In the last post we spent some time talking about the various options of cannabis seeds and a little about the reproductive cycle of the cannabis plant. If you missed that post in this series, Click Here.
The next thing I want to talk about is how to narrow down the cultivar(s) that are going to best suit your needs as a personal use/medical patient as well as how to figure out what ones may grow best in your area. We are going to focus this post on selecting cultivars that will grow well outdoors in your climate. If you are looking to grow indoors, the possibilities are really endless. When you grow indoors, you can take (almost) complete control over the growing environment, and selecting a cultivar to grow has less to do with the environment/bio region you live in and more to do with your personal needs and preferences.
One of the first and most important questions to ask yourself is this: What is the end result I am looking for in growing this plant? Are you wanting a cultivar that is uplifting or sedating in its effect? Is there a certain condition that I would like to alleviate with this flower (ie migraines, pain, insomnia, arthritis, etc…)? Am I looking for one that is high in THC or CBD? You may also want to consider these questions as well. How am I going to use the cannabis that I produce? Is it for smoking, vaping, hash or other concentrates, edibles, etc….? This is a good place to start. Once you know what and how you are planning to use your flowers, you can then move onto looking at selecting a cultivar that will (hopefully) do well in your area.
A commonly held belief is that Indica plants are more sedating, while sativa plants are more uplifting. Although this can sometimes be true, it is more common than not, that it does not ring true for most cultivars these. days. The main reason being that today’s cannabis varieties are almost all hybrids, meaning there are very few true sativas or true indicas or land-race varieties (more on this in an upcoming post). Most of the common cannabis cultivars today have been bred together many times over and carry a combination of the genetics from all the lines that they came from (genetic lineage). Modern research has shown that although THC and CBD have a noticeable impact on us (think THC – psychotropic and CBD – relaxing for instance), it is often the terpenes (aromatic or essential oils) in the trichomes that regulate or produce many of the effects that we used to attribute solely to indica vs sativa. So for instance, myrcene (muscle relaxant, pain reliever, anti-inflammatory), one of the most dominant terpenes in modern cannabis is actually responsible for part of the sedating, relaxant effects that are felt by the consumer. Whereas another terpene such as limonene (often sound in ‘sativa’ described cultivars), can produce ‘uplifting’ or euphoric effects and give people more motivation and not leave them feeling drained or ‘burnt-out’. I encourage you to do a little research on terpenes and you will begin to see some correalation between the effects of certain varities of cannabis that are high in specific terpenes such as the two mentioned above. As well as other common cannabis terpenes such as linalool, humulene, terpinolene, beta-caryophyllene, pinene, ocimene, etc…. I will eventually get to a post dedicated to terpenes as well.
In terms of CBD and THC (two of the most studied cannabinoids found in cannabis). Each person may be looking for varying quantities. If you are looking to use cannabis medicinally for non-cancer related therapy, research has shown that a 1:1 ration between THC and CBD is often the most effective. Others may be looking for a high THC variety to treat pain, help with sleep, stress, relaxation, appetite stimulation and a host of other benefits. Varieties high in CBD are often sought out by people who are not looking for the ‘high’ that THC produces. But are looking for help with anxiety, localized pain relief, seizures, muscle spasms and a many other positive benefits. This is just a short list and description of a few common ailments that cannabis can be helpful for.
Now that you know a little more about the end result (effect) of the cannabis you are looking for, it is important to look at two more factors. First of you want to find quality genetics and secondly, you want to make sure that the cultivar you want to grow will do well in your area. Let’s start with genetics. This can be a tricky one, because if you are new to cannabis, how do you know what quality genetics are? Especially all the options out there and the huge influx of ‘breeders’ to the marketplace in the last few years. Back in the day, seeds were not super easy to come by. Today, there are so many options that it can be confusing. Although there are a lot of newer breeders that are releasing quality seeds. There are also a lot of breeders out there that are simply crossing one plant to another, coming up with a fancy sounding name and charging a lot of money for seeds and plants that have never really been tested. Quality breeders will test their seeds multiple times, making sure to select for strong, healthy plants that produce well, have the desired potency (THC, CBD, terpenes, etc…), may be disease or pest resistant among other things. This type of time, work and dedication is what creates quality genetics (as well as starting with good genetics to begin with!) It takes time to do these things and that is partly why many breeders skip these steps to make a fast buck. When you first begin, it can be a good idea to look for breeders that have been around for 10 plus years and carry some older cultivars as opposed to new breeders pushing the new ‘hyped’ strains. No matter how you take care of and feed your plants, inferior genetics will never produce top quality flowers. Whereas quality genetics can often yield great results even with an incompetent, inexperienced grower at the helm.
When it comes to location and bio-region, most cultivars will do well outdoors in a sunny southern region. But seeing as most modern varieties have been bred to be grown indoors, many of these cultivars will not do well in a cold northern climate or a moist, humid climate either. This is why it is important to look for some of the hardier, pest and disease resistant cultivars if you do not live in a warm, sunny, southern region. If you live in a northern climate, you are going to want to look for cultivars that are quick to finish and can handle the shorter, colder season.
Ask yourself some questions:
- How long is your growing season (frost free days). Here in Great Lakes Country, we are generally safe from frost between May 24th and the end of September. Give or take a week or so on each side of the season. This gives us roughly 3.5-4 months of a frost free growing season.
- Next ask yourself how much sunlight does your area get throughout the growing season. Remember to also consider the area that you are planting your plants. You want to have at least 6 hours of direct sunlight on your plants each day, preferably more.
- Also find out what are the conditions in the location that you would like to grow your plants such as annual temperatures (night and day), amount of daily sunlight, prevailing winds, precipitation frequency, etc….
- Lastly, what are the conditions like in your area during the growing season and does it change from the start to the end of the season. Do you live in a moist, hot environment, cool and dry, hot and dry, cold and wet, etc…..
If the weather in your area tends to be cool and wet/humid (especially in the fall), you are going to want to look for cultivars that are mold and powdery mildew resistant and finish early (especially if growing plants that produce tight, dense flowers). You may also want to consider some of the ‘sativa hybrid’ cultivars that produce flowers that are not as dense. If you are in a colder environment, you will want to look for varieties that are more cold tolerant as well. Remember to look at where the breeder is from as well. For instance, the outdoor growing season in California or Holland for that matter is quite different from central Ontario, Quebec or the Canadian Prairies!
If you are in a warm and dry habitat with a long season, perhaps you want to try some varieties that have a longer cycle and/or plants that produce large dense flowers. Growers who live in more southern climates have a lot of options, but even if you live in the north, there are a number of choices of cultivars that you have that will produce beautiful, top shelf buds.
As you can see there are many factors and things to look at when trying to select a cultivar that will do well in your particular area. This is by no means an exhaustive list, it is meant to be a place to start. From here, your experience growing will be the best thing to guide you forward. Each year you will learn more and be able to try out different genetics. You can also start to breed and make your own new cultivars and over time and through proper selection, you can create plants that thrive in your local area. Feel free to send us any questions you may have and we wish you all the best in your cannabis endeavors.