In this summer guide for growing cannabis, we step you through the process from seed to harvest for a successful grow indoors or outside. What makes buds, a male or a female plant? Only a female marijuana plant makes flowers/buds that contain a usable amount of THC. Male marijuana plants only make pollen to fertilize the females Growing cannabis clones has both its advantages and disadvantages. The best method depends on your personal preferences, needs, and plant growing skills.
A Summer Guide for Growing Cannabis
The seasons are changing here in Colorado and it’s time for a summer guide for growing cannabis. The days are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer, and mother earth is beginning to come back to life. Now is the time that growers across the state of Colorado are preparing their gardens for the upcoming season. Many folks are germinating new genetics, building their soils and constructing their cultivation spaces. Spring is here, and that means it’s time to grow cannabis. In Colorado, each resident over the age of 21 is allowed to grow 6 cannabis plants. Households with more than two 21-year-old residents top out at 12 plants total. The state of Colorado has given us the freedom to cultivating this incredible plant, so why not try it out for yourself? You have probably heard in the past that growing cannabis is very difficult. While cultivating top-shelf cannabis is truly an art form, growing cannabis for your own personal use can be a much easier experience and a really fun hobby. In this article, I will give you basic a basic guide for growing cannabis, how to set up your garden and have a successful outdoor crop. The growing season is upon us, so let’s get started!
Where Should I Grow?
Photo courtesy of ForwardGro
What a great question, and a great place to start! When growing cannabis outside there are a few things to consider, the most important being how much sunlight your grow space receives. Cannabis plants love sunlight. These beauties stretch and bend with the shifting of the sun across the sky each day. When choosing your grow space, choose a spot with plenty of direct sunlight. If possible, all-day sunlight is best. With that in mind, choosing a secluded space away from other people is important too. The last thing you want is to have your crop disappear because someone saw it and decided to steal it. Since this is a summer guide for growing cannabis a fenced back yard, or a greenhouse are both solid options for keeping your crop out of sight of others. Another thing to consider is how close you are to your water source. This shouldn’t be an issue if you are growing in your back yard or by your house, but if you have elected to grow somewhere else please consider how heavy water is and how difficult it can be to move. When growing in Colorado it is best to put your plants outside in mid to late May. With our weather being so unpredictable, it’s best to wait until there is very little chance of snow before moving them to their outside home.
What Should I Grow?
Choosing your cannabis varietals is one of the most fun parts of the process. There are so many great breeders in the game these days that there is no shortage of killer strains to grow. That being said, when choosing what to grow there are a few things you should take into consideration. First, you must decide whether you are going to grow from seed or clone. If you are going to grow from seed you must decide what type of seed you are going to start with. There are three types of cannabis seeds, auto-flowering, feminized and regular seeds. For those of you that are growing for a personal stash and want to change it up and have it be different every time, auto-flowering seeds may be the choice for you. Normally cannabis plants veg and flower in different light cycles that simulate the seasons. 18/6 for spring/early summer and 12/12 for late summer/early fall. Auto-flowering plants do not have this growth trait, but instead flower when they reach a certain size. Auto-flowering plants have a shorter growth cycle and require less maintenance than regular plants, but they cannot be cloned so the genetics cannot be propagated. If you’re looking to find your own unique phenotypes of strains, either feminized seeds or regular seeds are for you. Both have the same growth cycle and growth patterns, but feminized seeds have undergone a process that genetically modifies the seed to be a female plant around 90% of the time. Feminized seeds are a great choice for the grower that is looking to find their own solid genetics and not wanting to deal with potentially popping some male plants. Regular seeds will give you male plants so you will have to keep a close eye on them and remove them when they show their sex. If you are looking to breed your own strains, you will need to use regular seeds to find the males. Breeding with regular seeds is also more ideal as their genetics are more stable than both the auto-flowering and feminized plants.
If you are wanting an easier start to the season, picking up pre-rooted clones from a dispensary is the best route to go down. There are many different stores in Denver you can get clones from, but our favorite is The Clinic who features genetics from The Bank. Growing from clone allows you to skip the germination step in the process as well as selecting the strongest phenotypes. When you buy clones the genetics have already been vetted so you know you’ll be growing strong plants. Also, having a root system that is well developed will add to the ease of use when starting from a clone.
Growing Containers and Mediums
Now that you have your cultivation space all picked out, its time now to decide what you’ll grow your plants in. There are a few different options for you to choose from, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. For containers, you have a choice between plastic, or cloth pots as well as an array of choices in the different sizes of pots. In the choice between cloth vs plastic, it mainly comes down to personal preference. Cloth pots are a bit better for the root systems of the plant as they create an environment where the roots prune themselves, thus creating a stronger, denser root ball. Plastic pots create root systems that circle the inside of the pot which some growers find to be problematic, but unless you are well versed in cultivating cannabis you probably won’t notice the difference. When growing at home, you’ll mainly be concerned with the size of your growing container. When growing cannabis, keep in mind that the bigger the pot you have the bigger your plant’s root system will be thus creating a larger plant. If you are limited on space, choose a smaller pot around a 3-gallon size. Your plants will still get plenty big, but won’t become unruly monsters. If you’re looking to grow some trees, grab yourself a 7 or 10-gallon pot. These sizes will allow a root system to form that can support a plant upwards of 8 feet tall.
Once you have your pots selected, it’s time to decide what grow medium to use. For outdoor growing, I have always enjoyed using 707 Blend soil from Roots Organic, but I have also gotten great results using Royal Gold Tupur Coco Coir and Perlite mix as well. As mediums, both soil and coco work pretty much the same, but there are a couple of subtle differences that you should take into consideration. First, coco is a completely inert medium. This means it has no nutrients or additives in it that can aid in plant growth. If you use coco for growing, you will need to add your own nutrients to the coco, or when you water so that your plant will have what it needs to grow big and strong. Many soils are sold as inert mediums, but there are many soils that have a pre-mixed blend of plant nutrients in them. If you decide to go the pre-blended route, make sure you know the concentrations of the nutrients that are in your soil. It is important to know what you are giving your plants so that you do not overfeed them. Soil will also hold water much better than coco. Coco has a tendency to dry quicker than soil, so growing in coco will require you to water and feed your plants more often.
Regardless of the medium you choose, there is a soil additive that I suggest adding to the mix. When transplanting your rooted clones or mature sprouts into their larger pots, I suggest adding Mykos to the mix. Mykos is a mycorrhizal root inoculant which will greatly help with root growth and the uptake of nutrients by your root system into your plants. You will see increased growth and stronger plant structure when using this product. Just follow the application instructions of the back of the packaging for the best results!
What Do I Feed These Ladies?
Cannabis is a hungry plant, and it requires a good amount of nutrients to reach its full potential. When cultivating, you have a couple of different options on how to deliver nutrients to your plants. One of the fun parts of growing cannabis is that you get to decide your own level of involvement for your nutrient regimens. There are easy ways to do it and more labor-intensive ways, but both can produce a great product. The easiest and least labor-intensive way to feed your plants is to mix in a nutrient blend with your soil. I have always had great results with Down to Earth’s Bio Live and Azomite products. These two products will give you a great base of nutrients for your plants to feed on. Bio Live will deliver the Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) that your plants will need to thrive and grow, while the Azomite will provide the other trace minerals that plants need to thrive. Keep in mind that you will eventually need to add more nutrients to your soil as your plant grows and uses up what you have provided for it. You can top dress your pots with both Bio Live and Azomite, or you can supplement with nutrients added to your water.
Mixing a feed solution each time you water is another way to give your plants the nutrients that they need, but it is a much more labor-intensive process. If you’re willing to put in the work, mixing your own feed will give you greater control over what your plants are eating, and you can dial it in for each stage of your plant’s life. There are dozens of different fertilizer brands on the market that range from 2 part to 12 part lines. If you’re new to growing, I would suggest finding a two-part line (grow and bloom) and then supplementing in a micronutrient blend as well. The more parts you have in a line of fertilizers, the more complex your process is going to be, so keep that in mind when selecting your fertilizer line. Dialing in your nutrients is one of the harder parts of growing cannabis, and can take a lot of trial and error to figure out. My suggestion is to start simple and build from there. I grew cannabis with only Peak Harvest’s Grow and Bloom formulas for a long time before adding more additives and supplements to the mix. Once you are familiar with your plants and how they uptake their food, you can then begin to experiment with what you are giving them. Always keep in mind that it’s totally possible to overfeed your plants. If you are seeing burnt leaves or major discoloration of your leaves, pull back on the amount of nutrients you are giving your plants. When dealing with nutrients oftentimes, less is more. Start small and build your way up.
Other Nutrients to Look Into for More Advanced Gardening
How do I Know When My Ladies are Ready for Harvest?
The cannabis plant has two stages of its life. The first stage is the vegetative stage where the plant grows big and strong in preparation for flowering. The second stage is the flowering stage where the cannabis plant begins to grow its large buds. When growing outside in Colorado, your plants will begin to flower somewhere in between the middle of August to the beginning of September. Most cannabis plants will fully mature in their flower cycle in 8 to 9 weeks. When the plant begins to flower, it will shoot little pre-flower hairs out of the nodes, or growth sights of the plant. You can identify nodes as the spots of the plant where new growth happens. You can see this where the new leaf and branch growth start and branch out from the main stalks. As the plant matures you will begin to see little flowers form. When you see these, begin counting the weeks until maturity and when you reach week 8 or 9, your plants will be ready for harvest. If you are unaware of how long your plants have been flowering you can also look at the buds to determine ripeness. The trichomes that cover the flowers of the cannabis plant hold the key to ripeness. Throughout the flowering cycle of the cannabis plant, the trichomes will change in color from clear, to cloudy to amber. When 75% – 80% of your trichomes are cloudy and about 20% – 25% of them are amber, your plant is at peak ripeness and is ready to harvest.
How do I Harvest Cannabis Plants?
Once you have grown your plants to maturity, it’s time to harvest them! When growing outside in Colorado, generally you will reach full maturity around the middle of October. You will want to keep an eye on the weather, as cannabis plants left outside for the first frost will die. When harvesting the cannabis plant start by shucking all of the fan leaves off of your plant. Fan leaves are any of the large leaves that you can see a stem coming off of the stalk. Once they are all removed, cut down the whole plant and hang it upside down to dry. To preserve and develop the flavor of cannabis, you want your cannabis flowers to dry slowly over the course of 10 to 14 days. I like to dry in a closet or small room where I can control the humidity and temperature. You want a relative humidity of around 55% and a temperature of around 68 – 72 degrees. You will know your cannabis plants are dried when the outside of the buds feel a little crisp, but the inside of the bud still has moisture. You can test this by bending the stalks of the plant. If the inside of the stalk snaps, but the outside just bends, you have reached the perfect moisture level.
Trimming and curing is the next step of the process. Remove the buds from the stalks and using small scissors delicately trim off the excess leaves around the buds. Once you have manicured the buds to your liking it’s time to place them in your curing vessels. I prefer glass ball jars and I would suggest that you use them, as they work the best. Place your trimmed buds in the jars and seal them up. Each day open your jars and let them sit for 15 minutes. This process is called burping and it is of crucial importance when developing the flavor of the final product. When curing, the leftover moisture is redistributed to the flowers, thus rehydrating the plant resins that contain the terpenes. Over the course of two to three weeks of burping, you will notice the flavor of the buds begin to develop. Once your flavor is fully developed, you can keep your jars sealed and your buds are ready to smoke!
What Else Do I Need To Know About Growing Cannabis?
There are many different intricacies of growing cannabis that you will learn as you go. This plant is a constant teacher and will tell you what it needs. As a grower, you need to learn how to understand what the plant is telling you and then how to correct the issues you are facing. One important thing to know is that the cannabis plant will express its needs through its leaves. Learning how to identify nutrient deficiencies or toxicity is of crucial importance. The link below is a guide that shows how possible nutrient issues express themselves in your plants. It’s a great guide to use when first learning how to read your plants.
Cannabis plants also require a certain level of pH in their root system to grow to their fullest potential. When watering and feeding your plants, your nutrient solution should have a pH range between 5.8 and 6.5 for optimal growth. You can buy an inexpensive pH reader or you can use a litmus test paper to measure pH. pH Up and pH Down are additives you can use to achieve the correct pH level for your feeding solution. Having an incorrect pH level in your plants can create nutrient lock where your plants are unable to effectively intake nutrients through their root system. This can create lots of problems with growth and bud development. If you feel like your plants aren’t growing well, or have reached a plateau, collect the runoff from your watering and test the pH level. If it’s outside of the desired range you will need to make adjustments to fix the issues.
The last thing that I want you to know in this summer guide for growing cannabis it to remember to show your plants love and affection. Cannabis plants are living and growing organisms and they will respond positively to being properly cared for. Making sure your plants are happy and taking the extra time to prune them and give them the extra attention they are asking for will only work to ensure a more bountiful harvest for you at the end. Growing cannabis can be an incredibly therapeutic experience. Spending time in your garden is good for the mind, and the act of taking care and nurturing these plants through their lives is very rewarding. Cannabis is an incredible plant that can heal and nurture humanity. If you take care of your cannabis, and your cannabis will take care of you.
We hope you enjoyed this summer guide for growing cannabis! Continue your education on the ingredients used to cultivate cannabis in our next blog, Do You Know What’s In Your Cannabis?
For a deeper dive into the cannabis plant, its various compounds and the industry that surrounds it, call and book your private educational experience with City Sessions today. 720-250-8828
What makes buds, a male or a female plant?
Only a female marijuana plant makes flowers/buds that contain a usable amount of THC. Male marijuana plants only make pollen to fertilize the females with. Most growers will throw away any male plants that they encounter to keep them from fertilizing the female plants. If your female plants do get fertilized, they will use all their energy to produce seeds instead of making buds. This is good if you want seeds, but you will run into the same problem since half of the seeds will also be male.
Female plants make buds
Male plants make pollen sacs (low THC compared to buds, terrible to smoke, low yields if used for concentrates). Avoid keeping male plants in your grow room because their pollen causes buds to form seeds.
If you would like to start a breeding program to make your own hybrid, try using a method that creates all-female (feminized) seeds so that you don’t waste time having to identify and throw out male plants.
Getting clones of female marijuana plants or buying feminized seeds online from a seed bank are other ways you can ensure that all your marijuana plants are female.
If you don’t have a choice of seeds, and some of your seeds may be male (like if you just found seeds) then you will want to get your plants to reveal their sex right away so you don’t have to waste time and energy on male plants.
Differences of Cannabis Clones versus Seeds
If you are planning to grow your own cannabis, whether it’s one plant or many, there are two main ways to start the plants. This can be done either by seed or by cloning. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
The technique you use to grow your marijuana can depend on several factors. One consideration is what your end goal is. Are you looking to produce an abundant crop to be harvested and sold or enough for you and your friends to enjoy? Your skill level at growing plants should also be considered, especially if you are going to be marketing your harvest.
The best way to decide which technique is right for you is by first knowing the differences in cannabis clones versus the seeds.
What are Plant Clones?
Clones are grown from a central plant and are genetically identical to their parent. They are created by taking a cutting from the parent plant. This is usually a piece about several inches long from a healthy branch. That piece of limb, or cutting, is then allowed to grow roots. This is often done by placing the cutting in water until sufficient roots are grown and the plant can be put into a pot with soil or placed in the ground.
The best clones are the ones created from a healthy mother plant. The plant should be fast growing with a strong, and robust root system. It should also generate abundant harvests that are known to produce high-quality buds.
Growing Cannabis from Clones
Growing cannabis from clones instead of seeds is done for several reasons. It’s a quicker method of cultivation. The cannabis clone is already germinated and just needs to take root. Growing a plant fast also means economical. Less time spent waiting for the plant to mature means a quicker harvest, and if you are a seller this equates to the faster a product can be marketed.
With a clone, you also have an excellent idea of what the mature plant will turn out like. They are predictable in the quality of the buds they will produce. This is a good thing when it comes time to harvest. You know what kind of cannabis product you will be getting. Another benefit of growing cannabis from clones is if the parent plant has pest resistant qualities so will the clone. A plant resistant to bugs makes for a stronger plant and a better marijuana harvest.
On the other hand, cloning a plant does have a few drawbacks. Plants grown from seeds have the ability to adapt to changes in their environment, and so does each future generation of the plant. This adaptability helps the lineage of the plant be strong enough to grow in different environmental conditions. A cloned plant is exactly the same genetically as its parent and can’t change its own genetics to adapt to a changing environment.
Also, coned plants generally produce a smaller harvest than one grown from a seedling. The clone tends to be a much weaker plant, with a root system that doesn’t grow as strong and deep as the seedling’s does. Another issue may be the parent of the clone may not have had bug and pest resistant qualities in its genetic makeup. This can make the cloned plant susceptible to damaging infestations.
Growing Cannabis from Seeds
There are two types of seed strains, stable and unstable. As the name states, a stable seed strain lineage always has the same qualities. The grower or breeder will start with both a male and female plant and breed them until the specific desired qualities are stabilized in the plant. The new plants in the breed’s lineage will have most of the same desired traits, along with a few genetic variations.
An unstable seed strain often produces plants more quickly, but there is no consistency in their traits and quality of their harvests. The plants that do grow are not a reputable strain. Most cannabis dispensaries won’t buy products from plants grown from unstable seed strains.
Cannabis plants grown from stable seed strains are a much healthier plant than ones grown from clones. The seedling has a much stronger root system, starting with a taproot. This is a root that grows vertically downward for a considerable distance away from the seed. It forms a strong anchor that is able to reach rich nutrients deep in the soil. A robust, healthy plant creates a more significant yield of the product. With cannabis seeds, you also have a much greater variety of plants to choose from.
The disadvantages of growing from a cannabis seed include not knowing the specific qualities of the plant until it reaches maturity. Growing a plant from seed takes more time to cultivate. Seeds are very delicate in their early stages of growth and need more skill to grow. When growing a plant from seed, you won’t know if it’s male or female until it’s fully grown.
A female plant grows the flowers or buds, and a male plant creates the seeds. The female is the plant you want for harvesting your marijuana product.
Which are better for Starters?
Whether starting a plant from a seed or a clone is the better method, depends on several factors. The skill of the grower is essential. Seeds take more time, patience, and a bit more know-how than growing from a clone. For a newbie to gardening, growing a cannabis plant from a clone is the better option. If you do have some advanced gardening skills but just started to learn how to grow cannabis, growing the plant from a clone may still be the way to go…at least until you understand the unique techniques needed in the marijuana plants growing process.
Growing cannabis either from a seed or a clone has both its advantages and disadvantages. The best method depends on your personal preferences, needs, and plant growing skills. Either way, with some time, patience, sun, and water you can have your own cannabis plant or rows of plants in no time at all!