Cannabis has had many different uses for most of humanity’s history. Ancient peoples found a particular use for each part of the plant, fashioning clothes from the hemp, eating the seeds and consuming the flowers for medicinal purposes. For thousands of years, people found legitimate uses for the plant and its medicinal features were highly respected, until governments all around the world came down hard on it over the last century. Today, the DEA and other agencies which purport to “save” the world from itself have unfortunately been somewhat successful in their quest to break up growing operations and stop the importation of tons of marihuana. This has led to absurd prices which continue to skyrocket, and has made a lasting contribution to the success of organized crime.
Given this decades-long climate of repression which has seen street herb contaminated with unwanted substances and weighted with who-knows-what to increase the profit margins of unethical dealers, it is no surprise that more and more people are now starting to grow their own herb in their backyard, where the threat of violence and police repression are perhaps more manageable than anywhere else.
Fortunately for the beginning grower, cannabis can grow and thrive almost anywhere on earth, as long as it has access to a certain amount of sunlight and water. The indoor grower can even replicate a tropical climate using High Pressure Sodium lamps (HPS) and fluorescent bulbs. Even when confronted with serious space constraints, multiple harvests along the line of four to six per year can be reasonably expected.
To germinate your cannabis seeds, leave them in distilled water for a night and then drop them in moist soil or rockwool cubes. You can also sprout them using paper towels, but this may method may be too complicated for a first time grower. Instead of exposing the germinating seeds or the roots to direct light from your installation, place some plastic over them and keep the humidity over 80%. In the first phase, it should be exposed to light for 24 hours per day in this fashion.
For lights, natural light from a window works of course, but artificial light works even better. We recommend Metal Halide (MH) or High Pressure Sodium (HPS) bulbs of at least 400 watt, or CFL (fluorescent) bulbs can work too. It is crucial that you know what you are doing here, or have a friend present who is good with electricity as there are many things that can go wrong with the lights.
For the first three weeks, the plants are ideally exposed to 24 hours of light per day. After this first phase, change to a 12/12 light/darkness cycle. This flowering period should take about 11 weeks for indoor varieties. Make sure that the periods of darkness are not interrupted by momentary spurts of light because it will upset the hormonal balance of the plant and will reset your plants to the earlier, vegetative status. Also, be aware that there are some autoflowering strains available on the market which have a different growing cycle, independent of the amount of light they are exposed to.
A few weeks into the flowering phase, you’ll begin to spot the males. These must be removed as soon as possible as you do not want them to pollinate the females. If you are too late and pollination happens, then you’ll be stuck with seeds instead of the herb you are looking for! In general, males show earlier, grow taller and have pods hanging downwards. Females should be somewhat bushier near the top and have white pistils instead. Telling the difference between the sexes can be quite tricky, but there is a lot of information available on the subject.
If you’re using feminized seeds, then you should be aware that it is still possible to develop some female plants with male characteristics, aka hermaphrodites. The feminized seeds are produced by forcing a plant, through a combination of stress and chemicals, to pollinate itself. The result is that the seeds will be virtually 100% female, but occasionally, some hermaphrodites will appear, particularly when the plants are handled without care and/or are subjected to stress. Hermaphrodites can potentially spell the ruin of sensemilla (seedless) crops!
It is recommended to germinate your cannabis indoors for a minimum of ten days, or, alternatively, to provide very adequate protection to the sown seeds in the outdoors. If you live in a relatively warm area, late June is the ideal time to place the plants outside. In a colder climate, it is recommended to start the seeds under continuous light during the first seven days of June. On the 21st of June, place them outside.
A good rule of thumb is to wait for about three quarters of the white pistils to turn brownish in color before beginning the harvest. At the same time, you should be able to clearly see the resin on the glands around the flowers. Also, be aware that the time of harvest has a direct influence on the kind of high you will receive from the product. Earlier harvests lead to a “high”, energetic and uplifting effect whereas later harvests will tend to produce a heavy, couch-locking feeling. Lastly, handle your harvests with care and cure it well to get optimal results.
After you’ve grown a certain strain from seed to maturity, cutting can provide you with the best method of preserving the strain. Clones will be identical copies of the plant which provided the cutting and therefore have the added advantage of ensuring that the plant will be female. A clone will use older plant material and will, as a result, be much more susceptible to manipulation of the light cycle, and therefore be “forced” to enter the flowering phase much more easily. On the other hand, they will grow less frantically than those that are started from seeds and they will always produce the exact same high for you, which might get rather boring after a while.
At the time of harvest, select the best among your normally grown plants (those that were grown from seed), based on potency, maturity rate and output. Do not take the roots, but instead leave a few branches and flowers at the bottom and put the plant back under 24 hours of light a day to induce it to revert back to its vegetative state. A few weeks later a few shoots should be growing quickly, and these are ideal for cutting. The best ones are side shoots in the lower area of your plant.
Prepare yourself and have rockwool cubes (or peat pots) and plastic for the humidity (as explained above) ready. Use a (clean!) razor blade to make a clean cut right between some nodes of 3 to 6 inches (7 to 15 centimeters) and immediately place it in distilled water as you want to avoid the formation of an air bubble in the small hole in the middle of the stem. The reason is that if the hole is blocked, the cutting will expire in less than 24 hours. As for leaves, leave a few at the end of your cutting, but remove the larger ones as it will actually decrease the survival rate of your cutting.
Soak your rockwool cubes (or peat pots) and dip your cutting in rooting glue for about 15 seconds (this can be obtained from a nursery and the best are liquid hormones). Afterwards, put the cuttings in the rockwool cubes or peat pots and water. While enriching the water with a mild Vitamin B1 solution like Superthrive is ideal, it is not crucial to the further development of the clone (but it will have a positive impact on the development of the roots).
The first week is the most critical one of all for your clone and you should try to keep the temperature at about 77 Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) and the humidity at 75%. Any rotting leaves should be removed as soon as possible, but it is normal if the plant looks a bit wilted during this first week. Enrich the soil with a diluted fertilizer compound and increase this feeding as the plant grows. After about three to four weeks, the clone should be fully rooted and can be transplanted and flowered.