Stages of Growing Cannabis
Cannabis, weed, marijuana, kush, ganja – whatever you want to call it, it’s now legal to own and grow in the state of Virginia. So what does this mean for those interested in growing it?
Growing Cannabis for the first time can be quite overwhelming. A quick Google search will lead you to hundreds of results with more information than you can ever sift through. There’s so much to learn – lighting, pH, soils, training methods, curing, and so much more. Where does one start?
It’s really easy to fall down the rabbit hole of information online. The sheer amount of information can almost hinder you when you’re first getting started. I think it’s easiest to just get started and learn as you go.
Starting with gaining a general understanding of the stages of growing Cannabis is a great place to begin before you try growing for the first time. It will help you have a decent idea of what to expect along the way.
How long does Cannabis take to grow?
How long Cannabis takes to grow can vary based on the variety of the plant and conditions it is grown in. On average, from seed to harvest, it takes anywhere from 10-32 weeks (about 3-8 months). It’s a quicker process if you start with a clone (rooted cutting) or an autoflower seed. The biggest variability in how long a marijuana plant takes to grow will happen in the vegetative stage—after the seedling phase and before flowering.
Stages of Growing Cannabis
Every plant begins with a seed. Cannabis seeds should be germinated just like any other seed. They can take anywhere between 3-10 days to germinate, although it can happen in as few as 24 hours or as long as 2 weeks. To germinate, you can place the seeds in a damp paper towel, which you should then place in a dark place, such as inside a drawer. Check on them after a few days to see if the primary root, called the radicle, has emerged. This will look like a little white “tail” coming out of the seed. Once germinated, move them to damp soil.
Alternatively, you can place the seeds directly in damp soil to germinate and grow, without having the trouble of moving them. For this method, I would recommend a seed starting mix. These are usually lighter and fluffier than traditional potting soil, which gives your fragile germinating seeds a start on the right foot. We carry Coast of Maine Sprout Island Blend Organic Seed Starter Mix. It has additional perlite that aerates the soil and helps prevent damping off. It also has mycorrhizae, worm castings, lobster meal, hen manure, and kelp to get your plants off to a healthy start.
2. Seedling Stage
Once your seed has germinated, it’s now time to move the germinated seed from its paper towel to a growing medium. If you started them in a seed starting mix, you will want to move them from the seed tray to a larger pot with a high-quality potting mix, such as the Coast of Maine Stonington Blend Grower’s Mix. This is a super soil, that works especially well for growing Cannabis. It contains mycorrhizae, kelp, alfalfa meal, fish bone meal, worm castings, perlite, manure, peat, coir, and lobster compost that feed your plant throughout the growing cycle, with no need to use additional nutrients.
Plants are considered seedlings for about 2-3 weeks after germination. During this time, the plant should be moved to a spot with direct sun, if growing outdoors. If growing indoors, set your grow lights to run for 16 hours a day.
3. Vegetative Stage
After the seedling stage, Cannabis plants move to a vegetative stage. This is the time when the plant focuses on leaf production. It will not produce flowers at all during this stage, as the plant needs to grow plenty of leaves to take up enough photons (sunlight) to create the necessary energy to produce large flowers. The vegetative stage can last anywhere from 3 to 16 weeks, depending on the variety.
During this stage, indoor plants need 16-18 hours of light per day, and outdoor plants need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight (“full sun”), plus several hours of indirect sunlight. They will also need plenty of Nitrogen during this point, as Nitrogen is the nutrient that promotes healthy leaf growth.
The flowering stage is the last stage of the Cannabis plant life cycle. This is the time when your plant will stop putting as much energy into leaf growth and will instead focus that energy on creating the flowers (buds), which are used for medicinal and recreational purposes.
Stages of Flowering – Source: Katie Plummer
Cannabis is triggered to flower when the hours of light it receives are reduced. If you’re growing outdoors, you’re at the whim of the seasons and will have to wait until the sun starts to go down in fall for it to flower and then harvest. If you’re growing indoors, you get to play mother nature and can force your plant to flower at any point. When you’re ready for plants to start the flowering stage, change your lights to a 12/12 cycle ( 12 hours with the light on and 12 hours with it off ). You will see signs of flowering in 1-3 weeks . On average plants will be ready to harvest after 8-11 weeks of flowering.
Your plant will be ready to be harvested once flowers are compact and the pistils turn orange/brown. These pistils look like “hairs” coming out of the flowers.
To dry your Cannabis, hang sections of the plant upside down in a dark, cool space, such as a closet. You want to aim for 55-65% humidity and 60-70°F in the spot that you’re drying your plants in. Prolonged periods of light, friction from handling, and humidity/dampness can degrade resin glands, so you will want to avoid all of these.
During the drying process, plants lose roughly 75% of water weight, which increases the cannabinoid to weight ratio. It also helps equalize moisture content, preserve cannabinoids, and shed chlorophyll.
Cannabis is ready to trim once the stem snaps when bent, typically after 3-7 days of drying.
After your plant has dried, it’s time to trim! Trimming makes your fingers very sticky, so wear gloves if this is something you want to avoid. Simply trim off the larger leaves and stems. You can leave smaller sugar leaves if you’d like, as these still contain a good amount of cannabinoids and terpenes that provide the medicinal properties of Cannabis. It’s all personal preference of exactly how much you trim off. And you can save all the trimmings to make edibles, tinctures, salves, and more.
Curing is an essential part and the last stage in growing Cannabis. It helps the buds achieve full aroma. Curing is as simple as placing your freshly trimmed buds in a glass jar with a lid, like a mason jar. You’ll then want to place the jar in a cool, dark place, such as inside a drawer or in a cabinet.
During the first week of curing, you will want to “burp” your jars. This means you should open the containers once or twice a day for a couple minutes to allows moisture to escape and replenish the oxygen inside the container. After the first week, you only need to burp containers once every few days.
You should allow buds to cure for at least 2 weeks, but some people choose to cure for as long as 6 months. This helps stop the loss of moisture and to preserve flavors and aromas.
Jorge’s Cannabis Encyclopedia: Seed Germination
Cannabis seeds need only water, heat, and air to break dormancy and germinate; they do not need extra hormones, fertilizers, or additives. Seeds sprout without light in a range of temperatures. Strong, viable, properly nurtured seeds germinate in 2 to 7 days. At germination, the outside protective shell of the seed splits, and a tiny, white sprout (radicle) pops out. This sprout is the root, or taproot. Cotyledon, or seed, leaves emerge on a stem from within the shell as they push upward in search of light.
Break dormancy: Put newly harvested seeds in the refrigerator for a week or two to simulate winter. Remove and germinate. Seeds will germinate more uniformly because they all come out of dormancy at the same time.
Timeline for Germinating Most Seeds:
At 36 to 96 hours – Water is absorbed, root tip (radicle) pops through outer shell and is visible.
At 10 to 14 days – First roots and root hairs become visible.
At 21 to 30 days – At least half of seeds are rooted by day 21. Seeds not rooted by day 30 will probably grow slowly.
Once seeds are rooted, cell growth accelerates; stem, foliage, and roots develop quickly. Seedlings develop into full vegetative growth within 4 to 6 weeks of germination.
Seeds are Prompted to Germinate By:
Water: Soaking seeds in water allows moisture to penetrate the protective seed shell within minutes. Once inside, moisture continues to wick in to activate the dominant hormones. In a few days, hormones activate and send enough signals to pro- duce an initial root tip. The white radicle (rootlet) emerges to bring a new plant into the world. Once a seed is moist, it must receive a constant flow of moisture to transport nutrients, hormones, and water so that it can carry on life processes. Some seeds need lots of moisture to wash out the dormancy hormones in the seed coat, and if they do not get enough moisture, they do not germinate. Conversely, too much water deprives the seed of oxygen, reducing its quality or destroying it. If fragile germinated seeds are allowed to suffer moisture stress now, seedling growth will be stunted. Soaking most seeds in water for 12 to 24 hours is all they need to initiate germination. All the nourishment for a seed’s initial growth requirement is pulled from the fleshy cotyledons, or seed leaves. Water seedlings with low-EC (electrical conductivity) household tap water during the first week or two of life. Supple- mental nutrients are unnecessary and if applied in excess can disrupt internal seed chemistry. Some gardeners prefer to germinate seeds using distilled or purified water that contains virtually no dissolved solids.
Temperature: Overall, cannabis seeds germinate in temperatures from 70°F–90°F (21°C–32°C) and grow best at 78°F (26°C). Temperatures below 70°F (21°C) and above 90°F (32°C) impair germination. Low temperatures delay germination. High temperatures upset seed chemistry causing poor germination. Seeds germinate best under the native conditions and temperature ranges where they were grown.
Air & Oxygen: Sow seeds twice as deep as the width of the seed. For example, 0.125-inch (3 mm) seeds should be planted 0.25 inches (6 mm) deep. Adequate oxygen is un- available for seeds planted too deeply, and tender seedlings have insufficient stored energy to drive through deep layers of soil or crusty hard soil when sprouting.
Agricultural Astrology — Planting by the Moon
Ancient Babylonians and Egyptians planted and harvested based on moon phases in relation to geographic location. The premise is that plants grow better when planted during the appropriate moon phase.
Moon phases cause ocean tides to rise and fall. They also affect the rise and fall of moisture in soil and fluids inside plants. The moon phase influence is said to be the same indoors, outdoors, and in greenhouse-grown cannabis.
Cannabis gardeners who plant by the moon report faster-sprouting seeds that grow into vigorous plants. However, scientific evidence is lacking in regard to cannabis and other plants’ relationship with agricultural astrology.
Seeds need oxygen from the air to germinate. Growing mediums that are too moist (soggy) will cut off oxygen supplies and the seeds will literally drown. Cannabis seeds germinate best when moisture is between 60 and 70 percent.