Selecting a site to grow
The first thing all marijuana seed growers need is a good location to grow the crop in. This location should be somewhere where humans and animals are not likely to disturb the crop. You will not want to grow a marijuana crop near a railroad track, trail, power line, road or any other man-made structure. You should, however, look for mud, steep hills, picker bushes and water because of how well these all deter disturbance. If you can find some small pine trees, this can also help you hide your marijuana plants as they grow, especially during the fall when other vegetation turns brown. Under trees will also help keep you crop safer from hunters who may begin to invade the area later in the year, helping your crop stay undetected. With as much sunlight as marijuana plants require, you will need to make sure you get at least three, preferably five, hours of direct sunlight per day-the more light they have, the quicker they grow. On the other hand, if they get less than three hours of direct sunlight each day, the slower your plants will grow, leaving you with less yield come harvest time. One simple trick that can help if you do not have enough light will be tenting the outside of your marijuana plants to reflect the sunlight back to the leaves, but this could increase the visibility of your sites, so be careful. If you find an area with direct morning light, then use this area over another that has sunlight later in the day as the marijuana plants respond better to morning sun.
The next factor to make sure you consider when figuring out the best site to grow your cannabis crop is the soil. Marijuana plants prefer a well-drained soil with a constant pH that is in the 6.5 range. The soil should be able to compact when squeezed but break up when poked, so you may need to put in a few additives to get it just right. If the soil does not drain well, then you can add vermiculite, perlite or sand. If the pH does not stay in the right range, then there are additives to help that as well. If your pH is too low, you can add lime about a month before planting, but if it is too high, then you should add sodium bicarbonate to lower it some. This will help give your marijuana plants the best possible chances at success. You also need to consider how your plants will get water. If there is too much water, then your roots will not develop well and your seedlings may drown, but too little water could cause them to dry out very quickly, making you have to water them on a very regular basis. Proper water and soil will help increase the oxygen that the marijuana plant receives, giving you a better crop come harvest time. Using pots to grow your plants is another alternative, in which case you should use a 1" (2.5 cm) layer of pea gravel to increase the drainage of the plant.
Above the pea gravel, you should use a good quality potting soil and water with a high-quality source of fresh and clean water. If you are not able to easily water your plants, you can also partially bury a large bucket or barrel to collect water from the rain that you can use on your plants. If you must bring your own water to your crops, then make sure you bring the water to your marijuana crops at night to decrease the chances of being seen, then come back in the morning to water the plants. This will minimize the damp effects that your plants could suffer and decrease the chances that your plants will begin to grow a fungus or mold. Any of your equipment that can be stored inconspicuously at the site will benefit you and decrease the amount of time that you need to spend at your sites. Make sure to take as many precautions as possible to decrease the chances of your new marijuana plants becoming lunch to animals. Some simple ideas include leaving human hair or dried blood around the plants to keep deer from wandering near the plants and fencing in the area with fishing line hung about 8" (20 cm) and again at 3" (90 cm) off the ground will also deter bigger herbivores. Hair from other big predators can also be used to keep smaller prey away from the plants. When your marijuana plants are still seedlings, you can use a drinking glass as a humidity tent over the plant to help keep extra rodents or deer away from your plants as well.
Selecting the right genetics
There are hundreds of different varieties of marijuana plants to choose from because of the thousands of years that humans have been cultivating the marijuana plant. This can make the choice of which variety to use a difficult one. No matter what, make sure you choose a cannabis plant that has the ability to grow in your climate. Marijuana plants that are native to southern climates, such as the sativa plant, will have a difficult time growing if planted in a northern climate, so this is an important decision. You will also need to pay attention to the first frost so that you can be sure to harvest before that happens, potentially damaging your crop. If you have plans to grow cannabis commercially, then you are also going to need to keep an eye on the average yield for each variety of plant. Each variety of marijuana plant has a different average yield, so do your research before buying. If you want to grow the larger yield varieties, then you need to pick and plant varieties that would typically grow near the equator. These plants grow much larger due to the increase in sunlight and warmer temperatures. If this is the kind you choose to go with, then you may need the assistance of a greenhouse to keep the temperatures warm enough to get the yield you desire.
Identifying viable marijuana seeds and sprouting
When your site is prepared and your seeds are in hand, you can then start sprouting your marijuana seeds. You can choose between two methods for this process. First, you can plant the marijuana seeds directly into your site, or second, you can sprout your marijuana seeds in some paper towels and then transfer the sprouts into Jiffy-pots. If you want to plant directly into your site, make sure you are planting only viable marijuana seeds. A good seed will not have any deformations or cracks, and it will not be green as this signifies an immature seed. You should take your thumb and gently press on each seed to ensure that these seeds do not have any cracks in them before planting. When you go to plant your marijuana seed, you should take a pencil and place the point ½" (1.5 cm) into your prepared soil. Place one seed into the hole, cover it loosely with your soil and water it with a ¼ strength mix of fertilizer that has high levels of phosphorus (P). You may want to also mark where you put the seed so you do not forget later on. Each seed should have 3" (90 cm) square of growing space to avoid them crowding each other out when they mature, thus stunting their growth. While letting them sprout, make sure that you water them each time the soil feels dry. You could damage your marijuana seeds or crop as a whole if you let them dry out during this phase.
You will notice your first stems along with the cotyledon within the first week. You will want to keep watering when the soil dries out during this time, and by the second week, you should notice your first spiked nodes of leaves. If you made the choice to sprout your seeds in paper towels, then make sure you use a flat pan that is covered in multiple layers of paper towels (we recommend three layers). Once these layers are thoroughly wet, you can spread your marijuana seeds out and cover them with another three layers of paper towels. Once this step is complete, cover the pan and all of the paper towels with plastic wrap and leave the pan where it is dark and warm. Make sure you look each day for any sprouts and always keep your paper towels moist. Once you see root sprouts that are ½" (1 cm) long, then you can put the seedlings into Jiffy-pots. You will want to make sure these pots are filled up with the same soil content that the mature plants will be grown in so as not to shock the seedlings when they are moved. Use a pencil and poke about ¾" (2 cm) into the soil, the put your new sprout into it, root side down. Loosely place soil over the sprout and gently water with ¼ concentrate high-phosphorus (P) fertilizer. Make sure the soil does not dry out during this time, and within a week you should once again see the cotyledon. After two weeks, you should again see the spiked nodes coming from the new seedling.
Early growth and sexing
Once your marijuana plants are on to their first to second set of spiked nodes, you will want to make sure you continue watering whenever the soil shows signs of drying out. You will not need fertilizer during this phase. At this stage, it is crucial that you protect your seedlings from predators that would munch on them, so make sure animals cannot come in contact with your seedlings. You will also want to make sure that there is no mold or fungus growth on your baby plants. If you notice any, you must remove the infected plants without delay. Do not shake the plants when removing them or the spores will spread to healthy plants, potentially wiping out your entire site. If you chose to plant into Jiffy-pots, then wait until you have four sets of spiked nodes before transplanting them to their permanent site. Put the Jiffy-pot directly into the soil and cover, watering when done. This will allow the pot to break down on its own as the roots pass down into the soil during growth. All marijuana plants that have six to seven spiked nodes need to be fertilized with a complete 20/20/20 fertilizer. If you prefer, you can use a different mixture, just make sure it has Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) in the mix. This is also the stage that marijuana plants can begin to be sexed. We recommend you use a black garbage bag to give the plants an even 12 hours of sunlight and an even 12 hours of pure darkness. During the next three weeks, the male forms of the marijuana plants will begin to show bud growth at the end of the branches. Females will show similar growth, but their buds will have two small white hairs coming out the end. Removing all of the male marijuana plants will ensure that you have a full crop of female marijuana plants, giving you the most yield come time for harvest. Taking the black garbage bag off will begin the female marijuana plants growth cycle again.
Now that your marijuana plants are established, you should be watering when the soil feels dry about 3" (7.5 cm) below the surface. You can spray gingerly with insecticide, reapplying after rainstorms, if you need to at this time. Every three to four weeks, reapply the fertilizer to help the plants grow to their full potential. If the plants are getting enough light and nutrients, then you may see as much as 2" (5 cm) of growth each day. If you begin to notice that the growth of your marijuana plants slows, then you may want to check the nutrient table of your fertilizer to see if the plant is growing deficient of a vital nutrient. You do not want to over fertilize, so make sure to keep an eye on how often you do it and check the pH balance monthly so that it is staying in the proper range. It should have dropped slightly by now, but that is because of the fertilizer being used and is normal. Just do not let the pH drop below 6.2. If it is dropping too low, then water with wood ashes to help raise it back up to the 6.5 level. The growing marijuana plants" root system slowly declines in its ability to properly feed the plant, so you may need to spray some of the nutrients that your plant needs directly on to the leaves for the rest of the season.
You will find that the leaves absorb those vital nutrients as well, if not better than the roots, so your plants should once again begin to flourish. Just make sure if you spray your plants, you lower the concentration of your fertilizer to half. You will want a super-fine mist from your bottle and you will want to spray between 5-9 am. This is when the stomata on the leaves are open, giving the plant the best ability to soak up the nutrients. Later on in the day, you may find the stomata totally closed, giving your marijuana plants no nutrients from the feeding. You will want to gently coat the leaves two times per week to allow the plant to absorb what it needs gradually or else you could risk the health of your marijuana plants. The day after you spray, you should also wash your plants off with a little water so the leftover nutrients are not harming the leaves of your plants. Pruning can be a very good idea now as well. The more you prune, the more branching the plant will do naturally, keeping your marijuana plants smaller overall and making them easier to blend into their surroundings. Not all varieties need pruning, so make sure you know if your variety does or not. Some avid marijuana growers choose not to prune their plants claiming that the stress placed on the plant can stunt the growth of the plant, but research shows that gentle pruning can actually increase yields on top of letting them blend in better. Using sharp and clean scissors to cut each branch will make pruning go quickly and leave your plants looking their best, but make sure you do not ever cut more than 6" (15 cm) off of your plant when you prune.
Each variety has a trigger as far as when to begin flowering, and it is determined by how much darkness each plant gets during a certain portion of its growth. Most plants respond to an even 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of pure darkness, but you must be careful at this stage. If you visit your crop at night, even a weak light (such as a flashlight) can damage the hormone the plant creates to start flowering, and force the plant back to vegetative growth. The best idea is to simply visit your site during daylight hours to avoid this type of damage. If you took out all of the male marijuana plants earlier in the season, then right now just checking the water is all you really need to do. If you did not, then make sure you remove them as soon as you can determine the plant to be male to avoid pollination of the female marijuana plants. Do not use any type of insecticide during flowering or you will taste it in the final product. You should also severely decrease or stop fertilizing during this time for the same reasons. If you must fertilize, use ¼ strength concentrate of a 15/30/15 mix, allowing for the plant to get the extra phosphorus (P) it needs for flowering.
Harvesting and drying
You should be seeing the marijuana buds and resin forming at rapid rates by this time, telling you that your hard work is about to pay off. The right time to harvest your marijuana plant is when about ¾ of the pistil hairs have gone from white to brown. You can also use a magnifying glass to look at the resin crystals that have formed on the marijuana leaves. If the crystals are amber in color, then the time to cut is here. If the crystals are clear, then you are not quite ready yet. If the color is brown, then you are past when you should have harvested and you are losing potency quickly. You will want bags and backpacks when you harvest to hold everything and carry the plants to your drying location. Place the cut branches into paper bags, removing the large fan leaves and leaving them at the site. Make sure to harvest gently because shaking the plant could cause the resin crystals to dislodge. Once home, place your marijuana plants in containers and leave them alone. You will want to stir them two times each day and only remove them when any sign of mold begins. Once this happens, take the marijuana plants out and spread them loosely to finish drying. Make sure you keep the buds in a dark place as light will degrade THC. In about three weeks´ time, the buds should be removed along with any leaves that are covered in large amounts of resin. Take the nearly dry leaves and buds and place them in newspaper in a warm and dry location. After one final week of waiting, the stems should be able to be broken up with your fingers, leaving the final harvest ready to enjoy.