To get the best quality CBD products, you need to start with the best quality plants – these are particular strains of the cannabis plant that contain only small amounts of THC and very high amounts of CBD. Cannabis is known for being a quite a hardy plant that’s easy to grow, but to get a high yield at a high standard, it requires expert knowledge and experience.
Hemp is a highly adaptable plant that can be grown in a wide range of climates. Although hemp originated in China, it has been grown in many other parts of the world for centuries. These days, the main thing that determines where hemp is grown is the legal status in a particular country or state.
The growing conditions for hemp and marijuana are similar but not identical. Hemp plants ideally like full sun and a well-drained, but not sandy, soil. Hemp requires damp soil during the germination process, but once established they are fairly drought resistant. Hemp can be planted much more densely than marijuana, only requiring around 4 inches of space between in each plant. Marijuana on the other hand requires much more space and needs carefully controlled climate conditions.
THE GROWING CYCLE
There are a number of different strains of hemp, but generally speaking it has a life cycle of around 100-150 days, which is much longer than marijuana (around 90 days). The plant goes through four stages before it can be harvested, with each stage needing different care and conditions.
This is the stage at which the seed first comes to life. In the case of hemp, seeds are usually planted directly into the soil in which they will be grown, unlike other plants that are often planted in small containers and later transferred to the soil. Prior to germination, the seed is in a dormant state, waiting for the right conditions to begin growing – it can remain in this state for years. Once the seed is planted in the soil and given water, the first sprout will emerge and grow towards the surface, while the root will begin to grow down. This usually occurs within 5-10 days of planting. During this initial stage the plants are somewhat fragile and must not be allowed to dry out.
During the seedling stage, which lasts around 2-3 weeks, you’ll begin to see the development of the fan leaves that characterise the cannabis plant. As the leaves develop, the plant can take in UV rays, which allows the plants to grow. The seedling may grow many leaves at this point, but it is still considered a seedling until it grows 5-7 blades per leaf. The seedling stage is also a vulnerable one for the cannabis plant, and it should not be exposed to underwatering or extreme weather conditions.
The vegetative growth stage is when the plant does the bulk of it’s growing, becoming recognisable as cannabis. This stage lasts around 3-16 weeks and it’s the best time to prune and train the plant. This will ensure that it grows full and bushy for a high flower yield, and that it does not waste energy on creating long stems of mainly leaves.
This is the final stage of the growing cycle and obviously the most important in terms of the production of CBD. While cannabinoids are found right through the plant, they are the most concentrated in the resinous flowers. The flowers will begin to emerge when the days get shorter, and they have around 12 hours of darkness. Flowers are produced by the female plant, and the difference between the sexes will become apparent at the flowering stage. Male plants are removed so that they do not pollinate the female plants, which would result in them spending their energy on producing seeds, not flowers. The first sign of flowers will be delicate hairs known as trichomes. Over the next few weeks, the buds will begin to form and the amount of cannabinoids in the flowers will increase. The flowering stage takes around 5-7 weeks.
Once flowering has begun, it requires an expert to determine exactly the best time to harvest the flowers. At the start of flowering, the levels of CBD in the flowers is only minimal, but increases as the flowers grow. However, if they are left too long on the plant, the CBD content in the buds can begin to deteriorate. Industrial hemp (which is used for fibre and seed) can be machine harvested, but hemp for CBD is much more labour intense. These flowers usually need to be harvested by hand, as any damage can impact the cannabinoids themselves.
Once the flowers are harvested, they need to be fully dried. This not only improves the potency of the CBD, but is also vital to prevent the development of mildew – which would make the flower unusable. The buds are then either packed as is to be sold as flowers, or sent off for processing into CBD oil. You can read more about the CBD extraction process here.