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7 Tips to Improve Cannabis Bud Quality

by Nebula Haze & Sirius Fourside

Table of Contents

  1. Start with Top-Shelf Genetics – get the effects and appearance you want! Your grow skill makes a huge difference, but a plant can’t overcome its genes! If you want buds that are potent, dense, sparkly or purple/pink, you need the right genetics.
  2. Give Your Cannabis Lots of Light! – this increases yields, density and potency
  3. Nutrients & Supplements – learn about smell enhancers, bloom boosters and bulk builders!
  4. Better Taste, Better Smell – learn other techniques to increase terpene content so buds taste and smell better
  5. Manipulate Temperature & Humidity in the flowering stage to increase resin production (“glitter” and stickiness), bring out colors like pink or purple & prevent smells from burning away
  6. Great Air Flow Around Every Cola – you can gain surprising increases in the size and density of your buds by making sure that every cola gets lots of direct light and good air flow from the beginning to the end of the flowering stage. Cannabis is wind-pollinated in the wild and so more energy is put into buds that have been exposed to a breeze from when they first started forming.
  7. Master the Basics of Growing – especially harvesting, trimming and drying/curing! Although a lot of growers don’t pay as much attention to what happens to plants after harvest as during the grow itself, these 3 post-harvest factors determine almost 50% of your final bud appearance. Properly drying/curing also intensifies smell and increases bud potency!

Have you ever had weed that knocks your socks off? The kind of cannabis buds that people brag/warn their friends about?

I’m talking about the really really good stuff!

The truth is, you can successfully grow cannabis with very little effort, make a ton of mistakes, and still harvest buds that will do the job.

But have you ever wondered how people grow truly top-shelf buds? The kind of bud that beats the marijuana you get in a dispensary?

If so, you’re in luck, because today I’m going to teach you 7 tips to consistently growing top-tier quality cannabis buds with effects that will stick in your memory for years to come. Plus, I’ll teach you how to make your cannabis look pretty!

1.) Start with Top-Shelf Genetics

It’s really tough to get truly top-shelf buds if you start with mid-grade seeds, clones, or the dreaded bagseed; you’re giving yourself a much higher chance of disappointment because no growing method can overcome genetics!

These buds were both grown in the exact same setup at the same time, but have different genetics. Look how differently the buds turned out! Choosing the right strain lets you choose the looks and effects you want!

When I first started growing, I would grow any seeds I could find. These would usually grow pretty well but the resulting weed never ended up being as good as the buds I found them in. And sometimes the buds would be airy and not-that-potent.

After a few attempts at growing bagseed, I tried buying marijuana clones from the local dispensary with crazy strain names like “Super Grand Daddy Purple” and “Grapefruit Bubblegum Kush,” but my yields and results still left a lot to be desired. It’s not that there’s any inherent problem with clones – clones are awesome! – but I got a feeling these plants weren’t really the strains the dispensary claimed them to be. I didn’t have any grower friends at the time and I thought bag seed and local clones were my best choices.

Until I discovered online seed banks.

Ever since I started buying seeds from a reputable cannabis seed bank and getting my chosen strains shipped to me, I have been able to consistently produce high-quality buds!

Getting your genetics from a reputable breeder is key to producing gorgeous and potent buds!

If you want to grow buds that are pink or purple, you must choose the right genetics!

Just switching to better seed stock caused a dramatic increase in my yields without any other changes. But even more importantly, the quality of my harvests drastically improved. Not to mention the freedom of being able to choose which strain you want to grow instead of hoping to find a good seed in your buds!

Clones are still a great way to start a grow with good genetics, but you have to make sure you always get clones from a trustworthy source!

If you want to take your quality to the next level, don’t start with just any clones or seeds. Search for the right, true quality genetics and don’t be afraid to research to make sure you’re getting exactly what you want! Good seeds cost more than bagseed, but the money you pay for quality is worth it, especially when you consider what you’re getting in return!

2.) Give Your Cannabis Lots of Light!

If you want great bud, you have to provide plenty of light!

When you start a grow with good genetics – from good seeds or clones – your plant has the potential for a high level of quality (yields, potency, resilience). However, it’s nearly impossible to get your buds to reach that potential if you use lights that are underpowered.

Powerful grow lights like HPS, LECs or LEDs produce the biggest and most dense buds

For example, there’s no amount of plant training or growing skill that can make up for the amount of light produced by an incandescent bulb; the bulb simply doesn’t have what it takes to do the job.

Similarly, growers can have the same problem when they try to grow a larger plant with a few small CFLs or T5s. Although CFLs and T5s make great growing lights and produce a high-quality product, it’s important to pick the right tool for the job. These two types of lights are better at stealth, discretion, and smaller grows than producing lots of super potent bud.

Strong, bright light is what powers the growth of buds in the flowering stage – light is like “food” for your plants!

When it comes to indoor cannabis gardening, more light is better…to an extent. If you give your flowering cannabis plants all the light they can handle without giving them too much, it increases your potency, density and yields.

Strong, bright light is a crucial part of reaching a strain’s full potential!

Strong light is incredibly important for the highest bud density, potency and yields!

3.) Nutrients & Supplements to Increase Bud Quality

First, before adding any special supplements, you need to make sure you’re giving your plant the correct base nutrients in the flowering stage.

Base Nutrients in the Flowering Stage

  • Low Nitrogen (N) – Give your plant relatively low levels of Nitrogen, especially in the second half of the flowering stage when the plant has stopped growing vegetatively and buds are fattening up. The plant needs a lot of Nitrogen for vegetative growth but doesn’t need nearly as much for making buds. In fact, too much nitrogen in the ripening stage can discourage bud production and hurt your yields.
  • Plenty of Phosphorus (P) – Phosphorus is incredibly important to flower production and giving plants plenty of Phosphorus in the flowering stage will help increase the total number of flowers
  • Potassium (K) – Potassium is often overlooked compared to Phosphorus (which is often considered a bud booster) but Potassium may actually be even more important! Providing a good source of Potassium increases the size and density of each individual flower.

In general, when it comes to feeding nutrients in the second half of the flowering stage, less is more! Keeping nutrient levels low can also improve the taste of your final buds because high nutrient levels are associated with a chemical taste to the buds.

Giving cannabis the right ratios of nutrients during the flowering stage will greatly increase the quality of your bud!

Supplements in the Flowering Stage

Supplements in the flowering stage come in many different flavors, and they have different goals or purposes

  • Sugar or carbohydrates – improve taste/smell and increase bulk. Some of these, like the Botanicare Sweet Carbo Line, not only include sugar, but also certain terpenes and esters that are stored unchanged in plant buds, giving your buds unique subtle flavors like grape, citrus, berry, and “raw” (which is just a generally sweet smell).
  • “Bloom Enhancers” – These offer a variety of non-nutrient ingredients that may help the plant grow better or more efficiently in some way by improving processes or providing the plant with amino acids and humic acids, so the plant doesn’t have to make everything itself.
  • PK Boosters & “Shooting Powders” – With this type of supplement, the main ingredients are just Phosphorus and Potassium because they are important for flowering. These also sometimes contain some amount of sulfur. In general, use these sparingly as they’re usually very potent! And don’t forget that every quality base Bloom nutrient should already contain plenty of P and K.

Often, bloom supplements will include a mix of some or even all of these types of ingredients! It can definitely get a little confusing so I’ll try to break it down a little 🙂

Sugar or Carbohydrates

A cheap alternative to expensive sugar-based bloom boosting supplements is blackstrap molasses. Giving this to your plants for the last few weeks before harvest can help them get bigger and smell/taste better. It’s not specially made for plants; it’s the regular stuff you’ll find in your kitchen or at the grocery store. Blackstrap molasses adds sugars, amino acids and trace minerals. Unfortunately for hydro growers, anything organic like molasses is not suitable for a hydroponic reservoir! But molasses works great for soil and coco growers 🙂

For last 2-3 weeks before harvest, give 1/2 tsp of Blackstrap Molasses per gallon when watering (for soil or coco coir)

For those who prefer something in a bottle, I’m really intrigued by Botanicare’s Sweet Carbo line. According to Botanicare:

The natural esters in Sweet are easily absorbed by the plant, but are not broken down further once deposited within the plant tissue. This means that as new flowers develop they will contain small amounts of these natural esters which contribute to the overall flavor and aroma of the finished product.

They offer flavors such as grape, citrus, berry, and “raw” (which is just a generally sweet smell). These should be used throughout the flowering stage to help build smell/flavor in the buds as they mature. However, since these contain a small but significant amount of magnesium, they should not be used while flushing during last 2-3 weeks before harvest. At this point, the smells have already been deposited into the buds. Another cool thing about these supplements is they contain amino acids and some other enhancers, so it’s kind of like getting a lot of different products at once.

Other growers who’ve tried the “raw” version have said they can definitely notice an increase in the amount of “sweet” smell in their buds and it’s made me curious/jealous. I plan to use Sweet Grape as my primary supplement for the flowering stage in a future grow; I’ll report back whether buds actually smell like grape, sweet or plain ol’ cannabis 🙂

Bloom Enhancers

The jury is still out and which is the most effective supplement, but many growers are happy with bloom promoting supplements that include sources of…

  • amino acids
  • humic acids
  • vitamins
  • trace minerals

I personally don’t use this type of supplement so I can’t recommend a particular one, but some of the most popular cannabis supplements based on this type of formula include…

  • Floralicious Plus (by General Hydroponics)
  • Liquid Karma (by Botanicare)
  • Diamond Black (by General Organics)

Note: These are only for soil or coco coir! (Since these supplements contain a lot of organic materials like guano and fishmeal, they are not suitable to hydroponic reservoirs)

PK Boosters & “Shooting Powders”

The supplements listed above use ingredients that add only tiny amounts of base nutrients (NPK). This means that they have less of a chance of overwhelming your plant with too high levels of nutrients (which can be easy to do if you’re adding a lot of supplements!).

However, this last set of nutrients directly adds P and K. If you’re using a regular Bloom nutrient already, this can make it really easy to go overboard with P and K. Whenever using this type of nutrient, a tiny amount goes a really long way! Whenever possible, try to choose a supplement by the same company as your base nutrients – this will help prevent negative interactions between the nutrients and the supplements. In general…

  • Phosphorus (P) increases number of flowers
  • Potassium (K) increases weight/density of flowers

These sometimes also come with a small amount of Sulfur (S), and possibly other ingredients like amino acids, trace minerals and/or sugar like the supplements above.

Suitable for Hydro, Soil or Coco – Supplements to Increase Yields/Density with extra P & K

  • Liquid Koolbloom (by General Hydroponics)
  • Hydroplex (by Botanicare)
  • Beastie Bloomz (by Fox Farms)

4.) Better Taste, Better Smell – Increase Terpene Content

The smell and scent of cannabis buds are produced by plant chemicals known as “terpenes” (also “terpenoids”, which are a class of terpenes).

Terpenes contribute to the flavors of many household spices (like cinnamon, rosemary, cloves and ginger) and help create the scent of most flowers.

The unique combination of terpenes and terpenoids produced in cannabis flowers (buds) cause most of their taste and smell as well.

There are a variety of ways to increase the terpene content of your buds so you produce cannabis that tastes and smells great, and there are also a couple of common mistakes you should know about that can actually ruin the taste and smell of your buds.

5.) Maintain Proper Temperature and Humidity

Maintain daytime temperatures around 65-80°F (18-26°C) in the flowering stage unless you’re using CO2 which does best at around 80-90°F (26°-32°C). However, even if you’re using CO2, most growers recommend you back off and bring the temps down to 65-80°F for the last two weeks before harvest.

Night temperatures should be kept around 68-75°F (20°-24°C) for most strains. Too-cool temps increase the chances of bud rot, which thrives in the 60°F (15°C) range, and freezing temperatures can actually damage or even kill your plants.

However, if you’re growing a strain that turns color, keep in mind that some of these strains will only show their color when night temperatures are at least a few degrees cooler than during the day in the flowering stage.

Some strains need slightly cooler night temperatures before their buds will turn colors. For example the buds of this Auto Frisian Dew turned bright purple after it started getting below 70°F (21°C) temperatures at night.

Humidity stumps a lot of new growers and causes several unexpected problems.

Maintaining higher humidity during the vegetative stage will reduce salt levels within the plant while encouraging healthy and lush growth.

During the vegetative stage, if humidity drops below 40%, especially anywhere below 25%, it can cause problems that look like nutrient deficiencies or light/heat stress!

But in these cases, just adding a little moisture to the air does wonders, even if you don’t change anything else.

During the flowering stage, your cannabis plants actually prefers less humidity!

Decreasing moisture in the air (lowering the humidity) during the flowering stage helps prevent mold and actually may increase trichome production in your buds! For best results, keep humidity 40%-50% during the flowering stage.

Lower humidity levels in the flowering stage helps promote trichome production, which increases the amount of “glitter” you see on buds

“But I’ve never worried about humidity and my plants are fine…”

The truth is, you can successfully grow your marijuana plants in high or low humidity, even if growth isn’t perfect. This is the primary reason why many growers – especially new ones – forget about humidity altogether.

New growers also tend to hastily spend money on CO2, supplements or expensive nutrients when controlling the humidity in their setup could make a much bigger difference in their final product.

So if you’ve realized that your humidity is far higher or lower than what’s recommended, you may be able to make a simple, relatively cheap change to dramatically improve the vibrancy of your plants.

For growers in really dry or humid areas, it can make a big difference to buy a humidifier/dehumidifier and make sure they’re always providing the optimum humidity levels.

And there’s one more insider trick you need to know about humidity: So you know you need to keep humidity in 40-50%RH range for the flowering stage, but there is one extra trick… Use a dehumidifier to drop the humidity down as low as you possibly can for the last 2-3 weeks of flowering (I’ve gotten the humidity as low as 25%).

This extreme dryness will encourage the buds to seal and protect themselves with additional resin (in other words, a sparkling outer layer of THC-heavy trichomes).

As an added bonus, this trick also gets your buds prepped for a successful, mold-free drying process because your buds have already given up some of their moisture.

6.) Make Sure Grow Room has Strong Air Flow & Good Ventilation

This is yet another factor having to do with air quality (we already listed temperature and humidity).

Over time, any grower (especially indoor growers) will see that great air quality is a big contributor to star-quality buds. Air flow and ventilation are essential if you want to create perfect air quality.

For 1-3 plants smaller to mid-sized plants, you’ll probably be fine with an oscillating fan or two. With a big grow and hot lights, you’ll need a better exhaust system to ensure proper airflow, but it can be easy to set up!

7.) Master the Basics – Especially Drying & Curing

You probably know that in order to get the best results, your plants need to make it through the majority of their lifecycle without major problems.

But although your growing methods are incredibly important, one of the most important things to focus on is when you harvest, as well as the process of drying/curing your buds after harvest.

In fact, the things you do during and after harvest, including drying/curing, makes up almost 50% of your final bud appearance!

Drying/curing the right way will make buds smell better, look better, be more dense, and buds will actually feel more potent!

If you haven’t really been paying attention during the drying/curing part of your grow, you should focus here for the greatest gains in quality!

Drying buds slowly and then curing them in glass mason jars for 2-4+ weeks helps “tighten up” buds so they are more dense. Curing also intensifies smell and increases potency!

What else to pay attention to during the grow?

A lot of mistakes that won’t kill your plant (like nutrient burn, nutrient deficiencies, and heat stress) can often still damage the overall appearance of your buds, especially big problems that happen after the beginning of the flowering stage while buds are in the process of forming.

More importantly, too many problems during the flowering stage can reduce the maximum potency your plant can achieve!

So in order to get the best yields along with beautiful buds that sparkle in the light, you need to gain a complete understanding of the basics of growing. It’s also important to provide your plants with a good growing environment.

But if you were to focus on just ONE thing to improve with your grow, the factor that makes the biggest difference to your quality (besides the strain) is the drying and curing process.

To Sum it Up:

Learn everything you can, start with good genetics and create the perfect growing environment to produce the best buds!

Ever wondered how to grow your own "top-shelf" buds like the ones you get from a dispensary? Learn 7 insider tips to producing your own frosty, medical-quality buds!

Parts of the cannabis plant

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Contents

  1. Types of weed plants
  2. How to tell male from female marijuana plants
  3. How to propagate cannabis plants

Cannabis grows in a variety of climates around the world and can be used in many applications: rope, biofuel, paper, and many medical and recreational uses. The plant is part of the Cannabaceae family, which also includes hops. It is further classified as Cannabis sativa L . Each part of the plant serves a purpose and while the whole of a cannabis plant is certainly greater than the sum of its parts, knowing its parts can inform your experience and appreciation of it. Below are descriptions of each of the plant’s parts and the functions they perform.

Each part of the cannabis plant serves a purpose.

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Flower

The flowers of the female marijuana plant can be identified by their small teardrop structures, which consist of pistils attached to bracts. Cannabis flowers are usually covered with a frosty-looking coating of trichomes, with a heavier density of trichomes making for a more desirable flower.

The main part of the flower, at the end of a female plant’s stem is composed of many small floral clusters. In general, the bigger, heavier, and more densely covered in trichomes a cola is, the better quality it will be, although some cultivars will naturally grow flowers that are more loosely structured and airy.

Bracts

The small leaves that surround the reproductive cells of a female weed plant. When a female plant is exposed to pollen from a male marijuana plant, the bracts surround and shield the seed pod.

Trichomes

Marijuana trichomes are hairlike appendages found on the surface of the cannabis plant. Trichomes protect the plant from external stressors and contain resinous glands that create flavonoids, cannabinoids and terpenes — the chemical compounds that give the marijuana plant its unique features and effects. Trichomes give cannabis buds a crystal-like sheen and make them sticky feeling.

Within the glandular trichomes, there are three main types: bulbous, capitate-sessile and capitate-stalked.

Non-glandular trichomes are called cystoliths. Bulbous trichomes are tiny bulbs that are sparsely located throughout the entire plant, but are so small they can’t be seen with the naked eye. Capitate-sessile trichomes are more abundant than bulbous trichomes, found on the underside of the sugar leaves and fan leaves, but are usually only visible through a microscope. Capitate-stalked trichomes are shaped like mushrooms and contain a large trichome head at the top of the stalk. These are the trichomes that can be easily seen on the cannabis flower surface.

The point at which the stem and leaf intersect. Nodes can hold one or more leaves or offshoots. As explained below, nodes are important to be familiar with, as they are where cannabis plants begin to grow either pollen sacs (male cannabis plants) or pistils (female cannabis plants). Understanding the sex of a marijuana plant is crucial to the final product, since only female plants produce flowers and since non-pollinated flowers are far superior than pollinated buds when it comes to consumption.

Fan leaves

Leaves are important components of a weed plant, and there are actually a couple types of marijuana leaves. The large, protruding leaves that appear along the length of the plant are called fan leaves. Theses leaves are essential to the living plant’s photosynthesis, but are always removed from the finished, harvested product.

Sugar leaves

As opposed to fan leaves, sugar leaves are small leaves found throughout cannabis colas’ cupping buds that are typically trimmed off the flower after harvest. They are called “sugar leaves” because of the high volume of trichomes found on them, which makes it look like the leaves are covered in sugar. Sugar leaf trim can be used to make edibles or concentrates.

The main support structure of the marijuana plant, the stem transports fluids, nutrients, and information from the roots to the rest of the weed plant. The stem provides a foundation to give fan leaves access to the light they need to facilitate growth and carries the weight of heavy colas.

Pistils vs. stigmas

There is often a lot of confusion surrounding pistils and stigmas, with many people confusing one of the other. Here’s a quick breakdown on the difference between the two important cannabis plant components.

What is a pistil?

The pistil is the primary piece of the female flower’s reproductive system, comprising a single ovule with two protruding stigmas.

What are stigmas?

The thin hairs that extend from a female’s bract to catch male pollen. They are commonly confused with pistils. Knowing how to identify stigmas is an important part of growing weed, as these are the telltale signs that a plant is female and will therefore produce the cannabinoid-rich flowers you’re trying to harvest.

Cannabis grows in a variety of climates around the world and can be used in many applications: rope, biofuel, paper, and many medical and recreational uses. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Types of weed plants

If you want to stay in touch with the origins of your favorite cannabis products, knowing the ins and outs of the plant at the industry’s core is a good place to start. And that includes knowing not only the specific parts of a cannabis plant, but also the different types and strains of weed that exist.

Along with understanding the various parts of a marijuana plant, you should also know about the different types of cannabis. While there are long-held claims about the effects that sativas, indicas, and hybrids offer, current research suggests that the effects of cannabis are determined by a person’s endocannabinoid system and the plant-specific cannabinoid profile.

Despite that, cannabis is typically classified in the following four categories:

  • Indica: Indica-leaning weed plants tend to produce dense, fat, heavy buds during the flowering stage. These strains are typically believed to give consumers a “body high” instead of a more cerebral high.
  • Sativa: Sativa plants tend to produce buds that are airy and more formed than indica plants. Sativa strains of the weed plant are often said to offer users a more cerebral, energetic, “buzzy” highs.
  • Hybrid: As a blend of sativa and indica, hybrid strains are generally believed to give you a more balanced high.
  • Hemp: Hemp plants are part of the cannabis family, but they differ from a regular weed plant in that they produce only trace amounts of THC, the cannabinoid responsible for the intoxicating effects of the marijuana plant. In the U.S., the 2018 Farm Bill specified hemp as a cannabis plant containing up to 0.3% THC. However, hemp plants produce a number of other important cannabinoids, most notably cannabidiol (CBD), and their fibers are used to produce a range of textiles.

To break it down even further, there are numerous strains within each of the more general categories indica, sativa, and hybrid. Understanding and becoming familiar with these various strains is what will really enable you to target — on a specific level — the type of experience you have when consuming weed.

How to tell male from female marijuana plants

Typically, you will be able to distinguish between male and female cannabis plants when the plant is about six weeks old. To figure out the sex of a marijuana plant , look at the plant’s nodes, where the leaves and branches connect to the main stem.

Male plants will produce pollen sacs that at first look like little tiny balls and then grow into larger clusters of oblong-shaped sacs. Conversely, a female weed plant will produce pistils, which in their early stages look like thin hairs and then eventually start growing into more structured ovules and stigmas.

To figure out the sex of a marijuana plant, look at the plant’s nodes, where the leaves and branches connect to the main stem. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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There is one very important reason why it’s crucial to be able to distinguish male from female plants: Only female plants produce flowers. Because male plants produce pollen sacs, they do not generate any of the buds that people actually harvest and consume. From the perspective of growing weed for human consumption, male plants are really only good for propagating brand new baby plants from seed.

With the exception of consciously choosing to reproduce plants through pollination (as opposed to cloning a female plant), growers must carefully keep male plants away from female plants.

Hermaphrodite plants are a rare monecious plant, meaning it develops both male and female sex organs. Hermaphrodites are primarily formed if a female weed plant is exposed to extreme conditions during key stages of growth. Flowers from hermaphrodite plants will be full of seeds, making them very poor quality for consumption. To avoid this, growers must be experts at spotting both hermaphrodite and male plants early and then getting rid of them before they ruin nearby female plants.

Many breeders produce seeds that are feminized as a way to avoid male genetics. These feminized seeds only carry female genetics, and in most cases, is guaranteed to produce female plants. Another option is to grow auto-flowering strains, which are genetically engineered to automatically flower after a brief vegetative period of two to four weeks.

How to propagate cannabis plants

Knowing the parts of a marijuana plant is necessary for propagating cannabis plants. Propagation refers to the process of using one plant to create new plants. In general, cannabis growers do this in one of two ways:

  1. Cloning : Cloning is a popular method, as it allows you to get multiple baby plants from a single adult plant, without having to buy seeds or go through the longer process of germinating, planting, and growing a weed plant from seed. To clone a marijuana plant, carefully cut a branch away from the stem right at the node. From there, place the cutting into a growing medium, typically either suspended in water or inserted into a starter plug. When the cutting develops roots you can then transplant it into a larger container or the ground, depending on where you’re going to be growing the plant.
  2. Seeds: Growing from seed requires you to start from scratch, and is ideally suited to growers who are novices, growers who want to produce a new type or strain than what they’re already growing, and growers who don’t have a plant they want to replicate exactly. To grow a weed plant from seed, place a seed in some sort of starting medium such as rockwool or peat pellets and keep it moist until it sprouts. As the sprout develops leaves and roots, it will start requiring more and more light. When a decent little ball of roots has formed, transplant the baby marijuana plant to a larger container or the ground and proceed to feed, water, and ventilate it until the weed plant reaches maturity.

The cannabis plant has many different parts to it. Learn about the cola, calyx, trichomes and more.