Farm. Food. Life. When you are planning on starting your marijuana plants from seeds, a particularly “good start” will have a very crucial and influential role in the plant's overall outcome. We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know. If you love City Paper , get it every day in our newsletter. Hopefully all of you aspiring growers have been able to get your seeds
How to Grow Cannabis In Your Garden
With weed well on its way to being legal, it’s high time we talk about how to grow the stuff in your garden.
With weed well on its way to being legal, it’s high time we talk about how to grow the stuff in your garden.
The federal government still considers it a crime to grow or possess cannabis, but 30 states have now legalized it to varying degrees. Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, Nevada, Colorado, Maine, and Massachusetts have decriminalized weed for recreational use, and similar legislation is under consideration elsewhere. Pardon the pun, but it is high time we talk about how to grow the stuff.
The old-fashioned way – outdoors – is easiest. The trend towards indoor cultivation is more a product of, one, a desire to hide what you’re doing (no longer necessary in many locales); and two, to exert total control over growing conditions for the sake of producing enormous buds with maximum market value. But if your sole goal is just to have a bit of decent weed around to occasionally enjoy, you may as well plant it alongside your zucchini and basil.
Growing a successful cannabis crop is a bit more complicated than your average vegetable, but not much. Before you get carried away, familiarize yourself with your local laws – NORML provides a comprehensive list here . Horticulturally speaking, here’s what you need to know.
Plenty of mail-order firms have sprung up to fill the demand for legal plant material. There are thousands of varieties, with all the trippy descriptions you would expect. If you want a cerebral high and non-skunky citrus flavor, there is a breed for that; if you want something that is good for anxiety, low in THC, and grows less than 3 feet tall, you can find that too.
Most importantly, purchase seeds for varieties suited to outdoor conditions, rather than those bred for indoor grow operations. Any reputable supplier will specify that information in their varietal listings. Most will also note mold-resistant varieties, which are a wise choice in humid regions, as well as those with a “short flowering period,” an important consideration in northerly latitudes (this is akin to the “days to maturity” listed on packets of vegetable seed).
Understanding Male and Female Plants
Cannabis is one of many species in the plant kingdom that produce male and female flowers on separate plants. Females produce fat flower “buds” rich in psychoactive compounds, while male plants produce spindly little flowers that aren’t worth smoking (or however you choose to partake).
When you plant cannabis seeds, you typically end up with about half male plants and half female plants. It is imperative to get rid of the males before the plants begin to flower, as the male pollen will result in female buds that are full of seeds, which is no good. It’s not that hard to determine the sex of cannabis seedlings – you can find instructions here – and cull the males.
But it can be even easier! How? Look for varieties labeled “feminized.” These are seeds that have been bred to produce only female plants and are highly recommended for novice cannabis gardeners.
Another option is to purchase “clones,” which are rooted cuttings of female plants. This is essentially like buying vegetable seedlings, rather than seeds, which saves you the time and effort required for germination, along with the trouble of weeding out the males.
Weed seeds require no special treatment, though they’ll germinate faster if you soak them in water for a few days before planting. As with tomatoes and other heat-loving vegetables, you’re better off starting the seed indoors in a sunny window in early spring, and then transplanting the seedlings outdoors once all danger of frost has passed.
To do well, cannabis plants require a minimum of six hours of direct sun each day and excellent drainage. They’ll do fine in a typical raised bed like you’d use for vegetables, though five-gallon pots filled with potting soil also work well for pot (hard to resist the punny wordplay!). Good air circulation is critical for preventing fungal diseases, so space the plants at least six feet apart (closer is ok for dwarf varieties) to ensure that they don’t resemble a dense hedge by the end of summer.
Cannabis plants love their nutrients, so plan to enrich the beds with composted manure, ideally at least one month prior to planting, if not the previous fall. Spread a minimum of 2 inches of compost over the planting area and work it into the soil. If planting in pots, you can rely on fertilizer, rather than compost.
Feeding and Watering
This crop is also a thirsty one, so be sure to irrigate whenever the surface of the soil becomes dry. Adding a layer of mulch once the plants are knee-high will cut back on the loss of soil moisture through evaporation and help to prevent other “weeds” from getting established in your weed planting.
If your beds are sufficiently rich, fertilizer is not required, though it will lead to better results (it’s a must for potted plants). Apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer every three weeks until mid-summer, as this will stimulate abundant vegetative growth. Then switch to one higher in phosphorus to stimulate dense and abundant flowers (buds).
Depending on the variety, outdoor plants can grow 12 feet or more in height. Most growers prune them, which makes the plants easier to manage and results in far more buds. Professional growers have perfected pruning to a fine art for the sake of maximizing yield, but for the casual grower is sufficient to cut back the most vigorous shoots from time to time. Simply clip off the outer 30 percent of each major shoot every few weeks.
Pruning encourages a bushier form (rather than a tall, spindly plant) by stimulating the growth of numerous small side shoots, each of which will produce additional buds. Just be sure to stop pruning by mid-summer, so as not to interfere with flower production.
Buds will begin to form in late summer and should be ready for harvest during the month of October. You’ll know they are ready when the flower pistils – those wispy hairs that emanate from the buds – turn from white to reddish-brown.
Cut the buds from the plants, leaving 6 or 8 inches of stem below each one, and trim off all the leaves. Hang them from their stems to dry in a warm, shaded place for about a week. The weed is now ready to use. Trim the buds from the stem and store in a glass jar.
How Deep to Plant Marijuana Seeds
There are plenty of suggestions and advice out there on how deep to plant marijuana seeds ? How deep should it really be, anyway? Well, professional marijuana growing has observed that the best depth of the dimple to make in the soil or the growing medium is about 1/2 to 3/4 inch and no deeper. One way growers do it is by marking the side of the pot to ensure they don’t go too deep and use the blunt side of a pencil or a pen to poke a hole in the growing medium.
Well, the idea is to position the seed shallow enough so it will not have a hard time sprouting while ensuring that it has still space to grow roots before it would need to totally support its full weight, this way the seedling will have time to develop support from its roots while in its early days. On the other hand, going too deep may restrict one element that is really required for the seed to germinate and grow. Only experience will give you a personal preference, but learning the basics of cannabis seed germination will lead to a successful grow. You will understand later as you read through this article.
How to plant marijuana seeds directly in Soil
1.Germinate your Cannabis seeds
There are 2 common and popular methods for this one and they are the Wet paper towel method and germinating directly in the soil. If you wish to do the latter and opt to go direct, it is recommended to soak your seeds in lukewarm distilled water for no more than 24 hours.
You will notice around the 12th hour that some seeds will sink to the bottom and together with those that will sprout a tiny taproot will be your most viable seeds in that batch. The idea is to fully saturate the seed with water which in turn will trigger the seeds to sprout.
2. Prepare your Pot where to Plant/Transplant your Cannabis Seeds
Fill 2-inch garden pots with your preferred growing medium or potting soil mix. At this point, use a pot that is small enough just to house the seeds, using smaller containers to start is always recommendable. Use potting soil or soilless mix that is loose and airy. They should be most to the touch. Make sure not to overfill your pots.
Alternative option – You can use starter cubes at this step and they are quite inexpensive and simple to use. This option has proven to be very effective when sprouting cannabis seedlings.
3. Make a Hole
Position your seed hole in the middle of the planting surface of your pot, aim around 1/2 inch deep and make sure not to go over 3/4 of an inch.
Tip! – You can use a pencil or a pen to poke a hole for the seeds to lay in and remember not to poke too shallow or too deep as this is crucial in this process.
Premise – Planting too shallow will not allow the plant to develop its roots while planting too deep will make it more difficult for the sprout to push through.
4. Planting/Transplanting your Cannabis Seeds
This step is fairly simple but there should be some things that we have to do correctly.
When dropping your seeds in the hole that you have made on your planting medium, make sure that the taproot is facing downwards or towards the ground.
5. Cover your seeds
Once your seed is well-positioned in the hole, gently push the growing medium over the seed and pat softly.
Tip! – Do not press too hard on the soil as this will disturb its growth.
Alternative Option Tip! – If you are using cubes, just gently pinch the hole shut and do not press on the cube.
The Bottom Line
When you are planning on starting your marijuana plants from seeds, a particularly “good start” will have a very crucial and influential role in the plant’s overall outcome. So, it is important not to over complicate it and let the plant do its thing. What is important on the other hand is us, the grower, must be always prepared to make sure that we can also provide the best environment for our beloved sensimilla.
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Hopefully all of you aspiring growers have been able to get your seeds so we can move to the next step: germination.
Take great care handling seed and seedling. Most flower and vegetable seeds are simply planted directly in the soil, but because of the value of cannabis seeds, germinating seeds prior to planting is encouraged. Growers can achieve a much higher survival rate by germinating in a non-soil medium and then transferring the seed to soil once the tap root has emerged from the seed.
Here is one of the simplest and most successful methods: Put a double layer of paper towels on a dinner plate, then thoroughly soak the towels with water and tilt the plate to drain off the excess. Place your seeds on top of the wet towels and cover with another double layer of soaked paper towels. Be sure excess water is drained off—you don’t want the seeds to be swimming.
Cover the plate with an upside-down plate or pot lid. A plastic bag or plastic wrap also works. Don’t make the seal tight—you want to leave some openings to allow air flow.
Keep the germinating seeds away from direct light. For best results, keep them at about 75 degrees Fahrenheit. A radiant heat source, like a heating pad, helps expedite the process. If you’re using a heating pad, be sure to keep the heat setting on low and place a folded hand towel between the heating pad and plate: Direct contact between the plate and heat source can cook your seeds.
Under the right conditions, seeds usually open in one to five days, so check them daily. Do not allow the towels to dry, and add water as needed to maintain moisture. Some seeds can take as long as 10 days to germinate, but if seeds have not opened within 10 days, they are not viable.
When the seeds open, the first thing to emerge is the root. Once the root sprouts it can grow quite fast.
When the root grows to a few millimeters in length, the seed is ready to be transferred to soil. Always take great care not to damage the tap root when handling. The best soil to use for a sprouting baby ganja plant is a “seed starter” or “seedling” mix. These are light neutral blends with very little fertilizer. Heavily fertilized soils will kill seedlings quickly, and cannabis seedlings prefer loose, aerated soil that their roots can easily penetrate. A bag of good starter soil is easily identifiable: When you pick it up, it should feel light and fluffy. Soils that are heavy and compact are not good for seedlings.
Now, on to potting (no pun intended). A healthy seedling will be ready for transplanting into larger container, with richer soil, in about a month. A 16- to 20-ounce container is ideal for a seedling’s first home (many growers use a Solo cup). The container must drain, so punch some holes if needed.
Fill your container with pre-moistened soil and create a hole about a half-inch deep for your seed. The tip of a pencil works well for making the right sized hole. The seed should be about a quarter-inch below the surface.
Place your germinated seed, root down, into the hole and cover lightly. Do not pack the soil on top of the seed; a light protective layer of soil is all that is needed.
Once they sprout in one to three days, new seedlings will need lots of light, and fluorescent grow light works best. Give your baby ganja plants 16 hours of light per day.
It’s very important to have a breeze on your plants immediately. A fan placed at the proper distance and speed should create a breeze just strong enough so your plant “dances,” but not so strong that it’s bent in one direction.
Without a breeze, indoor ganja plants won’t receive the stimulus needed to develop sturdy stems and branches, which the plant will need to bear the weight of big, sugary buds.
The Potanist is written by Bud Baker and Herb Green (yes, those are pseudonyms; yes, they are real people). Reach them at [email protected]
Graphics by Stephanie Rudig
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