Animals have found a home and special sanctuary on a very unique weed farm in Colombia.
Despite their mutual love for all things green, cannabis cultivators and environmentalists aren’t always on speaking terms. If left unregulated or badly managed, cannabis farms can take a pretty hefty toll on the surrounding ecosystem. In California, for instance, many rivers run dry during the summertime because trespass growers divert water to their facilities, endangering the state’s salmon and trout populations.
The same goes for foreign countries exporting their weed, like Colombia. Health Europaeditor and Colombia Cannabis investor Matt Youkee wrote that, while the country’s isothermal climate may be optimal for cultivating weed, the quality of its soil is not as good. Anecdotal evidence from growers claims that strains “struggle to adapt to soils tainted by previously unencountered pesticides and tropical pests.”
As the agricultural vice president of Flora Growth and general manager of the corporation’s picturesque weed farm in the Andes-enveloped Colombian town of Bucaramanga, Javier Franco can recite the plant’s ideal growing conditions in his sleep. “It’s 18 degrees Celsius at night, 26 during the day,” he told High Times over Zoom. “About 72 percent humidity, and one-half-mile-per-hour coastal winds.”
As VP and GM, Franco also knows a thing or two about the importance of sustainability for cannabis producers, not to mention the somewhat poor example set by his direct competitors. Within a 20 miles radius from where Franco conducts this Zoom interview, there are about six to seven weed farms, he said, none of which respect the local flora and fauna as much as he does.
Franco’s farm covers some 361 acres. Next door is the forest, whose residents frequently hop, crawl or fly on over for a surprise visit. Every morning, Franco is greeted by sloths (aka the stoner’s spirit animal) that watch him work from the treetops. From 5 to 6 p.m. sharp, a family of porcupines can be found scuttling around the farm’s perimeter and—on a good day—playing with the guards stationed there.
Animals as Friends and Helpers
Franco has also been keeping track of the number of species of snake he’s encountered among the budding flowers. So far, he’s at seven. The species that seems to like his farm the best are the non-venomous but still pretty dangerous boa constrictor, which kills its prey by smothering it with its 10-foot-long body and populates the jungles of many South American countries.
When Franco isn’t on the farm, he asks two environmental engineers stationed there to keep an eye out for the critters. Together, they keep a detailed list of the animals that visit the farm, along with the times at which they usually show up. Franco instructs his growers to be respectful towards the animals, as they are but guests in their world. He also knows that their wellbeing is intimately tied up with the success of Flora Growth’s farm.
“The only thing we want is to provide our customers with a natural, organic product,” Franco explains. “Something that’s actually from nature.” In order to do that, Franco and his growers have to make sure that their cannabis grows in a place that resembles the plant’s natural environment as closely as possible, with little to no interference from man and their tree-killing ways.
Nowadays, cannabis is often grown indoors, where cultivators become chemists, and gardens are turned into labs. Though Franco respects the art and science behind this kind of micromanagement, he doesn’t think it’s the best way to go. “When you grow indoors, you want to have control of everything. But, in doing so, you also take out the symbiotic interactions between the animals and the microbiology.”
At this point in the conversation, Franco made a circle with his index finger and asked me to guess how many microorganisms live in a piece of dirt no wider than an inch. The answer, he revealed, can lie anywhere between 10,000 and 30,000 of unique species, depending on the quality of the soil. Franco likened cannabis to wine in this regard; a fine wine isn’t prepared indoors, but grown in a vineyard under the French sun.
Cannabis is, at the end of the day, a crop and—like with any crop—many of its growers frequently use harmful pesticides to defend plants against unwanted intruders from the outside world. So, these growers guard their precious cargo with rodenticide and carbofuran, a teaspoon of which could take down a bear. To put this issue into perspective: more than 79 percent of dead fishers (a weasel-like animal) found in California during the last five years died after consuming pesticides from weed farms.
Not only is Flora Growth a pesticide-free enterprise, but the farm employs wildlife to keep the flowers safe from pests. Ladybugs (known to Spanish speakers as mariquitas) eat spider mites, which have been the undoing of many a cultivator. Franco calls these bugs his “greatest ally” and a sign that his plants’ glucose levels are where they’re supposed to be. Anteaters, which also roam the farm, eat—you guessed it—ants, making insecticides like Termidor and Taurus obsolete.
Without getting too pedantic, I feel like weed has always helped people become more in tune with Mother Nature. Think about the endless hours you’ve spent watching parades of clouds or nettled treetops blowing in the wind while enjoying a good spliff. It’s only fitting that the cannabis industry should strive to be as green as possible, and Flora Growth’s Franco is leading the way towards a future in which stoners and wildlife can live side-by-side: attracted by the same sweet smell of flower.
Want to know the best way to grow the best marijuana?. Once you find the perfect strain, how do you save those seeds so that you can use them for future plants? It’s not that hard; actually, you just need to keep them cold, dark, and dry. However, there are few other things that you could do to preserve your precious seeds – keep reading to learn more.
When storing cannabis seeds, the first thing to think about is your container. Do not use just any random container that you come across. The ideal container should be made of one material.
Avoid containers with a mixture of materials. An example of this would be a plastic container with a metal lid or a glass container with a plastic cover. Containers made from more than one material react differently to temperature and other changes, and this can create room for undesirable conditions to reach your stored cannabis seeds. For instance, the metal lid on a glass jar will expand at a different rate when the temperature rises, and this may allow some moisture to enter the container.
Many people suggest using plastic containers for long term storage when asked how to store marijuana seeds, but that isn’t a great idea either. Plastic has tiny (microscopic) pores that can let air infiltrate the container and damage your seeds. If you want your seeds to last, don’t store them in a plastic container. Glass is a much better solution.
Chances are you are storing more than one strain of cannabis seeds. Even if you are storing just one variety of seed, you must label the container. Otherwise, if you store the seeds for years, you may forget which strain they are and that they are even marijuana seeds!
This part is simple; germination needs light. If you do not want your seeds to sprout, keep the light out. That’s why the most immediate answer to “how to store cannabis seeds” is “keep the environment light free.”
Want an easy way?
Try using an opaque container. If the glass jars you used aren’t opaque, then place your seeds in something opaque, such as black plastic wrap, then put that in the glass jar. Again, keep in mind, plastic is not the best for long term (years), but if you are purchasing at the end of one grow season in preparation for the next, it should work just fine.
You can also place your cannabis seeds in a fridge that doesn’t get opened much or another dark location.
Keep the Temperature Constant
Another thing that you need to think about when storing cannabis seeds is to maintain a stable temperature. Try and keep the seeds around 40° Fahrenheit. You do not want them to freeze.
Many people do this by keeping their seeds in a fridge or freezer. (Again, do not allow the seeds to freeze.) The most critical thing is keeping that temperature constant. Your marijuana seeds can deteriorate when the temperature fluctuates.
Keep Moisture Out
Moisture is the other condition that is required for germination, so you’ll need to keep your seeds dry as well. Depending on how much moisture your marijuana seeds are exposed to, they could either germinate or even rot while in storage.
For the best results, keep moisture levels between 5% and 9%. An airtight, sealed container is a great way to do this. You could also add something to help absorb any moisture, such as silica packets or even uncooked rice.
If you decide to use one of these methods, make sure you use something food-grade. Remember, this material will be sitting in storage next to your seeds. It’s also a good idea to use some sort of barrier, such as some cotton wool, between your moisture-absorbing packs and the marijuana seeds. This will leave the seeds undisturbed while the moisture problems are addressed.
Keep the Storage Environment Clean
How to store marijuana seeds properly also means keeping the storage environment clean. If you’re not careful, pests can quickly destroy your seeds if they access the storage container and its contents.
A clean environment also keeps other contaminants, such as microbes, from compromising the quality of your seeds. After all, you will eventually plant those seeds, and you don’t want to consume cannabis grown from contaminated seeds.
Nature designed seeds to last until the ideal germination environment occurs. Therefore, if you follow these storage tips and prevent that environment from happening, you could store cannabis seeds indefinitely.
Does it need to be perfect?
No. If you only need to store cannabis seeds for a few months, you don’t need to be that strict. However, if you’d like to keep your seeds for years, plan ahead and take the necessary precautions, and you’ll be delighted that you did.
Growing cannabis is a fun and rewarding experience, but it is also challenging and takes a certain amount of time and money. For a first-time grower with limited resources, an indoor grow is probably too costly of an option.
The good news is that a small outdoor garden can yield plenty of quality cannabis without a large monetary investment. If you have access to a sunny spot in a private yard or even a balcony, terrace, or rooftop, you can successfully grow cannabis.
This guide to outdoor growing will go over all the different factors you need to consider in order to set up your first outdoor marijuana grow.
Benefits of growing weed outdoors
Low costs: Relying on the power of the sun, you won’t need to spend a ton of money on an outdoor grow. You’ll need some soil, fertilizer, seeds or clones, and maybe a small greenhouse to get them started. You won’t need to pay for electricity for lights, AC units, or dehumidifiers, and you can even collect rainwater.
Big yields: The sky’s the limit with outdoor plants—you can let them get as big and tall as you want, as long as they’re manageable. One plant can potentially yield up to a pound of weed! Growing a handful for yourself is plenty. With an indoor grow, your space is a lot more restricted.
Environmentally friendly: Indoor grows can be wasteful, using a ton of electricity to power all those lights, fans, and other equipment. The sun and the wind are free!
It’s fun and relaxing: Don’t underestimate the therapeutic value of gardening. It’s relaxing to spend some time outside, roll up your sleeves, and get your hands dirty for a while. And there’s nothing better than smoking something you grew yourself.
Step 1: Consider the climate
It’s crucial to have a good understanding of the climate in the area you’re going to grow. Cannabis is highly adaptable to various conditions, but it is susceptible to extreme weather.
Sustained temperatures above 86°F will cause your plants to stop growing, while continued temperatures below 55°F can cause damage and stunting to plants, even death.
Heavy rains and high winds can cause physical damage to plants and reduce yields, and excessive moisture can lead to mold and powdery mildew, especially during the flowering stage.
In addition to weather patterns, you need to understand how the length of day changes throughout the seasons in your area. For example, at 32° N latitude (San Diego), you will experience just over 14 hours of daylight on the summer solstice (the longest day of the year), while at 47° N (Seattle), you will have about 16 hours of daylight on the same day.
Understanding the amount of sunlight throughout the year is crucial to causing plants to “flip” from the vegetative to flowering stage, when they start to produce buds.
It’s good to utilize local resources, as experienced gardeners in your area will have a wealth of knowledge about growing flowers and vegetables, and that information can also be applied to growing cannabis. If you have some experience gardening and growing veggies, you will probably find that growing cannabis outdoors is a fairly easy endeavor.
Step 2: Pick a space for your outdoor grow
Choosing a space for your outdoor grow is one of the most important decision you’ll make, especially if you’re planting directly in the ground or in large immobile containers.
Your cannabis plants should receive as much direct sunlight as possible, ideally during midday, when the quality of light is best. As the season changes and fall approaches, your plants will get less and less sunlight throughout the day, which will trigger the flowering stage.
Having a constant breeze is good for your plants, and especially in hot climates. But if you live in an area with a lot of high winds, consider planting near a windbreak of some sort, like a wall, fence, or large shrubbery.Finally, you will want to consider privacy and security. A lot of people want to conceal their gardens from judgmental neighbors and potential thieves. Tall fences and large shrubs or trees are your best bet, unless you live in a secluded area. Also, most state laws require that you keep cannabis plants concealed from the street.
Some growers plant in containers on balconies or rooftops that are shielded from view, while some build heavy-gauge wire cages to keep thieves and animals at bay. Whatever you decide, think about how big you want your final plant to be—outdoor cannabis plants can grow to 12 feet tall or more, depending on how much you let them go.
Step 3: Decide on cannabis genetics
The success of your outdoor cannabis grow will also depend on choosing the right strain to grow for your particular climate and location. If you live in an area with a history of cannabis growing, chances are good that many strains will successfully grow there, and some may have even been bred specifically for your climate.
Seeds vs. clones
Plants grown from seed can be more hearty as young plants when compared to clones. You can plant seeds directly into the garden in early spring, even in cool, wet climates.
The main drawback to growing from seed is there is no guarantee as to what you’ll end up with. If your seeds don’t come feminized, you could end up with both males and females, in which case you’ll need to sex them out to get rid of the males (only females produce buds). That being said, regular seeds are not genetically modified or stressed (feminized) so you will most likely get a stronger, healthier plant that is truest to its genetic line. Most experts say go with regular seeds as they are the closest to its vareital’s genetic line and produce the best product on average.
Depending on the legality of cannabis in your state, you may be able to buy clones or seedlings from a local dispensary. Some growers stay away from these because they feel they aren’t as sturdy as growing plants from seed.
Step 4: Acquire some soil
Soil is made up of three basic components in various ratios:
You can plant directly in the ground or buy soil and put it in pots. Cannabis plants thrive in soil rich with organic matter, and they need good drainage. If you decide to plant directly in the ground, you’ll need to understand your soil composition and amend it accordingly.
Heavy clay soils drain slowly and don’t hold oxygen well, so they will need to be heavily amended. At least a month before you plant, dig large holes where you’ll be placing your cannabis plants and mix in big amounts of compost, manure, worm castings, or other decomposed organic matter. This will provide aeration and drainage, as well as nutrients for the plants.
Sandy soil is easy to work, drains well, and warms quickly, but it doesn’t hold nutrients well, especially in rainy environments. Again, you will want to dig large holes for your plants and add compost, peat moss, or coco coir, which will help bind the soil together. In hot climates, sandy soil should be mulched to help with water retention and to keep roots from getting too hot.
Silty soil is the ideal growing medium. It’s easy to work, warms quickly, holds moisture, has good drainage, and contains a lot of nutrients. The best silty soil is dark crumbly loam—it’s fertile and probably won’t need any amending.
If you really want to ensure good results and minimize headaches, you can get your soil tested, which is easy and relatively inexpensive. A soil testing service will tell you the makeup and pH of your soil, notify you of any contaminants, and recommend materials and fertilizers to amend your soil.
Step 5: Get some fertilizer
Cannabis plants require a large amount of nutrients over their life cycle, mainly in the form of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. How you choose to feed them will depend on the composition of the soil and your own methods.
Commercial fertilizers aimed at home gardeners can be used if you have a good understanding of how they work and what your plants need. But a first-time grower might want to avoid these, particularly long-release granular fertilizers.
Best nutrients for an outdoor grow
You can purchase nutrient solutions designed specifically for cannabis from your local grow shop, but they are usually expensive and can damage soil bacteria—they are generally composed of synthetic mineral salts and intended for indoor growing.
Organic fertilization takes full advantage of microbial life in soil and minimizes harmful runoff. There are many different natural and organic fertilizers available at local home and garden stores, like blood meal, bone meal, fish meal, bat guano, and kelp meal.
Start off with fertilizers that are inexpensive and readily available. Some of these materials release nutrients quickly and are easily used by the plant, while others take weeks or months to release useable nutrients. If done correctly, you can mix in a few of these products with your soil amendments to provide enough nutrients for the entire life of your plants.
Again, getting your soil tested can be very useful and will tell you how to amend your soil and what types and amounts of fertilizer you should use. If you are unsure how much to use, be conservative—you can always top dress your plants if they start to show deficiencies.
Step 6: Choose your containers
You may need to put all of your plants in containers if you don’t have great soil. Also, if you’re unable to perform the heavy labor needed to dig holes and amend soil, containers may be the only way for you to grow your own cannabis outdoors.
If you don’t have a suitable patch of earth to make a garden, containers can be placed on decks, patios, rooftops, and many other spots. If needed, you can move them around during the day to take advantage of the sun or to shield them from excessive heat or wind.
You can also use common cannabis nutrients designed for indoor growing because you will be using premixed soil. This will take much of the guesswork out of fertilizing your plants.
However, plants grown in pots, buckets, or barrels will likely be smaller than those planted in the ground because their root growth is restricted to the size of the container. In a broad sense, the size of the pot will determine the size of the plant, although it’s possible to grow large plants in small containers if proper techniques are used.
In general, 5-gallon pots are a good size for small to medium outdoor plants, and 10-gallon pots or larger are recommended for big plants. Regardless of size, you’ll want to protect the roots of your plants from overheating during warm weather, as pots can quickly get hot in direct sunlight. This will severely limit the growth of your plants, so be sure to shade your containers when the sun is high in the sky.
Step 7: Give your cannabis plants water
While outdoor cannabis gardens have the benefit of utilizing rain and groundwater, you will most likely need to water your plants frequently, especially in the hot summer months. Some giant cannabis plants can use up to 10 gallons of water every day in warm weather.
Growers who live in hot, arid places will often dig down and place clay soil or rocks below their planting holes to slow drainage, or plant in shallow depressions that act to funnel runoff toward other plants. Adding water-absorbing polymer crystals to the soil is another good way to improve water retention. Water your plants deeply in the morning so they have an adequate supply throughout the whole day.
If you live in a particularly rainy climate, you may need to take steps to improve drainage around your garden, as cannabis roots are susceptible to fungal diseases when they become waterlogged. These techniques include:
Planting in raised beds or mounds
Digging ditches that direct water away from the garden
Adding gravel, clay pebbles, or perlite to the soil
If you’re using tap or well water, it’s a good idea to test it first. This water can contain high levels of dissolved minerals which can build up in soil and affect the pH level, or it can have high levels of chlorine which can kill beneficial microorganisms in soil. Many people filter their water.
Plants grown in hot or windy climates will need to be watered more frequently, as high temperatures and winds force plant to transpire at a quicker rate.
Remember that over-watering is a common mistake made by rookie growers—the rule of thumb is to water deeply, then wait until the top inch or two of soil is completely dry before watering again. An inexpensive soil moisture meter is a good tool for a beginner.
Step 8: Protect your cannabis plants
Without the ability to control the environment as easily as you can indoors, outdoor cannabis growers have to protect their plants from storms and other weather events that could damage or even kill plants.
Temperatures below 40°F can quickly damage most varieties of cannabis, so if you live in a climate where late spring or early fall frosts are a common occurrence, try using a greenhouse or other protective enclosure.
High winds can break branches and overly stress your plants. If your garden is located in a particularly windy spot or if you’re expecting a particularly heavy blow, set up a windbreak. This can be as simple as attaching plastic sheeting to garden stakes around your plants.
While helpful for watering your garden, rain is generally seen as a nuisance by cannabis growers. It can severely damage your crop and cause mold and mildew. You especially don’t want rain on your cannabis plants when they are flowering.
You can construct a DIY greenhouse or even just use plastic sheeting and stakes to build a temporary shelter over your plants when you know rain is on the way.
Protecting your cannabis garden from pests can be challenging. Depending on where you live, you might have to keep large animals like deer at bay by building a fence around your crop.
But the more difficult challenge is dealing with the vast array of crawling and flying insects that can attack your plants.
The best protection is to simply keep your plants healthy. Strong, vigorous cannabis plants have a natural resistance to pests that makes minor infestations easy to deal with. It’s also a good idea to keep your cannabis plants separate from other flowers, vegetables, and ornamentals, as pests can easily spread between them.
Examine your cannabis plants a few times a week with an eye out for pests. An infestation is far easier to deal with if caught early.
There are many organic pesticides designed for use specifically on cannabis, and beneficial insects are also a great option.
You should now have enough knowledge to successfully start your own outdoor cannabis garden. Cultivating and growing plants is an enjoyable and rewarding pastime, so remember, spend lots of time with your plants, and have fun!
Germination is the process in which a new plant begins to grow from a seed. Also referred to as “popping,” germination is the very first step in starting your cannabis garden.
Cannabis seeds can be acquired from an array of sources and can vary in quality.
When acquiring seeds, you want to make sure they are matured and that they appear dark brown with lighter accents and a hard feel. You don’t want a seed that feels fresh and looks green, which indicates that the seed hasn’t reached full maturity.
Once you have your cannabis seeds, make sure you have the space necessary to allow your plants to grow and be healthy. Don’t pop seeds when you are unsure of your grow space, time availability, or intention with your garden.
What’s the best way to germinate cannabis seeds?
Cannabis seeds require three things to germinate: water, heat, and air. Because of this, there are many methods to germinate your seeds. The most common and simplest method involves the use of paper towels saturated in water.
For this method you will need:
Two clean plates
Take four sheets of paper towels and soak them with distilled water. The sheets should be soaked but shouldn’t have excess water running off.
Take two of the paper towels and place them on a plate. Then, place the cannabis seeds at least an inch apart from each other and cover them with the remaining two sheets of water-soaked paper towels.
To create a dark, protected space, take another plate and flip it over to cover the seeds (like a dome).
Make sure the area they’re kept in is warm, somewhere between 70-90°F.
After these steps have been completed, it’s time to wait. You can check the paper towels to make sure they’re still saturated, and if they seem to be losing their moisture, you can apply more water to keep the seeds happy.
Some seeds germinate very rapidly while others can take several days. You know a seed has germinated once the seed splits and a single sprout appears.
This is the taproot, which will become the main stem of the plant, and seeing it is a sign of successful germination. It’s important to keep this area sterile, so don’t touch the seed or taproot as the seed begins to split.
Transplanting germinated cannabis seeds
Once you see the taproot, it’s time to transfer your germinated seed into its growing medium. Small 2-inch pots are a good place to start.
Fill the pots with loose, airy potting soil and poke a hole in the middle about a quarter-inch down using a pen or pencil.
To transfer the seed, use a pair of tweezers to gently pick it up, then drop the seed in the hole with the taproot facing down. Lightly cover it with soil.
Next, you’ll need to water the soil. Initially, use a spray bottle to provide moisture without over-saturating the soil. You want to give the seed water, but over-watering can suffocate and kill the delicate sprout.
Pay attention to the temperature and the moisture level of the soil to keep the seed happy, and within a week or so you should see a seedling begin to grow from the soil.
Germinating seeds doesn’t always go as planned. Some seeds will be duds. Others will be slow and take longer to sprout. But some will pop quickly and grow rapidly.This is the beauty of seeds—often, you can tell which plants or genetics will thrive right from the get-go. This will help you determine which plants you want to take cuttings from for clones and which to breed with other strong plants to create a seed bank of your own.
In the world of plants, reproduction can happen in a variety of ways. Monoecious plants produce two different types of flowers on the same plant, and hermaphrodite plants grow single flowers that have both male and female reproductive organs.
Cannabis is a dioecious plant, meaning male or female reproductive organs appear on different plants.
With cannabis, females are usually isolated away from males—introducing males into a garden will result in pollination, causing females to create seeds.
This is important for a breeder to achieve new genetics, but most growers remove the males to allow females to produce seedless buds, also called sinsemilla. These are the resinous buds that appear on the store shelf; they all come from female plants.
Seeded buds are generally regarded as low-quality cannabis. When seeds are present, the smoke is harsh and unpleasant.
Female genetics can be guaranteed by obtaining clonesand feminized (genetically modified) If, however, you’re working with regular seeds and are unsure of your seed’s sex, knowing how to determine the sex of your plant is vital to developing new genetics, gathering seeds, or growing sinsemilla.
Sexing cannabis plants is easy. Let’s see how to tell.
How to determine the sex of a cannabis plant
Female cannabis pre-flowers grow as tiny bracts with hair-like stigma peeking out. Male plants produce small, round balls at the nodes.
Cannabis plants show their sex by what grows in between their nodes (where leaves and branches extend from the stalk). Pollen sacs will develop on a male plant to spread seeds and stigma will develop on a female to catch pollen. You can see these differences weeks before they actually start serving their purposes in the reproduction cycle. These are known as “pre-flowers.”
Pre-flowers begin to develop four weeks into growth, but they may take a little longer depending on how quickly the sprouting phase occurs. By the sixth week, you should be able to find the pre-flowers and confidently determine the sex of your plant.
Pre-flowers can initially be extremely small and hard to identify with the naked eye, but you can use a magnifying glass to get a better look. Examine the nodes of the plant and look for either the early growth of small sacs on a male, or two bracts on a female, which will eventually produce the hair-like stigma.
Though there are other methods to determine what sex the plant is, examining pre-flower formation is the most reliable.
Removing males early on is important for two reasons: it frees up space in your garden so females can grow bigger and stronger, and it prevents males from pollinating females.
What are hermaphrodite cannabis plants?
Hermaphrodite cannabis can express both sex organs and self-pollinate. (Amy Phung/Leafly)
When a female plant develops both male and female sex organs, it is considered a hermaphrodite. This means your cannabis plant is now capable of producing pollen that can pollinate your entire garden. “Herming out,” as some call it, is something that generally happens when a plant becomes excessively stressed. Some plant stressors include:
There are two types of hermaphrodite plants:
A plant that develops both buds and pollen sacs
A plant that produces anthers, commonly referred to as “bananas” due to their appearance
While both result in pollen production, true hermaphrodites produce sacs that need to rupture, while anthers are exposed, pollen-producing stamen.
The other primary cause of hermaphrodite plants lies in the plant’s genetics. A plant with poor genetics or a history of hermaphrodite development should be avoided to protect your garden. If you notice any pollen sacs or anthers at any point, remove the plant from your garden immediately to prevent pollination of female plants.
If you’re interested in pollinating portions of your crop, remember that pollen is extremely potent and very good at traveling. Keep your males intended for pollination far from your garden space and work carefully with that pollen.
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In the world of legal cannabis, there’s one strain that rules them all.
The Blue Dream cannabis strain has been a top-selling flower for the last several years, dominating markets in the West Coast and beyond.
But, why has this sweet-scented hybrid become so pervasive?
Here’s the scoop on America’s number one favorite herb.
Blue Dream history
The Blue Dream strain was born and raised in the cannabis capital of the world: California.
Debuting in the Santa Cruz area around 2003, this perky plant has quickly spread to the United States and Canada.
Considered a hybrid cannabis strain, this plant is a cross between DJ Short’s Blueberry and Super Silver Haze.
DJ Short’s Blueberry is considered an indica plant, meaning that it features Central Asian heritage and expresses a broad leaf structure.
Super Silver Haze is a popular sativa hybrid, expressing a narrow leaf structure and likely featuring lineage from South East Asian climates.
Contrary to popular belief, the terms sativa and indica do not provide an accurate indication of a particular plant’s effects.
Rather, an herb’s sativa/indica status provides greater information about a particular cultivar’s growth patterns and lineage.
By breeding DJ Short Blueberry and Super Silver Haze together, cultivators created a plant that is easy to grow and produces substantial yields of about 22 ounces per plant.
Blue Dream effects
So, why is Blue Dream so popular? Not only does it grow well, but it delivers a strong yet mellow psychoactive experience that pleases consumers of all kinds.
While most cannabis media sites define Blue Dream as a well-balanced hybrid with happy and uplifting effects, the experience this plant provides cannot be separated from its chemical constituents.
This high-THC flower produces a strong psychoactive effect.
It’s not uncommon for this plant to produce between 20 and 25% THC while offering less than 1% CBD.
Shortly after trying this strain, consumers may notice a substantial mood elevation.
This upbeat mood is likely accompanied by a sharpening of the senses.
Colors may seem a little brighter, smells a little sharper, and sounds may be a little more attention-grabbing.
After consuming cannabis, many individuals report reductions in pain. Some strains, like Blue Dream, may have muscle relaxant effects.
However, it’s also common for consumers to report that while tension and pain may still be present, the sensations have dulled and it becomes easier to focus attention on things other than pain.
The high THC content in this strain means that Blue Dream can produce strong intoxicating effects and perhaps some negative side effects in some consumers.
While moderate doses of THC can be relaxing and stress-relieving, high doses can have the opposite effect.
As a result, this strain might cause anxiety, paranoia, and rapid heartbeat in some consumers.
Medicinal qualities of Blue Dream
Apart from THC content, there are several flavor and aroma molecules that contribute to the overall medicinal value and personality of the Blue Dream cannabis strain.
These aroma molecules are called terpenes, and they are abundant in plant resins. The three most common terpenes in this strain include:
Myrcene is a sedative terpene found in lemongrass and is often attributed to mango.
While many consider myrcene to be the chemical compound that gives mango fruits their musky aroma, few common mango varieties contain substantial myrcene content.
In contrast, some cannabis cultivars contain quite a lot of myrcene, Blue Dream included.
Early research suggests that myrcene may be responsible for the hypnotic effects of some cannabis strains.
The high myrcene content in Blue Dream makes this strain more sedative, perhaps contributing to the calm and drowsy nature of this plant.
Myrcene is also expected to have muscle relaxant properties, which may make this plant a worthwhile choice for those experiencing muscle stiffness and cramping.
Pinene is one of the most common terpenes in the plant kingdom and is most abundant in pine trees.
Unsurprisingly, this terpene features a strong pine-like aroma.
Blue Dream contains high levels of alpha-pinene, which is thought to work as an anti-inflammatory and bronchodilator.
The terpene is also expected to have slightly energizing properties.
In early research cited in a 2011 review published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, these boosting properties of pinene may be caused by its ability to prevent the breakdown of a neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is vital for memory and cognition.
So, while Blue Dream contains compounds that are sedative and hypnotic, it is possible that some of these effects may be negated by pinene.
Simply stated, based on these chemical properties of the strain, it is likely that it produces slightly sedative effects with potentially more mental clarity when compared to other cannabis strains.
Finally, the third most common terpene found in Blue Dream is beta-caryophyllene (BCP).
Also found in black pepper, this terpene has been found to relieve inflammation, boost mood and ease anxiety in animal models.
In fact, this terpene actually has something in common with THC. Like the cannabinoid, BCP engages the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system is the neurotransmitter network that allows you to experience the medicinal and psychoactive effects of the cannabis plant.
Assuming that BCP also has anti-depressant and anxiolytic effects in humans, the presence of this molecule may contribute to the calming and mood-boosting properties of the Blue Dream strain.
When combined with the anti-inflammatory effects of pinene and THC, the presence of BCP should amplify the inflammation-fighting properties of Blue Dream.
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Probably, the most well known cannabis strain in the world today, White Widow has gained global popularity thanks to countless awards since its release in 1994. Regularly used to make new hybrids, White Widow is extremely potent and is available at almost every seedbank in the world. Learn more about the origins of this famous strain here.
White Widow is without a doubt one of the most successful commercialized cannabis strains on the market today. Perhaps that is also why its history is so problematic. This most famous plant has since its birth in 1994 won a number of awards, including first price in the 1995 High Times Cannabis Cup. Known to be highly resinous and extremely potent, the plant has the ability to humble even the most experienced smoker and has been used in the making of countless new hybrids, always improving on quality.
The name White Widow is usually linked with several different breeders and today almost every seed bank offers its own version of the plant. The battle over who actually invented the strain has turned into a political struggle, dividing the public into two camps. Some believe that the White Widow was discovered by a man named Ingemar, while others take the side of another skillful breeder known as Shantibaba. Although the history of this plant is complicated and shrouded by doubt and misinformed opinions, the truth must be that only one person can be accredited with bringing White Widow into the world. My research has lead me to believe that this person is indeed Shantibaba, the former co-owner of Greenhouse Seeds and current founder of The Mr Nice Seedbank, for reasons that I will explain in this article.
The White Widow strain was first released to the public by Shantibaba, shortly after he founded the Green House Seed Company in 1994 with a Dutch partner named Arjan. The pedigree of this famous sativa/indica hybrid is made up of a pure Brazilian sativa mother and a South Indian, Keralan hybrid father. The exact origins of the mother plant remains somewhat of a mystery but the most educated guess is that it could possibly be the old school, Brazilian landrace Manga Rosa, which has a long history of spiritual use. The Father was discovered during a trip to India where Shantibaba was approached by a man, who after sharing a joint with him, eventually led him to his farm in the mountains of Kerala. The farmer then introduced him to an indica hybrid that had been selectively cultivated and bred towards optimum resin production in his village for a very long time. After several days of sampling the farmer’s plants, Shantibaba left for the Netherlands with a batch of fresh seeds, from which he was soon to discover the male for his White Widow cross. He eventually bred it to the Brazilian Sativa mother, forming the spectacular White Widow.
During the time when Shantibaba was still the co-owner of Green House Seeds, he established several new and superior hybrids while working alongside Neville Schoenmaker (the father of Dutch seed banks) on joint projects. Some of the stock that they used dated back to the early days of the Seed Bank that Neville himself had founded, a company that later became reformed under new ownership and known as Sensi Seeds. During the time when the White Widow was created, Shantibaba and Neville concentrated on the breeding aspect of the business while Arjan, not being a breeder himself, was left in charge of promotion and sales. After some conflict of interests between the two owners, Shantibaba sold his half of the Green House Seed Company to Arjan in 1998 and left for Switzerland to form the Mr Nice Seedbank in collaboration with Howard Marks and Neville Schoenmaker. Dispensing with the somewhat theatrical tactics of his former partner turned competitor, the master breeder Shantibaba then concentrated on supplying growers with superior quality strains from both old and new world genetics. The exceptional quality of his products can hardly be disputed by anyone. He started breeding the Widow under the flag of his newly formed brand and gave it the name Black Widowsince the name White Widow was already being marketed by Arjan over at Green House Seeds.
According to an interview for the German cannabis magazine Grow; a breeder named Ingemar is also accredited with inventing the White Widow strain. This is where the history of the plant becomes problematic. Ingemar was apparently working on some strains for the Green House Seed Company in the past, much like he is now, and he quite possibly had a hand in developing the White Widow strain but apparently not in discovering it. He seems to have substantial support from the Dutch growing community but there is little in terms of historical data to support his claim. Ingemar says that the seeds for the White Widow hybrid were accidentally found in a batch of hand rubbed hashish and that the strain was then worked on for some six years before it was released. If this is true, the birth of the Widow can be dated back as early as 1988, although there are no records to confirm this. The earliest descriptions on the White Widow were made by Shantibaba himself in 1995, while he was still working under the Green House flag. The lineage stated for the White Widow is also in accordance with what Shantibaba says. This would indicate that the genetic material that was used to create the White Widow originated from the stock found at the Green House Seed Company at the time, stock that Shantibaba and Neville had obtained and refined. Ingemar has not to this day disclosed any detailed information on the Widow or provided any proof that the plant indeed came from him, besides his own words. The degree of his involvement in the making of this highly regarded strain might never reach the light of day without further investigation.
Shantibaba on the other hand has been quite open about the origin of this wonderful plant. He also seems very familiar with both the Widow and its parents. Going by the line of reasoning that I have chosen here, one thing seems to remain undisputable, and that is that Shantibaba is in possession of the only true parents of the White Widow strain now in existence. This would make sense if he also discovered the strain. The parents of his creation are safely tucked away in the MNS clone library. This also indicates that he alone is capable of reproducing the hybrid that was initially released some 15 years ago. In other words, most other Widows must be founded on progeny that originates further down the line and they are also most likely out crossed with something else. Further evidence to support this theory comes from the plant itself. The plant from The Mr Nice Seedbank seems to have the most in common with the White Widow that the Green House Seeds Company entered into the Cannabis Cup in 1995. Ingemar offers his own version of the White Widow and several White Widow hybrids, like the notoriously potent Ingemar’s Punch, through the DeSjamaan seed bank and the White Widow Web. He is also working closely with Arjan over at Green House Seeds, supplying him with genetic material which include the allegedly one and only true White Widow strain. As wonderfully potent as it might be, the authenticity and genetic makeup of this parallel version of the Widow will remain a mystery until we are enlightened by Ingemar himself. His substantial contribution to the varieties offered by the Green House Seed Company should, however, not go unnoticed.
Shantibaba discovered many of his strains while working under the Green House label but apparently never shared the parental stock of his strains with anyone. Nevertheless, the Green House Seed Company still offers many of his and Neville’s strains, claiming that they are the real deal. Most notable of these strains are the White Widow (Black Widow), White Rhino (Medicine Man), Great White Shark (Shark Shock), El Nino (La Niña), Neville’s Haze and Super Silver Haze. Not without a sense of irony, many of these plants have accumulated an impressive amount of awards for the Green House Seed Company over the years. The fact however remains that all these plants can be traced back to the original breeders Shantibaba and Neville, who in an attempt to avoid confusion, renamed some of their strains. Sadly, despite their efforts, confusion and contradiction ensued and even more breeders emerged, claiming to have invented the White Widow strain. The Green House Seeds Company has not been as active in developing new, and reinforcing old strains, as Shantibaba. Their focus seems to have shifted towards feminizing their old stock.
Today almost every breeder and seed bank sell seeds that they claim to be the original White Widow. In 1996, both the Nirvana and Dutch Passion seed companies purchased a single pack of White Widow seeds from Shantibaba himself at the Green House Seed Company and within a year released their own versions of the Widow. Undoubtedly all very potent and nice plants, the question whether or not all the White Widow plants on the market today can actually be considered pure remains highly speculative since the only true parental stock remain in the sole care of Shantibaba and the Mr Nice Seedbank. Why so many different breeders claim to have personally invented this strain is puzzling although understandable due to its commercial success. New breeders keep emerging, claiming authority over the White Widow strain. There can, however, be only one truth, however hazy it has become over the years.
With more than 1,000 strains of cannabis having been bred during the past several decades, it is critical that patients are aware of the different types of efficacy available to them in terms of cannabis medicine. Some varieties of cannabis are most appropriate for particular diseases and ailments, but not others. Choosing the right strain is critical to ensuring that patients receive the best therapy possible.
Cannabis is a species of flowering herb that is split into three subspecies: Indica, sativa, and ruderalis. Ruderalis plants are small and yield relatively little medicine; what they do provide lacks potency and is generally not appealing to patients. Because of this, ruderalis strains are typically avoided by breeders and cultivators; the focus of the medical cannabis community is on indica and sativa strains.
Indica and sativa plants differ not only in their physiological effects, but also in their appearance. Indica plants are short and stocky, featuring leaves that are broad and “chunky.” Sativa plants tend to be taller and skinnier and may even be lanky in appearance, with leaves that are thin and pointed.
The most important difference between these two subspecies of cannabis, however, is in their medical effects and how they influence energy levels and productivity. Indicas tend to decrease energy and are better for consumption in the evening or at night, after the conclusion of the day’s work and activities. Potent indica strains may give some patients what is called “couchlock,” a condition in which they become so relaxed that they care barely get up from the sofa.
Sativas, on the other hand, are uplifting and cerebral, enhancing creativity and productivity. Indicas provide what has been called a “body high,” while sativas deliver more of a “mind high.” Unfortunately, sativa plants require longer to grow and yield less medicine (flowers) than indica varieties. This is why indica strains have traditionally dominated those available on the black market, where there is no concern for patient need and the sole focus is profit.
The fact that patients are given no choice of subspecies or strain when purchasing from the black market is a major reason it should be avoided. Patients should never trust or consume cannabis medicine without knowing its exact strain and that it was properly grown, dried, cured, and laboratory tested for purity and potential contamination.
Modern cultivators of medical cannabis purposefully breed and grow a wide spectrum of strains within both the indica and sativa categories for the purpose of making available the right medicine for a particular patient’s unique combination of disease, preference, and lifestyle. Often, patients must maintain jobs or family responsibilities that demand a particular energy level and can’t tolerate the sedative properties of many indicas. Other times, patients must seek the most potent non-opiate painkiller possible. Given the choice of chronic pain or the mellowing effects of a strong indica of a particular strain known for its medical benefits, most patients will choose the latter.
Because cultivators and dispensaries are sensitive to the subjective efficacy of particular strains for different patients, they grow and make available as many strains as possible for targeted ailments. Major conditions of focus include HIV/AIDS, cancer, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, Parkinson’s, all types of arthritis, and epilepsy, among many others.
In terms of particular ailments, sativa strains tend to be better for psychological disorders like depression, PTSD, and anxiety. Indicas are often the best for pain and inflammation and, thus, are beneficial for patients with arthritis, fibromyalgia, and cancer. However, because so many diseases are accompanied by side effects like depression and insomnia, a patient must consider treating both their core disease and also its daily symptoms. In the end, each patient will favor multiple strains that will likely fall within the categories of sativa, hybrid, and indica.
When it comes to aroma, indica strains tend to emit musty, earthy, and skunky odors, while sativas smell sweet, fruity, or spicy. This difference in aroma is the result of terpenes, the molecules within the plant that are cousins to cannabinoids like THC and CBD. While these chemicals provide sometimes stunningly pungent odors, their greatest benefit to patients is actually their medicinal efficacy.
Hybrids are simply new and unique strains that are bred from parents of different types. A hybrid theoretically possesses many or most of the beneficial medical properties of both its parents. Breeders can “cross” any two strains they desire in an effort to create a new strain that delivers the best possible medical efficacy, sometimes for particular diseases like lupus, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and epilepsy.
It should be noted that any two strains can be mixed to create a hybrid. While indica/sativa mixes are common and often noted for their “alert mellowness” and productivity, medical cannabis breeders can also mix indicas with other indicas or use two sativas as parents.
With so many hybrid strains available to patients, many are a compromise that possess the ability to kill pain and fight inflammation while not putting a patient to sleep in the middle of the day. Patients who must medicate in the morning or mid-day, typically for nausea and pain, often prefer a sativa-dominant hybrid, but will switch to an indica-dom strain in the evenings and for maximum pain relief.
Hybrid strains that display more indica than sativa traits are labeled “indica-dom,” while those that lean toward sativa are similarly dubbed “sativa-dom.” Often, strains are labeled with a sativa/indica ratio, like a 60/40 sativa/indica. Other times a strain will indicate only a percentage, such as “70 percent indica” or “80 percent sativa”.
Landrace Strains & Heirlooms
Landrace strains are those that evolved naturally within their native environments. Because they weren’t bred and aren’t hybrids, landrace strains offer a very pure example of sativa or indica, with no interference from humans. In fact, landrace strains are typically 100 percent indica or sativa, the result of tens of thousands of years of inbreeding in a particular weather climate and geography.
Heirlooms are landrace strains that have been grown outside of their native environment, such as plants or seeds professionally grown in Illinois that originated on the other side of the world. While sought for their pure indica or sativa characteristics, such strains lose some of their unique characteristics when grown outside the climate in which they evolved.
Examples of landrace strains include Durban Poison, a sativa from South Africa; Afghan Indica, from Afghanistan; Malawi Gold, a sativa from Southeastern Africa; and Panama Red, a sativa from the country that bears its name.
Landrace sativas appear in Asia, Anatolia, and Northern Africa. These climates provide the long summers and intense sun in which such strains have evolved and adapted to thrive. Indicas are located in Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. Such strains will not reach their potential if grown within indoor or outdoor conditions that don’t match those of their native environment.
Eastern Europe, the Himalayan region of India, and Siberia are home to ruderalis landrace strains and are among the least desired of these naturally evolved plants. Often, as in the Himalayas, such plants are used to create traditional hand-rolled hash, with impoverished villagers in such regions subsisting on black market sales of the concentrate that eventually appears in smoking cafes throughout Europe.
What Determines Sativa or Indica?
Readers have already learned that the sometimes pungent aromas produced by many strains of cannabis are the result of terpenes, the special molecules in the herb that are similar in many respects to cannabinoids like THC and CBD.
While many might guess that a particular strain of cannabis is categorized as indica, sativa, or hybrid based on the presence or absence of a particular cannabinoid, or a cannabinoid in a particular volume, it is actually a terpene that determines this important status of a strain.
Myrcene, the most common terpene in cannabis, is known to help patients sleep, battling conditions like anxiety and insomnia. If present in a specific strain in a volume greater than 0.5 percent, the strain is considered an indica. If the amount of myrcene is under one half of one percent, then the strain is deemed a sativa.
This dynamic is a good example of the entourage effect, a theory that cannabinoids and terpenes work together in harmony to deliver medicinal efficacy to patients. Many terpenes buffer or enhance the effects of major cannabinoids like THC.
New Strains Constantly Being Created
New strains of cannabis, many of which are hybrids of existing strains that display exceptional analgesic (pain killing) or anti-inflammatory qualities, are being created on a regular basis. While some strains are better at dealing with the nausea associated with chemotherapy (used to treat patients with cancer and Crohn’s, among other diseases), most types of cannabis are very good at this.
With such dramatic differences between indicas and sativas in terms of medicinal efficacy and the experience of the patient, those legally using medical cannabis should work with their physician and dispensary to experiment with various strains that are already known to deliver exceptional benefits to other sufferers, especially those with the same condition.
Patients must strive to find the strains that best deal with their particular disease or ailment and its symptoms, including the side effects of any pharmaceutical drugs or therapies. This is typically not an overnight project and may require months or even years of diligent effort. In fact, patients are encouraged to continually experiment with new strains in search of greater potency or a superior cannabinoid profile that delivers improved relief. Because this efficacy is so subjective, the advice of other patients can be given only so much weight. The true test of a particular strain of indica or sativa occurs only when used by an individual patient when they most need it, such as during bouts of pain, nausea, or insomnia.