The four seasons are especially important to outdoor Cannabis. It is an easy spice to grow (to be correct, it’s a spice – not an herb – since the flower clusters are the part of the plant that is harvested and consumed), with a pretty distinct growing season.
Plant Cannabis after the spring equinox, and harvest around the fall equinox. Cannabis is affected by ‘photoperiodism’, which means that it uses the duration of the dark periods to determine when to flower. Flowering hormones slowly build up over the long night for use the following day. Light interrupts this process, which is why a light that breaks up the dark period can prevent flowering, and introduce stress.
In outdoor gardens, spring, fall and winter all have longer nights than the short nights of summer. The plants bulk up during the growth stage of summer, until the longer nights of fall trigger flowering. If plants are set outside early in the spring months when the nights are still long, they will take their cue to start flowering from the long nights.
Under many different names and guises, seasonal holidays are common. Each season has a reason to celebrate, and a life with celebration tends to be fuller. To help get you started, an associated munchie-type food is suggested for each season’s party. These are divided into the traditional sweet, salty, crunchy and chewy. While any well prepared viper gathering includes all four, the suggestion is to showcase the seasonal highlight.
The Spring Equinox is around March 20th, when day-night approaches 12/12 (note that the dates given are reversed in the southern hemisphere, where midsummer occurs in December, and midwinter is in June).
Many countries have spring planting and fertility celebrations. The Cannabis enthusiast’s flavor for the season is sweet, to give extra energy for planting. Depending on the date of the last frost, some areas can use this season to flower Cannabis plants for a ‘spring harvest’. Be forewarned that planting in damp, wet, cold conditions can lead to fungus-related problems. Check with your local garden zone guide, and plant no earlier than the last frost date – or start out using cold frames or greenhouses. To get a head-start on the season, plants can be started indoors three or more weeks before moving outside.
Plants started indoors need to be ‘hardened’ before they can be left outside permanently. To harden a plant, it is placed outside in a mild location for an increasingly longer period each day, from around a few days to a week. This will ease the transition from the protected indoor environment to the harsher outdoors. Depending on how severe a sudden change is, plants not hardened may die from shock.
Outdoor planting takes place from late March to late May; it is a common practice to add slow release nutrients (such as blood meal, bone meal and rock phosphate) to the soil while planting. These fertilizers will help feed the plant not only throughout the season, but also improve it for the following year. Summer Solstice is at midsummer, around June 22nd. This date has the longest day and shortest night; artificially-lit gardens often use light-to-dark periods of eighteen on, six off to simulate this lighting condition and initiate flowering. Dense plants can be tied open to improve airflow and sun exposure. The hot summer months are the season for spider mites. Keeping your plants adequately watered and occasionally misting them can help make a less attractive environment for these pests. Side dress plants with additional nutrients to give them a home stretch boost. Serve crunchy foods on midsummer night’s eve; fresh veggies are a treat, especially straight from the garden.
Autumn Equinox is around Sept 22nd, when day-night approaches 12/12. As the weather cools, keep an eye out for bud rot and other fungal diseases, which can thrive in the moist, cool fall. Plants grown outdoors are cut down in the autumn months, and often marked with a trimming party or harvest celebration. Healthy leftover plant material can be set in a compost pile and used the following spring (assuming it’s mature). Clearing the garden of debris as part of harvest means less work in the spring, and deprives some pathogens of a place to overwinter. This season’s food texture is chewy, something that can be eaten over long periods of harvesting and trimming. Smoke up the last of the stored bud to make room for the new harvest.
Allow the harvested buds to dry somewhat, and then slowly finish drying as part of a curing process. A simple method is to hang the Cannabis until it feels dry to a casual touch, and then transfer to closeable containers. The amount the container is opened or closed is dependent upon the moisture level of the bud inside. Open the container when the Cannabis is too wet, close as air dries it back out. If the weed becomes too dry, broken bits of terra cotta pottery (or homemade pottery coins) can be used to help rehydrate overly dried buds. Weed that is too wet must not be kept sealed in a container too long, or it will mold and be ruined.
Winter Solstice occurs around December 21st and is the shortest day of the year. While in many areas the cold of winter prevents exposed Cannabis gardening, it is an excellent time for indoor gardening, as cooler outdoor temperatures usually make indoor lighting/heat issues easier to cope with. Winter is a good time to think about spring planting and making variety selections. Read your garden notes from last season, and plan how to improve next year. Winter is an excellent time of year for reading, and learning more about gardening. Celebrate making it halfway to spring. The flavor of the season is salty, in honor of foods preserved to last the winter. With spring right around the corner, it’s getting close to planting season. Paying attention to the cycle of solstices and equinoxes can let gardeners know what to expect from their plants, and some idea of when. Keeping track of which dates you have planted on, when flowers start to form, and what the result was one particular year, can give you very valuable information about how to plant the next crop. Improving upon past performance is a goal every gardener should strive for, but any garden that produces smoke can be considered a success, and the gardener treated with a pat on the back.
Peace, love and puka shells,