This article appears in Volume 5 – Issue 1 of SKUNK Magazine.
One of the many reasons why people grow autoflowering strains is because they are just easier to grow. They flower on their own after reaching a certain height, usually after about three weeks regardless of the light cycle, and finish in a fast eight to nine weeks from seeding. This can be an advantage indoors as well as outdoors since no separate vegetative and flowering (or cloning) rooms are necessary.
Backyard and amateur growers are attracted to autoflowering plants, many of them Internet enthusiasts. As a result, the range of outdoor growing has expanded. In Finland, for example, Lowryder was quickly adopted by outdoor gardeners, as it allowed for an earlier harvest than virtually any other weed variety – which makes all the difference in a very short season.
Autoflowering plants are a relatively new phenomenon, but things have evolved quite rapidly since the original Lowryder came on the scene. When it first came out, Lowryder was both hailed as one of the most interesting innovations in recent cannabis history and heavily criticized in many online forums as a terrible scam or a wild hemp strain.
Regardless, autoflowering varieties continue to do very well. Major Dutch seed companies now offer their own autoflowering varieties, while other, smaller Internet-based seed banks in Europe strictly sell autoflowering strains. Most, if not all of them, used my Lowryder #1 or Lowryder #2 as a breeding parent, infusing the autoflowering trait into their creations. It is a growing segment of the seed biz that I am proud to have been a part of. Now that the big boys are flogging the autoflowering thing, it really shows how much acceptance the concept has gained.
AUTOFLOWERING MEETS FEMINIZED
Autoflowering plants are ideal for closet, box and balcony growers who just want to grow some good stash. There is no need for multiple set-ups, timer changes, cloning rooms etc. Autoflowering plants pass directly from the seedling to the flowering stage, doing away with the vegetative growth stage. In other words, the seed sprouts, emerges, grows a couple sets of leaves and then automatically begins flowering. As a result, they are some of the quickest, most compact and most easily concealed plants available.
Another advancement that has made things easier for the home grower has been the inception of feminized seeds. These have been around longer than autoflowering plants and though at first they were very rare, they’re now widely available. Basically, they are obtained by reversing the sex of female plants so that they produce female pollen. This eliminates male plants – and chromosomes – from the equation. With feminized seeds, there is no need for sexing, so more energy and space can be put into producing buds.
The marriage of the two innovations was just a question of time, as both technologies address very similar goals. Feminized Lowryder #1 and #2 are expected to quickly outsell their original counterparts, as is seen with regular seed varieties. This year, several major Dutch seed companies are unveiling their own new feminized autoflowering strains. Now, feminized autoflowering varieties are opening new possibilities, like growing straight from seed in a single hydro system. Vegetative and cloning rooms are no longer necessary, eliminating a lot of wasted time and space.
This should be an exciting prospect for any grower concerned about their space and energy use. But to the amateur gardener, the silent majority, the most interesting aspect of this just resides in the “dummy” factor, where there will be no mucking about with separate rooms, timer changes, cloning or sexing.
I have been working out a simple method for growing female autoflowering plants in a single space or room, with constant light cycle and conditions and, most importantly, continuous results. I think it presents some good ideas for the majority of us who are neither professional growers nor guerilla farmers, as it can be done without a lot of time or resources and without cloning. Hopefully, success means supplying your own medicinal or private stash on a continuous basis.
Basically, working with a 60-day plant life cycle, you are attempting to achieve a balance so that after a certain time, you end up seeding new plants and harvesting mature plant(s) alternately about every 10 days. This is an abstract concept at first, I’ll admit. The point here is not just to make the most efficient use of a room, but to spread out evenly both the responsibilities and rewards, which may make growing an easier fit into your busy lifestyle than traditional methods.
You will find it necessary to keep an accurate calendar to track your planting and harvesting cycle. I am using day zero as the day you first soak or plant your seeds. Day 60 represents harvest, but the numbers can be tweaked for longer-season plants.
If you work with deep six or seven-inch containers (if you are growing in dirt, for example), you can allot up to 4 plants per square foot in your space. Let’s say you’ve got just three square feet, you could then fit 3 x 4 = 12 plants. But instead, just start enough seeds to fill up one-third of your space.
So start by sprouting 3 or 4 female (feminized) seeds in a small seedling flat, or straight into the final container – after about 20 days, your seedlings will be ready to transplant into your six-inch containers if you started them in smaller pots. At the same time, you should be ready to start another batch of 3 or 4 seeds, now with a little practice under your belt. Including these plants, your room will now be about two-thirds full.
Repeat the same procedure and plant a third crop at day 40, filling the remaining third of your space at day 40. Your first crop will then be in full flowering. The first plants should be ready by day 60, at which time you can start a fourth crop. By repeating this procedure, you end up harvesting a small mature crop and planting a new one about every 20 days.
Once you understand this method, you can figure out how to spread out the chores a little more or adapt the method to your own liking. You don’t have to plant one crop at the same time as harvesting another, you can wait a few days. This way, you will be able to alternatively plant and harvest every few days, while keeping your room in a continuous, multiple grow cycle! This should make up for the time you might have “wasted” in the beginning when your room was not totally full, but then again nobody says you have to start out with an empty room in the first place.
If your motto is “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, you may want to experiment a little without going over to autoflowering right away. If you have some space in your current traditional room, whether it is a 12-hour flowering or an 18-hour veg room, you can just fill the gaps with autoflowering plants, as they don’t take up a lot of room or special care. Then plant more when more space becomes available in order to maximize your set-up and create your own continuous harvest!