With more than a century of underground knowledge and only a decade or so of legal cultivation, it’s still a little early for formal cannabis best practices to emerge.
It’s true that commercial growers are required to follow whatever state or national rules apply regarding the use of certain pesticides, presence of heavy metals, or cannabinoid percentage, especially THC.
But beyond this, it’s really up to individual companies to formulate their own strategies for how to properly plant, grow, and harvest their product. After all, a consistent product is one area that can distinguish one brand’s cannabis from another. Plus, customers who have a good experience from a particular strain will more likely stay loyal to a specific grower if they can get it again.
This makes it important for growers to be able to dial in specific and repeatable environmental factors like water, soil, and light, as well as how the harvested plants are dried and stored.
Individuals interested in growing their own plants, especially if they’re just getting started, also might want to learn common methods to grow certain strains. This way, they can learn which plants are easier than others, and which may require more attention. Growing some plants might require lots of hands-on help or some might be hardy enough that you can pretty much ignore them other than a little water now and then.
The challenge many face is that there seems to be an abundance of general growing information out there, so it’s not always easy for individual growers to know what works best, especially if you’re new to growing. You may literally run across dozens of guidebooks and “how to” manuals for the same strain, and these may conflict. You also may run across growing tips that feel out of date and may no longer apply to your situation, along with tips that lean more on the ‘personal anecdote’ side rather than detailed and objective growing instructions.
So, what should you do if you want to start growing the good stuff right away? Some of the answer is expected: be ready to work hard and be ready to learn. The latter one can be tricky since it may involve trial and error in your growing until you find what you like. Or, if you’ve grown in the past but not for a while, it may require some ‘un-learning’ past tactics sp you can try something new.
Some common and untrue myths about growing include:
- Good plant genetics must lead to good potency.
Potency, which usually means the percentage of THC, the natural compound that causes alteration to mind and body during consumption, is one of those tricky factors that some in the cannabis community say should no longer be used as a prime metric for how “good” a particular strain is. Although many consumers have been conditioned to want to grow or buy whatever hits the hardest, what’s really more of an indicator of quality are the different terpenes, or natural flavors and aromas.
But if you are specifically looking for something highly potent, your growing conditions are more important for possible potency than what it says on the seed package. There are literally thousands of strains out there and even some with similar names may act or grow differently. Many of today’s items are technically hybrids, bred and crossed to bring out certain flavors.
If you want potency, start with certain seeds known to be higher in THC, but focus more on providing a good growing environment to produce better buds.
- Fruit juice can change the taste and flavor of your plant.
Some growers of the past have sworn that adding items like Kool-Aid powder or actual orange juice early on into your water supply can make the plants take on these flavors. In most cases, doing this will do nothing, and too much orange juice may even affect the plant’s pH balance, since it’s high in acidity.
It’s also not easy to duplicate the exact amount and other growing conditions for future batches, and some of these ingredients may even be flushed out if you practice this particular growing method.
Flavors are genetic, so your best bet, if you’re seeking a particularly unique color or taste, is to look through seed banks to find something with a terpene profile that appeals to you. Certain strains may have a certain combination of terpenes, such as purple leaves or more of a pine taste.
There are, however, growing methods that can bring out more of a particular terpene in a plant that already has these present, everything from adjusting the amount of water, light, and temperature to certain commercial nutrients with specific sugar bases.
- Hanging plants upside down increases potency.
Many of us have seen grows where the harvested buds are hung vertically like bats during the drying stage. This has been a fairly common approach, with the assumption that gravity causes the “good stuff” like THC cannabinoids in the plant to drip down from the stalk into the buds to mix with the trichomes and make everything a little stronger.
As we learn more about cannabis, we learn that this isn’t quite what’s happening. What is actually taking place is a slower drying process that evaporates water and keeps in terpenes. Any sort of curing is good for the quality of a complete plant, including a stronger aroma, similar to growing tobacco. So, you may not have a more potent plant specifically due to hanging, but you’ll have a better flavored plant.
- You must have big pots for your pot.
Your local supply store may suggest this, especially if you’re getting started and they have big pots they want to move. A bigger, deeper growing container can ideally include lots of room for soil, nutrients, and for lots of plants to take root. But this can cause some challenges. First, it can be hard to move a full pot if you’re still dialing in your set-up or moving plants regularly for optimal light conditions.
But unless you’re highly organized and careful, you might need to only keep one type of plant in each pot. Each plant may require certain blends of nutrients and other ingredients that may not be the same for adjoining plants.
Plus, some common methods of growing do just fine with smaller, more shallow pots, such as hydroponics, where adequate water/nutrient flow is more crucial than soil depth.
Smaller pots may mean smaller yields, but they can also let you try different methods and strains.
- The more nutrients, the better.
It’s tempting, especially for someone new to this world, to use every growing solution, which can get expensive, heavy, and not necessarily lead to amazing plants. In fact, too many nutrients can run the risk of overfeeding, which can cause poor growth or even burning.
All you really need is the right balance of potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus for certain strains. These are sold in different concentrations, and also based on what you want your plants to do – remain vegetative or flower.
However, some newcomers may want to consider basic bat guano as a fertilizer.