A time will come when it is legal to grow cannabis throughout the U.S. Farmers and individual users have raised their own for centuries. They have all made mistakes, of course. But their trial-and-error experiences help new growers avoid the same mistakes.
The growing process is at one time more challenging and more straightforward than you might think. Success in growing one or two plants at home does not ensure success in cultivating a larger crop. As more states legalize or decriminalize growing cannabis, more citizens are trying their hand.
People raise and process their cannabis to avoid higher dispensary prices. Some grow cannabis as a hobby in small grow rooms; others develop more extensive gardens; still, others invest time and money in farms. Whatever the plan, there are mistakes to avoid when growing cannabis.
Top 10 mistakes to avoid when growing cannabis:
The necessary research will explain the process, supplies, and cost of growing cannabis. Although cannabis has grown wild for eons, you will find that you should treat it as a flower instead of a weed.
Plunging ahead without a plan. Raising African violets, bulbs, Amaryllis, and other plants requires attention, scheduling, and location. Each requires different soil types, sunlight, and water. Some prefer to watering from below, and others need sunlight from a specific direction. Cannabis also comes with particular needs. These specifications will determine where, when, and how you plant yours. That requires a plan on your part for space, nutrition, irrigation, and pest protection.
Jumping into it without research. Annual flowers proliferate in most environments with minimal care. However, cannabis has peculiar characteristics.
Cannabis is an annual herb; it does not renew and grow year after year.
It is dioecious, meaning it requires pollination to reproduce because plants are male or female.
Cannabis flowers have three components:
Trichomes are small sacks of cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes. They contain the brain and body triggers that make cannabis use rewarding.
Pistils are hairy filaments that capture pollen.
Sugar leaves cluster near the flower base, where they manufacture the flower’s power. Darkness, moisture, and warmth germinate cannabis seeds. Seedlings will appear anytime from 12 hours to a week, depending on how long the seeds have been dormant. Many growers prefer to purchase seedlings at dispensaries.
Failing to understand the strains available. Different strains require extra care. They differ in the growth cycle, flowering yield, and bud potency. Growers will raise a crop of their favorite strain or mix strains to create a variety of experiences.
Strains divide into several categories:
Cannabis sativa has a higher CBD content. Hemp belongs to this category because it contains only traces of THC (<0.3%). Marijuana is cannabis sativa with less THC than CBD and provides many medical benefits.
Cannabis Indica has a higher THC content, some strains with high THC potency.
Hybrid strains combine sativa and Indica strains to create specific cannabis experiences.
Landrace strains have ancient origins without known parentage. Such strains may not have the enhanced medical benefits or increased potency of hybrids.
Growers can raise a variety of strains in rows as you would farm different vegetables. However, they might be grown in compartments separate from other strains because they need specific nutrition, soils, air, heat, and irrigation management.
Not providing enough room. Cannabis is a flowering plant, but it grows more like a woody bush. A Rosemary plant (to which cannabis is related) gives you an idea of the size and density. Different strains grow to a predetermined height and width. The growing area must allow for this space. While growing may start with a seedling, the outcome will be several feet high and wide. A closet might hold two plants through total growth, but you will need a purchased grow room for additional plantings. The growing space also requires room for lighting, air circulation, and irrigation systems. You will need room for access, gardening, tools, and supplies.
Farming with local soil. Cannabis farmers should not use dirt from their backyards. They should shop for a soil base with a loose texture and rich color. Good soils have ratings for water retention and drainage. The best grounds avoid clay and favor sandy loam, forest compost, and coco fiber. Many leading brands work, but you should look for cannabis-specific soils. You might choose a well-known brand like Miracle-Gro Potting Mix. More experienced growers recommend Foxfarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil and Big Rootz All-Purpose Potting Soil.
Over- or under-feeding. Cannabis plants require occasional nutrition; however, you must avoid feeding plants too often or too heavily. Whether raised indoors or outdoors, cannabis plants need nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K). Commercial fertilizers have labels featuring the NPK ratio reporting the concentration of the nutrients. Cannabis also requires calcium, magnesium, and sulfur in addition to micronutrients, including boron, chlorine, copper, iron, and zinc. Feeding cannabis is scheduled according to the plant’s growth.
Seedlings get all the nutrition they need from the soil and their genetic makeup. You do not add fertilizer or supplements until the seedling has sprouted four true leaves.
Seedlings enter an Early Vegetative Phase at 3-4 weeks when you fertilize with 2:1:2 NPK. More robust measures risk burning the plant out, although some strains can bear it.
Plants enter a Mid Vegetative Phase at six weeks when they should be strong enough for a dose of 10:5:7 NPK.
The Late Vegetative Phase marks the last weeks of the strain's genetic predisposition. Different strains have varying vegetative and flowering phases, so you must know when to schedule the final stage. Generally, it is prudent to reduce the concentration to 7:7:7 NPK once the plant has produced thick, green foliage and signs of developing buds.
Plants enter a Flowering Phase for several weeks, each needing its measured nutrition, moving from 5:7:10 to 6:10:15 to 4:7:10. Experienced cannabis farmers may prepare their grow medium and fertilizers, but you should study the options to avoid the risk of destroying your work and investment.
Overheating the cannabis crop. Cannabis plants require lighting on a schedule. Light feeds their growth. So, by managing the light time and intensity, you can control the plant size and maturity. During the Vegetative Phase, plants should have 18 hours of uninterrupted light. Increasing the number of hours may strengthen and accelerate the growth. The plants will remain in that stage until you reduce the lighting to 12 hours of continuous darkness to promote flowering. Cannabis plants like moderate temperatures between 70° and 86° F (24° to 30° C). Lower and higher temperatures appear to reduce the THC concentration and growth. This requires a lighting system with temperature and scheduling capacity.
Forgetting to aerate the cannabis. Managed air flow also controls the heat produced by lighting. Cannabis plants need a steady flow of air that reaches under the leaves and throughout the crop. This helps in pollination and, more critical, airflow reduces and prevents attacks by pests and infestation by mold and mildew.
Overusing pesticides. Commonly used pesticides are not approved for use with cannabis. Using cannabis involves inhaling or ingesting the plant or its byproducts. The application of many well-known pesticides endangers growers and users. You must comply with your State’s published mandates. Cannabis growers should purchase organic and natural pesticide options. These include nematodes, neem oil, pyrethrin, insecticidal soaps, or safe and recommended alternatives.
Harvesting cannabis too late. Time remains a primary consideration throughout cannabis growth. You do not want to harvest the plants too early or too late. This takes some experience and education. You should inspect the plants regularly between 12 and 16 weeks of their growth. A magnifying glass will help you check the Pistils. When 40% of the Pistils have darkened and curled back, they are ready for early harvest. It would be best to harvest all the buds once 60 to 70% of the Pistils have turned. Too early or too late, and you have wasted the effort.
Keeping cannabis farmers happy!
The preceding has largely assumed you will grow cannabis indoors. Controls on soil, irrigation, light, and air will vary outdoors. However, the principles covered remain the same. Growing cannabis can save money in the long run. Reaching that target takes study, planning, and investment. It is not time to fill your grow space with dreams until you have prepared thoroughly.