When they are young, cannabis plants are tender little creations; like a mama tiger and cub, your baby Cannabis sativa needs your loving guidance until she is strong enough to stand on her own. This week’s installment addresses the needs of cannabis plants that have passed the seedling phase and have developed into viable young plants.
The first thing you will need is light. Until your plants are ready to go into flower, they are in what is known as the vegetative state. This is the cycle of their existence when vitally important characteristics like root growth, strength of stems, and size are developed. Overall wellness should be your focus during this time period.
During the vegetative phase, your plants should be given light for 24 hours, every single day. Some say that 16 to 18 hours is enough, but since you can definitely use the sun as your light source for the duration of time that it shines brightly, and you will definitely need supplemental lighting, I strongly recommend the ’round-the-clock method. Too much is at stake in the veg phase to skimp on providing anything but the best opportunity for your babies to grow into full-fledged tigresses.
There are multiple directions you might travel in coming to a decision on what type of technology you invest in. I find the convertible ballast light to be a solid option due to the fact that they are able to accept both metal halide (vegetative phase) and high pressure sodium (flowering phase) bulbs, giving you the ability to continue growing past the outdoor season, a wonderful option that will allow you to run at least four additional grow cycles per year. You can pick up a small convertible ballast light setup containing the ballast, the hood, and the bulb for under $300. If you want to go a less expensive route ($100 or under), you can use standard shop-type lamps. If this is your plan, be sure to get bulbs in the blue spectrum, as opposed to those in the red spectrum – plants in veg phase need this type of light in order to thrive. The drawback of shop lights is that they are next to useless for plants in the flowering phase. These lights should be situated far enough above your plants so that if you place your hand (palm down) at the top of the plants, it will not be too hot for your skin to remain comfortably. Keep in mind that they will grow rapidly during this period of their lives – think middle -schoolers – so the lighting setup will have to be raised or the surface on which the plants rests will have to be lowered at least once a week.
The other piece of equipment you will need is an oscillating fan (or two). This is the workout plan for your cannabis plants; a consistent, gentle (especially at first) breeze trains the stalks of your girls to adapt by adjusting to the constantly shifting wind created by the fan’s movement. You will want to move the fans or plants or to rotate the surface every couple days in order to ensure that the plants are all receiving wind at the same rate, allowing them to develop equally. The fans will cause the soil to dry out faster than it otherwise would, so be sure that it remains moist to the depth of your first knuckle. This will require at least daily monitoring, especially on warmer days.
The health of your stalks is a potentially-overlooked component of the overall success and eventual best harvest of the flowers; they are the pathway through which all water and nutrients flow to the buds. Leaves will come and go, but each C. sativa has but one stalk, and taking care to strengthen and condition it during its early days will pay huge dividends come autumn.
Next week, we will look at plant nutrients, soil additives, and the best methods to care for your plants for the remainder of their vegetative phase in preparation for the transition to the flowering phase. Until then, enjoy the sweet days of beautiful green youth. Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.