It’s almost time for one of the biggest days in cannabis. 420 is symbolic with all things cannabis, and in celebration of such a high-ly anticipated day, we’re taking a look at how cannabis transforms into something that can bring so much relief and comfort to patients across the generational spectrum.
For the next three weeks leading up to 420, we’re covering everything from seed-to-sale, how it happens, and why every step, no matter how minor, plays a huge part in delivering quality medicine to patients.
This week is focusing on the cultivation side of the journey and understanding each growth stage of the cannabis plant right up until it’s time to harvest.
It Starts with a Seed
First things first is choosing the best seeds. Everything from breeding to genetics is considered to provide patients with a variety of cultivars and cannabis products with a range of therapeutic benefits.
There are three kinds: male, female, and hermaphrodites, which produces both male and female flowers during the vegetation stage. To a cannabis grower, the only seeds that matter are female seeds because they’re the ones that produce flowers with resin and create the buds sold in any medical or recreational market.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to define by the naked eye which seeds are male or female. Growers can, however, buy feminized cannabis seeds- seeds selectively bred to only grow female plants. Otherwise, you must wait until the plants are in their first flowering stage to identify which ones will be female.
Germination (3 to 10 days)
The first step in the growing process is allowing the seeds to germinate. They must be kept continuously moist and placed in a warm, dark space. Within a few days, or sometimes even 24 hours, a white taproot will emerge, signaling it’s ready to be transplanted into its next growing medium. As the root systems slowly develop, the plants will produce their first few tiny fan leaves and officially become seedlings.
Seedling Stage (2 to 3 weeks)
Cannabis seedlings are fragile and handled with extreme care. They need close to 18-24 hours of light every day and fertilizer rich in nitrogen. In fact, every stage has different light, temperature, nutrients, and water requirements. Just like with any other plant, proper cannabis care and maintenance cannot be overlooked or done half-heartedly.
Cannabis seedlings don’t need too much water either since the root systems are still so small. The plant is highly vulnerable to disease and mold in this stage, and overwatering will increase this risk.
This is also the time when the cannabis plant begins growing its famous fan leaves. As it continues to grow, the leaves will develop more blades, eventually reaching 5 to 7 blades or more once it hits full maturity, with most of this growth occurring in the next stage.
Vegetative Stage (3 to 8 weeks)
The vegetative stage is where you’ll really see the cannabis sprout up. It’s also the time when growers can officially identify which plants are male or female.
As mentioned before, only the female cannabis plants will produce the buds used for medical and recreational purposes. Male flowers can only pollinate the female plants, but if that happens, the female plants will stop using their energy to produce resin, full buds, and THC, and turn it toward making more seeds. It only takes a little pollen to mess up an entire crop and make the flower unusable.
Growers take extensive precautions to avoid pollination. The first sign many will notice are the pollen sacs male cannabis plants grow in the crux of the branches. In contrast, female plants will produce wispy pistillates with a faint, white coloring. After the male plants are identified, each one is carefully removed from the grow room and destroyed.
Another important maintenance step with cannabis plants in this stage is topping. Topping off the plants helps them grow in bushier. If left alone, the plant will focus on the one main stalk and have one giant cola growing at the top. Some smaller colas will appear, but they’ll be of poorer quality, resulting in an inadequate yield. Topping redistributes some of the energy to the side branches, forcing the plant to grow out, create more bud sites, and produce a higher yield of exceptional quality.
Flowering Stage (8 to 12 weeks)
This final stage of growth is when all the good stuff happens. It’s when resinous buds begin to form, trichomes start showing up by the handful, and cannabinoids develop to create flowers with top level potency. The potency level also depends on how long the plant remains in the flowering stage before being harvested.
During this time, the plants need to spend an average of 10 to 12 hours in the light and total darkness. They require medium humidity, mildly warm climate, and generous levels of potassium and phosphorus.
Growers must pay close attention to the overall appearance of the cannabis plant in this stage to know when it’s time to start harvesting. As the next section will explain, missing the mark can impact every aspect of its medicinal benefits.
When harvesting cannabis plants, timing is everything. Cutting them too early or too late will impact the flower’s smell, taste, terpene profile, and potency. Each plant must be observed with a critical eye as growers look for clues showing they’re ready to harvest.
Two common ways to tell are when more than half of the pistils are an orange- brown color and begin to curl. The other is when the trichomes appear cloudy, milky white as opposed to looking crystal clear.
Different cultivars may take a longer or shorter amount of time, but the average time is normally 7-9 weeks after the first signs of flowering. An indoor grow facility also makes it easier to control overall growing conditions, avoid unfavorable environmental elements, and plan for multiple harvests throughout the year.
It’s Not Over Yet
And to think, this is all merely the first phase of the cannabis plant’s journey from seed-to-sale. There’s still plenty more to cover and will show why such meticulous attention to the finer details can make or break months of hard work.
Next week focuses on the second phase; curing and why this step is crucial to ensuring you get the best flower possible. Make sure you subscribe to keep up with our blog updates and for the latest Countdown to 420 deals!