Cannabis consumers love the electric “up” high of sativa-dominant strains, but ganja growers need to understand the specific needs of these stretchy pot plants to get the most from them indoors.
The Sativa Rush
There’s little to debate when it comes to acknowledging that different strains of medicinal cannabis appear to be more effective at treating or alleviating particular conditions based on individual patients’ requirements. In many dispensaries and coffeeshops, indica-dominant strains are awash in both the medicinal and recreational cannabis user markets. And why not? Indica strains do tend to have a high degree of potency and may provide quick and lasting relief from a variety of physical pains and other symptoms that are directly or indirectly linked to illness. Plus they tend to be easier and quicker to grow as well: No small consideration for the cultivator.
However, for some, the indica ride is not what they are looking for to treat their symptoms or to function in a way that allows them to meet their daily goals and objectives. Indica-dominant effects, while occasionally psychedelic or trippy, tend to have a strong physical and more narcotic effect. While not suggesting that these Kushy strains act like depressants, they typically don’t produce the stronger more pronounced energetic mental high that is more characteristic of sativa-dominant strains.
“High” vs. “Stoned”
Many younger marijuana users may hardly be able to recount any experiences with sativa strains, and older ones from generations ago have difficulty recollecting when they last encountered a good sativa strain from their garden, dispensary or coffeeshop.
Sativa buds tend to smell and taste more “spicy” or “woodsy.” In fact, walking into a room after someone has smoked a sativa strain is like walking into an exotic spice shop -- it’s a symphony for finer-tuned senses.The effects of sativas are typically more “up” versus Kush or other indica-dominant strains. Patients who may prefer sativas are those that want a “happy” or “euphoric” sensation, without the strong, physically sedating effects.
It’s like having a cup or two of coffee with a side of “giggles.” Sativa highs can be quite functional, and make no mistake, they can be extremely potent. Some strains, for example Mako Haze (Kiwi Seeds), have tested over 20 percent THC.
For designated growers, the lore surrounding the lanky, unruly growth habits and longer flowering times associated with sativas has kept some incredible strains more difficult for patients to access. Growers can cultivate sativas with consistent success. In fact, they may prefer the typically heavier yields per square foot of growing space that sativa-dominant strains may offer.
When considering the growth rates, yields, medicinal qualities and bag appeal that today’s super sativas offer, it seems both growers and consumers are missing out on a very good thing in some places. Growing indica-dominant strains medicinally indoors typically means a lot of veg time (to get the plants to a stature that will offer a decent yield) because most of these strains don’t produce much new growth after being flipped into the bud phase; if they do it’s mostly a stretching at the stems, which does not significantly increase yield mass potential. On top of that, they’re often slower growers in the vegetative stage too.
On the other hand, a sativa-dominant strain can produce a lot of new flowering sites during the bud phase very quickly, so growers need only vegetate their plants to 12 or 24 inches tall for high-yielding plants that may finish as 4-foot round bushes or even bigger. It also takes less light energy to do it when you consider that even at a longer sativa flowering period of 12 weeks, the plants required a fraction of the veg time (18+ light hours). Basically, savvy super sativa growers can produce bigger yields in the same time, using less electricity, when they bank on super sativa growth rates in the bud phase.
The Sativa Stretch
Sometimes these super growth rates can catch less experienced medicinal growers by surprise, leading into a battle between the plant and the grower for the crop to finish within the vertical space available.
Following is a guide that can help you tame the beasts that are super sativas; allowing you to grow with jungle fever, even where space may be slightly limited. Following the guide, you’ll be able to grow sativas with a level of control and precision that you typically only find with “table” crops that are grown with very high individual planting densities in shorter, tight finishing plants. Even with lower plant numbers, medical growers can potentially produce more high-quality bud, using less electricity while offering medicinal qualities that are becoming a premium in today’s indica dominated medicinal marketplace.
Like every crop, successful harvests depend on starting out with good quality genetics. There are lots of great sativas out there, and, if you’re willing to start from seed, there’s even more choices available. While sativas can have a range of flowering times, something that finishes within 12 weeks after budding is started is advisable; even if there is up to 20% indica in the mix to keep flowering times and growth habits more manageable. How many seeds you’re going to need to start will depend on whether you’re growing feminized or regular seeds, how much space you have available, the desired container size at finish (bigger is better), the number of lights you are going to use, and of course how long you can vegetate the plant for to build growth structure.
Once seedlings have established and become young vegetative plants, growth rates become exponential, especially if you have started from regular seed versus feminized seed or older clone stock. Now you can either pinch, bend or tie the upper growing branches down to encourage bushier, wider growth which also helps fill in space for bigger yields while conserving vertical height. Applications of kelp extracts and B-vitamin supplements also promote bushier growth and may increase overall rates of growth. Beneficial bacteria and fungi solutions can also be applied at the roots, so your plants can grow a bigger root system that can process more water and nutrients.
Initially, plant your sprouted seeds or rooted cuttings into six-inch pots or 1-gallon containers. Within about 10 to 14 days, they’ll be ready for transplant into larger containers for the vegetative growth phase. Super sativas should never encounter restricted root growth -- it will stunt yield potential. In this setup, plants will finish with two plants per 1000-watt lamp, so 10-gallon containers were used for a five-week vegetative period (from seed) before final transplant into the 20-gallon size just prior to initiating the bud cycle.
Once the bud phase begins, sativas usually like to stretch for the first few weeks after the change, which can be used to the grower’s advantage to use fewer plants to fill a given space for high yields of dense sticky buds. As within the vegetative stage, branches can be trained to grow laterally through early flowering, in this instance through a galvanized wire mesh screen which will also help to support the heavy flowering tops later. Make sure the support you construct is secure and sturdy. Positioning the wire frame just above the plants when you initiate flowering (12/12 light cycle) gives some resistance to the plants as they tend to make efforts to reach for the sky when the light cycle changes. Supplying carbohydrate supplements just prior to or at the onset of flowering also helps to reduce stretching in the super sativas growth before they slow vertical growth and start filling out the flowering sites to yield massive colas.
Sativas benefit from lots of intense light. Air-cooled reflectors help keep grow room temps from rising above optimal and lets the super sativa tops finish closer to the light source for increased density because the buds aren’t overheating.
Keeping a tighter difference between day and night temperatures at the onset of bud development further helps to cut down on the sativa stretch factor. In this Canadian medical grow, the heat from the gas-fired carbon dioxide generator is captured via water radiator and is blown back through the air during the dark cycle. This cuts down the heat when it is unwanted during lights on, and gives it back when the lights go out and the room begins to cool off. Avoiding high humidity levels and big swings in those levels also encourages tighter and healthier growth in medicinal sativa crops.
Make sure you have lots of support for sativas. As they begin to mature, the buds can be enormous and heavy; a very nice problem to have for growers! Sativas typically prefer lighter crop feedings, and should be allowed to have a longer flush period to reduce any accumulated fertilizer residues before the plants are harvested.
If you give your super sativas lots of light, space for growth and room for the roots, you stand to harvest some heavy yields of out-of-this-world connoisseur quality buds that promote a more active and functional effect that offers patients and recreational users a welcome alter- native to the popular selections of today.