As we cut clones for our next crop, we’re at the very start of our extensive growing season. To ensure that our plants reach their fullest potential, they require constant attention. Aside from nutrients, moisture, and temperature, one of the largest factors for healthy cannabis is light. Providing light indiscriminately, however, does very little. Instead, effective growers pay attention to both light and lighting cycles at each stage of their crops’ lives.
Types of Light
Be sure to learn about different types of light and what they do to benefit or impede plant growth. This will help you fine tune your light type and lighting schedule to make your plants thrive. One helpful article at royalqueenseeds.com provides a cursory look at some of these different light sources.
- Sunlight – provides the most complete spectrum of light for plants. Although it’s less reliable than other light sources due to weather, you don’t have to pay a power bill for the sun to shine on your crop.
- Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) – inexpensive and widely available, CFLs can be purchased in different color temperatures that suit different points in the growth cycle.
- High Intensity Discharge Lights (HIDs) – Although more specialized than CFLs, HIDs are still relatively inexpensive with different options to choose from. Metal Halide HID lights emit a “cooler” light ideal for the vegetative phase of growth, whereas High Pressure Sodium HID lights give off a “warmer” light that is optimal for flowering plants.
- LEDs – these energy efficient lights give off very little heat, keeping plants from burning.
Whichever light source you choose, inform yourself about all of the pros and cons that pertain to it. This way you can anticipate, prevent, and mitigate any issues that might arise due to your light source.
The seedling stage follows directly after germination. It generally only lasts a few weeks and successful progression to the next stage of growth depends heavily on lighting. At this point in the development of a cannabis plant, growers will often keep it indoors and give it anywhere from 18-24 hours of light per day.
According to the Greenpoint article Seedling Stage, LED’s are optimal for this chapter of growth, as they provide a spectrum of light that is close to the light spectrum that the sun emits. As mentioned above, they also have a low heat output, allowing for easier temperature control.
Pay close attention to how your plants respond and grow. When your seedlings develop 5 or more leaflets per leaf, you know they’re maturing and entering the next stage of life.
The vegetative stage takes up a healthy chunk of the growing season, allowing plants time to develop strong roots and fill out to a much larger size. This stage will often start indoors, but doesn’t necessarily have to. Light exposure should still be fairly generous during the vegetative stage. For those who decide to grow indoors, many grow lights will even have a specific “vegetative” setting designed for this stretch of time.
Some growers choose to give plants 24 hours of light. According to one selection from ilovegrowingmarijuana.com titled “Vegetative Stage” though, plants should be getting at least some rest from light exposure. Many growers do this on a daily basis to simulate night time. The general consensus dictates that any period up to 6 hours of darkness per 24 hours is adequate.
As the season comes into full bloom, many growers transplant their crop into fields. At this point, the plants are dependent on natural light. The time and intensity of natural light available may vary from one area to another depending on geographic location.
At 4 Corners Cannabis, we grow from clones rather than seeds. Since we cut all of these clones from already matured plants called “mothers”, they enter the vegetative stage right away. They essentially get to skip the seedling stage altogether. You can learn more in our cloning article.
The final stage in your crop’s growth comes as the weather cools, the days shorten, and the nights lengthen. This is the flowering stage.
One particular growweedeasy.com article states that if you grow indoors in a controlled environment, you can induce this phase by switching the light cycle to a 12:12 ratio. This means that you give plants 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness per 24 hour period. You’ll also want to reevaluate your light source. If your lighting was optimized for vegitative activity, it needs to be recalibrated for flowering. If you grow outdoors, you can just let mother nature control the light to dark ratio for you.
Although they’ve been growing all along, the flowering stage causes a final growth spurt for cannabis. Not only do plants increase in size, but buds and their crystalline structures form and rapidly increase in size and concentration.
With a waning supply of light and progressively longer nights, cannabis plants begin to develop all of the things we know and love them for. Cannabinoid content begins to rapidly increase. Terpene content increases substantially as well, making plants much more fragrant than they may have been just a month earlier.
Get Ready for the Next Growing Season
Depending on the desired cannabinoid/terpene profile, this is the time to let plants finish and harvest them. When harvesting, you have an entirely new set of hurdles to jump, but it’s well worth it. Hopefully you took copious notes throughout the season, as that will help you give your plants even more effective lighting next time around. For more generalized information about growing cannabis, click here.