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The A-Z of Cannabis Growing

Growing cannabis needn’t be complicated, but it’s easy to get lost in the sea of jargon that goes with the territory. There are so many terms, techniques, and pieces of equipment that you need to know, or you may have heard, but what do they all mean? Want to know your SoG from your SCRoG? Need to understand the difference between Hydroponics and Aeroponics? You’re in luck! Following on from our recent glossary of cannabis users’ terms, here’s a list of essential definitions for cannabis cultivation.

Especially useful if you’re new to growing or thinking about growing your cannabis, below you’ll find a list of some standard terms you may have read or heard before but might not know the meaning of yet. Bookmark this page and keep it handy to brush up on your knowledge of crucial growing terminology.

Also, FYI, if cultivating cannabis where you live is not permitted by law, then this guide isn’t for you. Seedsman does not encourage cannabis cultivation in regions where it’s illegal.

Aeroponic Growing

An advanced method of growing cannabis, aeroponics involves suspending the plant roots in the air and periodically spraying them with water and a nutrient solution, as opposed to the traditional growing method of planting in a medium such as soil. It’s a great way to ensure high yields, but it’s a more complex and expensive way to grow cannabis.

It’s regarded as a more eco-friendly means of growing weed as it reduces energy and water use, but it requires a strictly controlled environment. Aeroponics requires constant attention compared to other growing methods, as mistakes can quickly put paid to your crop. Aeroponic growing is one for serious growers rather than hobbyists due to the sheer cost of the equipment.

Autoflowering

If you’re looking to grow cannabis plants in a more low-maintenance setup, autoflowering plants are a godsend. Put simply, an autoflowering plant is a plant that flowers at a particular age rather than the traditional way of flowering in response to a change in the light cycle associated with photoperiod plants.

Autoflowering plants are the result of crossbreeding standard marijuana plants with Ruderalis plants, and this gives you a robust plant that grows with less maintenance than photoperiod strains. Better yet, autoflowering cannabis plants will always be ready to harvest in 10 weeks or less – but you’ll possibly have a little less of a yield as autoflowering cannabis plants are typically smaller.

Breeding

Breeding is the act of pollinating a female plant with the pollen of a different male plant to strengthen certain favoured genetic traits or produce a new hybrid strain. For example, you might want a plant to have the terpene profile, taste and effects of one plant but the fast-growing properties and resilience of another. If that’s the case, you can breed the female and the male, preferably in an enclosed chamber, to avoid the pollen affecting any other nearby crops.

Bud Rot

Also known as Grey Mould, or by its fancy Latin Name, Botrytis Cinerea, bud rot is a nasty fungus that affects the cannabis plant from the inside out. It’s also known as grey mould, and this name helps you identify the problem at first sight. Bud rot thrives in cool climates with high humidity levels and can devastate a crop in under a week as it spreads fast.

If you see those spores on your plants, act quickly or you’ll face disaster. Don your protective equipment and get pruning to try and save what you can, making sure to sanitise your pruning equipment after doing so. It’s also good to separate infected plants from the rest of your grow to stop bud rot from infecting surrounding plants.

Clone

Cannabis plants can be grown from seed but also from a clone. A clone is a cutting taken from a cannabis plant (referred to as the mother) that can be planted and grown into a new, complete plant, allowing cultivators to skip the germination stage required with seeds. Clones need to develop roots before being planted, and once they do, they can be placed in soil and grown into full plants. Clones are genetically identical to mothers, ensuring consistency of product time and again when clones are employed.

Curing

Curing takes place after harvesting and drying cannabis buds and is essentially the process of preserving the terpenes and cannabinoids in the buds by placing them in airtight containers such as glass jars. A sometimes-overlooked aspect of the cannabis growing process due to the additional time required, curing is vital to ensure all those drool-worthy flavours and aromas can be preserved and maximised.

Curing typically takes two to four weeks and is sometimes skipped by less meticulous growers hurrying to churn out the product quickly. 

Defoliation

Defoliation involves removing living fan leaves from a plant to allow maximum light penetration into the deeper areas of the plant. Defoliation is a reasonably straightforward process, and all you need is shears and a pair of gloves.

By defoliating your plant, you can increase yield and bud size by allowing extra light through and increasing airflow, which can reduce the risk of mildew and mould. Not to be confused with pruning, which involves removing only branches and dead leaves.

Dome

Also known as a marijuana humidity dome, this is a covering to house and protect cannabis clones or seedlings, creating an ideal environment for optimal growth. A dome will protect those delicate, sensitive clones from changes in temperature that would otherwise cause harm to the plant.

Using a dome for clones and seedlings gives them a nice warm, humid place to develop the roots they need before you can plant them.

Extractor

Ventilation is essential for growing cannabis – without it, your plants will suffocate! An extractor fan is especially beneficial for those looking to grow cannabis plants in any indoor or airtight settings – tents, cupboards, etc. It enables the removal of warm or stagnant air, deficient in that crucial CO2 your plants need to thrive.

Without an extractor, the humid air inside your grow facility becomes stale and creates the type of playground that pathogens and pests cannot resist and will quickly spell disaster for your precious crops. For best results, install an extractor at the top of your grow room/tent since hot air naturally rises – and make sure the power of your extractor is appropriate for the size of your grow space.

Feminised

This term comes up a lot on our website – if you see a reference to feminised seeds, this means seeds that have been bred to produce female cannabis plants (the kind that produces buds, as opposed to male plants that produce only pollen).

The beauty of feminised seeds is that they’re much easier to grow – regular seeds take longer as they have to grow before sex can be determined, which takes additional time, space and resources, and extra labour. If you buy only feminised seeds, you can ensure that every seed you plant grows to be a bud-producing plant.

Flowering Time

How long it takes a cannabis plant to grow buds. Flowering times vary from plant to plant and depend on genetics. Sativas, for instance, tend to have long flowering times of around 8-9 weeks or longer in some cases, whereas indicas will tend to flower a little bit quicker in approximately 7-8 weeks. Then there are autoflowering strains – these can run an entire lifecycle in the time it takes a sativa to flower.

Flushing

The act of excessively irrigating cannabis plants to dissolve – or flush – additional nutrients. By flushing your weed prior to harvest, you can effectively make it a smoother smoke and better tasting, as well.

Genotype

Genotype refers to the genetic blueprint of a cannabis plant. The way a cannabis plant looks – in terms of its height, structure and so on – is pre-determined by its genotype, although ultimately, the outcomes can vary based on the environment and conditions the plant grows in.

Germination

The sprouting of the cannabis seed. Cannabis seeds need three things to germinate – water, heat, and air. You can germinate cannabis seeds using paper towels soaked in distilled water. Place the paper towels on a plate, place the seeds at least an inch apart on the paper towels, and cover with water-soaked paper towels. Once you’ve done that, create darkness and protection for your seeds by placing an upside-down plate on top, then keep them in a warm environment for anywhere between 3 to 14 days.

Check them once a day for progress, and if the paper towels are drying out, apply more distilled water. Your seeds should germinate within a fortnight, and you’ll know if you’ve been successful because the seed will crack, and a single sprout will appear. If it’s been a fortnight and you find yourself sproutless, the seed is likely a dud. Oh, and don’t touch the seed or the sprout when it splits because it must remain sterile.

Harvest

Harvest is the exciting time for all cannabis growers when the plants have matured and can now be cut down, allowing the buds to be trimmed, dried, and cured. Outdoor growers will normally harvest in September or October before the cold weather sets in. For indoor growers, harvest occurs at the end of the flowering cycle, usually somewhere around the 7-9 week mark, depending on the strain. This is when you don your finest gloves and cut the plant away from the root, remove the branches and the fan leaves, and hang your bud-rich bounty up to let it dry.

Hydroponics

Hydroponic growing is a way of growing cannabis plants in water rather than the traditional soil medium. Plant roots are suspended in water that contains nutrients, eliminating the risk of soil-borne diseases. Many people use hydroponic systems as it allows greater control over the plants.

cannabis growing

This is because it’s easier to regulate the nutrients and pH of the water than soil or other planting methods allows. Many insist hydroponics produces a better quality of cannabis, but the process is arguably more labour-intensive, more expensive to set up, and requires more knowledge and skill to execute successfully. There are different hydroponic systems, such as deep water culture (where the roots are constantly submerged) and ebb and flow (where water is flooded in for shorter periods, then drained away).

Irrigation System

An automated system to water your cannabis plants at set times. Irrigation systems include a timer (allowing you to determine when it activates) and the necessary pipes, tubes and pumps to carry the water.

J

Sorry, there’s no J. Someone must’ve smoked it.

Kush

Kushes are a family of phenotypes and some of the most popular cannabis cultivars worldwide. They originated back in the 1970s in the Hindu Kush Mountains, between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Kush strains are used heavily in crossbreeding and are a reliable and popular parent strain. Kushes often have a hint of purple in their appearance and are known for their sedative or euphoric effects.

Landrace

A landrace strain is a cultivar native to a specific region and known for its ability to adapt and thrive in its environment. Landrace strains are among the oldest varieties but are much harder to pick up nowadays due to hybridisation. Most landrace strains have names reflecting their area of origin, like Afghani, Hindu Kush, etc.

Light Spectrum

When using lights to grow cannabis indoors, you’ll come across mention of the light spectrum. It sounds awfully scientific, but the term simply refers to the spectrum of colours within the light. Plants absorb the most energy through red and blue light, which helps them flourish. In outdoor growing, where sunlight is used, the full-colour spectrum is in play via the sun’s natural light spectrum.

Low-Stress Training (LST)

LST is a plant training technique where you bend stems and tie them down, allowing more light to filter through to the lower branches. Low-Stress Training produces more colas and increases yields.

Macronutrients

All the primary nutrients your plants need to survive. Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium are the essential macronutrients you should be feeding your plant to ensure its survival and growth. Having a good understanding of nutrients is critical for growers to address deficiencies in their plants.

Medium

More commonly referred to as growing medium, this refers to the material in which you develop your plants, i.e. soil, Rockwool, perlite. Alternatively referred to as the substrate.

cannabis growing

Micronutrients

Not as essential to plant survival as macronutrients, but vital for the health and vigour of the plant. Micronutrients for cannabis include Calcium, Magnesium, Boron, Copper and Zinc.

Node

On cannabis plants, a node is a join where the leaf branches off from the stalk, or the stalk branches out from the stem. An internode is a stalk or stem situated between nodes.

NPK

If you see this term, it’s in reference to those key macronutrients – Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K). I know, I know – Potassium doesn’t begin with a K.

Nutrient Burn

A plant condition that results from over-administering nutrients. Look for yellow or brown burnt-looking tips on the leaves or curled-up tips as signs of nutrient burn. If you see these signs, reduce the nutrients you’re feeding your plants or else the nutrient burn will spread further down the leaves.

Osmosis

Osmosis, or to be cannabis-specific, reverse osmosis, involves using a semi-permeable membrane as a filter to purify your plant water. It usually relates to hydroponic setups, but can also be used to filter water for use with soil-grown plants.

Perlite

A growing medium for hydroponic growing. Perlite looks and feels a little like polystyrene but is, in fact, a volcanic rock with high water content and can retain water but also be used to aid drainage.  Adding a little Perlite to your soil can be extremely useful in soil grows for draining excess water, which could otherwise create a perfect environment for fungus.

Phenotype

Phenotype refers to the physical expression of the plant’s genetics – the height, colour, smell, potency, how much resin it produces and so on. A plant’s phenotype results from the combination of genes (genotype) and the environment in which the plant is grown. If two plants have identical genotypes, growing them in differing environments can result in different phenotypes due to light, heat etc.

Quality Control

Keeping an eye on your plants during the growth stage is crucial to ensure there are no pests, pathogens etc. But do you carry out quality control measures after harvesting your buds? Testing the flavour, potency and health of your product is an essential step.

Ruderalis

Believed to originate in the Siberian region of Russia, Ruderalis is a variety of cannabis in the same vein as indica or sativa but often a little lower in THC. Cannabis Ruderalis is known for its short growing cycle. It will mature and flower regardless of the amount of light it receives, leading breeders to use Ruderalis as the basis for autoflowering cannabis strains.

Rockwool

Another growing medium, Rockwool is a mineral comprised of basalt and silica. Like perlite, Rockwool is useful in hydroponic setups for its ability to retain water easily, but it’s not without its drawbacks. Rockwool’s natural pH is relatively high and prone to significant fluctuations, meaning you’ll need to monitor regularly and adjust nutrients accordingly.

SCRoG

Screen of Green is another training technique and involves placing a screen or net over cannabis plants during the flowering stage. The screen separates the branches of the plants and allows greater light penetration, resulting in more buds and larger buds. Using SCRoG has the added advantage of increasing airflow, which helps reduce mould and pests.

SoG

Sea of Green involves manipulating lighting to trick photoperiod plants into flowering early. Growers switch from 18 hours of light to 12 hours of light per 24 hours, after around 4 to 6 weeks, to trigger flowering before plants have reached their full size.

cannabis growing

The Sea of Green method involves growing many small plants instead of just a few large plants, thus creating a visual sea of green in your growing area, and produces more bud per grow as well as reducing harvest times.

Strain

Reference term for any specific variety of cannabis. Many strains are named for a dominant characteristic, such as taste, appearance, or effect – e.g. Sour Diesel, Strawberry Auto, Peyote Purple, etc.

Terpenes

Terpenes are aromatic oils found in cannabis and other plants, fruits, and herbs. These fragrant compounds are responsible for the plant’s distinctive aroma and flavours, and in cannabis, they’re secreted from the plant’s resin glands. If you’ve ever wondered why the weed you’re smoking tastes fruity, sour, or smells like pine or citrus – it’s down to the terpenes. The purpose of terpenes at the plant level appears to be to attract pollinators while keeping pests at bay.

cannabis growing

Different cannabis strains have differing terpene profiles – combinations of terpenes – and each carries distinct characteristics. Further research on terpenes is necessary, but certain terpenes appear to bring specific benefits – for example, myrcene is thought to provide relaxing effects, while pinene may help with pain, inflammation and anxiety.

Topping

A valuable technique for creating new shoots around the top of the plant, topping involves pruning off the entire top shoot of the plant, causing it to redirect its energy to grow out rather than up, and develop more colas.

Trichomes

Is your cannabis glistening with a frosty, sugary-looking substance? That’s the trichomes. These precious little glands protect the plant in nature, guarding against harsh weather and predators. On close inspection, trichomes are fine tiny hairs found on the plant’s leaves, stems and calyxes. Ripe trichomes will have a milky-white appearance, whereas unripe trichomes appear clear on close inspection. If the trichomes are overripe or diseased, they appear amber or brown.

cannabis growing

These beautiful treasures contain high concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes, so it’s essential to take great care when harvesting your marijuana because trichomes are fragile and can easily be knocked or shaken off the plant. Think of trichomes as the crown jewels of your cannabis plant.

Vegetative Stage

The term ‘vegetative stage’ refers to the time between the seedling and flowering stages when the plant does the most of its growing, packing on size, branches, and leaves but not buds. For this reason, you’ll want to make sure to optimise nutrient delivery and light schedule during the vegetative stage, as this will have a beneficial effect on your eventual yield. 

Watering

This one is pretty self-explanatory – watering refers to the regular and necessary step of watering your cannabis plants. Along with carbon dioxide, good old-fashioned H20 is one of the primary supplements plants need to grow, as it helps transport nutrients throughout the plant. Whether you hand-water or use a standalone system depends entirely on your grow setup.

Yield

Yield refers to the amount of dried bud that you can harvest from your plant. Keep in mind that some strains yield more than others, and the techniques employed and the growing environment can all affect the yield of your crop.

Yield is measured as the dry weight since, at this stage, it’s the finished product without the additional weight from moisture the plant can be holding when harvested. You can use specific techniques and tricks to increase your plant yield, like the SCRoG method that allows more light into the plant, increasing the size and volume of the buds.

This list is by no means exhaustive, so if you can think of anything you’d like to see added, comment below!

Cultivation information, and media is given for those of our clients who live in countries where cannabis cultivation is decriminalised or legal, or to those that operate within a licensed model. We encourage all readers to be aware of their local laws and to ensure they do not break them.

Duncan Mathers