There’s a reason cannabis plants have earned the nickname “weed,” and it’s because they grow like one! Hemp grows fast and is a relatively easy plant to care for, but all crops require time and effort. If you’re wondering how to grow hemp, Planted Pot is here with all the answers to your questions.
These plants need more attention than the average succulent or houseplant to grow tall and healthy. We’ll help you raise your plant from seed to harvest, ensuring you know everything necessary for the best hemp cultivation possible. With the right preparation, hemp farming can be fun and rewarding!
What is Hemp?
Hemp is a type of cannabis plant that humans have utilized for roughly 10,000 years. It is a versatile crop with long fibers that can be used to make clothes, paper, bioplastic, biofuel, and many more products. Hemp also contains beneficial compounds that aid our wellness, such as cannabidiol.
The earliest evidence of hemp cultivation was in ancient Mesopotamia (8,000 B.C.), though countless cultures over the centuries have utilized it. Hemp is believed to be the oldest example of human industry. By the time the crop reached Europe in 1,200 B.C., its benefits were recognized globally.
With 6,000 years of hemp farming behind them, China is thought to have the longest cannabis history. Hemp has been a crucial crop throughout human history, except for the past century. Increased demand for synthetic fiber began hemp’s declining popularity in the United States.
In 1937, hemp’s fate was sealed for the next few decades when the Marijuana Tax Act was signed into law. The plant was banned, but people kept working hard to prove the crop’s varied uses and benefits. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp, helping to end the stigma on this ancient resource.
What’s the Difference Between Hemp and Marijuana?
For most of its 10,000 years of cultivation, there was no distinction made between hemp and marijuana. Both are typically Cannabis sativa plants. Today, we recognize marijuana as a separate cannabis plant from hemp, though not because the two are always different plant species.
Modern industrial hemp and marijuana plants are still often Cannabis sativa, but they are bred to have different features. The 2018 Farm Bill defines hemp as having tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels of 0.3% or lower. If a cannabis plant has more than 0.3% THC, it is marijuana.
These labels have become a useful distinction because there are two vastly different uses for cannabis. The first is in the previously mentioned textiles, clothing, and alternative materials industries. The second popular use is consumption, whether it be recreational or medical.
Hemp has long, sturdy fibers that are great for building materials and industrial purposes, but it’s also bursting with useful compounds that boost our wellness. These cannabis compounds are called cannabinoids, and the most popular ones are CBD, THC, and cannabigerol (CBG).
The most crucial difference between hemp and marijuana is its cannabinoid content because different cannabinoids interact with our bodies in unique ways. While considerable THC doses can induce a euphoric feeling known as a “high,” CBD use does not result in this sensation.
Since marijuana plants have higher THC levels, they are grown for recreational or medical use in states where it is legal to do so. Though, they are still illegal on a federal level. Industrial hemp is federally legal, and it is used for many purposes, including its CBD.
Is Hemp Hard to Grow?
Hemp seeds grow fast and don’t require a degree in botany to care for, but they aren’t always the easiest to maintain. And while the legalization and popularity of hemp plants have been incredible for its legitimization, it has also resulted in a market flooded with poor-quality seeds and clones.
Another significant obstacle is cost. Some people may already have a bit of the required materials or live in an area suitable for outdoor growing, but this isn’t the case for everyone. If starting from scratch, be sure to calculate the cost of hemp growing accessories such as grow lights, soil, nutrients, and tools.
Other challenges include pests, diseases, and THC content. Poor seeds or clones can result in numerous issues, one of the most severe being the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol the grown plant will contain.
How Long Does it Take to Grow Hemp?
On average, hemp is ready for harvesting four to six months after planting. This allows the crop to be cultivated several times in a single year, which is astonishing considering its versatility. For example, hemp plants produce four times as much paper as trees, which take 10-20 years to reach maturity.
The amount of time it takes your hemp seed to grow depends on whether it is auto-flowering or photoperiod. Photoperiod plants behave how you would expect the average crop to function, flowering based on the season. This form of hemp must wait for the light to change before it flowers.
Autoflowering hemp is designed to flower a certain amount of time after it’s been planted. Its flowering is not affected by light changes (of course, it still needs light to grow), making auto-flowering plants a good choice for indoor growers.
A crop of photoperiod hemp will take twice the amount of time to mature as auto-flowering. However, it typically produces more hemp flowers with a greater amount of cannabinoids than auto-flowering plants.
What Do You Need to Grow Hemp?
Before buckling up your overalls, there are some essential supplies that all hemp farmers require. The first thing you need to know is whether your hemp production will take place indoors or outside. The choice is yours, but keep in mind that your environment can play a significant role in your harvest.
Further on, we’ll take a closer look at the pros and cons of growing hemp indoors and outdoors. Wherever you choose to plant your hemp seeds, growing hemp plants requires light, water, nutrients, and air (some hemp seeds are also useful). These are the necessary supplies for indoor hemp farmers:
- Grow lights
- Growing medium
- Carbon filter
- pH testing equipment
- Pots or similar containers
Outdoor hemp farmers don’t need grow lights, ventilation, or a carbon filter, but they may need soil. If the dirt outside your home isn’t fit for sustaining plant life, consider purchasing nutrient-rich soil. You can grow your outdoor plants in a pot or directly in the ground. A thermometer and pH testing device are still recommended for growing hemp outside.
How to Grow Hemp
Whether you want to grow a hemp crop or a single seed, the first step is gathering your materials. Determine your growing location, then make sure you have the necessary supplies. Buy your favorite strain of hemp seeds, set up your grow lights, prepare the soil and anything else you and your plants will need.
Growing Hemp Indoors vs Outdoors
Some people who grow hemp claim that indoor plants are higher in quality, or outdoor yields are better because they’re more “natural.” The truth is, the technology available for growing hemp has advanced to the point that your plants will be healthy and high-quality no matter where they’re grown.
Growing hemp outside is achievable with the natural soil, and you’ll save yourself a few extra bucks by planting the seeds directly into the ground. If this isn’t an option, you can still plant them in potting soil.
One major advantage of outdoor growing is a modest initial investment, though other issues like pests and poor weather must be considered.
If you want to grow hemp indoors, make sure you budget your farming needs well in advance. Account for the initial costs (grow lights, ventilation, etc.), but also the electricity bill needed to run those devices for long periods of time.
Also, consider the amount of space needed for however many hemp seeds you plan on growing. If you’ve got a wide-open growing room or field, that’s great! Just make sure you limit your hemp crop to 1,000-1,6000 plants per acre so they can stretch out their leaves.
Seeds vs Clones
A clone is a cutting of hemp (such as a leaf) used to grow a new plant. This produces an offspring that is genetically identical to the mother plant. Growing hemp from seeds requires that you start from scratch, making clones the better option for new hemp farmers.
Though, many beginners like the idea of following their hemp seeds from start to finish. The first time you cultivate a seed, it might not germinate or take root properly, and clones offer an easy alternative. Though, since clones are always identical to the mother plant, you won’t get a diverse crop.
What Type of Soil is Best for Growing Hemp?
Fortunately, hemp isn’t the pickiest of plants. It can be grown in many different types of soil, though it prefers loam. Offering a good balance of moisture retention, drainage, minerals, and nutrients, loam is made of sand, silt, and clay.
Your soil should also have a pH that is near-neutral but slightly acidic (6.0-6.8). Your plants will use whatever nutrients are initially in the soil, so they must eventually be replenished. Young plants need nitrogen, and maturing hemp requires phosphorus, magnesium, and trace minerals.
Water Hemp Throughout the Life Cycle
Water is the stuff of life, and hemp gets thirsty just like the rest of us. Throughout hemp’s life cycle, it requires varying amounts of water. Make a watering schedule to ensure your hemp seed can stay hydrated without drowning. Additionally, it needs 25-30 inches of rainfall during its growth period.
How Much Water for a Young Hemp Plant?
A young hemp plant is between 10-13 inches tall. This height is usually reached in three to four weeks. This is a crucial period for watering your plant because hemp becomes drought-resistant after its sixth week, not requiring as much hydration.
Stick your index finger into the soil up to the first knuckle. If it is dry, the plant needs water until the soil is damp all the way to your fingertip.
How Much Water for a Mid-Size Hemp Plant
A mid-size hemp plant is four to five feet tall. This period is when plants start to get really thirsty, and your plant may need up to a gallon of water each day.
How Much Water for an Adult Hemp Plant
Adult hemp plants are 8-14 feet tall, and the amount of watering they’ll need depends on their flowering cycle. Water’s absorption increases daily until the hemp flowers, after which it decreases. In the late flowering period, the hemp will need more watering again as it develops seeds.
Sun & Lighting Requirements
Outdoor hemp plants require at least 6 hours of direct sunlight and 13 hours of light each day. The summer months provide more sunlight than in the wintertime. Place your plant in the sunniest spot available because hemp loves soaking up the rays.
If you want to grow hemp indoors, search for a room that has access to direct sunlight. These plants should be given the same amount of sun as if they were grown outdoors.
If you cannot find a well-lit room, use grow lights to ensure your hemp can get enough light. Keep your grow lights on 18-24 hours a day to ensure indoor plants stay in a vegetative state. This means that they’ll continue to develop their leaves before flowering, growing as large as possible.
Humidity & Temperature Levels
Each of hemp’s life stages requires different temperatures and humidity levels. These are the environmental conditions you should provide for your crop at each point of its life:
- Seedling: Humidity 65-70%; Temperature 68-77°F
- Vegetative: Humidity 40-70%; Temperature 70-82°F
- Flowering: Humidity 40-50%; Temperature 68-77°F
Monitor for Pests & Mold
The last thing farmers want to see after they’ve nurtured their hemp seed into adolescence is pests or mold. Pests are insects that love hemp almost as much as we do, and they can destroy a crop. Mold can develop at any stage, and it’s caused by stagnant moisture that encourages spores to develop.
If ignored, pests and mold won’t just stunt your hemp’s growth; they’ll kill the entire plant. Prevent mold by keeping the moisture around your hemp moving and using a dehumidifier if needed. You can monitor humidity levels using devices like these.
The best way to reduce the risk of pests ruining all of your hard work is to keep the air circulating. This is an advantage that indoor operations have over outdoor crops. You can seal off a growing room from outside contaminants and use fans/ventilation to keep the air moving.
Helpful tools like iNaturalist’s handy phone app can help you differentiate between pests from harmless insects.
When to Harvest
After 14-16 weeks, the average hemp plant will be ready for harvest. Some are quicker than others, and autoflowers could be ready as soon as 10 weeks after planting.
To tell whether you can start harvesting hemp, feel the seed pods (they usually resemble hairy peas). If they’re hard, and if most leaves have fallen, the plant is ready for harvest.
Harvest hemp with a sickle, garden shears, or a machete. Cut just below the seed pod, and gather up the stems. Shake or hit the stems until you’ve got enough seeds for your next batch, then hang the stems with the flowers to dry for 5-10 days.
Male vs Female Hemp Plants
Male and female plants produce varying amounts of CBD and seeds. It’s tough to tell whether a hemp seed will grow into a male or a female without fancy equipment, so keep an eye out for males. If they successfully pollinate a female plant, she will produce more seeds and less resin.
If you want to use your hemp for clothing and other soft materials, we recommend male plants, which have soft fibers. However, most people grow hemp for its strong fibers or to make products like CBD oil, and female plants are best for these purposes. They produce many more flowers than males.
Male hemp produces little to no flowers, but the easiest way to tell the difference between them is their nodes. This refers to the small “crook” between a plant’s branch and stem. Males will produce pollen sacs (globular growths) in these nodes, while females develop hairy bracts that catch the male’s pollen. A hairy node is a sure sign of a female, however, in some rare cases, a plant may have both.
Final Thoughts – How to Grow Hemp
This is a 10,000-year-old crop that feels new again after about a hundred years of illegality. Industrial hemp is now legal to grow, but that doesn’t mean it can simply sit in a window sill producing free CBD. They require light, water, soil, and good old-fashioned T.L.C.
Do you still have questions about how to grow hemp? Reach out to us at any time; there’s nothing we enjoy more than chatting about plants!