Finding the seed strain that is right for you and purchasing it can often be trickier than you expect. Most people, and this includes those of us who regularly partake in consuming marijuana, don’t actually grow their stuff.
1. Acquiring your seeds
It’s important that you rely on written sources, rather than hearsay, to make sure that the seeds you end up buying will actually grow in your climate, and on your growing site. Seeds from green plants are often better, as they tend to thrive better in northern latitudes, whereas the more equatorial strains grow on a radically different rhythm, generally producing the bud too late in the season for you to harvest them effectively. Therefore, the result of trying to grow cannabis from a seed which requires different climatic circumstances would most likely be an extremely disappointing harvest or no harvest whatsoever.In general, you should prefer the indica or indica-sativa hybrids over sativa strains, as the latter ones grow comparatively taller and will be more conspicuous. It is possible though to cross varieties to create equatorial sativa hybrids which will in fact be harvestable at the correct time of the year. If for some reason you don’t want to purchase seeds from an online or offline seedbank, then you could always try getting your hands on some seeds that find their way into bud that hits the market through homegrowing dealers. Keep your eye open the months after harvesting season (October – January) for people who roll joints and discard seeds from their homegrown bud and you might be able to get some quality seeds free of charge!
After you’ve acquired seeds, you have to start looking for a location to grow them. This can be a tough and arduous task for any beginning grower. Grassland with small trees and bushes can be a great location for your growing operation. Particularly farmland that has been out of use for a decade or so can work very well. Flood plains are ideal as well, but you have to take into account that you may lose some seeds in Spring or lose some of your harvest due to the flooding of the river of stream. An alternative and less conspicuous growing location would be in mountainous or rocky terrain. Growing your plants in the soil found at such locations there is most likely impossible, but you can have great success using buckets filled with good soil. These kinds of areas tend to have great access to sunlight, but will require a great deal more of work. Another natural growing spot would be one which is surrounded by short(ish) plants, like sticker bushes, which are high enough to obscure your plants from passers-by and will deter people and large animals from stumbling upon your operation.
Although animals and insects are in most cases a grower’s mortal enemy, it is possible to use them to your advantage as well. Areas that are infested with insects such as bees, tics and green flies are actually good spots for your growing site because these insects will deter all but the most persevering people from walking onto your growing location.
The first of the most important criteria for the ideal growing location is the availability of good soil. This can be extremely hard to come by depending on where you live, but it is absolutely essential if you want to be able to look forward to a good harvest. In case you find a site which has absolutely everything that is necessary in abundance, except for good soil, you can bring it to the site. Good soil is usually found in those areas in which there has been grassland vegetation for a long time. Grassland recycles nutrients embedded into the soil, and will produce a layer of organic matter. This kind of soil is virtually grow-ready as is, whereas other kinds of soil will involve some preparation. In the case of sandy soil, you will probably have to use potting soil or top soil with some lime to make it fertile enough to induce the kind of plant growth you want. On the other hand, a clay soil will need something like peat moss to break the clay up and allow adequate draining of the land. Some growers would probably tell you that land that is located along road sides can be ideal for growing cannabis, but we would strongly disagree with this, and this for two main reasons: firstly, there will be a certain degree of toxic chemicals such as lead in the soil, as well as other pollutants in the air, which will have a very negative impact on your output, and secondly, these areas tend to be visible and regularly patrolled by law enforcement. If you’re a city person and you don’t have a car though, then roadsides can be a last resort for your growing site, but do know that it’s very far from ideal.
The second essential element for your growing location is water. You want a growing site that has access to water, because constantly having to bring water yourself can become extremely tedious after a while, and may also attract unwanted attention to yourself and your site. So if your chosen site is located high above the water table, or if you’re using buckets, you’ll most likely find yourself spending a great deal more time on carrying water around during the summer than you expect. There are plenty of growers who have been spotted by people or law enforcement officials because of frequent trips back and forth, and additionally, you run the risk of creating a very noticeable path. Another problem is the fact that a stable water source can be hard to come by during the summer due to many streams drying up in this time of year. Just remember that every single trip to your site is a small risk you’re taking of getting caught, so minimize the amount of these trips as much as possible.
Soil and water are by far the most important elements of a good growing location, but on third place comes, without a doubt, sunlight. Five hours of direct sunlight (and morning light is better than afternoon light) every day is pretty much essential. A good grower who visits potential sites during the winter should be able to visualize which parts of the landscape will be shaded and which will receive sunlight. The more sunlight your site receives, the better it will before your plants.
The last factor of the ideal growing site is inconspicuousness. By this, we mean the fact that you do not want your site to be discovered by anyone. This can be achieved in a number of ways, a few of which we have already touched upon in previous paragraphs. Other plant flora can provide adequate cover if it is tall enough to obscure the line of sight of passers-by, and it can also prevent people from wandering onto your site if the plant growth is thick enough. Sticker bushes are ideal in this respect. If this is unavailable, look for any kind of foliage of six feet tall or higher, and far away from paths and trails. If you want to use other plants as direct cover for your cannabis, try to put them on the south side of others, so they will receive enough light in spite of crowding by the larger bush. Depending on the kind of vegetation in your area, you may find it necessary to keep your own plants small by trimming them or tying them to the ground. All in all, you want to use the natural environment to your advantage, using it as on the one hand a deterrent for passers-by, and on the other hand, a sort of shield which will block people’s vision of your plants, or make them blend in with their environment in a way which will not arouse suspicion.
Obviously your trail should not be visible to passers-by. But, even more obviously, this is often easier said than done. An area with a lot of undergrowth as well as access to sunlight will obscure the trail you’ll make with your trips, because the small vegetation will regrow quickly during the warmer months of the year. In case trails tend to get spotted more easily due to a relative lack of undergrowth, try to make your trail zigzag all over the place, so people won’t see it as a clear trail that leads somewhere. Random people follow trails all the time, and you really don’t want them to stumble upon your growing site do you?
Hide your trail as much as possible to minimize your chances of attracting unwanted attention. Plan your trips carefully and be aware of the kind of path you are clearing with these trips. Especially during late Summer and early Autumn, you do not want to damage any of the plants near the entrance of your growing site because it will usually not regrow. Additionally, this time of year is when you’ll have to cover your own plants as much as possible. Whenever you make a trip to your site, ask yourself whether the path you just took is visible to others. Think about it this way: the harder it is for you to get to your growing location, the less likely it is that others will find it.
Before we begin with what you’ll have to do, keep the following in mind: NEVER take a trip to your growing site to show it to a friend of yours, no matter how much you trust them or how much of an expert they are! It might not sound like a bad idea to show your masterpiece to your best friend, or to ask advice from your previous dealer who also happens to be an indoor grower, but it is. These people won’t know the area the way you do, and won’t know where to run if this should prove necessary. They might inadvertently leave behind a trail (the more people walking on a certain path, the more visible it becomes) and a group will always attract more attention than an individual. Unless you are dealing with an absolute emergency, no one but you and your growing partner (if you have one) should ever see the site. And even then, the amount of trips should be kept to an absolute minimum. These are the trips you should be making:
A. Soil preparation (March – April, depending on the climate)
We recommend that you mix the soil at your site with organic potting soil bought from a specialized store, as the latter is very rich soil and will do a lot for the quality of the soil at your location (more than the regular commercial top soil you find at most stores). To get the acidity of the soil right, you may need to add either lime (if acidity of the soil is high) or peat moss. Chemical fertilization may seem like a good idea, and it can be, however it can also result in complete ruination of the plants if you’re not sure what you’re doing. Also, some say that you’ll taste it in the product.
Also, you may want to set up a fence of about two foot high and spread some dried blood and human hair around to keep out animals. For the fence, you can buy wire fences with very small gaps (about 1.5 inches or less). These can be supported by sticks, found all over the site and put up as stakes, tying them together with wire, string or duct tape. You’ll also want to bend the pieces of metal on the top of the fence forward and downward, in order to discourage animals from attempting to leap over it. Obviously, the fence and the site should be camouflaged as much as possible with leaves, ground and other material native to the area.
B. Planting (April – May)
There are three different methods to plant cannabis in the outdoors:
a. Planting seeds
If you have a lot of seeds, you may want to use this method. The prime advantage of this method is the minimization of risk, as the seeds can easily be hidden in your pockets when you make your trip to your site. On the other hand, it will waste a lot of seeds, because this method involves planting many seeds, which most growers, particularly those who are new at growing cannabis, won’t possess.
A single small site should be a square of about 3 by 3 feet, and with this method, about 72 seeds should be planted in this small area. They should be planted in rows of three, with a seed every 1.5 inches. The seeds should be put into the soil, about 1.5 inches deep (but if the soil is very clayish, they should be only about a quarter inch deep). If you can build four sites like this, you’ll be almost guaranteed a good harvest. Remember, though, that planting this many seeds doesn’t mean that you’ll be harvesting that many plants! There will be crowding and some won’t make it to the flowering stage. And about half of the plants will be male!
This strategy is very seed-intensive and will tend to produce small plants (due to the crowding effect). Also, you may find it necessary to have several of these sites in order to ensure you don’t run out of bud during the year. On the bright side, this way you’re certain to have a good harvest. Also, small sites are more difficult to be detected than larger sites.
b. Planting seedlings
The advantage of the seedling method is that you’ll have control over which seedlings to plant and which ones to discard. The biggest disadvantage is probably the risk involved in transporting the seedlings to your growing site, as you’ll need to put them in some kind of large box to get them there. The box may get so large as to attract attention to yourself, or be too difficult to move. Also, the stress put on the seedlings of moving them and then transplanting them to a radically different environment may be too much. You should select only those seedlings you started which look to be the strongest ones, and put them outside for at least three days before planting them at your site to make them get used to an outside environment.
This method is perfect if you have the option of building a small shelter near your growing site. The shelter should be closed off, but not insulated and should not be large. The shelter can then be used to start your seedlings in, and allowing them to acclimate to the temperature and wind strength of the area. Also, you’ll avoid having to take the risk of transporting the seedlings, and can provide protection for them from any frosts that may come late in the year.
c. Planting females
If you can plant sexed females, you’ll have the great advantage of knowing that every plant of yours that makes it to the flowering stage will be a bud-producing female! Also, you’ll avoid the annoying, risky and often difficult work of having to return to your site to remove all the males.
You can determine the sex of a cannabis plant by first getting them to about four inches tall. The males can be identified if the amount of sunlight is then reduced to eight hours per day. Obviously, this requires a degree of control over the light by you, and also, that you start your plants indoors earlier than you’d normally start them (late February – early March).
If you are sure that your plants are female, you can spread out your plants in much smaller sites over a wide area, which will greatly reduce the risk of arousing suspicion. The plants can also be easily hidden between small trees and shrubbery. Some growers spread out 20 or more female plants over a wide area and then create a map, to make sure they remember where they are. If you decide to do this, remember to make sure that no one will find that map. Anything you put in writing will put you and your growing venture at risk!
C. Weeding (about three weeks after planting)
The next trip you should make to your sit is about three weeks after you did the planting. You’ll have to remove any weeds that may be crowding out your plants to make sure that they receive the sunlight they need to grow. Three weeks after your first weeding trip, you should make a second trip to do it again. A third weeding is not absolutely necessary, as by then, your cannabis plants should be strong and tall enough to compete with the other weeds. But this greatly depends on the kind of vegetation that is common in your area, and you may have to make additional trips through the year to remove more weeds.
Good weeding takes some practice to do well. You should not remove all plants in a radius of three feet around yours, as this will make your plants easier to spot, as well as make them an easy target for animals. Some nearby weed growth can help obscure your herb and, during warm periods, help keep the soil wet, preventing it from evaporating. Finally, be very careful when
weeding, because you can extremely easily fatally injure your small and weak plants in your attempts to remove nearby weeds.
D. Sexing (July – September)
(if your plants have already been sexed and you’re growing females exclusively, disregard this chapter)
Depending on your climate and the variety of cannabis you are growing, males can begin to show any time from mid July to mid September (varieties which originate from more southern climates will show later). This may mean, especially if you’re using different kinds of seeds, that you’ll have to visit your site on a weekly basis in this entire period. Identifying male plants early is absolutely essential if you want a good harvest. If males are not identified at the right time, a week later, if the weather is exceptionally good, it may already be too late and you’ll end up with a disappointing amount of bud.
Females can generate large seedless buds, if all male plants are removed before their flowers open. They can generate large bud with a few seeds, if a few male flowers opened, but they were removed shortly after. And lastly, they can generate bud that is almost exclusively seeds, which happens if you miss the male flowering, leading to losing up to 90% of your output! On the other hand, this does mean that, in the worst case scenario, at least you’ll have plenty of seeds for next season. In fact, if you don’t have a lot of seeds, you may want to let a few of your females get pollinated to ensure your next generation. Great seeds aren’t that easy to find, so saving a few hundred of the can really save you headaches in the future.
Sexing the plants, ie identifying the males, is very difficult to explain and is probably the hardest skill a beginning grower will have to learn. Even veteran growers have difficulty with distinguishing male from female plants, so you’ll really have to study the appearance of your plants very carefully. Basically, a male plant that is entering its flowering stage will develop something which looks like small buds or balls, but they won’t have any white hairs on it. Do some research on how to do good sexing and remove the males when you are sure!
When your plants are about halfway through their cycle, they will become targets for a fungus which is often referred to as “bud rot”. This fungus will thrive in temperatures between 60 and 80 Fahrenheit, if there is high humidity. This particular fungus is extremely destructive and spreads like fire. Its spores will travel by wind and infect all your plants in a short time if you are too late to prevent it from happening. If you see any signs of fungus affecting any of your plants, it must be removed immediately or you will risk losing your entire investment.
Depending on who you ask, some growers will recommend to remove just the part of your plant that’s infected, and others will remove the whole branch. We’re in the latter camp, as you really want to be sure that the fungus will definitely not spread, and this is well worth the sacrifice of a branch. The main thing to keep in mind is to be extremely, almost absurdly, careful! Accidentally shaking an infected part of the plant will release spores from the fungus, which you may discover will have affected more of your bud on your next visit, requiring to remove even more. Also, the spores may attach themselves to your fingers and then spread to any other plants you touch! So be very, very careful!
Some things are just impossible to account for, and it is possible that a situation may arise from factors outside of your control. In case of such an emergency, you may have to make additional visits, but don’t allow yourself to be swept up by fear every time there is a bad storm near you area! Once established, your plants should be quite strong and they should be able to take a beating.
5. Harvest time
When to harvest depends on a multitude of factors: the strain and development of your plants, the weather, the fungus, and potential thieves. Some strains mature much earlier than others, and your climate will have a large effect on the time of your harvest as well. Generally Indica-strains will have to be harvested late in September, and Columbian ones a month later. The weather is also a factor: if a frost is predicted, you may want to harvest earlier than you were planning to. Another reason why you may want to harvest early is if weather conditions are prone to attract fungus to your site. And obviously, if your site has been discovered, or is for whatever reason suddenly at great risk of being discovered, it is high time to cut your losses and harvest what you can, in order to avoid losing everything.
If it is in any way possible, you should harvest your plants during night time. Especially the most risky trips, such as the transporting of herb you have just cut, should be done at night, when the risk of being detected by a car or, worse still, a police officer, is the lowest. Also, if you should be spotted during the night, and a passer-by or a curious neighbour alerts the police, you should have some extra time before officers are actually dispatched to investigate, and you’ll be able to use the cover of night to hide.
Bring flashlights when you are harvesting, but use them as little as possible, because obviously the use of these will attract a great deal attention to you. And, just in case, bring extra batteries. Try to remove the large fan leaves of the plants right there, at your site, so that your carrying load will be lighter and you’ll have to do fewer trips. However, many people like to use the leaves for cooking so it’s up to you. If you’re harvesting more than just one strain, bring several bags so you can identify them later. Lastly, use backpacks for transportation: they are the easiest to handle, will carry a lot of herb and will probably look the least suspicious.Once your herb is safely at your home, pat yourself on the back for completing the growing season successfully! And after the herb is dried (which should take another few weeks), you’ll finally get to reap/smoke the rewards of all your painstaking labor. Enjoy!