Using patience, skill, and a little bit of luck, you should have spent the last six to eight weeks watching tiny seeds grow from fragile-looking seedlings into leafy thriving marijuana plants. Now that your crop is thriving, it’s time to turn your attention to the future. Maintaining your garden, deciding when to harvest, and even planning for next year’s crop are all issues that are directly affected by each individual plant’s gender.
As your plant matures (and you get one step closer to that first satisfying puff on the most delicious, home-grown, and pampered pot you’ve ever smoked) you will start to notice changes in foliage production and developing appendages. Small growths will appear at the juncture where leaf stems connect to plant stalks. Certain plants will grow taller and thinner while others will remain short but bushy. These changes are a direct result of the plants reaching a new level of growth in which they are sexually mature. Once plants begin to show signs of their gender, you can better identify which plants will be more potent and which plants you wish to reproduce to keep you smoking throughout the year.
Sexing Your Plant
Like most plants, cannabis is photosensitive, growing in different ways in response to lengthening, then shortening summer days. When changing seasons cause daylight hours to drop below eighteen hours, marijuana plants are triggered to enter their “flowering” (also known as (“fruiting”) phase. Male plants react first and fastest, producing “false” buds with tiny green-white egg-shaped flowers that visibly emit a cloud of pollen when shaken.
Females trail males by about two weeks, finally showing their gender by developing a growth at the ends of the top and each branch that resembles a tiny whitish-haired cactus. In another month those infant buds will have taken on considerable mass, their outsides will be sticky with resin, and they will give off strong odors that may range (presuming your seeds were culled from “commercial” pot) from very skunk-like to a sweet, even pleasant bruised-fruit odor.
Before waning daylight forces cannabis plants to openly reveal their gender, a good rule of thumb is to anticipate that your tallest plants are likely to be males. Beginning pot farmers usually find that revelation to be depressing, but male plants have evolved to grow faster and taller and to mature before females. By towering over females, male flowers can drop pollen down onto budding females, and the tiny granules will travel farther on a breeze.
Males also die more quickly, sometimes before the first frost, and until they do, the flowers they produce can be snipped off, dried, and smoked (or eaten) to produce a high that is nearly as good as the one gotten from smoking bud. A male’s flowering stage can be prolonged by trimming several inches from the tops and ends of branches, leaving some flower-bearing stalks below to regrow into more “male buds” that can be harvested and smoked.
Seeds or No Seeds?
As the existence of genders implies, marijuana plants in the wild reproduce when male pollen fertilizes female flowers and the next generation of seeds are produced. As a grower you have to decide if you want to allow some of your plants to develop seeds or if you want to keep your crop unfertilized so that your plants remain unaffected by the chemical changes caused by reproduction. Seeds can be a tricky issue for home growers. It’s a definite bonus to have your own stash of seeds for planting next year’s crop, but reproducing can have adverse effects on several characteristics of the female plant.
As soon as a female plant is fertilized, the production of resin (which contains significant concentrations of THC compound) begins to slow down as the plant concentrates on producing seeds. In contrast, the “bud” of an unfertilized female flower is the most potent part of any marijuana plant. Even more important, a female plant can stay in the “flowering” stage for six to ten weeks as long as no fertilization takes place. This unfertilized state results in the growth of numerous buds all over a healthy female plant. Many urban legends surround the topic of seedless “ganje,” Seedless buds are easier to deal with because there’s no need to painstakingly remove foul-tasting seeds that might be inadvertently rolled into a joint or stuffed into a bowl. Pot growers who bootleg their crops like seeds because they add weight. After that, as the weed makes its way through the marketing process, the value-subtracted effect of seeds on profit is passed on until only the terminal buyer, the user, pays for pot seeds he can’t smoke. if you prefer the convenience of ganjano seeds, just peel a bud from its stem and stuff it into a paper or a bowl-then you’ll want to uproot male plants as soon as they begin to grow flower buds at the tops and at the ends of their branches. Ideally, this will be done before the first pollen-bearing flowers appear.
Males are always the first to reveal their gender, beginning with tiny flower buds at the ends of their branches and tops that might be mistaken for the female buds that are the real prime smoke in terms of potency, fragrance, and taste. It takes a trained eye to confidently rip out large, healthy male plants at the first sign of a bud; no horror could be greater than to kill a 4-foot female that would potentially produce 2 ounces of lovely buds. And because male plants begin emitting pollen granules as soon as they bud, even before they actually flower, the most earnest attempt at producing pure, seedless buds ends up with a few seeds. Fortunately, there are seeds in most “street” marijuana, because to prove a point, every plant shown on these pages was sprouted from seeds culled from a half ounce of pot I bought from a local seller. There are nine females out of eighteen adults in this crop, which is below the 70 percent male average. Like most personal-use growers, I let the males pollinate the buds, and when this harvest comes in there will be more seeds than I’ll want to plant.