Part 2: Life Cycle

Our latest publications on actionable growth advice for the home grower.

Stages of Life

The cannabis plant grows natively in many parts of the world where unique environments and hundreds of years of breeding give way to different strains and genomes. This has occurred naturally over millennium, giving us our Sativa’s, Indica’s, Ruderalis and every creative combination we can create.

Indoors we take some control of our plants; species, shape, size, light time are all things that we decide. So lets take a look at what growing our plants looks like.

Propagation Choice – Seed or Clone

Starting a plant is really one of the magical events in growing cannabis. Having something go from seed to vibrant cannabis plant in a few weeks is wonderful experience.

Starting from a seed is where most of us will begin and frankly where we should start. A clone is a faster, more robust, way of making a plant and is an exact copy of the plant it came from (mother). This is great way to continue on a strain you like and this is what we will do, but getting a clone from anywhere or anyone comes with a lot of risk. Unfortunately this is the number 1 way people get pests and diseases.

In a large grow pests can be a persistent problem, that’s why you see all the bottles of insecticide at the grow store (watch these stores for a source of pests. Clean yourself and products when coming from a grow store to your room). So buying a clone from one of these Licensed Producers you are trusting that they have their pests in control at the time you are buying your plant. Some pest infestations can cost you hours to days upon days of struggle. Pests can cause a total loss of crop if not dealt with effectively.

We prefer you start with a seed. Now buying a seed is a little tricky in Canada. The only legal way is to buy from a Licensed Producer, of course. This limits your selection and the type of company you want to deal with. There are a lot of online seed stores, grow stores carry seeds. My favourite seed company is Pyramid seeds, but this is still not a way the government wants you to buy seeds. So you decided to how you want to buy seeds, what you are comfortable with. I have had no issues buying seeds on line. Buy from someone who has a good reputation and has been around for awhile.

With seeds, no two are the same, a little like the family that has a lot of children but each looks very different, same with Cannabis. Michael Jordan has several brothers and sisters but none of them can dunk like him!

So when we grow from seeds we want to grow several seeds at the same time and then select the best of those for our future growth. We do this by cutting clones growing them until we know which plant produced the cannabis we prefer. We then keep the clones from the plants we like and discard the rest. We then can make all our clones form this particular phenotype (pheno), and grow our favourite plant of any strain, always.

With cannabis we only want to grow female plants, male plants produce no flowers, so as with life, the males can be discarded (sorry could not resist)

Clones which would come from a female plant will be female (unless hermaphrodite which is where a female plant exhibit male sex glands and they produce pollen, not good)

We should buy feminized seeds, which should be all female. Very occasionally a feminized seed turns out to be male (look for seed sacks,pic instead of pistils) and must be discarded. We will not see this phenomenon until flowers begin.

Here is some pointers on early sexing of a cannabis plant.

Ensure that all plants in flower are female.

Starting From Seed

We still like the old fashioned paper towel method, but there are many out there that work. So we will tell you our method, but if you are using something else and that works for you, great, keep doing it.

The first thing we want to do is soak the seed in water. Use your RO water or distilled water(hyperlink) in a small cup, place the seeds in, cover and leave in dark room with temp between 20-25 deg C (prefer around 21). Leave for 12 hours.

We then want to take those seeds and place them in a soaking wet, folded over paper towel. Place this paper towel between two dinner plates, ensure that there is no standing water on the plates and put in a dark room with temp around 20-24 deg C. 69-75 deg F (pic)

In 12 to 36 hours we will have a small root curling out form the seed, at this point it is time to transplant into the prepared coco starting cube. We will dig a small hole in the top of the Coco starter cube about 1/2” deep, cover with loose coco and we are ready.

Starting From Clone

We need a healthy clone to start this and that means we need a healthy plant showing vibrant growth. Starving the Mother plant of nitrogen for a couple of light cycles will quicken the development of roots on our clone. Take a branch with good growth preferably from one from the side or slightly under the main branches, these are usually the best.

Cut the clone off the branch so that the clone has at least 3 nodes remaining and decent spacing (tight) on the bottom nodes (at least a couple of inches).

Cut the clone off right below the node like this with a sharp razor blade.

Trim all of the bottom leaves off and cut the top leaves as in video below. Dip the clone is some rooting hormone (never reuse rooting hormone, dispose after use). Pour what you think you will use into a shot glass. Coat about 1cm at the bottom of the stem. Discard any unused rooting hormone, do not reuse.

There are two methods that we like here for the next stage for your plant. We can use a standard cloning device. This is basically an aeroponic device that constantly keeps the clone stem wet. Each one will come with its own instructions. Should take between 1 and 2 weeks.

We can place the clone directly into a prepared starter coco cube. Coco has naturally occurring rooting hormones that really help your roots take off.

You need to have high humidity here 75% plus. If this is difficult you may need a cloner or other method. Start your watering schedule (see feed chart) and in a matter of days you will have roots coming out the bottom. No need to transplant to a solo or small container, just keep growing.

Photo 1: Expanded coco grow bags in miser up. Photo taken under LED lighting.

Photo 2: Starter Cube on Grow Bag day 1, drippers like this until day 5 then both in Grow Bag. Photo taken under LED lighting.

When either hand watering or using a drip system you can just place the cube on top of the expanded coco. With hand watering place as in pics and water through the started cube for 7 days, then just water the grow bag. With a drip system, place one dripper in the bag and one in the cube. You’re done. In 5 days put both drippers in the grow bag and keep watering as you have.

Leaves are not growing as fast at this stage, the plant is only producing roots, so light at this stage should be weak. My clones are over 30” from a 323 watt LED. A smaller Metal Halide or T5 (florescent) can also work. The florescent T5 bulbs work well but need to be close ( a few inches from the plant) and need to be adjusted regularly. I just set my light and leave it, but not quite as efficient use of light.

Temperature 73 – 78 deg F
Humidity 70 – 90%

Best light source
LED 100-250 watts
T5 florescent ( wattage more based on size, length, of bulb)
Metal Halide 100-250 watts
Daily spritz with a light foliar feeder hyperlink science page.

Vegetation Stage

This is where our plants begin to take on mass and where we begin to shape our plants into what will be a” sea of green” canopy. This is just the most efficient way to train your plants in a low ceiling environment.

Lighting and nutrient requirements are less during the beginning of this stage than the end (please see the feeding schedule for nutrient use), With lights we want to think about the distance form the bulb to the top of the cannabis canopy. With CMH lights I start my clones off at a little over 30” from the lights and by the end of the vegetative stage I am around 23”. In flowering I am about 16” form canopy top to light. Every different light source will vary based on highest intensity point and type of light.

Note : (A small diffused HPS (400-600 watts) you might get 20” from the canopy but a double ended focused light (1000 watt DE) you might need the plants to be more than 30” away from the light, this is difficult in a low ceiling environment. Ask your light manufacturer for recommendations. Play with your light a little and see how hot your plants get and if there is any bleaching (too much light) on the plants. With CMH lights I have never had this issue even as close as 10”.)

In the vegetative state light cycle, the plant is best served by having 18 hours of light followed by 6 hours of dark. Some growers will have up to 22 hours of light but there is still no data showing real benefit. We know plants do need at least a couple of hours of darkness so the roots can catch up with the plant growth. Remember “the roots of today are the fruits of tomorrow!”

At the end of this stage we want plants that are small enough that they will still fit after all the flowering growth, but a big enough to maximize out grow space. Remember that some plants (sativa, especially haze plants) can over double their height in their first three weeks of flowering. Many indica’s will be significantly less. Always leave a little extra room until you know how much our plant will stretch, keep them on the small side until you know. We don’t want the plants to get too close to the light at the end of flowering.

Room Temp – Temp 72- 85 deg F
Humidity – 50-65%

Best Light source for 3ft X 3ft table

315 watts CMH Blue spectrum
250- 400 watts Metel Halide
300- 500 watts LED –

Best Light source 4X4 table

630 Watt CMH Blue Spectrum
600 watts Metel Halide
600-1000 watts LED

Flowering Stage

Well this is the stage we all wait for. The experience of watching, caring for plants during the flowering stage is enchanting. Colours and smell develop during this stage making it a wonderful sensory experience.

Plants can take a variety of signals to begin flowering but light change is the most impactful and this is what we use to begin the flowering period. Changing the light day/night ratio to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark indicates to our plants that winter is nearing and must produce flowers to attempt to procreate.

We continue our “sea of green” by topping the tallest buds during the end of the second week of flowering (some early maturing plants end of first week) and finish spreading out the plants. At the end of the 3rd week of flowering we remove the bottom leaves and buds leaving the top 12”-18” alone. We leave more canopy on a looser forming plant like a sativa and take a little less from a thick indica. We want to get some light down to the bottom buds that are left.

During the night no light may enter during this period, must complete 12 hours of absolute darkness. Look for any source of light that may be coming into your room. Windows must be blacked out with plywood or other material. Check any equipment in the room to make sure there are no indicating lights on (lights in room can be green as cannabis has no photosynthesis receptors in the green range, this is ok). Even green lights you may want to cover over for piece of mind.

Now stand in your room, lights off and sit for a bit. Let your eyes adjust for a few minutes and ensure no light is getting in anywhere. If there is, you must black this out, any light during this period interrupts the flowering cycle and will disrupt the production of flowers. This can even cause sexing stress turning some plant male and ruining your crop turning buds to seeds.

In a female plant, flowers begin to put on weight, terpenes and cannabinoids are produced to protect the flower. If fertilization (from male plant, but we don’t have any in our garden) does not occur the female plant continues to produce mass and oils until it eventually begins to die.

We can really see there are three distinct stages during flowering.

Stretch – this is where the plants start small bud sites, and the plants grow very quickly. Sativa can stretch to double their height in 3 weeks.

Mid Flower – buds gain height and some mass

Late Flower – buds gain significant mass, colours emerge, cannabinoids and terpenes are produced at a great rate.

Through flowering the nutrient feed cycle changes with the different stages. As things progress we begin to see the signs of the plant maturing.

We now need to know, when do we take down these wonderful plants? For the answer to that go to the “Harvest- Dry and Cure” section.

Lighting during this phase is critical. We generally need twice as much lighting (wattage) as in our veg room. The plants are bigger so we need to cover more canopy and the lighting should be more intense. We can get our plants a little closer to our lighting here so the light intensity on the plant goes way up. With My 315 Ceramic Metal Halide I run my canopy within 16” of the lights, so I can get unto 46” plants in my room with 8ft to ceiling.

If you use 1000 watt Double Ended you need more than 30” between the canopy and lights meaning in the same room plants can only be 32” high max and this might be too close. (more on this in the Lighting section).

Room Temperature – 74-80 deg F (can go higher but higher temps lessen terpenes)
Canopy Temperature – 76 – 84 deg F (ideally under 80 deg F).
Humidity 35-50% (Lower humidity increases respiration, drying out faster moving greater feed amounts to the chemical factories in the plant.)

Best Light Source 3X 3 table
315 watts Ceramic Metal Halide
400-600 watts High Pressure Sodium (HPS)
LED 800 -1500 watts (not as efficient at creating bud mass)

Best Light Source 4 X 4 table
630 Ceramic Metal Halide
800 – 1000 HPS
1200 – 2000 Watts LED (not as efficient at creating bud mass)

Life Cycle Chart Here

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