wider but their stems will be not as thick as their indica sisters. This trait of sativa strains produces the pungent and potent nature of the strains but also contributes to the fact that sativa strains will often yield less than their indica counterparts. Sativa strains do not provide the full body effect or laziness often associated with all weed….on the contrary. Sativas are all about the mind, focusing the mind. Sativa strains affect the body with a more uplifting and freeing feeling. The body feels better and the mind is clear and focused which makes sativas great for daytime use. These strains will provide pain relief but sativa strains are absolute champions when it comes to battling mind and mood altering conditions like depression/anxiety, ADD, Chronic fatigue and mood disorders. Sativas can battle both pain and mood alteration associated with menstrual cycles without committing the user to the couch with a bag of chips….functioning is not a problem with most sativa strains.
- What is an Indica — If the couch and a bag of chips followed by a nice long nap are in your plans then indica strains are just for you. When identification of indica and Sativa strains came about it was all about the crystals or terpenes on the leaf of a plant. As stated above sativas generally like the warmer and more gentle climates. Indicas endure most any climate survivable for plant life. Coastal extremes and higher elevations are no matches for strong indica strains…in fact, they thrive on nature’s challenges. Their leaves are much darker, wider and smooth edged than the sativa strains and indica strains coat their own leaves with resin and terpenes to combat climate challenges. This means high terpene production is hard-wired into the indica strains. This coupled with their high yields makes pure indica strains very desirable for indoor grow rooms. The indica strains provide a full body high and will relax and calm the user much like a sedative. Indicas are great for treating Anxiety, spasms, and seizures. Because these strains promote both sleep and hunger indicas are an excellent aid for chemo recovery. Grand Daddy Purp (GDP) and OG Kush are time-honored rock star indica strains and Death Star is a relatively young trendy indica that packs one helluva punch. Indicas are dark, fat, bushy strains that are best smoked, vaped, eaten or dabbed when you don’t have a busy schedule or in some cases need to function at all.
- What is a Hybrid —Explanation here is…well, self-explanatory. Not long after indica strains and sativa strains were identified growers and cultivators of cannabis began breeding those strains. Thus, making hybrids. The shape of the leaf will tell whether a hybrid is an indica dominant or sativa dominant strain. Remember, lighter thinner jagged cut leaves are sativa while darker, wider and smoother cut leaves are indica strains. The phrase “weed is weed” no longer applies…anywhere. It is important to have a pretty good idea what these differences look like if you will be shopping alone in an illegal state as plants will most likely not be labeled. In weed-legal states, even the plants are labeled and bar-coded in a dispensary and some have the strain lineage and traits printed on the pot, label or display. I have said in earlier articles that cannabis America is not even aware how far behind corporate America it is when it comes to business process and protocol, and I stand behind that statement. But make no mistake…anyone currently working in the cannabis trade is not only receiving and advancing in an education only available in weed-legal states but can identify sativas, indicas and hybrids by sight while corporate America still thinks weed is weed. Federal legalization will cause an interesting clash between these two Americas. But for now be sure you know before you grow and can identify the plant you wish to grow along with the type of medicine you wish to take.
- Marijuana plant life…the grow cycle. — Many articles on cannabis cultivation use industry and gardening terminology sometimes assuming that anyone wanting to garden ganja already has a garden to add ganja to. Many of our consultation clientele contact us not because they are great gardeners that want to dabble in or add cannabis to their rose garden. They contact us because they have no gardening or horticulture experience at all and they want to grow some pot. Words like perennials, annuals, and phenotypes are better replaced with words like strains, offspring, and life of the plant. The growth life of the marijuana plant can be started in an indoor grow room at any point before budding. You can grow from a seed or a clone. By mastering the vegetative phase we spoke about in part 3 you can start your plants at any size you want. Cannabis plants are annual plants because they will live their life from seed to flower in one year…5-10 months depending on climate. However, cannabis plants will stay in the vegetative state for years if they are kept in an uninterrupted light. It is only darkness and light cycles that trigger them to flower so the plants can live outside annual plant boundaries. There’s a fun little back and forth ongoing debate on cannabis culture sites as to whether the plants are annuals, perennials and such. If you are growing naturally outdoors the plants will have an annual life cycle. Marijuana seeds are germinated into sprouts by some growers while others put the seeds into the ground and let nature take its course. Either way, the seeds or sprouts are placed in the ground right after the last frost…..early to mid-spring. The plants will grow and bulk up (in the vegetative stage) until the summer solstice. Soon after summer solstice the plant will recognize the shorter days and start to flower. Energy will be focused more and more on the buds as winter draws near. When the days start to cool in mid-autumn the plant will put the finishing touches on its flowers (buds) and prepare to die. Often when growers are harvesting the plant is beginning to turn yellow and lose leaves. The “flowering” phase takes 8-10 weeks and that 8-10 week window is what’s maximized in an indoor grow room. Keep 24 hour light on your mammas and they will live for years. Keep 24 hour light on your “vegging” plants and they will grow to a nice size for your bud room. Switch the light cycle to 12 hours on/ 12 hours off and your plants will provide you peace and healing within 8-10 weeks. No matter what strains you choose to grow be sure to know the flowering time for that strain. It’s easily obtained information and one of the most important things you should know before you grow.
- Starting from seeds — If you are going to put your seeds in the ground do so after the last frost and plant the seeds within a small indentation in the soil (about ½ inch deep), cover and water. If you want to give your seeds a head start you can germinate the seeds or start them early indoors. Soak a paper towel with water after folding it in half twice. Place your seeds in the middle of the soaked paper towel and place inside a plastic bag (like a zip lock or sandwich bag). Then place the bag somewhere dark and dry like a cupboard or a drawer. After a day or two, the seed will crack open and little white sprouts will peek out. Check your bag often as they grow quickly. Before the sprouts protrude out of the seed more than 1/8 inch remove the seeds and plant in a small pot (same as a seed in the ground…about ½ inch deep). Keep the light on the pot or use a seething pad to heat the pot from the bottom. Keep your plants inside until the last frost of the season then plant your cannabis plants outside. If you germinate in January your plants will be a couple feet tall when you are planting….while others start with seeds.
- Clones and Cloning — There are both male and female marijuana plants. The male plants will produce seeds, they will not produce buds. This can be a frustrating lesson to learn the hard way. If you start with seeds try to start with gender specific seeds (female) and if you buy clones make sure they are already sexed or had their gender identified. Unless you are growing a bunch of seeds on purpose make sure your plants are female. Keep all male plants away from your ladies as they will all cave into the male and turn to seeding males themselves. Pre-sexed clones are the ticket for an indoor room and a female plant will only provide female clones. If you keep a female Bubba Kush momma….then every clone you take from that momma will be female Bubba Kush. Cloning is very simple. The only mistake I have seen people make is just being impatient. Cloning is that easy and cannabis plants are so resilient that clones can be made from a fairly young clone. Way too many people take clones off of plants that are way too young. Both the momma and the new clones will live but it will be weeks before those clones can bud and the momma will take the same time to recover. I don’t take clones from a momma until she is 3 months old or 3 feet tall…whichever comes first. Letting a plant mature before cutting a clone will be easier on the momma and your new clone will be ready much sooner. To take a clone from a momma you will need a new small pot, a razor, some rooting/cloning powder and a seething pad or a small heater. Simply cut a 3-4 inch clone or cutting with the razor, if taking a 3-4 inch clone seems too much then your momma is not ready to take clones from. Dip the stem of the cutting in the rooting powder and then stick it about an inch or so deep in a small pot. Place the plant under light and on a seething pad for heating the roots. If you do not a have a seething pad you can point an electric heater at the roots. Keeping the soil warm for rooting to take place is important for a week or so after cloning. When you can see small white hairs trying to escape the holes in the pot the clone is now a plant and ready to be transplanted to a bigger pot.
- Transplanting…letting your ladies stretch their legs — When it comes to business and real estate “Location, Location, Location” is what’s important and earlier in this series we established that “Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition” is what’s important to plant health. When it comes to plant size and bud density “Roots, Roots and Roots” are what’s important. Your plants need room to grow and that does not just mean for them to stretch their arms and branches….they need to stretch their roots and legs as well. One of the repeating problems we see new growers have is a root bound plant. This means the roots have grown to the edge of the soil and are now doing laps around the pot. Eventually, they intertwine and have no place to go. The plant knows it cannot grow anymore and begins to wither. This mess of roots is also a breeding ground for fungi. If you find a root bound plant when you are transplanting it will help to pull or cut some of the roots away and saturate the root ball with water before completing the transplant. Keep your plants in at least 5-gallon pots for budding and 2 or 3-gallon pots while vegging. We used to clone our plants into 4”x4” pots and then transplant them into 5-gallon pots once they were strong. When we moved a set of plants into a bud room we would transplant the next set into our 25-gallon flowering pots. We have since eliminated the 5-gallon pot. We still clone into the 4×4 cups but once strong enough the ladies are put into the 25-gallon pots they will finish their life in. Any average sized home grow of 1-4 plants should be well accommodated with clone cups to 5-gallon pots…going to 15 or 25-gallon pots from there is an option that space might not allow. Two plants in 25-gallon pots are better than 4 in 5-gallon pots. However, if you lack space or want less weed but more strains then you may opt for the 5-gallon pots. Whichever pot you choose transplanting is a pretty easy process so dive right in, if your plants are strong they won’t even notice. Cover the bottom of the plant’s new pot with your soil mixture. Put enough in that the plant will be at the right height, you can determine this simply by placing the two pots beside each other and gauging where the plant will rest. Squeeze the sides of the old pot to loosen the plant’s soil and root ball. Ease the plant out holding it firmly at the base of the stalk. Do not pull the rootball out of the pot with the plant, if it does not slide out easily squeeze the sides more or free the plant through the holes in the bottom of the pot. Cut back the roots and saturate with water at this point if the plant is root bound. Place the root ball in the new pot and adjust soil level for height. Fill with dirt to desired height (just covering the old root ball) and make sure the sides all get filled in consistently around the new plant. Tap the pot a couple times to settle the dirt…do not pack it tight. Give it a pretty good drink of water/nutrients and adjust soil level. That’s it ….you’re done. Keep an eye on your ladies to make sure they’re enjoying their new digs.
- Topping and Super Cropping — Strains grow to different heights, clones are different ages and plants grow at different paces. All of these and other factors contribute to an uneven canopy where some plants are too close to the lights while others are too far away. Times, when weed was illegal, forced growers to manage plant size to keep their illegal indicas and sativas of stigma out of sight. Most of these techniques used to once hide plants actually helped plant quality and increased harvest yields. Much like when a body builder breaks down muscles those muscles rebuild stronger….when a grower breaks down the plant’s branches they rebuild stronger. Super cropping is actually bending a branch until it breaks, not severs…just breaks. The branch will fall but within a couple days the branch will have formed a white knuckle and the branch will be growing sideways in the direction the grower told it to. Topping is actually cutting off the center terminal branch allowing the nodes below it to become branches. It is a way to manage branch size but cutting your branches back at the right place and time increases crop quality and yield. Whether you top or super crop your plants this should be done at least 3 weeks before they hit the bud room.
- Too much Too soon…the rule of 5 & 7— Along with topping and super cropping there are many other “crop management” tools that will serve to bring you tastier, frostier buds…and more of them. As I do use many of these methods myself (topping and super cropping is part of my routine) I suppose I have embraced the titles and technical names of these techniques. I accept the fact that these techniques also increase yield. However, an old hippie like me still refers to topping, super cropping, fimming and monster cropping collectively as bending and breaking just enough branches the neighbors don’t see. All of these methods are very easy to do and really do consist of simply bending and breaking the branches. Don’t worry, the plants will heal but all of these methods must be done with timing. Way too many growers do these methods to their plants at a very young age. Remember that if you want to call these crop management tools the first requirement would be to actually have a crop. There is no need to do anything to an 8” tall plant besides let it grow. Generally, you want the plant to be at least 16” tall before using these techniques but a more accurate way to manage your plants is using the rule of 5 or the rule of 7. These are simple methods of counting branches from the bottom up. On larger plants, it is ok to top, cut or break anything above 7 strong limbs. On smaller plants (1-2gallon pots) it is ok to use the same rule counting only 5 branches up from the soil. Topping and fimming the plant stops the growth of the taproot so let some growth take place before you get out the scissors. One of the best things to know before you grow is to actually let the plant grow.
- Listen to your leaves…training & trauma — Your leaves will tell you everything. If your plants are happy and healthy your leaves will be consistent in shape and color and they will actually reach for the lights when they are on. When the lights go out your leaves will go limp a bit but will remain consistent in shape and color. If anything is wrong with your plant and I do mean anything wrong…your leaves will tell you. When bending or breaking your branches (super cropping) the leaves will yellow a bit in areas that you pushed too far. Nutrient deficiencies will appear right away in the leaves. Too much or too little water will make leaves curl or droop. Skeletal coloring in the leaves is a sure sign of magnesium deficiency, curling up or curling sideways are different indicators and the signs are too numerous to list. It is easy to determine what is wrong as there are many charts and pictorials in your grow store or across the net that will tell you exactly what each indicator means. Finding the problem or the cure is usually very easy but much like cancer in people early detection is paramount. Just like in a person an undetected but easily eliminated cancer turns deadly if not found, that same simple problem in your plant can turn deadly if not detected….listen to your leaves. One or two dead leaves will be a daily occurrence but when discoloring, underdevelopment or any other imperfections start spreading or becoming uniform it is time to investigate and take action as something needs your attention….the leaves will point you in the right direction.
This is a bittersweet time for most new growers. You want to do something but you want them to grow. You want to let them grow but you just can’t keep your hands off the girls. It’s ok, as long as your environment is stable and your leaves look healthy you can play with them all you want. The ladies will love your attention and they will be healthy because you took the time to know before you grow. Just like with a newborn baby everything is sweet and innocent right now. But also much like a newborn baby you should embrace and cherish these precious times…..because the terrible twos and toddler years are just around the corner. In a couple weeks you’re going to have plenty to do in that grow room. Welcome to the Green Rush.