When is the best time of year to plan hemp seeds?
Hemp Seeds: A Step-By-Step Guide on Growing Hemp
Growing industrial hemp
Hemp is a dynamic crop that is easy to grow, maintain, and harvest. It also has a multitude of uses from medicinal to manufacturing. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you begin growing hemp seeds.
What You’ll Need
- Planting Supplies
- Hemp Seeds
- Water Source
- Well Draining Soil (ph6-7.5)
- Garden Shovel (for moving soil)
- Garden Hoe (for moving soil)
- 1 Tarp
- 2 5 Gallon Buckets
- 1 scythe or garden shears/snips
- 1 Stick, Club, or Bat
First, we want to check the condition of the soil where you will be planting your hemp seeds. A simple soil test is quick and easy. Start by going to your local hardware store and purchasing a soil test kit. There are a number of kits on the market, so choose the one that fits you best. I like using Land Grant Labs. They provide a print out of the results, and recommendations on how to correct or solve a soil issue. Your local agricultural center can also provide means for soil testing.
Sending in a soil sample before sowing your hemp seeds is very important. Kush recommends doing a few soil tests from different labs. This will help you to have a broader idea of what is going in the soil, but one test will do the job to get started.
Soil Fact: Hemp typically prefers a soil with a ph of 6 to 7.5.
Prepping the soil
Once the results of your soil test are returned, take any recommended actions. Supplement your soil with the recommended minerals to ensure that the plants will have all the nutrients they need for the season. Another way to insure a proper mineral composition is to plant a cover crop the previous season.
Like growing any crop sustainably for the long term you must feed the soil and not the plant. Hemp is no exception to using proper crop rotation methods, such as:
Year 1: Hemp (planted for harvest)
Year 2: Common Buckwheat (planted for soil phosphorus regeneration)
Year 3: Hemp (planted for harvest)
Year 4: Alfalfa (Planted for soil nitrogen regeneration)
Following this cycle of crop rotation will make for better, healthier, dynamic soil. By design, it also leads to a better, healthier, dynamic hemp product for generations to come.
If the soil is healthy and vibrant, anything it grows will also be healthy and vibrant. My favorite cover crop is Common Buckwheat. It’s inexpensive, covers a lot of ground, smothers out common weeds, works well in poor soils, and is better than other cover crops at retrieving phosphorous. Additionally, buckwheat helps later crops with fruiting, flowering, and root growth.
If you don’t the time to plant a cover crop this season then simple supplementation from your local agriculture supply store can be a quick and effective way to ensure you have organic mineral content in time for the current season.
Planting Hemp seeds from April-June is advised, although conditions are more important than the calendar date. A soil temperature above 50°F, in Full-Sun (6-8 hours of sunlight a day), and well drained soil is ideal. Upon planting, follow with a deep watering to promote germination. You should be able to see seed-sprouts emerge anywhere between 5-10 days although some seeds can take as long as two weeks.
Hemp seeds should be deeply water once a week, early in the morning, or at dusk to prevent evaporation. Watering is most important between the first 6 weeks, after this, hemp becomes mostly drought tolerant.
If you starting seeds inside, it is recommended to do so around May 1st. This allows 3 weeks of growth before transplanting outside. Seedlings should be lightly watered each day and stored in a warm (above 70°F) room with 6-8 hours of direct to indirect sunlight. When the stems near the base begin to become “woody” and more stable, the seeds are ready to make the move outdoors.
In some hemp fields, seed spacing is commonly 4’x6’, due to how big the plant will be at full maturity. This additional space also gives room to harvest material from the plant. Similar to an orange grove or apple orchard, all hemp plants have their own space. This is more convenient for the farmer, due to the creation of rows to walk, room between plants for inspection, and easier movement at harvest time. This is not necessary, but keeps the field orderly and manageable.
However, hemp can be planted very densley with no issues as well. Not only will this help keep weeds at bay, but it will provide more harvest potential. Another benefit is that the hemp crops do not need to be inspected as frequently due to the sheer quantity.
Either method of planting your hemp crops is acceptable.
Growing Hemp: Frequently Asked Questions About Planting Hemp Seeds
What is the ideal soil temperature for planting hemp seeds?
Hemp seeds should be planted in soil as close to 50°F as possible.
What level of sun is needed for hemp seeds?
Hemp should be planted in full sun.
When is the best time of year to plan hemp seeds?
Ideally, you should plan to plant your seeds from April-June.
How many days does it take for hemp seeds to emerge?
On average, it takes about 5-10 days for hemp seeds to begin to emerge from the soil.
What is the proper seed depth for hemp?
Hemp seeds should be planted ¼” to ½” deep into the soil.
What is the proper row spacing for hemp plants?
Hemp should have at least 4” between each seed when planting.
When do hemp plants reach maturity?
On average, hemp reaches maturity between 8-16 weeks (based on species).
When should you sow hemp seeds?
2 to 4 weeks after your average last freeze when soil temp is above 46F, or anytime up to 4 weeks
How to Harvest Hemp
Hemp can be harvested for fiber or seeds.
As soon as seeds develop (after 4-8 weeks) fiber can be harvested. The longer you wait to harvest the stalk for fiber, the more durable the fiber will be. You can begin harvesting hemp fiber as early as seeds are visible.
To harvest hemp fiber
- Cut stalks 2-3 cm from the soil using shears or a scythe
- Lay the stalks on the ground to dry, also called “retting.” This process allows moisture and microbes to break down the stalk so that fiber is easier to remove. “Retting” can also be done by submerging the stalks in water for up to 7-10 days. Retting will not occur under 41°F or above 104°F. This process can take up to 5 weeks.
- Allow to dry completely before storing
- Once dried hemp can be bound in stacks, bales, or bundles for storage
- Hold cutting over a tarp or collection bin in a well ventilated area
- Thrash the clipping with a stick, club, or bat to kock all the seeds off onto the tarp/bin
- After harvesting each plant as a whole you will pour the seeds into a 5 gallon bucket
For seed harvest, wait 12-16 weeks until you see seeds forming at the top of the crop. Some seeds lower on the plant may be harder, where as some closer to the top may be soft and green. This is normal and means your plant is not quite ready for seed harvest. For maximum harvest wait until the majority of the seeds are hard.
How to Get seeds from your hemp crop:
- Cleanly cut just below the lowest seed pod off the stalk with shears/snips or scythe.
- Hold cutting over a tarp or collection bin in a well ventilated area.
- Thrash the clipping with a stick, club, or bat to kock all the seeds off onto the tarp/bin.
- After harvesting each plant as a whole you will pour the seeds into a 5 gallon bucket.
- Hold a bucket one foot above another bucket and pour the seeds back and forth. When the seeds are poured from one bucket into the next, the wind (or a fan) moving between will blow away all the residue and debris. Repeat this step 5-10 times until all debris and residue has been removed. This process is called “winnowing.”
- You can now pour seeds into a refrigerator safe bin with a lid and store between 32-40°F.
Once the seeds are harvested, you can harvest the fiber from the fully matured stalk as well. Fully utilizing the crop to its maximum potential by repeating the steps for “fiber harvesting”, listed above.
GROWING HIGH CBD STRAINS
GROWING HIGH CBD STRAINS
Growing CBD rich hemp can be a very rewarding change from the usual field crops. Not only is industrial hemp more profitable, it also rejuvenates the soil by naturally removing toxins and breaking up the soil with its large tap roots. High CBD hemp can be planted a multitude of ways. You can choose to start your crop with seeds, feminized seeds, female clones, or seedlings, both regular and feminized.
First and foremost, it is imperative that when growing industrial hemp, whether for high CBD extraction or for seed and fiber, that your state has a hemp program, usually run through universities, and that licenses are available to grow or you work with licensed growers to avoid any conflicts.
Hemp grows great from sunny California, to the high-altitude front range of Colorado, to the dry climates in Texas, the cold plains of Canada, and all over the country. Hemp is extremely adaptable to different weather conditions, although it can still be vulnerable to temperature extremes. Extreme heat can slow the growth of the plant and temperatures below freezing can kill the plants. Depending on the climate in your area, it is important that the strain of hemp, whether a fiber plant or a CBD rich hemp strain is chosen to provide optimal growth for the conditions. Many farmers chose to grow high CBD hemp strains in a greenhouse or hoop house environment which allows for a much longer growing season in colder climates. Starting seeds or clones year-round in greenhouses sets the farmer up to start the spring crop ahead of game with larger healthier, and more importantly FEMALE plants.
Cannabis is a dioecious plant. This means that its flowers are either male or female and usually not both (more on the alternative monecious characteristics in upcoming blogs). CBD is primarily stored in trichomes which are abundant in unpollinated female cannabis flowers. Alternatively, males produce no flower and females that have been fertilized by pollen will produce 50% or less of the normal cannabinoid value achieved in a female flower-only plant. This is because the fertilized female plant will put all of its energy into seed production, consuming the plants energy needed for flower production and CBD production. If you plant seeds instead of planting female clones, then approximately half of your crop will likely produce males; the average male to female ratio in seed. Since male plants do not produce flower, those male plants will contain insufficient cannabinoid value to extract. The additional pollination of the female plants from male pollen would further reduce the cannabinoid yield and likely ruin your chances for a successful, high CBD harvest.
With any CBD rich hemp plant harvest comes the risk of THC production in your crop. The legal limit is 0.3% THC for hemp. Any higher and the regulatory authorities over most any United States Agricultural / Industrial Hemp program will consider it marijuana. Your Hemp regulatory authority will require samples of your crop for testing. If the test result is over 0.3% THC by weight, then that sample has failed (also referred to as “hot”) and the farmer is legally required to destroy the crop.
Ideal Soil Type and Location
After considering climate, the next thing to look at is soil type. Hemp will grow in rocky soil in the western mountains to the rich soils of the Piedmont and Blacklands of eastern North Carolina. Optimal soil conditions for CBD rich hemp plants are well drained, nutrient rich soils with a pH on the acidic side between 6 and 6.8. Check the soil you are going to plant in and have it analyzed if needed to see what may need to be done to amend the soil for optimal conditions. The addition of a few simple products can make all the difference for a successful crop.
Here is a list of important factors to consider when growing high CBD industrial hemp:
Sunlight: More sunlight equals bigger plants and larger yields.
Wind: Airflow from a gentle breeze will strengthen the plants, help it develop healthy rhizosphere (root system), sturdy stems, and keep any molds and mildews from developing. Heavy winds however can damage your crop.
Security: Growing industrial hemp in areas with ease of general access by the public can be problematic due to people thinking this crop may be something that it’s not, and people helping themselves to it. Smaller isolated fields, secure fields, and fields that aren’t right up against main thoroughfares are ideal.
Industrial hemp grows just about anywhere in just about any condition. When growing industrial hemp for high CBD production, it is important that the plant be given the nutrition it needs to maximize yields and high percentages of CBD. During early vegetative growth CBD rich hemp likes a nitrogen rich fertilizer. During the flowering stage, it performs best with a higher percentage of potassium and phosphorous. On a large grow of hundreds if not thousands of acres, industrial fertilizers are used for fiber and seed production. When growing on 4 acres to 40 acre plots, more care can be taken to give the plants the nutrients they need. Some soil amendments that can go into the soil prior to planting or transplanting are:
2. Kelp meal
3. Blood meal
4. Fish meal
5. Worm castings
These can all be mixed into the soil to provide the plant what it needs throughout the season. Another option is to make a compost tea utilizing some of these ingredients. This can be watered into the soil by hand or by drip irrigation as a fertilizer, or as a foliar spray that acts as a natural barrier to molds and mildews, as well as a deterrent to pests. Bacterial teas are best for foliar application whereas fungal teas are best for soil drench. Foliar application of compost teas can be done with watering hoses, industrial sprayers, or even aerial application.
Obviously, your plants need water, and the benefit of growing outdoors is that your CBD rich hemp plants should be exposed to rainwater. However, in places like California, the hot summer months mean minimal rainfall, so you have to water your plants manually or through irrigation. The main danger is overwatering your cannabis. A good starting point is to assume that a large plant needs 10 gallons of water a day during hot weather.
Those who live in wetter than average climates need to improve drainage. Hemp that grows in waterlogged conditions is susceptible to root diseases.
Here are three ways to boost drainage:
1. Plant your hemp in beds or raised mounds.
2. Dig ditches to ensure that the water flows away from your plants.
3. Add clay pebbles, perlite, and gravel to the soil.
If you use tap water, test it first as it could have a significant number of dissolved minerals which build up in the soil and impact the pH level. Alternatively, tap water could contain an excessive amount of chlorine which is very bad for the soil. As a result, we recommend filtering the water you use where possible, especially when stating plants in a greenhouse.
Protecting Your Hemp Plant from Pets & Pests
Don’t make the mistake of focusing solely on bothersome insects; larger animals such as rodents, dogs, cats, rabbits, deer, and raccoons can trample or attempt to eat your crop. While insects damage your plants over a few days or weeks, larger animals can destroy them in a matter of minutes. It should go without saying that you must examine your industrial hemp plants regularly.
You should be able to deal with substantial animal threats by surrounding your plants with a high and sturdy wire fence. It is also possible to use household items such as garlic and castor oil or even urine from predators such as bears or coyotes to ward off rabbits, gophers, and raccoons.
Keeping your hemp fields safe from pests is a full-time job, unfortunately. First of all, it is imperative that you keep your plants healthy because blooming plants have a natural resistance to specific pests. You can add ladybugs and lacewings, as these predators keep harmful pests at bay while doing no damage themselves.
Pyrethrum is one of the most popular organic insecticide options, and there are homemade remedies such as combining soap with water and misting your plants with it. Garlic is a useful tool for fighting beetles. Check your plants daily for signs of infestation and act immediately if you see any issues. The aforementioned soap and water solution is effective against mild outbreak. There is also a myriad of organic products such as neem oil, stylet oil, and combination products such as geranium and garlic oils. Some of these products are great for pests such as mites and aphids as well as certain molds and mildews like powdery or downy mildew. Your climate will generally dictate the types of molds and mildews in your area. Dry regions have more powdery mildew issues whereas damp, humid regions will have issues such as botrytis (bud rot). Keeping on top of these using preventative measures above is the best way to avoid these problems.
Another method of fighting pests is through the addition of companion plants. These are plants of a different species to industrial hemp that you plant near your crop. Companion plants are specially chosen for their ability to repel pests. They include Clover, Rosemary, Basil, and Marigold.
One thing that these things cannot protect you from is blow over of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. The reason we recommend smaller secluded fields is the problem that has arisen from Glyphosate ready crops such as soy, corn, cotton, and others. Any overspray or blow over of this toxic chemical can completely destroy your hemp crop. Hemp is not resistant to this chemical and all caution should be taken. Developing a dialogue with neighboring farmers is imperative if they are using this pesticide.
Protecting Your Crop from Rain & Wind
High winds are a major problem for hemp growers as they break branches, damage trichomes and leave your plants vulnerable to disease and infestation. Any type of excess strain like this can over-stress the plants, causing the plants to become hermaphrodites, and the buds can self-pollinate to produce seeds. You do not want this to happen.
Planting in smaller plots of several acres surrounded by trees is the perfect remedy for high wind areas. Also planting in hoop houses in areas where secluded plots aren’t a possibility.
Although rainwater helps your plants grow, too much of it results in mold and mildew. The problem is at its worst during the flowering stage. If you live in a wet climate, chose a mold-resistant industrial hemp strain and support it with stakes or cages. Otherwise, rain will collect on buds and leaves, and your plants will be weighed down. Look for certified high CBD feminized seeds in your state for the strains best suited for your region.
Cannabis Seeds vs. Clones – Choosing What’s Best for Your Farm
The best genes equal the best plants and the highest ratio of CBD per lb. When you select high CBD hemp seeds or CBD rich hemp clones with good genetics, you are rewarded with a bud that smells and tastes gorgeous and is also extremely high in CBD and terpenes. Indoor growers tend to grow their hemp from clones, while outdoor growers prefer to grow from seed. You can get quality flower using either method, and they both have their advantages and drawbacks.
If you elect to clone, you need a mother plant which requires at least 16 hours of light a day to ensure it doesn’t flower. It is also possible to buy clones from hemp farmers in your area that are purveyors of seeds and/or clones. All clones are female plants that have the same traits and they are known for producing premium quality CBD rich hemp flower. You must root the clones indoors before they are ‘hardened off’ (the process of moving a plant outdoors for a few hours a day to gradually introduce them to air, cold nights, and sunlight.)
One important downside to using clones is that they produce small yields. If you want a more abundant harvest, you have to grow the clones indoors during the winter and early spring. Also, cloned hemp plants never develop the thick central root that goes into the ground, stabilizes the plant, and consumes groundwater (also known as the tap root). As a result, they are vulnerable to drought and windy conditions.
Plants grown from seed offer larger yields and are tougher in the face of inclement weather conditions. You can plant these seeds in the garden in the spring, even if it is still cold and wet outside. The tap root produced by plants grown from seed give them an important survival advantage. Not only is it a strong anchor for the plant, but it is able to reach water and nutrients deep below the surface. This is especially important during very hot and dry conditions. Another option is to begin the growing process indoors, but the high CBD hemp seedlings must be hardened off eventually before they are transplanted.
The chief downside to growing from seed is that the outcome is less predictable than it is with clones. If you don’t choose an inbred seed line, you could end up with a different plant to what you might have been expecting. Also, cannabis seeds produce males and females, which means you have to sex your plants when they achieve sexual maturity, a process that involves culling the male plants. You can avoid this issue by purchasing feminized seeds from a reputable source.
One other option for outdoor growing is auto-flowering seeds. As soon as they reach maturity, these plants begin to bloom irrespective of the length of the days. If you live in a temperate climate, you will benefit from two crops every year by using auto-flowering seeds. Simply plant one crop in late winter (or even early spring), and another at the beginning of summer. Auto flowering plants cannot be cloned.
Depending on the strain and climate conditions, most high CBD hemp strains are ready for harvest between the end of September up to the end of October. Monitor pistil and trichome formation to gain a better idea of when your plants are ready for harvesting. Always have your strains tested throughout the crop for CBD and THC content to ensure you don’t go over the allowable 0.3% THC level for hemp.
You must be careful not to wait too long to harvest, because hemp plants suffer a decline in health once they have completed the flowering phase. If the pistils are turning red, harvest immediately! Other signs that it is time to harvest include brown resin on the buds, a broader stem, and if the leaves of the plant begin to turn yellow and die back.
Should you have any questions about starting your own high CBD hemp crop, do not hesitate to reach out to us. It is our goal to assist farmers and answer questions for our customers. Our continued success relies on the success of the farmer.