grows like a weed
September 14, 2017 5:49 AM   Subscribe

I have some questions *as a gardener* about growing weed.

The internet has near-infinite resources on the topic of growing weed, however most of those people are more enthusiastic about weed and less enthusiastic about gardening.

It's a lot to wade through, some of it is silly, it's impossible to tell what is based in science, much of it seems like folklore, all of it has more text than I want to deal with, and most of it has to do with indoor growing or hydroponics or hiding it from one's parents or roommates.

I have three healthy, hybrid plants of different strains in containers outdoors. Zone 5b, first frost is October 15. Most have some yellowing leaves lower down (this is a normal part of fruiting I think; it happened last year.) All have buds. Because they are different cultivars, plants are of different heights and stages.

Here are my questions:

-Harvest: whole plant or one flower at a time? I understand (I think) that it's 'done' or 'ripe' when the little bristles on buds are maybe 75% amber as opposed to white, but some buds up top are at that point while the buds down lower aren't coloring at all yet. Most sources suggest harvesting the whole plant at one time and hanging it upside down to cure but the timing doesn't seem to work. It would be like harvesting tomatoes when only one is ripe but if I wait too long, it seems like the upper buds would be past-prime.

-Light: plants are in full sun and I've read that 12 dark/12 light hours per day triggers flowering, but I'm not sure if that's true. They are, in fact, flowering. Is there some magical requirement about light?

-Failure points: Success or failure with certain vegetables depends on some basic knowledge that doesn't come up for everyone--like if soil is super-acid it needs adjusting to grow tomatoes successfully. Most people don't have super-acid soil so it's not generally part of tomato growing discussions because only a few people care. Is there anything like that I should know about?

Everything is in compliance with the legal requirements btw; I read the law but there is a deliberate lack of SEO value in the question because for all we know tomorrow gardening itself will be illegal. Who knows anymore. Trying not to be uptight about it but having lived through Nancy Reagan I am scarred for life. Feel free to Memail me if you want to answer but not publicly because you, too, are scarred for life.
posted by A Terrible Llama to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
A lot of the advice you'll see online is more geared toward larger operations, not just a few plants. So harvesting a few buds at a time works for you but would not if you had 100 plants.

However, there is some good reason to harvest more than just the bud: the plant does not die instantly; and when you hang the whole plant (of anything herbaceous), resources can continue to be used for flower and seed maturation for several days. Hopefully you are not growing seeds, but you will want the flowers to continue to ripen and cure for a bit.

If this were mine, I'd harvest a each stem when it seemed ready, keeping at least six inches of plant matter in each piece if possible.

The light thing is all about indoor growing, the plants do cue in to photoperiod, but if they are growing outside you don't want to try to mess with it now. As you say, it worked, they flowered.

I am a plant biologist and casual gardener, very little of what you need to know here is overly specific to Cannabis. Like other herbs, I'd recommend saving and drying the leaves too, they are not as prized but still useful.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:28 AM on September 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

-Light: plants are in full sun and I've read that 12 dark/12 light hours per day triggers flowering, but I'm not sure if that's true. They are, in fact, flowering. Is there some magical requirement about light?

The requirement isn't magical, it's related to the seasons and called photoperiodism. Longer days (less than 12 hours of darkness) mean summer. Shorter days mean fall. Cannabis is a short-day flowering plant, and won't produce flowers until it thinks it's fall.
posted by dis_integration at 7:35 AM on September 14, 2017

Will LED lights, if there a bunch, screw up the photoperiod? I had an experience a couple of years ago with crocuses, where they came up but did not bloom beneath a tree where we had been running Christmas lights all winter (this was before I learned not to do this sort of thing because it freaks out lightning bugs as well...)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:43 AM on September 14, 2017

If they're bright enough, yeah, they will mess up the darkness period. Indoor growers that don't want to use continuous light (expensive! hot!) use short bursts (several minutes at a time) of brightness to keep their plants in a vegetative state after the 12 hours of light. Basically you want nothing brighter than the full moon on the plants at night for more than a minute or so. Or at least that's the conventional pot-wisdom.
posted by dis_integration at 7:56 AM on September 14, 2017

If there's enough light from the LED's (the amount of light the plant experiences will also be based upon distance from the light as well as how bright the light is), then yes it can. Something indoor growers have to worry about are "light leaks" - light coming in from the surronding environment when the plants are in their dark stage. There are occaisions where the off cycle light isn't sufficient to prevent flowering, but is sufficient enough to stress the plant - potentially causing hermapradite plants.

If you want to harvest, it won't hurt to eliminate any nearby light, while not needing to go to extreme's like painting your neighbors' windows black and knocking out their porch lights. If I were growing outdoors, I suspect that unless I noticed a problem from the year before I wouldn't sweat the xmas lights.

A potentially actual concern would be flood lights (led or not) aimed directly at the plant on for most/all of the night. Plants have evolved in an environment where full moons occur during the night, but a flood light would be in a problem spot - brighter than a moon, but significantly less than a nearby grow light or the sun. LED xmas omnidirectional xmas lights 10+ feet away will seem like light bright stars or tiny moons.

For the harvest, small indoor growers (one or two main grow lights) may often use the same space/box for growing and for curing. Both spaces have a need for good air flow and filtering out as much scent as possible, and not many can pull off multiple spaces. So cutting down not only the whole plant, all of the plants at the same time, is more an issue of necessity than of optimal yield. Light will damage the trichromes, so for curing you need it dark - if only only has one location, it needs to all at once transition from grow to cure.

As SaltySalticid mentions, for curing purposes you want as much of the plant still attached as practical, so again cutting it all at once is convenient, even if not necessarily optimal for all the buds. If you do decide to harvest in parts, likely the upper buds mature sooner as their not shaded by the rest of the plant. Removing the top will allow more light to reach the lower branches helping maturation. Cleanly cut as much of the plant as practical with the bud(s) for optimal curing when you do cut sections off.
posted by nobeagle at 8:21 AM on September 14, 2017

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