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Cultivation Tips for Healthy Marijuana Farming:
The following is an article produced by a contributing author. I Love Growing Marijuana does not endorse nor evaluate the claims of our contributors, nor do they influence our editorial process. We thank our contributors for their time and efforts.
Before marijuana became legalized in a multitude of states, either for recreational or medicinal purposes, the outlook was rather grim. The notion that weed was being cultivated by environmentally conscious types was blown out of the water once we knew what was really going on.
Back in 2014, 80% of the estimated 22 million pounds of cannabis grown in the United States came from five states: Washington, Hawaii, California, Kentucky, and Tennessee. When authorities raided illegal weed growing locations (329 in all) they also seized 40 gallons of pesticides, 244 propane tanks, and 61 car batteries! In other words, our marijuana wasn’t so ‘green’ or healthy!
Despite the improved legal status of marijuana, too many individuals either use enormous amounts of electricity for indoor growing or rely on the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. However, it is possible to grow weed in a way that doesn’t damage the environment, and new laws give you the power to do so in the open. In California for example, Proposition 64 allows residents to grow up to six live plants, or more if they have a license. If you are in a state where you can legally grow marijuana, read on for a guide on how to cultivate healthy weed.
A Quick Primer
When you grow marijuana naturally, you will benefit from the following:
- Lower costs because you’re not paying for mite sprays, pesticides, algae tablets, and other rubbish you don’t need.
- Less need to regularly visit your site because you will be growing your weed discreetly.
- Far better-tasting bud because growing marijuana naturally increases the level of flavonoids and terpenes in the bud.
- You can classify yourself as ‘environmentally friendly’ because you reduce toxic runoff, use less water and keep your carbon footprint minimal.
For the record, there is a difference between growing weed organically, biodynamically, and naturally.
Organically Grown Weed
There is a major difference between ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ when it comes to growing things. Organically grown produce only gains that certification once it meets strict federal guidelines regarding the use of antibiotics, pesticides, and chemicals. It is an expensive process and doesn’t necessarily give you the best outcome.
Biodynamically Grown Weed
Those who prefer this method takes things to extremes! Biodynamic farmers believe in analyzing the cycles of the moon to ensure the plant and harvest at the right times. They also create homeopathic-type remedies for the Earth and use compost and natural fertilizers.
Naturally Grown Weed
This refers to marijuana that is grown using environmentally friendly and efficient techniques. It involves the use of sustainable and renewable methods so you can create outstanding weed without spending a fortune.
Choosing Your Strain
You have to give considerable thought to the type of strain you want to cultivate. Remember, no matter how skilled a grower you are, it is impossible to compensate for poor plant genetics. There are dozens of reputable seed banks online that can provide you with world-class marijuana strains.
Once you use high-quality seed stock, you immediately increase the yield and potency. While you can use clones, make sure they come from a seller with an excellent reputation. When in doubt, opt for Cannabis Cup winning strains such as Girl Scout Cookies Strain! Other worthy strains include Trainwreck, MK Ultra, Strawberry Cough, and Banana Kush.
However, it is all about why you’re growing the weed. Some strains are better than others for treating pain or anxiety, while others are ideal if you simply need a smoke to chill out.
Should I Grow Indoors or Outdoors?
Regardless of the strain you choose, your marijuana will only produce a quality yield if it gets enough light; it IS a plant after all! If you live in a sunny climate, outdoor growing is an option, but would-be growers in areas with below average sunlight often have no option but to grow indoors.
Growing Weed Outdoors
If you decide to grow your plants outside, there are numerous challenges to overcome. You have to worry about pests such as spider mites, aphids, and fungus gnats ruining your crop. It is easy to succumb to the temptation of buying pesticides. If you go down this route, try and find natural pesticides and use as little nutrients as you can to minimize the level of run-off.
Natural ways to deal with pests include using a garlic and mineral oil concoction which works well against aphids. As far as water use is concerned, it is irresponsible to use sprinklers and we recommend watering your garden in the evening or at night to limit the impact of evaporation. Once your plants are about a month old, you can reduce watering to two intense sessions a week.
Create mulch by combining a layer of leaves, straw, stones, and shavings and place it at the base of the plant to reduce evaporation. Keep your plants close together to shade the soil and reduce water usage. Ideal strains for warm climates include Afghan and Durban Poison.
Growing Weed Indoors
Indoor growers must use a lot of light and also have to invest in a hydroponic set-up and ventilation system. You get the densest buds when you use HPS, LECs or LED lights. Full-spectrum LED grow lights are among the best options because the level of light available matches the light wavelengths your plants can use. The result is efficient growing with little light wasted. LEDs also use half the electricity of HID grow lights and as they stay cool, you need to use less ventilation and fan power.
The trouble with male plants is that it takes weeks to mature to a point where you can identify them. At this stage, you have used up weeks of power, light, water, and nutrients. As a result, the best option is to choose feminized strains that flower in no more than eight weeks. If you use too much light, problems such as nutrient deficiencies, dying leaves and the tips burning manifest themselves.
Using the Right Nutrients & Supplements
Cannabis needs a variety of nutrients to grow but here are the three most important:
- Potassium (K): Marijuana needs Potassium to boost the size and density of individual flowers.
- Phosphorus (P): When you add enough Phosphorus to your plants, you maximize flower production. Make sure you add lots of this nutrient in the early growth stages.
- Nitrogen (N): While a large amount of Nitrogen is essential for vegetative growth, it isn’t as crucial for creating buds. Adding too much during the ripening stage will reduce the level of bud production and damage yield size and quality. Be especially careful with Nitrogen during the second half of the flowering stage because it is then that the buds fatten up as the vegetative stage finishes.
During the flowering stage, you can add a few supplements such as:
- Bloom Enhancers: These typically consist of non-nutrient ingredients and enable the plant to grow more efficiently by offering humic and amino acids.
- Carbohydrates: There are products on the market filled with carbs such as sugar, along with terpenes and esters. You can add these if you want your plant to have unique flavors or scents. Some growers add blackstrap molasses as a low-cost alternative to store-bought supplements and add them to the plant 2-3 weeks before harvest.
- PK Boosters: These are supplements with Potassium and Phosphorus, while some also contain Sulphur. They are potent, and while these nutrients are crucial for flowering, most bloom enhancers contain them.
You will have to eschew most of the above if you’re intent on cultivating your marijuana naturally. As your soil gets depleted over time, you have to add nutrients no matter what. Adding compost is a tried and trusted method of keeping the soil fertile. This broken-down plant material is laden with organic material, offers lots of nutrients, and holds water and air.
There is a variety of ways to create compost. Arguably the most popular method is to create a large pile of fresh and dry plant material such as dead leaves, hay, fan leaves, and food leftovers. Make sure you keep the compost pile moist but don’t allow it to get wet. Eventually, the pile will reach a temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit and kill weed seeds. Turn the pile every six weeks or so and wait at least three months before using it. You can add it to your garden throughout the growth cycle.
Natural Ways to Defeat Pests
We already mentioned the dangers of pests, but instead of relying on chemical-filled pesticides, use all-natural methods of handling the threat. Chrysanthemums are filled with a natural insecticide named pyrethrin which kills insects. Dill is excellent for repelling spider mites; cilantro keeps aphids, mites, and potato beetles at bay; and peppermint is another excellent aphid repellent. Additional chemical-free treatments include foxglove, marigold, and garlic.
Obviously, you can’t stick a few cloves of garlic near your marijuana plants and hope for the best! Chop the garlic up and boil it in water. Steep until it is cool and strain it into a container before spraying the mixture on the plant leaves. Tomato leaf spray works well against whiteflies and grasshoppers. Ingredients include garlic, onions, dish soap, chilies, tomato leaves, tobacco, chrysanthemums, and mineral oil.
Temperature & Humidity Details
If you’re using carbon dioxide during the growing process, you should keep the daytime temperature between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise, drop it to the 65 – 80-degree range during the flowering stage. CO2 users must also drop the temperature below 80 degrees in the last two weeks before harvest. Reduce the temperature to a range between 68 and 75 degrees at night. Remember, problems such as bud rot come into play if the temperature falls to 60 degrees.
If you are a first-time cultivator, the humidity issue is likely to cause you a lot of problems if you don’t perform adequate research. During the vegetative stage, keep the humidity level high (above 40%) to reduce salt levels. Once it falls below 25%, your yield could be damaged by heat stress or nutrient deficiencies.
By the time your plants reach the flowering stage, it is time to reduce the humidity, although you should still aim for between 40% and 50%. If you can achieve this level, your plants will benefit from improved trichome production and will be less susceptible to mold.
You can’t create world-class buds unless the air quality is top notch. This means excellent ventilation and air flow. If you’re growing up to three medium-sized plants, a maximum of two oscillating fans is more than enough. If you’re growing on a commercial scale, it is best to invest in a high-quality exhaust system to guarantee proper airflow.
Drying & Curing
If you’re an experienced grower, you understand the importance of your plants getting through most of the growth process without any issues. When harvest time comes, however, you still have plenty of work to do to get the best out of your yield. It is important to note that drying and curing comprise at least 50% of what your final product will look like. Proper drying/curing ensures you end up with dense, potent, and flavorful buds.
The curing process involves drying your buds slowly before adding them to glass jars over the course of several weeks. The best drying environment is 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% humidity, and the ideal curing environment involves the same temperature but a slightly higher humidity of up to 65%. There are numerous reasons to dry and cure your buds after harvest including:
- Breaking down chlorophyll and improving the taste and smoothness of the buds.
- Removing the cut grass smell, which isn’t pleasant at all.
- Bringing out the unique scent and flavors of your weed.
- Reducing the risk of suffering from paranoia after consuming the marijuana.
- Increasing the potency.
- Reduces ‘harshness’, which means you’re less likely to get a coughing fit while smoking it.
Here is a quick overview of the entire process:
- Cut down the plant and remove extra leaves.
- Dry the buds and adhere to the temperature and humidity figures we mentioned above. Most people hang the buds upside down to dry.
- Continue drying until the outsides of the buds are dry to the touch; this normally happens after between three and seven days.
- Place the dried buds in glass mason jars for up to two months.
- During the lengthy curing process, open the jars regularly during the first few weeks to air out the buds and inspect them.
- Most growers find that curing has little impact after six months.
Final Thoughts on Marijuana Cultivation & Quick Tips
You need the patience to grow premium-quality marijuana, but once you choose the right strain and ensure you have the right equipment and conditions for indoor or outdoor growing, you will be halfway towards brilliantly cultivated weed. At harvest time, you have to cut down the plant and start drying/curing it to ensure it is primed and ready for use. Once you have the cannabis safely and securely in storage, you can use it at your leisure. Just make sure you adhere to your state’s laws! Here are a few additional tips:
- Keep your tools, walls, and floors clean at all times. A filthy growth environment is an open invitation to pests who will come and ruin your crop.
- Don’t tell people about your crop because that’s an invitation for thieves!
- The final product is highly dependent on genetics, so choose your strain wisely.
- Develop a soil that works for you and ensures the pH remains at around 6.5.
- Overwatering young marijuana plants can easily kill them and it is also environmentally irresponsible. A simple tip is to dip your finger into the soil. If there is no moisture about three inches down, feel free to water it thoroughly.
- While your plants need nutrients, don’t overdo it. It is best only to add them every second watering and take it easy with the nitrogen during the flowering stage where Phosphorus and Potassium are more important.
- Avoid the temptation to harvest early. We get it! You have waited months for the big day and the wonderful marijuana plants are just waiting to be cut down. By waiting a little longer, you will benefit from a larger and more potent crop. Expert cultivators recommend waiting until half the pistils have turned brown before harvesting.