What do I need..
To start your project you'll need seeds or cuttings, pots +/- 4 liters soil mixed, added with about 20% Perlite, a minimum of 400 watt HPS light, table ventilator, extractor-fan, electric timer, fertilizers and a diary.
Beginners info: light-cycle and fertilizers..
The light-cycle for the vegetate period is 18hrs on and 6hrs off. This is the same cycle as outside in the spring time and early summer. When you want the plants to flower, you drop the amount of light hours to 12 on and 12 off. This makes the plants think it's heading towards autumn. Within 2 weeks you will be able to spot the first signs between the males & females. (see picture on page 5)
When you have the luxury of cultivating in the Netherlands, you can go to any grow-shop and buy all fertilizers you need. The best alternative is to use fertilizer for tomato plants. The main fertilizers are; Basic Soil-mix, Nitrogen, Enzymes and PK 13+14 (Phosphor-Kalium complex). Don't worry about the amounts that you have to give them, the exact measures required are printed on the label. Start with the minimum, you can always add more.
Place the seeds between several layers of tissue paper on a saucer, add luke warm, distilled water and leave the seeds to soak for 24-72 hrs. This all preferably in a dark area and room temperature. (Read detailed instructions) In this period of time you will see the seeds sprouting a white root. As soon as you spot this, take them out gently, press a little hole in the pot of soil, (+/- 1- 3 cm deep) don't cover it up completely, give it enough air to breathe. Settle the pots in a sunny spot behind glass or UV light. Spray water on it and keep doing this for about 1 week and the first signs of your plant will appear above the soil. Now they are old enough to be settled under HPS lights. Keep a minimum of 75cm between the sprouts and the lights, otherwise they burn.
The first signs of life..
As soon as the first heads are above the soil you start to keep a diary of all the changes you plants through. The first 3 weeks you may water them little bits every 2-3 days. Just make sure the water is luke warm at all times. The best way to find out whether your plants need water or not, is to feel how heavy the pot is or to gently stick your fingers in the soil and feel if the soil is still moist. Only when the soil is dry (75%) you may water them again. In the right circumstances they will grow about 1- 2 cm per day. After 3 weeks you're going to add the first drops of fertilizer in the water. As said before, only the minimum is required at this time.
Middle growing phase to flowering..
You're plants are about 5 weeks old now and looking good! Now you might consider to start flowering. To prepare them for a huge hormonal rage, give them water with a tiny bit of pure nitrogen. The first time watering after this you add a bit of enzymes to clear all the salts left behind in the soil. From now on you're going to do this once every 2 weeks, along with the regular food schedule. Your instincts tell you; tonight is the night.. and you shock the plants by dropping the amount of light hours to 12 on and 12 off. You also can put the light a little closer then before. The minimum distance should still be at least 50cm. The first couple of days it will seem like nothing is happening, just be patient. 7-10 days after the shock the first signs of their gender will occur in the 'arm-pits' of the branches.
Separating the males & females..
The males tend to be a bit more eager to show their gender then the females. Some like to say that the quickest and the slowest are mostly the males. This is not always true. For the real scientists among us.. get a magnifying glass as you don't want to miss a thing.
As soon as you've spotted the difference, you really want to get rid of your males A.S.A.P. Take them out with the garbage or dispose them somewhere far, far away. The males carry minuscule pollen (sperm) to fertilize the females. And as soon as the male flowers open up they are ready to follow the wind. Without pollen, you will get gorgeous, female buds, but with pollen.. you'll end up with seeds in your bud!
The last flowering phase..
The flowers will now develop slowly but steady. At first they will cover the branches and look rather fluffy. This will continue for 2-3 weeks till the shape of the future bud is set. Then the bud will start to fill-up. The loose flowers will shape into a firm-bud and the resin glands swell up.
To give the buds some extra energy, you may cut off a couple of the largest leaves, so the light can get to it a bit more. Don't touch the smaller leaves, or your plant will start to sweat through the flowers instead of through the leaves. As result you'll have bud-rot and you can throw your crop in the bin.
You'll also notice that quite a few of the leaves will turn yellow in the last 2-3 weeks of her flower period. This is to make you aware of the fact she's preparing for harvest. When between 75% and 95% of the white hairs on the buds have turned orange-brown your plant is ready for harvest time!
Drying and curing..
You cut your plant(s) down, take off all the largest and middle large leaves. The small ones you leave on for evaporation of the remaining moist in the plant. Then you pick a nice dark, dry, 18 Celsius well ventilated room to cure the buds. Use something like a laundry line and hang them up-side-down. Now you have to go through the toughest phase.. the waiting!
NOTE: some people prefer curing the plant fresh and hanging the branches to dry.
After 3-4 weeks you feel the crunchiness of the leaves and flowers. Try gently to pull a couple of leaves, if they let go easy, she's ready. If not.. you'll have to wait a bit longer. The curing is less of a hassle when she's dried well.
Curing basically means; cutting off the remaining leaves on the bud and finding the right storage so you can keep up the quality till your next harvest. Storage suggestion; Wooden wine boxes with lid are perfect!