There are a number of benefits to growing autoflower hemp crops. In an increasingly competitive industry where efficiency is directly tied to profitability, you need every edge you can get. To this end, being able to control your harvest windows and dictate the speed of your crops are great advantages. Autoflowering CBD strains from High Grade Hemp Seed allow you to do just this.
Not only do autoflowering plants give you precision control over your hemp harvests, but they also allow you to grow multiple crops in a year. As such, you can stagger your hemp flower harvests, so you can keep a revenue stream coming in all year. Finally, several autoflower harvests per year allow you to sell your flowers for better prices during non-peak seasons.
For those farmers curious about autoflower grow techniques, High Grade Hemp Seed put together this definitive autoflower grow guide.
What are Autoflower Hemp Strains?
Let’s start with the basics: What is autoflower hemp and how is it different from other types of hemp strains?
Traditionally, all cannabis sativa plants are known as “photoperiodic” plant species. This means, hemp experiences different growth phases as dictated by periods of available sunlight. The amount of sunlight changes throughout the year, from spring planting until autumn harvest. Importantly, hemp plants transition from vegetative growth to flowering phase when there is an even 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness.
As the name implies, autoflower plants automatically grow flowers. Importantly, they don’t require a change in the light or the season. Autoflower hemp strains are the descendants of cannabis plants grown in Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and Russia. In these cold countries, the cannabis plants had to learn to grow quickly to make the most of short growing seasons. They shed their reliance on the light cycle, allowing them to grow and flower in record time.
Today’s farmers can now use seeds from autoflowering plants to grow precision CBD hemp crops.
Why Choose Autoflower Hemp Seeds?
Before we jump into our tips for growing autoflower plants, let’s look at why you might want to consider choosing autoflower seeds instead of photoperiod seeds.
Speedy Growing Cycle
Most hemp strains require over 100 days (sometimes up to 120 days) to complete a grow cycle. Autoflower strains, on the other hand, are speed demons when it comes to growing. Most strains reach maturation in 7 to 10 weeks, allowing farmers to grow multiple harvests per year in warmer climates. This fast growth rate also makes autoflower strains a great option for farmers who live in colder climates with short outdoor growing seasons.
The great ancestors of today’s autoflower hemp seeds had to survive in some of the world’s toughest climates, which makes autoflowers some of the most resilient hemp strains around. As such, if you live in an area where cold weather and frost come early, autoflowers genetics are likely a great choice.
Resistance to Pests
Pests and insect infestations are a threat to any crop, but autoflowers grow so quickly, insects often don’t have enough time to do the plants much harm. This makes autoflower crops more pest-resistant than most other hemp strains.
Cannabinoid and Terpene Production
In the past, autoflower plants have been criticized for producing lower-than-average amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes. These days, however, hemp seed companies like High Grade Hemp Seed have been hard at work breeding autoflower strains that boost CBD yields and provide tantalizing terpene profiles your customers want.
How to Grow Autoflowers in Soil
Growing autoflower hemp seeds in soil isn’t so different from planting other strains of hemp. The primary difference is you have more options on when to plant autoflower seeds.
Step 1: Revise Your Operation
Growing autoflower hemp is a different ballgame than traditional photoperiodic cultivation. The speed at which autoflower plants reach maturation affects nearly every facet of a farm operation.
There are several factors you must consider if you plan on growing autoflower hemp:
- Plant size: Because autoflower plants mature so quickly, they do not grow nearly as large as photoperiod hemp strains.
- Plant count: To keep your harvests profitable, you must grow more plants to compensate for the smaller size of autoflower plants.
- Harvest schedule: Whether you are staggering multiple harvests in a season, or just growing a quick crop, harvest times will be much different than seen with traditional hemp crops.
- Labor: If you are staggering crops, be sure you have available labor on hand during atypical harvest times.
Step 2: Schedule Your Planting
The beauty of autoflower hemp seeds is that they can grow throughout most of the year as long as they don’t experience frost or too much rain. That gives you a lot more flexibility in when to plant. In some parts of the country, planting can start in early spring all the way through to late fall.
Figure out your planting goals: Do you want to focus only on autoflowers and cycle as many harvests as you can? Or do you want to get an autoflower harvest at the beginning and end of the year around your other, longer-growing hemp strains?
Step 3: Germinate Your Plants in a Greenhouse
At High Grade, we often recommend germinating your seeds in a greenhouse infrastructure to give your seeds the best chance for survival. Autoflower plants don’t have as much time to recover after they are transplanted outdoors, so you may want to experiment with greenhouse propagation techniques. If you decide to germinate your seeds in a greenhouse, it’s a good idea to give your new seedlings a few weeks to grow in the greenhouse before transplanting.
Because autoflower plants are smaller than normal, you must also plan for a larger plant count during germination. This means you will need more propagation materials and greenhouse space if you are growing autoflower crops.
Step 4: Prepare Your Soil
Your robust autoflower hemp seeds don’t need as much nutrition as other hemp strains, but they still appreciate a little nourishment. Test your soil before planting and double-check that your soil doesn’t contain high levels of sulfur, potassium sulfate, or rock phosphate.
Step 5: Keep Your Soil Well-Drained
Hemp plants, including autoflowers, grow best in loose, well-drained soil. Adjust watering to your particular climate. Autoflowers do well with surface drip irrigation, subsurface drip irrigation, pivot irrigation, and flood irrigation.
Step 6: Harvest Your Plants Sequentially
Your autoflower hemp plants will be ready for harvest between 7 to 10 weeks. Consider harvesting the colas on the tops of the plants first in order to give the lower buds a little more time to mature before harvesting them.
Step 7: Germinate Your Next Crop
To create the fastest cycle between harvests, begin germinating your next crop of non-autoflower hemp seeds in your greenhouse as you are harvesting your autoflower crop in the field. Once your harvest is complete, you should have a whole new batch of germinated hemp plants ready for another round of growing and harvesting.
Growing Autoflowers Indoors
Thinking of growing autoflower seeds indoors? You’ll need to set up a well-designed grow space. Make sure to set up proper lighting and irrigation and that you have the ability (and the right equipment) to maintain the right temperature and humidity levels.
Step 1: Plant Seeds in a Single Pot to Avoid Replanting
Autoflowers grow so quickly that they don’t have the time to recover from a big stressor like replanting from one pot to another. Instead, plant your seeds and grow them to maturation in a single pot. If you want to attempt to create a strong canopy in your grow space, plant the seeds in smaller pots so you can keep your plants together.
Step 2: Prepare Your Soil Properly
Autoflower hemp plants prefer light and airy soil. They don’t need the same amount of nutrients as other strains of hemp. Be careful about using pre-made soil mixes with too many nutrients. Plant your seeds in only lightly fertilized soil.
Step 3: Limit Watering
Be careful about overwatering your autoflower hemp plants. As we mentioned, autoflowers don’t recover well from major stresses like a deluge of water. Give the soil enough time to dry between waterings. A lighter watering schedule will also help you prevent mold.
Step 4: Determine Your Light Scheme
The beauty of autoflower hemp plants is that you don’t have to commit to a rigid light schedule like you would with photoperiod plants. However, you still need to give your autoflowers plenty of nurturing light to help them grow strong.
There is a lot of debate on how much light to give industrial hemp plants. Farmers who want the highest resin yields and have a little more money to invest upfront may want to use a 24-hour light cycle. Farmers who want to save on energy costs can still get good results using an 18/6 schedule, which refers to 18 hours of light and six hours of darkness.
Step 5: Control for Airflow and Humidity
Autoflower hemp plants do best in moderately warm temperatures, so try to keep your grow space at a cozy 68 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Good airflow is also an important component of keeping your plants happy and healthy, so use a ventilator to keep humidity low.
Step 6: Harvest Sequentially
When your indoor autoflower hemp plants are ready for harvest, take the colas and the buds from the top first in order to give the lower buds a little more time to mature. This will help you get even more resin from your harvest.
Step 7: Rinse and Repeat
You know the drill by now. If you have space in your grow room, consider germinating your next crop of seeds while harvesting your current crop. Take advantage of the fast-growing speeds of your autoflowers to achieve multiple harvests in a year.
Talk to High Grade Hemp Seed about Autoflower Strains
To give your autoflower hemp crop the best chance for success, look for the seeds with proven genetics. At High Grade Hemp Seed, we are proud to offer our feminized autoflower seeds, which are known for uniform growth, as well as great cannabinoid and terpene production.
High Grade Hemp Seed takes great pride in helping our clients achieve success in the hemp industry. This guide on how to grow autoflower hemp only scratches the surface of this complex topic. If you want more tips for growing autoflower, contact us today.