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In this article we will discuss the key aspects of the cannabis plant development, written in a simple way for new growers or any person looking for an introduction to the world of cannabis, we focus on covering the basics. New growers must understand some main principles in order to obtain a satisfactory harvest. We can split the life cycle of the cannabis plant in 5 different stages:
Each stage poses its own challenges and at each stage, plant has different needs, so it’s important to be aware of this and act accordingly, giving your plants the care and attention they deserve to ensure for a successful harvest.
Germination is the process in which an embryo develops into a plant. It takes place when the embryo swells and breaks down the seed cover. For this process to be successful, the environment must meet some conditions like certain degrees of temperature, the amount of humidity, oxygen and light which will make the seed start its biological activity.
Once cellular activity starts, the seed starts absorbing water, this triggers metabolic changes, including breathing, protein synthesis, and the mobilization of reserves. Then, cellular division and enlargement begins and, finally, the seed sprouts by the emergence of the radicle. Once the radicle is at least 1-2 cm long, you can say your plant is moving to seedling stage.
There are many germination methods, most of them are similar, but the most popular is the UFO method. For this, you will need a pair of dishes, 2 napkins and, of course, the seeds. First, you place a napkin on one of the dishes spraying some water on it to produce humidity, then, you place the seeds on the napkin and put the other above, finally, you spray water again. Depending on the seed, you will have to wait from 24 hours to 3 – 4 days for it to sprout.
Once the seed has sprout, your plant is ready for the first transplant. Choosing your grow medium is the first decision you need to make, you can pick between soil based mediums like soil and coco or soilless like hydroponics and aeroponics.
After you have transplanted the plant to the grow medium the seedling starts to show off. During this stage the first two leaves appear, called cotyledons AKA fake leaves will appear on your plants. These leaves are responsible for providing the first amounts of energy to the seedling. After cotyledons, real/true leaves will start to grow and you can say the plant has entered its vegetative stage.
Seedling stage is short but, of course depends on the strain you are growing – it can last from a couple of days to a week. Most important is to be aware that this is one of the most critical stages of the plant, so ideal conditions should be provided. Be sure to control the watering and look not to expose the plant to drastic environmental conditions like too high or too low temperature or too much light.
During the vegetative phase, small cannabis seedlings turn into full grown plants. Majority of the growth happens in this stage, the plants get taller and wider, more sturdy and robust, new branches and leaves appear and root system becomes established, making all the requirements for a good flowering phase.
During vegetation, it’s important to build a nice root system and to train and shape your plants in a way to ensure for a good flowering and a nice harvest. A lot of factors play an important role like soil treatment, watering, fertilizing (feeding) and transplanting. If your plant is an autoflower, this stage could take from 20 – 45 days, and if it’s a photoperiod it will be in vegetation until you switch the light cycle to 12/12. You should control the levels of humidity, water and nutrients and temperatures to ensure for optimal growing conditions and avoid any disease or stress. If you’re growing an autoflower you should plant/transplant your seedlings in their final container – the bigger the better and if you’re growing photoperiods, you should transplant your plants once they grow in the containers you’ve put them in in order to ensure that the roots have the space to grow and your plant doesn’t get root locked.
When it comes to fertilizing, every strain and phenotype, even a plant can have (slightly) different feeding needs. What’s too much for one plant can be too little for the other, so it’s important to start from low doses, building up to full dosage (or more). Autoflowers go through the vegetation phase very fast and if you have a good soil mix, you might not even need to add additional nutrients because the soil provides for all the food needed.
Often, less is more but always keep an eye on your plants, start small and watch how they react to the feeding. Over feeding is a common mistake new growers make, thinking that all they need is to feed the plants nutrients and they will produce bigger and more buds. There is a limit what your plants can take, crossing that limit will just hurt them and make them produce slower and less.
Flowering takes place when plants start to show their sex and first flowers starts to grow. First signs of flowering are called “preflowers” – female look like 2 little, usually white, hairs that will appear on stalks and branches, called pistils and male look pear or tear shaped with no hairs growing from them. You can also have hermaphrodite plants that have both sexes and show (pre) flowers of both genders.
If you’re not looking to produce seeds, you should remove your male plants from your female plants before the pollen sacs on the males open and pollinate the females. If your plants get pollinated, you’ll end up with buds full of seeds and less potency and flavor, because plants will use most of their energy towards producing seeds not flowers.
As your plants enter the full flowering phase they will start to develop real flowers. As those flowers rippen, small crystal balls with resin, called trichomes, will start to appear on buds, leaves and stems. Trichomes contain all the cannabinoids and terpenes and other compounds that make for a good cannabis flowers, so trichome production and development play a crucial role in the quality of your buds.
Trichomes also protect the plant, the buds and especially the seeds from insects, animals, adverse environmental conditions and diseases and we use them to tell when is the right time to harvest and when the plant is at peak maturity. Depending on the strain but mostly from environmental conditions and growers knowledge, trichome production will be higher or lower ensuring for a better or worse quality and potency.
The time it takes for a certain strain or phenotype to finish flowering varies but usually, for most strains, it takes from 8 to 12 weeks for the flowering phase to finish. Indica (dominant) strains tend to finish sooner than sativa (dominant) strains – like Colombian Red that can take up to 24 weeks to finish.
You want to harvest your plants at their peak of maturity and cannabinoid and terpene production. Harvesting too soon or too late can make for an inferior harvest, so when is it a good time to harvest?
The best method is to check the trichomes. As your flowers mature they will start to change their color from transparent/opaque to milky white and then to amber. When trichomes are transparent, they are not mature enough and your plants still have a few weeks to flower, when they are white, they are at peak ripeness and when they are amber it means that they have past full ripeness and that processes of degradation of cannabinoids and terpenes has started.
Depending on your preference you want to harvest when about 15% of the trichomes are amber and the rest are white. Harvesting when there are less amber trichomes will cause more of a uplifting, energizing mind high while more amber trichome will give you more relaxed, body stoned feeling.
After you’ve harvested your plants, the final two phases – drying and curing take place. They are just as important, if not even more important, as the previous phases of your grow. To ensure for a for a good, smooth, potent and flavorful buds, dry your plants as slow as possible and cure them properly for at least 2 months before you start using them.
By the time your harvest has been cured, you ́ll be able to smoke your buds or make your extractions. Always keep in mind that growing cannabis is a simple process, cannabis grows very similar to many other plants and there is a reason it’s called – weed but growing great cannabis takes some knowledge and practice.
It’s important to choose the best strains for the best methods that suit you, there are a lot of different ways you can grow great cannabis, not all have to be the same, find what works best for you, and most of all – be patient.
Why not head on over to The Vault Cannabis Seeds Store now and pick up some Cannabis Seeds, whilst taking advantage of the discount code VAULT15 for a whopping 15% discount off your order of Cannabis Seeds.
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Remember: It is illegal to germinate cannabis seeds in many countries and some remote, less enlightened planets outside the core systems. It is our duty to inform you of this fact and to urge you to obey all of your local laws to the letter. The Vault only ever sells or sends out seeds for souvenir, collection or novelty purposes.