A Great Informative Guide for the Beginner Grower
In this article, we’ll be covering a few bits about cannabis, cannabis strains, cannabis breeding and some of the growing systems commonly used for indoor growing such as hydroponics and aeroponics.
There are many different things that can be grown in an indoor grow tent setup, but we’d be amiss if we didn’t write at least one article on one of the most popular, Cannabis.
If you’re only just entering the world of cannabis or thinking of setting up your own grow room it can all seem a bit confusing. Our hope is that this cannabis guide can at least point you in the right direction.
What is Cannabis?
Cannabis is a genus of flowering plant, that belongs to the family Cannabaceae.
Three species are often recognized:
- Cannabis Sativa
- Cannabis Indica
- Cannabis Ruderalis
Research suggests Cannabis may be indigenous to Central Asia, with further research possibly pointing to upper South Asia as its origin.
The plant can also be known by another name, Marijuana.
Another term that is incorrectly but widely used when talking about Cannabis is, Hemp. Although Hemp is from the same Sativa family, it is actually a different plant variety altogether and shouldn’t be confused with Cannabis.
The term hemp is primarily used to refer to varieties of Sativa cultivated with low levels of the psychoactive compound THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol).
History of Cannabis
The word Cannabis originates from the Greek word κάνναβις (kánnabis).
Which is thought to trace back to either Scythian or Thracian.
One of the oldest documentation of Cannabis use for possible medicinal purposes comes from the Yanghai Tombs. Where researches uncovered a grave of a 2700-year-old shaman, thought to belong to the Jushi culture.
As well as the shaman, the researches found what looked to be well-preserved Cannabis. Upon scientific analysis, the sample was confirmed to be just that and found to contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) the psychoactive component.
It has been theorized that it was possibly used within his culture for it’s medicinal or psychoactive properties.
Cannabis usage as a mind-altering drug has also been documented in prehistoric societies in both Eurasia and Africa.
One of the oldest documented records of recreational cannabis use is from the Greek historian Herodotus’s reference of Eurasian Scythians taking cannabis steam baths.
Recreational Cannabis use was also popular among the Greeks, Romans and the Middle East, it’s usage spread throughout the Islamic empire and then into North Africa.
The spread of cannabis eventually reached into the Western hemisphere. The Spaniards are then thought to of imported it to Chile for its fiber.
In North America, Hemp was primarily grown for making rope, clothing, and paper.
Hemp is the name given and commonly used to describe the durable soft fiber from the stalk of the plant.
The plant species often cultivated for Hemp is Sativa, this is due to its long stems, some varieties have been known to grow to more than six meters tall.
The term Hemp can also refer to any industrial or food product that has minimal or no trace of the Cannabis compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
Hemp can be used for a variety of different commercial products, these can range from paper, clothing, food products, health products, production material to most textiles in general.
Although Hemp has had a bit of a resurgence in recent times, it’s actually been used by civilizations for thousands of years, it’s one of the most diverse materials there is.
Cannabis Biochemistry & Reproduction
Cannabis plants are made up of compounds called Cannabinoids.
Cannabis plants are mainly annual (meaning it completes a full life cycle in one season) and dioecious (which means it has male (staminate) or female (pistillate) flowers on separate plants).
Cannabis flowers are also imperfect (meaning some parts that should be present are not, or if they are present, they will not be developed).
Cannabis Sex Determination
Cannabis has one of the most complicated mechanisms of sex determination in dioecious plants. Many models have been proposed to explain sex determination in Cannabis.
It’s theorized by some researches that sex determination in a variety of cannabis species can be influenced or even determined due to environmental conditions.
Some treatments with auxin and ethylene have been known to have feminizing effects, whereas similar treatments with cytokinins or gibberellins can sometimes have masculine effects.
In 2020 the cannabis landscape has undergone a huge transformation.
This is in part due to the changes in legalization and the frequent medical studies being released on its benefits for a variety of different illnesses and diseases.
It also correlates with the public’s online use, and the ways they now go about getting their information. It’s no longer kept behind closed doors and filtered down through traditional means to show only one side.
Because of this, and the increasing failure of “the war on drugs” a different approach was necessary.
As well as cannabis being sought and legally sold in a growing number of states and countries.
There’s also a growing list of commercial products that can be found under health & well-being and sold online and in most health stores for medicinal purposes, a few are:
- Hemp oil (Drops, taking orally)
- Hemp tablets
- Hemp oil & Butter (Cooking)
- Hemp body cream
- Hemp body oil
- Hemp gel
- Hemp gummies
Cannabis Legalization & Benefits
Government opinion and laws are finally starting to change and catch up with the public’s feelings on marijuana.
With frequent medical studies being released, everyone is starting to see cannabis in a whole new light.
One of the main sectors seeing these benefits and changes in real time is the medical community. Cannabis and its extracts are now being studied and used to help treat a variety of different illnesses and diseases with success.
Another area seeing benefits of legalization is communities themselves. States and Towns that have legalized cannabis have seen a massive increase in revenue. Which has then been reinvested back into to community.
Legalization also takes it out of the criminals’ hands and puts you the consumer back in charge.
Presently, the recreational use of Cannabis is becoming ever more popular. In the United States alone, it is believed that over 100 million Americans are regular users of Cannabis.
Cannabis Strain Guide
There’s estimated to be around two to three thousand current strains of Cannabis as it stands, with new ones appearing daily.
Most can be classed as either pure or hybrid strains of the plant genus Cannabis, with three main species commonly recognized:
- Cannabis Sativa
- Cannabis Indica
- Cannabis Ruderalis
Strains are often developed to intensify certain characteristics of the plant but also differentiate it from the multitude of strains already on the market.
It’s common for the new strain to be named by its cultivator, they will often go with something catchy and which reflects the properties of the strain itself such as taste, color, smell, or the origin of the strain.
The two species most commonly cultivated for their medicinal and psychoactive effects are Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica.
The third species, Cannabis Ruderalis, produces only trace amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and is the preferred choice grown for commercial use.
Sativa, with its long internodes, branches, and large narrow-bladed leaves are the tallest of the three, some growing more than two to three meters high.
Indica in comparison is generally shorter and bushier, with wider leaflets. These are often favored by indoor cultivators for their size.
The Sativa will often bloom later than Indica, and can also take up to a month or two longer to reach maturity.
The effects of both species can differ, but the ratio of THC to CBD in most varieties are very similar.
Cannabis & Classifications
There’s an ongoing debate whether the existing paradigm of differences between species adequately represents the varied strains found within the genus, Cannabis.
In total, five types can often be found:
- The first having high levels of THC
- The second, that is fibrous and has higher levels of CBD
- Another that is between the two
- One with higher levels of CBG
- Lastly, one with almost no trace of Cannabinoids
Cannabis can be cultivated for its many properties, more often than not the male plants will be separated from females.
This prevents the fertilization of the female plants.
The Pollen produced by the male plant is then caught and stored until it is needed.
When a male cannabis plant pollinates a female plant, the seeds will be F1 hybrids of both the male and female.
The Cannabis plants offspring will often not be identical and will instead have characteristics of both parents.
A hermaphrodite may create female seeds and hermaphrodite seeds. But the female seeds may sometimes only carry the hermaphrodite trait.
Cultivators looking for specific traits will sometimes use a technique called back-crossing. Whereby they breed the plants desired characteristics with a parent plant.
Cultivators often cross progeny to the mother plant, this parent is known as the recurrent parent. The non-recurrent parent is called the donor parent.
The same traits are then looked for in the new offspring. When the traits are detected, the process will then be repeated with the original parent plant.
This technique will then be repeated across multiple generations until it is believed the strain’s genetics are at a stable enough level.
Back-crossing is best used when your only adding simple inherited dominant traits, that can easily be identified in the progeny of each generation.
Cultivators often give their strains distinct names in order to help differentiate them from their competitors’ strains, but in some cases, they may be very similar.
Popular strains can sometimes be incorporated into new hybrids strains, the hybrids will often have a similar name to their parent plant. This phenomenon has occurred with various strains in the market today.
Hydroponics Indoor Gardening
A method of growing plants indoors mainly in a soil-free environment using a medium and mineral nutrient in a water solvent.
Hydroponics compared to traditional farming is now seen by some to be more efficient, and more often than not requires less water for a full crop cycle than traditional methods.
On average though, hydroponics consumes more energy.
The nutrients used in indoor hydroponics can vary but may include byproduct from:
- Fish waste
- Various manures
- Chemical fertilizers
Mediums can also be used in the growing process for things like drainage etc, this is called medium culture, some commonly used ones are:
- Expanded clay pebbles
- Grow stones
- Coir peat
- Rice Husk
- Wood fiber/wood wool
- Sheep wool
- Rock wool
- Brick shards
- Polystyrene foam peanuts
Organic fertilizers are sometimes used to either supplement or entirely replace the compounds used in hydroponic indoor gardening solutions.
However, the introduction of organic fertilizers can sometimes produce a number of challenges in itself.
Sourcing micronutrients from organic fertilizers are sometimes preferred, in addition, humic acids may be added to increase the plants’ intake of nutrients.
The mixing & creating of indoor hydroponic solutions by home growers is often impractical, as commercial products are reasonably priced and readily available.
History of Hydroponics
People have been experimenting and had various successes in hydroponic growing for hundreds of years.
In more recent times it caught the attention of NASA, who after conducting in-depth research, used it for it’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System (CELSS)
NASA’S belief is that ongoing advances in hydroponics indoor gardening will lead to advancements in space travel, as a bio-regenerative life support system.
Hydroponics & Rising Popularity
The recent surge in popularity that hydroponics has seen in the last few years, means it is one of the fastest growing markets today.
The value of the hydroponic industry is expected to keep on rising, so much so that by 2023 it’s predicted its value could be somewhere in the region of two billion dollars.
Hydroponic Techniques, Systems & Cultures
There are two main types of techniques in hydroponics:
For both of these techniques, the hydroponic reservoirs are generally built of plastic. But other materials have been used, including:
It is imperative the containers used in these techniques exclude light, as this prevents algae and fungal growth in the nutrient solution.
These techniques can be further broken down into two cultures:
- Static-solution culture
- Continuous-flow culture
Static – Solution Culture
In static solution culture, plants are typically grown in containers of nutrient solution. The containers in home set-ups are mostly made from mason jars, plastic buckets, tubs or tanks, etc.
Generally, the solution would be carefully aerated but can sometimes also be unaerated.
If the grower opts to keep the solution unaerated then the level needs to be kept low enough, exposing the roots above the solution, this will then allow them to get an adequate intake of oxygen.
Holes should be cut into the lid of the reservoir, this is usually done for each plant, reservoirs can be used for a single plant or multiple plants, the size of the reservoir will normally be increased as the plants’ size increases.
Continuous – Flow Solution Culture
Continuous-flow solution culture is generally easier than static-solution culture.
This is due to the fact that continuous-flow solution culture has the potential to house thousands of plants where any adjustments can be made to all.
When using this system the plants nutrient solution will constantly flow past the roots.
A variation to the above culture is the nutrient film technique developed in the 1960s by Dr. Allen Cooper.
When applying this technique, a shallow stream of water containing the plants’ nutrients is recirculated past the plants’ roots in a thick, watertight root mat, a supply of oxygen is then provided to the plants’ roots.
One of the main advantages of the nutrient film technique over other hydroponics techniques is the plants’ exposure to adequate supplies of oxygen, water, and nutrients, because of this, higher yields are produced over a longer period.
Overall, the nutrient film technique is one of the more productive techniques available.
Ebb & Flow System
In the ebb & flow system, a tray will be positioned above a reservoir of nutrient solution. The tray is then filled with a medium of your choice and then the plant positioned directly on top.
The nutrient solution will then be applied at regular intervals, a timer will be used to signal when the tray should be filled up.
After the process is completed the solution will then drain back into the reservoir, by using this system the medium is regularly flushed with nutrients and air.
Other growing systems and cultures commonly used are:
- Run to waste system/Bengal system (Commonly used in commercial hydroponics)
- Deepwater culture
- Top-fed deep water culture
- Rotary hydroponic system (Commonly used in commercial hydroponics
Growing Tools & Equipment
No hydroponic set-up would be complete without the tools needed, some common tools used are:
- Electrical conductivity meter
- pH meter
- Litmus paper
- pH indicator strips
- Graduated cylinders
- Measuring spoons
Aeroponics, A Brief History
In the year of 1911, V.M.Artsikhovski published an article “On Air Plant Cultures”
He was able to show aeroponics as a suitable alternative for cultivation.
In the year of 1942, W. Carter described a new method of growing plants aeroponically which involved water vapor, this brought with it a means of examining the plants’ roots structure much easier.
The above was followed by L.J. Klotz discovery in 1944, of vapor misted citrus plants and also G.F. Trowel in 1952 who managed to grow apple trees with the use of spray culture.
But it was F. W. Went in 1957 that is first thought to of coined the phrase “aeroponics”, he was able to grow coffee and tomato plants, while applying a nutrient solution mist to the suspended root section.
Pros & Cons of Aeroponics
Although similar to hydroponics, aeroponics is the process of growing plants in a soil and medium free environment.
Plants that are grown within an aeroponics system usually have their roots fully exposed to the air, the exposed roots are then sprayed (misted) by a nutrient-rich water solution.
As most aeroponic systems are not fully closed off from the outside, pests and disease can still be considered a real threat.
Aeroponics can sometimes be combined with conventional hydroponics, this is due to the sensitivity and vulnerability of the exposed roots and stem,
Hydroponics can be used in an emergency situation to try and save the crop if it has been compromised by the aeroponic system failing.
The benefits of aeroponic systems over other methods such as hydroponics are the increased aeration and nutrient delivery to the plants’ roots.
Because of this aeroponics generally produce higher healthier yields, but as it’s a more complex growing culture, it also comes with higher risks of crops failing and therefore is more commonly used in the commercial sector.
As well as the above, another benefit of using aeroponics is the reduced risk of disease transmission from plant-to-plant, as contact is minimal between plants and each spray pulse can be sterile.
In culture systems that grow with soil or other media, the risk of disease spreading is much higher.
The solid media will sometimes require sterilization after each crop, in some cases the media is simply discarded and replaced.
In the case of a plant becoming diseased in an aeroponic system, it’s usually easily rectified by the removal of the diseased plant itself.
The plant support structure is built in such a way, that the process can be completed without disrupting or infecting any other plants.
Another benefit of aeroponics is that they employ the use of equipment such as sprayers, misters, and other devices to deliver a fine mist of nutrient solution to the plants’ roots.
Aeroponic systems are normally of closed-looped system designs, providing environments that provide constant rich air culture, a variation in delivering the nutrient solution is the use of ultrasonic misters (foggers).
Downside of Aeroponics
Water droplet size in an aeroponic system is of crucial importance for sustaining optimal plant growth.
If the water droplets are too big, this will mean less oxygen is available to the plants’ root system which will disrupt or damage growth.
If the water droplet is overly fine, such as droplets sometimes produced by an ultrasonic mister (foggers).
This will produce excessive root hair, the lateral root system is unlikely to develop which hinders sustained growth in an aeroponic set-up.
For the system to really be considered a true air culture the plants’ roots should have no contact with its supports and be fully suspended in the air.
Research & Aeroponic Systems
Through funded research, NASA determined that high-pressure hydro-atomized mist of micro-droplets was necessary for long term growth.
The pressure produced would need to be quite significant for it to penetrate the dense root systems.
With earlier spray systems there was a risk of mineral build up on the mist heads, if this happens it would inhibit the delivery of the nutrient solution, this could then lead to an imbalance in the environment needed for optimal plant growth and ultimately lead to crop failure.
The intricate complexities of aeroponic systems are one of the reasons it’s more commonly used in large scale set-ups in the commercial sector, rather than by hobbyists wanting an indoor grow set-up.
The development of special low-mass polymer materials meant that mineral build up in the next generation hydro-atomizing misting systems or spray jets could potentially be eliminated.
After the introduction of aeroponics to the wider world, researches realized the importance of aeroponics as a valuable research tool, it offered a noninvasive way to examine the plants’ roots at every single stage of development.
Aeroponics allows it’s users a very high level of control, this can be useful, especially for researches who are studying the effects of nutrient application to various plant root systems.
Aeroponics by Type
- Low-pressure units (In most low-pressure units, the plants’ roots will either be suspended above a reservoir of the nutrient solution or inside a connected channel which will then be connected to a reservoir. A pump then delivers the nutrient solution to the roots, after which it will then drain back into the reservoir)
- High-pressure devices (In high-pressure devices, high-pressure pumps generate a mist of the nutrient solution to the plants’ environment, this technique is typically used in the cultivation of high-value crops)
- Commercial systems (aeroponics in large scale commercial set-ups generally comprise of high-pressure device hardware and biological systems, biological subsystems and it’s hardware components consist of varying equipment and controls systems)
Aeroponics & Commercial Usage
Aeroponics use of a hydro-atomized spray system to deliver nutrient solutions minimizes all round water use.
It helps with increasing oxygenation to the plants’ roots and offers a viable alternative to large scale commercial food cultivation.
Aeroponics eliminates the need for substrates and the stockpiling of nutrients while reducing the number of waste materials to be processed.
With the elimination of substrates, this simplifies the planting and harvesting process, increasing opportunities for possible automation and decreases the volume and weight of expendable materials while also eliminating the pathway for pathogen transmission.
The many advantages of aeroponics combined with the results of extensive in-depth research, prove the viability of aeroponics as an alternative choice for large scale food production in the commercial sector.
In the above article, we’ve written about some cannabis basics, cannabis strains, cultivation and more, in what is hopefully an easy to read, condensed and informative way.
But the history of cannabis is long, and its ongoing journey has further to travel yet. If anything, it’s more popular than ever, with plenty more to come.
Well, that’s it! Short but informative.