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Since their introduction, the cultivation of autoflowering strains has become quite an experience. Their flowering time versus their yield and growing conditions is an interesting conundrum for amateurs and experts alike.
By their very nature, autoflowering strains are easier to grow. Unlike regular photoperiod strains, autoflowering cannabis automatically switches between vegetative and flowering stages with age rather than the ratio of light exposure. This means that most Autoflowering strains are ready to harvest within 10 weeks of first germination.
This makes them ideal for beginner growers looking for an easier way to get started and is useful for traditional growers because of their quick turnarounds.
But while they are inherently simpler to grow, that doesn’t mean you can just plant them and leave them waiting for a bumper crop. There are still many things to consider.
Getting started before you begin
It’s tempting to browse an autoflowering product page and get excited at the prospect of having your own home-grown buds in just a few weeks. But, since they don’t take long to grow once potted, you need to plan your growing process beforehand.
What growing medium will you use? If you are growing outdoors, is the climate suitable for this time of year? If you are growing indoors, have you organized lighting and ventilation?
Growing different plants gives you some leeway to adjust the way you grow them. The speed of autoflowering means you have to get all your ducks in a row before you start germinating.
The right pot for the crop
You’ve designated your space outdoors, or you’ve hooked up your lights indoors, and you’re ready to get started. Autoflowering cannabis doesn’t like to be transplanted due to its short growth cycle (if you’re going to transplant, better do it sooner rather than later), once your seeds are planted, ideally they should stay put. You should make sure your pots are the right size for a fully grown plant.
You shouldn’t need excessively large pots, as autoflowering plants tend to be smaller; however, the pot should have enough room for the roots to grow.
They also need good drainage, so perhaps breathable containers, such as fabric pots, are your best option. Otherwise, plastic pots with lots of drainage holes will work well if that is your only option.
Getting the right nutrients
Recently, the Godfather of autoflowering strains himself, The Joint Doctor, joined Seedsman on a live stream to share his tips on growing autoflowering; he said, “One of the best ways to grow autoflowers is low intervention, don’t overthink them.
Nutrients are important, but most autoflowers don’t require too many nutrients because you’re adding things to improve a plant that’s already genetically engineered to grow as-is. Use your common sense. If the plant is growing well and looking good, adding nutrients is just trying to improve something that is already working well. If they need them, then add them, but don’t just add nutrients for the sake of it.
Anything you do wrong will stunt the plant, so be kind to it, whether it’s planting or nutrients. Be kind.”
So, there you have it. Autoflowering roots are less expansive than photoperiods, so if you follow a nutrient chart, be sure to take into account the size of your plant and adjust accordingly.
Best practice with autoflowering nutrients is not to add too much and let the plant grow as organically as possible, if possible. If you grow indoors and control the environment, if you get the lighting, ventilation and humidity right, nutrients should not be excessive, but still need to be taken into account.
Let there be light
Autoflowering plants are hardy and adaptable, but if you light them well, you will be making life easier for them. Autoflowering plants do best with a light ratio of 18/6. Some growers insist on a 24-hour life cycle from start to harvest. We would say give them a break, as sometimes you can get too much of a good thing.
If you’re growing outdoors in summer, you may be concerned that you’re only getting 10-12 hours of sun, but the sun is much more powerful than any artificial light, so don’t stress too much.
Indoors, try to use full-spectrum LEDs, as the more lumens offered, the higher the yield. That said, autoflowers prefer HPS and LEDs to CFLs or fluorescents.
Yes, autoflowers are hardy and more tolerant, but if you get your watering wrong, you don’t stand a chance. Too little water means a dead plant, and too much water makes it rot.
So how do you get it right?
Try to follow a regular watering schedule. But use your common sense. There is no one schedule that fits all crops. There are too many variables, such as soil composition, moisture, plant size, age and others, to establish a single watering guideline.
When you first plant your germinating seed, try to make sure the soil is moist before adding the seed. Many first-time growers make the mistake of watering the soil immediately, which can drown the seed. If necessary, mist it lightly.
Water, like lighting and nutrition, depends on observation. Adjust accordingly.
Consider your pH
Indoors or outdoors, in soil or hydroponics, pH must be kept in mind at all times.
In a hydroponic grow, the pH balance should be between 5.5 and 6.5. In soil, any value between 6.0 and 7.0 is fine.
A pH below 5.5 means that nutrients such as magnesium and calcium are not absorbed; the same is true for any value above 7.0. Incorrect pH in the water or soil can ruin the crop.
So be sure to invest in a proper pH measuring product, such as a pH meter, to keep your crop on hand.
Don’t forget about growth
Due to the reduced harvest period for seeds, you need to train your plant to encourage better performance as early as possible. To do this, you need to apply low stress techniques, as the plant is still quite fragile.
This means making sure that all points of the buds receive equal light and possibly using strings and sticks to make sure they are propped up and balanced.
Some say to prune autoflowers as soon as the nodes appear to encourage a more extensive canopy, but, as the Joint Doctor said, sometimes less is more.
Your goal should be to make sure your stems are supported and equally lit. How you do that is up to you.
Not too hot, not too cold
Despite their hardy nature, if you constantly fluctuate the temperature in which your plants grow, you’re not going to have any success.
Growing them outdoors means you’re at the mercy of the elements, so ideally you’ll want to plant them in summer, where it’s warm most of the time. Still, if temperatures soar, you may need to consider shading your plants to reduce the heat on them.
The perfect temperature for an ideal autoflowering crop is debatable, but most agree that between 67 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit (20-25 degrees Celsius) is excellent.
Also, your plants need fresh air circulation (like any growing plant) to help reduce the possibility of mold and ensure adequate humidity.
Sit for a few minutes in the spot where your plants are growing. Is it warm enough? Too hot? Is it too breezy? Does it need some shade? If you feel any adverse effects, so will your Autoflowers.
Harvest with patience
When your plant starts flowering, each bud will flower differently and therefore will not be ready to be harvested all at the same time. The buds at the top tend to ripen faster than those at the bottom, so start with those.
Leave the rest for another day, two or three, and then you can harvest them. This ensures a good yield and, if done correctly, can give you a year-round result if grown in the right conditions (indoors, usually).
Have fun with it
If this is your first time growing Autoflowering, chances are you won’t get it right. The best way to learn is to make mistakes and make sure you don’t repeat them. Autoflowering cannabis, despite its incredible genetics, is still just a plant.
And, like any plant, in addition to light, food and water, it needs love and attention. Its performance corresponds to its efforts. Put in the work, share the love, and your plant will grow big and strong with big, sticky buds.
Good luck to you.