The prospect of growing hemp can sound quite intimidating, especially if you have never worked with the plant before. In order to grow a successful, plentiful hemp harvest, you will need to research and you will have to anticipate a few “trial and error” lessons.
As hemp has grown in popularity among experienced farmers and novices alike, hemp experts have developed a few tips to get the most out of a harvest.
Schedule a Consultation with an Agronomist
If you are new to hemp farming, you’ll want to consider calling an expert. An agronomist is an expert in the science of crop production and they can help a first-time hemp farmer understand the ins-and-outs of growing a healthy, profitable hemp crop. This expert guide can help you prepare soil for growing hemp, point out all of the needed equipment, devise an irrigation plan and provide insight into local and federal rules and regulations.
Choosing the Right Hemp Seed
Hemp is an extremely versatile plant with a seemingly endless number of applications. Hemp can be used to create fiber, fuel, construction materials, and various other products. Before you start growing hemp, you need to identify the product you are planning on producing. That way, you can find a plant or seed with the genetics you need to reach your goals.
Advances in agricultural technology have made it possible to choose seeds that have the genetics needed to yield the best possible outcomes. For example, if you are interested in growing hemp for CBD hemp oil, there are specific types of plants with higher resin yields to extract CBD. The same is true for other hemp products and that is why it is important to choose the right type of hemp plant for your specific needs in order to maximize your profits.
Only Trust a High-Quality Hemp Seed Provider
Not all hemp seeds are of the same quality. In order to maximize the success of your hemp harvest, you need to put real thought into what type of high-grade hemp seed you choose to work with. The best hemp seeds have a track record of successful yields. Make sure to reach out to other hemp farmers in your region to get their insight on the best hemp seeds for your specific needs and your specific area.
Many hemp farmers have gone through years of trial and error to find the right type of hemp seed, so make the process of choosing the right seed easy by establishing a network of hemp farmers and reach out to them for advice. If you are unable to connect with any farmers, do some research on popular hemp seed companies. You want to find a company with a strong track record of success and a high germination rate. Then, read through the online reviews for that company’s variety of hemp seeds.
Purchase Feminized Hemp Seeds for CBD and CBG Oil
There are both female and male hemp plants. CBD and CBG oil is harvested from the flowers of female hemp plants. On the other hand, male plants only have a very small amount of oil-producing resin, which means that male plants produce very little CBD or CBG oil. Also, male plants will pollinate female plants when the two genders are grown together, which will result in the female plant producing less resin for CBD and CBG oil extraction.
That is why you need to purchase feminized hemp seeds if you are looking to specialize in CBD or CBG production. Feminized seeds are seeds genetically modified to grow into female hemp plants. While no company can guarantee 100% feminization of their seeds, some can offer as high as a 99% feminization rate.
Farmers who choose to use regular hemp seeds (rather than feminized seeds) will need to be very astute at culling the male plants. If they miss even a few plants, they may find that many or most of their female plants have been pollinated. Pollinated female plants grow seeds within their buds, which lowers their CBD content and makes the buds less valuable as a smokable product. (Seeded buds make for harsh smoking. That’s one more reason to invest in feminized seeds!)
Stagger Your Harvest
If you plan on growing a large number of hemp plants, you will need to stagger your harvest. It may be tempting to grow all of your hemp plants at the exact same time, but if your harvest is too large, it will be impossible to give the plants all of the attention they need during the crucial phases of the growing process.
Staggering your hemp crop gives you a logistical advantage. You want to be as efficient as possible when growing hemp and the best way to focus your attention is to plant hemp in waves. That way, when it comes time to cultivate the hemp you won’t have an unrealistic workload. Additionally, this will help keep your labor costs down as you can use the same crew for consecutive harvests.
Avoid Specialization with Only One Hemp Product
It can be very profitable to put all of your focus into one type of hemp product, but it is also quite risky. If you are new to hemp farming, you should consider diversifying your down market products. Hemp can be a fickle plant, and changes in weather, legality, and the consumer marketplace can lead to hemp products once deemed valuable to decrease in value, and vice-versa.
Diversifying the type of hemp plants you grow will also give you more familiarity with different hemp seed strains. Over time, this exposure to different seeds can help you gain experience in identifying the types of seeds that work best in your farming environment and your personal preferences.
Consider Environmental Factors and Local Climate
Hemp thrives in very specific conditions, so before growing hemp, you need to research how environmental factors and the local climate will impact your crop yield. In general, your soil needs to be at least 46 degrees Fahrenheit before you try to seed hemp. The climate should be mild, as environments that are too warm can lead to a poor yield. You’ll want to consider the photoperiods your growing spaces have access to as the exposure to direct sunlight will impact the soil’s temperature. Ideally, the climate should also be a bit humid, with two to three feet of rain each year to make sure the plants have all of the moisture they need to thrive.
Know Your Soil
The type of soil you choose to grow hemp in can have a huge impact on how successful your harvest will be. The best way to identify your ideal soil type is by measuring the soil’s pH levels. Hemp should be grown in soil that has a pH level between 7.0 and 7.5, which is considered marginally alkaline soil.
The soil should also be well-drained. Hemp, like all crops, has its own water preferences. Hemp likes to have consistent water, especially in the first six weeks, but does not do well when it stands in water. The hemp plant cannot handle flooding, so attention must be given to all of your crops following heavy rainfall.
Know Your Varietal and Your Climate
Depending on the end product you are farming for, the use of your acreage will differ. Hemp grown for fiber should be planted densely as this varietal grows tall and thin. When farming for CBD, the specific strain and the local climate will guide your planting spacing. For instance, Red Bordeaux grows in a Christmas tree shape so needs to be spread out. Climate also plays a pivotal role. If farming in a very humid area, extra space should be left between the plants for airflow to limit the chance of mildew. High Grade recommends planting hemp grown for CBD or CBG between 2,000 and 3,500 plants per acre. Knowing your crops needs, and your climate, will help you get the most out of your efforts.
Feed Your Hemp Nitrogen, Phosphate, and Potassium
Hemp grows incredibly fast. A tiny seed can sprout up into a massive hemp plant in just a short amount of time. That much growth means that a hemp plant needs a healthy dose of nutrients to grow vigorously and produce the resin you are counting on.
In the first six to eight weeks it is essential to supply your growing plants with a large dose of nitrogen. During later stages, give your soil potassium and phosphate as well. Generally, you want to provide an acre of hemp with 80 to 100 pounds of nitrogen, 35 to 50 pounds of phosphate, and 50 to 70 pounds of potassium.
Harvest Your Hemp Once It Has Fully Matured
A hemp plant takes somewhere between 75 and 120 days to fully mature, and hemp should not be harvested before the plants have reached full maturity. While you are waiting for your hemp plants to mature, you need to regularly test them to make sure you are in compliance with required THC levels. Farmers are advised to test their hemp once a week and most regions require a full round of testing a month prior to harvest. Check with local officials for more details regarding the tests you need to complete prior to harvest.
After about 70 days, you need to keep an eye on your plants to see if they are mature and ready to harvest. You will know it is time to harvest when your compliance tests come back at the right level. Don’t give in to the temptation to leave the crop in the field to raise your CBD or CBG level, because this could also make your crop go hot. Finding the balance is one more nuanced part of growing hemp, but when the balance is found the rewards can be great.
Ask the Experts for Advice
This serves as a healthy reminder that agronomists are not available just for consultations at the beginning of your hemp harvesting venture. If you are unsure what to do next or have a pressing question at any point during the hemp growing process, reach out to an expert. You do not need to go through this process alone. Work to meet other local or regional hemp farmers, reach out to your state agriculture department, professional agronomist or your Ag extension office and together you can grow in your knowledge of this amazing regenerative crop that is full of potential. Learning to grow this crop can give you short term success as well as lend potential to future generations.
About the author:
At High Grade Hemp Seed, we are inspired by the beauty & versatility of hemp. Our team of expert farmers is dedicated to producing the highest quality, farm-proven genetics. Our goal is to help farmers, help the planet and spread the good word about hemp.