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growing cannabis seeds

Growing cannabis seeds
Leading the charge in veganic cultivation is the legendary Kyle Kushman. Kushman is a five-time High Times Cannabis Cup winner, and the founder of Kushman Veganics. Kushman came across veganic cultivation in 2009. The origins of veganic gardening, however, go back to the forties. While it is not a new idea, Kushman is the first to pioneer this avenue of horticulture in the new millennium.

Veganic Cannabis Cultivation

Although not widely talked about, utilising veganic growing techniques can really push a cannabis grow to the best it can be. All it takes is a little planning.

With many of us looking for new and healthier ways to cultivate cannabis, growers are moving past organic cultivation and are exploring the benefits of veganic cultivation. Veganic cultivation is a method of horticulture that does not utilise any animal products, instead turning to soil enriching microbes and plant-based nutrients.

WHAT IS VEGANIC CANNABIS CULTIVATION?

There are several reasons why growers and cannabis consumers are turning to this newer healthier way to produce the highest quality organic marijuana. Veganic cultivation looks to replace the nutrients that come from animal bi-products, present in most organic nutrient blends, with fermented plant-based nutrients.

Nutrients made from animal bi-products not only impact the quality of the bud produced, but also negatively impact soil pH which then can interfere with your plant’s ability to take in nutrients. Organic fertilisers made from animal products, leave residues behind. These residues affect taste, potency, and aroma. Veganic gardening also systems don’t require pH management and they provide an overall healthier ecosystem for your plants to thrive in.

Leading the charge in veganic cultivation is the legendary Kyle Kushman. Kushman is a five-time High Times Cannabis Cup winner, and the founder of Kushman Veganics. Kushman came across veganic cultivation in 2009. The origins of veganic gardening, however, go back to the forties. While it is not a new idea, Kushman is the first to pioneer this avenue of horticulture in the new millennium.

While researching organic nutrients, Kushman found that most organic compounds used in cultivation are comprised of animal bi-products. In nature, a plant might seldom be exposed to the remains of an animal, whereas in organic cultivation, they are being exposed to animal products on a regular basis, far exceeding what they would have been exposed to in nature.

THE IMPLICATIONS FOR CANNABIS

Animal residues breakdown slowly in cannabis. After the plant metabolises the nutrients, animal residues remain. This affects your overall quality and is particularly noticeable in the taste of the finished product. Kushman is confident that cannabis grown using a veganic nutrient system is the cleanest cannabis you will find. Increased potency is an additional benefit of going veganic according to Kushman. By ensuring maximum nutrient bio-availability through the application of beneficial microbes, you ensure maximum potency. The only bi-product of plant-based nutrient metabolism is a complex carbohydrate which is then consumed by microbes in the soil, continuing the cycle.

Veganic cultivation relies on soil full of various bacteria and fungi that take part in a process resulting in 100% nutrient bio-availability. Soil nutrient bioavailability is a measure of the amount of ingestible nutrient in the soil by the plant’s root system. Synthetic nutrients comprised mostly of salts can have absorption rates as low as 20-25%. Maximising the soil’s bioavailability is the key to veganic cultivation.

The plant-based nutrients have to be converted. Plants depend on microbes to metabolise nutrients in the soil, turning them into a form that can be readily absorbed. Beneficial bacteria and fungi, like several of the Actinobacteria and Bacillus species, consume and break down decaying plant matter, excreting it into a nutrient form that the plant’s root system can take in. The relationship between the microbes and the plant becomes one of life or death, both depending on each other for survival. By applying the beneficial microbes to your soil as part of a veganic regimen, you help ensure the that your plants are absorbing as much of the available nutrients as possible.

GETTING STARTED WITH VEGANICS: COMPOST TEA

Making a compost tea is an easy way to introduce your veganic nutrient blend to your plant’s root system. A good tea starts with a good compost. You can buy microbes to add to your soil however a compost creates its own micro-environment in which these beneficial bacteria and fungi thrive. A good compost should be made of mainly decaying green waste. Greens will provide the bulk of your primary macronutrients. You can use grass cuttings, old fruits and vegetables, seaweed and just about any green plant. The breakdown and reuse of decaying organic matter is the beginning of the cycle of life. Decaying trees and other plants have fed the next generation since the dawn of time.

As the green waste decays, it becomes home to a community of insects, worms, larva, bacteria, fungi and slew of other organisms which consume the organic material. The nutrient-rich excrement then goes on to become part of the compost fertiliser you will eventually use to feed your garden. The black sludge you find at the bottom of your compost bin is a combination of worm and insect excrement full of nutrients and beneficial bacteria. You’ll want to avoid any animal products when making your compost for all the obvious reasons. There are different recipes for making a compost tea requiring different amounts of time, but fundamentally compost tea is made exactly as it sounds. You soak the compost in water and strain it out through a cheesecloth. One hefty shovel of compost will net you around five gallons of tea. The addition of these beneficial microbes to your garden will help your plants move toward 100% soil bioavailability.

The move toward veganic cultivation is the next logical step for organic cannabis growers. Veganic cultivation aims for 100% nutrient absorption by converting decaying plant waste into a thriving environment for beneficial bacteria and fungi. The bacteria and fungi, in turn, support a healthy ecosystem in which the plant can absorb all available nutrients. The nutrient rich environment void of animal fertilisers results in no residues being left behind and a cleaner, tastier smoke. If you are looking to push your yields and grow the best quality cannabis out there, going veganic will help you get there.

For repotting, discontinue the plastic wrap when the third set of leaves appear. When you see that the roots have reached the bottom of the cups, it’s time to repot the little darlings into the eight-ounce cups. In my experience, the plants do better stepping up to the bigger cup instead of going directly into three-quart pots. Repotting can be tricky, so take your time here. The plants shock easily with too much jostling or rough handling. Get the larger cups ready, poke the drain holes and fill with enough soil mix so the seedlings will be at the same depth as in the first cups. Before removing from the smaller cups, lightly water them so everything stays together.

How to Grow Your Own Cannabis Plants From Seeds

Takeaway: Back in the last millennium, before cloning swept the country like the hula hoop, people actually grew cannabis plants from seed. Primitive, huh? But where there’s a will, they’ll surely find a way. While that’s all changed now (hello, cloning!) you can only clone so many times before you have to buy more plants or get back to basics with seeds.

Growing from seed is all about the quality of your seeds. Plants will never be better than the seeds they grew from. Back in the day, there weren’t any seed shops, so seeds were saved from exceptional buds, but it was all a crapshoot with a lot of trial and error. Luckily, now we know better.

Starting from seed isn’t difficult and you don’t need to be an experienced gardener, but the process is a journey in stages, not a direct flight. Cannabis plants are perfect for growing from seed because they have a short life cycle. That being said, be prepared to check your plants every day for moisture, insects, diseases, nutrient deficiencies and light. If you can’t make the time and work commitment, perhaps you should forget the idea. Here’s my list of what I used for my first grow. Nothing high-tech—my grow room was a walk-in closet with louvered doors and a clothes bar to hang my lights.

  • A four-foot table or two sawhorses with plywood on top
  • A piece of thick plastic or a waterproof tablecloth for spill protection
  • Potting soil for seedlings
  • Clean sand
  • Seeds (of desired strain if purchasing)
  • Five-gallon pail for mixing soil
  • A four-foot shop light with chains and S hooks
  • One full-spectrum red fluorescent grow light
  • One regular white fluorescent tube bulb
  • Light timer
  • Five-ounce opaque drink cups
  • Eight-ounce drink cups
  • pH kit
  • Plant flats or trays
  • Plastic kitchen wrap

Best Lighting for Cannabis Seedlings

If you’re on a budget, fluorescents offer the biggest bang for your buck when getting light to you cannabis seedlings. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of electricity and bulb replacement. To make sure all my plants got an equal amount of light, I turned the trays 180 degrees every day. I especially liked the ease of raising the shop light one link at a time as the plants grew. You can maximize your light by using a room with white walls or surrounding your grow table with movable reflecting foil-covered cardboard or hanging sheets of Mylar—mirrors don’t work well for reflecting light.

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Germinating Cannabis

Mature cannabis seeds are dark brown, sometimes with swirly patterns or stripes. Discard immature pale or greenish-colored seeds. I’ve never started seeds in soil, preferring the Japanese method of “proving” seeds first; there’s no sense planting dud seeds. I germinated my seeds in a moistened, loosely rolled up paper towel on a plate in indirect light on the kitchen counter where I could keep an eye on progress. Keep the paper towel moist, but not lying in a puddle of water or the seeds will rot.

Some seeds germinate in a couple of days, while some take up to a week, depending on their temperature. It’s helpful to know that the seeds will produce male and female plants. Back in the Dark Ages, I always started 16 cups of seeds in hope of ending up with four females. That’s no longer a problem if you can buy feminized seeds, which are guaranteed to be females. I planted two sprouted seeds about one inch apart per cup because frequently one seedling will be bigger and stronger than the other. Go with the bigger one and pinch off the smaller one at the soil level.

The beauty of starting seedlings in the opaque cups is that you can see the root growth. Poke some drainage holes around the cup bases. It’s quicker to do the drain holes with the cups in a stack. As you finish each cup, slip it in the other end of the stack or you’ll waste crumpled up cups. Mix the potting soil with enough sand to give the fluffy soil more body. Add water gradually, mixing well to moisten.

Fill the cups with the soil mix and tap each cup a couple of times on the table to eliminate air pockets. Add more soil if needed, tap it down again to leave a half-inch space between the top of the soil and the rim of the cup. Repeat until all the cups are filled. Set up your grow table and lights. Ready? The table is all set. The lights are on. The cups are shoulder to shoulder in rows, waiting to fulfill their roles.

Transplanting Cannabis Seedlings

My tools of choice for planting were a small wooden matchstick and a wooden toothpick. I made two small holes with the clean end of the match about one quarter inch deep and a half inch apart and not too close to the side of the cup. I picked out two sprouted seeds at a time from the paper towel, careful not to touch the sprout, and dropped them into the match holes and used the tip of a toothpick to scuff soil into the holes, then lightly tamped the spots with one finger. Keep the remaining sprouted seeds covered so they don’t dry out. Repeat until all the cups are planted.

Put as many cups that fit into shallow flats or trays and then drape a long piece of kitchen plastic wrap over everything, tucking the ends under the trays to create a mini greenhouse. When this step is finished, the plants get to sunbathe under the lights for the next six weeks or so of the seedling phase.

In a few days, two primary leaves will appear and you can do your happy dance. Soon the next pair of leaves will appear and the first ones will drop off. If condensation forms under the plastic wrap, uncover the seedlings to release the excess moisture and then replace with fresh wrap. During the seedling phase, keep the soil moist but not wet and only water from the bottom from so the roots stretch down long and strong.

Water with a spray bottle until the first leaves appear, and then water from the bottom; the soil around the stem needs to stay dry to avoid stem rot. Fill pitchers or buckets with tap water and let sit uncovered until room temperature and the chlorine has evaporated into the air. Hard water is fine, but don’t use artificially softened water because it contains too much salt and other harmful additives.

I’m an organic gardener. While I don’t object to a little bloom booster to convince some reluctant annuals to step it up, I want everything that goes in my body to be as natural as possible. Plants need nitrogen to grow. When I had access to a mountain of free rotted horse manure, I fertilized with manure tea.

Throw a shovelful of manure in a bucket, fill with water, let it sit a couple of days and water with the tea. It worked fine for me. There are “hot” manures and “cold” manures. Hot manures have the highest nitrogen, but have to be aged. Cold cow manure has lower nitrogen but can be used hot out of the barn. Rabbit manure is cold, but some growers call it nitrogen on steroids. If slogging around in barnyards doesn’t appeal to you, you could use fish or seaweed emulsions or any of the other excellent natural fertilizers available at your local hydroponics supplier.

Check your soil pH regularly. Plants grown in soil like a pH about 7. If your soil drops below 6, add a light sprinkling of ground limestone before watering. If the soil is above 8—too alkaline—sprinkle around a concoction of cottonseed meal, lemon peels and ground coffee.

For repotting, discontinue the plastic wrap when the third set of leaves appear. When you see that the roots have reached the bottom of the cups, it’s time to repot the little darlings into the eight-ounce cups. In my experience, the plants do better stepping up to the bigger cup instead of going directly into three-quart pots. Repotting can be tricky, so take your time here. The plants shock easily with too much jostling or rough handling. Get the larger cups ready, poke the drain holes and fill with enough soil mix so the seedlings will be at the same depth as in the first cups. Before removing from the smaller cups, lightly water them so everything stays together.

Tip the cup upside down in your open hand with the seedling stem between your fingers. Gently squeeze the sides of the cup with your other hand and the seedling will drop out in one piece. Don’t pull it out by the stem! Place the seedling in its new home, filling around it with more soil, and make sure it isn’t deeper or shallower than in the smaller cup. This is important. Compress the soil lightly for any air pockets.

Entering the Vegetative Stage

During the vegetative phase, leave the lights on 24/7 and as close to the leaves as possible without touching. If the lights are too high, the stems will grow weak and spindly. You want the plants to remain compact. When your plants really take off, they may grow an inch a day. Keep a sharp eye on the distance between the tops of the plants and the lights. Fluorescents are cool and won’t burn the leaves, but keep adjusting your lights upwards to stay ahead of the growth.

Rotate your plants so they all get enough light. When plants are starting to bud, rough handling or a sudden change in temperature or light will drive them into shock. When you see your plants are beginning to outgrow the cups, it’s time to pot up again, this time to three-quart containers commonly found at nurseries. Always wash used pots in hot soapy water before reusing.

Sexing

Toward the end of the vegetative and budding phase, you’ll be able to sex your plants. Males have two pollen-filled sacs that are easy to see and females have a pair of white V-shaped hairs. One male plant is enough to pollinate all your females so they produce seeds. I didn’t grow for seeds, so I quickly yanked all the male plants. Male plants are low in THC, are harsh-tasting and give many people a massive headache. Unpollinated females produce more flowers, buds and THC.

For even more plants, remove the unproductive lower stems and leaves on your plants, and then make two or three shallow downward slices on the main stem with a clean blade and insert a graft slip dipped in root stimulant in each cut. Put a small piece of tape around the cuts. The grafts can be other varieties, not just the same as the host plant. Soon you’ll have new growth from all your grafts, giving you maximum yields.