The agriculture of marijuana has become incredibly scientific and intense. Nutrients, light quality and growing conditions are tweeked constantly to produce the fastest growth with the highest THC concentration. Growing marijuana is now totally artificial and the entire life cycle takes only 90 days. 1000 watt lights 24 hours/day in rooms with sophisticated air conditioning, ventilation, temperature and humidity control are necessary to prevent cooking the plants. Lights are encased in vented glass cylinders. The air is then vented to the outside allowing the plants to be as close as possible to the light source. Rooms are covered in silver reflective insulation. They are hyperdrug factories.
Female plants produce a sticky resin on their buds to trap pollen. It is that resin that contains high quanities of THC. When males are removed from the room, extreme sexual “frustration” occurs and the female plants produce more and more resin. This results in large buds laden with resin.
It is suggested that the marijuana cultivation is the biggest contributor to the economy of British Columbia. “BC bud” is thought to be the strongest marijuana in the world. In fact many people don’t like it because of the very high THC concentration producing too high a high. Because of very punitive drug laws where property of growers is confiscated, outdoor grow ops continue to be popular. Old plots are known to the RCMP who do aerial surveillance late in the summer every year. As a result new plots are started regularly and attempts are made to camouflage them.
Mindful is one of the largest cannabis growing companies in the world. Their 44,000-square-foot converted warehouse in an industrial part of Denver houses more than 20,000 cannabis plants. Philip Hague, the 38-year-old owner of Mindful grew up in his families nursery in Texas, has been an avid horticulturist all his life and moved to Colorado in 2009 as soon as the US federal government announced that it would not prosecute people who complied with state medical marijuana laws.
Hague is extremely interested in the plant’s historical biodiversity, and his seed bank of rare, wild, and ancient strains is a significant part of Mindful’s intellectual property. Hague develops many of his own strains from varieties loaded with THC to strains that contain almost no THC but are rich in CBD and other compounds.
Many jobs have been created in Colorado in this multimillion dollar business boom called the Green Rush.
GROWING MARIJUANA INDOORS
Closet Gardening: In size-compromised places, it is important to maintain appropriate levels of light, water, nutrients, pH and movement of air.
Many small grow areas make compromises: a. they may provide plenty of light but ignore air circulation and plans suffer in hot, spent air b. skimping of proper lighting grows long, lanky twigs or c. overwatering causes leaves to droop.
a. Clean. Thoroughly clean the closet and remove all items not relating to the grow.
b. Paint the walls with white paint for reflectivity.
c. Cover up any cracks or holes
d. waterproof the floor and at least the bottom 6 inches of the walls with a tarp or plastic sheeting to prevent potential leaks.
It is necessary to get hot, stagnant air out of your space.
a. small rotating fan inside the space to keep leaves moving and circulate CO2 rich air.
b. squirrel cage fan with flexible tubing out a convenient window.
c. filter outgoing air through a can filter of charcoal air-scrubber to remove odors.
Growing indoors requires artificial lighting. Need to be realistic about size and the ability to vent heat.
1. Typical fluorescent lights are cheap, plentiful and easy to find but do oot pr0vide enough lumens for serious bud production.
2. Special compact horticultural units with banks of T8 fluorescents bulbs produce less heat and use less electricity and may be the only option for the some home grows. They produce enough lumens for a nifty ScrOG (Screen of Green) garden.
3. High-intensity discharge (HID) lights – high-pressure sodium (HPS) or metal-halide (MH) bulbs and ballasts are necessary to greatly increase yields. They make for optimal use of space.
The wattage of the lights depends on the size of the space and limitations of heat discharge. Pot plants need 40-50 watts per square foot to thrive and reach full potential. A 1,000-watt high pressure sodium grow lamp in a 2×3’ space is unrealistic and overkill. Even a 400-600-watt bulb might fry the tops in a poorly cooled environment. 250-watt or smaller is best unless there is more than 9 square feet of floor space (3×3’). Always keep high intensity lights at least 12 inches away from plant tops during all periods of growth. Lower and raise them accordingly.
Approximate lighting requirements are a. 250-watt HID for a 2×2’ space b. 400-watt HID for a 3×3’ space c. 600-watt HID for a 4×4’ space d. 1,000-watt HID for a 5×5’ space.
Screen of Green (ScrOG) Method
Uses chicken wire and selective pruning to provide a level canopy of buds fro even light distribution. Shoots are tucked under the wire as they grow to make a horizontal “screen” of plant tops and significantly increase harvests in small spaces. It is usually used with fluorescent lights but can be used with HID lighting as well as long as the screen is set up farther away from the bulbs.
Soil or Hydro?
SOIL. Best if you are a green thumb and have successfully grown houseplants. Soil mix (or soilless commercial coco-based mixes) is simple: Supplement the mix with additives such as greensand, composted worm castings or bat and seabird guano to reduce the amount of feeding necessary early on, fill up the chosen container, add water and plant seeds or clones. Start plants in cups and transplant them into larger pots once they become nearly root bound. An issue is getting rid of soil in urban areas (usually in the middle of the night).
HYDROPONIC. Growing in water or rockwool recirculating a nutrient solution. If more technically minded and can pay attention to details but aren’t necessarily a grow whiz. Offers the benefits of faster growth, feeding precision and is easier to keep clean. Need to monitor the nutrient solution for proper temperature, pH and plant-food amounts. Roots grow unobstructed, thrive and produce huge, fast-growing plants with buds swollen with trichrome-covered calyses. Keeping the temperature is the major inconvenience: above 70°F will induce root rot and slow growth. Below 60°F shocks the roots and limits nutrient-uptake ability. Requires changing the nutrient solution weekly (or at least biweekly) which is time consuming and expensive.
It is also less forgiving – if a problem arises, you have mere hours or minutes to fix it. There are many hydro systems available for the hobbysist-closet gardener.
Plants in the vegetative growth phase grow taller and bushier indefinitely never forming any buds at all. The light cycle must be changed to an uninterrupted 12-hours-on / 12-hours-off per day in order to induce flowering using a reliable timer to avoid costly breakdowns in photoperiod. In the first few weeks of the flowering stage, plants grow upward reaching heights of several feet before flower formation begins in earnest. This is called the “stretch” and the length differs from strain to strain.
To allow plants to fill out as they stretch, be sure to induce flowering before they encompass all the available space. To avoid burnt tops, severely bend the stems or weigh them down with a sinker and string to allow filling out without suffering close proximity to hot lights.
How do you tell if your plants are male, female or hermaphrodite? The flowering process for both males and females begins when plants are exposed to complete darkness for 12 or more continuous hours per day.
Only female flowers from into the sticky buds we all desire, while males are virtually useless except to those interested in doing their own breeding. One male plan can ruin a whole crop of flowering virgin females by pollinating them, filling them with seeds and wasting all their blooming energy on pregnancy instead of swollen, trichrome-laden buds.
It isn’t possible to determine the plant’s sex while it’s still in seed form unless the supplier specifically breeds female seeds. Plants must be grown out to determine whether they’re male or female.
Techniques exist to figure out the sex fairly early in the growth cycle. One of the easiest methods is to take a cutting of the growing plant and induce the rooting clone to flower to show sex. The donor plant continues to grow in its vegetative state while the flowering cutting reveals the parent’s gender.
Plants grown indoors under lights spend the first stage of their lives receiving 18-24 hours of light per day. This vegetative period, simulating summertime, allows seedlings to establish the healthy roots, branches and foliar growth necessary for higher yields down the road. Some growers vegetate plants for more than a month in order to grow huge bushes in large containers. Sea of green growers limit this vegetative time to just a week or less, but compensate by growing more plants and spacing them closer together. Either way, the plant will continue to grow in its vegetative state until it is triggered to flower.
The flowering process for both males and females begins when plants are exposed to complete darkness for 12 or more hours per day. Indoors, the photoperiod is controlled by the grower, who sets the timer for a 12-hour on / 12-hour off daily lighting schedule; outdoors, the sun’s diminishing rays in early autumn force cannabis to bloom.
Flowers will begin to indicate themselves after a week or more into the flowering cycle – indicas soon than sativas.
Resist the temptation to cut down your plants too early or rush through the harvesting process. Paranoia and giddy anticipation can lead to bad decisions if you are not careful. Well-dried and cured pot is sweet and smooth with none of the harshness of hard-to-burn smoke. Trimming, drying and curing are absolutely necessary steps to achieving perfect pot. Harvesting too early gets nuggets that are wet with a moldy smell and appearance.
WHEN? Growers differ on how to determine peak trichorm-resin gland ripeness. 1. When the red and white hairs are about an even 5-50%. 2. Use a magnifying loupe to check for fully formed resin-gland heads 3. When the trichromes are at their biggest but still clear, before they turn opaque or amber.
Hang the plants to dry in a dark room or closet. Humidity levels should be approximately 50-60% and the temperature between 60-70°F. Have a fan circulating air in the room but not directly blowing on the plants. Within 4-7 days, the buds will be crispy on the outside and ready to begin curing.
If you choose to cut individual branches, you can eliminate the need for ties or clothespins. Each branch becomes its own hook to hang on the drying line. Don’t crowd the branches too close together to avoid the risk of mold.
Prepare the trimming room with a clean table, small scissors and comfortable chairs. It takes one experienced trimmer about 2-4 hours per pound so choose helpers wisely. When the hanging branches begin to get crispy and the stems snap when bent, trim them down to individual buds so that the stem is visible.
Periodically, clean your trimming equipment, take a break and try some “scissor hash” by scraping the sticky residue off. Then scrub the scissors with rubbing alcohol and a rag or paper towel.
Buds that have gone through this drying process aren’t really dry. There’s still moisture deep within them, so curing is still necessary. Starches and chlorophyll in the plant need to be “sweated” out to reduce the harsh taste of uncured pot. Curing is a delicate balance between moisture and dryness: too wet and buds will mod; too dry and they crumble into dust.
When finished drying, place the buds into airtight Tupperware or Mason jars. Moisture from inside the buds will spread outward in no time and the dry nuggets you put in will soon be wet again. Open the jars several times daily to release the built-up liquid and replenish the air inside. Slowly the evaporation will lower the moisture levels in the container and the buds will crisp up. Some use paper bags but this may impart an unpleasant flavor or odour.
Well-dried and cured pot is sweet and smooth with no harshness. If a joint burns evenly and the ashes are white, the herb is well cured. Poorly cured pot refuses to stay lit and the ashes are dark and crumbly.
Advanced growers may push the limits of opening the containers so that the buds ferment as oxygen becomes depleted and gases build up. This may produce pot that tastes very sweet with subtle flavours but risks molding. Make sure the buds are closer to dry before trying this method.
Curing is not just for growers. If you purchase a bag of wet or poorly cured pot, simply jar it up and sweat-cure it yourself. You lose some weight but improve the taste and smoke.
ORGANICS – More flavourful, natural and cleaner- burning pot?
The growing medium and plant foods come from natural sources (capable of decay and sometimes the product of decay) and not synthetic salt compounds. This top layer of soil teems with beneficial mycorrhizal fungi and bacteria that help break down nutrients for easy accessibility and uptake.
Examples of chemically derived nonorganic nutrients are Miracle-Gro, Peter’s and the popular General Hydroponics Flora Series three-part formula. The buds produced have nice-looking, sizable flowers but without a long flush, these buds will burn like charcoal, with a black ash that continuously needs to be relit.
HOW? 5-gallon buckets with holes drilled into the bottom will grow big plants with a yield of at least a quarter-pound per plant. This size is easiest to work with and move around.
Magic Organic Mix
3 parts Canadian sphagnum peat mix, coco coir or pro-mix.
1 part large, chunky perlite
1 part worn castings
½ cup greensand
½ cup dolomite lime
⅓ cup Peruvian seabird guano
¼ cup Epsom salts
Mix it all together and soak it down for at least a day or two before you plan to use it to get all the contends blended up and oxygenated. The mix should be wet throughout but not oversaturated.
Place seedlings or female clones into the top of the mix. These need to grow in their vegetative state for a least a month to reach the proper size to initiate flowering and begin the budding stage of plant life. Lighting must penetrate deeply in order to fill out the buds that will grow on a bush that will reach 3 or more feet before it is finished.
The first few waterings should be done with plain water, as the fresh planting mix is fairly “hot” (nutrient rich). Let water sit out for at least 24 hours to evaporate chlorine that will kill off your beneficial microbes. Air stones at the bottom of the bucket with an air pump will speed up this process as well.
Use 5-gallon buckets for brewing custom teas for each stage of plant growth. Early on, a compost tea is perfect for both watering and foliar spraying. Fill a nylon stocking with your chosen ingredients: compost, guanos from seabirds and bids and a little bit of molasses to feed the microorganisms. Fill the bucket with water and use an air pump and air-stone bubblers to oxygenate the water for a few hours to remove the chlorine. Dunk the nylon sock into the water and steep for two days while stirring occasionally and allowing the air-stones to bubble throughout the process to keep everything aerobic (oxygenated).
To use the tea, let it sit for a half-hour or so to settle and then strain it inot another bucket. Feed this tea directly to the plant’s roots by saturating the growing mix in your buckets and/or spray the leaves for the added benefit of suppressing foliar diseases. Use the tea immediately as it’s only at its most effective for an hour so.
Start a compost pile with leaves, kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, spent root-balls and used bubble-bag scraps. Turn the pile once a week with a shovel or compost fork to mix into your outdoor soil or use as a nutritious mulch.
The bigger the container, the better. Loose organic mixes and plenty of sunshine encourage roots to grow leading to huge bushes that may yield over a pound per plant. Better yet, dig your own hole deep and fill it with a variety of organic materials for a custom “seasoned” spot you can reuse year after year by simply refurbishing the mix. Liquid seaweed and liquid fish as well as compost and guano teas combined with a healthy regimen of organic additives keep plants happy.
Organic Pest Control. Chemical bombs and synthetic pesticides have no place in any cannabis garden. Predator mites and ladybugs are simple to get by mail.
Reliable Companies Selling Organic Products. FoxFarm, Advanced Nutrients, General Hydroponics, Canna, Age Old, Earth Juice, BioBizz, Botanicare, Guano-Gro, Maxicrop, Higrocorp, Organics Alive, Safer, Technaflora, Atami, Bio Nova, Vita Grow, Alaska, Hydrodynamics, Budswel.
7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE POT GROWERS
Silence is always golden. Don’t brag or show off your hard work. Create the illusion that you’re invisible and harmless to neighbors. Whether purchasing lighting, moving equipment or interacting with locals, always keep a low profile. But also don’t become too paranoid with freaky behavior like blocking off all your windows or avoiding interaction with neighbors – a tip-off that something’s not right. Be friendly but not too friendly. Don’t antagonize your neighbors and keep the peace.
Pick up dead leaves and sweep debris as a daily process. Never allow pools of water to collect on the floor or under your plants. Check all surfaces daily for signs of pests or molds including the tops and bottoms of leaves, the surface of your growing medium, walls and ceilings of your space. Use special clothes when in your grow room.
Never count your pounds before they’re harvested. Ignore the tempting impulse and set your goals wisely and realistically. Lower your outlandish goals in order to maintain your motivation. A realistic grower considers many factors and weighs the pros and cons of all decisions and possible outcomes.
Rent, electricity and various equipment costs must be acknowledged and accounted for before embarking on a serious growing project. Unforeseen costs and glitches in scheduling and timing can quickly add up to expenses and months lost in unanticipated delay. Knew and anticipate these types of events.
Never decide that your way is the best or only way. Be open minded about new techniques and new strains. Don’t get bogged down in stubbornness. Challenge yourself.
Experiment from time to time with new ideas, equipment or techniques. Try a new nutrient on one plant. Be measured and patient to learn something new with every harvest.
Attentiveness to Plant Needs.
Cannabis as a cultivar is not all that hard to please – not nearly as difficult as orchids or African violets. There is a good reason that people call marijuana “weed”. Pot plants want to grow and will do just about anything to survive harsh environments. Severely limit fluctuations in temperature, feeding and airflow to avoid stress that can cause delays in growth or worse.
Read books on cultivation (not just cannabis books) paying attention to theory and execution to understand all the various elements of plant growth. Know the nutritional requirements during the various stages.
It’s not a contest. Don’t be arrogant and put down other people’s methods. By arguing you infuse some of that negativity and competitive energy into your plants.
Love what you are doing and take pride in your agricultural accomplishments. But don’t seek to one-up all comings – it gets boring. Show enthusiasm and encouragement to everyone that shares the hobby.
I would like to thank Danny Danko for most of the information in this post. I have plagiarized quite literally.