Although harvesting may be the end goal, the process isn’t always a straight shot. Cannabis plants must contend with a variety of challenges. Pests, nutrient burn, and many other factors may impede the health of a cannabis plant. Healthy plants mean a higher yield, eye-catching colors, and the highest levels of THC, terpenes, and phytochemicals.
While it may seem overwhelming, especially to newer growers, cultivators can do a few things to ensure the well-being of their plants. With a few simple techniques and some essential equipment, you can give your plants the boost they need to thrive. Read on and find out more!
Basic Cannabis Anatomy
Understanding why these techniques are helpful requires a look at cannabis plant physiology. Cannabis plants can be either male, female, or hermaphrodites. Growers derive strains for smoking from female cannabis plants.
Female plants contain several essential parts for growth, including the trichomes that produce the sticky, sugary coating typical of most strains. Flowers also consist of pistils that are attached to small leaves or clusters called bracts.
Hermaphrodites have both female and male sex organs, allowing for self-pollination. This process is not desired among most growers, however. Growers often use clippings to create clones or feminized seeds for hybrids.
Other Essential Parts
Many female cannabis plants sport large, fan-like leaves. These leaves offer a space for the plant to gain sunlight for photosynthesis. Photosynthesis feeds the plant and provides crucial compounds for growth. Manufacturers and growers typically remove these leaves from the plant before processing.
Unlike the fan leaves, sugar leaves come from the cannabis plant’s colas. Colas are the system of tightly woven buds that grow along the top of the plant and around the lower branches. Sugar leaves contain a high level of trichomes.
The plants’ stem supports the entire structure and acts as a transport system for nutrients and other substances. It also allows for the plant to obtain needed sunlight. The roots extend from the stem and help transport water from the soil and flush away waste byproducts.
Keeping Your Plants Healthy
You can play up your plants’ natural defenses in several ways. Engaging in these techniques may help your plant boost the way it absorbs nutrients, produces food, takes in sunlight, and averts pests.
Nutrition is the cornerstone of your marijuana crop. Plants should have sufficient nutrients to grow and change. Too few nutrients in mediums such as soil can result in a sickly plant that will not develop well. Nutritious soil should contain a balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
The soil should also have a comfortable pH balance. Some experienced growers and experts suggest that the optimal pH balance is between 6-7. Most cannabis plants can only absorb necessary compounds within this small range.
Even if the nutrients are present, the cannabis plant may be unable to use them due to nutrient lockout. This condition is the result of a pH balance that is too high or too low. However, home growers must also keep in mind the strain and the environments in which they typically grow. Some strains do well in slightly acidic soils.
Cannabis grown without a soil medium will rely on a lower pH level of around 5.5 to 6.5. Growers can check the pH level by utilizing a digital pH tool or a kit.
Home growers can also make sure their plants are well fed in soil mediums by enhancing them with fertilizers. Many companies have products for increasing yield and boosting natural defenses. However, growers should try not to add too many nutrients all at once. Too much of it may cause “nutrient burn” and cause cannabis plants to wither.
Give Them Light & Air
Depending on the strain, some home growers need to ensure a certain amount of light each day. This photoperiod allows the plant to synthesize the chemicals it needs through photosynthesis for food and physiological functions. As each strain is different, growers should research the best ranges of sunlight for their plant.
Another practical method of keeping up the right balance of light and air includes trimming and pruning. Some cannabis plants can become tall with long leaves that can obscure light and air circulation.
Trimming and pruning wildly growing leaves can make room for all plants to have an equal share of resources. These kinds of techniques are especially critical for growing methods such as Screen of Green.
Pests in cannabis plants can be a big problem. They can chew through leaves, disrupt the nutrient supply, and hamper growth. Expert growers often suggest not using harsh chemicals to combat this problem. And this is for a good reason. Harsh chemicals can harm yield and may hamper the final product.
Growers can boost a plant’s natural defenses against pests. This includes mites, aphids, caterpillars, and inchworms. To keep a plant healthy and thriving, growers shouldn’t use unsterilized soil.
This type of medium can contain larvae and pest eggs. Outside in the wild, many of the pests growing on cannabis plants may have some natural enemies. However, indoors, pests can quickly multiply.
Sterilize the soil by spreading out the earth in a pan (don’t reuse the container). Set it in the oven and cook it under the heat, preferably around 170 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t go any higher than this range and bake it for about half an hour to 45 minutes. This should kill any mites or other pests living in the soil.
You can also use peroxide. Most experts suggest using 2 ½ tablespoons of peroxide per gallon of soil. Others have touted the effects of neem oil, a substance extracted from the Azadirachta tree located in South Asia. Users have reported that this oil works well with plants and is non-toxic to humans. It may also help to bolster a plant’s innate defenses.
Another natural way would include planting other species such as geraniums or garlic close by. These plants are especially noxious to some variety of pests. This arrangement mimics some of the natural symbiotic defenses cannabis has in the wild, and it is a lot safer than investing in pesticides.
If growers aren’t grossed out by insects, they can introduce a bug species to the plant. Ladybugs and praying mantis insects are useful for cannabis breeds grown outside. They don’t bother humans or pets and often devour insects that can damage strains.
Cultivators can purchase these insects commercially. However, growers should find an experienced insect breeder. An insect breeder can recommend a species and give suggestions on nurturing them without hurting the crop. Other species, such as frogs, turtles, and birds, can help with an out-of-control pest problem.
Cannabis plants often have a built-in alarm that tells growers what is happening. Yellow, discolored leaves and tips signal several things, including disease, pest infestation, or vitamin deficiency.
It is best to leave discolored leaves alone until you’ve tracked down the cause of the problem. Once you’ve achieved this, keep an eye on the matter until it is gone. Then carefully trim off the discolored leaves. Cutting away at healthy tissue can damage and shock the plant.
Pick a High THC Strain
THC functions as one of the highest forms of natural defense for cannabis. Engaging in the techniques above can help a plant tremendously. However, there is one big way a grower can assist their crop even further: plant a potent strain.
Planting a high-THC strain can get a plant on the ground and running from the get-go. THC acts as a natural deterrent for a variety of maladies. Some growers may feel that high-THC strains are too much work. However, this isn’t always the case.
Strains like Blue Dream are simple to grow and boast a THC level of up to 24%. A high concentration of THC can help the cannabis plant deter bugs, fight off disease, and ensure the plant thrives.
Final Thoughts on Improving Your Marijuana Plant’s Defenses
Lovers of cannabis may find growing plants satisfying. However, consumers should be aware that undertaking this task may come with some challenges. Many of these challenges can include barriers to the growth and safety of the plant.
However, there are measures and preventative techniques that may increase the chances of an excellent harvest. These simple steps can play up the plant’s natural defenses and boost its ability to defend itself against pest attack and disease.