Is Vertical Growing the Future of Cannabis?

Indoor cannabis grows are expensive operations. Given the real estate costs, massive energy bills, and significant staffing requirements, it’s crucial to find a way to increase profits. Maximizing your grow space is one way to do this and that could mean vertical growing–the practice of producing plants in vertically stacked layers or vertically inclined surfaces.

In the food sector, vertical growing companies like Plenty, Aerofarms, Gotham Greens, and many more, are revolutionizing agriculture. But in the cannabis industry, which practically invented sunless growing, there has been notably less activity.

This is partly because high-pressure sodium lights (HPS), one of the most common lights used to grow cannabis for decades, run so hot that plants have to be many feet away to stay unharmed.

But LEDs run at much lower temperatures, so you can install them inches from the plant canopy. Their decreasing price and increasing ability to equal or exceed HPS yields are making LEDs the standard, finally opening the door to vertical growing for cannabis.

“The main catalyst behind cannabis cultivation going vertical is the improved performance of LED lighting,” says Thomas Rogers, LED engineer of Exact Lux. “Cannabis growers are approaching us wanting the most powerful multi-tier or ‘vertical farm’ lighting systems possible.”

Two Types of Vertical Farming

Stacked vertical (left) and true vertical (right) cannabis grows with LEDs. (Sean Walling/Leafly)

Stacked Vertical

The most common method of vertical farming is a stacked vertical setup–levels of plant racks with LED lights above each rack. Plants are topped and defoliated to keep them short and bud-heavy.

Growers even stack in the flower stage, despite plants being large and top-heavy.

True Vertical

With true vertical growing, plants grow out the side of a column, and water and nutrients drip down from the top–see these examples from ZipGrow and Tower Garden.

Within the column, a hybrid method combines nutrient film technique (NFT), where nutrient water is passed directly over the roots, and aeroponics, a soilless grow method where roots hang in the air.

Pros and Cons of Vertical Growing

So why don’t all cannabis operations grow vertically, especially in this competitive new industry? Here we’ll look at some of the benefits and drawbacks.

Environmental Conditions Get Complex

Maintaining optimum temperature, humidity, and air circulation is tough for all cannabis grows. But in vertical growing there is even more variability in macro and micro environmental conditions because there are more plants, making control more difficult.

Because of this atmospheric variability, Hugh Gaasch, engineer at STEM Cultivation, recommends sensors to detect data points like moisture changes. “Shockingly, the majority of commercial growers I’ve seen to date use a single temperature/humidity sensor to monitor a room, even large spaces, over 20,000 feet.”

In contrast, STEM Cultivation uses one temperature sensor per 100 cubic feet. STEM collects data on: temperature, humidity, air pressure, CO2 levels, lighting levels, lighting power (kW) and energy (kWh), system air circulation rates, localized air circulation, VOC (volatile organic compounds), and HVAC power and energy, to name a few.

Mike Zartarian, from Zartarian Engineering, builds circulation systems for vegetable and cannabis growers. To decrease chances of mold and fungi, he says: “I recommend systems that push air right in between the racks above the plants, usually with small ducts that take air from the edges of the room to the center of the racks.”

Expensive to Set Up and Maintain

Although vertical growing of any kind will increase yield by maximizing space, when you add up the increased energy usage from more artificial lighting, an upgraded climate control system, the extra infrastructure required (ladders, racks, sensors, and more), and paying high-skilled agro-technicians, it is very costly for many.

Zartarian says: “It’s by no means impossible, but the jury is very much out on whether it’s cost effective long-term. If veggie growers prove it to be a dominant technique, I would expect to see more experimentation on the cannabis side.”

As it is, licensed operators he works with are struggling to meet demand and prefer to stick to more traditional techniques they know will produce.

Dangerous Conditions

Vertically grown cannabis needs a lot of hands-on attention during the flowering cycle as compared to, say, vertical lettuce crops which are more set-and-forget. The height of a plant must be closely controlled, which requires grow technicians to get up on step stools or scaffolding to reach into the plant canopy. These high-tier tasks may not be OSHA-compliant.

Certain Cultivars Work Better Than Others

The most successful cultivars for vertical growing are short, have big buds, and fewer leaves, so less defoliation is necessary. But if you’re a confident defoliator, the diversity of cultivars you can grow will broaden.

Arthur Brownsey, cannabis cultivation consultant at Four Trees, thinks most strains can grow vertically. “If you have a tight production schedule, group like-cultivars together, and plan accordingly, there are no restrictions to what you can grow.”

Agro-engineer Aja Atwood of Trella sees value in vertical growing, but the limited cultivars it serves made her determined to find another option. “There is a wide variety of strains out there that prefer longer vegetation periods and have a taller growth structure. In order to diversify, you need to train or trellis those taller varieties to stay within the space.”

To allow for vertical growing with a diversity of strains, she and her partner Andres Chamorro invented a grow unit, TrellaGro LST, that trains plants to grow horizontally. Each unit is vertically stackable and equipped with LED lights that follow it as it grows sideways, allowing for taller strains and less energy use.

Stay Tuned

In these early days, vertical growing has yet to revolutionize the industry, and some operations, focused on supplying a high-demand market, are sticking with traditional growing methods.

However, most operations already know the price of cannabis will likely drop as competition grows. In that climate, the future of cannabis could move up, not out.

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Opinion: Why Growing With Hydroponics Is Better Than Soil

There’s a lot of wariness around hydroponic growing, particularly for homegrowers looking to establish small-scale grows. But although it may be more expensive to get started with than soil, hydroponics can be a superior way of growing cannabis, and hydro technology is getting cheaper and more accessible every day, offering a range of benefits over classic soil-based cultivation.

Here we’ll take a look at its primary advantage, an increased level of control, as well as three secondary advantages: efficiency, versatility, and sustainability.

Getting Started

A basic hydroponic setup–deep water culture (Amy Phung/Leafly)

Patience is crucial with hydroponic growing. Despite all its advantages, it’s often more labor-intensive and has a higher skill barrier.

With a soil grow, your primary concerns will center around light and nutrients; with hydroponics, you still have to be deliberate in those areas, while also managing a complex and sensitive system that circulates water and nutrients among your plants.

It’s essential that you have a strong command of your system, as the health of your plants depends on it. Hydroponic cultivation is much less forgiving of small mistakes than growing in soil.

Since nutrients are delivered directly to your plants’ root systems, you’ll need to ensure you’re delivering an optimal mix, as over-fertilizing can have disastrous results. The complexity and sensitivity of hydroponics systems also means they’re an investment of time and money.

You can design and set up a relatively low-cost setup, but it requires a strong understanding of the basic principles of hydroponic cultivation. Alternately, you can forgo designing your own setup and buy premade solutions. A system capable of growing 5-6 plants can start at around $100, and quickly increase from there with features that increase control and ease of use.

Of course, once you’re set up and have a couple of grow cycles under your belt, the costs will level off, and the increased yield and quality will quickly make up your initial investment.

If you are jumping into hydroponics, just make sure to continue your research and look carefully before you leap.

Control Your Environment

A hydroponic grow allows you to exercise total control over the quality and quantity of nutrients your plants receive, whereas with soil grows, nutrients remain in the soil. The nutritional needs of cannabis plants vary throughout the grow process and with hydroponics, you’re able to dial in the mixture of nutrients and tailor it specifically to their progress.

It is worth keeping in mind, hydroponics may require a higher degree of care than a soil grow. Microorganisms in soil can help restore balance in case of issues like a pH imbalance or over-fertilization, but since hydroponic mediums don’t have this capability, you’ll need to be careful and deliberate in the ways you nurture your plants.

Closely monitoring your water’s pH and overall quality, selecting and measuring your nutrients with extreme care, and maintaining a consistent temperature are key to a productive hydroponic grow.

However, this degree of sensitivity also allows you to make small adjustments to maximize yields, which is more difficult in a conventional soil grow. You’re also be able to directly examine your plants’ root systems in a hydro grow, ensuring your plants are developing in a healthy way.

Save Time and Space

The increased level of control offered by hydroponics allows you to grow your plants more efficiently. By creating the ideal circumstances for plant growth, you’re able to maximize the productivity of each plant.

An indoor hydroponic grow allows your plants to mature faster and more evenly. Year-round hydroponic systems can yield multiple harvests annually, though strain genetics also play a role in that as well.

Since you’re going to be delivering nutrients directly to each plant, each plant’s root system requires significantly less space than with a soil grow. Less space needed for roots means you can use a grow space more effectively, whether it’s a walk-in closet or a warehouse. The only factor that will limit your number of plants and the density of your canopy is the strength and availability of light.

You’ll also be able to use less nutrients overall, as they are absorbed directly into the plants, with nothing lost in soil.

Grow Hydroponically Indoor or Outdoor

The classic image of hydroponic cultivation is large, intricate, expensive systems in industrial warehouse grows, but hydroponic cultivation is actually much more accessible than that.

If you’re a homegrower with the right equipment and expertise, you can set up a hydroponic grow in a space the size of a walk-in closet and yield far more than you would with a soil grow in a comparable space.

Hydroponics can be scaled to any grow size or type, and will confer the same advantages no matter how large or small your grow.

Most hydroponic systems are used to grow indoors. However, as long as you have a reliable power supply, hydroponics can be used to grow outdoors, particularly in greenhouses. While you’ll have to deal with factors like light, temperature, and humidity, growing hydroponically in a greenhouse will allow you to maximize yield and quality while avoiding the massive energy requirements of indoor cultivation.

Sustainability

Sustainability is an oft-overlooked benefit of hydroponic cultivation. With soil cultivation, a significant portion of the water you use never gets to your plant’s roots. With hydroponics, you’re able to precisely deliver the exact amount of water each plant needs, without wasting any.

Also, many of the insect and disease problems faced in the cannabis cultivation process are the result of soilborne infestations. Since hydroponics dispenses with soil, the reduced risk of pests means your need for pesticides will be minimized.

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What Does Mold on a Cannabis Plant Look Like?

There’s nothing worse than going through the months of time and labor to grow your own cannabis only to discover mold on it. But identifying mold on your cannabis can be harder than you think. It can usually be spotted by a trained eye, and it’s important to know the different kinds out there.

Just as you learn to identify mold on a piece of fruit, as a cannabis grower, it’s crucial to be able to identify it on your plants or cured end product and to remove it before it becomes a problem. It’s important to protect your own health and the health of those who might be consuming your product, to ensure that cannabis is safely enjoyed and celebrated.

Common Types of Mold

Here are some types of mold that you’ll most likely come across if you’ve spent a bit of time growing cannabis.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew, or PM (image above), resembles a light dusting on your leaves or buds. It can pop up rapidly and will spread throughout your garden quickly if nothing is done. PM loves to develop on plants that are feeling a bit unhealthy and it will thrive without quality airflow in your garden.

To an untrained eye, PM might appear to look like young trichomes. If you suspect PM, use a magnifying glass to examine your buds–you’ll see a stark difference between the white mold and the beautiful trichomes surrounding it. If you see it, it’s best to discard the buds and leaves right away, both because you won’t want to ingest that mold and to prevent it from spreading further.

Grey Mold (Botrytis)

grey Mold or botrytis on cannabis buds
Grey Mold (botrytis) on cannabis buds. (Aaron Rogosin for Outer Elements Photography)

Grey mold will develop inside your buds and grow out if there is too much moisture trapped inside the growing colas. Telltale signs of mold in your buds is dying leaves on the outside or a cola that has gone limp. If you spot these symptoms, waste no time investigating the problem by pulling aside buds and peeking inside the cola.

If you see mold, chop off the cola and remove it from your garden. Because it is caused by moisture buildup, it doesn’t necessarily spread like PM, so you may be able to save the rest of the plant. But be sure to inspect the rest of the plant for it.

Mold will commonly occur in outdoor gardens after a heavy rainfall, especially toward the end of the season when buds are large and dense.

To spot mold in your cured product, keep an eye out while you break apart buds. You should be able to clearly identify it on the inside of buds; discard when you find it.

How Mold Occurs and How to Prevent It

Molds are fungi that develop in warm, damp, and humid conditions. They develop from spores, which travel through the air, unseen to the naked eye. Mold is actually important in the ecosystem because it breaks down dead plant material, but you don’t want it on your buds.

Mold can develop on cannabis because of issues with:

  • Humidity
  • Airflow
  • Temperature
  • Plant health

Any one or combination of these factors can create an environment suitable for mold to develop on your buds.

Indoor Prevention

The best way to prevent mold growth is to ensure a consistent climate in your grow room. Using fans, dehumidifiers, temperature control systems, and ventilation, you can keep the humidity down, the airflow up, and the temperature consistent. This will create a stable environment and increase the overall health of your plants.

Other ways to reduce the chances of mold in your garden include:

  • Pruning your plants
  • Spacing your plants properly
  • Watering/feeding your plants appropriately

Pruning and spacing will increase airflow through your canopy, which helps reduce humidity. If you overwater your plants, this will increase the humidity level, as plants will be unable to absorb water, making it evaporate into the air and stay in the room. Under or over feeding your plants nutrients will weaken their immune systems and make them more prone to attack from molds.

Outdoor Prevention

When growing outdoor, you’re more limited in how to protect your garden from mold without the ability to control the climate. Appropriate spacing, pruning, and feeding are essential to protecting your crop.

When plants are in their final homes–either final containers or in the ground–stake, cage, or trellis the plants accordingly as they develop, to keep branches spaced equally, allowing air to flow freely and evenly throughout the canopy. Additionally, pruning the bottoms and insides of your plants is especially important outdoors, to allow air to flow underneath the canopy.

If growing out in the open, after heavy rains, some gardeners choose to shake their plants to get standing water off them. It is also common to check for broken branches and remove any dead foliage that may be saturated with moisture, which is an ideal habitat for mold development.

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How to Grow Cannabis for Concentrate Production

Cannabis is most commonly consumed in its flower form, so many growers focus on getting high yields to increase profits. But some are choosing to focus on the burgeoning concentrate market instead.

Growing for concentrates is slightly different than growing for flower because the end goal is to have a plant that produces a lot of trichomes, in order to have that flower then processed. Trichomes are the glandular crystals that form on cannabis buds that contain cannabinoids and terpenes. They can also be referred to as resin, crystals, or sugar.

The cost of sending your material off to be processed for concentrates can be a financial deterrent for some growers, however, with rosin pressing technology, many growers are now able to process their own concentrates to get high-end oil.

Here we’ll flip the script and look at how to focus your garden for growing plants that will produce great concentrates.

What Makes a Good Plant for Concentrates

If you are going to concentrate the flavors of a strain, it’s best to start with something that already has a delicious flavor and high that you like.

To get a good concentrate, you’ll need to start with good flower. The best concentrates are extracted from quality flower that produces bulbous trichome heads.

Plants that produce large trichome heads will have more oils, which in turn can hold more cannabinoids and terpenes, making them able to produce more flavorful concentrates.

It’s especially important to have big trichome heads when making solventless hash because they’ll break off easier in the hashmaking process.

Strains with complex terpene profiles with multiple terpenes can produce unique flavors. Sometimes trading a high yield for novelty is worthwhile–complexity and rarity can make for a great concentrate. If you have a special strain, making it into a concentrate can let you further appreciate its subtle qualities.

How to Improve the Quality of Your Plants

Because concentrates focus in on a strain’s terpene and flavor profile, you don’t want unwanted compounds like those found in pesticides and nutrients to end up in your concentrates. Here are some ways to improve the quality of your plants while protecting and preserving terpenes.

Use a Complete Soil

This soil comes loaded with most of the nutrients your plants need, all in organic form, making it easier for roots to uptake them.

Avoid Foliar Spraying

Foliar spraying helps combat nutrient deficiencies and pest problems, but you want to avoid this practice when plants are flowering, as the residue will show up as a contaminant in your concentrate. If you do need to spray plants, do so before flowering begins and only use organic sprays.

No Pesticides

Stay away from hazardous chemicals that can’t be flushed out of your crop. These will carry through into your concentrates and are dangerous to consume. Consider using integrated pest management strategies, predatory mites, or organic foliar sprays to keep your garden healthy without impacting your flower.

Flush Your Crop

If growing with non-organic fertilizers or nutrients in a soil or hydro-based medium, give your plants only water in the last two weeks of flowering before harvest. This will give them time to flush out impurities, making for cleaner flower and therefore a cleaner concentrate.

Tips and Tricks for Increasing Trichome Production

These simple methods can make a big impact and greatly improve the quality of your end product.

Room Temperature

Specific terpenes start to break down around room temperature, making climate control in your grow room essential for the quality of your concentrate’s flavor. You can use a climate-control system–and even an infrared heat reader–to observe the temperature of your colas when plants are flowering. Ideally, you want your canopy to be below 75 degrees.

CO2

CO2 is an essential part of photosynthesis and without it your plants will not be able to fully utilize nutrients. Give your plants a boost with a CO2 burner to increase the size of your plants during both the vegetative and flowering phases. Bigger plants will have more surface area and therefore more resin because of the higher yields.

Finishing Cold

This is open to debate, but some growers argue that reducing the temperature in your grow room right before harvest can cause cannabis plants to increase their trichome production.

The idea is that the stress created by lowering the temperature will make a cannabis plant produce more trichomes in an attempt to protect itself. When a plant is about to die, it will produce more resin to attract more bugs in order to pollinate. Some growers will even cut off a plant’s watering a few days before it’s harvested to induce stress

Consider lowering the temperature to the low 60s no more than 2 weeks before harvest, when buds are mostly done growing.

What to Do After Harvest

The last step in accentuating delicious terpenes in your cannabis comes at harvest. Some growers freeze their buds without curing before making concentrates, while others prefer to cure prior to making concentrates.

Here are some different approaches to how to preserve terpenes post-harvest.

Freezing

Freezing prevents terpenes and cannabinoids from breaking down and captures the fresh profile of a plant when its terpene content is the highest.

If you are planning to make a concentrate within a couple weeks after harvest, you can skip the curing process altogether and freeze your buds. You’ll want to remove fan leaves and buck down the colas until all buds are no larger than a golf ball or so and then package the buds.

Drying and Curing

If you’re not sure if you’re going to turn your flower into concentrates at harvest time, properly drying and curing your plants is a must for protecting trichomes. Hang your plants so they have plenty of space to breath in a room with good air circulation, at a temperature between 60-70?F with a humidity of 45-55%.

When drying is complete, put your buds into glass jars where they can cure slowly, popping off the lids (a.k.a. burping) a few times a day at first to let the buds breath and release moisture. Overtime, opening the jars will become less necessary and the buds will continually improve, usually for up to 6 months.

As mentioned previously, some terpenes will break down at room temperature (70?F), so keep curing temps between the high 50s and mid-60s with 55% humidity to maintain quality.

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Preserving Cannabis Genetics: How to Collect and Store Seeds and Pollen

Sometimes a grower has to move on from a certain strain. Maybe you’ve been growing the same strain for a long time and it no longer makes as much money as it used to, or maybe you just want to mix it up and start growing something else and don’t have the space for it.

It can be bittersweet saying goodbye to old genetics, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. You can take clones or keep a mother plant, but those aren’t ideal because they require a lot of care and maintenance, especially if they aren’t producing flower.

Fortunately, preserving genetics for long-term storage is easy and will save time, money, and space in the long run. Through seed and pollen collection, you can hang onto those genetics that you can’t fully get rid of and safely store them for future use.

The Benefits of Long-Term Storage

Cannabis genetics are often sourced from external companies and organizations such as nurseries and seed banks. For the individual grower, saving seeds and pollen removes this reliance on external companies. This is especially true with pollen, as very few (if any) companies offer pollen to the public.

Saving space is a big reason to consider long-term storage of seeds and pollen. Mother plants lay dormant in a vegetative state and take up lots of space. Maintaining this extra space is time-consuming and takes extra resources like water, soil, nutrients, light, and other costly elements, all for something that doesn’t produce flower. Even keeping clones of an old strain around will take up space and resources.

A grower or breeder can also freeze the progress of a breeding project for months or years without losing any of the long, hard work. Endeavors such as phenotype hunting and maintaining desired mothers for breeding and cloning can all be saved for later through genetic preservation. This process is like backing up work on a hard drive.

How to Collect Seeds

Cannabis is for the most part dioecious, meaning that the male and female reproductive organs exist on two separate plants (although hermaphroditic plants do occur). It is also a wind-pollinated plant, so pollen must be transferred from a male stamen to a female pistil via the air in order for pollination to occur and seeds to form.

A female cannabis plant that has received pollen from a male will produce many seeds over the course of its maturation cycle. Upon senescence, when the female plant is fully mature and ready for harvest, its seeds will be ready for stratification and collection.

To collect seeds, it’s important to wait until they are fully mature and ready for harvest. Cannabis with seeds takes longer to mature than cannabis that only produces flower.

To tell if a seed is mature, take a look at its shape and color. Premature seeds will be small and light in color, taking on a beige hue. Fully mature cannabis seeds are more full in shape and size and have a much darker brown hue, sometimes accented by black tiger stripes.

Deseeding cannabis can be done by hand or machine. This process typically takes place after the plant has been dried for one to two weeks after harvest. This way, seeds will have reached their maximum maturity and plant material will be brittle enough to break apart with minimal effort.

When collecting seed by hand, use a fine screen to help catch trichomes that will break off during the process. This material is valuable and it would be a shame to waste.

To release the seeds, simply break up the dried buds over a screen and they will fall out. You can release the seeds en masse by rubbing the flower between your fingers and lightly breaking it apart.

Separate or sift seeds over the screen to remove any unwanted plant matter from the seeds themselves. Brush off the seeds–they should be completely free of any remaining plant material such as leaves, stem, or trichomes, as these elements put seeds at a higher risk for contamination and spoilage during long-term storage.

Collecting Pollen

Male cannabis plants will produce pollen several weeks into their flowering cycle. Once their pollen sacs have opened up and released, the plant will begin to senesce and eventually die. It is important to collect pollen right as the sacs are beginning to open up, as this is the time pollen is most viable.

The best way to harvest pollen for storage is to remove an entire male flower cluster and place it in a sealed storage container for several days. After the cluster has dried, place it over a micron screen with parchment or wax paper underneath, and give it a light shake. This will allow the pollen to separate from any remaining plant matter and fall through the screen and onto the wax paper.

Moisture is a death sentence for pollen viability. Because of this, many breeders opt to mix flour into their pollen at a ratio of 4:1 (flour to pollen) when storing it long-term. This additional step will help keep pollen dry for a longer period of time.

Seed and Pollen Storage

Long-term storage requirements for seeds and pollen are similar. Both require cool, dark, dry, and oxygen-deprived environments for optimal preservation.

When storing seeds, place them in an air-sealed container that doesn’t have any light leaks. Film canisters, medicine bottles (non-translucent), and any sealable storage jar will work fine. The idea is to reduce the amount of oxygen present in the storage space as much as possible. You can also add uncooked rice to the storage container, which acts as an absorbent, to reduce moisture content.

For a cool environment, store seeds in either the refrigerator or freezer. Seeds need a consistent temperature without fluctuation to remain dormant long-term.

As mentioned above, the best way to reduce moisture in pollen is to mix it with flour. For long-term storage, it can be kept in a sealed vial or freezer bag. You can keep it in the refrigerator or freezer, though for optimal long-term storage, the colder the better.

The Shelf Life of Seeds and Pollen

You can expect cannabis seeds that have been sealed and properly stored to last for several years, and in many cases, longer. Seeds may be dormant, but they are still alive. Over enough time, they will lose their viability.

It’s important to continually practice germination testing to be sure your stored seeds haven’t lost all viability. To test this, periodically plant a seed and document its ability to germinate.

Fresh seeds should have a germination rate close to a 100%, whereas older seeds will see a significant drop off over time in their ability to germinate.

Out in the open, pollen may be viable for one or two weeks under normal conditions. However, when frozen and sealed, it can last up to a year and even longer. Pollen is more unstable than seed and even under the most optimal conditions, it isn’t expected to have as long of a shelf life.

For both seeds and pollen that have been frozen long-term, it’s important to avoid defrosting until they are ready to be used. Fluctuations in temperature and moisture content will quickly destroy their viability, so maintain a steady temperature for as long as possible. Warming and freezing multiple times isn’t good.

When it comes time to use frozen seeds, remove them from their container and let them sit out on a dry surface for several hours. Letting the seeds reach room temperature will help ensure a successful germination.

Pollen should also be placed at room temperature before using. Since pollen can be much messier to handle, it’s best to carefully transfer a sample from its long-term storage container to a fresh container before using it to pollinate a plant. This way, you don’t have to use all of the pollen and saved pollen can go back in the freezer with minimal exposure to warm air.

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The Cannabis Cloning Equipment Buyer’s Guide

Growing cannabis can seem like a daunting task if you’ve never done it before, especially figuring out how to get started. A cannabis plant is a lot more delicate in its infancy and it’ll need more care and attention than adult plants.

Growing from a clone can be a lot easier than growing from seed because you skip the process of germination every time you start a new crop, saving you time and labor. Modern technology has also made growing clones easier than ever.

To clone, simply take a cutting off a plant, put it in a rooting medium or cloning machine, and give it nutrients or a rooting solution. It’ll root out and be ready for potting in 10-14 days and you’ll have a solid start to your cannabis plant.

A clone is an exact genetic copy of its mother, so there’s no need to worry about it having less potency or different effects than those of the original.

Below are some different cloning methods and products that we recommend, in a range of prices so you can get the one that fits your needs.

Base Level Cloning Equipment

These options are great for someone getting into growing and not sure if they want to invest in a more expensive product. Anyone can get started and use these simple methods with ease.

Root Cubes and Trays (~$40)

The tried-and-true and most basic method of cloning, starting your clones in root cubes is something that every grower has done in their lifetime. To get started, you’ll need:

  • Set of 1 1/2 x1 1/2 inch rooting cubes (~$15)
  • Tray to catch water (~$2)
  • Tray-cell insert to put your rooting clones in (~$2)
  • Humidity dome (~$5)
  • Rooting hormone (~$5)
  • Heat pad (~$10)

There are multiple types of rooting cubes made from different material, each with its own benefit:

  • Rockwool: Made by melting rock and spinning it into fine threads, this common material is sterile and very porous. Make sure it has good drainage because it sucks up water easily.
  • Peat: These hold onto moisture and are organic and biodegradable, but they can have difficulty maintaining their structure.
  • Foam: These cubes don’t get as waterlogged as rockwool and have no effect on pH levels.

Before cloning machines became more affordable this method of cloning was the go-to for growers, but now it’s less desirable because it can be a hassle to use all the pieces and machines are much easier and have a higher success rate.

With these supplies, you can successfully clone cannabis and also propagate from seed, making this a desirable option for anyone wanting to do explore both methods.

Clone Bucket 8 (~$50)

This is the most affordable aeroponic system in our buyer’s guide. Aeroponics is the practice of growing plants with their roots suspended in air, while they receive a continual misting from sprays and nozzles in the cloning machine (see graphic of this system below). This gives roots high levels of oxygen, helping clones grow rapidly.

With a very simple design, the Clone Bucket offers a misting system for 8 clones for just under $50. The 2-gallon bucket is small in size and will give you similar results to more expensive aeroponic cloners.

Its spray nozzle is attached to a 171 gallon per hour (gph) pump which is more than enough to keep your clones happy. The plus side is that it has few moving parts, but if the nozzle ever clogs, your clones will be in trouble.

This functional and affordable machine is great for anyone looking to experiment with cloning. You can also make your own version of this with a 5-gallon bucket or something similar if you want to cut costs even further.

Midrange Options

(Leafly)

These cloners are great if you will be cloning routinely and want a product that doesn’t require much attention so you can focus on other aspects of your garden.

HydroFarm OxyClone 20 ($70)

Instead of misting clone stems with spray nozzles, HydroFarm’s OxyClone submerges stems completely under water. This allows the roots to receive both oxygen and H2O to ensure that clones stay healthy while developing roots. This different design is great because it has few moving parts and no spray nozzles, which are known to clog up.

This model is made for 20 clones, but OxyClone also offers versions with 40 and 80 clone sites for growers with bigger gardens.

Clone King 25 ($70)

A reputable midrange option, the Clone King is an aeroponic cloner with 13 spray nozzles and a powerful 317 gph submersible pump. With so many nozzles and a strong pump, you can be sure that every developing root gets a healthy dose of fresh H2O, promoting strong, healthy, and rapid growth. If one of the nozzles clogs, your clones will still make it because there are many backups. Other models have 36 and 64 clone sites.

High-End Cloning

The cloners here are the top-of-the-line with all the bells and whistles. Some might argue that cloning doesn’t have to be this complicated, but the products below will step up your growing game.

TurboKlone 24 ($145)

(Click to enlarge. Courtesy of TurboKlone)

The TurboKlone is our top choice for high-end cloners. The design is similar to the Clone King but it also has a cooling fan to help maintain a consistent temperature in the rooting chamber. This helps keep the water cool, making it easier for clones to receive oxygen, which means faster rooting and healthier clones.

It’s important to note that in order for this cooling process to work, the ambient air temperature must be cooler than the temperature of the water. The TurboKlone is also available in models with 28, 96, and 144 clone sites, covering both small- and large-scale growers.

Tissue Culture Microclone Kit ($250)

The most expensive and most complicated form of cloning, tissue culturing is an emerging method for cloning cannabis. This process involves taking a tissue sample from a mother plant and sterilizing it, then giving it the right hormones, nutrients, and light.

The culture can be preserved indefinitely and to start growing it, the grower can just give it a different set of nutrients to encourage root development.

There are numerous benefits to this cloning method. Tissue cultures are completely sterile, meaning you don’t have to worry about pests or diseases being transferred into your grow room. These cultures can also be stored for long periods of time, given they have the right environment, and they save space because you don’t need to keep a mother plant around.

Tissue culturing is an advanced technique and should be explored by growers looking to preserve the genetics of a specific strain rather than just grow a few quick clones.

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Fantastic Sativas and How to Grow Them

This article is sponsored by Kannabia Seed Company, an award-winning cannabis seed company headquartered in Spain whose grower-oriented approach has made cannabis cultivation simple and satisfying for growers of all skill levels for years.


As cannabis legalization continues to spread around the world, more and more people are getting the opportunity to grow their own plants at home. For individuals living in jurisdictions where the practice is legal, cultivating new and classic sativas, indicas, and hybrid strains has never been easier. From complex indoor operations to simple additions to an existing garden plot, there are a plethora of ways that aspiring cannabis cultivators can get to know the plant from seed to smoke.

Whether you’re wondering where to start, or looking to level up an existing cannabis garden, the team at Kannabia has you covered. Their grow experts suggested five superb sativa strains from the company’s diverse catalog of seeds, and provided some tips for getting the most out of every grow.

An example of the Cookies Haze strain from Kannabia. (Courtesy of Kannabia Seed Company)

Make room at the top

Sativa plants can grow really tall, whether potted or sown directly into soil. That makes it important to leave more overhead space than you might think you need. For instance, Kannabia’s Cookies Haze can reach heights of more than three meters, or about ten feet tall.

If you’re afraid of heights, you may be better off sowing Cookies Haze outdoors, where adjustments to timing can help keep it in check. In the Northern Hemisphere, growers can plant in or mid-to-late May for a harvest that is more likely to stay around the six-foot mark

Wherever you plant it, this mix of Afghan and Super Silver Haze is easy to grow and bred to be pest-resistant, making it a great choice for first-timers. Its high THC levels, meanwhile, make for a very satisfying harvest.

An example of Kannabia’s Kaboom strain. (Courtesy of Kannabia Seed Company)

Stay dry

Too much humidity can do a number on many plants, including cannabis. A climate that’s too moist can inhibit growth and leave plants susceptible to mold, mildew, and pests like caterpillars. While some strains are more tolerant of humidity than others–like Kaboom, a heavy producer that’s bred to finish fast, resist pests, and thrive in a variety of conditions–it remains a factor to keep an eye on.

No matter what strain they’re growing, indoor cannabis cultivators should be sure to provide their plants with plenty of ventilation, and monitor humidity levels to ensure they stay in a safe range of between 50 and 80 percent. Outside, you may have luck covering plants with plastic at night–just make sure to remove the cover during the day and prevent condensation from building up.

Kannabia Sativa Dream
Kannabia’s Sativa Dream strain. (Courtesy of Kannabia Seed Company)

Don’t forget to prune

If left to their own devices, plants can grow up spindly and weak. With deliberate pruning and shaping, though, gardeners can encourage denser growth and higher yields. Whatever you’re growing–fruit, herbs, roses, or cannabis–you need to prune early and often to get maximum growth.

A traditional pruning regimen, also known as defoliation, begins as soon as the plant starts to get bushy, and involves both removing lower leaves that aren’t receiving light or are dying off and pinching new growth at the top. Continuing this process during the two or three weeks that follow will set up your grow for long-term abundance.

Proper pruning will maximize yields for all strains, but some plants respond especially well to a little training–even sativas, which tend to be less leaf-dense than their indica relatives. Kannabia’s growers report that topping their Sativa Dream strain, for instance, can boost its production by almost a third. It’s also bred to be pest-resistant and fast-growing, making it a great cultivar for rookie growers who are still polishing their green thumbs.

Amnesi-K Lemon finds its origins in several popular strains. (Courtesy of Kannabia Seed Company)

Sweeten the pot

Different kinds of plants like different kinds of nutrients in their soil, and cannabis plants are known to have a bit of a sweet tooth. Adding a source of sugar, such as unsulphured molasses, can boost the microbes that help your plants grow, resulting in higher yields.

This technique also has a bonus effect of making the flavor of fruity strains pop. Give it a shot with Kannabia’s super-citrusy Amnesi-K Lemon–a cross between Amnesia, Lemon Skunk, and Jack Herer–to dial up the lemon and grapefruit notes.

Adding a little sweetener isn’t Kannabia’s only tip for growing this citrusy-strain, though. To bring out its full potential, their growers recommend monitoring the surrounding temperature closely and ensuring it always stays between 18 and 28 degrees Celsius, or about 64 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mikromachine is an autoflowering strain from Kannabia. (Courtesy of Kannabia Seed Company)

Automatic flowering for the people

Whether they’re sativas or indicas, autoflowering cannabis strains are crossed with Cannabis ruderalis–a subspecies apart from indica and sativa–giving them the ability to flower on their own after a short vegetative period without any hand-holding.

While autoflowering strains can be a good fit for some growers, the Kannabia team cautions that they can’t be treated like normal cannabis seedlings. Growers should avoid transplanting autoflower strains, for example, instead planting them directly in soil or a large pot. When feeding and fertilizing these strains, be sure to use products that are specialized with autoflowering in mind–otherwise you may end up with a cannabis plant with bonsai dimensions.

If autoflowering seems like a fit for you, Kannabia’s Mikromachine Auto strain is a great place to start. This easy-to-grow strain mixes classic strains Northern Lights and AK-47 with ruderalis to provide a potent and creative high.

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Tips for Growing Cannabis in a Tiny Space

For those who don’t have big properties or extra space, don’t worry: You don’t need a huge space to grow cannabis. Cannabis is an eager plant that will grow nearly anywhere given the right light and nutrients, making a grow room of any size feasible.

Growing in a tiny space has benefits too, allowing you to produce cannabis discreetly, in case you’re afraid of what the neighbors will think. A small grow also won’t create as much noise from machines or generate as much smell and will therefore attract less attention.

A small grow doesn’t necessarily mean small returns, but, you do want to be growing as efficiently as possible. Here are some tips to maximize your tiny space to get the best and biggest returns.

What Your Space Needs

A grow space can be as small as a 2′ x 2′ x 4′ grow tent or as big as a warehouse, but they all have a number of things in common.

  • Adequate space for growth. The bigger the plant can grow, the larger your yields will be. Generally, you’ll need more height than width, to keep the lights off the plants. Space gets tight quickly.
  • Sterilization. Dirty closets won’t suffice–you must be able to keep the space clean and contained from the outside environment. You’ll also need to be able to drain the plants properly and keep them out of standing water.
  • Ventilation. Plants need fresh air. A continual exchange of air is necessary to keep them healthy and vibrant. Depending on where you live, you may need an AC unit or heater to regulate the climate.

Many small-space growers use grow tents, small units where you can grow one to a handful of plants–they can be as small as the size of a laundry hamper. These self-contained units will provide a controllable environment for your plants without the hassle of building out a big grow.

Don’t Burn the Plants

One of the biggest concerns with a tiny grow is lighting. Grow lights run very hot and need to be kept at a safe distance from your plants so they don’t burn buds or leaves. Either the plants must be kept short or your lights need to be elevated–the latter can be hard to pull off in a confined space, so usually plants need to be kept small through topping and pruning.

LEDs are changing the game for small-space growing by providing quality full-spectrum light with minimal heat. This allows plants to grow closer to the light source without damage from heat, while also reducing the need for climate-control equipment to bring down the temperature in your grow. It should be noted that LEDs can still burn your plants, but there is less of a risk than with older lights.

This will give your plants more room to grow and therefore give you a bigger return when it’s time to harvest.

Train Your Plants

With a limited space, you can also train your cannabis plants to increase yields. Some effective methods include:

  • Scrogging (screen of green)
  • Low-stress training (LST)
  • High-stress training (HST)

Scrogging is probably your best bet for getting a high return with minimal space. This process involves weaving the stalks and branches of a plant through a screen–mesh sizes usually range from 3-6 inches square–before switching to a flowering light cycle.

This spreads out the plant’s branches, allowing all nodes to receive more light and also opening up the plant so that middle and lower branches can receive more light. This will give you a level canopy that will fill out with big colas.

Everything below the canopy can be pruned to save energy and keep the space clean and free of pests while the buds have direct exposure to light, increasing your yield.

Low-stress training involves tying down parts of the plant to create offshoots that will lead to additional cola sites.

A more aggressive method, high-stress training increases cola sites through topping or super cropping to promote an even canopy and increased cola sites.

Know Your Genetics

Sativas, indicas, and hybrids all grow differently. Sativas are known for their lanky growth and more open bud structure, while indicas tend to grow short and stocky and have denser buds. Hybrids can have traits from both.

For a tiny grow, indicas will probably be easier to maintain when looking to maximize your space and yield because of their short and stocky nature. Sativas can work too, but you might have to spend more time and attention in pruning them.

Keep in mind that this is a generalization of strains–some indicas grow tall, and some sativas grow short. Be sure to check out Leafly’s strain explorer for growing tips on specific strains.

You can also try growing autoflowering cannabis, plants that start flowering when they get to a certain age, rather than when the light changes. They also grow short and small.

Keep Your Roots Healthy

The grow medium is the home for roots, which send water and nutrients to the rest of the plant. A quality grow medium is especially important for a tiny grow in order to get the most out of a plant in a cramped condition.

Try using complete soils or super soils–they have a majority of the nutrients a plant needs and they allow a plant to efficiently store water for a longer time between waterings.

Be sure to include enough soil in your pots to prevent roots from getting bound. Frequently check to see if roots are exposed. If you see them coming out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot, it’s time to transplant it to a bigger pot.

A stunted plant that appears droopy even after watering can also be a sign of roots being bound and needing more soil.

Control the Climate

Climate control is also crucial in a tiny grow. Ideally you want to maintain a healthy temperature of 70-75 degrees with a relative humidity between 40-75%. Using LED lights will reduce the overall temperature and your need to cool down your grow, but you will still need a fan to pull fresh air into your grow space.

Fresh air circulation is crucial to getting high yields, as your plants use CO2 in the process of photosynthesis. Fresh air will give them a boost of growth and will also be effective in cycling new air into your garden while pulling out stale air, keeping the temperature and humidity in check.

Tiny grows can be a lot of fun and will give you insight on the growing process and these methods will improve the quality and yield of your cannabis.

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Which Cannabis Strain Should You Be Growing?

Once you’ve made the decision to grow your own cannabis, you probably have a couple favorite strains in mind. Picking a strain is one of the most exciting aspects of homegrowing, but setting up a successful garden requires careful planning and consideration, no matter what your experience level.

Starting a grow takes an investment of time and money, and which strain you decide to grow will influence how you build out your garden.

Picking a strain to grow is ultimately a matter of balancing what is available to you and what your individual needs, experience, and growing preferences are. Below are some factors to consider to help you pick the right strain for your garden.

Grow Experience

The great thing about cannabis cultivation is that you don’t have to be an expert to get started. Any cannabis enthusiast can grow at home with a bit of planning and research.

Nevertheless, some strains require more care and attention than others. This information is usually made available by breeders and distributors, but be sure to do some research to see how difficult specific strains are to grow.

Difficulty equates to more care and attention, which can involve a more complex nutrient regiment, more training requirements, and perhaps paying more attention to environmental factors. These all take time, patience, and research to master, especially if you don’t have much growing experience.

That being said, don’t let the difficulty factor discourage you from cultivating your favorite strain. As long as you’re determined and know what you’re getting yourself into, by all means, go for it.

Availability of Strains

Where you live and intend to set up your garden will affect what strains you have access to. Although there are many strains in circulation, not all markets carry certain varietals.

The legality of cannabis in your state will determine whether you can buy seeds or clones at the dispensary. Even if you can, you’ll be limited to genetics that are only produced in your state, as seeds and clones can’t cross state lines.

The selection of genetics will be contingent on many variables, including what local farmers are circulating, the time of year, and demand. Popular strains will be easier to find as the market favors supply and demand.

Contact local seed and clone suppliers to see what they have. That way, you can have the jump on genetics you want as they become available throughout the year.

Seed banks exist outside of the US and can sell seeds for “souvenir purposes,” but it is illegal to bring seeds into the US. Customs will seize any cannabis seeds that they find in packages or on a person.

Climate and Environment

Cultivating indoors or outdoors will also affect which strain you choose. Certain strains benefit from open space and are easier to grow outdoors. For example, sativas tend to grow taller than indicas and have a more open bud structure, making them better in warmer and more humid climates.

Cultivars such as Lemon Skunk and Chocolope are known for their towering canopies and moderate-to-intense stretching and will benefit greatly from the extra sun and space of an outdoor garden. Just be sure to plant them early as they have long flowering times.

Other strains need more attention and are more susceptible to pests. These usually benefit from a climate-controlled environment. OG Kush is considered a more finicky strain to grow, so it will probably benefit from being grown indoors despite its tendency to stretch.

Dwarf and auto-flowering varieties grow short and bushy, making them perfect companions for spatially limited grows. Lowryder is a dwarf cultivar and Hash Plant and Critical Kush are other varieties that grow small and have short flowering times.

Garden Planning

Cannabis can be grown successfully in small or large spaces, but know how much space you have to work with before you start building out your garden in order to figure out which strains are suitable. For example, if growing in a small space, consider growing indicas, which tend to grow shorter and bushier.

Many OG strains, like OG Kush, need specific nutrients, like a higher quantity of calcium and magnesium. Other varieties such as Blue Dream or Green Crack don’t need as much watering and can be left alone for longer periods and given a less stringent nutrient schedule.

Also take into consideration flowering time. Some strains take longer to mature than others and if you want a quick turnaround, aim for strains that take 8-9 weeks to flower instead of 12.

Certain strains will need different types of soil, and some will need more watering and nutrients than others.

Other factors to consider before planning out the parameters of a cannabis garden include:

  • What kind of soil or grow medium you’ll use
  • How many lights you’ll need and how bright they need to be
  • The number of plants you’ll have

Be sure to also give yourself room to work in your garden. You’ll need workspaces to put soil in pots, take clones or plant seeds, and room to move potted plants around and water plants.

Strain Preference

At the end of the day, choosing a strain that meets your needs is the most important factor. You want to enjoy the fruits of your labor after months of hard work and dedication. Think about why you want a specific strain:

  • If you’re looking for aroma and flavor, try growing a strain with a great terpene profile, even if it’s lower in THC.
  • If you’re looking to grow a strain simply to process into a concentrate, you’ll probably want something known for producing a lot of resin.
  • If you’re looking for symptom relief, check out Leafly’s strain database and find one that meets your needs–you might want something with a particular THC to CBD ratio.

Research and planning is essential to building out your cannabis garden and picking which strain to grow in that garden. Whatever your wants or needs, as long as you’re determined, you’ll be on the way to growing your own cannabis in no time.

Check out this Twitter post and see what some of our followers’ favorite strains to grow are. Let us know yourself!

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Only the Best: Inside the Tissue Culture Lab at House of Cultivar

In Seattle’s industrial SoDo neighborhood sits House of Cultivar, an award-winning indoor cannabis farm with a passion for growing and preserving premier cannabis genetics. No matter what genetics they run, either seed or clone, all start in their tissue culture lab.

With a steady rotation of new and exciting strains, House of Cultivar puts out an evolving mix of trending flavors. Each is grown with their insightful approach, close attention to detail, and acute vision of quality.

Tissue culturing is the process of propagating fresh plants by growing them from a cellular level in a controlled and sterile environment. Also known as micropropagation, tissue culturing can mitigate risks that pests and pathogens pose to cannabis. It allows plants to grow robustly and vigorously, giving each a clean slate from which to grow toward their ultimate genetic expression.

“We operate with the motto that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Matthew Gaboury, Founder, House of Cultivar

There are many advantages to utilizing tissue culturing in cannabis farming. It can reduce overall cultivation costs, especially when you consider the resources needed to maintain a large and diverse library of genetics.

Starting and sterilizing genetics at a cellular level gives House of Cultivar the ability to rejuvenate old, tired genetics and to cleanse new genetics coming into the garden that may have questionable health or potential genetic defects.

They’re also able to manage hundreds, if not thousands, of genetic variations without having to dedicate the space and labor needed to keep mother plants alive and healthy.

Watch the full episode of Only the Best to dive deeper into the tissue culture process and see how House of Cultivar applies these innovative, sustainable practices to produce high-quality characteristics from their expansive genetics library.

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Selecting a Cannabis Phenotype: How to Get the Best Version of Your Strain

Ever wonder why the same strain of cannabis can be slightly different, depending on which store you get it at? A gram of OG Kush from one grower who sells to a particular dispensary will be slightly different from another grower’s OG Kush at the dispensary across town. Although they are the same strain, these are different phenotypes (or “phenos”)–different expressions of the same genetic material.

If two cats–one an orange tabby and the other a black and white calico–have a litter of kittens, some of the kittens will be orange tabbies and some black and white calicos. Some may even be black and white tabbies. So too, do different cannabis phenotypes have different traits from one or both of their parent strains.

When a grower decides to produce a particular strain, they typically get a packet of seeds from a breeder, each one a different phenotype of that strain. After growing each seed, the grower will pick the best one because of its characteristics, picking for yield, bud density, smell, flavor, potency, color, and many more attributes, and discard the others.

This narrowing process usually takes a few generations of selection, and months, sometimes years, but in the end, the best pick will be mass produced for sale, and that’s the cannabis you buy off the shelf at the dispensary.

The Importance of Labeling

An example of the phenotype selection process. Growers typically mark and number each phenotype for tracking purposes. In this case, a grower is selecting OG Kush (OGK) phenotypes. Click to enlarge. (Elysse Feigenblatt/Leafly)

Selecting phenos is a meticulous process. Organization and keeping track of things through the long growing process is imperative. You’ll be taking clones of each phenotype and keeping some while discarding others, so it’s important to label clones according to their originals phenos and to not mix up any.

To start, plant all of your seeds and label each one with a separate tag. So if you’re growing 10 phenos of OG Kush, you would assign them “OGK 1,” “OGK 2,” etc., up to “OGK 10.” The order of the numbering doesn’t matter, but make sure that a number always stays with the pheno you assign it to.

Grow out each seed until they are 6-12″ tall, or big enough to clone. This will probably take about 3-6 weeks.

Take a clone of each phenotype and number each clone to its corresponding original: the clone of “OGK 1” would also be named “OGK 1” and so on.

If you’re starting out with ten seeds, you should now have 20 plants: 10 seedlings and 10 clones.

Clone, Flower, Discard

After you have taken clones, grow them separately in a vegetative state. When the original phenos are big enough, after at least 2 months in the vegetative state, put them on a flowering light cycle (12 hours of dark, 12 of light).

After about 8-10 weeks of flowering, these original phenos will be ready to harvest for buds. Some phenotypes might finish sooner than others and each will probably be slightly different. Now you will discard some of the phenos based on their poor quality and keep the ones that have good qualities.

A lot of seeds come pre-feminized, but if you are starting out with male and female seeds, you will need to determine the sex of the plants first and discard all of the males, because only females produce buds. Reproductive organs appear a couple weeks into the flowering cycle, and if you have any males, discard them and their corresponding clones and keep flowering the females.

When harvesting each phenotype, take meticulous notes of each pheno’s bud structure, yield, smell, density, and overall appearance. Some phenos can be discarded right away, as it will be easy to tell that they won’t produce quality buds. Whenever you discard a pheno, discard its corresponding clone that’s in the vegetative state.

You can still use the harvested buds from discarded phenos. This product may not be as desirable because it’s from the phenos that didn’t make the cut, but a lot of growers will sell this for pre-rolls or extracts, just usually not quality flower.

Repeat the Process

The process is repeated. If you started with 10 phenos and discarded six after the first round of flowering, you’ll be left with four. Take a set of clones off of these four–a second generation of clones, or clones from clones. Keep this new second generation in the vegetative phase separately, and flip the first generation of clones into flower.

This first generation should be big enough to flip into flower now because they were growing vegetatively while the original phenos were flowering. But you can always grow these out more vegetatively if you want bigger plants.

After flowering these four remaining phenos, harvest them and take more notes. Discard the ones with poor qualities and their corresponding clones and keep the ones with good qualities.

Continue this process until you’re down to one pheno. That is your winner!

You don’t want to discard a pheno with possible good qualities, but keep in mind that the less you discard, the more rounds of cloning, flowering, and discarding you’ll have to do.

Timeline

Often, commercial growers will go through at least three rounds of generations of this selection process to get the final pheno, sometimes even more.

You can see how this is a time-consuming process. Three generations of flowering phenotypes, if each round takes about 8-10 weeks, is 24-30 weeks alone. Add on top of that another month or so for the seeds to germinate and get to an initial size in which to clone off of at the beginning of the process, plus time to harvest, dry, and cure buds at the end.

So before that OG Kush from your favorite grower hits the shelves for the first time, they have been growing and narrowing it down for 7-9 months at least, to get you the best version of that OG Kush. That phenotype is now their “cut” of that strain.

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5 Cannabis Breeders Who Changed the Game

Cannabis–like asparagus, dates, mulberry, ginkgo, persimmons, and spinach–is a dioecious species, meaning that the male and female reproductive structures involved in propagation are typically found on different individual plants, rather than on a single plant (as in a monoecious species). Cannabis is also an annual, so it dies off each winter, but not before dropping seeds that will sprout the following spring, allowing the cycle of life to continue for another year.

Only the most successful cannabis hybrids will be stabilized and grow popular enough to earn a permanent place in the hearts of cannabis enthusiasts.

In nature, those seeds form in the late autumn–when the male plants pollinate the females. Each time such pollination takes place the result is a genetically unique seed–one that contains DNA from both of its parents–but without the direct involvement of human beings, the amount of genetic diversity seen from generation to generation is practically pretty limited.

In theory, each time two unique varieties are crossed in this way, the result is a wholly new strain. But in practice, only the most successful of these hybrids will be stabilized and grow popular enough to earn a permanent place in the hearts of cannabis enthusiasts. Adding to the complexity (and potential confusion) of this process is the fact that until relatively recently, all of this breeding still took place in the underground, so the documentation of who created what and how is often unknown or in dispute.

But that’s just all the more reason to properly identify and honor the amazing cannabis breeders of yore who performed the alchemical feat of bringing into the world all-new, genetically distinct cannabis varietals that truly changed the game.

Dave Watson (a.k.a. “Sam the Skunkman”)

One of the most fascinating and controversial figures in cannabis history, Dave Watson (far better known as “Sam the Skunkman”) is lauded by some and vilified by others, but nobody can dispute the outsized role he’s played in the once very small world of cannabis breeders.

Watson’s journey began in Santa Cruz, California in the 1970s, where he was linked to two of the earliest cannabis breeding outfits to ever gain notoriety–the Haze Brothers and Sacred Seed Collective–both of which were instrumental in developing the early hybrid strains that helped transform American “homegrown” cannabis from a ditchweed laughingstock to the envy of the world.

In 1985, Watson was reportedly arrested on cannabis charges in California. A month later, he landed at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, allegedly with a box of 250,000 seeds that included Skunk #1, Original Haze, and Afghani #1–all of which had been bred or stabilized by his cannabis compatriots. Watson met immediately with emissaries from Amsterdam’s burgeoning cannabis scene, which at the time relied largely on imported hashish to supply its coffeeshops.

Along with Robert Colonel Clarke (Author of Hashish! and Marijuana Botany), he would go on to form Hortapharm, a company dedicated to collecting cannabis seeds from around the world, both to create a stable genetic library and to breed new hybrids with desirable traits. By the late 1990s, they were doing business with Dr. Geoffrey Guy, founder and chairman of GW Pharmaceuticals, which is now licensed by the British government to cultivate cannabis for use in making “whole-plant extracts” with specific ratios of THC and CBD for use as prescription medicines.

GW has since created “the first cannabis plant-derived medicine ever approved by the FDA,” but at the time, the company was in its earliest stages and still looking for cannabis seed stock to use in developing its pharmaceutical preparations.

Ben Dronkers

 

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In the late 1960s, Netherlands native Ben Dronkers sailed on merchant ships to exotic ports of call, where he initially sought out fabric to start his own clothing company, but eventually began collecting local cannabis seeds instead. In time, his collection was truly unparalleled and boasted genetics from throughout Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. He then used those landrace strains to breed his own hybrids.

In 1985, Dronkers formed Sensi Seed Bank and began offering for sale the strains he’d collected and hybrids he’d created, including after crossing his own discoveries with recently arrived American varietals.

Among his most endearing and enduring contributions: Jack Herer, one of the all time most popular cannabis strains, named for one of the all-time most influential cannabis activists.

DJ Short

“#DjShortNewberry #DjShort. The red hue is from unintentional light bleaching. Photo and grow cred goes to: @secondgenerationgenetics” (@secondgenerationgenetics/Instagram)

According to a lengthy 2013 Grantland profile titled “The Willie Wonka of Pot,” DJ Short–the legendary, nearly mythical cannabis breeder behind Blueberry and many other classic strains–is part of a long line of plant medicine workers. His great-grandmother “used to grow pot, opium, tobacco, sage, and lavender in a backyard garden. The curtains in his grandmother’s house were made of hemp. His family used to joke, ‘If the house catches on fire, stay in for a little while and breathe.'”

In 1973, he bought a box of cereal that came with a seed sprouter as the prize inside. That inspired him to try growing the seeds he’d collected.

Eventually he began collecting cannabis seeds from the bags of cannabis he bought as a teenager, carefully logging them and making detailed notes, as much later related in his own 2003 book Cultivating Exceptional Cannabis: An Expert Breeder Shares His Secrets:

Colombian Gold (“The smell was that of sandalwood incense, almost frankincense, and the flavor was that of a peppery incense cedar … truly psychedelic, powerful and long lasting”), Chocolate Thai (“deep, rich, chocolate, nutty, woody/spicy”); Jamaican (“Too damned strong and speedy! … It is a heart-lifting herb and I have a sensitive heart. So I am careful with the samples of the commercial J-ganga that I try”).

Then one day, in 1973, after moving to Oregon, he bought a box of cereal that came with a seed sprouter as the prize inside. That inspired him to try growing the sativa seeds he’d collected as a youth, but he found they took too long to mature and yielded too little. Next he tried smoking some indica, but found it didn’t stoke his inspiration or spark his imagination the same way as sativa.

So he set up a 16-square-foot closet grow and began to breed his own strains, mixing sativa and indica varietals and scrupulously smoking the results until he produced not just Blueberry, a marquee strain with the hue and aroma of fresh berries, but also Flo, Blue Velvet, Azure Haze, Whitaker Blues, Vanilluna, and many other varieties that have collectively changed the game–as has DJ Short’s tireless research into cultivation and breeding practices, a lifelong pursuit he continues today.

DNA Genetics

Don and Aaron (the D and A of DNA Genetics) met in Southern California and initially enjoyed the symbiotic relationship of weed dealer and customer. Then they became friends. And finally business partners.

There was never any question that they’d enter the cannabis business, as both men share a true and abiding passion for the plant. But rather than try to compete in the still grey market medical cannabis industry developing in the United States at the time, in 2004 they decided to pull up stakes and open up shop in The Netherlands.

The move put them in direct contact with Amsterdam’s legendary cannabis scene, which had been serving as a center of breeding and seed banks since the days of Dave Watson and Ben Dronkers back in the 1980s.

As new kids on the block, Don and Aaron brought with them not just enthusiasm and youthful energy, but also a whole new generation of prized California genetics which they used to create next-level cannabis hybrids like LA Confidential, Chocolope, Tangie, and Kosher Kush.

More recently, they’ve moved their operations back to California, where they’re firmly established among the largest and most respected cannabis brands in the game today.

Lawrence Ringo

 

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Sour maui July 26th

Before humans began actively breeding cannabis strains for desired traits, the plant produced much less THC than it does now, and lots more CBD–perhaps even a 1:1 ratio of its two best known and most plentiful cannabinoids. But because CBD isn’t intoxicating like THC, underground breeders seeking higher highs for decades unwittingly bred CBD out of the cannabis gene pool.

Sour Tsunami, bred by Lawrence Ringo, was the first stabilized CBD-rich strain found in California–a discovery that led to a revolution in medical cannabis.

Well aware of CBD’s therapeutic potential, however, in 2010 a non-profit organization called Project CBD formed to boost research into the compound, and help identify and proliferate what few CBD-rich cannabis varietals remained in circulation. From its inception, Project CBD partnered with California’s commercial cannabis testing labs to flag any bud testing high in CBD, in order to build up a breeding stock of high-CBD strains.

Sour Tsunami–bred by Lawrence Ringo of Southern Humboldt Seed Collective–was the first stabilized CBD-rich strain they found in California, a discovery that led to a revolution in medical cannabis.

Ringo himself had begun growing as early as 1971, though he remained largely in the underground until 2010 when he founded his seed company. That’s also when he had his crops lab tested for the first time, and discovered the unique medicinal properties of Sour Tsunami were due to its high CBD content (around 11%). From then until the end of his life in 2014, he focused on developing additional CBD-rich strains, including Harle-Tsu, Canna-Tsu, Swiss-Tsu, and ACDC.

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