If you understand these 5 important stages of autoflowering cannabis you will be almost there with getting a bountiful harvest in the shortest time possible. The good thing with autoflowering is that the cannabis grower has control over the process and is not dependent on the light cycle.
Better still, autoflowering strains mature in a short time. This makes the process of autoflowering simpler and easier. But before you get too excited about autoflowering cannabis here are a few things that you should know.
When Should I Expect To Harvest Autoflowering Cannabis?
Autoflowering strains of cannabis grow speedily and have a forgiving nature which makes them beginner friendly. Most autoflowering strains are resistant to pathogens and pests and can do well in both indoor and outdoor conditions. However, the yields may not be as impressive compared to those of photoperiod varieties.
Autoflowering strains usually take between 8-10 weeks to mature. However, some strains may take up to 12 weeks, this includes Royal Haze Automatic and Royal Creamatic strains.
Autoflowering cannabis strains do not require a change in the light cycle to precipitate the flowering stage. The plants are preprogrammed to start this phase on their own. Some growers prefer to maintain 18 hours of light and 6 hours of dark during the entire growth cycle. Other growers expose the plants to light 24 hours a day for the entire growth cycle. This increases photosynthesis and speeds up the growth of the plants. However it can be expensive since a lot of light is used.
Because autoflowering plants mature in a short span of time growers can have multiple growing cycles in a year. Ideally, a grower should be able to rake in the first harvest after eight weeks and maintain subsequently weekly harvests if they germinate seeds on a weekly basis.
Before going to the stages, here is a slight note on pH. This is the measure of acidity or alkalinity of the soil or growth medium. It plays a crucial role in determining how easily the plants can access nutrients from the soil. When the pH is too low or too high the roots will not be able to absorb nutrients and this will lead to nutrient deficiencies. The optimum pH should be between 6-6.5 or slightly acidic.
Stage 1: Germination and Early Seedling Stage
The first stage of growing autoflowering plants is germination. During this stage the cannabis seeds form a root that grows downwards and a shoot that grows upwards. This should take between 1-3 days. It is advisable to grow the cannabis seeds directly into the soil where they will mature to avoid having to transplant later. Autoflowering plants are likely to be susceptible to the shock that may happen during the marijuana transplanting process. Therefore it is best to avoid this as much as you can.
Prepare the growth medium adequately. Autoflowering cannabis plants do not need a lot of nutrients, this is as compared to photoperiod plants. You can prepare your own cannabis potting medium by mixing peat moss, compost, and moistened perlite or vermiculite. You can also add mycorrhiza (symbiotic bacteria) to the soil to stimulate uptake of nutrients.
Once the soil is ready, make holes 10-15mm for sowing the cannabis seeds. Put the seeds in the holes and cover lightly with soil. In a few days you will begin to see the shoots emerging. At this stage, the relative humidity needs to be maintained at 70%-90% while the temperature should be 22-25 degrees Celsius.
Stage two: Late Seedling Stage
At this stage photosynthesis has started to take place. You can use a 250W LED light to fuel an indoor grow; LEDs are cost effective and they produce less heat. Space the plants one meter apart. If you are using low-stress training you can plant four weed plants in one square meter.
Stage 3: Vegetative Stage
Now your cannabis plants are ready to be ushered into the vegetative phase. You will notice a few fan leaves emerging and the plants will be around 15cm at this stage. Aim for a relative humidity of 50% and temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius. The light should be hanging one meter above the canopy to maximize photosynthesis.
You can apply low stress training at this point. Simply tie a soft wire on the stem and bend it parallel to the ground and secure it to the ground or rim of the pot. This allows light to penetrate the canopy and maximize on the growth of lower buds on your weed plants.
During the later stage of the vegetative phase you should aim for a relative humidity of 45%. At this point you may begin noticing pre-flowers emerging at the top.
4. Flowering Stage
This is the stage that you have all been waiting for. You will begin noticing small sacs forming which will soon turn to sticky resinous buds. As the buds mature they will form a sticky layer on the surface. The marijuana plants should be about 30cm at this point. Aim for a relative humidity of 45% and temperature of 23 degrees Celsius. Higher levels of humidity may trigger rotting and mold formation. The setting of your LED light should be blue to encourage the budding process on your pot plants.
Be on the lookout for hermaphroditic buds which form banana-like structures on the surface. This is a sign that the buds are attempting to self-pollinate. Also be on the lookout for signs of nutrient deficiency. This will present as a sudden change in color of the buds or leaves.
Towards the end of week eight, the buds will look dense and resinous. When you examine them under a microscope you will see a silvery white layer of resin glands that sparkle against the light. This is a good time to initiate defoliation. Prune the small fan leaves at the top of the canopy to increase light exposure and minimize the risk for mold.
Stage 5: Harvesting Autoflowering Cannabis Plants
Autoflowering plants will be ready for harvest in 8-10 weeks. By this time the buds should appear milky while the pistils will have turned to a deep brown or reddish hue. The buds at the top of the canopy are likely to finish off first since they are exposed to more light. Slower growing strains such as Amnesia Haze Automatic may take up to 12 weeks to reach the final stage of maturation.
Once you have harvested your ripe buds the next thing is to initiate the process of drying and curing. The five important stages of autoflowering should usher you gracefully into the stage of processing cannabis and creating top of the range cannabis products.
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