Hemp is an amazingly renewable resource. Industrial hemp, the type grown for its long stalks containing exceptionally strong fibers, is used to create all kinds of products, from paper to prosthetics. Medicinal hemp is cultivated for its flowers rich in cannabinoids. Both medicinal and industrial hemp are the same genus, the difference is in how they are cultivated. What’s more, the hemp growth cycle helps protect the earth from erosion, and its remnants even return vital nutrients to the soil, post-harvest.
Whether industrial or medicinal, all hemp begins with a tiny seed. Medicinal hemp is more delicate than industrial hemp and is grown from seeds which are “feminized”. It’s often grown indoors, or in carefully managed greenhouses, so farmers can maintain the perfect environment which will produce the desired results.
The growth cycle for medicinal hemp has four primary phases. Each phase is marked by the growth of different parts of a hemp plant. However, before the seed ever touches the soil, hemp farmers must consider the quality of the seeds they are about to plant. Genetics are a major part of the hemp cultivation industry, as each plant can be grown to produce a dominant cannabinoid.
The seeds a hemp farmer selects for medicinal hemp should be scrutinized for quality and checked to see if they are feminized. Feminized plants will produce dense, cannabinoid rich flowers. If hemp flowers are pollinated, they can become male and their energy is redistributed to creating seeds, leaving the flowers with lower cannabinoid concentrations. So before the hemp growth cycle even begins, select feminized seeds with optimal genetic profiles.
You’ll want to plant your seeds in soil which has been properly cultivated to provide an optimal growth environment. This means you must pay attention to the soil’s pH, temperature, and access to light and avoid overwatering.
The Cycle Begins | Germination
In about 5-10 days, germination will mark the beginning of the hemp growth cycle cycle, with foundational parts of a hemp plant establishing themselves. The taproot begins and proof of life reveals itself in the form of two tiny leaves, which begin the plant’s photosynthesis. Once you have germination, you quickly move to the next phase in the cycle, which is tending to your seedling.
The seedling phase is marked by the development of the fan leaves we have come to know and love. This phase is fraught with dangers for your new hemp plant. Which means, over the next two weeks, you must carefully monitor the progress of your seedling for it to successfully advance to the next phase. You’ll know that you’re getting there when each of your fan leaves have five or more blades.
Now, your hemp plants have made it to the next phase of the growth cycle: vegetative growth. This is the phase where the parts of a hemp plant begin to fill in as it prepares for the flowering phase. For the next 16 weeks you will want to prune your plant to help direct the nutrients and energy as the plant prepares for the final phase. Also, pay close attention to your soil’s chemical composition. Because next up is the final phase of the hemp growth cycle, flowering.
Flowering occurs when the light changes. Hemp flowers are susceptible to becoming male and creating seeds with incorrect light management. The flowering parts of a hemp plant are also dependent on delicate soil balances. Check your flowers during this time for seed sacks, and if found, remove the plant. You do not want to cross pollinate your entire farm. If necessary, consult with an expert.
You’ve made it! You’ve successfully gone through the entire hemp growth cycle and have pounds of hemp flowers to harvest! Since you’re farming medicinal hemp, you will harvest by hand and begin the process of drying your flowers which will preserve their quality and integrity. Remember that curing is also a delicate process. Moisture can degrade your harvest and render it unusable.
The hemp growth cycle is absolutely fascinating and engaging, however, you must remember that a carefully controlled environment is essential when growing hemp. Any misstep in the cycle can result in parts of a hemp plant sustaining damage and becoming unusable. Take care to educate yourself, consult with expert farmers, and once you’ve successfully harvested, tend to your flowers with care. You may want to consider tumble trimming, whether wet or dry, with Tom’s Tumble Trimmer to maintain the integrity of hand trimming.