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Arrons's Home Grow Guide
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LotusWorks Wellness Growers Guide: A (Slightly Satirical) Cannabis Cultivation Crash Course By Aaron Sanders Legacy/Legal Cannabis Cultivator (Humboldt Co., CA). Now living and growing in New York’s Hudson Valley and Co-Founder of LotusWorks Wellness (Beacon, NY).

 

Intro Cannabis is an amazing annual; a flowering plant that has been cultivated by humanity for thousands of years for its beneficial properties. It is part of the Cannabacae family of plants which includes not only our globally beloved Cannabis Sativa (sometimes broken into three subspecies; Cannabis Sativa L., Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis), but also includes our equally, possibly even more loved plant friend Humulus Lupulus (aka Hops..ya know, like in beer?). By growing a cannabis plant you have a chance to share in that universal human joy of helping something wonderful grow!

 

This guide is to break down the basics on how to help your plant grow up happy and healthy, and hopefully produce some beautiful and bountiful flowers! LotusWorks Wellness welcomes you to the world of cannabis cultivation..let’s get growing! If you got your plant from us here at LotusWorks (thanks and congrats!), then 100% your plant is in fact a “female” (aka gynoecious), as all our plants are (“Those Lovely Ladies of LotusWorks” is an immensely popular off-off-off Broadway show). Cannabis plants are dioecious, meaning that the stamens (male parts), and the carpels (female parts) grow on separate plants. The opposite is true for monoecious plants, but there is also every possible variation of these categories within plant life (how weird they are, right?). In the case of cannabis, this means “male” (androecious) plants don't produce the fragrant flowers we all know and love (not that we don't still love the male plants too, you just don’t want them around lady plants unless you want lots and lots and lots of seeds in your flowers; which sometimes you do!). So, if you got your plant from someone else (we’re not mad, but why..), or if you are growing your plant from a seed, that's all good; this growers guide will help see you through!

 

This guide is broken up into six parts that cover each aspect of cannabis plant care, but in working with these plants, you may find some interesting parallels to life in general. All that being said, while cannabis plants are definitely very special plants, they need the same things that all plants (and animals, including humans) do..They are (in no particular order):

#1-Light,

#2-Water,

#3-Air,

#4-Nutrients,

#5-Shelter, and

#6-Love (don’t laugh, it's true!).

 

1) Light whether from the sun or a lamp, or both, light is critical to keeping your plant happy, but just like us, we need a balance between light and darkness (Plants need to rest, and not be bothered, so respect their privacy!). During light hours your plant is breathing air, drinking water and using light to make and store sugar (aka photosynthesis), and during the dark hours is when they eat their stored sugar and other nutrients to get ready for another big day. Cannabis has two growth stages; Vegetative and Flowering. First during vegetative stage, the plant is getting big and strong, and then during the flowering stage the plant is putting all its energy towards making (you guessed it) flowers. The way that the plants know how to switch from vegetative to flowering, is based on how long the plants are exposed to light, and how much total darkness they get. This ratio of darkness to light is often called the “light cycle” (it’s like the plant equivalent of a “sleep cycle” in humans, minus the grumpiness) and if you want the plant to grow good flowers, you absolutely want its light cycles to be consistent in each stage, regardless of the actual time of day (the plants won’t get grumpy, just “stressed”). That being said, the plant's light cycles don't necessarily have to line up with the normal hours of day and night, but it is helpful if you can match the sun because you don’t have to do as much to maintain a consistent cycle. In a normal outdoor setting, during the spring and summer when the days are longer, the plants are getting more light and naturally stay in vegetative mode. As we go into the shorter days and longer nights of fall, the plant “flips” into flowering mode. If you are growing your plant outside in the ground, and if you plant in the spring or early summer, then there is not much to worry about as far as light goes, since the sun kindly handles the light cycles for you (during what are colloquially known as “Day” and “Night”). However, keep an eye on the weather, and consider supplementing your plant with strong artificial light during its light periods if you have a stretch of cloudy weather (aka “Fake Days”) in the forecast. However, if you are growing your plant in a pot, you need to be the one to make sure they get adequate amounts of light and darkness when they need it (no pressure, but don’t mess this up okay?). So whether they have a spot on a sunny windowsill, or a dedicated desk lamp over them, when it is time for the dark period of their cycle, they need to be in a completely dark place (think closet, cupboard, blanket fort, etc). During vegetative phase cannabis plants need lots of light! Depending on planting time and light cycles, you can choose to have the vegetative stage last anywhere from 4 weeks to as long as 12 weeks. A longer vegetative period tends to mean bigger plants, but bigger plants also need lots of room in all directions (upwards, downwards and outwards) to grow to their full potential or they can get stressed (imagine still sleeping in your crib or race-car bed as an adult..not as fun as it sounds). Vegetative plants need at least 16 hours of light, and no more than 8 hours of total darkness or they will slip into flowering phase prematurely. You of course want them to grow, but you don’t want your sweet baby growing up too fast! During Flowering stage, which you can choose to last anywhere from 6 weeks to as long as 16 weeks (longer flowering tends to mean bigger buds and/or larger yields), flowering cannabis plants usually do best with equal or nearly equal amounts of light and dark, 12-13 hours of light, 11-12 hours of darkness. During the flowering stage it's super important to make sure that they get their beauty rest, and are in TOTAL darkness, as even a tiny sliver of light will interfere with the cycle, and they could flip back into vegetative mode (you don’t want them reverting to being babies, or they will likely be an underdeveloped adult..know anyone like that?) As your plant begins to produce flowers you will start to see little white hairs (aka pistils) growing out of the buds (aka calyx), which normally would be how the plants catch drifting pollen from male plants (that is part of the reason why the flowers tend to be sticky so they can collect pollen, because cannabis is really good at sexytime, and it wants very much to reproduce so there can be even more cannabis in the world!). Those pistils are your key indicator of when the plant is ready for harvest. Different growers have many, many, thoughts on this (there are hundreds of online forums dedicated to this stuff, so you don't have to treat this as the final word), but generally speaking when the pistil hairs start to turn orangish or reddish (sometimes pinkish), then the plant is almost ready for harvest! When 50% or more of the pistils have changed color its go time! You can let it go longer if you like, but as the plant continues to mature the THC content of the flowers will go down, since THC is affected by light and oxygen. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the THC just breaks down into the more stoney CBN, which is another type of cannabinoid (kinda like CBD) out of the dozens of cannabinoids present in the flowering plant (THC is just the most widely known). When you harvest, very gently clip off the buds with a pair of clean scissors, and let the flowers dry in a cool dark place. If you have grown attached to your plant (which hopefully you have by then), then you can actually get multiple harvests from them by switching the light cycle back to vegetative mode after harvest, and then repeating the whole process. With all this stuff, of course there is a ton more info about every aspect of cultivation and harvest to be found online (if and when you feel like getting into the deep end of the pool), but this crash course is a good place to start. *Special notes on Light: If you happen to be growing your plant outside, and you live in an area with street lights or nearby yard lights, this type of light pollution can affect the plants’ growth in the vegetative stage, but especially in the flowering stage. You may want to look into buying or building some type of covered structure (see section 5- Shelter) to place around and over the plant during its dark periods to prevent the dreaded “light leaks” that can keep the plant from fully flowering (or maybe consider moving?). If you are putting your plant under a lamp, remember the brighter the better, because better light means better flowers! You want to make sure the lamp is close, but unless it is a low-heat LED, not too close..You don't want the baby to get burned! A good rule of thumb (or hand really) is to place the lamp, then hold your hand just above the top of the plant for 30 seconds. If it gets too hot for you, it's definitely too hot for your baby! As the plant grows, it will want to grow towards the light (aka phototropism), so you have to make sure to keep adjusting the light accordingly.

 

2) Water Water is Life! But just like anything else, too much of a good thing can backfire. Overwatering can spell death for plants, and underwatering can be almost as bad. That is actually a good baseline to keep in mind as you care for your plant. Cannabis plants can handle underwatering much better than they can handle overwatering, and overwatering can cause a lot more problems (although both make the plant stressed out and sad, which then often makes their plant-parents stressed out and sad too, so best to avoid altogether). None of us wants to be that overbearing helicopter plant-parent, but early on they really need frequent monitoring (also you really don't want to run afoul of Plant Protective Services for plant negligence). *Quick note on seeds: If you are sprouting (aka germinating) your plant from seed, try to sprout at least three (3) seeds if possible, because sadly not all sprouts will always make it (I know it's getting existential, but stay with me). You can germinate the seeds on their own under a damp paper towel before planting them in the growing medium (the stuff that the plants grow out of; organic soil, sphagnum peat, used kitty litter, etc). This method can often give better odds of successful sprouting, but can stress the sprouts during planting which can stunt their growth. Or, you can plant the seeds directly into the grow medium, which often means decreased sprouting odds but less stress and often stronger growth in sprouts. No matter which way you want to do it, you want to be hyper-vigilant about making sure things stay warm and moist, but not too hot and wet (calm down everybody). Generally, you don't need to water your plant more than 2 or 3 times a week during most of the vegetative stage. When you do water, it should not need much, but when they are still babies you want to monitor their leaves and growing medium closely and often. If you notice the leaves starting to droop, or if the growing medium gets crumbly or dry to the touch below the top inch; give that baby some water to drink! If the top inch of the medium is wet to the touch, or if the leaves are starting to curl or turn yellow; turn off the tap cuz that baby is drowning! During flowering, you want to water more frequently and generally in larger volumes, cuz during flowering that plant is gonna be thirsty (and the thirst must be quenched)! Same rules apply, dry medium or droopy leaves means they need water! Wet medium, or curling/yellow leaves means they are drowning (so knock it off)! Correct watering is really all about maintaining the right balance between air and water. The plant and its roots need oxygen to grow, just as much they need water, and too much or not enough of either means your precious plant-baby can't reach their full potential. Which leads us to the next topic..

 

3) Air Just like all these elements, Air is so important! Like the rest of us, plants spend the majority of their time breathing. Plant air holes are called stoma, and just like your mouth and nose holes, they control the exchange of gas (think breathing but also burps). Part of the reason why plants are so amazing is because they breathe in carbon dioxide (as opposed to every animal including us which suck up oxygen and exhale CO2), and plants actively use the respiratory by-product of animals to help themselves grow (it’s like they are trying to be in sync with us or something, weird!). It is important that cannabis plants have plenty of CO2 because the amount of available CO2 plays a big factor in determining how big they get. That's why it is important to talk and/or sing to your plant (they don't have ears so it doesn't matter if you are off-key); not just because they like to hang out with you and want to feel included in your life, but also because they are literally feeding off your exhaust. Cannabis plants have been around longer than we have, and they have adapted themselves to be as successful as they can be, even if it means using us to their own ends (not in a mean way, just that they know what we like and want to be loved). Cannabis has effectively tricked humanity into making it one of the most prolific plant species on the planet! Cannabis is special to humanity, not just because we have specialized cannabinoid receptors in our brains (although the existence of these receptors means we have been supplementing our diets with cannabis for a very, very long, long time) but because the plant itself has adapted itself to be the best friend that it can be. All that being said, plants need air (O2 plus NO2 and a few other things), but also carbon dioxide (CO2). They need continual air circulation where they are growing, or they can develop significant problems (nobody likes sitting in a stuffy room). This respiratory exchange is most important when it comes to the plant root system. The roots are the nutritional highways for the plant, and are part of how the plants uptake air, water, and nutrients to help the plant grow. In that, it is critical that the roots get enough oxygen, because if they don't, there is a cascade effect of problems that can occur. The easiest way to dodge these problems is by abiding by the tenants of Section 2; i.e. don't overwater your plant!

 

4) Nutrients Alright so this one is hard, and it's where many growers have many different thoughts, feelings, emotions, urges, revelations etc. As a simple way to cut through the fruff (that's a word that may not exist, but now it does), just think of “nutes” in this way: NPK (aka Nitrogen/Phosphorus/Potassium). Those are the basic essential nutrients that your plant craves, but your plant-child will like different proportions of these nutes based on how old they are (babies like baby-food, grown-ups like grown-up food). Most store-bought soil mixes will have some kind of ratio specified on them, following the breakdown of- Nitrogen: Phosphorus: Potassium. Early on, when they are post-sprout seedlings they love a 3:1:1 mix of nutes; so heavy on the nitrogen because that helps them grow during vegetative stage. Later on you want to start adjusting their nute intake to support their flowering. So when they are obnoxious self-absorbed teens, you want to shift to a 1:3:2 ratio, and when they are in full flower big girl mode they should be fed a 0:3:3 mix. This part of growing is both a science and an art, but if you abide by these basic principles, you should be able to make it through okay. Growing MJ is a craft, and so you will have to figure out what works best for you and your particular growing conditions, but just keep at it and take extensive notes! *Special Note on Nutes- If you add mycorrhizal (aka special root fungus) elements to the soil during planting, the plants will often develop more healthy and robust root systems (because mushrooms are amazing! Stay tuned for LotusWorks 'shroom offerings, it's on our horizon).

 

5) Shelter So this seems like a weird one, but what we mean by “Shelter” is actually “Protection.” Everything needs a certain amount of protection from the elements, and as sturdy as cannabis plants can be, they are also very delicate! They can be prone to damage from high wind, heavy rain, and hot sun, so you want to do as much as you can to make sure they are safe and sound! The most important thing, whether you are growing indoors or outdoors, is light deprivation (aka “Light Dep”). In order to get any kind of usable flower from your plants, you have to make sure they get adequate full darkness! Often this requires some kind of structure or enclosure that can allow for a fully light-proof cover over your sweet baby-boo. Refer to section 1). All that being said, beyond the light dep., don't feel like you have to go all out to protect your plant from the elements; ultimately THE STRONG WILL SURVIVE (but also don't throw the kids in the deep end).

 

6) Love (don't worry we wont get too mushy) Would hope that this is a given, but it made it on the list so here we are. Granted this might be a tough one for some, or maybe some are just unfamiliar with the concept (if so, I am truly sorry, but please don’t give up on it yet!), but most will get the gist of it. Really it's all about the Care, Attention, Respect, and Time that you give to your plants or animals, including humans (you can call it C.A.R.T. if that helps, but LOVE has a much better ring to it). Try to keep showing Love even when it seems hard to, because in reality, nothing good or beautiful happens without it. Thanks for reading and good luck with your grow!! Shine on you crazy diamond. Much love, Aaron P.S. Come visit us soon at LotusWorks Wellness! 261 Main st. Beacon, NY. (cool people, cool art, cool music, and other cool stuff!) Cool.

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