It is important to know the 4 stages of plant growth of cannabis so that you know when to do what. We will start off with:
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Simply put, germination is the process where the seeds sprout and the shoot or root emerges. Cannabis plant takes around 12 hours to a maximum of 8 days to germinate where conditions of moisture, darkness and warmth are met. These conditions trigger the expansion of the embryo found in the seed, and later the seed cracks open.
Then a small embryonic root is produced and it begins to grow downwards to mark the start of the seedlings stage. If you want to accelerate the process, you can soak cannabis seeds between wet paper towels, in wet peat pellets or cup of water. Peat pellets can work well since you can plant both the saturated pellets and the seedlings directly to a pot or other medium.
This phase starts after the seed coat splits and the root and shoot are exposed. It basically lasts from 1-4 weeks. At this stage your cannabis plant is vulnerable to conditions such as excess humidity, warmth or light intensity. To care for the seedlings, only use compact fluorescent lights that generate very little heat. Do not use MH and HPS as these increase transpiration, which eventually dries out the seedlings. Within 4-6 weeks, the crop should produce identifiable sex characteristics, and here you should eliminate the male plants. Return the female cannabis crop to vegetative state where you allow 6 hours lights-on period.
In this stage, ensure you grow the crop for about 1-2 months indoors but with enough nutrients supply to facilitate growth of leaves. To find out whether the crop is in its vegetative state, check whether the crop has produced 7-8 sets of true leaves. But if growing an auto flowering hybrid, the crop omits this stage and heads directly to per-flowering stage. Most varieties require 1-2 months to mature and it is then easier to establish the sex of the crop through its physical size. The females are shorter with more branches and its flowers grow in panicles. You should remove the male plants to avoid pollination which can inhibit production of seeds.
At this stage, allow 18-24 hours of light to facilitate faster growth; which means the plant may not require a dark period. Also add in fertilizers with high potassium and nitrogen content alongside other micro-nutrients. As the crop becomes hardier you should decrease the strength of fertilizer by using those with other micro-nutrients.
Pre Flowering Phase
This stage is also referred to as the stretch and it basically takes 1-14 days. With light cycle comprising of 12 hours of darkness, most plants grows rapidly and double in size within 10-14 days. The crop should produce more nodes and branches; and start to produce the structure for the flowering parts. At this stage, you should note bracteoles starting to form, which are the nodes where the branches meet the stems.
For pure Indica straits, the flowering phase takes around 6-22 weeks. During the flowering phase, reduce the light supply unless you are growing the auto-flowering strains. Without pollination, the females should begin to produce buds that comprise of white resin glands that have high content of THC. It is crucial to inhibit pollination or fertilization of the plant to maximize the production of resins which contain the active ingredient. Furthermore, pollination results in production of seeds which make the yield to be of inferior quality.
As fewer hours of darkness can slow down flowering and longer hours lower yields, a 12 hours dark period should work well. Be aware that the flowering hormone is inhibited once the plant is exposed to light thus allow at least 8 hours of darkness each day. 1–2 weeks after you reduce the photoperiod, the flower starts to form, and should within 5 weeks double or triple in size. The flowers in cannabis plants are also referred to as bracteole and are actually the most prized part of the crop. Five weeks into flowering, the buds also increase in weight and size.
Managing the Marijuana Plant
As mentioned above, once the plant starts to flower, it can grow in size greatly. By the end of the 4th week, plants that had remained short and bushy being only 2 feet high begin to flower. The flowering stage causes the crop to surge up in height and stretch as more buds and flowers forms. Therefore, one of the challenges you will face as a marijuana grower is to control the height of the plant especially in Sativa strains or Sativa mix, as these tend to grow up to 8 feet!
It is important to point out that you should not wait until the plant starts to flower in order to trim as doing so can significantly lower your yields. Thus it’s recommended to trim the non-auto flowering plants when 1-2 weeks to vegetative phase. This should give the crops enough time to recover and for the auxiliary buds to extend up.
Let’s see what trimming is all about and the role it plays:
Trimming your Marijuana
Trimming is seen as a way to increase the health, strength, and yields of the marijuana plant. If not trimmed, marijuana normally grows into the shape of a Christmas tree, which makes indoor growing such a big problem. If your ceiling is 8-10 feet high, you’ll have height restrictions since you should maintain the crop at least 1-2 feet away from light reflectors.
With the 6-feet space available, you need to trim the plant to facilitate it to grow bushier and denser. The practice can yield more branches, a rounder canopy, and help turn side branches into a cluster of the main branches. Once you trim, you eliminate extraneous sucker branches and stalks that don’t get enough light, yet suck down nutrients and block air flow.
The earliest trim should be when the rooted clones or cannabis seedlings have developed at least four sets of true serrated leaves. Here you should cut on the newest growth at the top of any particular stalk using either a scalpel, trimming scissors or razor blade. After trimming, it’s advisable to wait for 1-2 days for the crop to heal and then foliar spray using 5.8 pH foliar solution to sustain growth. Later into maturity, you can do extra rounds of trimming to help control the shape and ideal height of the plant.
In order to trim, locate the terminal bud of the marijuana plant, i.e. the actively leaf-growing appendage. When trimming, only cut the terminal bud taking care not to damage the lower leaves or even the stem. This makes the plant to grow two buds upwards and outwards, which helps maintain the bulk of the plant. After locating the terminal bud, trim it cleanly using nail scissors or a set of shears, but ensure it’s a 45-degree cut. Be aware that straight cuts can make the plant collect moisture and debris.
You should also know that Sativa strains might require a second top trim to help maintain them within vertical confines of the growing room. The continued topping during the vegetative phase may help increase yields since topped plants are more exposed to overhead lights. As trimming is closely linked to topping, let’s try and understand topping to.
Topping your Marijuana
This refers to the removal of the main shoot that is located on the central stem. Topping is important in that it facilitates growth into a bushy and denser plant that has many shoots as opposed to a plant with one main shoot.
Normally, the center of growth control is based in the main shoot referred to as apical meristem. This shoot sends the suppressive hormone to the auxiliary shoots and this helps prevent rapid growth, in what is called apical dominance. Though it might not completely hinder growth of other branches, it receives most of plant energy and can suppress productivity.
Once you cut the main shoot, communication between the shoot and the leaves is interrupted, and this stops apical dominance altogether. Its role is assigned to the remaining shoots and this makes them to grow rapidly and attain great size that helps the plant develop a bushy appearance. The practice of topping can help the plant get enough light especially for indoor marijuana growing. However before you cut the top shoot, ensure that your plants have enough secondary shoots to sustain growth.
Furthermore, a plant can undergo a “state of confusion” until it can recover from such a loss. The vegetative growth only resumes after other dominant shots are determined in a process that may take a few days. Keep in mind that some marijuana plants may experience stunted growth but within a week, you should expect normal growth. To prevent any stunted growth, only top plants after growing for 2-4 weeks since removal of the top shoot corresponds to loss of photosynthetic tissue.
Just like trimming and topping, it is also necessary to prune your marijuana plants. What does this involve? Let us learn more about pruning.
Leaving the marijuana plant to grow uninterrupted can result into many branches than it can support. Extra branches mean that a lot of energy is wasted and flowering is delayed as the plant attempts to supply energy throughout its entire parts. Therefore, cutting the extra branches together with the weaker branches can facilitate the healthier branches to produce high quality buds.
Those buds on the lower branches that get little light might end up as buds that never truly mature and hence should be cut at early stages. Failure to cut them makes them stretch for the light and this reduces the number of buds as the plant wastes energy on building stems.
You should also cut branches with long internodes, which is the space between nodes as well as branches positioned lower than the main shoots. Such branches often receive less light and may find it hard to grow appropriately. However, you don’t have to remove the leaves in what is called defoliation in a bid to increase production of buds. Since fan leaves serve as a location for photosynthesis, removing them inhibits the plant’s ability to produce energy and discards the energy already stored for future use. If leaves tend to hinder light, simply tie or tuck them under the canopy to ensure light reaches more bud sites.
As you trim and prune, take care not to severely wound the plant as this can trigger a hormonal response, which causes it to prefer defense to growth. Once wounded, the plant secretes jasmonic acid, which slows down the growth in a bid to heal the plant. Therefore, trim the plant gradually in the flowering phase as opposed to cutting down all growth at once. Though some plants may respond well to extreme pruning required in cases plants are parked too close to each other, it’s better to keep it at minimum.
When To Harvest
The cannabis plant is basically harvested when around 50 percent of its tiny droplets of resin have turned amber in color from the usual cloudy or clear appearance. If you harvest the crop too early,
it is likely that the buds are premature and do not have the full effect of a ripened flower cluster. On the other hand, late harvesting may mean that the psychoactive THC compound may get oxidized and go bad. Such a product may make users or smokers feel ill.
After harvesting, ensure that you cure the harvested flowers well; otherwise, they might grow molds and drop in quality. To cure the flowers, hang the buds on the racks for drying and later store them in mason jars.
Now that you know the growth stages of a cannabis plant, let us now look at the guidelines you need to follow to ensure maximum yields.