< INTRO >
The South African climate is slowly changing with regards to it's attitude towards cannabis. South Africans are now legally allowed to grow weed for their own private use, in the safety of their own homes.
While at this point the law still stands to be rather vague as to what quantity exactly qualifies as 'personal use,' and that coupled with the paradox that purchasing marijuana seeds remains illegal, making things a tad confusing, the shift in perspective is still tangible as popular nursery branches begin to market 'weed growing kits' and many begin to wonder if this means they may have been too hard on the subject.
As more and more South Africans begin utilizing cannabidiol oil as a healthier/more natural alternative to treat a range of anxiety, cognitive and movement disorders others are finding THC oil is having positive effects on autistic children. We just discovered the pet store down the road now sells THC oil (from presumably under the counter) and I just so happened to have seen first hand a dog with such bad anxiety that it was nerve-wracking just to be in the room with her (an anxiety ridden boerboel is no joke people), get a brand new lease on life because of it.
While the applications seem endless many are just excited by the mere fact that they CAN grow. So, with the power of vermiculture (worm farming) on our side, we thought weed give it a bash.
< Seeds >
To start, let's be clear, we don't really know what we are doing and therefore did nothing special and this is actually the point!
The GroPro is a no fuss, very effective tool to grow a range of things and the point here is to show that cannabis can be one of them without trying too hard. ( - and let's be honest here: of all the crops we could choose to make this point with, cannabis is a good one as it's colloquially called 'weed' for a reason.) Serious growers should go forth and adjust the growing medium, add any extra nutrients they might like and incorporate any tricks of the trade which take their fancy.
We obtained 30 seeds from what we are told was 'a big bag of badly grown weed.' So these seeds were not feminized (cannabis, rather like avocado plants/trees, for example, has a male and a female sex. The female cannabis plant develops buds charged with THC which is what most growers are after). This meant a mix of male and female plants. The seeds were not of a particular strain and basically were nothing special at all.
To up your game (which we'll do this next season) visit a company such as https://cannabru.online/ to order some proper seeds.
The cannabis seeds stayed true to their 'weed' connotations and EVERY SINGLE ONE GERMINATED. Basically unheard of for most flora.
At this early stage of the game in any #GroPro planting, whether from seed or seedling, it is all about caring for your young plants through the establishment phase. Both cannabis and the #GroPro are extremely water efficient but for now make sure they don't go thirsty - we give a full watering of 5L (this includes the water which has been recycled and collected in the basin below) every 3 days and give the pockets a spray in the morning and evenings every day.
We did this for 2 weeks and as you can see above is the result. Right, now is where it starts to get fun.
< Sex >
Don't get too excited.
Our plants began to show sex after a few weeks - this period will differ from strain to strain, your particular micro-climate and it's lighting conditions and the particular point in the season when planted. As seems to be the way across a broad spectrum of life, the females matured first.
The indicator for a female cannabis plant is white pistols or hairs which emerge initially from a point where the female flower will eventually develop, the white pistol protruding from the tip of the flower once it does so.
Soon the boys did indeed follow suit even if a bit late to the party. The male indicator is a bit more what you'd expect - tiny plant testicles. Basically. Sort of. These are little pollen sacs which develop in the same location as the female's pistols - where the leaf stem emerges from the actual stem. These pollen sacs would open up and the pollen would be released. If the pollen came into contact with a female's white pistol, she would be fertilized.
< Fertilization >
Now the thing which anyone who has ever grown these plants before knows, and which we had to discover, was that fertilization is the last thing you want to occur. The theory is as follows: If the female cannabis plant is fertilized by male pollen, she will begin to develop seeds within her bud once she reaches a certain level of maturity. The problem with this is that she will split her energy reserves between creating the bud (with it's THC content, which as aforementioned, is what most growers are after in as large a volume as possible) and the seeds themselves.
So if that was confusing, essentially: More seeds means less THC which means weaker cannabis bud.
So what's to be done? Simple, we have to take out the males. Sorry gents.
At this point, this would have been the benefit of having purchased feminized seeds. We could've skipped this step and ended up with a #GroPro full of females - although truth be told, with regards the law, you may find yourself with more bud than you may like (various people scoffing at this sentence). So be cautious.
< Our Ratio >
11 out of 30 plants turned out to be male. So not a bad outcome ultimately as it could've been exactly 50/50 or there could have been more males than females - never a good time. So the lads, they had to go and below is the result.
< Companion Planting >
Companion planting is a great way to achieve a variety of goals from: preventing pests from attacking crops through the use of decoy plants which they hit first; by using companion crops which attract predators to clean up the pests in question; altering the taste of another crop via the introduction of companion plants; and aiding in growth.
So we had a decision to make as to what we would plant alongside our cannabis. Now there are a good few options available from basil and chamomile through to chrysanthemums - you can find these and a few more options with a quick google search.
In this case we really made our decision based on just 2 requirements. Firstly we were looking for something which would balance out the height of the cannabis and therefore the #GroPro composition (aesthetics, aesthetics, aesthetics) and secondly a crop option which would allow us to sleep soundly knowing there would be no dramatic clash which might result in a drama and bring us to tears.
The answer we arrived at, was lavender.
While lavender fulfills our height requirements the flowers will also add a nice touch of colour to the #GroPro. They will also attract nectar feeding insects which also feed on larvae - which will aid in pest control. For general knowledge purposes lavender also drives off ticks, fleas and mice although none of these are of major concern here.
Lastly the smell. Can you imagine the scent of fruity cannabis intermingling with the glorious perfume of natural lavender? A feast for the senses.
< Budding Growth >
So what are the buds starting to look like at this point?
The Pistols are really starting to come through on some of the plants, forming large mops of of the alien tendrils. Some plants are displaying more than others and their individual characters are starting to become evident. This is as much to do with placement on the GroPro and the light the plant is receiving due to location, as well as inherent genetic differences from plan to plant. Nature vs Nurture.
<Buds and Trichomes>
Right so at this point our cannabis has been growing for around 2.5 months and has started budding. It was planted right at the end of the growing season in order to achieve a shorter time between seed and the budding process - we thought this might result in a more compact cannabis #GroPro. For the record it didn't necessarilly and next season we'll achieve this through pruning.
Right. So, trichomes. What are they?
Structures described as trichomes are found on many species of flora and essentially just describe a variety of fine outgrowths or appendages or 'hairs.' On the cannabis plant they look like the zoomed image below.
So not to get the trichomes confused with her white pistol hairs (which are the long white fibres), the trichomes are the structures all over the bud giving it a glittery quality. Shine bright like a diamond. Trichomes are where much of the THC is housed. So the more your cannabis begins to sparkle and batt her eyelids at you, the better.
As your buds begin to mature they will slowly fill-out and fatten. However, don't be alarmed if yours do not as this is dependant on strain! They say the Indica strains will producer a chunkier bud as well as having a thicker leaf, the Sativa strains will do so dramatically less. This will be a Sativa strain of some kind - thin leaves, medium girth bud.
<GroPro Worm Farming>
Something not to forget is the very reason the #GroPro system works quite so well in the first place. It all has to do with composting within the inner worm cylinder, allowing the re-use of the water to redistribute nutrients/worm tea throughout the system.
Always a good sign when you pop the cap of your inner cylinder and the worms are there to greet you. They are fed various items from the kitchen and garden, depending on what you have at your disposal - veggie offcuts, fruit peels, egg shells, tea bags, coffee ground, cardboard, paper, newspaper, etc. We are feeding them a healthy 2-3 handfuls of scraps at least once a week.
Right back to the wormtea-feuled cannabis...
We've made a discovery... The natural world is a fascinating one. A plant at the back of the GroPro, although starting out female ... has hermaphodized!
Why does cannabis do this? The plant is essentially ensuring a degree of fertilization (yes, with itself) in order to be able to pass on it's genetics to a succeeding generation (via fertilized seeds) in order to carry on keeping-on. This is essentially the aim of all life on earth.
Cannabis plants will do this if they are stressed but sometimes a plant will actually just genetically have been a hermaphodite the whole time. A tough revelation when you've already put in 2 months of love and dedication. However, I believe that this plant did so because being right at the back, on the bottom row of the GroPro, she consistently didn't get enough light, which consistently stressed her so she reacted accordingly. That's our theory for now at least.
So what does our he-she look like?
We've whipped her-him out and snapped some photos for you.
Ok, so by now, if you've been paying attention, hopefully you'll recognise the white pistols (the upper left, pink bracket) iconic to the cannabis plant displaying female sex.
However the red circles are our male pollen sacs (from waaay back in the beginning of this blog) and sadly they have actually burst/matured and opened to release pollen (bottom left, red circle). This occurred under our noses because we were not paying enough attention.
So what does this mean for us?
Sadly it means some portion of our bud will be fertilized. Which means it will now contain seeds, which is essentially like grapes without seeds and grapes with - most would love them without and they're annoying to remove. They also, if you recall, detract from the THC production in the bud as she begins to split her energy between doing so and seed production.
But just like grapes, cannabis seeds ARE packed with nutrients so eating them is not the worst thing in the world!
Now how much of our bud has been successfully pollinated by our stow-away here? Well we have no idea and time will tell... Can you feel the suspense...?
<So Where Are We At?>
The buds have steadily fattened and the GroPro is looking good overall.
Now what's to be focused on next is once again our pistols. Remember the white tendril/hairs which first dictated to us that we were dealing with female cannabis? Well they will appear in 2 to 3 waves each time turning from their silky white to an amber-brown colour.
When your bud is mostly covered in these brown pistols and the bud is really smelling pungently fruity, she is ready to harvest. The timing of this seems to be something you get a feel for over time.
Ultimately we feel that was a fantastic success and we think you might agree!
We harvested just a few of the plants as we had no need to do the entire GroPro and here is a quick photo.
<So What Were The Learnings?>
They were several-fold.
First and most important learning: Hermaphodites and light placement.
Although we won't know until the curing process is at an end, I have very little doubt that much of the bud will have been fertilized and will contain seeds because of the hermaphoditic stow aways - in the end there were TWO at the back! This is no coincidence and certainly due to a lack of light.
This GroPro was placed just outside the kitchen door which is great light for most veggies but ISN'T full sun. We do wonder what the outcome may have been if we had placed the GroPro in full sun? Would we still have ended up with two ladies who decided they were missing out on life by not also having testicles?
- This coming spring we'll grow again BUT ... we'll invest in feminized seeds and just plant the front of the GroPro, ensuring light to the ladies and creating some sort of companion planting from the get-go.
Another reminder towards our affiliate CannaBru SA for seeds.
We could, as I suggested move the GroPro into full sun but to be absolutely honest the better photo location will win out.
Speaking of photos we'll also invest in a strain with some interesting colours to give you guys a visual spectacle.
Auxillary learning: Time-Line
We had naively assumed once they started showing sex that it was quite a short sprint to the harvest-finishing line. This was not the case and some plants took almost another 2.5 months of growing time. A total of 4.5 months total. When you planted late as we did, this can take you dangerously close to serious rain which can cause your bud to rot.
We'll plant earlier this coming season.
Auxillary learning: Pruning
As stated, we planted late in the season - January into February (Cape Town: Dry Summer - Winter rainfall). This was with the thought that our plants wouldn't have too much time before budding and therefore wouldn't grow too tall. We wanted a condensed GroPro.
We did no prunining whatsoever.
Next season we'll plant much earlier and do some good pruning. This will encourage good bushing which will likely result in more heads as well.
<And That's A Wrap Folks>
Well for now. We'll see you soon.