Nurturing and Caring for your Marijuana Plants
If you live in a climate where the seasons change, to transplant marijuana outdoors, you will need to wait until the danger of frost has passed (usually the beginning to mid-May) and you are getting optimal daylight hours (think about when you would plant your tomatoes). Try to find a strain that likes to grow outdoors.
Note: If you are unsure about planting your seeds directly in the ground, you can germinate your feminized seeds indoors at least 4-6 weeks, then move outside when the weather is more suitable.
Once your plants are germinated, give them as much lighting as possible for the first 3 – 4 weeks. This is called the vegetative state. They need to be stable and getting big, 4 to 8 inches, before moving outside. There are three main types of lighting to assist in the growing process.
A popular form of lighting, they should be about 4 inches from the soil and give anywhere from 16 to 18 hours a day. These include CFL Grow Lights or T5 Lights. They are cheap to buy and don’t use a lot of electricity. However, the yields can be smaller.
An automatic timer can be used to help you regulate the amount of lighting.
HD Grow Lighting:
More efficient than florescent, they reflect more light onto the plants. They are extremely popular because of the large yields they produce. They can become very hot and should be hooked to an exhaust to help vent out the heat.
LED grow lights are also popular because of their energy-saving efficiency. They are not as hot, can be plugged into a wall and have great penetration so no need to move around. Optimal distance from the plants is about 18 inches to avoid burning your buds. They produce a better yield than florescent allowing you to harvest up to 1 ounce a month. It is best to buy LED with full-spectrum light (some green or white). Older models will contain only red and blue light.
TRANSPLANTING THE SEEDLINGS
You need to keep the seedlings moist but not soaked. Spray the leaves daily with water. Once roots are established and the plants are stabilized, you can transplant your seedlings into containers of choice (peat moss or solo cups are a good size).
Separating the Seedlings
If you have not been able to get feminized seeds and you are still not sure if your seedlings are male or female, you will need to separate them, re-pot them, then transfer to larger pots to make them even more stable for transplanting outdoors.
First, we need to separate the roots. A good reason to use the peat moss containers is that you can tear them apart to get at the roots of the seedlings without damaging them, especially if they are well-rooted. Gently separate each one and set aside.
Once the seedlings are separated, you will want to fill more peat moss containers or plastic solo cups, about a third way with your potting soil, stick your finger in the centre to make a hole all the way to the bottom and gently place the seedling’s roots into the hole. Tamp the earth around the root securely and then continue adding more soil, positioning the seedling in the centre until it is firmly in place and the soil is to the top of the pot. When you water it, the soil will settle a bit. Continue to do this with all your seedlings until they have all been re-potted.
PLANTING IN THE GROUND
When to Transplant:
The best time to transplant is when there are 4 or 5 leaves on your new plant. Roots should be healthy and white. If you see some discolouration or darkening, this could be an indication that the plant is root-bound and should be transplanted right away.
When planting directly in the ground, you need good soil with lots of nutrients (organic soil).
As discussed earlier, if privacy is a concern, make sure the area is fenced off or plant in with other large leafy plants such as your tomatoes. If you have budget restraints though, outdoor growing may be the way to go. All you really need is a great sunny spot.
Water your plants thoroughly two days before the scheduled transplant. The soil should be a little moist, keeping your root structure intact. Gently work the plant from the container, loosening the soil. If necessary, use a butter or dull knife and run it around the outside of the soil. You can avoid this step if you used peat moss containers or plastic solo cups (gently squeeze all around to loosen soil, turn upside down and gently tip into your hand).
Placing in the Ground:
The hole in the ground should be somewhere between 15 – 20 inches deep and in diameter to accommodate a large plant (some will grow as high as 15 feet!). Fill the hole with organic soil and mix it with the soil that was removed. (In Part 1, we showed a video on how to make organic soil).
Make a hole and plant the seedling. Cover with soil up to the bottom leaves. Water and you are good to go!
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When transplanting to a larger pot, make sure to water the soil in the current pot a couple of days before. It will be easier to work with. Transplant when the plant is in the vegetative stage (not flowering).
Note: A good trick is to make an indentation in the new pot with the current pot before removing the plant.
Gently work the plant and soil from the container as the roots are fragile and you don’t want to damage them. If you are using the solo cups, you can gently squeeze them to loosen the soil and plant, turn upside down and let it fall gently into your hand. Place plant and soil into the indentation in the larger pot with nutrient-packed soil. Add more soil as needed until roots are covered up to the bottom leaves.
Some people like doing what is called ‘potting up’ which simply means transplanting to larger pots as the plant grows. However, this involves more handling and stress to the plants. If you are a novice, it might be best to transplant into its final pot which should be between 5 and 10-gallon size.
A good rule of thumb is that plants require 2 gallons of soil per 12 inches of growth.
The big advantage of placing your plants outdoors in containers is the ability to move them around so they get the most amount of light each day.
Growing outdoors makes lighting less of a concern once plants are adjusted. Natural light is way better for your plants than anything you can produce artificially. Give your plants the most amount of light (6 hours of direct light is great) by making sure they are not obstructed by other objects or plants. To avoid shocking your plants by placing them directly outside in the hot sunlight, it is recommended that you take them outside and place them in a shady spot for the first 2 or 3 days. By the end of the week, they should be able to handle full sun for 4 – 5 hours and at the end of two weeks, full sun all day.
A Quick Note on Pots: While plastic is cheap and readily available, fabric pots are becoming popular for several reasons:
Sturdy handles straps, washable, reusable
Prevents binding and circling roots
Boosts plant yields
Lightweight and portable
A few things to keep in mind when transplanting to a larger pot:
Clean hands or gloves will help prevent contaminating roots.
Allow the soil to dry before transplanting.
Gently handle the roots to ensure less stress and damage during the transplant.
Make sure the new pot is filled with the proper soil and as mentioned above, make an indent in the soil to make enough space.
To minimize shock, avoid intense lighting (best to get them used to the sun before permanently leaving them outside).
After transplanting, water thoroughly.
Of course, this is really just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg. Growing your marijuana seedlings into healthy plants ready for harvesting will require your attention and time, especially if you are growing outdoors. Some common things to consider during the growing period and harvesting are:
Female vs Male (unless you have feminized seeds)
Protection – wind, rain, pests
Growing support (trellises or cages)