Hemp may seem like a flashy new plant, but it’s one of the oldest documented crops in human history. However, since the US outlawed cannabis in the 20th century, the techniques related to hemp cultivation weren’t passed down to today’s generation. Farmers who are now entering the hemp space should feel comfortable with a bit of experimentation.
Although we’re still learning how to grow hemp, there has been some headway in understanding these flowers. Anyone curious about growing industrial hemp should review these essential details before plunking a few seeds into soil.
Could Everyone Legally Grow Hemp Flowers?
On any site related to hemp, writers are quick to mention this plant’s legality. Even though hemp is a member of the cannabis family, it’s not the same as high-inducing marijuana. As long as hemp has ≤ 0.3 percent delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis, it’s legal in all 50 states.
However, that doesn’t mean just anyone could start growing hemp plants on their property. While it may not be federally illegal to cultivate CBD hemp, every state could enact restrictions on this plant.
Also, since hemp plants look suspiciously like marijuana, police could arrest home-growers for cannabis cultivation. Often, these charges carry hefty fines and jail time, especially in states that don’t have relaxed marijuana laws.
In most US states, farmers have to register with the local Department of Agriculture to obtain a hemp license. Only cultivators with a state-recognized hemp license could grow this plant in their designated territory.
Unless your state has explicit laws that allow for at-home marijuana cultivation, it’s potentially illegal to grow hemp strains indoors. So, until federal cannabis laws change, it’s best to leave CBD hemp cultivation to the professionals.
What Kind Of Hemp Are You Growing? — Industrial vs. High-CBD
To many newcomers, it may seem odd that they have to specify why they’re growing hemp. Isn’t it obvious that people grow hemp for CBD?
While CBD is a lucrative segment of the hemp industry, it’s not the only reason people grow the hemp plant. In fact, for centuries, people weren’t all that interested in CBD content. Many societies grew hemp primarily to take advantage of its fibrous stalks in textiles.
Now that it’s easier to study hemp, researchers have discovered many fascinating uses for hemp flowers. For instance, hemp may be a renewable alternative to make plastics, paper, and concrete. There are even talks that hemp could be used as biofuel.
Determining why you want to grow hemp will significantly influence your grow set-up. For instance, if you’re growing hemp for CBD extraction, you must plant feminized seeds. Only unpollinated female plants produce trichome-rich buds with CBD.
Alternatively, industrial hemp growers often grow as many plants as possible in wide-open areas. Since the goal with industrial hemp isn’t high-cannabinoid counts, it doesn’t matter how resinous they are at harvest time. All that matters is that you could bring in more fibrous stalks for industrial purposes.
What Are The Hemp Plant’s Stages of Growth?
After you’ve established your state’s rules and your hemp growing goals, you should prepare yourself for this plant’s stages of growth. Like marijuana flowers, hemp goes through four significant stages of development before it’s time to harvest.
Unless you’re starting with a clone clipping, the first step in growing hemp is germinating seeds.
There are many ways people could germinate seeds, but most commercial growers put them directly in special starter pods or soil. People who aren’t growing a huge hemp crop could place their seeds in a glass of purified water or wrap them in a damp paper towel under a plate.
The goal with all of these methods is to coax out each seed’s white taproot. This taproot will form the central root structure of your hemp plant.
Some seeds could germinate within just a few days, but most do so within at least one week. If seeds haven’t shown a taproot after about ten days, there’s a good chance they aren’t fit to move on to starter cubes or soil.
After transferring germinated seeds to a soil pot, hemp plants should soon start sprouting. During this initial growth stage, seedlings need high humidity and spring-like temperatures to thrive. Generally, most seedlings do best in an atmosphere of 65 – 70 percent humidity and ~ 75° F.
As for lighting, seedlings can only handle dimmed LEDs or fluorescent lights. If using LEDs, farmers need to position them at least 18 inches above their plants. You should also run these lights for at least 18 hours per day.
Most people judge the end of the seedling phase by the number of serrated “fan leaves” that appear on their plants. If there are roughly 3 – 4 sets of fan leaves, it’s an excellent time to transition plants to a larger pot for vegetation.
There’s no set time for the seedling stage, but it usually doesn’t take longer than three weeks.
The vegetative stage is when hemp plants need the most nitrogen to grow big and strong. In addition to a regular feeding schedule, these growing plants need more water, space, and light.
Speaking of light, it’s essential to keep your HIDs or LEDs on at least 18 hours per day. Hemp is an annual plant, which means you will automatically trigger flowering when you switch to a 12 hour light schedule. Only make the switch to flowering when you’re comfortable with the plant’s growth.
The best temperature for vegetative hemp plants is between 68° F and 85° F, and the ideal humidity is 40 – 50 percent. Indoor growers also have to ensure constant airflow to reduce the risk of mold.
Honestly, growers could leave plants in the vegetative stage for as long as they want. You have to determine when to make the switch to flowering based on features like your expected ROI, the strain’s height, and your cultivar’s average growth rate.
Most hemp growers claim you could keep these plants in vegetation for 3 – 15 weeks.
Flowering will automatically kick in when indoor growers switch their lights to 12 hours on. Amazingly, in the first few weeks of this stage, hemp plants usually grow at least half their size. As this phase progresses, female hemp plants will start to form the famous sticky buds that contain CBD.
Before then, you should see either ball-like pollen sacs or hair-like pistils at the nodes on your plants’ stems. Plants with pollen sacs are male, and growers must destroy them if their goal is to produce CBD extract. If you leave male plants in your grow space, they will fertilize females and decrease their cannabinoid potential.
Since this stage mimics early autumn, it’s OK to slowly turn down the temperature and humidity. Most growers recommend an environment of about 70° F and average humidity of no more than 45 percent.
For those growing CBD hemp, determining the end of flowering depends on the trichomes on your plants’ buds. At the start, these mushroom-like protrusions are see-through, but they steadily change to bright white and orange.
Once most of these trichomes are white, it’s a great time to harvest. These colors signal hemp buds have the highest concentrations of cannabinoids like CBD.
How long it takes to reach the harvesting stage could be anywhere between 8 – 11 weeks.
Refine Your Hemp Growing Skills With Fellow Farmers
Hemp may be an ancient crop, but it’s a mystery to many modern cultivators. It may take decades before we know all the intricacies of growing hemp cultivars. However, as more universities pour money into hemp research, we could expect valuable data on seed genetics and ideal growing patterns moving forward.
People who want to get involved in hemp cultivation have to pay close attention to the news in this industry. Whether it’s legality or growing practices, nothing in the hemp space is stable. Staying abreast of current developments related to hemp is the best way to “grow” in this new “field.”
Zach is the founder of HempCBDExchange.com. Amateur writer. Social media ninja. Travelaholic. Passionate about all things cannabis & hemp.