It is important that growers fully understand the needs of the hemp plant throughout its natural life cycle. There are 3 main stages including seedling, vegetative & flowering with each requiring different nutrients for maximal health and production.
Seeds should be started in light soil consisting of a coco fiber or peat moss and perlite blend. Germination typically takes between 1-2 weeks and the seedling stage begins once the sprouts emerge. If started in an early season greenhouse, seedlings may need additional light supplementation to ensure proper development. The seedling stage lasts between 2-3 weeks and growers need to pay close attention to soil moisture as the plants are more susceptible to overly wet or dry conditions during this stage.
When weather permits, seedlings are transplanted into the fully prepared field around the first week of June here in Colorado. We design our organic soil amendment plan based on soil testing to ensure the plants have enough nutrients to last the entire growing season and have their best chance to thrive. In addition to this, we supplement with organic liquid nutrients via fertigation to address any needs the plant may have throughout its life. As hemp transitions from the seedling stage to the vegetative stage, its nutrient requirements, especially nitrogen, increase significantly. Most of the growth occurs during the vegetative stage which is ultimately responsible for building the foundation for flower development. After 6-8 weeks the hemp plants will begin to transition into the flowering stage (where the magic begins!)
The plants require less nitrogen and more phosphorus for the best flower development. After 6-8 weeks the flowers will fill out and fully develop their cannabinoid and terpene content. We conduct thorough testing starting a few weeks into flowering to make sure the plants are reaching their full (and fattest) potential. Once the buds are nice and full and the pistils start to brown, the plant has reached its full maturity and the time to harvest has come! Timing is very important for cannabinoid content, terpenes and flavor.
Once we have determined the plants are ready based on cannabinoid content and flavor, we carefully harvest them by hand and get them out of the sun to preserve terpenes. We hang them in the barn to slowly air dry in the shade with good ventilation and air flow. Slow air drying maximizes terpene retention while airflow and ventilation prevent mold and mildew. After 5-7 days we shuck the hemp into storage bags to prepare for the CO2 Extraction process.