How to Grow Hemp (What You Need to Know About Growing CBD Hemp)
So, you want to grow hemp? It’s the perfect time to start learning everything you can. With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill by the federal government, it’s now legal (once again) to grow hemp in the USA. While regulations on growing hemp haven’t yet been determined, it’s only a matter of time before growing hemp could become one of the most commonly cultivated crops.
The money in hemp isn’t bad either. While the legal status of CBD varies from state to state, by some estimates, the hemp market for CBD could be worth up to $30,000 an acre. Plant hemp with a 10, 20, 50, or 100-acre hemp farm, and you’re looking at a rather lucrative crop.
There seems to be no stopping for the hemp industry. For those that know how to harvest hemp and cultivate hemp, crops like hemp are helping farmers see potential growth from this industry.
While many farmers are growing a small crop of hemp right along with all of their other crops. So Let’s dive right in and find out how farmers can make hundreds of thousands on this incredible cash crop.
How to Grow Hemp: The Basics
Seeing as the topic of hemp growing could encompass an entire book, here we’re simply going to cover the basics of hemp cultivation. If you’re interested in hemp farming, but don’t know much about a hemp harvest or have the slightest idea of where to start, consider this written especially for you.
What is Hemp?
Like marijuana, hemp is a member of the Cannabis sativa L. plant species. While both cannabis plants are from the same species, these cannabis plants contain a unique biological structure which makes them very different plants indeed.
While marijuana plants produce thick, dense buds and grow to be relatively bushy, hemp plants are tall and thin, and they don’t produce the buds that marijuana is famous for. When you look at a hemp and marijuana plant side by side, there is no mistaking the difference between the two.
One of the biggest differences between hemp and marijuana, however, is the cannabinoid content each contains. While marijuana can contain 5-30% THC (or more), hemp plants contain less than 0.3% THC.
Since the controlled substances act came into effect, the possession, cultivation, processing, or distribution of industrial hemp has limited purposes. Most of them fall under agricultural or academic research carried out by a state department of agriculture, and a farmer will need special licenses to grow, cultivate and farm hemp.
What is Hemp Used For?
Hemp cultivation exists for a few different reasons. Years ago, growers have been looking at hemp for industrial purposes (such as for making hemp fibers). The hemp plant is also grown for the nutritional value found in the hemp seed that can be eaten by itself or used to make hempseed oil. Hemp is a hardy plant and is mainly used for rope, textiles, paper, animal feed, and much more.
Most recently, hemp has been widely cultivated for CBD. When discussing hemp farming techniques, it’s vital to determine what you’re interested in growing it for. Fiber? Seed? CBD? Currently, farmers growing hemp for CBD is making the biggest buzz and industry experts expect that new markets for CBD will continue to grow.
Why? Because the CBD industry has exploded and is estimated to be worth some $22 billion by 2022. And now that it’s (almost) legal to grow in the US, there are plenty of people that want in on the action. Let’s take a deeper look at the different categories of industrial hemp. We’ll cover some topics every would-be hemp farmers should know.
For years, farmers have traditionally grown the hemp plant for its fiber. Fibrous types of hemp can be grown to produce paper, textiles, fuel, building materials, and much more.
Hemp grown for fiber is typically done on a large-scale production (including harvesting, processing, and transporting).
Hemp seeds are one of the most nutritional food items that exist. Seed/grain food types of a particular hemp plant will typically contain a significantly lower cannabinoid content but are prized for their precious seeds as a nutritional food source.
Farmers take great care when they plant these hemp seeds because they are extremely delicate and must be harvested, processed, and transported with extreme care. Storage is also vital to ensure the highest possible quality.
Cannabinoid-rich types of hemp are the most popular, as they contain significant amounts of cannabidiol (CBD) that can be used to make oil and various products. Growing CBD hemp strains requires a certain level of mastery when it comes to cultivation in order to achieve the highest CBD levels while keeping THC levels under 0.3%.
Hemp grown for CBD typically only employs female plants because male and female plants grown together will increase seed production while decreasing CBD levels. The very first thing you should ask yourself when learning about hemp farming is what type of hemp you want to grow.
You see, hemp grown for fiber, seeds, and CBD oil is grown much differently. CBD is extracted from female hemp. On CBD hemp farms, there are typically 1,000-1,600 plants grown per acre and all are tended to individually by the farmer.
It’s grown similarly to marijuana, with the big difference being the levels of THC contained in the plant itself. Both female and male plants are grown in a crop of hemp. There is a planting level of some 400,000 plants per acre. When compared to marijuana harvesting, hemp is reaped more like a crop of wheat.
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How to Grow Hemp
This article was co-authored by wikiHow staff writer, Hunter Rising. Hunter Rising is a wikiHow Staff Writer based in Los Angeles. He has more than three years of experience writing for and working with wikiHow. Hunter holds a BFA in Entertainment Design from the University of Wisconsin – Stout and a Minor in English Writing.
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Hemp is a hardy plant used for textiles, paper, animal feed, and much more. While hemp is typically grown for industrial purposes, it’s also a plant you grow on your own. After planting the seeds in the spring and caring for them through summer, you can harvest the fibers and seeds to use. But before you start a crop, make sure to check your local laws to see if it’s legal to grow hemp in your area!
A Simple Step-by-Step Guide on How to Grow Hemp
Hemp has a multitude of uses, both medicinally and industrially. And because it’s also an easy-to-grow plant, that is simple to maintain and harvest, it is becoming an increasingly popular crop for farmers to grow. But many individuals are also interested in growing their own hemp. For some, it’s a way to ensure that they know exactly where their CBD comes from. For others, it’s simply an interesting experiment in cultivation. Here is an easy, step-by-step guide to help you on the road to growing hemp from seeds outdoors, whether doing it at home, or on a larger scale.
Step 1: Soil, Sun & Water
Hemp prefers well-aerated, loamy soil rich in organic matter and fertile. Hemp also prefers a soil with a pH of 6-7.5. If you get these conditions right, it will help ensure that the plants have all they need to get them through the growing season.
The first thing you want to do is check the condition of the soil you plan on planting the hemp seeds. You can either buy a soil test at your local hardware store, nursery or online. Alternatively, take a soil sample to your local agricultural center for testing. Once you know what you are dealing with, supplement your soil with the recommended minerals.
Hemp plants love sun, and should be planted where they receive the maximum amount of sunlight available. With that said, hemp can, and does, grow in as little as six hours of sunlight per day, but to thrive, full sun is better. Think of 12 or more hours of sunlight per day.
If you’re growing your hemp outside, it’s important to know that hemp needs at least 20 to 30 inches (50 to 75 cm) of rainfall during its growth cycle. Ideally you don’t want soil moisture to go below 80% the total moisture capacity. This is especially true during germination, with water absorption increasing each day until the flowering stage begins.
If the area you are growing your hemp in doesn’t receive this much rain, consider installing an irrigation system or growing the hemp
Step 2: The Seeds
Deciding on the type of seeds you want to grow and where to get them from is essential before you even consider sowing a single seed.
THC-rich cannabis is still considered an illegal substance within the European Union (EU). Similarly, most European countries also have stringent, but also different, regulations around cannabis cultivation, selling and usage.
When it comes to legal cannabis or hemp cultivation, EU regulations impose a THC level of less than 0.2% so that the final product does not produce intoxicating effects. It is therefore vital that you buy and grow only certified hemp seeds, of which you need to keep the documentation for one year, or at least as long as it’s harvested.
Standard vs Feminized vs Auto-Flowering Seeds
Standard hemp seeds
As the name suggests, standard hemp seeds are exactly that: bog-standard hemp seeds the way nature intended them to be. That means that when you buy a packet of standard hemp seeds, you will probably get a mix of male and female plants, which is not always a good thing. When your mature male hemp plants release pollen and pollinate your female hemp plants produce seeds, causing them to focus their energy on creating the next generation of hemp plants instead of the hemp flowers most people are looking for.
Feminized hemp seeds
Feminized hemp seeds by-passes this issue as they are seeds that only grow female plants by carefully stressing female plants. When mature female hemp plants are stressed, they produce seeds that preserve their genetic line, containing the same genetic makeup as their mother, including only female chromosomes. Feminized hemp seeds are larger and sturdier, though their most significant advantage is their lack of pollen.
Autoflowering hemp seeds
Auto-flowering seeds are typically strains that automatically switches from the vegetative stage to the flowering stage without requiring closely timed hours of light and dark. This means that unlike photoperiod seeds that the only flower after the summer solstice, auto-flowering seeds start blooming once they reach the right size. Despite producing lower yields, auto-flowering seeds are great if you want multiple harvests per year, want to stagger plants and/or are new to growing hemp.
As mentioned, in the EU, cannabis is considered hemp when it has a THC-content of less than 0.2% (although local laws and regulations might be different). That means that you can pick from different strains that have been specifically cultivated to adhere to these regulatory guidelines for European production.
Among the strains most chosen by producers are the Cannabis Sativa strains called Carmagnola, Eletta Campana, Finola, Felina 34 and Future 75, all of which are regularly selected by professional cultivators within the CBD market as they contain high levels of cannabidiol and other microcannabinoids and terpenes.
Step 3: Growing Hemp
When to plant hemp seeds
Seeds should be planted after the last danger of frost has passed. In northern Europe this is typically in early to mid-spring, or from April/June onwards. But it in the end, conditions are more important than calendar dates and you need to make sure that you have a stable soil temperature of at least 10°C and above. You also need to make sure that there are at least 6 to 8 hours of full sunlight and deep watering for germination to occur.
How to plant hemp seeds
Once you’re sure conditions are ready, plant the seeds, spaced most commonly 1 meter by 2 meters apart, if space allows. This leaves sufficient space for the hemp plant to grow and reach full maturity while also giving enough room for walking between, inspecting and harvesting the plants. But although this amount of space keeps the field manageable, it’s not always necessary. If you are growing on a smaller scale, hemp can be planted very densely with no issues as well, and you can leave less growing room between plants.
Once your seeds are in the ground, they should be deeply watered once a week, early in the morning, or at dusk to prevent evaporation. Seed-sprouts should start emerging anywhere from between 5-10 days, although some seeds can take as long as two weeks.
Should you use any chemicals?
Growing hemp organically is more than just a fad, or a good thing to do for the environment. While every plant absorbs nutrients from the soil, hemp is also a powerful “bioaccumulator.” This means that hemp is good at absorbing other substances from the ground as well, including toxins, heavy metals, and other potentially harmful chemicals.
That’s splendid news if you want to use hemp to clean your soil. But it’s not such great news if you want to use your hemp harvest for ingestion, inhalation or making your own CBD extracts. So, we recommend growing your hemp organically will ensure that you don’t risk ingesting harmful toxins along with your CBD.
Step 4: Harvesting and Curing
If hemp is grown for CBD extraction, it is typically harvested in early to mid-autumn (think early to late October). This is when cannabinoid levels are at their peak and the hemp flowers are ripe and full, ready for drying and optimal curing.
Harvesting is a simple process in which you cleanly cut the lowest seed pod off just below the stalk. The best tool to use is a set of shears, snips or scissors. If you didn’t use feminized seeds, we also recommend holding the cutting over a tarp to thrash the clipping with a stick, club, or bat to knock all the seeds off onto the tarp or bin.
Drying needs to happen immediately, before the quality of the hemp reduces, spoil and/or grow mold. The easiest way to do this is to blow air directly underneath the freshly harvested hemp so you can push air into it while it’s fresh from the field. And while the hemp is drying, try to keep it in a dry, constantly ventilated area.
Trimming hemp flowers
Once dried, you can hand trim the hemp flowers and stop there. However, we recommend going taking the hemp flowers through a curing process as well, ensuring improved cannabinoid profiles, aroma, and flavor.
For the curing process, place the dried hemp plant material into separate ceramic, metal, wood, and glass containers that have wide openings and air-tight seals. Fill the container up without compressing the plant material and secure the lid, ensuring that zero air penetrates the interior. By doing this, it allows some internal moisture from the hemp to rehydrate the exterior leaves.
Storing hemp flowers
Set aside the containers in a cool, dark, dry area away from direct heat, moisture, and light. After a week, remove the lids and allow a few minutes for oxygen levels to get back to normal inside the containers. Also check for mold: if you detect the smell of ammonia, mold has probably started to grow, rendering it unusable. Continue to open the jars once per day for the next two to four weeks, or until the plant material is sticky, spongy, aromatic and break apart easily without crumbling.
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