Chapter 10 Growing Top Shelf Buds
Your harvest can only be as good as your cannabis genetics. Having a great growing environment, top end LED lighting and a proven nutrient program only serve to bring out what’s in the cannabis genetics you select. This is the genotype versus the phenotype or “pheno”.
Genotype VS Phenotype
The genotype of a plant refers to the actual DNA or genetic composition of the plant based on cannabis plant breeding and selection. The phenotype is the result of how those genetics will turn out based on the stimuli provided through the growing process. So, how the genetics will appear and grow in different environments.
Seeds VS Clones
The first generation finest specimen grown from seed will yield more and be of higher potency than the next crop grown from cloned material of the same plant. However, the clone generation will all finish at the same time and grow at the same rate. All plants being quite identical.
The seed plant also has the advantage of starting off clean without any compounded issues that begin to occur the longer plant material is kept alive, i.e., mother plants. Cannabis is an annual plant in the vast majority of naturally occurring conditions. Nature never intended it to live forever, hence seed generations.
High quality stable feminized cannabis seeds have the advantages of both worlds. Each plant will grow and finish at similar rates with near identical harvest qualities. You will have the benefit of being a clean vigorous start, i.e., first generation from seed (no troubles transferred from mother plants). The cost of feminized seeds can be significant with higher planting densities. Many growers find the additional expense is offset with the benefits versus starting crops from clones or regular seeds.
A Healthy Balance
Every grower worth their weight in nutrient salts dreams of finding the next “big” strain in their pack of regular seeds. She is out there! Besides, there are many great plants to harvest along the way.
When you do find a special plant in a pack of regular seeds, it is worth the while to keep as a mother plant. With good care she can remain vigorous for a long time. However, over time you are likely to find that yields begin to decrease versus earlier generations of cloned crops. As time marches further, the window of opportunity for infections with pests, pathogens or even viruses can have consequences.
If you choose to grow from clones, it is recommended you start and select a fresh mother plant annually. If you find a special seed strain, stock up. It may not be available forever.
Typically, feminized seed plants aren’t the best to clone from. Feminized seeds make great plants to grow for bud though. Occasionally, some feminized strains respond well to cloning, although a lot do not.
Making a Strain Selection
The main discerning characteristic when selecting a cannabis strain to grow relates as to whether the strain is Indica, Sativa, Kush, Hybrid or Auto flowering. Additional major differences may include the CBD to THC values, especially if used for medicinal purposes. Distinct CBG and CBN strains are gaining prevalence too.
Indica strains are known for their potent physical effects. While most are hybrids with a percentage of Sativa, there can be varying amounts of “heady” effects. Most strong Indica’s will leave you with a strong appetite, physical relaxation, euphoria and possibly the need to nod off.
Indica dominant strains tend to grow very tight and hard buds on a compact plant. They may grow very slow in veg and not stretch too much at the onset of flowering. This makes them a popular choice to grow under lights. Most Indica dominant strains will finish in 6 to 8 weeks after the bud cycle is initiated.
Some noteworthy classic Indica strains include Northern Lights, Hash Plant, and Early Purple Kush.
Sativa strains are prized for their strong uplifting and potentially psychedelic
effects. Often the choice of cannabis connoisseurs, including master breeders when it comes time for a serious smoke. Most Sativas are hybrids with some level of Indica or Kush in the gene pool to add some physical effects to the buzz.
Sativa dominant strains tend to grow very tall quickly. They can grow very large and high yielding buds with very few leaves. The buds are calyxes stacked on top of calyxes. They typically are not as dense as an indica bud when dry.
Sativa strains tend to have longer flowering times, from 8 to 14 weeks. Very little time in vegetative growth is required for large sized plants at harvest. Some sativa strains are best grown in a greenhouse to make good use of their natural height. Most are well suited to growing under lights with short veg times and a little bit of plant pruning or training.
Some noteworthy Sativa strains include Haze, Lambsbreath and Durban Poison. Excellent landrace Sativa genetics include Southeast Asian, Colombian, and Mexican strains.
Kush can be a bit of a misnomer in strain selections, . A lot of plants that are highly potent with unique flavors get called “kush” in modern times. There is such a thing as a real Kush strain, however. A true Kush strain originates from the Hindu Kush Mountain ranges where plants have been selected in small, localized areas for many, many generations. Their high resin content are primarily for use in hash making and traditionally hand rubbed. These are land race strains and in actuality are quite rare. The majority of what we call “kush” is typically a very potent hybrid strain.
This is the category the majority of cannabis strains may be truly classified as. However, their genetic tendencies may lean more towards more distinct traits in the cannabis spectrum. For example Indica, Sativa or Kush.
If a plant tends to grow tight hard rounded buds with more sleepy effects, it’s said to be an Indica dominant strain. Hybrids can often have the advantage of giving the best characteristics of both parent plants from different and diverse gene pools. This is called Hybrid Vigor and is commonly found in F1 generation (first generation cannabis plant cross). It also creates room for lots of advantageous exceptions to the rules. For example Fast flowering Sativas or taller Indicas.
Typically, in hybrid crosses grown from regular seed you will find more variance from plant to plant. This makes them ideal to select a future mother plant from.
Some noteworthy and exceptional hybrid strains include Pink Kush, Hippie Crippler, OG Kush, Mullumbimby Madness, Skunk, Love Potion, Gelato, Harmony, the list just goes on!
These strains often carry the Ruderalis genes. Wild or feral cannabis said to have origins selected in the Ukraine that have an ability to flower regardless of day length, even under long days. Auto flowering strains can be grown from seed, not clone. As soon as young plants gain some stature, they begin to flower, while still growing vegetatively. After around two months, they begin to mature automatically.
Auto flowers have come a long way in the last ten years in terms of potency and variety selection. However, they are not usually as potent as short day flowering cannabis strains. They do have the advantage of being able to be grown in a wider variety of conditions outdoors. Indoors growers may like them for small hobby gardens because a separate vegetative and flowering area does not need to be maintained. Auto flowering strains are a good choice for the ability to have plants in a perpetual harvest rotation under the same light source.
High CBD is a well-known and popular strain selection criterion for many medicinal and therapeutic reasons. Typically, CBD occurs in a lower percentage in popular cannabis genetics, as it’s the THC and terpenes that have the pronounced effects cannabis is best known for. CBD in higher ratios to THC will not get you high, rather, it has calming qualities and many physical and neurological qualities.
CBD and THC in varying ratios have the ability to help alleviate a lot of different symptoms. Medicinal patients can find the right balance by experimenting with plants from high CBD regular crosses. Typically, in a regular cross with a high CBD strain 25% of plants will be high THC, 50% will be a relative balance and 25% will be high CBD to low THC.
Feminized high CBD seed strains can yield a known CBD percentage and ratio to THC in all of the plants. Thus eliminating the need to select for and clone from regular seed in order to grow high CBD, low THC cannabis crops.
CBN and CBG are other cannabinoids with newly discovered benefits that won’t get you high. Selecting for strains with specific ratios of these less psychoactive cannabinoids to THC values in a given strain for a specific treatment or remedy can be referred to as a Boutique Strain. It can take a breeder or grower many years to develop and select for such a particular strain, making them very valuable and highly sought after for specific uses.