11/13 Flowering Light Cycle: Can it Improve Your Grow?

When growing photoperiod marijuana, it’s a standard practice to give it 18/6 in veg and 12/12 in flower. However, there are growers who use a shorter photoperiod and swear by it. Let’s review the existing studies and anecdotal evidence and see if 11/13 flowering light cycle and similar light schedules really work.

What Does Science Say on Flowering Under 13/11?

It’s notoriously difficult to find any peer-reviewed scientific publications on the subject of cannabis cultivation. The question of using 11/13 for flowering is no exception. There’s one major paper that studied the effects of light (intensity, spectrum etc.) on cannabis production. It only briefly states that shorter photoperiod potentially leads to smaller yields*. Well, it’s expected, and this is the same thing as growers on forums say.

Another study actually focused not on medical marijuana, but on hemp grown for fiber. It also noted that shorter photoperiod causes earlier flowering**. The researchers observed little difference in flowering times if days lasted 13 h 40 min or less. However, if light hours were at 14 h 40 min or more, this significantly delayed the beginning of flowering (and the harvest time).

Well, hardly any real-life grower has ever experimented with a 14/10 cycle, so this doesn’t give us much insight. It’s interesting that both 12/12 and 13/11 fall into the “13 h 40 min or less” category, and the scientists didn’t find the difference statistically significant.

And in case you’re wondering what’s the maximum length of day at which most cannabis plants start to flower indoors, it’s 13.2 hours (and 10.8 h of dark)***. So not only the ‘11 on 13 off flowering’ light schedule, but also the opposite (13 on 11 off) can be used for flowering. At least, for indicas and indica-dominant strains.

And that’s it in terms of reliable scientific data. Let’s hope we get more in the future.

What’s the Consensus in the Growing Community?

It’s very difficult to obtain objective results of whether the 13/11 flowering cycle works for you or not. To get hard evidence, you’ll have to run a side-by-side experiment. Nobody has bothered to do this so far.  So we don’t know for sure. Still, there are several points that all 11/13 growers agree upon:

  • A slightly shorter flowering time. Comes handy if you’re in a hurry, or want to save a day or two worth of electricity.
  • A slightly lower yield. Here you have a classical tradeoff between speed and reward. You can try to offset this with more powerful lights though.
  • Saving electricity. Even if the 13 11 light cycle doesn’t make the flowering shorter, you’ll save 1 hour a day worth of energy.

More Controversial Findings on 11/13 Flowering Light Cycle

Perhaps, the list above didn’t inspire you to try less than 12 hours of light during flowering? Well, here are a few extra points that’ll probably change your mind.

At least two celebrity breeders—the legendary DJ Short of the Blueberry fame and Swerve from Cali Connection—recommend to shorten the day during flowering. DJ Short believes that this method is great for breeding. It’s because it increases the expression of sativa genes in a hybrid. This affects the plant structure and the shape and the texture of buds (e.g. foxtailing). More importantly, it also influences the high. Presumably, the standard 12/12 cycle makes the effect more couch-locky. And if you want more of the cerebral sativa energy, you better make light hours shorter and darkness longer. The effect of 11/13 grown buds also tends to be a creeper, according to anecdotal reports.

Some people say that they’ve noticed less stretch on 11/13 during flowering. Which means that you should give your plants a longer veg than normal if you want the same final height.

There’s much controversy about whether the 13/11 flowering time produces more trichomes or less. Some think less light equals less THC. Others say THC gets degraded by light, so more hours of darkness means more potency. Anyway, if you want more resinous buds, the 11/13 method doesn’t seem like a good idea. You may want to try the extended dark period before harvest instead.

Don’t be Afraid to Experiment with 11/13!

For people who love to tweak their growing conditions, changing the photoperiod during flowering presents a lot of opportunities. Just keep in mind that, with days lasting more than 14h 40min, no flowering usually happens. But anything less than that is acceptable and gives you a lot of room for trial and error.

Try and experiment with incremental changes of 15 minutes over several consecutive grows until you hit a sweet spot. For example, you may find that 10h 30 min on / 13 h 30 min off works best for a particular strain. However, you’ll have to find it for yourself—there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Maybe the tried and true 12/12 schedule would be perfect for you after all? Who knows!

Please tell us what you think in the comments!

 

External Links:

  1. * An Update on Plant Photobiology and Implications for Cannabis Production, Samuel Eichhorn Bilodeau, et al, Front Plant Science, Published online 2019 Mar 29
  2. ** The Effects of Photoperiod on Phenological Development and Yields of Industrial Hemp, David J Midmore, et al, Journal of Natural Fibers, March 2014
  3. *** Photoperiodic Response of in vitro Cannabis sativa Plants, Melissa Moher, et al, September 2020

 

Dark Before Harvest: Does Darkness Lead to Dankness?

The quality of buds depends on the percentage of THC and other cannabinoids, and growers go to great lengths to increase their levels. This also goes for the aromatic substances called terpenes. One of the popular ways to danker buds is the extended dark period before harvest. It can range from 24 hours to 1 week or even more. And don’t think that the usefulness of darkness before harvest is a myth. It’s not like there’s only some weak anecdotal evidence to support it. There are actually some compelling theories explaining why it happens.

Dark Time Before Harvest Theories

One explanation of why dark before harvest improves the quality of weed is that mild stress may increase the production of resin in buds. Another way to stress your plants in a (supposedly) good way is to lower nighttime air temperature. Or even to cool down the root zone by watering your mature plants with ice-cold water. There may be some truth to it, so feel free to experiment, just don’t be sadistic.

Another theory says that such a reaction to extended darkness is an evolutionary mechanism. Here’s the logic: cannabis begins to flower when nights become longer and longer. This signals to the plants that they better hurry if they want to produce seeds before winter. Unpollinated female plants keep increasing the mass of flowers in hopes that at least some of them manage to catch pollen. And if nights are not just long but seemingly endless, the process of making more flowers (and more THC) reaches a frenetic pace. I personally don’t think it a good explanation. Such a response could hardly have evolved because in nature no one turns off the sun for several days in a row.

Yet another theory (which I like) says that at night sugars and starches travel from the above-ground part of a plant to the root zone and are stored there for future use. Now sugars and starches aren’t something that improves the quality of the smoke. On the contrary, they make it harsh and the taste unpleasant. To get rid of these unwanted substances (and the chlorophyll) growers slowly dry and cure their buds for several weeks. However, you can do the same with the long dark phase before harvest. At least, partly.

Finally, there is this explanation that seems to me very good science. It’s common knowledge that the content of THC and other cannabinoids fluctuates. It reaches the peak at the end of the dark period (night), and then cannabinoids get partly degraded by light during the day. It’s because cannabinoids protect marijuana flowers from the harmful effects of UV radiation. Naturally, they are spent in the process, and at night, plants slowly replenish them. So the obvious choice is to harvest your weed before lights-on indoors, or at dawn outdoors. By the same logic, with longer darkness before harvest, THC production may increase even more. And one more thing: some growers use shorter days and longer nights (like 11/13 flowering light cycle). It’s also supposed to make weed more resinous, but we’re not sure it’s true.

Lab Results

Many websites and forums refer to a study that was supposedly done on the subject by the Stichting Institute of Medical Marijuana (SIMM). We couldn’t find this publication (if there ever was any), but at least SIMM is a very much real organization. Well, used to be. Founded by an American activist James Burton, it was one of two licensed suppliers of medical marijuana in Holland and unfortunately went bankrupt within a year or two*.

The legend says that Burton and colleagues once conducted an interesting experiment. They harvested half of the plants in a regular way, but kept the other half in the dark for 72 hours. When they later analyzed the final dried product, the THC level in some of the strains was up as much as 30% compared to their counterparts harvested in a regular way. The content of CBD and CBN remained the same.

SIMM James Burton
James Burton at his (now long closed) growing facilities in the Netherlands.

Darkness Period Before Harvest and Terpenes Levels

It’s the same as with cannabinoids. The concentration of aromatic substances in buds increases during the dark cycle. During the day, when the air gets warm and sometimes hot, part of the terpenes evaporate. For this reason alone, it’s very important to lower by a few degrees the daytime temps during flowering, and especially closer to harvest. Remember that terpenes and flavonoids don’t just make the smoke smellier and tastier. They also influence the character of the high through the so-called entourage effect.

Naturally, a few dark days before harvest contribute to the higher concentration of terpenes in buds. All growers who have tried keeping their plants in a completely dark room for 24h-48h or more report on how intense the smell becomes.

How Long Should You Keep Weed in Dark Before Harvest?

Suppose you’re not in a hurry and can wait as long as it’s necessary for buds to reach the peak of their quality. How long is enough?

Well, at the very least, harvest your buds at the end of their last night (the last 12 hours of darkness), and then manicure them under dimmed lights and dry and cure them in a dark room. Extending the dark period is even better. A 24 hrs long night will hardly make a difference that you’d notice. 36 or 48 hrs is more like it. As we already mentioned, experiments have confirmed the efficacy of 72 hours, or 3 days.

Some growers have shared stories of how they had to leave their plants in dark for 4-5 days and sometimes 1 week and even more. They generally say the nugs were fire, but very long periods with no light also made the buds less solid.

Beware of Mold and Bud Rot!

When you leave weed in dark before harvest, make sure the soil is dry. It’s a bad idea to water your plant before turning off the lights for good. First, lower humidity means higher THC. Second, by keeping both the medium and the air dry you decrease the risk of mold and bud rot. You won’t have a chance to inspect your plants for several days, so take all precautions if you don’t want to see your harvest completely spoiled.

Drying and Curing in the Dark Does the Trick, Too

When you cut a plant and hang it upside down in a dark closet to dry, it doesn’t mean that the plant is dead. It has no roots, sure, but it’s still alive, and the chemical processes inside it slow down, but carry on. So the idea of using the prolonged darkness to improve the quality of buds works here as well. Which means that when you dry your buds and later cure them, never expose them to direct light. Complete darkness isn’t necessary, but wouldn’t hurt either.

Darkness Before Harvest for Autoflowers

Given the huge popularity of automatic strain, no wonder people keep asking if they can give a dark period before harvest to their autoflowers. Of course, you can. All the principles above apply to any cannabis plant, including autos.

To Conclude

Darkness helps marijuana plants replenish THC and terpenes. During the day, THC partly degrades and terpenes partly evaporate. So the best time for harvest is early morning. And if you extend the night before the harvest to at least 2 days, you can (arguably) get more flavorful and potent buds. We’re sure many of you have already tried this method. Did it work for you? Please share!

 

* Interview with James Burton, 1st version of dutch medical cannabis 1993 – 2003

 

Outdoor vs Greenhouse vs Indoor Weed Guide

The very fact that we compare outdoor vs greenhouse vs indoor weed is the relic of the prohibition era. Because you don’t grow your own papayas and mangos. You import them from countries where they are produced naturally and cheaply. However, odds are that some grower in your area cultivates a Mango strain or a Papaya strain. And more often than not they’re doing it under artificial lights.

50 years from now, we’ll all be smoking Thai weed, and Moroccan hash, and maybe Colombian or Jamaican genetics. In short, landraces that baby boomers used to enjoy back in the day. Of course, we’ll be smoking local weed, too — the way we often eat locally grown tomatoes. But let’s be honest: nobody in their right mind sets up their tomato gardens in warehouses, basements, and garages. Any future cannabis grow-op will be using the power of the sun.

But we have a very different legal landscape at the moment, so let’s see what this means for the quality of the weed that we smoke and grow.

Indoor vs Outdoor Nugs

The main difference between outdoor farming vs indoor farming is that we make use of sunlight in the former case and artificial light — in the latter. The sun produces light of a broader spectrum. This naturally leads to the production of a broader range of cannabinoids and terpenes in the buds and a different kind of high.

Outdoor vs Indoor Weed High

Most smokers know about THC which is the main chemical in marijuana responsible for making you high. Recently, another substance called CBD has been making headlines, thanks to its many health benefits and its huge healing potential. However, weed contains dozens of other cannabinoids and also many aromatic terpenes, and all of them have a potential to influence the high. It’s called the entourage effect. So, with its greater number of cannabinoids and terpenes, outdoor cannabis influences users in a less bland and more nuanced way.

Okay, the experience is richer, but what about the potency?

Outdoor Weed THC Content

The THC level of a particular weed strain depends mostly on the underlying genetics. And it so happens that many of the most potent modern varieties aren’t adapted to outdoor cultivation in all but a handful of climates.

If you live in California, or in a Mediterranean country like Spain and Italy, or possibly in some New England state, you can probably grow a highest-THC variety. Meaning you have a good chance of bringing it to full potential before it gets too cold and rainy. But in most other climates (like Canada or the UK), you’ll have to choose some faster-flowering outdoor varieties, and those are bred for their speed and not necessarily for their high THC percentage. And the harsher your climate, the more the cannabis genetics that you can hope to bring to full maturity will resemble hemp rather than medical marijuana. This is the reason why outdoor THC content is on average significantly lower.

To recap, natural light is good for outdoor marijuana trichomes and THC levels, but often there’s simply not enough sun when it matters most, that is in the final weeks before the harvest.

So what should you do if you’re not blessed with a warm and sunny climate? Well, one option will be using a greenhouse (more of it below), another — to choose outdoor autoflower marijuana seeds. With autos, you don’t need a full-term growing cycle ending in October or November. They can finish in 2-3 months from sprouts and during the period when the sun is at the peak of its activity and thus conducive to the maximum THC percentage a strain is capable of.

Related Post  Autoflower Temp and Humidity: With Real-Life Examples

Other Aspects of Bud Quality in Outdoor vs Indoor Plants

We have said it once and we shall repeat it just one more time and be done with it. Under subpar conditions in colder climates, it will be difficult to grow high-potency stuff consistently, if at all.

green crack outdoors
This Green Crack Auto looks like she’ll be ready in a couple of weeks, but the results seem totally unspectacular. Probably, due to bad climate.

So let’s compare only those cases where it’s totally possible to grow the same strain both indoors and out. What can one expect?

Indoors, artificial lights together with the complete control of temperature & humidity and other environmental variables like CO2 levels allow for more consistent results because… well you are in control of everything. Outdoors, very little depends on you and anything can happen. So, you risk not only some variance in bud quality, but also losing your crop altogether. Possible culprits — hail, heavy rain, strong winds, cold spells, early frosts, and heawaves/draughts.

But suppose nothing bad has happened. How will outdoor and indoor nugs compare then? There are still other risks in an outdoor grow operation.

Wat Can be Wrong with Outdoor Buds

  • Pests. In an indoor grow-op, a pest attack can be devastating. However, a sealed-off environment with lab-grade hygiene routines can prevent an infestation in the first place. Outdoors, the plants are usually too big to actually die because of pests or even suffer too much damage. Nevertheless, some growers don’t put up even with a slightest infestation. So, if you buy outdoor-grown buds, there’s a possibility that there are trace amounts of pesticides in them, as well as eggs, larvae, and grown-up insects. Microscopes sometimes reveal very nasty stuff.
  • Mold/Spores. This is another thing that you don’t want to see when you admire trichomes under a microscope. Of course, mold, bud rot, and fungi can affect crops in any setup. But outdoors there are humid days, and rains, and cold nights, and all this exacerbates the problem.
  • Dust/Dirt/Fine Sand. It’s definitely not as bad, but still something to avoid. And indoor buds are cleaner in this respect, too.

In short, if you grow outdoor weed yourself, be aware of these issues and try to prevent them. And if you buy buds from someone else, you better trust their integrity, especially if the farm is an outdoor one.

Size and Texture of Buds

Grow lights, especially weaker ones, have a notoriously limited effective range. Here’s the inverse-square law in action: if you double the distance from light, its intensity reduces 4 times! This means that buds in the upper portion of an indoor plant can be huge and solid. At the same time, the lowers that are just a dozen inches down the branch are smaller and spongier, less mature and with fewer trichomes. It’s a good practice to trim away those popcorn buds in the earlier stages of flowering (a technique called lollipopping).

purple indoor bud
These beautiful purple buds look dense and meaty, but only in the top portion of the cola. Further down where the intensity of the light diminishes, you see longer and longer gaps.

In contrast, you can say that the distance from the sun to upper buds and lower buds is exactly the same. (What’s a couple of feet compared to 93 million miles?) So, outdoor nuggets have a potential to be of the same quality throughout the whole height of the plant. And the intensity of the sunlight makes them really dense and heavy.

Outdoor vs Indoor Yield

Indoor growers usually estimate their yields in grams per square meter. This is the figure that you see when you look at the features of a particular strain in a seed shop. Let’s say they promise 500-550 g/m².

These numbers are what you can hope to achieve under most favorable conditions and using powerful enough lights. Most of the time, this means a 600W HPS per each square meter. However, there’s no universal convention here. So, when you see numbers like 800 g/m², it probably means that you have to use a 1000W HPS per square meter to achieve such results.

When comparing their achievements, growers often use another metrics — gram per watt. With an old-fashioned HPS, 1.0 g/W is probably the highest that you can get. And only you work hard enough and know what you’re doing. Modern LED quantum boards can be much more energy efficient and let you overshoot the 1 g/W mark easily. Nevertheless, there’s only so much watts that you can cram into your grow room without burning your plant tops or making them foxtail. So take the grams-per-square-meter numbers seriously: it’s probably the very best you can hope for.

What are the Yileds Outdoors?

As for outdoor weed plants, their yields are expressed as grams per plant. For some smaller, Indica-dominant varieties, the indoor and outdoor figures are very close, say 550-600 g/m² and 700 g/plant. For other genetics, the difference is huge, and some strains are supposed to bring in as much as 10 pounds from each of the tree-like monsters.

You’ve probably seen photos of those massive outdoor marijuana plants: they are started inside at the end of winter, undergo several toppings, acquire a lot of girth, and become so tall that you need a stepladder to reach their uppermost tops. Big plants like these require chicken-wire cages for support, but let you harvest much more than their indoor counterparts. Though they can easily cover 3 m² of surface area each, their per-square-meter production would still be greater than indoors.

Outdoor vs Indoor Growing: Drawbacks and Benefits of Each

Now let’s quickly recap the advantages and disadvantages of both methods of cultivation and also include those that we haven’t mentioned yet (because they are too obvious):

indoor vs outdoor weed

Greenhouse: The Best of Both Worlds

A greenhouse is a perfect option for when you want to combine the free energy of the sun with the ability to control other variables of the growing environment.

It can be as simple as having a transparent roof and walls around your garden because this alone can extend your growing season by a full month in spring and as much in fall. It can also level out too wide swings in temperature and humidity and protect your plants from rain, hail, and wind. It’s basically outdoor growing on steroids.

simple greenhouse for marijuana
This makeshift affair seems too small even for these medium-sized plants and must be very inconvenient to use, but i does what it’s supposed to do: provides shelter from bad weather. And it looks like it’s raining outside. Hard.

Or you can use a greenhouse the other way around: create an enclosed and sealed-off space, like a full-fledged indoor grow with all its bells and whistles, but with the sun serving as the source of light (either sole, or primary).

In this case, people usually use the light deprivation technique. It means that you never wait for the fall with its equal duration of days and nights, but use an opaque tarp to cover your greenhouse in the evening and thus create 12 hours of uninterrupted and complete darkness. This way, you can make your weed plants flower at any time of year.

With a light dep greenhouse (which are often fully automated), you can have multiple harvests per year, or even a year-round growing operation, or simply choose the sunniest part of summer to have the flowering period for your buds to make them as huge and meaty as possible.

Cost of Greenhose Weed Compared to Indoor or Outdoor Buds

As for the question of costs, greenhouses fall somewhere in between outdoor and indoor farming, and, the more complicated the setup, the more expensive your buds will be. It’s very hard to find any research with reliable figures, but here are some rough estimates*:

indoor production – $300 per pound
greenhouse production – $150 per pound
outdoor farms – $30 per pound

As you have probably guessed, we personally prefer the production of marijuana in greenhouses. Simply because it seems to be the most responsible way to use Nature’s resources while having enough control over the quality of the final product. But everybody’s circumstances are different, and we hope that now you have enough information to make an informed choice. Please tell us what you think in the comments!

* Estimated Cost of Production for Legal Cannabis, Jonathan P. Caulkins, Carnegie Mellon University, January 2010

 

Outdoor Marijuana Temperature Range: Ideal, Okay, Extreme

If your climate is too cold (like mine), or too hot, and you think that the only option for you is indoor cultivation, think again. The acceptable outdoor marijuana temperature range is quite wide, and marijuana plants, at least mature ones, can be surprisingly hardy. As a result, they can take a lot of bad weather and still reward you with enough high-quality buds.

Ideal Outdoor Marijuana Temperature

Well, ideal outdoor marijuana temperature is actually the same for any type of grow. It’s because indoors we simply try to recreate artificially the natural environment that cannabis plants have best adapted to. The only difference is that, in an indoor setup, we have more control in maintaining the perfect conditions. And they are:

77-86°F (25-30°C) during the day, or when the lights are on.

At least these are the figures that are the most conducive to photosynthesis and gas/water exchange processes, according to research1. And, in case you’re wondering, the ideal level of light intensity (PPFD) would be ~1500 μmol/m2/s.

All this may guarantee the fastest rate of growth for cannabis plants. However, our goal is a bit different — we grow for the highest possible production of THC and other cannabinoids, as well as terpenes that make the smoke so aromatic and flavorful. So, with that in mind, growers have gradually come up with the following empirical figures:

  • Seedling and vegetative stage. Young weed plants prefer a little milder conditions than the flowering ones, with day temperature between 70 and 85°F (20-30°C).
  • Flowering stage. When plants start to form buds and then all the way to harvest, the temps should be a little lower — 65 to 80°F (18-26°C). The reason is that higher temperatures burn terpenes and cannabinoids making the buds less aromatic and potent.

During any stage of growth, the night temperatures should be 10°F (8°C) lower than during the day. This gives marijuana plants a chance to shift to a lower gear and have a rest. However, too radical a change between day and night temperatures can lead to even more stress, and should be avoided.

That Was Ideal, But What is Acceptable?

Outdoors, we work with what we have. Even in climates that give us the luxury of the perfect outdoor marijuana temperature range there are spells of too cold and too hot weather. So the question is: what is okay for outdoor weed and what is not?

Just like a dashing bachelor in a Jane Austin novel who chooses himself a wife, anything from 15 to 30 would do just fine. (Sorry for this potentially offensive remark, but in my experience they are the most memorable.) These figures are in Celsius btw, and in Fahrenheit it’s 59° to 86°.

At higher temps, no irreparable damage is done, although the photosynthesis slows down. And so does the THC production, while terpenes evaporate from buds at a faster rate, robbing them of flavor. The texture of buds deteriorates as well, and they become less compact and more airy.

So if you live in a really hot climate, like Arizona or Nevada, try to mitigate the effects of heat stress. Make sure that trees, walls or other structures provide some shade for your marijuana during the hottest hours in the afternoon. Or stretch some shade cloth over your garden (60% transparency should be just fine). Anyway, if higher temps may hurt weed plants, they can’t kill them. Drought can though.

outdoor marijuana temperature controlled by shade cloth

The effects of cold temps are much worse. When the daytime temperatures drop below 15°C (59°F), all processes slow down to a crawl or are put on pause. And at 13°C (55°F), more delicate strains may experience a shock. It means that once the temps are back within the acceptable range, the plants will need some time to recover before they resume bud production.

The Effects of Frost and Snow

Below freezing air temperatures don’t kill marijuana overnight, but they can do a lot of damage to leaves, flowers, and even branches. They wilt and get brown and mushy in places, so if there’s a chance of snow or even a couple of frosty nights in a row, it’s best to harvest your buds before that.

snow marijuana
These buds might be still salvageable, but the quality will be very subpar, to say the least.

I myself once harvested a couple of bushes after a heavy snowfall. They started to flower extremely late, so I had to push the limits with them. When I was cutting the branches, I had to shake them very hard to free them from snow. Only a minor percentage of buds were spoilt beyond being usable, but the rest turned out okay. I don’t recommend this to anyone, though. It’s safer to use a faster-flowering variety or an auto.

How to Protect Cannabis from Cold

1. Choose Genetics Wisely

Start with choosing a strain that is fast enough to finish flowering before the end of the growing season. The only sure thing are autoflowers because in practically any climate there are a couple of warm months in the middle of summer, and it’s all an auto needs. Besides being very quick to finish, autoflowers are more resilient to cold weather: they have Cannabis ruderalis genetics in them, and ruderalis is a subspecies that originated in places like Siberia and is very tolerant of cold.

all natural cannabis ruderalis
This is a natural ruderalis plant. Looks pathetic, doesn’t it? Luckily, modern autoflowers are so much better in every respect.
Related Post  Autoflower Temp and Humidity: With Real-Life Examples

If you prefer to grow a photoperiod variety, look for strains with words ‘fast’, ‘early’ or ‘quick’ in their names. They are the result of crossing a true photoperiod strain with an autoflowering one. These plants still wait for the days to become short enough before they start flowering, but this happens much earlier.

Important! When shopping for an outdoor photoperiod strain, take with a grain of salt the harvest times that a breeder promises. If, for example, they say late September, they probably mean places like Spain or Southern France, not Scotland or Denmark. The farther up north, the longer the summer days, and the later the flowering begins (and finishes). That’s a ‘perk’ of living at higher latitudes.

2. Find a Good Spot

The second most important thing is finding a spot that receives as much sunlight as possible and is sheltered from wind. It also helps to plant your cannabis near a wall (preferably a stone wall) that shelters it on the north side and is warmed by the sun. And by all means avoid planting your cannabis in a low spot. The thing is that cold air tends to ‘roll down’ from higher places into depressions in the ground, and then stays there. A south-facing slope makes for an ideal spot for your outdoor garden.

3. Using Pots Increases Mobility

Another trick that’ll help you make the best of your cold climate is growing your outdoor marijuana in pots rather than in the ground. In this case, you can move the pots around, always choosing the sunniest and warmest spot and even take the plants inside if their very survival is under threat.

outdoors pot plant

4. Start Seedlings Indoors

Keep in mind that, while mature plants don’t mind some cold weather, young seedlings do. They may be shocked or killed if the temps are outside the acceptable range. So make sure that summer weather has come for good—no ground frosts in the early morning and at least 15°C (59°F) during the day—before taking the seedlings outside. Also, it’s recommended not to sow cannabis seeds directly into the ground. It’s best to grow them for 2 weeks inside, then harden them a bit by taking outside for a couple of hours every day, and finally place them permanently outdoors.

Outdoor Marijuana Temperature: Focus on the Root Zone

One thing that is overlooked by most growers is that the temperature of the air plays a far less important role than that of the medium. The air may be as cold as 5°C (41°F), but marijuana plants will thrive if the temp in the root zone is at a comfortable level2. It’s like when you are neck-deep in a hot spring, you don’t mind that your head is exposed to a chilling breeze, right?

Remember all those numbers we’ve given above? They all apply to the root zone.

This really gives you a lot of freedom. The most obvious choice is to use a really thick layer of mulch to insulate the ground from the air. It works both ways, by the way: by keeping the ground cooler in hot climates, or keeping it warmer in cold ones.

Or you can go high-tech. A pump, a water tank with a heater/cooler and some clever piping laid in the ground or through the containers/grow bags will allow you to circulate water with a set temperature to warm up or cool down the medium. (And mind you we’re not talking about watering here, right? Watering is a different story. This is only about heat exchange.)

Also google ‘geothermal greenhouse’. This is basically an underground (or partially underground) greenhouse with a glass roof that is generally made sloping and facing south. A geothermal greenhouse makes use of the fact that deep below the ground surface the temperature remains stable throughout the year. It’s much cooler in summer, and much warmer in winter compared to above ground. For such a greenhouse to really work its magic the depth must be 10-12’ (~ 3 meters).

Outdoor Winter Grow

Wanna try and grow marijuana in winter? First check if your climate supports this idea. Again, the temperature, especially in the root zone, should be above 15°C (59°F) most of the time. Short periods of colder weather are unwelcome, but acceptable. Opt for cold-resistant strains, like Indica autoflowers. Also, use all the tips and tricks of protecting your plants from cold that we’ve shared above. And again don’t forget about the importance of the root zone).

Also keep in mind one more thing about marijuana winter grows: the days in winter are short, and the nights long. This will make any photoperiod variety start flowering after just a few weeks from sprouts. It’s not unlike the ‘12/12 from seed’ method. This usually results in much smaller plants, so if you want them bigger, think about auxiliary lighting to make the days longer.

winder window grow
If you don’t use auxilliary lights to extend short winter days, any photoperiod strain will go into the flowering mode.

Conversely, if your winter cannabis doesn’t finish before spring, or more specifically before the spring equinox (March 20), days will gradually become long enough to disrupt the flowering. So make sure you plan your winter grow accordingly.

Outdoor Marijuana Temperature Range is Quite Inclusive

Outdoor horticulture of medical marijuana is feasible even in colder climates. Just learn to make the best of the most adverse conditions and choose a strain that is quick to finish and is tolerant of low temperature. And now, after the arrival of autoflowers, almost anybody can grow top-shelf buds outdoors.

External Links

  1. Photosynthetic response of Cannabis sativa L. to variations in photosynthetic photon flux densities, temperature and CO2 conditions, Suman Chandra et al., Physiology and Molecular Biology of Plants, October 2008
  2. Root Zone Heating & Cooling of Cannabis (PDF), Sustainable Agricultural Technologies Ltd.

 

12/12 From Seed to Harvest: When to Choose This Method

The 12/12 from seed to harvest method is a bit outdated, but still has its uses. In this article you can learn everything about yields, pot size and plant size, flowering time — in short, all that you can expect when running 12/12 from seed in your grow.

If you have grown weed before, you probably understand what ‘12/12 cycle from seed’ means. And for the novice growers, the following short paragraph explains all the science.

Cannabis is a short-day plant, meaning that it only starts to flower when days become short enough at the end of summer or the beginning of fall. Indoors, we mimic this by shortening the lighting cycle to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness (12/12) and thus inducing the flowering. Usually, we do this after several weeks of the vegetative growth under 18/6, but sometimes you can reprogram your timer to 12-12 from the day your sprouts emerge. And this is exactly what we mean by 12/12 flowering from seed.

12/12 from seed to harvest black widow clones
These Black Widows clones were put under 12 and 12 as soon as they rooted. Not exactly a 12-12 from seed scenario, but the idea is the same. Wonderful results btw.

Growing Weed on 12/12 From Seed: Right Reasons and Wrong Ones

Frankly, this is a notoriously low-yielding method, so there must be other reasons to still choose it, right? Of course, there are.

1. Bagseed Growing

Okay, you’ve bought some buds with seeds in them, liked the smoke, and decided to give those bag seeds a try. Not the most brilliant idea ever, but okay. You don’t know how these seeds will turn out until they’re well into flowering, and this can be in like 1.5-2 months from sprouts (if grown in a regular way). Probably, too much time to spend on a dark horse, right? And here the 12/12-from-seed-no-veg method can easily save you 2-4 weeks or more.

2. Using Regular Seeds

It’s the same as with bagseeds. A certain percentage of regular seeds (probably around 50%) will grow into males, and you want to spot them and discard them as soon as possible. Again, 12/12 lighting from seed saves you several weeks of precious time.

3. Perpetual Harvest with no Extra Veg Room

Some people have just one grow space, but prefer to run a perpetual harvest operation. Obviously, your only grow room will be the flowering room, with lights running at 12/12 continuously. So the only way to add new plants after you’ve harvested some of their predecessors is to give the newcomers 12/12 from seed to harvest.

4. You Don’t Care About Yield, But Value Variety

At one time, I was crazy about mix packs that some breeders sell because they gave me the opportunity to grow (and later enjoy) several different genetics in one go. So I used to put 9 different strains in my 2’x2’ grow tent and run them in a 12/12 cycle from seed. The yield per plant was underwhelming, but more than enough for me. The main thing was that every smoke came out different in terms of effect and flavor.

So, these were the good reasons to choose the 12/12 from seed to harvest method, and here are the bad ones:

  • Microgrow/Limited Height. In small grow spaces with a short distance to lights, you’ll probably be better off raising autoflowers in small containers. The alternative is having fewer plants, but training them in veg (topping, LST, ScrOG) to have a flat canopy. Both of these options will guarantee you better yields.
  • Weak lights. Some people who use tubular fluorescent lamps (like T5) or something similar (CFLs, LED bulbs) think that lighting systems of this kind call for a SOG grow with many budstick plants in solo cups. It’s probably true, but again autoflowering seeds will give you better results than photoperiod strains grown on 12/12 from seed to harvest. And yet again, simply training those during normal veg would be more effective, too.
  • Expectation of a faster turnover. Questions like “How long does 12/12 from seed take?” (which people ask all the time) prove that many of them regard this method as the fastest way to harvest. In fact, it doesn’t really make your plants finish much faster, if at all. More of it below.

Cloning/Reveg

There is one more aspect of growing weed 12 12 from seed that we have briefly touched upon when talking about bag seeds and regular seeds. Here it goes.

Some growers try out every bean they lay their hands on in search for a hidden gem. Well, it’s a noble quest, and the 12/12 from seed method allows you to quickly assess the genetics. But suppose you’ve found a phenotype you like. Now what?

You have two options: one is cloning a plant that is already flowering, the other is reverting it back to veg (a procedure known as ‘reveg’).

Taking a cutting from a flowering plant and then rooting it is a fairly difficult procedure compared to cloning in a regular way (when the plant is still in veg). It takes longer and the success rate is lower. (There is an upside, though: the resulting clone turns out into an insanely branchy little monster; hence the name of this procedure – monster cropping.) Another difficulty is that plants grown 12/12-style are basically a ‘bud on a stick’ and often have no side branches to use as cuttings.

What’s the Alternative to Reveg Then?

If you’re searching for a keeper, try vegging every plant for a few weeks, then take a back-up clone from each, and then flower all donor plants to see if there’s a champion among them. It’s easier this way.

The same goes for reveg. Reverting flowering plants back to veg is hardly a beginner-friendly procedure, and can take months (with no guarantee of success). Do you know that some growers in colder climates use this feature to have the harvest in the middle of summer? They make their plants flower indoors for 4 weeks, and then put them outside. And no reveg happens, even though summer days are much longer than nights. Why? Because reveg is a difficult process and requires so much more than simply reverting to 18/6 or even 24/0.

cannabis reveg
Revegging a plant after harvest is a painfully slow procedure with uncertain prospects.

12/12 From Seed vs Autoflower Growing

In many ways, the 12/12 from seed method is similar to the cultivation of autos, but autos have a much better potential because they can flower on 18, 20 or even 24 hours of light a day. All this extra energy will be transformed into extra bud weight and raised amounts of THC and terpenes. There was a time when autoflowers weren’t high-yielding or potent enough to compete with their photoperiod counterparts, but it’s long gone now. Today, the 12/12 from seed vs auto choice is a no brainer.

And by the same logic, the worst thing you can do is to grow an autoflower on 12/12 from seed. Sometimes people are forced to do this: for example, when there is some free space in the flowering room, but no extra seeds, except autoflowering ones, to fill it. But autos raised in this manner usually stay small and yield little.

12/12 From Seed Instructions and Tips

So, you have a grow room dedicated to the 12/12 from seed to harvest grow. Start by programming your timer so that the lights turn on for 12 hours of light every 24 hours, and then germinate some seeds using your favourite germination method.

small and medium sized 12 12 plants
This is what you may expect when growing weed in a 12/12 cycle from seed.

What Size Pot for 12/12 from Seed Works Best?

You don’t need a lot of space for your plants’ roots because the vegetative stage will be very short and then the root system basically stops growing. So use solo cups (party cups) or small plastic containers. The pot size can be anywhere from 16 oz (0.5 L) to a gallon (3.78 L). Keep in mind that the smaller the containers, the more frequently you’ll have to water them. More medium also means better buffering for nutrients and less risk of a nutrient burn.

Also different strains react differently to 12 and 12 from seed. Some will take many weeks before they even start flowering, and they will require bigger containers. Growing in 1 litre pots will do fine for most varieties that are worth growing this way.

When Does Flowering Start?

Even on 12/12 from day one, weed plants don’t start flowering right away. Vegetative growth is an important process and will run its natural course. Expect at least 3-4 weeks before the plants are mature enough to show their sex. Of course, when it happens, they will start to flower immediately. As you can see, this is basically the same timeline as for autoflowers.

How Long till Harvest?

Most 12/12 enthusiasts report that their plants finish in 70+ days from sprouts, although some phenos can take up to 3-4 months. Again, autos can do much better than that, and they’ll yield more, too. The reason is that the yields are proportionate to the hours of light a plant receives, and you can give autos from 18 to 24 hours a day.

The Final Size and Yield

It all depends on a lot of factors — strain, pot size, lights etc. It can be as little as an eighth (3.5g) or less from a sickly runt in a solo cup, or up to a half ounce (14g) in a 16oz (0.5L) cup. In the latter case, the skinny one-cola plants will be upwards of 2 feet (60+cm).

12-12 from seed harvest
This is how a harvested plant can look like if grown 12/12 from seed. Hardly inspiring. I’d even say vaguely humiliating.

Some 12/12 growers prefer even bigger plants in containers of up to a gallon (3.78L): their height can be 3-4 feet (90-120cm) and more, and the yield per plant of 0.5-1oz (14-28g) is considered very good. And it really is, if you grow many such plants SOG-style. There are even reports of plants yielding as much as 3 ounces (85g) each.

SOG (Sea of Green) is the Only Viable Option

Given that the size of the containers is quite small and the plants are lanky, with almost no side branches, we recommend cramming as many of them as possible into your grow space. This way your yield per square meter can prove to be not so bad after all: let’s say 30 half-ounce plants under a 1000W HPS. Hardly record-breaking for a SOG grow, but still.

Topping/Pinching

Would-be 12/12 growers often wonder whether they can train their plants or not. I think the logic here is the same as with autos: any HST technique, like topping, would just lower the yields and (possibly) delay the harvest time. Besides, any training method, including LST, raises the question of spacing: if the plants stand next to each other in tight rows, you shouldn’t try to make them wider and bushier. The single-cola pattern is probably the best.

The Best Strains For 12/12 From Seed To Harvest… and the Worst

As we have said earlier, this method is best reserved for seeds of unknown origin and potential. But if you insist on growing store-bought seeds this way, choose an indica. Indica strains tend to react quite early to the change in light cycle, and if you give them 12/12 from sprouts, the veg will be very short and the plants will remain nice and compact.

As for sativas (like Haze) and sativa-dominant genetics, they have evolved in regions near the equator where days and nights are close to an equal length the whole year. So, they can remain in veg for many weeks and even months before they even show their sex. It kind of defeats the purpose of 12/12. The plants will be neither fast, nor small, and the yields will be disappointing because of too little light hours received in veg.

12/12 From Seed Feeding Schedule

The first thing you should take care of is the development of roots. We recommend using some rooting stimulator when watering your plants in the first two weeks or so.

As for nitrogen-rich fertilizers, it all depends on the pot size. In bigger containers, the soil will probably have enough nutrients to last for the whole of veg. In smaller pots or cups, the plants will need a nitro boost early on. Continue to feed them with veg nutrients till they reach the final height and stop stretching further. This usually means a couple of weeks into flowering.

Starting in the third week from seeds, introduce the bloom fertilizers (with raised P-K levels). First use them along the veg ferts and then without them. 2 weeks before the harvest is time to start the final flush.

The Bottom Line

There are a few special situations where the 12/12 from seed to harvest method can lead to results that are by no means spectacular, but optimal under given conditions. In most other cases, using it would be a mistake. Always check whether you can achieve the same goal with autoflowers, or other growing methods. And if you don’t agree, please share your opinions in the comments.

 

Organic Autoflower Grow: Taking Care of Soil, Roots, Nutrients

Organic farming is such a hot topic right now for the simple reason that people have become conscious about what goes into their bodies: be it food, drinks, or smokables. If you have ever tested buds resulting from an organic autoflower grow, you know what we’re talking about. The smoke is clean and full-flavored, never feels harsh on your throat or lungs, and often produces a crisp, well-defined effect, without additional grogginess or disorientation. Or a heavy head in the morning, for that matter.

Organic farming means also so much more: respect for Nature, caring for the preservation of resources, promoting the sustainability of ecosystems and the health of soil, plants, and animals, not just people. For all these reasons, we encourage you to always use organic methods.

Organic Autoflower Grow: What’s Involved?

As you may have already guessed, the organic approach is always a holistic one. It means that we focus not on the plant itself, but on its entire environment. And we manipulate this environment to achieve the results we need.

An organic autoflower grow means that we don’t feed the plant, but the beneficial microbes populating the soil, not the roots, but the mycorrhizae living in a symbiotic relationship with them. And organic nutrients are never absorbed by plants directly, but first need to be processed by microorganisms.

Now let’s talk about each component of a successful organic autoflower grow.

1. Organic Soil Mix

Soil is the single most important factor in the production of top-shelf buds. It is especially true of autoflowering genetics. The thing is that the life cycle of autoflowering vs feminized plants is very short and it’s so important to create a sound basis for success from day one. Give your plant’s enough medium for the development of a healthy root structure and supercharge it with enough raw matter and enough living things to make it digestible, and you can probably use fresh water till harvest and still get amazing results. That’s how important a good organic soil mix is.

autoflower organic grow super soil
With so much medium (~6 gallons of super soil), these 9 autos won’t probably need any extra feeding till harvest.

An organic soil recipe, often referred to as Super Soil, can include the following basic ingredients (please note that the percentages are just the ballpark values, so feel free to experiment, but avoid making the mixture too ‘hot’):

  • 50% peat- or sphagnum-based soilless mix (provides the bulk of the medium),
  • 10-20% mature compost (some organic nutrients + lots of microbes),
  • 10% earthworm castings, or vermicompost (the same),
  • 10% perlite (helps saturate the medium with O2 which is necessary for roots),
  • fungi/mycorrhizae/bacteria (turn raw organics into available plant food).

The last item is actually the most important one and is basically what organic growing is all about. The rest is just bed and board for the little creatures. The question is: how can you inoculate your Super Soil with them? Well, microbial life is all around us. So you can simply give your soil mix enough time to be naturally populated with living things. Or you can speed up this process by adding some store-bought probiotic preparation.

Tip: You don’t have to be a DIY enthusiast to use super soil for growing autos. There are a number of ready-made organic soil mixes available online. Some are concentrated, others have just a normal strength. All have a host of microbes with unpronounceable Latin names and enough food for their colony to start multiplying as soon as you add some water.

We know that some of you prefer to come up with their own proprietary formulas or just love to experiment. So here’s a list of additional things a good organic soil can include:

  • Bat Guano,
  • Blood Meal,
  • Bone/Fish Bone Meal,
  • Alfalfa,
  • Kelp (Seaweed),
  • Epsom Salt,
  • Dolomite Lime,
  • Humic Acids,
  • Azomite

With all these additives, a little goes a long way. So make sure that collectively they don’t make up more than 5-10% of the volume. A mixture that is too concentrated can actually hurt the roots of cannabis, and you may need to do a lot of flushing to make the medium comfortable for the root system again. Conversely, if you have made a too weak soil mix and this resulted in a slow growth of your autoflower, adding more plant food during each watering is fairly easy.

2. Mycorrhizae

Mycorrhizal fungi are such an important part of organic soil that they deserve a special mention.

Let’s visualize a root system of a marijuana plant. It consists of a complicated network of strands (some thick, others very thin) that extend into every nook and corner of the medium and are meant to absorb water and nutrients from it.

Well, believe it or not, but some of those thinner strands aren’t actually roots of the cannabis plant itself. In fact, they are separate organisms — a special kind of fungus called mycorrhizae. Yet these fungi look exactly like roots and perform the exact function of roots. Meaning they help to find and absorb the nutrients for the marijuana plant to uptake. So, by pre-mixing a mycorrhizae concentrate into the medium or by watering your plant with a mycorrhizae supplement, you literally provide it with an additional root structure. And bigger roots mean more rapid water and nutrients uptake, fatter buds, and heavier yields.

3. Liquid Organic Nutrients

Now that you’ve read about super soil and mycorrhizae, you understand that feeding your organically grown autoflower can actually be a one-time event. Everything your plant will need from seed to harvest may well be pre-loaded into the medium (if the container is large enough and the mixture is rich enough).

However, most of the time, growers also use bottles with liquid organic nutrients throughout much of the grow. Luckily, today’s market offers an insane amount of different product lines. The truth is that you can grow weed even with non-specific fertilizers, meant for other cultivars. So ANY organic product designed specifically for cannabis will guarantee an enormous success.

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Organic Feeding Schedule

As a feeding schedule, you can choose from several options:

  1. let your autoflower take everything she needs from soil during weeks 1-2 and then start adding organic feed,
  2. let the soil be the sole source of nutrients for the whole veg and only use fertilizers in flower,
  3. avoid using liquid nutrients till your plant starts to look hungry or shows the signs of deficiencies, presumably in the later stages of flowering,
  4. mix a super soil and then use only fresh water till the day you chop.

What will work best for you, depends on the following factors:

  • the size of the container; the more the volume, the longer you can go without using liquid nutrients; a 5-gallon pot will be enough for the whole cycle for most autoflowers,
  • the type of the medium; a coco/perlite mixture, rockwool, or DWC have no nutrients of their own and so you’ll have to add nutrients with every feeding,
  • the growing conditions and the growth rate; the more powerful lights you use, the higher the demand for CO2, water, nutrients, and everything else).

Also don’t forget that watering requirements are different for when you choose organic nutrients as opposed to synthetic ones. In the latter case, you want to avoid the salts build-up and should water your pots till 20% of what you pour runs off. In organic grows, you want the opposite: to retain as much precious microbial life and plant food in the medium as possible. So you water slowly until you see first drops coming out of the drainage holes, and then stop.

Organic Autoflower Grow: A Sure Way to Success

An organic autoflower grow lets you harvest buds of superior quality and is a very beginner-friendly method. It can be as easy as preparing a rich soil mix, inoculating it with bacteria and mycorrhizae, and then letting them do their thing all the way till harvest.

Of course, the devil is in the details. But the beauty of organic growing is that you can’t kill a plant even if you get many of those details wrong. So start experimenting! And if you already have some experience with growing autos organically, please share in comments what did and didn’t work for you.

 

Risky Business: A Guide to Guerilla Growing

Is guerilla growing a sound idea? Suppose one day your friend appeared on your doorstep in hiking gear and with a spade on his shoulder and told you that he was going to make himself a vegetable garden somewhere on the public land and, by fall, grow the best vegetables anyone has ever seen. You’d probably tell him that he was wasting his time and that the result would be pure crap.

In contrast, guerilla growing weed may seem like a smart business move (there’s even a book called ‘Guerilla Growing Trade Secrets’), but only because marijuana is illegal. In fact, a clandestine operation like this requires much work and involves even more risk — the risk of losing your crop in perhaps dozens of different scenarios.

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As an amateur grower, I have three seasons worth of guerilla growing under my belt. The first one was meticulously planned and expertly executed. It was very uphill work, but the results were amazing. The second time around, I was sure to do even better, but with much less effort. It was a total disaster. The third time was a last minute decision—I had some extra seeds and a good spot to plant them—and the results were surprisingly good, mostly because of the favorable weather. It all comes down to luck really.

So, if you are set on guerilla growing weed, at least don’t plan anything large-scale and don’t depend on the results financially, or else you may be severely disappointed.

purple #1 grown guerilla-style
A very disappointing-looking Purple #1 in late September. Luckily, an unusual spell of good weather (all the way to early November) allowed her to put on some serious weight. But in a worse year, she would have to be harvested like this. Pathetic!

Choosing the Right Spot for Your Guerilla Growing

They say that you need three things for a successful retail business: location, location, and location. The same is true of best guerilla grow spots: they are what sets apart success from failure. So, long before the planned grow, go location scouting and be very serious about it. The best time to do it is in fall.

Let’s list all the requirements a good guerilla grow spot should meet:

  • Deserted. The place should be as far from usual haunts of people as possible, be it hikers, hunters, birdwatchers, or whatever. If you find what you think is a great spot and inspect it more closely and then realize that someone is rubbernecking you from afar, don’t say to yourself: “Well, it’s perfect, except for this one guy doing God knows what in the middle of nowhere. But when I come back in spring with the tools and the plants, he won’t be here to get on my nerve. So it’s all good”. No, it’s not, and you’ll either have to come work here at night, or you’ll be bumping into someone every time. A good spot should have that desolate feel when it doesn’t even occur to you to look over your shoulder.
  • Dense shrub. It’s best to surround your secret garden with some thick and tall vegetation. Or, at least, plant your cannabis on the edge of it so that other plants can serve as a backdrop and make your patch less conspicuous. Nettles are your best bet because they are tall enough to hide weed plants, and people usually stay away from nettles. Any kind of brambles will do just fine, too.
  • Fertile soil. Odds are that you won’t be able to bring enough store-bought soil mix to make a difference, so you’ll depend on the quality of the local soil. In forests (even in a clearing), the topsoil is usually very thin and poor. On wastelands, a good indicator is the height of grass. If it’s just knee-deep or lower, the soil’s not very good, and your marijuana will grow small and sickly. If the weeds are tall, the soil here can probably support quite big and high-yielding bushes.
  • Nearby stream/lake. If your climate is dry, you’ll have to water your plants regularly. Hauling enough water from the city is not an option. The only thing that’s feasible is having a natural source of water and a bucket stashed near your patch. Or you can make your garden near the edge of a stream or lake where the roots can reach groundwater. Spots like this also often have good soil and are overgrown with impenetrable vegetation to hide your plants in.
  • Sunlight. Cannabis needs plenty of sun, especially in flower. So, make sure your chosen spot is exposed to sunlight, meaning that nothing is blocking it from the south. From the north, it may well be sheltered by trees or a hill. The ideal scenario is to plant your seedlings in the bottom portion of a south-facing slope, with a stream of water running at the foot of it.

Guerilla Growing in the City

If it’s not some form of political activism and your goal is to grow marijuana for yields, doing it within city limits is very tricky. But is it possible? Yes, it is.

I personally know people living in a populated residential area of a major city who managed to find a vacant lot for a small hidden garden of a few plants. The drawback is that you’ll probably have to visit your plants only at night. In my first (and very successful) guerilla grow, I did all my work at night. It’s inconvenient and risky, but it can be done.

A much more serious disadvantage of growing weed in the city guerilla-style are street lights which will disrupt the flowering of any photoperiod variety. Of course, autoflowers don’t have this problem.

Guerilla Growing in Trees

This issue is related to the question of what works best for an outdoor marijuana grow: pots or ground. Obviously, if you have this brilliant idea of hiding your weed plants almost in plain sight in the canopy of a tree, they will have to be in some sort of containers. I strongly advise you against planting marijuana in pots in any guerilla-style operation. Pots require a much more frequent irrigation which can be very time-consuming even in a normal garden. Imagine yourself climbing a tree with a watering can every morning before work!

This can make for a very entertaining story, but I’d prefer to entertain my friends with a well-packed bowl instead. And growing in trees is not the most direct path to this goal.

Guerrilla Growing in Swamps

In my scouting trips, I have often come across a very attractive and promising spot that is very low and swampy and overgrown with rushes that are tall enough to hide my plants. I had this idea to use big plastic containers that would stand in shallow water the way they sometimes stay in trays (indoors) and are watered and fed through the drainage holes in the bottom. I’ve always managed to find a better spot in the end, so I don’t know if this idea would work, but I think that for a medium-sized plant in a very big pot it can be done.

Let’s Get Our Hands Dirty!

Okay, you’ve found the ideal spot for your guerilla grow. It’s where no one will see your comings and goings, or find your hidden patch, and where your plants will be provided with good soil, enough water, and plenty of sunshine. What to do next?

Brace yourself for several trips, even before the day (or night) when you’ll plant your seedlings.

Preparation of Guerilla Growing Garden

Get right in the center of a thicket and start digging. Your goal is to remove all weeds along with their roots. Make the shape of the patch irregular. A square/circle/triangle etc. would be conspicuous from a helicopter. You’ll need at least a 3ft (1m) distance from plant to plant and to the edge of the scrub. You’ll probably want to top the closest surrounding bushes so that they don’t block sunlight. Don’t try to take all this plant material anywhere else. Leave it right there on the ground as mulch and a source of organics. You may manage to do the digging and the planting in one go. Or not. It all depends on the number of plants.

Stakes/Trellises

Even larger autoflowers may need some kind of support to prevent their side branches from breaking under the weight of buds. And it’s an absolute must for photoperiod varieties, especially in case of an extended vegetative period. As a bare minimum, you’ll need to connect individual branches with pieces of string, so that they lend support to each other, or to tie up each of them to the main stalk. But it’s not really effective and wouldn’t prevent the whole plant from toppling over (for example, during a thunderstorm).

Better find or make some long and sturdy stakes and drive them into the ground during the initial preparation of your patch. Then you can plant your seedlings each near its stake and later tie up the main stalk to it.

Of course, you can also build chicken-wire cages around your plants, but this may prove too difficult to do far into the wilderness.

Planting

It’s always best to start your seedlings inside and then take them to the great outdoors at the age of 2-3 weeks from seeds at least. Slide them (together with their containers) inside tubes made of cardboard or plastic bottles for safe and discreet transportation. Don’t forget to take some bottles of water with you because it’s best to water your seedlings right after the transplant.

Make sure that the weather is warm enough and there are no ground frosts in the morning anymore. In the UK, for example, it could be the end of May or early June. We recommend planting in the evening if the weather is hot and sunny, and in the morning if the nights are cold and the days overcast. This way, the plants will get more time to adapt to harsh conditions.

Useful tip: Never leave your freshly planted seedlings on the weeded bare ground. This attracts birds who are very curious to check out these new bright green spots. You can lose every single seedling this way. Been there. So pluck a lot of weeds and cover your whole patch with them for the seedlings not to stick out.

guerilla weed grow seedling
A lot of grass clippings on the ground make this seedling invisible for curious birds.

Weeding Your Guerilla Growing Spot

I prefer to weed my patch every other week, or once a month. In the beginning, this will prevent other plants from successfully competing with cannabis, and later it will combat stale air and mold near the ground. Leave the grass where you’ve plucked it because it will serve as mulch and organic fertilizer.

weeding your outdor patch

Pruning/Defoliation

In guerilla setups, no special growing techniques are necessary. Except maybe topping — to give your plants less height and more girth.

However, it’s always advisable to cut one or two pairs of branches at the very bottom of the plant because they seldom amount to anything, can droop and actually touch the dirt with their buds. If the canopy is too dense, it’s probably a good idea to also remove some secondary side branches in the deep shadow inside the bush. Do all this pruning when the flowering begins.

And when the buds start to fatten, you can remove larger and older fan leaves, especially those that block the sun and hinder air movement.

Watering/Feeding

If your climate is dry and the plants have only you to rely on for their irrigation, it can be very uphill work. So guerilla farming is much more practical in an area with regular rains. However, even in this case, there may be dry spells when cannabis will be severely stunted or killed if you don’t help it with an emergency watering at least once or twice.

Watering is a good occasion to mix in some liquid nutrients: with a lot of nitrogen (N) in veg, and with raised levels of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) in flower. Another way to feed your guerilla garden is to mix some slow release fertilizer into the soil or simply scatter some granules on the surface. During rains, these ferts will slowly dissolve and seep into the earth.

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Checking for Males/Hermies

Even if you choose feminized seeds (we recommend that you do), some stray male is possible. And male flowers sometimes appear in female buds because of stress. So, whenever you visit your flowering plants, perform a quick check. It wouldn’t hurt.

Harvesting

Photoperiod marijuana strains are ready for harvest sometime in late September or early October, at least in higher latitude countries like the UK. Farther south, some faster flowering genetics can be harvested even earlier.

UK outdoor growers know that you don’t chop your plants based solely on the calendar. Sometimes, you’ll have to harvest your buds before their peak maturity simply because there’s a cold spell coming, or a long period of rains with no chance of sunshine later. This is another thing that makes guerilla growing so unreliable. So watch forecasts closely and if you expect the cold and humid weather till the end of the growing season, harvest your buds before that and not during or after. Bud rot and mold are more than real and no fun at all.

outdoor guerilla grow bud rot
A dead yellow leaf sticking out of a bud signals that there’s bud rot inside.

Please remember that harvest time is probably the only moment when a guerilla grower can get in trouble with the law. The rest of the activities associated with tending your secret garden never lead to repercussions*. So be extra careful during the harvest.

For safety reasons, never transport your buds home after dark, even if you’ve harvested them after dark. A lonely vehicle in the middle of the night causes suspicions. Better be on the road during morning rush hours when there’s less chance of a traffic stop. I once did just that: spent a night outdoors, cutting and trimming buds, put them into a big garbage bag, and hid it in a roadside ditch. Then I went home for a nap, a shower, and a breakfast, and then returned for a quick pick up. It’s much safer this way.

Okay, it was an unexpectedly long list of jobs. You may skip all of them except two: the planting and the harvesting, but then don’t be surprised by very mediocre or non-existing rewards. And if you decide to visit your plants frequently, take some precautions:

  • always have some innocent and plausible explanation of what you’re doing there,
  • dress like a hiker, not like a rastafarian,
  • never leave a beaten path to your patch, come and go in circles, smooth over your traces,
  • don’t leave your vehicle in plain sight, or at least don’t park it in the same spot many times over,
  • in case you’re caught tending your plants, they’re not yours, you’ve just followed a smell and found them.

Even More Risks (Sorry to be a Buzzkill)

There’s good news ahead, but for now I feel obliged to warn you of more dangers. Like there’s a number of animals that might think you planted cannabis for them to feast upon.

Rabbits. Can be dangerous for young weed plants. Build cages from chicken wire or some metal mesh and don’t forget that rabbits like to burrow.

Deer. Can hurt even bigger plants, including those in flower. Hide your garden in thick shrubs and surround it with a fishing line to discourage the deer from going inside.

You can also scare away intruders by using predator urine or even feces (they are sometimes sold in garden centers).

In contrast, bugs are never such a big problem in guerilla gardens. They are dangerous in the earlier stages, but when the plants get big, no pest will do them any irreparable damage. So, if you’re not raising your plants for a beauty contest, just ignore an eaten leaf or two, or even a dozen.

mole crickets
These two mole crickets pretend like they are not interested, but they can destroy a seedling in a matter of minutes.

And Finally the Good News (Called Autoflowers)

The existence of autos allows us to end our guerilla grow guide on a more optimistic note. Autos are really a blessing.

First of all, they are of a discrete height and can be concealed even behind some low vegetation. Second, the longer your weed grows unsupervised, the bigger the risks of losing it, and autoflowers are very fast. Third, you can eliminate every danger associated with bad weather in fall. Simply time your planting in such a way that your autos are mature by the end of summer.

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guerilla growing autoflower mature in the middle of summer
It’s only early July, but the buds on this autoflower are already quite resinous and mature.

Moreover, you can have two or more consecutive grows in one season (depends on your climate), or plant your autoflowers in small batches and have a continuous harvest for a couple of months. Guerilla growing autoflower plants can be less like a lottery and more like a solid business plan.

We hope you enjoyed the reading. Maybe you have some tips and interesting stories for other wannabe guerilla growers? Please share them in the comments!

 

* Weed, Need and Greed: Domestic Marijuana Production and the UK Cannabis Market, Gary Richard Potter, University of Sheffield, Department of Law, September 2006

 

Transplant Autoflower from Solo Cup w/o Shock: An Easy Way

It is very easy to shock a plant and stall its progress when you transplant autoflower into a bigger container.

Experienced growers would tell you to avoid autoflower repotting altogether. It means that you plant your seed or sprout straight into the final pot. Otherwise, you may run into two kinds of trouble.

First of all, the final size of your plant may get restricted by a too small pot size because autoflowers tend to start budding as soon as they are root-bound.

Second, repotting autoflowers is a risky procedure. The plant’s delicate root system can be so shocked, that it would stop developing for several days, maybe even until the flowering stage begins. And, as you may well imagine, you’ll have a very diminutive plant with weak side growth at harvest. And the yields wouldn’t be worth the wait.

Still, sometimes, you simply can’t do without a transplant. The obvious example is when you grow your autos outdoors, but start them indoors. This is a common practice because you shouldn’t expose very young seedlings to harsh weather. It’s best to give them two weeks or so of optimal conditions indoors and only then put them outside.

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And here is a very simple method that I use and find very satisfactory.

Transplant Autoflower the Easy Way

Let’s take two party cups to put one inside the other. One of them we leave intact except that we make a couple of small drainage holes in the bottom. As for the other one, let’s cut a lot of slits in the bottom and the sides. After the transplant, the roots will grow outwards through these slits.

To do this, all we need is a sharp knife and 20 minutes of patience (for every pair of cups).

 

autoflower transplant shock, how to avoid it using solo cups with slits

 

Those who know what DWC is will see that the result resembles those net pots that hydro growers fill with clay pebbles or rockwool and put seedlings in them. The net pots also allow roots to freely grow through the bottom and the sides and into the bucket with the solution.

 

marijuana roots in hydro

 

For this experiment, I used 300 ml (10 oz) party cups, but a smaller one would probably be enough, too.

Our goal is to keep our autoflower seedlings in solo cups for two weeks, that is till the moment when a very rapid vegetative growth begins.

Let’s have a look at the roots when our seedling is already big and sturdy. You simply slide one cup out of the other. As you can see, the roots are sticking out the bottom and the sides.

 

autoflower solo cup transplant, roots clearly visible

 

I’m talking about transplanting autoflower strains outside, but in this experiment of mine I actually repotted my auto into a bucket with soil to be grown under artificial lights. Doesn’t really matter because the procedure is exactly the same. Just make a hole in the ground the size of the cup and stick it there.

The Best Time of Day for Repotting Autoflowers

In the past, I used to wonder when to transplant autoflower seedlings. I mean the best time of day for it. Now I do all my repottings before ‘nightfall’. This way, the plant and its root structure will have several hours to get used to their new surroundings before the sun goes up (or the lights turn on). Daytime, with photosynthesis and perspiration and all, is a much more stressful time for a plant.

Transplant Autoflower Results

So I was watching my repotted plant closely, and was happy to see that it never looked ‘tired’ and didn’t stop growing for a single day. In the photo gallery below, you can see daily snapshots of my auto both just before and after the transplant:

 

transplanting autoflower seedlings

 

————- THIS IS WHEN I DID THE TRANSPLANT ————-

 

with this method you can re-pot without issues

autoflower transplant seeds, day 22

grow autoflower transplant, no stress, day 23

 

So Can You Transplant Autoflowering Plants?

You can definitely transplant autoflower plants if a situaltion calls for it, but please be extra careful and make sure that the roots experience the least amount of shock. And our method of using a solo cup with slits cut in it is clearly a simple and effective way of achieving that.

 

Bag Seeds and What to Expect of Them

Novice growers keep asking questions about bag seeds all the time. A girl I know has recently fired at me a series of questions that she thought no one would ever answer. I’m sure at least some of you have been as puzzled by these questions as her. Here it goes:

I’ve been asking everyone about these bag weed seeds, and no one can explain this to me. Because I swear to God I can’t understand it myself. If the buds haven’t been pollinated, then the seeds should be sterile. But they aren’t! I’ve germinated one such seed myself, and it was growing fine.

If the buds HAVE been pollinated, then why the f… they are making me high?!

And if it was a feminized plant, is it normal for feminized plants to produce seeds?

Questions like these made me realize that people don’t grasp the concept of bag seeds. Moreover, there is a fundamental lack of understanding of how and why cannabis plants produce seeds. Can all of them be grown? Are all of them worth growing? How different types of seeds (feminized, autoflowering, regular, hermies, etc.) fit into the picture? In this post, I’ll try to bring clarity to these issues.

Bag Seeds Meaning

Suppose you buy some buds in a ‘bag’ (a zip lock). You expect the buds to be high quality which means—among other things—that they’ll be without seeds. The buds really do look, smell and taste great, and make you high, too. However, when grinding them, you find a seed or two. And this is what we call ‘bag seeds’.

Will Bag Seeds Grow?

Most seeds you find in a zip lock will definitely grow. For plants, seeds are a means of reproduction. They aren’t just for show. Of course, there are sterile or infertile seeds in other crops that have been artificially modified, but not in cannabis. So these seeds grow like any other: they germinate, they sprout, they get bigger, and then you see your bag seeds flowering as any other type of marijuana would.

This is because the presence of seeds always means that there has been some natural pollination. Either there was some undetected male somewhere near the grow, or there were some stray male pollen sacks in female buds. The latter occurs much more often because female plants often grow a few male flowers due to stress (so called hermies, or hermaphrodites). But, no matter where the pollen has come from, the pollination leads to the production of seeds, and these seeds are fertile.

So, if you ask yourself: “Can I grow bag seeds?”, the answer is always ‘yes’. Can bag seeds grow good weed? Well, it’s another question. Read on.

Are Bag Seeds Worth Growing?

Growing unknown bag seeds is always a toss of a coin. Even if you like the buds in which you have found these seeds, it doesn’t mean you’ll get the same quality. Let’s put it this way: you’ve now met the mother (the buds you’ve just smoked), but you don’t know anything about the father (the source of pollen). It may have been outstanding, it may have been mediocre, or it may have been the most worthless ditch weed that grows in your area.

And don’t forget that the father could also have been another mother (a hermaphrodite plant). So do bag seeds work? Yes, they do. Are bag seeds any good? Well, this depends on the quality of both parents, and you simply don’t have enough information.

Having said that, a bag seed can be a real gem. You probably have heard stories of first rate strains that have been bred from seeds found in a bag of buds. One example is the famous Cinderella. It would be an irreparable loss for the marijuana growing community if the breeders of this masterpiece simply sneered at those seeds and threw them away.

Bag Seeds vs Seeds Bought in a Seed Shop

If you simply want to grow yourself some good bud and expect reliable results, by all means buy your beans online from a reputable seed shop.

The reasons to grow weed from bag seeds are very few:

  • if you suspect that your bag seeds could be amazing and feel lucky (because you’ll need PLENTY of luck),
  • when your budget is strained to spend any money on seeds,
  • if you want to grow a lot plants outdoors in the cheapest way possible.

What we don’t recommend is growing bag seeds indoors. With the cost of the setup and electricity bills and what not, the money you spend on seeds is arguably the least significant expense item.

Some Questions about the Genetics

If you have read carefully what we have said above, you’ve already guessed that bag seeds, like any other type of weed seeds, can be really anything (in terms of their genetics). But, for clarity’s sake, let’s answer any specific questions that you might have.

Are Bag Seeds Feminized?

Whether the seeds found in buds are feminized or not depends on the source of the pollination. If the pollen was from a male plant, the seeds will be regular, meaning that the ratio of male to female plants will be around 50/50. But if the source of the pollen were male flowers (hermies) from the same plant or another female/hermie plant in the garden, the resulting bag seeds are feminized. Please note that such seeds are also very prone to become hermies if you subject them to stress.

Obviously, the only way to tell if your bags seeds are feminized or regular is to grow and flower them.

Are All Bag Seeds Hermies?

Most female plants can become hermies if you subject them to stress. It all depends on the amount of stress needed before you see male flowers in your female buds. If the buds have been pollinated by a male (see above), they will show more stability. If they have been pollinated by a hermie, watch out because even the least amount of stress can make such plants ‘turn to the dark side’.

On average, bag seeds are way less stable than store-bought seeds.

Can Bag Seeds be Autoflower?

If both parents were autos, the seeds are 100% autoflowering, too. The same if an autoflower self-pollinated itself (see our experiment where we produced our own feminized seeds by self-pollination using colloidal silver).

Is it Normal for Fem Plants to Produce Seeds?

Fem plants produce seeds just like any other type of plant (if you pollinate them). It doesn’t matter whether you have grown a plant from fem seeds or regular. Neither type is infertile. Of course, bud growers do everything they can to produce buds without seeds, but shit happens, doesn’t it?

Can Buds With Seeds Make You High?

The potency of buds is a matter of genetics, and not of whether the buds have been pollinated or not. Of course, buds with seeds have inferior quality because a pollinated plant directs all its energy to seed production and not resin production. Seeded buds are smaller, have less resin glands and lower levels of THC, but they DO make you high nevertheless. With many seeds, the quality is significantly worse. With a few, you’ll probably see no difference.

This is it. We hope we have answered all your questions. If not, don’t be shy to ask in comments.

 

External Links:

Marijuana Botany An Advanced Study: The Propagation and Breeding of Distinctive Cannabis, R.C. Clarke

Can Feminized Seeds be Cloned and Kept as Mother Plants?

The feminization technology has been around for close to 30 years now, but some people are still uneasy about this ‘new’ invention. Our personal opinion is that, for a casual grower, feminized seeds are better than non-feminized. It’s true that in some rare cases it’s safer to use genetics that haven’t been tampered with too much, i.e. regular seeds. But cloning and keeping a mother plant isn’t one of those cases.

Feminized seeds can be cloned without any issues and kept as mother plants and a source of more clones. They will be the exact copies of the parent plant, including its ability to produce only female buds. Feminized clones may ‘hermie’ on you due to stress, but so can regular genetics. Read on.

Feminised Seeds Clone as Easily as Regular Ones

Fem seeds are simply those that produce female plants in close to 100% of cases. In most other important ways, they are no different from regular marijuana. So, cloning feminised plants works the usual way. What you CAN’T CLONE (or, rather, don’t want to clone) are autoflowering strains. But that’s a different story.

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As for feminized plants, you can take cuttings from them as soon as the side branches are long enough. When they reach 4 inches (10 cm), the procedure has every chance to be successful. After these cuttings root, you can either veg and flower them or turn one into a mother plant. In short, everything is the same as with regular cannabis.

Can You Clone Feminized Seeds for Professional Projects?

For any amateur grower’s needs, modern feminised seeds have stable enough genetics. But if you want to produce buds or seeds professionally, you may think of building your collection of mother plants from regular seeds instead.

We have written a separate post comparing feminized and regular seeds. The short version is: fems are great, but regs might have more stable genetics. It means that in extreme situations they will be less prone to hermies. Hermies (hermaphroditism) is a situation when a female plant produces male flowers due to stress.

Finding a Stable Feminized Plant to be Cloned and Kept as a Mother

In another post, we’ve outlined a strategy—which we shall briefly repeat here—of finding the most stable plant for clones and mothers. You can use this strategy both for feminized and regular seeds. It goes like this.

First, you germinate a large batch of seeds of a certain strain. Then you grow them till they are big enough, and make them start flowering by switching to the 12/12 light schedule — 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness.

For normal flowering, the darkness must be complete and uninterrupted. If you allow light leaks into your grow space during the night or turn on the lights even briefly, you disrupt the dark cycle. This can slow down the process of flowering and often results in hermies in unstable strains.

We Use This Feature to Spot Weaker Genetics

Once the buds start to form, we begin to disrupt the correct 12/12 light schedule on purpose. Let’s say we turn on the lights for an hour in the middle of the night, and the next day, ‘forget’ to turn off the lights completely, and on the third day, we make the dark period longer by a few hours, etc.

All plants that are naturally prone to hermies will sooner or later show male ‘bananas’ in their female buds. These plants we throw away. And those that remain female despite our best efforts to make them change sex, obviously have a very stabilized DNA. So you can use them for cloning or making seeds.

Of course, first you need to revert them back to the vegetative stage—the procedure known as re-vegging—and only then you can take clones. Note that there’s a high-stress method of taking clones from a FLOWERING plant. It’s called monster cropping, and those with advanced growing skills can try this method as well.

 

Growing Cannabis in Eggshells: A Fun Way to Start Seedlings

When you grow cannabis seedlings to be later planted outdoors or transferred into bigger pots, eggshells are a viable alternative to small containers, party cups, or peat pellets. Unfortunately, we haven’t done a side-by-side comparison or anything. However, in our little experiment, the results were more or less the same as in our previous, more traditional grows.

Why Use Eggshells for Weed Plants?

Empty eggshells are great starter containers for young cannabis plants because they have the right size for this purpose, are guaranteed organic and non-toxic, are a common household item, and can be very conveniently kept in egg trays.

So, let’s take an egg and a cannabis seed, and see what will happen.

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Weed Seeds in Eggshells: A Step-by-Step Instruction

Crack an egg as close to its ponty end as you can, empty it, and rinse inside. DO NOT try to remove the eggshell membrane. Otherwise the shell will be too brittle to handle. You can make a small hole in the bottom for drainage, but it’s optional.

eggshells for cannabis plants

Fill it with soil, pour about a tablespoon of water, stick a cannabis seed into the soil, with the pointy end down, and cover it with a pinch or two of more soil.

eggshells in cannabis soil

In a few days the seed will sprout.

eggshells cannabis plant; day 1

Keep it under a light (a CFL will be just fine), trying not to let it stretch too much. In our case, the seedling stretched quite a bit by day 7.

growing cannabis in eggshells; day 7

What we did was we crushed the stem with the fingertips in several places, bent it and pressed to the surface of the soil (and later covered it with more soil).

eggshell weed plant; bend the stem

Now the little plant is nice and short again, and you can keep it in the eggshell for several more days if you’re not ready for a transplant.

eggshells and weed plants; day 8

On day 11, we were ready to move the seedling from the eggshell to a more permanent home. Now we cracked the bottom with a teaspoon and removed the pieces of the shell, revealing the membrane.

egg shells cannabis; crack the bottom with a spoon

eggshells in weed plants; now remove the pieces oof the shell

Which we removed with pincers.

eggshells soil cannabis; remove the membrane

You can leave the sides of the eggshell intact or can break them further. It doesn’t matter because all the roots are only at the bottom, and the remnants of the eggshell will do no harm to the plant. On the contrary, the shell is chock full of calcium which plants could probably use later in the growing cycle.

cannabis eggshells calcium source for future needs

eggshells for marijuana is a source of calcium

Growing Cannabis in Eggshells Proved to be Very Convenient

If you grow several seedlings, eggshells placed in an egg tray are very convenient to work with. Especially under T5 lamps, but under CFLs, too. Just don’t keep your young plants in eggshells for too long, otherwise they’ll get root bound, and their growth will slow down. 7 days from sprouts should be enough. Transplanting them into the next container is also a breeze and a very low-stress procedure. By all means, try this method some time, especially if you like organic growing.

 

Autoflowering vs Feminized: What’s Best for a Casual Grower?

When you go to a seed shop, the most conspicuous categories you see there are ‘autoflowering’ and ‘feminized’, so most growers face a difficult choice: autoflowering vs feminized. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Autoflowering vs Feminized Seeds

Let’s start with a disclaimer: it’s not really correct to contrapose these two. A seed can be both feminized and autoflowering, or have just one of these characteristics, or neither of them.

‘Feminized’ means that the seeds produce only female plants. ‘Autoflowering’ means that the seeds will automatically start to flower as soon as they are mature enough (let’s say in 2-4 weeks from sprouts).

What are auto feminised seeds then? Well, those that flower automatically + produce flowers that are always female (i.e. buds).

In contrast, the seeds that produce both male and female plants are called ‘regular’, and those that won’t start to flower until you change the light cycle for them are called ‘photoperiod’.

So, seed shops make the bulk of their sales with the following two:

  • feminised auto seeds (mostly referred to as ‘autoflowering’)
  • feminized photoperiod seeds (mostly referred to as ‘feminized’)

And these two are exactly what we are going to compare.

Advantages of ‘Feminized’ Seeds vs Auto Seeds

They Have More THC

When I myself started growing weed many years ago, I was ignoring autoflowering strains completely. At that time, they really weren’t good enough. Over the years, though, the situation has changed.

Today’s autoflowers routinely have around 20% THC. This is an unheard of level for most photoperiod varieties that I used to grow and considered ‘strong’. Still, if a breeder takes some exceptional genetics with say 25-28 percent of THC and makes an autoflowering version out of it, the THC content in the resulting auto flower is always lower. Compare, for example, such a legend as Gorilla Glue with an autoflowering Gorilla.

Autoflowering vs Feminized Yield Per M2

Autoflowers have a shorter life cycle, so it’s only logical that they produce less buds in the same growspace. Again, some autos can be significantly more productive than some photoperiod strains, but, within the same genetic line, the auto version always yields less grams per m2 than the photoperiod one.

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The Difference in Yields Per Plant Can be Colossal

Photoperiod strains can be vegged for as long as it suits your needs. This allows you to grow your plants into real giants. It’s hardly practical indoors, but outdoors you can harvest as much as several pounds of dry bud from every ‘tree’. Growing fewer but bigger plants is also convenient when there are legal limits as to the number of plants you are allowed to grow.

They Leave More Room for Rookie Mistakes

Novice growers tend to make mistakes from day 1, so they run into trouble long before the flowering stage begins.

With a photoperiod variety, you can simply find a solution to your problem, take necessary measures, and wait till your plant is in good shape again. And only then you change your light schedule to 12/12 to induce flowering.

Autos, on the other hand, don’t wait till you correct your mistakes. Even if they are small and sickly, they are ‘on the clock’ and will start flowering despite their pathetic condition. The result — tiny plants and puny yields.

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That being said, I have seen autoflowering strains that are a little more flexible than that. They start flowering when they reach a certain size and have a certain number of true leaves (let’s say 4 developed pairs of true leaves and the 5th one just forming). This can happen after 3 weeks from sprouts (when everything has gone well). Or, if the initial growth was very slow due to bad conditions, they can postpone the flowering till week 4 or even 5. Not all autos behave this way, but some do.

They Let You Take Clones and Keep Mothers

If you like a particular feminised plant and want to keep it for future use, simply take a clone, root it and keep it under 18 hours of light a day indefinitely. This plant will never flower, but will keep growing new leaves and side shoots which you can use for cuttings.

Theoretically, you can take clones from autoflowers, too, but you can’t stop them from flowering, no matter how many light hours you give them. So the only way to propagate your favorite autoflowering genetics is to force the plant to self-pollinate and produce seeds.

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You Can Re-Veg Them

To reveg means to revert your plant back to growth after harvest.

A harvested plant is hardly more than a stump with a branch or two and some leaves. But you can turn this pathetic remnant into a full-fledged plant. It can then give you a second harvest or be turned into a mother plant and a constant source of clones.

Obviously, autos can’t be revegged.

They Let You Save on Electricity During the Flowering Stage

Feminized plants spend their 8-10+ weeks of flowering under a 12/12 regime, meaning you burn electricity for only 12 hours a day. The saving can be especially significant if your electrical company offers night rates. For autoflowers, the standard light/dark cycle is at least 18/6 (more hours, more money).

Advantages of Autoflowering vs Feminized Seeds

You Can Grow Them Outdoors in Practically Any Climate

I happen to live in a region with very harsh weather, so I know this firsthand. I started with feminized photoperiod strains and only chose those that were early finishers and tolerant of cold and even frost. Nevertheless, it was always a lottery. Some of those ‘quick’ feminized seeds didn’t even start to flower before the first snowfall. Others didn’t reach full maturity.

Later, I would grow from clones using genetics that had proven to really finish early, but even they didn’t perform equally well every year. It all depended on the weather in the crucial 3-4 weeks in late September – early October.

After I tried an autoflowering strain for the first time, I’ve never bothered to grow a photoperiod variety outdoors ever again. Except maybe as an experiment. As an auto grower, you have an opportunity to choose the warmest, sunniest 2-3 months of the year to complete the whole cycle—from seed to harvest—and count on your buds becoming fully mature.

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You Can Have Two or More Consecutive Harvests Per Season Outdoors

It all depends on your climate. If the growing season (with no frosts) in your region is 150 days long, you can easily have two back-to-back auto grows. It’s sometimes very convenient to have several smaller harvests than one large one per season.

One reason is that trimming is a very time consuming procedure. Also it’s nice to have some fresh buds to smoke in the middle of summer, while you’re waiting for the bulk of the harvest that which be mature in fall.

With Autos, You Don’t Worry About Light Pollution

If you grow photoperiod marijuana outdoors, nights during the flowering stage should be dark. Weed plants don’t mind the moon and stars, but react badly to city lights. Indoors, you must make sure that your grow space is completely sealed off and doesn’t allow light leaks. With auto flowers, you don’t have these issues.

You Can Have Both the Vegging and the Flowering Plants in One Grow Room

For photoperiod feminized varieties, you must dedicate two separate rooms. In one, lights will be on for 18 hours a day (the veg room), in the other — for 12 hours a day (the flowering room). This is something that not every amateur grower can afford. As for autos, you can keep several generations, each at a different stage of maturity, under 18/6.

Autoflowering vs Feminized Size

Autos tend to be much smaller. This is very convenient for tight spaces and micro grows, or if you want your secret garden to be inconspicuous.

Autos Finish Faster

Theoretically, you can find a photoperiod strain that grows very fast in veg and has a very short flowering period. So, by inducing the flowering early, you can make it finish in 10-11 weeks from seeds. But this is what an average auto can do without any hassle, and some are much faster than that. So, if you want to end that T-break of yours a.s.a.p., choose autoflowering cannabis.

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This is it.

Now you have a sort of a checklist that will help you decide if you’ll be better off growing feminized seeds or autoflowering. We’ve also written a separate post comparing feminized seeds vs regular. Be sure to read it, too!