Part 1 - Intro
After weeks of mounting excitement the long-awaited moment the harvest is finally within arm's reach. The plants have grown incredibly quickly through their first three weeks of blossoming and have undergone a real transformation, after which began the slow formation of the buds. Ever- increasing numbers of white hairs appeared and formed the basis of the eventual buds, over which we have been drooling in anticipation.
After five weeks of blossoming there should now be hard, THC dripping buds found on your plants, that are still growing and expanding but which have now put the larger part of their development behind them. The blossoming plants should still be lovely and green, and the THC production firing on all cylinders. The leaves around the buds will become stickier and stickier and the many THC-rich resin glands produced on them will later be used for making a nice lump of hash with.
So at the harvest that is just around the corner we will have the leaves that we have trimmed from around the buds, and also the larger leaves that contain THC, both of which we will lay to one side to dry out well. We will then also have to decide whether we want to make water hash or skuff. There will be more about this in our harvest section.
Part 2 - Blooming boosters
In any case, as long as you have not given your plants an overdose of fertiliser then the very sight of your garden should by now be enough to get your mouth watering. It should look marvellous under the strong HPS illumination, which makes the numerous THC glands on your buds and leaves dance and glint in the light.
Because blossoming plants have additional demands for phosphorus and calcium, we give them pk 13-14 as an extra stimulation of the development of their blossoming. These substances are found in every basic nutrient mix, but in lower volumes, and with pk 13-14 we can make up the shortfall. The buds will be harder and more compact as a result If you are a newbie to growing, you are best to begin with the basic package of fertilisers, which consists of base fertiliser containing all NPKs (nitrogen, phosphorus and calcium-containing compounds), plus a pk 13-14 and a root stimulator.
With these basic products you will be more than able to grow yourself a great harvest. If you've got the bit between your teeth and it looks as if your harvest is going to turn out to be mostly problem-free, then you can apply a number of additional products such as a bloom stimulator and/or boosters and enzymes. It does not make any sense to add these relatively more expensive products immediately because they only help as long as everything has proceeded smoothly during the grow. Since you as a relative newcomer will undoubtedly have made a number of mistakes, then these products will in all likelihood be overkill and unlikely to have much added value.
Once you have worked through your main mistakes then these products do indeed offer something of value to your eventual harvest.
Enzymes take care of removing old root remains and reduce the salt accumulation in your medium that comes from giving them additional nutrients. Once you have been using the same bottle of nutrient for a while you will notice the top develops a white, crystalline deposit on it. These are the salts I'm referring to. By using organic nutrients such as plagron you can also reduce the accumulation of salts, since these contain considerably lower levels than the bio-mineral nutrients.
Part 3 - On pots and uniformity
The size of pots that we have been using is dependent on the number of plants that we are growing and the number of weeks growth that we gave them. These factors are connected to each other. If we have a larger number of plants to pack in then we need to use smaller pots and give the plants less time in growth. For example, if we have 16 plants in one square metre and give them a grow period of between 5 and 9 days, then the plants will be happy with 5 litre pots.
If we were to reduce that number to 10 plants and give them a grow period of 10-14 days then the plants will need 7-11 litre pots. So the fewer the plants we grow, the larger the pots we will use and the longer time in growth we will give them. The yield you end up with is more or less the same whichever method you use. The only difference is in the amount of time we need in total to get our harvest. So someone with 16 plants and using the popular bloom period of 8 weeks will take about two months and five days from start to finish.
If you have 10 plants then it will take you about two months and two weeks. In other words, you will take longer to get the same yield. Commercial growers in particular find it important to get to harvest in as short a period of time as possible. That is why they often stick 20 plants in a square metre and give them only 1-3 days' growth depending on the medium that they are using. In this way they can harvest every two months if they use a variety that does the business in 8 weeks. In general, plants with more of a Sativa influence in them take longer to bloom than those dominated by Indica genes.
So you see that you can be guided in your original selection of plants as much by the blossoming period as by the eventual effect of the dried smokeable material. If you prefer a more 'up' high than a heavier, bodily stoned, then it is advisable to plump for a Sativa cross that takes a little longer to bloom, say between 8-10 weeks. Even so, you must always take account when growing from seed that every plant is unique and there will always be early- blooming, medium long-blooming and late-blooming individuals in your selection.
If you read somewhere that a particular variety is 'very uniform' this means that there will be little difference in the time to harvest between the adult plants. So you can expect 80% of the plants to end up with the same growing time, and when a variety has less uniformity there will be larger differences between the plants in their blooming period as grown up plants. This is also an important factor you should take into account when choosing a particular variety.
Part 4 - Climate
All the nutrients and water that you give your plants during their blooming period have to go somewhere. The water is evaporated from the leaves of your plants and then floats freely in your growing room. Since at the beginning of the blooming the plants still had little vegetation and were rather small, then little moisture was released into the air by the plants. Thanks to this, the air moisture was if anything too low rather than too high. Because our green plants grow more rapidly in a moister climate than in the dry heat produced by the HPS lamps, you can ensure a faster development and growth in the first week(s) by allowing the air moisture to rise.
The easiest way to achieve this without buying an air humidifier is to attach a dimmer switch to your ventilator. With a dimmer you can vary the speed of the air extraction. Connecting a dimmer is handy because with it you can better influence the climate. What's more, a ventilator without a dimmer always operates at full speed and this is not always needed, and not only wastes electricity but also creates more noise than is strictly necessary. It is not actually the ventilator itself that creates the noise but the stream of air that comes out of it.
So you are better off having a dimmer during the first weeks; it will allow the pump to not only operate more softly, it will suck away less moist air, thereby keeping the air moisture content higher and allowing your seedlings to develop more quickly. As soon as the plants become bigger you can afford to let the pump do a bit more work, as the plants are producing ever greater quantities of moisture, and you need to make sure that the humidity does not start to creep up too high once the formation of the buds is well and truly underway, around the fourth week of blossoming.
Too high a humidity can lead to the rock hard buds beginning to develop mould during their last few weeks of growth. When the humidity is too high there is a greater chance of damp getting inside the bud structure, which continues to grow around it, trapping the moisture. This trapped moisture can incubate moulds. Varieties of weed that develop especially hard buds have a greater chance of developing mould than buds with a more airy structure, thanks to the latter not trapping moisture in them so easily.
Once you have discovered mould in a bud then it is as good as lost, since the mould has been active inside before it became visible on the outside of the bud. When you have a lovely-developed bud and then a strange yellow coloured leaf sticks out the middle of it even though you have definitely been giving her enough nutrients - then you are best off pulling it softly out. If the leaf comes free easily, then the bud is infected. So make sure that you have a good ventilator in action during the last weeks. It is an investment when you are just starting out, but is a 'must' if you want to make sure that your harvest comes off without a hitch.
Not only does the ventilator ensure that the warm, damp air is removed, but it also makes sure that fresh, CO2-rich air is sucked into the space in which your plants are hard at work. They will need this fresh air to keep growing and blooming at an optimum rate. Try and make sure that during the last few weeks of blooming the air moisture is kept below 50%. Of course, you can grow in a cupboard without a ventilator by keeping the door ajar, but then will not get optimal results. If you are going to do something, you are better off making sure you do it well.
The dimmer in combination with the ventilator will enable you to master the environment better, and an outstanding climate increases your yield and the quality of your eventual harvest.
Part 5 - Keeping the noise down
For those of you who have your growing space set up in the vicinity of a bedroom, then there can be a problem of complaints about the noise made by the ventilator. There are various ways of reducing the noise. First and foremost you have the aforementioned dimmer, since a ventilator that is not running at full speed makes less noise. So try and run yours at about 75-80%.
That is why it is always best to go for a ventilator with too great a capacity rather than too little. A large ventilator running at half speed makes less noise than a small ventilator running flat out. If this does not help sufficiently, then you can have the ventilator built into an insulated box. Just attaching a length of hose to the ventilator already reduces the sound considerably because the sound is not immediately dispersed but runs first along the hose, by which it is reduced in volume.
Should these efforts still not give you the results you wish, then you can fit a sound muffler to your ventilator. This looks something like a carbon filter; a metal tube that you fix to your ventilator so that the sound produced must first pass through the tube, where it is reduced. Then simply fit a normal hose to the muffler and you'll find the noise has largely been filtered out.
Part 6 - Last 2 weeks
The majority of the bud development will have happened by the 6th week if we are growing a medium long-blooming variety. In the last two weeks the buds will be mostly ripening and not growing further in size to any great extent. The buds that were chock full of bonewhite hairs will now begin to turn slowly brown. Depending on which variety you are using and the climate of the space, this ripening can take a variable amount of time to finish.
Once some 80% of the little hairs have turned brown then it is time for digging those clippers out the cupboard and preparing for harvest. Of course you can also influence the sort of high you get from your cannabis by harvesting your buds a little earlier or later. The longer you wait to harvest, the 'stonier' the cannabis will be; if you harvest it a little earlier then you will get more of a 'head high'. So you can make your mind up according to your own personal preference.
Since we usually aim for some sort of golden 'middle way,' we will go for harvest when 80% of the hairs are brown. Do not forget that sometimes white hairs can turned brown by influencing the climate or messing with the humidity. It does not automatically mean that the plant is sure to ripen once you get a few brown hairs. A bud that has died off or that has been infected by mould will also develop brown hairs. Harvesting is not an exact science but in short, if you have a mostly brown hairs and a few of the lowest buds still have white hairs, you can safely go ahead and start chopping. You have to look at the plant as a whole when you are doing your 80% calculations. In order to experience the varieties of high you can achieve, you might want to harvest at staged intervals, and once they are dried take each sample for a test smoke.
As the end approaches nearer you will find that one variety holds on to its nutrients more than the other. So for example a K2 will hold on to its nutrients longer , which means you have to stop feeding it in the last week and a half. The plants will remain a crisp green despite doing this, the hairs will continue to darken in colour, and the buds will slowly ripen, taking on a marvellous appearance with their wonderful layer of THC sprinkled all over them.
Since there is still a lot of nutrition left over in the medium (exactly how much depends on the medium you are using) and the leaves also contain considerable nutrients within them, we stop feeding them for the last 1.5-2 weeks of bloom. If you are growing hydroponically then don't cease feeding until the last five days, as the yellowing process will happen very quickly if you are growing in water only. In soil-filled pots, or on coco and suchlike there is still quite a lot of nutrient left in that needs to be used up.
What happens when you stop feeding your plants is that they will take up and use all remaining available nutrients from the pots or medium, and once this has been done they will suck their leaves dry to get the nutrients out of these too. In other word, even after stopping with feeding the plant still has more than enough nutrients. You can still apply bloom stimulator given that this is not a nutrient substance. The leaves will slowly turn yellow and this is a sign that there is very little nutrient remaining in your buds by harvest time.
In this way you also save a few weeks or days of nutrient expenses. Yellowing is therefore a good thing because having excess nutrients in them will add nothing to your buds. Eventually you will be able to remove some of the larger leaves from your plants in the last week or few days before the harvest, which will save you some trimming and will also allow more light down to the lowest buds and give them a better chance of adding some last minute weight before coming under the shears. This done, it leaves little else to do in the last few weeks but to savour the results of the source of your excitement...