Let's start off by looking at the seedling stage. Seeds are the variety of life and especially when it comes to Cannabis. Breeders have been crossing strains since the early 1970’s to provide the best range of genetic diversity on the planet. The seedling stage is the start of life for the plant and this is where much care needs to be taken in order to get the best possible start. When germinating seeds it is surprising how many people are unaware of the correct way to germinate seeds, however there are a few different ways which always work on the basis that the conditions are right.
By Stoney Tark
Soaking wet paper towels and leaving the seeds in a warm, dark place is the most popular way to get seedlings to sprout. Simply using 2 layers of tissue paper, soak to the point of becoming wet but not dripping wet. You will want the seeds to have plenty of air around so a waterlogged tissue will only prevent germination. Seeds also may go soggy and become mushy if the water content is too high. One issue that people can find when germinating seeds this way is that the tap root can grow long in search of a growing medium that it can anchor itself into and develop a sturdy taproot.
Upon seeing long, healthy taproots, as happy as a grower can be, planting the seeds without causing the roots to grow in the shape of a letter J can be easier said than done. What is an excellent technique is to place the tissue in an envelope or plastic sleeve and allow it to stand upright. This will encourage the tap root to grow down in the same way it would do in a growing medium and will also ensure that the J - Root does not happen.
Another simple way to germinate seeds that I personally prefer over other methods is to place the seedlings in a glass of water, approximately 2 inches high with water. Once the seeds float then within a few days all of the seeds will begin to open and tap roots will emerge. Some seeds may even germinate whilst floating on top of the surface of the water, but either way this is a sure way to germinate even stubborn old seeds.
A great part about germinating seeds in a glass of water, is adding Trichoderma fungi as an inoculant and sometimes a drop of seaweed extract to speed up the opening process. Seeds can show tails within 6 hours of dropping and swirling around in a cup and other seedlings may take up to 3-5 days. With anything to do with nature patience is the key to success.
The Importance of Relative Humidity and Temperature
As the name suggests this is the point in the life cycle of the plant where it will grow leaf and stems and develop its initial structure. The reason why plants are given a light cycle of 18 hours of light and 6 hours of dark is to imitate the seasons and by replicating the same climate from Spring until Summer, plants will grow only vegetative matter. This stage is a big player in determining the final size of the plants, as well as the final canopy structure, the development of the root zone, potential flowering sites and how efficiently your plant will bloom.
The same way that seedlings require high humidity and warm temperatures, the very same applies during the vegetative stage in order for plants to be able to perform to their best ability. The day time temperatures will be fixed as close to 24 degrees Celsius and with a night-time drop of 5-8 degrees Celsius.
Relative humidity needs to be close to 70-75% and the reasons for this are to provide hot humid days as you would find outside. Stomata which is responsible for absorbing carbon dioxide from the air function best when the humidity is high. When relative humidity is low, stomata will close up and the function of photosynthesis will also cease. This is one reason why plants will wilt and close up if the air is too dry.
The very best way to stay on top of your temperature and relative humidity during the 18/6 period is to install a humidity controller that will be programmed to your settings. The controller will be connected to a humidifier that will kick on and off when the level of humidity becomes too high or too low based on the setting. By having this little helper in the grow room, I am able to be away from the garden and know that my environment is perfect and the rate of photosynthesis is the best it can be.
What Nutrients Do Plants Need During 18/6?
Nutrients are generally broken down into two groups and they are primary nutrients and trace elements. Primary nutrients consist of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, and these are the main elements that nutrient bottles will indicate on the labels. For example you may have seen a nutrient that was created for the growing phase that is NPK ratio 5-2-2 and a flowering nutrient that were 2-7-8. These numbers are reflections of the Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium present in that particular nutrient.
During the growing stage, Nitrogen helps plants grow healthy green leaves and stems. It is within the leaves that chlorophyll is present that acts as a platform to allow photosynthesis to occur. The more production of chlorophyll-rich leaf tissue there is, the quicker the plants can exchange carbohydrates and oxygen.
Phosphorus regulates protein synthesis, cell development, and developing new tissue, also responsible for growing stems and strong branching. Roots also require Phosphorus in order to grow the most prolific roots and have the most advanced start.
Potassium is used during the growing phase to allow plants to grow stronger and become more resistant to drought, disease, pests, and also used in conjunction with Nitrogen and Phosphorus along with all the other trace elements is a complex equation as plants grow.
The best way to ensure that your plants have the adequate amounts required during the growing phase, it is recommended to start with a growing medium that is organically rich and can be supplemented with liquid nutrients. Compost is naturally high in Magnesium and is particularly useful when growing O.G Kush varieties that tend to be extra-heavy on Magnesium uptake. A well-composed organic growing medium will be efficient in trace elements also, which are just as vital as primary nutrients to the plants.
What About Plant Training?
During the growing phase is where plant training should be performed, as continuing to train when in the flowering stage may be stressful and counterproductive to the plants. There are different forms of plant training that can be applied and these are as follows:
Pinching or topping refers to when the crown shoot at the very top of the plant is removed. Once cleanly removed and allowed to heal, 2 new shoots will grow back in the place of the original shoot, meaning that there will be a pair of symmetrically growing crown shoots now at the top of the plant. This technique stops apical dominance from the growing tip and causes the plants to grow in a wider, lateral fashion reducing growing height and advanced width.
Tying plants down is referred to as low-stress training and is an excellent way to get hands on with your plants. The principle of tying plants down is to basically trick the plant that the dominant top shoot is no longer the highest point of the plant. In response the remaining growing shoots that were beneath the crown shoot are now higher up in the canopy than the bent down top shoot. After 2-3 days the bent part will grow back upwards. The advantage of tying plants down is that the shape and vigor of the plant will take on a bushy shape with many top shoots will form allowing for an enhanced yield.
Super-cropping is a term that describes breaking the stem of the plant and causing damage to the inner cell wall of the branch. The plants will repair this break with an abundance of plant hormones, which have more benefits than one. Not only will the initial break heal with a solid wooden knuckle, the plant hormones and auxins will push the pants to grow with serious stature and a healthy characteristic. Super-cropping is classed as a high-stress technique, and will take some practice before truly perfecting, but the plants will always heal and bounce back stronger.
Lollipopping or pruning is to carefully shape the plants by removing the growth they have developed. This technique should really be done close to flowering, as the shift of energy the plants will use in producing a top heavy canopy will be far more efficient than if left unpruned. A good rule of thumb is to remove 60-70% of the growth beneath the top canopy, ensuring that whatever foliage is remaining will grow with full lighting and will only produce thick dense nugs.
SCROG refers to using a screen to produce a canopy that is filled with 2-3 ft tall main colas. By training plants through a screen over a long period of time, not for support reasons but to make a frame that ensures whatever makes it through one of the squares, will become a heavy budding branch. In order to perfect the SCROG method, all of the above techniques need to be performed at several stages to create the desired final canopy.