It’s mid-September and time to harvest the first plant from my garden: A small Purple Pineapple. The plant is small, no bigger than two feet, with a top bud and a few small side buds. It has been growing in a 10” wide colander container filled with Hydroton (clay pebbles) in the 2’ x 8’ reservoir hydro unit in my small greenhouse.
The garden was started in mid-June. The plants all started light flowering immediately, because the 10 hours of darkness they received at the shortest night of the year (June 22) was long enough to induce flowering. With no vegetative growth period, the plants put all of their energy into the reproductive stage. This small plant took the light more seriously than its buddies. Ripeness was the result.
The other plants in the greenhouse are in various stages of flowering and will ripen by the end of the month. It’s a good time for the plants to mature. In the San Francisco Bay coastal area, where the greenhouse is located, September is one of the warmest months of the year, with clear skies rather than its famous summer fog, and with little chance of rain.
Two systems are using the same reservoir in the greenhouse. The group in the back is planted in two to four gallon containers filled with a coir-based planting mix. The mix was enriched with plant meals, which release nutrients over several months. Nylon wicks hang from the bottom holes into the reservoir. The wicks, made using 3/8” nylon rope, carry water up to the containers from the reservoir underneath. They use “capillary action” just like a tissue drawing up water. It self-regulates water uptake as needed. This action continues up the planting mix, replacing moisture as it is used by the plant and environment.
The plants also receive about a pint of water from the top four times daily using a repeating timer that is set to run every six hours for eight minutes.
The group in the front use 10” colanders just like the one used to grow the plant harvested today. They sit in about 3” of nutrient water and have a constant flow of it pumped through the hydro-pebbles. Water is pumped through the main line to the spaghetti irrigation lines directly to the top of the containers without the use of regulating emitters.
The third group consists of five plants in two-gallon containers in a 2’ x 4’ try filled with planting mix. The tray was placed against the white wall that gets five to six hours of direct sunlight daily. One of these plants will also ripen and be harvested in 10 days. The other will take two weeks longer.
Cannabis is induced to flower when the dark period reaches a critical level, which varies by variety. However, maturity can be hastened by increasing the dark period, signaling to the plant to stop flower growth and start ripening.
I decided to use this technique, starting around Aug. 20, to make sure the plants ripened a little early in September under clear skies, rather than in October, when there is always a chance of weather problems.
To do this, I devised simple light deprivation curtains that were placed over the gardens 11 hours after dawn, at about 5:45 p.m., rather than sunset at 7:25 p.m., blacking out the garden an hour and 40 minutes early. The difference in darkness was greater earlier in the cover-up, because the days were longer.
All the plants in the greenhouse are weeks way from ripening. Greenhouse receives natural light only through the roof and the front.
Wicks hanging from the containers reach into the reservoir to draw up water. This is supplemented with water pumped through spaghetti lines to the containers.
Container sitting in reservoir. In addition, water is continuously pumped through the petals. Panda plastic covers the containers creating a moist environment so the roots colonize right up to the top.
The greenhouse under wraps. The curtains go on at 5:45 p.m.and are removed shortly after sunset.
The outdoor garden. These plants will ripen in early October. They will be moved into the greenhouse after those plants are harvested when there is room.
Outdoor garden under-cover.
The Purple Pineapple is being harvested today.
Ripe bud of outdoor plant. Variety unknown.
Gelato bud has a few more weeks to reach maturity.
The Autumn Garden
Every part of North America has its own unique climate. Oakland, California near San Francisco, has an unusual post-summer glow, and the wind changes direction around Labor Day. Rather than blowing ocean-cooled air onto land—creating the Bay Area’s famous fog—the wind changes direction, creating a clear and sunny September that often stretches into October.
My home garden, surrounded by structures and trees, loses direct light due to the autumn sun moving closer to the horizon each day. However, a licensed outdoor garden is on flat land with no obstructions, so it stays sunny the whole day. It seemed like the only solution for this lonely post-harvest farm was to get it working again. I was able to locate 6,000 clones, which were placed three per container.
To do this, the soil was broken up a bit using a pitchfork, then the clones were planted by hand. It took three people about four days to accomplish this task. Then the containers were watered using drip emitters that were installed for the last crop.
During the first week, the dark cycle was broken using an HPS lamp mounted on a wooden pole that was permanently secured to a wagon using cement. I was wheeled through aisles in the field so that all the plants got a full light bath twice each night. Each time the light hit the plants they restarted the chemical process that triggers flowering. The plants do not receive a long enough stretch of uninterrupted darkness, preventing the plants from flowering.
After one week of vegetative growth in their new quarters, the lights were turned off. The dark period (dusk to dawn, about 9.5 hours) was long enough to induce flowering. The clear sunny weather and daytime temperature in the range of 65 to 75 degrees, was perfect weather for plant and flower growth.
As the plants flowered they continued to grow a bit so each triad filled the containers. Bud stretch, common when buds grow in hot weather, was absent. These buds were tight nugs, covered with trichomes and extremely fragrant.
The buds were set out in mid-August, three per pot.
Some were planted even before the last crop was totally harvested.
Field of plants ready to harvest.
Each container contained three plants.
Example of a ripe bud.
Example of a ripe bud.
Example of a ripe bud.
Plants being harvested.
Containers being wheeled to the processing/ drying area.
Plants being hung.
Powerlift is used to reach upper levels.
Plants hanging on 3 levels.
Dried Mochi bud.
TIP OF THE MONTH
Grow a Winter Crop
You can grow plants indoors if you have a sunny south-facing window or enclosed patio. Start with seeds or clones. Using clones cuts the time to harvest by two to three weeks. Plant them in one to five-gallon containers filled with a premium planting mix for indoor cultivation. Since the days are short, which induces flowering, break up the dark cycle two or three times each night using a small wattage bulb such as a compact fluorescent (CFL) on a timer. The light needs to flash on for as little as one minute to keep the plant from flowering. Once they have grown a bit, stop the light enhancement and keep the plants in the dark all night. In about eight weeks the buds will be ready to harvest. The plants and the buds probably won’t be giants, but they should be high quality and fresh.
GARDEN FEVER (Part VI)
The garden has been in harvest mode for the past month. The first plants to ripen were the Gelatos, both in the greenhouse and outdoors. The ER Superbuds, which were forced to flower barely out of clonehood, followed about a week later. These plants grew no branches, just a straight stem surrounded by buds.
There were also a couple of sativas that grew well vegetatively, but never really budded out. The light wasn’t bright enough for them. They were wasting in this garden, and they took up space, but were not worth harvesting. It was only in mid-season that I learned they were not clones but seedlings from an untested cross! Oh well.
Now there are only two plants from the greenhouse and three of the outdoor plants left. They need another 10 days to finish, and luckily the forecast for the next week is sunny and partly cloudy weather with highs in the 70s, which is perfect weather for plant ripening.
The position of the sun has changed with the season, placing it lower on the horizon. It casts more shade than direct light on the yard. I moved all of the plants to the sunniest section of the garden, close to a white wall that reflects light back to them. This increases the total light they receive, including ultraviolent type B (UVB), which is blocked by plastic.
Meanwhile, the plants are in various stages of drying/curing. When they were cut they were hung, unmanicured. The drying area has a bit of ventilation and a temperature that stays in the 60s and a humidity that remains in the 50 percent range. This is a great temperature/humidity combo for a slow dry/cure.
The first plants are smokable, dry and have been manicured. They have been placed in a jar with a humidity pack to keep them fresh.
So far, I have manicured Gelato that consists of small, dense buds that have a fruity odor. The smoke expands a bit, and the first part of the effect comes on quickly, then envelopes you with its rhythm. It’s a good bud to socialize with.
1. The greenhouse before the plants were harvested.
2. Immature bud. It will ripen within 10 days.
3. Three plants are still ripening.
4. An ER Superbud drying.
5. Bowl of Gelato buds. They would have been tighter if they had more light.
GARDEN FEVER (Part IV)
Several months ago I placed seedlings in an all-water system. I have ended that experiment for now, because I have not been able to bring the oxygen levels up, and the roots are drowning. In addition there were pH and some nutrient problems. Right now, the plantlets are in a sorry state. I plan on bringing these sickly specimens back to health and flower them within 30 days.
Here’s how I revised the system: I cut the polystyrene foam sheet in half and filled the 64 holes with the best plants, They remained in 6” centers, then laid the sheet on a bed of hydrocoral that fills a 4’ x 4’ x 6” tray, which is resting on nine inverted planting containers. I installed an overflow drain with a tube connected to it and a bottom drain on its side that also drains into a tube. Both tubes flow into a 40-gallon reservoir sitting to the side of the tray.
The submersible pump is controlled by a timer that is set to go on one of every three minutes throughout the day. The light is being kept on 20 hours per day. We’ll see how the plants do in the new environment.
Meanwhile, the plants in the greenhouse are doing very well. The top buds were approaching the ceiling, but I bent them or clipped them to avoid it and to encourage top growth of the strong side buds.
The small branches with tiny buds were removed, so that they would not thwart growth of the larger top buds. This opens up the space so there’s less humidity and more light getting to the important buds and their supporting leaves. All of these plants are being grown hydroponically. The plants in the back are in planting mix and watered using a wick system supplemented by drip watering from the reservoir twice a day, supplying the plants with about 10 ounces of water daily. The plants in the front are planted in hydrocoral in eight 8” high plastic colanders sitting half submerged in water. These plants are also irrigated by a constant drip.
The plants are in their second to third week of flowering. In the next week I’m going to install blackout curtains to speed up flowering by allowing the plants only 11 hours of light daily. I hope to harvest in six weeks, at the end of September.
The outdoor garden is in a 2’ x 4’ hydroponic tray with 1.5 gallon containers filled with hydrocoral. They are sitting in the tray with a constant drip irrigation system. They get about five hours of direct sun and bright light the rest of the day. In addition, they receive light reflected from the white wall behind them. These plants are in the first stage of flowering. To speed up the flowering process, I plan to start using light deprivation in the coming week, helping the plants to ripen by mid-September, while the days are sunny and warm, avoiding the iffy weather later in the season.
TIP OF THE MONTH
An easy way to grow some bud in autumn is to place plants in an unobstructed, south-facing window. The sun is at an oblique angle, rather than high in the sky, so it will shine directly on the plants for a good part of the day.
Perhaps you or a friend have some plants that are ready to flower. If not, you may be able to purchase some “adolescents” from your local cannabis dispensary. They can be flowered immediately. Just put them at the window and don’t turn on lights, even for a moment, during the evening. Fertilize with bloom formula, and they will soon start to bud.
If you have only clones, use them. If you want them to grow a little before flowering, do interrupt the dark period with light several times each evening. Soon after you stop the nightly interruptions, the plants will begin to flower.
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