Ah, summer in the cannabis fields. Idyllic scenes of lazing around in hammocks, sipping a cold beverage and watching the ganja trees grow tall come to mind; taking it easy while the plants do the hard work and thrive unassisted to the bountiful fall harvest finish line.
Sounds pretty nice, right? If only it were an accurate snapshot, maybe everybody would be a cannabis farmer!
In fact, the truth is far from this idealistic image; there are numerous mid-season tasks to keep up with. Omissions and missteps this time of year can damage quality and severely reduce crop yields. The commitment to hard work during these strenuous, sweltering days will ultimately determine a season’s success. Let us fill you in on what we’ve been up to this summer in order to ensure that success.
All the plants receive a weekly dose of compost tea. It is produced by steeping well broken down organic material in water. Not only is it a convenient form of feeding, because it provides fertilizer and water, but all of the beneficial microbes, minerals and nutrients are delivered straight to the roots. Think of compost tea like an all in one probiotic supplement and multivitamin, but for the roots of the plant instead of your gut. The activity of the microbes allows the roots to absorb and process all of the present nutrients that may be otherwise inaccessible.
Top dressing around the base of the plant is also an important task, giving the plants a summer pick me up. It feeds the crop with phosphorus and potassium in preparation for the flowering phase as well as helping loosen and condition the compacted soil.
Proper pruning is essential for maximizing production. It’s a bummer to work so hard just to get a bunch of light, airy buds at the end of the season. Although no flower goes to waste, anything with resin and trichomes is great for hash making, ideally all that energy would be directed into large, dense flowers along each cola.
Scrawny and weak interior branches are clipped out. If they don’t have direct sun exposure, they’re just taking up space and energy. By opening up the inside of the plant we can improve airflow and allow the sun to penetrate, making pests and mold less of a threat. Most importantly, all available energy goes into the production of a heavier yield of high quality flower.
Extremely low branches are also cut off. When the flower starts to develop, the weight will pull it down into the dirt. There’s no good way to salvage a bud that’s gotten muddy or been trampled on. The best solution is to cut it off ahead of time and promote that energy upward. Too many lower branches should not be removed, however. The presence of bottom limbs and foliage will help keep the overall height in check, preventing top heaviness and keeping the plant well anchored to the ground.
Summer is the best time for pruning because at this point the plant’s shape and how it wants to grow is apparent. It’s also early enough that flowers haven’t developed, cutting losses before much energy is spent on blooming. With a thorough pruning, plants are rejuvenated and primed to push all their energy into valuable growth.
In the summer months, plants really start to stretch out and put on weight. They may become top heavy and threaten to tip over. In anticipation of heavy flower production, support structures must be set up preemptively.
Heavy wire cages, like a giant tomato cage, are wrapped around individual plants. As they get heavier, colas can rest on the horizontal bars. The shape and structure of the cage provides a sturdy support system.
Another method is staking and securing the stalks of each plant. This can turn out to be a lot of work and the same idea can effectively be achieved by setting up a cage around the plant.
Trellising is yet another option. Posts are driven into the ground on either side of the plant. A netting or mesh is stretched from post to post giving the plants supporting walls that they can be secured to and rely on for support.
Monitor for Pests
Pests are always a looming threat to any cannabis crop. Growers have to be on the constant lookout. The sooner an issue is detected and dealt with, the better. If not properly managed, infestations can quickly get out of hand and destroy a crop.
We use a magnified bluetooth scope to get a detailed look at the foliage. Some pests are so tiny they may be difficult to notice with the naked eye. Once identified, a plan of attack can be devised.
Integrated Pest Management
IPM is the approach by which as little intervention as possible is taken to prevent pests from becoming a problem. It’s not desirable to needlessly disturb the ecology. Usually, a plant that is perfectly healthy needs no assistance in combating pests. But without fail, there is always a runt or weak link that is preyed upon by pests.
Natural treatments like neem oil or diatomaceous earth are favored over chemical pesticides. Better yet, biological methods are specifically targeted and extremely effective, without disrupting the ecosystem. Aphidius wasps and trichogramma wasps are both endoparasitoids to hemp aphids and caterpillars, respectively. Adult wasps lay their eggs in the hosts, and the hatched larvae feed on the pests, naturally preventing infestation and further crop damage.
In the desert like conditions of Northern California, having access to water is crucial. Especially to a moisture loving plant like cannabis. So it goes without saying that irrigation systems must be functioning properly. Constant inspections are important and any required repairs are made immediately. The timed daily waterings must be reliable, regular and uniform for all plants, providing for even growth and optimal health.
It may not be overtly obvious how much work goes into the production of sun grown cannabis, especially in the “slow” part of the season. So, we wanted to share a bit of what keeps us busy on the farm during these summer months.
Working long hours under the driving heat of the sun, day in and day out, is all part of the involved process that ensures we bring the best quality product to market. There may be no time for a summer vacation or even weekend road trips, but these mid-season tasks guarantee a prosperous harvest, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.