Unless you are a truly seasoned stoner, it can be pretty overwhelming to venture out of your smoking habits and choose a new package from the store. There are so many puzzling combinations of steps and decisions to get that beautiful nug to be what it is inside. Have you ever stopped and looked at your bud and thought, what was your life like before we met?
Understanding how our marijuana gets to us can give new appreciation for growers and their product. While the name suggests it is easy to grow, modern weed takes calculation, precision, and an expert hand. Small variations in a grow formula can produce an endless combination of outcomes.
Where does it all start? While the answer might seem to be obvious – depending on how you define it – a tiny seed isn’t always where each smokeable bud starts. Most farms start their individual plants from a “mother” plant. The Mother is started from a seed that has been grown for the specific intention of providing the starts for an entire crop of a chosen strain. Why not use a fresh seed every time? Farms choose to use cuts off of this Mother plant instead because seeds are finicky and take extra time. These cuts, also known as clones, are a more reliable source when you’re looking at consistency in a large quantity of plants.
The Perfect Conditions
Then what? When it comes to the life of the plant, there are several different environments a grower can choose to raise their crop in. Most commercial farms don’t use plain dirt like a standard gardener might. There are too many variables that can make it difficult to recreate the streamlined process. Coco fiber is more commonly used because a grower can add the specific nutrients they want, there are less bugs than regular soil, and less chance of root rot than in a hydroponic set up. While coco fiber is used widely for smaller operations, hydroponics is the go-to system for growing plants commercially. Hydroponics consist of growing without the use of any type of soil but instead relying on an irrigation system of water and nutrients to keep the yield high and the everyday maintenance low. This method is where the growers can really geek out. Monitoring PH, oxygen, nutrients, and temperature is all crucial to keeping these gems happy and healthy while also being able to control the end result experience for us stoners. The ultimate method for commercial growing is aeroponics but it is the highest risk vs reward. Aeroponics means the plant is grown suspended in air with water and nutrients continually sprayed at its roots This method is extremely sensitive and has almost no room for error. However, when done correctly, this method has the biggest yield and produces a spectacular bud. While success in all techniques is impressive, the experience and dedication it takes to grow using this method deserves respect and to be held in high regard.
The Adolescent Phase
As our little plant babies grow up into tall, lanky adolescents, their needs grow as well. Once the plants make it to this phase (often referred to as the flowering stage), they need constant attention. Monitoring humidity levels, C02 and Oxygen levels, nutrients, and light exposure are all a delicate and vivacious dance that the growers must stay constant on. At this point, the growers have invested about 6 to 8 weeks into this round of crop. The more attention and consideration they give to these growing buds, the more bountiful their yield becomes. The flowering stage can make or break what it takes to be a high-grade product.
After 8 to 10 weeks, our dedicated growers begin preparing for the long awaited harvest. Harvest timing is incredibly essential to maximizing a bud’s potency and optimizing its high. Harvesting too early means missing potency and yield. Harvesting too late might lead to a highly sedative product. After harvesting, the buds will be trimmed, dried, and cured. This process does more than just make your weed more smokeable. It improves taste, smooths the bud to minimize coughing, decreases side effects like anxiety or paranoia, and reduces risk of mold growing. The plants are cut down to manageable branches and hung to dry. After about 5 to 7 days, they are trimmed down to the more recognizable nugs and stored for a final cure process. This curing process can take anywhere from about 8 weeks, all the way up to 6 months for some strains.
Just a Little Off The Top
Depending on the grower’s preference, trimming can be done either wet, dry, or somewhere in between. There are pros and cons to the timing of each technique, but ultimately they all produce a working product. When it comes to trimming there are two methods to be aware of. Big farms that have massive amounts of product to move can opt for a bud trimming machine. These automatic bud trimmers are efficient, but they can damage the delicate bud. It can be hard for the machine to differentiate between leaf and flower causing a few casualties here and there. If you’re into aesthetics, the machine trimmer doesn’t exactly deliver a work of art. Hand trimming is a slower process, but it tends to be extremely accurate and preserves the bud. Handling the flower with this extra care leaves it perfectly intact for packaging. Some growers go as far as specially marking their product to let their consumers know that their product has gone through this extra supervision.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Overall, estimating how long it takes to grow our favorite marijuana products is complicated. Each strain requires something different and each farmer has their own variations of growing them. On average, it takes about 3 to 5 months to make it through each production cycle. Although, it is worth noting that speciality strains can take a lot longer. At this point if you’re feeling eager to get your hands on these beautiful buds, you’ll have to wait just a little bit longer, as packaging and distributing have their own process as well. In Washington state, it is actually illegal for a farm (producer) or processor to sell directly to consumers in a retail setting. This clear divide is why we appreciate our growers so much! They are committed to creating the best product possible, while we are able to focus on informing our customers and ensuring their happiness. As customers, you play a crucial part in helping us communicate feedback to our farms on their product. Since growers aren’t on the front lines of every day consumers, we encourage you to engage with them. Letting them know what you like, or dislike, can help give them an idea of what consumers are looking for. Something we all love is a new product and critique feeds the growers’ motivation for innovation.
With such a lengthy and focused process, it is no wonder that our growers are the experts. It takes patience and true passion to produce the goods. It really is incredible that we have so much to choose from and can experience when a grower goes that extra mile, cares that extra amount, or loves their plants just a little bit more.
Want to know more about these farms? Check out our previous blog post about our local growers or come on in and ask your Trove budtender.