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Start Growing Cannabis! (Viewed 6583 times)
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Start Growing Cannabis!
Reply #13 Posted on January 14, 2015

Get Started

You’ve now got everything you need to grow your own cannabis. Let’s get started!

 

Germinate Seeds or Care for Clones

If you have cannabis seeds, it’s time to get them to sprout. 

Basically you want to give your seeds a warm, wet place to start growing. There are many methods and techniques for germination, but I believe the easiest way to start seeds is to place them in a starter cube or seedling plug. 

Rapid Rooters are an easy way to germinate cannabis seeds

I use Rapid Rooters because they are easy to work with - you just stick your cannabis seed in the Rapid Rooter plug, keep your seed warm and slightly moist, and let the Rapid Rooter do its magic. Sprouts emerge and roots appear in just a few days. Once your seed has sprouted, you  just stick the Rapid Rooter directly in your container or hydroponic system.

Another great option for new growers is to germinate their seeds directly in their final growing medium. 

Sometimes nature's way is the easiest way. In nature, cannabis seedlings would sprout in soil, and they would emerge as their taproots start growing down.

Cannabis seedling emerging from soil

One of the biggest benefits of planting your seed directly in the growing medium is you don't have to worry about moving young seedlings. Because seeds are already in their final resting place, they will immediately start adjusting to the environment. Every time you transplant or move a sprouted seed, it can cause stress as the young plant needs to readjust its new surroundings. 

  • Soil - Plant seeds a knuckle deep (0.5-1 inch OR 1.3 cm - 2.5 cm) in moist yet not soaking soil. Use a light or a heating pad to keep things warm. This is one of the easiest marijuana germination methods for beginners.

  • Coco Coir or other soilless growing medium - Plant in a similar way to soil

  • Hydroponics - I highly recommend using Rapid Rooters or other hydroponic-friendly starter cubes for starting seeds in hydro systems. Just place the seed in the Rapid Rooter, and then place the plug in your system.

A cannabis seedling

The first two leaves from your cannabis plant will be round (called cotyledons), but after that all the leaves will be serrated like the cannabis leaves you are probably familiar with.

If you're starting with a cannabis clone, you want to treat it gently for the first day or two. It’s common for new clones to be a bit drooper, and it’s your job to make sure it stays healthy and happy. If your clone hasn't established roots yet, then you want to make sure that it stays moist and gets gentle light (like from fluorescent tubes) until it develops some roots.

This cannabis clone is showing roots

New clones need to get their water through their leaves until their roots haven't formed, which is why a nice humid cloner works great. If no humidity cloner is available, some growers mist their clones a few times a day until they start forming roots. A little warmer than room temperature 72-77 °F (22-25 °C ) is great for clones. Many automatic cloners come with a heat setting.

Don't give new clones 24 hours of light, without any dark periods. This can slow down the rooting process. Rooting seems to happen best when there's some amount of darkness each day.
I recommend starting new clones on a 16/8 or 18/6 (Light/Dark) schedule when you introduce lights.

The most important thing is to keep a close eye on your new clones or seedlings until they've become well-established.

Once young plants are growing new leaves and getting taller, they are officially in the vegetative stage.

 

Vegetative Stage

This section will explain how to care for young cannabis plants in the vegetative stage.

When your cannabis plant first starts growing brand new leaves and stems, it marks the beginning of the vegetative stage.

The vegetative stage is a period of growth where your cannabis plant just focuses on getting strong and big. During this stage, cannabis plants will only grow leaves and stems, and will not grow any bud.

A happy cannabis plant in the vegetative stage

Here's what you'll find in this section about the cannabis vegetative stage:

  • Vegetative Light Schedules

  • Daily Plant Care in the Vegetative Stage

  • Plant Training

 

Vegetative Light Schedules

Outdoors

Cannabis plant grown outdoorsCannabis plants should be first placed outside in the Spring. The best time differs depending on where you live in the world, but as long as nights are shorter than 12 hours and days are growing longer, it should be a good time to place plants outside. If plants are placed outside too early (while nights are too long) they may start budding right away, instead of staying in the vegetative stage. Therefore make sure your days are long enough to support vegetative growth. Clones should be put out about 2-3 weeks later than seeds because they’re more prone to flowering early.

The vegetative stage is the easiest part of growing outdoors, and as long as you provide the plants with plenty of light, needed nutrients, and water, your plants should thrive. 

Keep a close eye on plants for bite marks or other problems, such as bugs, caterpillars, etc.

Outdoors, the amount of time spent by the plant in the vegetative stage is determined by the sun and how long the days are. Plants that get a lot of direct sunlight can grow into trees over the course of one summer.

As the days start growing shorter in the late summer or fall, your cannabis will automatically switch to the flowering stage on its own. 

The further away from the equator, the sooner cannabis will start flowering and be ready to harvest. For outdoor grow areas closer to the equator, cannabis will be ready to harvest later in the year.

The rhythms of the sun are very important to outdoor cannabis growers

Indoors

Indoor growers can keep cannabis plants in the vegetative stage for as long or short as they want by providing at least 18 hours of light a day. This is usually accomplished by putting grow lights on a timer.

Unlike outdoor growers, indoor growers have more control over the final size and shape of their plant.

Having a light period that lasts 18+ hours each day will make cannabis think that it's summer/grow time. As long as cannabis plants get 18+ hours of light a day, they will remain in the vegetative stage, growing only stems and leaves.

Use a timer to automatically turn indoor grow lights on and off

Use a timer to automatically turn cannabis grow lights on and off

Indoor growers usually provide either a 18-6 or 24-0 light schedule during the vegetative stage of cannabis. 18-6 means 18 hours of light and 6 hours of dark each day. 24-0 means 24 hours of light with no darkness each day.

18-6 vs 24-0 Light Schedule for Indoor Growing

Some people will keep their lights on 24 hours during this stage while others will keep the lights on a schedule where they're 18 hours on and 6 hours off every day.

Which is better? 

The answer depends on which grower you ask, and may even be different from plant to plant. Most weed strains are fine and will flourish when given 24 hours of light a day in the vegetative stage. Yet some strains may do better on 18/6.

If electricity costs are a big concern, you may want to consider a 18/6 light schedule in order to help keep electricity costs down. This also allows growers to use the 6 hours of darkness to help cool the grow area. If your grow area gets too hot at certain times of the day, you could set your 6 hours of darkness to happen during that time, so lights aren’t running when it’s hot.

According to the Marijuana Horticulture Bible (pg 38), research has shown that most strains of marijuana do grow faster when given 24 hours of light during the vegetative stage.

There will always be growers who feel that cannabis plants need some time with the light off (a dark period) in order to have optimal growth, while others believe that the extra hours of light are better since they give your plants slightly faster growth in veg. 

This cannabis plant in the vegetative stage is loving life

However, many growers seem to agree that ruderalis (auto-flowering) strains of marijuana grow fastest when given just 18 hours of light a day. So if you are growing auto strains, you may want to consider an 18-6 light schedule.

I personally keep my lights on and 18-6 schedule (18 hours of light, 6 hours of dark) for all my plants during the vegetative stage. It's easy and my cannabis plants grow fast and healthy. Some delicate strains and autoflowering strains seem to get stressed by a 24-hour light period, and I believe many strains seem to grow healthier with a cool dark period every day.

However, I used to grow using 24 hours of light a day for my cannabis plants in veg, and they grew just fine. 24 hours of light/day provides somewhat faster growth than an 18/6 schedule because plants are getting more light to make energy. It’s up to you to decide which light schedule is best for you. Both work great.

A short, bushy cannabis plant under a MH grow light

 

Daily Care in the Vegetative Stage

In the vegetative stage, your job is simple. Cannabis plants grow fast and are tough in the vegetative stage.

To keep your cannabis happy and healthy, you need to do the following

Provide water - Water plants when top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. In containers, make sure water can drain freely out the bottom. In a hydro setup, there will always be plenty of water.

Nutrients - if providing nutrients, start using the included nutrient schedule at ½ strength, and only raise to higher levels of nutrients if needed. Simply add the directed amount nutrients to your water before giving it to plants or adding to reservoir. Manage pH levels if using liquid nutrients.

Provide light - Keep plants in sun or use your vegetative grow light as directed. Simply turn grow lights on and keep at the recommended distance from the top of your plants. Outdoors plants will continue vegetating until days start growing short. Indoors plants will stay in the vegetative stage as long as they’re getting 18+ hours of light a day

Not too cold, not too hot - Vegetative cannabis plants prefer a comfortable room temperature or slightly warmer. 70-85°F (20-30°C) is great. Avoid low humidity in the vegetative stage if possible. Never allow plants to experience freezing temps

Air circulation - Make sure cannabis gets a constant supply of fresh air so plants get the CO2 they need to grow, and keep air moving so there are no hot spots and leaves are always moving/rustling. Outdoors you may want to put up wind breaks if it gets too windy so plants aren’t being waved around.

Some things to look out for during your first grow:

  • Strange coloring or spotting in your leaves. It is normal a few older and lower leaves to turn yellow or brown and die as the plant matures. It is also normal for all the leaves to start turning yellow in the last week or two before harvest time as your plant pulls nitrogen from the leaves into the mature buds. Other than those exceptions, your leaves (optimally) should always look green and healthy during the whole grow.

  • Keep an eye out for leaves that are falling off, curling up or dying at a rate of more than a couple of leaves every few days. If your plant is losing more leaves than it's growing, you know there's a problem.

  • Any sort of rotten or bad smell often indicates bacteria, mold, or rotting. Investigate your system to see if you can find the source of the bad smell. If your plants are starting to smell pretty skunky towards the end of your flowering stage, that's totally normal.

  • Keep an eye out for signs of mold on your buds or leaves. If you see something on your leaves or buds that does not look like trichomes, you may be seeing the first signs of mold. A common mold looks like white powder on your leaves and is known as "Powdery White Mildew."

  • Very slow growth means that something is wrong.

  • Keep an eye out for "stretching" or when your plant grows very tall with a lot of space between nodes, as opposed to getting bushy and growing lots of leaves. This usually indicates that the plant needs more light and is trying to "reach" for the sun.

  •  Look out for any signs of bugs including mucus trails, eggs, spots, etc.

  •  Watch out for any other signs your plant isn't growing vibrant and healthy.

Don't worry about every little thing, but if you feel like your plant may be having some sort of problem, try to identify what it is and fix it as soon as possible! Many times a problem can be fixed if it's caught in the early stages, and won't have an effect on yields.

How often do I water my plants?

Water pouring out of a faucetSeedlings may need less water at a time until they are growing vigorously. Especially if young plants are in a big container, avoid giving a lot of water at a time until the plants starts growing faster. Once plant is growing new leaves and stems regularly, start watering using the techniques explained below.

Water plants when soil feels dry up to your first knuckle.

How to water cannabis properly...

  • Wait until the top of the growing medium is dry about an inch deep (up to your first knuckle - just use your finger to poke a hole in the soil and see if it feels dry).

  • Add water until you see at least 20% extra runoff water drain out the bottom of your pot. Go back to step 1. Note: If water takes a long time to come out the bottom, or if pots take longer than 5 days to dry out before the next watering, you may actually have a problem with drainage

Some growers also use the "lift the pot" method to decide when to water your plants (basically wait until your pot feels "light" since the plants have used up all the water). It's up to you to decide what's easier for you.

Is My Temperature Okay?

Vegetative cannabis plants prefer a comfortable room temperature or slightly warmer. 70-85°F (20-30°C) is great. Avoid low humidity in the vegetative stage if possible.

Cannabis plants don't like too hot or too cold temperatures

Make sure to always check the temperature as experienced by your plants, not the ambient room temperature. Check the temperature directly under the light where the top of your plants are located. If temperature feels too hot for your hand after 10 seconds, it’s too hot for your cannabis and you need to take steps to bring the temperature lower. If it’s just a hot spot, you can use small fans to disperse the heat and provide good air circulation in the room. 

Cannabis plants cannot stand cold temperatures. Freezing temps can kill cannabis. So if plants are kept in a cold are (for example a basement), take steps to prevent the plants or roots from getting too cold. Grow lights will help keep the plant warm, but make sure the bottoms of the plants have a protective barrier from anything that might be too cold. 

Vegetative cannabis plants prefer a comfortable room temperature or slightly warmer. 70-85°F (20-30°C) is great. Avoid low humidity in the vegetative stage if possible.

What if I run into problems?

It's important to keep a close eye on your personal garden during your first couple of grows, and it is inevitable that you will make some sort of mistake or have some sort of problem with your plants.

No grower ever has a “perfect” grow

A good grower always keeps a close eye on their plants, so they can catch and correct any issues before the plant is permanently damaged. 

It’s okay to make mistakes. Just keep an eye out and fix them!

Marijuana plants are very resilient, especially in the vegetative stage. As long as you fix any problem that is hurting them, they will usually bounce back quickly and go on to produce fine buds. Problems or nutrient deficiencies that happen to cannabis in the vegetative stage do not have much effect on flowering/budding as long as issues are corrected right away

Plant Training

Plant training is not crucial to success. You can get to harvest without training your plants. But plant training is crucial to getting the best yields from your grow lights. Outdoors, growers may want to train plants to grow short and wide, so they stay out of sight while producing a big yield.

This vegetating cannabis plant has been trained into a bushy monster with many colas

Cannabis growers often want cannabis plants to grow into a certain size and shape to produce the best yields. The best time to train your cannabis plant is in the vegetative stage. There is very little plant training that can be done in the flowering stage.

So if you have special space requirements, make sure you learn about training your plants before they get too big!

As a grower, you have a lot of control over the final size and shape. Plant training techniques allow you to create a cannabis plant that grows the way you want.

This cannabis plant has experienced some extreme LST (low stress training) & other growth control techniques

A cannabis plant that is trained to grow short and wide takes full advantage of indoor grow lights.

This cannabis plant was trained in the vegetative stage to grow short and bushy, now it's buds are fat from being so close to the grow lights

Notice how each of the colas are about the same size, since the plant was trained so that all colas received the same amount of light.

Common cannabis training techniques:

  • Low Stress Training (LST)

  • Supercropping (Extreme LST)

  • Sea of Green (SoG)

  • Screen of Green (ScrOG)

  • Intro to Cutting Your Plants For Better Growth

  • Topping

  • FIMing

  • Main-Lining (Creating a Manifold)

  • Defoliation (Advanced Only)

An example of cannabis main-lining (building a manifold)

No matter how well you train your plants, some grow patterns are going to be determined by your plant's genes, especially in the flowering stage. You can control the genetics by choosing to start with a great strain, and plant training will give you the tools you need to get your cannabis to grow the way you want, so you get the best yields possible.

 

How long should cannabis plants be kept in the vegetative stage?

When growing indoors, the length of time to keep your plant in the vegetative stage will vary with how big you want your final plant to be. The longer your plant stays in the vegetative stage, the bigger it will get.

Some people will turn their cannabis plants over to flowering when they're barely more than a seedling while others will wait until the plant is much larger, after several months.

A cannabis plant can stay in the vegetative stage for virtually forever, and plants can be kept in the vegetative stage for years if given enough hours of light each day. This is often how growers keep great genetics - they’ll keep a “mother plant” in the vegetative stage, and take clones off the plant when needed.

Cannabig plants in the vegetative stage can continue to vegetate indefinitely if they're never given a 12-12 light schedule

Many indoor growers believe that it's better to make many smaller plants and harvest often as opposed to having large plants and harvesting infrequently.

If you are trying to keep your plants smaller, you will want to keep them in the vegetative stage for a shorter amount of time. For bigger plants, let them stay in the vegetative stage for longer until they’ve reached the size you want. The time spent in the vegetative stage is a big part of what sets the final height of the plant at harvest.

A good rule of thumb is to let your plants stay in the vegetative stage until it reaches about half its final height. Cannabis plants often double in height after the switch to the flowering stage. The amount of “flowering stretch” is dependent on your strain, which is why it’s important to have picked a strain that suits your needs. 

A strain that is labeled...

  • Short - usually stretches less than double the height after switch to flowering stage

  • Average - may double in height after switch to flowering stage

  • Tall - may double or triple in height after switch to the flowering stage

 

Flowering Stage

The cannabis "flowering stage" is when your female weed plants start to grow flowers (buds) and your male plants reveal themselves by growing pollen sacs that look like little balls.

Your plants will start flowering in response to the amount of light they get each day. As long as your cannabis plants receive a 12+ hour dark period every day, plants will stay in the flowering stage until harvest.

In the flowering stage, your cannabis plants will reveal their gender...

Cannabis gender diagram - male vs female pre-flowers

Male plants grow pollen sacs, and female plants grow white hairs (pistils) at the joints of the plant.

Get rid of male plants immediately to prevent pollination and seedy buds!

Here's what you'll find in this section about the cannabis flowering stage:

  • When Does Flowering Start?

  • Initial Growth Spurt - the flowering "stretch"

  • Bud Growth (and how to increase yields)

  • When to Harvest

  • Trimming, Drying & Curing

 

When Does Flowering Start?

Outdoors

If you're growing outdoors, your cannabis will naturally start flowering when the days start getting shorter.

Cannabis grown outdoors can grow to the size of trees

Make sure plants don't get any light during their nights. If the dark period is interrupted at night (for example, by spotlights, street lights, etc), then they plant may never start flowering, or may revert back to the vegetative stage if it’s already started flowering.

Plants that get light during their dark period may even turn into a hermie, a plant with both male and female parts (which you don’t want).

Indoors

Indoor growers need to change their light schedule to to 12 hours on and 12 hours off to get marijuana plants to start the flowering stage. This is usually accomplished by changing your lighting timer to a 12-12 schedule so lights automatically turn off for 12 hours a day.

You can pretty much pick any time to be their new 'morning.' If you're concerned about your electricity usage, you may be able to get cheaper electricity rates at night so it may be beneficial to have your plant's 'day' time be at night. If you have trouble with heat from your lights, it may also be easier to keep your grow room cool if the lights only turn on at night.

When changing from the vegetative stage to the flowering stage, what's most important is to make sure your plants get 12 hours of completely uninterrupted darkness each day.

Changing the light schedule indoors makes your plants “think” that winter is approaching, which is why they start making buds. Just like with outdoor plants, make sure that plants don't get any light during their 12 hours of "off" time. Light leaks can be a big problem during the flowering stage. If you do not maintain consistent night periods, your plants can stop flowering and revert back to the vegetative stage, or even turn into a hermaphrodite.

A hermaphrodite, or “hermie,” is a plant with both male and female parts (which you don’t want). Hermies grow sex organs of both genders, so female plants start growing male pollen sacs which can cause pollination and seedy buds.

If you must visit your plants during their night period, it's best to get a green light either from a garden or hardware store in order to not disturb your plants during their 'slumber.' 

The reason a green light works at night  is because plants reflect back green light instead of absorbing it (hence their green color). Phytochrome, the photoreceptors that cannabis uses to tell whether it’s “day” or “night” is not sensitive to the green spectrum of light. Therefore a green light is pretty much 'invisible' to your plants and won’t affect their dark periods.

The flowering stage is one of the most excitingparts of marijuana growing, but it is also the toughest stage life life for cannabis. While budding, plants are more prone to issues, for example during the flowering stage your plant is much more likely to suffer from nutrient problems even if you’re doing everything the same as you were during the vegetative stage.

It’s very important to stay on top of problems in the flowering stage!

If there's a nutrition problem in the vegetative stage, the plant will just keep growing new leaves to replace any that are lost, but towards the end of the flowering stage, the plant stops making new leaves altogether while it's focusing on make huge buds. 

Therefore, if your leaves get burnt or discolored towards the end of the flowering stage, your plant won't be able to grow any replacements and you'll be stuck with your burnt or discolored leaves until the end.

Leaves that are not green and healthy will absorb less light so it's important to try to maintain plenty of green, healthy leaves in order to produce buds.

However, if you do experience some problems, don't worry too much. As long as your buds remain intact, and you have enough leaves to get you to harvest, you will still produce amazing quality buds.

It's normal for leaves to start yellowing as harvest approachesAnd it's TOTALLY normal to start getting yellow, beat-up looking leaves during the last few weeks of the flowering stage.

Because your plant is at its tallest/biggest during the flowering stage, it can be difficult to provide enough light to the whole plant during this stage, especially when growing indoors. This is a shame because the amount of buds you get in the end is directly proportional to the amount of light the plant receives during the flowering stage. This is why it’s so important you trained plants properly in the vegetative stage.

In the flowering stage, if any part of the plant's green foliage appears dark or shadowed, then you know that the shadowy areas are not getting enough light. It’s important that leaves and bud sites are exposed to plenty of bright light to make sure buds grow as big as they can.

Buds that don't get light do not grow much at all. Buds that are lower on the plant, or in the middle of the plant without much access to light and air will tend to stay small.

It is tough for many new growers to be patient and wait until their plant is ready to harvest.
Many new growers cut their cannabis down too early in excitement, which is a huge waste after spending so long caring for the plant. I completely understand though, I've been there.

You see your plant is growing buds and it can be tempting to want to harvest your buds as soon as possible. I urge you to be patient during this stage. A few weeks of growing could be the difference between getting a half-strength bud or getting a bud that is at full potency, so it is important to try to wait until just the right time to harvest.

 

Initial Growth Spurt (flowering “stretch)

When cannabis reaches the flowering (budding) stage, different strains tend to start growing more differently from each other. 

When strains are well-matched, they will tend to stretch about the same amount as each other. 

Some strains grow very tall after being switched to flowering, doubling or tripling their height (or more). Other strains stay short and squat after being switched to flowering, and may not stretch much at all.

What to expect for the “flowering stretch?”

A strain that is labeled...

  • Short - usually stretches less than double the height after switch to flowering stage

  • Average - may double in height after switch to flowering stage

  • Tall - may double or triple in height after switch to the flowering stage

As you enter flowering, the genetics begin to really show.

Let Me Show You: These plants were grown together. The one of the right starts out a bit taller, and grows just a little lankier than the other one. But generally they've stayed about the same height for the vegetative stage. Now look what happens when they get switched over to the flowering stage...

Mismatched Cannabis Strains Are Not Effective
at Using Indoor Grow Lights

Short vs tall cannabis strains - what this means as far as the flowering stretch

Always prepare for the Flowering Stretch!

Bud Growth (and how to increase yields)

You’ve already set things up with the strain you chose and the plant training you did in the vegetative stage.

Now it’s time to focus on what you can do to improve bud growth and yields in the flowering stage.

Girl Scout Cookies cannabis colaExpose Buds Sites: One thing that can help you get better yields is to expose your bud sites to more air and light. Some growers tuck leaves away, while other remove leaves that are covering buds sites. Try to get the buds as much light and air exposure as possible, but avoid damaging or over-stressing the plant.

Defoliation (removing leaves) is a highly controversial technique for growing cannabis. It’s important the new growers do not defoliate leaves until they’ve made it past their first harvest.

Though defoliation can help open up bud sites, it’s common for new growers to pull too many leaves, which will hurt yields later in the flowering stage. Cannabis uses leaves to make energy, and if it doesn’t have enough leaves it won’t be able to make enough energy to grow and fatten up buds.

Give Plenty of Light: Giving the maximum amount of brightness to your plants will improve your yields by giving your plant more energy to grow. It’s important not to go overboard though, as too much light can actually light-burn your plants.

The highest-yielding cannabis grow lights for the flowering stage are HPS grow lights. Many growers use an HPS grow light in the flowering stage to get bigger yields. 

Avoid Nutrients with Too Much Nitrogen During Budding: It’s important to switch to a flowering or “bloom” formula of nutrients during the cannabis flowering stage, which tend to be lower in nitrogen and higher in phosphorus. Nutrients made for the vegetative stage of growth contain too much nitrogen, which can hinder bud development. So avoid giving your plant a standard nutrient formula in the flowering stage, especially nutrients high in nitrogen (nitrogen is the first number listed on nutrient bottles).

Keep Nutrient Levels Low As You Approach Harvest: Many growers seem to get this idea that more nutrients = more buds. They might start ramping up on nutrients as harvest is coming, in an attempt to get bigger buds. This is not a great strategy.

While cannabis plants use a lot of nutrients in the first month following the switch to flower, your cannabis plants will slowly start needing less and less nutrients as they approach harvest. It can be a good idea to slowly start easing down on the amount of nutrients being provided about halfway through the flowering stage, just a little bit at a time.

Many growers also “flush” their plants by giving them just plain water for the last few weeks before harvest. By keeping nutrient levels relatively low during the second half of the flowering stage, you are preventing nutrient build-up in the plant that could possibly affect the taste of the buds, or prevent proper bud development. As long as your plant is not showing signs of nutrient deficiencies in the first month or two of flowering, you’re providing enough nutrients. Avoid supplements or bud ripening formulas that provide extra nutrients!

In magazines and online, flowering cannabis plants are almost always pictured 2-4 weeks before harvest. This is because leaves start dying and the plants stop looking as picture-perfect as harvest approaches. In the last 2-4 weeks before harvest, it’s normal for the plant leaves to slowly start dying away, just like the leaves of trees in the fall. This isn’t a sign to increase nutrients; it’s a natural part of the plant aging process, and buds will continue to ripen until harvest time.

Control Growing Environment: In the vegetative stage, cannabis plants tend to be able to thrive in many environments. In the flowering stage, plants start being a little more picky about the environment. What helps a lot with bud development is to control the temperature and humidity of the grow area. Most importantly, avoid too-hot temps! Too much heat can burn off terpenes, which reduces the taste/smell of your buds permanently. There’s also some evidence that too-high temps can actually burn off potency too. In the flowering stage, strive for temps that range from 65-80°F (18-26°C). It’s better to have slightly cooler temps at night than during the day, as long as the temperature stays in that range. Keep low humidity if you can because low humidity in the flowering stage reduces the chance of mold and increases trichome development.

Cannabis optimal temperatures

Harvest Buds at the Correct Time: Harvesting too early is one of the best ways to reduce your yields, and is a common mistake for new growers. Cannabis plants fatten their buds up considerably in the last few weeks before harvest, and this last-minute budding adds a lot of extra weight to your final yields. 

 
When to Harvest

This section will teach you about harvest time; when are cannabis buds ready for harvest?

The Science: Why do we harvest cannabis when we do?

If you ask people what the main ingredient in marijuana is, everyone says THC.

However, marijuana actually contains several different substances which produce the desired effects including something known as CBD. There is another well-known cannabinoid known as CBN.

When people talk about different effects from using different types of marijuana, they're actually talking about variations in the plant chemistry and the ratio of these different substances to each other.

Harvesting a marijuana plant on the early side will tend to produce bud which gives you more of a buzzed, in-your-head experience.

Harvesting a bit later will give your bud more of that stony, relaxed sort of feeling that makes your eyelids feel heavy.

If you harvest your plant after it's already past the peak point of ripeness, than your bud will not be strong and will cause you to feel extra sleepy.

Thankfully, there is a relatively long window of time where cannabis can be harvested, depending on the strain.

Some growers harvest after only 2 months of flowering, while others wait as long as 4 months or more. The amount of time needed in the flowering stage before harvest is heavily dependent on strain and personal preference.

It's important to pay attention to the cannabis while it's growing, and also figure out what works for you. However, there are some general rules to follow.

Quick note before you harvest: For better tasting buds, some people recommend changing how you feed your cannabis during the last two weeks before harvest, as follows…

Some people stop providing nutrients to their cannabis for the last two weeks before harvest in order to let the plant flush out any extra nutrient buildup or salts that may lead to a chemical nutrient taste.

Some growers also feed their marijuana plants one teaspoon of blackstrap molasses per gallon of water during the last two weeks to help produce bigger and tastier buds. 

The molasses contains sugars to help bulk up your buds. Many of the “bud ripening” supplements on the market today are mostly made of sugar.

Even if you stop adding nutrients to your water for the last two weeks, you still want to pH your water so the plant can access any leftover nutrients that are still available in your growing medium.

When to Harvest Your Weed

There are several techniques to be able to look at your plant and tell if it's ready to harvest.

One method to find out if your cannabis is ready for harvest is to look at the little white hairs (pistils) that have been growing out of your bud.

These little hairs are actually the pistils for the bud flowers (marijuana bud is actually just a bunch of little flowers called calyxes all clustered together).

When the hairs first appear, they are all white.

As time goes on, with most cannabis strains the pistils start to curl in and darken.

These hairs turn yellow, red, or brown, or even purple or pink, depending partially on the strain, and partially on growing conditions.

A general rule of thumb is to harvest when 50-75% of the hairs have changed color, though each strain is different, and that's just a rough guideline. Some strains (for example White Widow) tend to stay mostly white even as they approach harvest.\

No matter what, if it's your first grow, you probably want to wait a few weeks longer than you expect. There will be lots of times where it seems like the cannabis buds are getting close to being done, then they will suddenly grow a whole bunch of new white pistils.

It's hard to be patient and wait for the pistils to turn, but doing so will also result in much bigger yields since the buds have extra time to fatten up. And remember, if you harvest too early, your buds won't be as potent.

While I like waiting until nearly all the pistils have turned, many others prefer to harvest sooner than that and they get great results too! You need to figure out what is optimal for you and your body.

Just remember that there is a 2-week range where marijuana can be harvested, so you do have a little wiggle room.

Quick and Dirty Method: Look at the Pistils

This method looks at the hairs (“pistils”) on a growing cannabis bud to try to determine harvest time. This method is not as exact as the trichome method explained below, but gives growers a way to start guessing when their buds might be ready, especially if they don’t have a magnifier available. 

  • Wait until your buds have mostly stopped growing new, white hairs. By this point your buds should be fragrant (the whole grow room will likely smell like marijuana), plump and 'filled out'

  • After new white hairs stop growing, wait until at least 40% of the white hairs have changed color (darkened) and are curling in. This marks the potential beginning of the harvest window. Buds harvested now are not yet at full potency, and will tend to have more of a speedy effect. 

  • Harvest when 50-75% of the hairs have darkened for highest THC levels

  • Harvest when 80-90% of the hairs have darkened for more a couchlock, anti-anxiety effect (some of the THC has turned into the more relaxing CBN)

Much Too Young to Harvest

Cannabis bud is too young to harvest - immature buds have white hairs sticking straight out

Cannabis buds are not ready for harvest yet

 

Ready to Harvest

This cannabis is ready to harvest

A fat and heavy Wonder Woman cannabis cola - grown in hydroponic DWC tub under a 600W grow light

Though small, these buds are ready for harvest

This LED-grown bud is ready for harvest

 

Accurate Method: Look at the Trichomes

Just looking at the plants is not always precise enough especially when a plant is growing in an unexpected ways as you approach harvest time.

When you're not familiar with your particular strain, or don't want to risk guessing, you can use a magnifier to look closely at the trichomes to pick the perfect harvest time. In Europe these trichomes are called “resin glands.” Trichomes are the 'crystals' or ‘glitter’ you see accumulating on your bud/leaves during the flowering stage. These trichomes are what contain the majority of cannabinoids (the good stuff) in your buds, and they change in appearance as harvest time approaches.

Cannabis trichomes under a magnifier - still mostly clear trichomes - this plant has a while before the buds are ready to harvest

The trichome method is the most precise way of knowing when to harvest. Growers can look at the glandular stalked trichomes on the buds under a magnifier, and this gives you the information you need to know the best time to harvest for your needs.

A bit of random trivia for you: These trichomes are supposed to taste bad to animals and deter them from eating the marijuana plant but many cats love the taste of these trichomes! You will notice that some cats will trick to lick or chew the leaves and buds of your flowering marijuana plant after they get a taste. Therefore if you have cats, make sure you keep them far away from your plants after they've started flowering!

The trichomes look like little mushrooms under a 30x-60x power, illuminated microscope. For harvest, you want to pay attention to the trichomes that look like the little mushrooms.

You'll alsosee tiny, clear hair-like trichomes without the mushroom head, these aren't important to potency so just ignore these ones.

Here's a simple picture guide which breaks down when to harvest your weed based on the color of the trichomes.
(some strains trichomes turn purple or pink instead of amber/gold/yellow)

When to harvest cannabis based on the trichomes

Here’s videos showing trichomes of two of my cannabis plants just before harvest. In this case most of the trichomes are cloudy, with a few ambers here and there.

A digital microscope that takes video works even better than a jeweler's loupe since you get a much clearer pic of the trichomes. These buds are ready to harvest.

We took these videos using the Carson zOrb hooked up to a laptop. So far this seems to be the most accurate way to look at trichomes (and you can make the picture big so you're not squinting through a tiny jeweler's loupe)

A Carson zOrb is a great way to get a video closeup of your trichomes

I was able to take this video using a digital magnifier that connects to my computer, but many growers use jeweler’s loupes and other types of magnifiers to see the trichomes.

Here's some general rules about trichomes, hairs, and harvesting.

  • If white "hairs" are almost all sticking straight out and trichomes are all still translucent (clear) then your plant is too young and not ready for harvest. Harvesting now will result in low yield and non-potent harvests.

  • The beginning of the harvest window opens when your plant has stopped growing new white "hairs" or pistils and at least 40% of the white hairs have darkened and curled in. 

  • Highest level of THC is when many/most of the trichomes have turned milky white / cloudy (when viewed under a magnifier). Trichomes that are milky have the highest levels of THC and contribute to a more euphoric 'head high.'

  • The end of the harvest window is when the trichomes have become a darker color (usually amber/gold). The amber/yellow trichomes contribute to a 'body high' because some of the THC has converted into less psychoactive CBN, which has calming and anti-anxiety effects. With some strains the trichomes will even turn red or purple!

  • When trichomes start looking grey or withered, the harvest window has passed.

Due to this general principles, some people who want more of a 'head high' tend to harvest their buds earlier, such as when the trichomes are part clear/ part milky or mostly cloudy/milky.

For the "strongest" buds with the most psychoactive effects, harvest when nearly all trichomes are cloudy/milky.

For relaxing, more anti-anxiety buds, wait until some of the cloudy trichomes have darkened to amber.

When growing your own, I recommend sampling buds off your plant at different stages to get an idea what your preference is.

Don’t Harvest Too Early!

The hardest part of growing for many new growers is waiting for the right time to harvest.
There is a strong tendency to harvest the plant early due to excitement.

If you are feeling excited about harvesting your plant, then takes branches off the lower part of the plant that look the most done and dry them and check the potency for yourself.

Harvesting the buds in stages (starting off slowly with small batches) can really help abate the excitement.

Remember, 2 months is the minimum length of the flowering stage while your cannabis is growing buds. Some strains of cannabis need to be flowered for a solid 3-4 months or more before they're ready for harvest.

Advice on using illuminated hand-held microscope: When using an illuminated microscope for the first time, my advice is to actually cut a piece of bud off the plant. You can try to look at the trichomes on the live plant but it can be a bit difficult.

If possible, put the piece of bud down on something stable such as a table. At that point, you want to take the microscope and push down relatively hard in a place where there are trichomes (on the bud is besst). Once the microscope is firmly pressed on the the plant, you can adjust the microscope focus to be able to see the trichomes.

As long as you keep the plant still and the microscope pressing down hard on the plant, you should be able to just twist the focus until all the trichomes just 'pop' into your vision. After a while, you get used to using the microscope and it gets easier.

A happy cannabis harvest

 

Trimming, Drying & Curing

You’re not done at harvest. You still need to trim, dry and cure your buds before they will be ready to use.

You first cut down your plant to prepare it for the drying and curing processes.

"Curing" is the act of drying your buds slowly to preserve and enhance their taste and smell. 

Curing technically starts when the plant stops getting water. From that moment on, your plant is drying and beginning the curing process. That means your plant is already beginning to cure while it’s being dried.  

A proper dry/cure will get rid of the green/grassy smell of newly harvested buds, which can make them harsh, and allows the marijuana smell and taste to re-emerge.

Drying: How to Trim & Dry Newly Harvested Cannabis

If you prepare your marijuana buds the proper way, you will ensure the smoothest, best-tasting result. I will describe a simple and easy, yet effective method below.

You can hang the entire plant but the drying process will go much faster if you cut off branches or individual buds from the plant and then hang up your pieces of bud to dry.

You will need to trim the leaves near the bud but remember that you can make edibles, hash oil or canna caps from the small leaves that grow close to the bud. While you should cut off these extra leaves during the trimming process, you don't necessarily want to throw them away.

Drying cannabis plants in handSome growers choose to trim their buds before drying, and some trim their buds after they've already been dried. It is less convenient to trim buds after they're dried, but it will slow down the drying speed if the leaves are left on during the drying process. Optimally want to dry your buds slow, so this may be a good technique if you live in a very dry climate.

I recommend always trimming buds BEFORE drying, unless you have a pressing reason not to. Trimming buds after drying is very difficult.

After you have cut off and trimmed your buds, you hang them upside down in a cool. dark place with plenty of ventilation so that they can dry out.

Make sure to space your buds evenly without touching each other so they can dry out properly without molding. Very humid air or too much moisture during the drying process is your enemy because it can cause mold.

60% humidity is optimal when buds are spread out and not touching each other, though most of us are at the mercy of our drying environments.

You can use a humidifier or dehumidifier to adjust the humidity if you're serious about drying your buds right. With a 60% level of humidity in the air, it will take several (4-10) days for your buds to finish drying all the way. At lower humidities, your drying will go much faster, so you need to watch buds closely and pull them down before they get overdried.

Drying as slowly as possible without mold will give you the highest quality buds, as this enhances the curing process. 

Where to Hang Buds?

Basically you can hang buds upside down anywhere you want. This is a time to use your creative skills!

These cannabis plants have been hung to dry in a creative way

An easy way to hang your buds to dry is pin them to coat hangers using clothes pins and simply hand the coat hangers in a closet.

You can also place them on mesh drying racks.

Buds are drying on a mesh rack

If you're not sure where to hang your pot, you can get a big box, cut two holes in the sides towards the tops, and put a string through the two holes.Now you can just hang your pot from the string inside the box (clothes pins work great). Cut some holes in the sides of the box in order to increase the amount of airflow.

A lot of growers hand their buds in their closets, or even across their living room on string.

Cannabis buds hanging in the living room

I personally hang my trimmed cannabis buds in my grow tent which was holding my now-harvested plants. A grow tent is a great place to dry cannabis, with a controlled environment and many places to hang bud.

Drying buds in your grow tent is simple, and lets you have more control over your environment

Curing: How to Cure Your Dried Cannabis Buds

Drying is the first part of the curing process. It’s important to take drying cannabis down at the right time to get the best results from curing.

When the buds still have moisture in the center, their stems will bend without breaking when you apply pressure to the stem. Once the plants are dried to the middle, the stems will begin to snap instead of bend.

Your marijuana buds are ready for the next stage of the curing process once the small stems snap, but the thicker ones don’t.

  • Check your drying buds several times a day - don’t let them get overdried!

  • Use your thumb to gently bend a few stems

  • Once the smaller stems "snap" when you bend them, it’s time to start the curing process.

  • At this point, the thicker stems should still be bendy, and won’t snap if you bend them. The bendiness means the bigger stems still contain moisture, which will be needed in the next part of the curing process.

You want to be careful of over-drying your weed, or buds will crumble when you try to break it up. If this happens, some growers recommend ways to re-moisten the buds with water and hang them to dry again, but this may not help. Cannabis bud seems to cure best if you dry it out slowly one time, and re-misting also means there is a greater opportunity for mold to grow.

Many new growers ruin their cure by drying their buds too fast. This is why it’s important to keep an eye on your buds closely during the curing process. When the buds are dried past a certain moisture level, they can no longer be "cured" anymore. 

After the marijuana buds have dried, it's time to cure the bud. This is done by placing the dried buds in quart-sized mason jars.

Cannabis buds should be cured in quart-sized mason jars

Buds that have not fully dried all the way are placed in mason jars to begin the curing

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