I think it’s safe to say that, at the end of the day, most of us fear death and wish we could stay forever young and strong. This is part of an innate will to live that all living organisms — not just humans — are born with.
As a cannabis grower, I’ve seen first-hand some extraordinary occasions that prove my plants indeed have that innate desire. The clearest illustration of this happened a few years ago, while I was germinating cannabis seeds for my next harvest.
I was running 3,400 watts of grow lights and had space for 12 to 15 full-size photoperiod plants, but I started 30 seeds. I like to start with double the number of seeds because I will monitor germination rate, seedling vigor and early grow phase performance and eliminate inferior plants until I have the maximum number of strong plants I can grow to harvest.
This protocol takes into account that I don’t only grow clones, autoflowering and feminized strains; I also germinate non-feminized cannabis seeds. By week three of grow phase, I can predict with 70 percent accuracy which non-feminized seedlings will grow out to be male. If you grow from non-feminized seeds and don’t want to use male plants to breed with, it’s wise to plant double the number of seeds of the grow op capacity because approximately half the seeds that germinate will be male.
By week three I had too many plants going, so I went through the collection of 19 and removed four more plants. One plant I removed was a Chocolope Kush, described as a mostly sativa feminized strain produced by crossing Chocolope with Kosher Kush. The plant had a weak main stalk and kept leaning over in my fan breeze, not to mention there were big gaps between internodes, spindly leaf stems and pale leaves. It just wasn’t good enough for my grow op.
The Chocolope Kush was in a Grodan Delta Hugo 6-by-6 rockwool block when I yanked it from my grow system and had about four inches of roots sticking out of the bottom. At the time, I was living in a home with a private two-acre backyard that was mostly scrub and shrubs, with trees around the perimeter. I obviously couldn’t just throw unwanted cannabis plants in the garbage, so I discarded them in a part of my backyard that was obscured from external view and forgot about them.
Two weeks later, I was in my backyard and wandered over to my plant discard area. Most of the plants I’d thrown out were withered and brown, but to my amazement, the Chocolope Kush appeared to be thriving. It was growing like a ground vine and had gained several inches of length since I had thrown it away.
Even more astounding, its root ball was larger and the roots looked healthy and white, even though they were exposed to open air and sunlight. It hadn’t rained since I threw the plant out there, and I had always been taught that roots need to be in the dark to grow. This plant clearly had a powerful will to live, and I was impressed.
I considered bringing the plant back inside, but the grow room was already full. So, I dug a hole, shoveled quality soil into it and replanted the plant. I mixed up a bucket of nutrients including Iguana Juice base nutrients, B-52 (a stress-busting vitamin booster), Rhino Skin (a potassium silicate plant protector) and Voodoo Juice (a root booster), and watered it in.
I really wasn’t expecting much, but nevertheless I went out once a week to take a look at it. The plant was looking healthier than when it was in my grow room, but it was showing very little gain in height. There wasn’t much direct sunlight or rain, and temperatures were averaging in the low 40s at night and mid-50s during the day. There were a few nights when the temperature got near freezing and I thought for sure the plant wouldn’t survive.
Yet it did.
I was amusedly interested in what it would do, so I kept watering and feeding the plant intermittently. That following April, long after the plants I had started at the same time were harvested, the warmer weather settled in and more sunlight arrived, and to my surprise the castaway plant took off and started growing a couple of inches per day.
It made no sense to me how a spindly, weak young plant that was doing poorly in a pampered indoor grow op could survive outdoors in winter conditions and then suddenly go into a growth spurt. I started giving it weekly doses of full-strength nutrients and supplements, alternating between Iguana Juice base and Sensi base.
Come that July when the plant was five and a half feet tall, it started looking a little ragged so I trimmed and shaped it. Its leaves were the deep-green color you’d expect from Kush and the internodes were favorably short. The next week, a hailstorm followed by two days of rain arrived and flattened my fighter plant, shredding many of its leaves. I figured it might be a goner, but having seen its powers of resurrection, I decided to feed it B-52, Rhino Skin and Revive (an iron-nitrogen tonic for troubled plants), along with Sensi Grow base.
By mid-August, my plant had recovered and sprouted up to six feet tall and two feet in diameter, and gave off a piney-turpentine scent. I saw no evidence of the Thai sativa Chocolope genetics that are indicative of the strain — it was a pure Kush plant in scent, look and phenotype. I saw a few insects take a go at it — most notably aphids and caterpillars — but apparently, they didn’t like the taste because they disappeared before I busted out the Neem foliar spray to get rid of them.
Flowering started soon thereafter, and the plant was blessed by days of sunny, clear skies and cool nights. I switched to my bloom-phase feed program, alternating between Iguana and Sensi Bloom as the base, and worked with the time-coded supplementation program that pushes plants to earlier blooming, faster maturation, heavier harvests, and more cannabinoids and terpenoids. In order of application, this bloom phase bud-booster program was comprised of Bud Ignitor, Big Bud, Bud Candy, Nirvana, Rhino Skin and Overdrive.
Before I harvested 19 ounces of dense, skunky, dark-green buds in mid-October, the plant suffered through a windstorm, three days of rain, and only six hours of direct sunlight per day. The potency, high and taste were exceptional and reminded me of Afghani No. 1 and Bubba Kush, and there was also the slightest hint of the Chocolope sativa genetics in the taste and high.
I’d already decided to test the plant’s will to live further by doing only a partial harvest that left 15 percent of the buds, side stalks and leaves on the plant. I doused the root zone in rainwater to flush it out, and then watered it once a week with Iguana Grow base, Revive and B-52. The plant overwintered as if it was in a time warp — its leaves didn’t fall off or turn autumn-colored, and it didn’t grow at all. I figured at that point it was pretty much dead, but the following April it started growing again, and by June I was taking clones off it. I’d developed an admiration for this singular plant, and wanted to give it botanical immortality through its clones and a mother plant.
At 21 ounces, the second harvest from this plant was more bountiful than the first. I even held a little ceremony of thanks and admiration for the plant before I cut it to the ground. When I dug around the root ball and pulled it out of the soil, it had thick, white, bunched roots going two feet into the ground and three feet laterally from the main stalk.
Any serious grower keeps records of their grow ops in an attempt to analyze what went right and what went wrong. In this case, it was a puzzle how a runty, weak plant that wasn’t good enough to grow indoors and was then discarded turned out to be so resilient and productive. These are the possible answers I came up with:
- The foothills, valleys and high plains of the Hindu Kush mountains from which most Afghanica cannabis genetics emanate are an extremely harsh environment for plants. There are also landrace cannabis genetics grown at lower elevations in the general region, most notably in southern Afghanistan. The conditions there include very cold temperatures, intense ultraviolet light, windstorms, unpredictable precipitation and poor soil. Given that my plant was Afghanica dominant, its genetics were well-equipped to thrive in harsh conditions.
- The feed program I use is designed for cannabis crops and has special components that strengthen and restore plants experiencing stress. Most hydroponic nutrients and organic fertilizers provide only the basic essential elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. My feed program includes B vitamins, root builders, potassium silicate and other compounds that protect plants.
- The sun, rain and wind are a more natural grow environment than even the best indoor grow room. Also, instead of forcing the plant to flower by artificially controlling day length, the plant had months to develop in grow phase before naturally declining daylight-triggered flowering. The long grow phase set up the root and above-ground infrastructure that allowed the plant to thrive despite outdoor hardships.
- I used Voodoo Juice with beneficial microbes and root booster, plus good soil. Outdoor cannabis plants rooted directly in the ground have expansive root space that leads to stronger plants better able to resist harsh conditions. Exceptionally large, robust root mass provides an ideal environment for beneficial microbes that have a symbiotic, hormone-producing relationship with roots. Root zone hormones assist in floral production and potency.
Even now, I smile when I recall that runty plant that ended up producing nearly three pounds of buds and living more than a year in difficult outdoor conditions. I no longer have the mother plant or the buds I got from that valiant Chocolope Kush, but its clones were made into mother plants in other growers’ rooms, so in a way, the plant lives on.