I moved to Maine in December, less than a year ago. It happens to be legal to grow and possess Cannabis in Maine, so this past Spring, I decided I wanted to give growing a try.
The first thing I had trouble with, was trying to find seeds that were affordable. I checked online, and wasn't thrilled with the going price for seeds to be shipped from other countries. With my lack of experience with seeds, feminized seeds, etc. I decided to search locally here in Maine.
I came upon Cannabis Seed Bank of Maine and though it was more than an hour away, their website said that they had several seed strains including germinated and feminized strains. When I arrived, I wasn't sure I was at the right place, because it was pretty much a traditional garden store with a bunch of people buying outdoor mulch, or what have you.
I decided to go inside and ask if I was at the correct place to buy seeds, and as soon as I asked, the woman confirmed and had the young woman bring me upstairs where she said that they also have clones. My interest was piqued. I asked what she had for clones and she started listing off all the different strains that they had, some in different week growths from 1-4 weeks if my memory is correct. The older clones went up in price, but I purchased 6 clones for under $100.
When I went to checkout, the woman behind the counter asked if I needed anything else and I told her that I was a first time grower and I did need some other things such as flower pots, maybe some soil, etc. After buying a bag of soil, 6 $0.50 flower pots, a small bag of plant food, and declining pH adjustments, including the clones, I paid about $200.
At first, I didn't want to feed the new plants plant food and end up killing them at such a young age. So I simply watered them the first few weeks and since it was April here in Maine, I left them in our sun room under some vegetative grow lights.
The expensive bag of soil that I bought, held moisture so well, that after my first watering the soil continued to look wet and mold began to grow on top of the soil. The flower pots did have drainage holes, but I think the makeup of the soil was holding in the moisture bettter than I wanted it to, even under a light. The plants began to look a little sad and some yellowing started on the plants. Some of the plants looked fine the whole time, while some I thought may die. I bought a soil moisture gage and as well as pH gage and while the well water was fine, the soil was still way too wet after having watered them 10 days prior.
I decided to transplant the plants in hopes of turning their health decline around by mixing some drier soil into the new larger pots.
My first transplant wasn't very long after the initial planting into the smaller pots. The first plant I transplanted, the root system was so fine and had reached the bottom of the flower pot in just a few days, that I thought maybe I hadn't cleaned the flower pot or something was growing, so I was very rough with the transplant and ripped half of the root system off. Within seconds, before I was even finished transplanting that first clone, it was hanging down like it was dead, I couldn't believe it. That's when I realized my mistake and made sure to take extra care with the other clones root systems. I thought for sure that one clone was going to die or else be a dwarf or worse, become a hermy. Luckily that mistake didn't cost the plant its life. It did thrive just as I had hoped.
The yellowing of the leaves stopped once I began feeding the plants with the plant food the woman had sold me, which had a good amount of Nitrogen. The only issue I had was as they got bigger, I would increase the plant food, until I gave them too much and yellowing appeared again along with leaves turning brown, dying, and falling off. I stopped giving them plant food but the problem didn't seem to go away so I thought maybe I wasn't giving them enough plant food, so I fed them plant food again. By the end of the day it was noticeable that the harm had increased drastically since my feeding, so I decided to cleanse the soil by purposely overwatering each plant... That did the trick! The plants began looking better and better each day and grew quite fast. From that point on I was careful as to how much plant food to give them. I decided to follow the instructions on the packaging.
Since we live in an extremely windy area where you can see straight over the tops of the trees the Atlantic ocean, I decided to build this box to help protect the young plants when the wind was severe. It definitely helped, but next time I won't stick 6 of them in there like i did.
Within a few weeks the plants looked great and were smelling lovely.
I read that had I planted them into cloth bags, the roots would autoprune themselves when they reached the air and would then cause the root system to branch out better. So I did that transplant and the first thing I noticed was that I needed to water them a lot more regularly, just about every day or else they would start wilting in the new cloth bags. Looking back, I think next time I may plant directly in the ground.
By August 1st I thought the plants were looking pretty good. I didn't have a lot of extra time to spend taking care of them, but was impressed by how they were starting to turn out. I felt like they were just going to keep getting bigger and bigger.
By August 10th I noticed a few branches had fallen off, right after I had asked my Dad to water them for me as I was running late for work. I thought he was responsible because he wasn't careful since they weren't his plants. But then I took a closer look and noticed a disturbing infestation starting...Hemp Borer Moths. Day by day the problem got worse and worse. The day I found the problem, I called out of work in order to trry and find something to spray on them designed for these borers. Nowhere around had what I wanted to buy, but I bought another product that said it was safe for plants and harmful to worms, etc. I began using it but didn't notice a huge difference.
The problem continued getting worse. I decided whether it would arrive too late or not, I would order Bt spray, which is a bacteria that is harmful to these types of critters. The first time I sprayed the plants all over, there was like a swarm of moths, I couldn't believe it. There must've been 50 of them flying off the plants and trying to land back on them again. I continued with the spraying and it helped dramatically, however some damage was already done and once the borer moth larvae crawl inside the stalk, it can be difficult to kill them before they decimate the plants. This is what happened to one plant that I harvested way too early because it was just about dead, only a few branches remaining. By removing that plant, I believe it also helped with the remaining plants to get access to a bit more light and maybe somehow slow the spread of the infestation, at least enough so that all my plants wouldn't all be eaten by the end of my first grow attempt.
Some plants looked worse than the others, but ultimately in the end I was able to harvest probably a couple of pounds of bud. However, since I was basically harvesting one at a time based on the amount of damage that was being done to them since it was a little early for harvesting, they all could've used some extra flowering time.
My favorite plant was the Wedding Cake strain. I really liked how it smelled so much different than all the other weed plants. To me it almost had like a soap scent to it, though I feel I'm not describing the scent properly.
I spent an entire day trimming the fan leaves to allow the plants to take in all the sun they could get before harvesting them. The Bt spray did an excellent job at getting rid of the hemp borer moths, but there wasn't much that could be done about the ones that made their way into the main stalk of the plants. One by one I began harvesting the plants but the next part was my most critical mistake.
For the drying and curing process, I hung them upside down in our shed where it would heat up to a warm 80 degrees (which I now believe caused them to dry too quickly), with little to know air movement inside. I planned to get to them when I had time, such as on the weekends when I wasn't working. After a couple of weeks I began trimming each bud and putting into a jar for the curing process. I couldn't believe how long it would take for me to cut the buds and remaining fan leaves off of each plant by hand. After about 2 or 3 plants, a guy at work who I had been telling about my progress up to this point, suggested I purchased a trimmer thing. So I did.
This thing blew my mind. I thought that it worked way better than the Youtube videos made it look. The way it works is the blades go underneath the grating, and rubber fingers move the weed around in a circle while the blades rotate very quickly so that any leaves that stick through the grating, would be cut off. I was able to do 3 entire plants in just a few hours compared so spending a day or two days trimming the buds for one plant. I would highly recommend anyone who grows and isn't quite sure yet as to the challenge of removing all of the leaves from the plants, to purchase one of these ahead of time.
Once I had removed all of the buds from the branches, it was time to continue with the drying and curing process. Only, my plants were too wet since the remaining 3 plants I decided to use the bud trimmer with the plants wet or freshly cut down instead of waiting until they had dried upside down for a week or so. This provided a better looking end product, but now I had gallons of wet buds that needed to be dried. I put them all in their own paper bags and labeled them so I wouldn't mix them up. I wanted to put them all into some sort of hanging net to let the air get to them so that they didn't rot. The problem is when I tried to order one online, it was through Amazon and they were trying to make me jump through hoops in order to access my account since I changed phone numbers. I had asked my Dad to order one for me as I was driving to work and see if they had any that were like overnight shipping or as fast as possible. He ordered one that would be here in maybe 4 days time. Twice a day I would open the bags and let them air out and shake them around to move the buds around a bit.
Once the net came, it had like 8 or 10 shelves, which was enough to put my buds into their own shelves. I hung it in the same shed that gets a little warm with no air movement. By day 2 or 3 I happened to notice a piece of mold on a bud, and another bud, and another bud. I freaked out, brought the whole netting into the house and decided to dry it in my bedroom with the fan on, after I removed all of the moldy pieces I could find.
I purchased large glass jars and humidity gages for each of the jars so I could monitor the moisture levels. A month or so later and I would try one and it would taste really bad. I think once I saw some mold, that there was probably realistically mold on all of it, perhaps just not enough to stand out for me to see. So now I have about two pounts of buds that look great but don't seem to smoke good. I am not 100% sure if I haven't given them enough time to cure, but I really think it could be a mold problem. Therefore I know you can cook your buds, maybe make some brownies or something. I imagine they will taste fine.
So I learned a few lessons with this first grow. Next time I will space the plants out a bit more so that they get good air flow and any infestations don't easily spread. Also I will use Bt spray on my plants before any problems start which should keep those hemp borer moths from killing my plants.
Next time I will definitely be using a fan and figure out a way to either trim wet and dry properly or else trim dry. Also I wont hang them upside down in a room that reaches 80 degrees during the day as I believe that dried the plants out too quickly for the enzymes to properly cure the buds. Only one of my plants seems to have turned out to be good, I have a gallon jar filled with it, and it happens to be the one strain that I thought smelled and tasted the best, Wedding Cake! :)