From the river valleys of Virginia to the lush hills of Oregon, hemp is making an American comeback. It is a hardy, versatile, crop that can adapt to some of the harshest conditions on the planet. With more and more farmers looking to grow hemp it begs the question, where is the best place to grow hemp?
What are the Ideal Conditions for Growing Hemp
What are Ideal Soil Conditions for Growing Hemp?
Let’s start at the bottom. Hemp prefers a balanced (pH 6-7), well drained, loamy soil. Soil that is well aerated and allows for adequate water retention. Although it can grow in a wide variety of soil types, sandy soil is often the most difficult. This is due to compaction and poor water delivery to the roots. Having dry roots due to inadequate moisture, or excess water remaining on the surface, will lead to crop damage.
What are Ideal Planting Conditions for Growing Hemp?
Once the soil is prepared for planting seeds, dig a well at a depth less than 2 inches. Planting at 1 inch lets the seeds sprout in uniformity. This allows for a more profitable field because taller plants will not shade newly emerging sprouts. This also is helpful when harvest time rolls around. The height of blooms, seed areas, and stalk height will be at close to uniform.
What are Ideal Light Conditions for Growing Hemp?
Hemp does well in full sun when the outdoor temperatures are around 60°F and preferably 2-3 weeks after the last chance of frost has past.
[PRO-TIP] If an unexpected frost does occur the young plants can be protected if they are covered by a film or cloth and are watered 24-48 hours before the frost. Well watered soil retains heat more so than dry soil giving the plants a better chance of survival.
What are Ideal Temperature Conditions for Growing Hemp?
Once established, hemp is quite drought tolerant. Through the early stages of seed germination, air temperatures should be between 50-80°F. This will give the roots enough time to become fully established before the heat of summer is in full effect. Seeds can be started when soil temperatures are between 42-46°F.
What are Ideal Moisture Conditions for Growing Hemp?
When planting seeds directly into the field they require more water over the first 4 weeks. Watering a freshly planted field 1-2 times a day to allow the seedlings proper moisture for healthy germination. Once the plants are about 2 inches in height, the water can be adjusted as necessary to provide slightly moist soil throughout the rest of the growing season. Once the plants reach a height of 3-4 feet water can be further reduced depending on how hot outdoor temperatures become.
What is the Ideal Air Flow for Growing Hemp?
Air flow between the plants is necessary to keep mold and mildew at bay. This can be accomplished outdoors by spacing plants adequate distances apart. Four to seven inches between each plant in a row is ideal. Spacing rows two to four feet apart is adequate depending on the end harvest goals. Traditionally hemp has been planted like a grain, as that has been the primary end harvest goal, but now more and more farmers are planting hemp like a vegetable or orchard, due to the desire to maintain the plants at higher quality and harvest for a different end goal.
What is the Ideal Nutrition for Growing Hemp?
Hemp grows very large, very quickly. To allow for this vigorous growth, the plants will need proper feedings. As a general rule, the soil should contain twice as many nutrients at seeding, as the plant will absorb in an entire harvest season. This is a good starting point for a healthy field, but the plants will need to be fed at leastonce during the growing season. The plants will have distinct two stages of growth during their life-cycle: Vegitativeand Flowering.
The vegetative stage is when the plant grows tall and wide, filling out with leaves, branches, and overall size.
The flowering stage, as the name suggests, is when blooms or flowing buds, that are rich in CBD, begin to form. This flowering location is also where seeds/grain is formed.
In each stage, the plant requires a different mineral food source for optimum growth.
In the vegetive stage, the plants will use primarily Nitrogen to expand and grow in size. A good fertilizer for this stage would be one rich in Nitrogen such as an NPK 10-6-6.
Once flowering has begun, the plants will switch over to using more phosphorus and potassium. So once signs of flowering are noticed, it would be a good time to give a feeding of an NPK 6-12-8 fertilizer. The number of the NPK’s (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) here do not have to match the numbers above. Today there are so many different blends of feed to choose from, that selecting the “right” one for your crop may seem overwhelming. Not to worry, the main thing to remember is that the numbers should be higher in Nitrogen for the vegetative stage, and higher in phosphorus in the flowering stage. To find what out what minerals your soil has already, you can perform a simple test.
How to Treat Hemp Plants for Weeds
Hemp is naturally effective at suppressing weeds. No chemicals are needed to ward off encroaching neighbors. There are no approved or registered chemicals for hemp field weed suppression and given the end harvest goals of CBD extraction, fibre for textiles, and grain for food, chemical additions would do more harm than good. Not only for the plants and products, but also to the soil. Keeping soil healthy and dynamic will yield not only great harvests today, but assure abundant future harvests for generations to come.
When to Seed Hemp Plants
Hemp can be seeded in the early spring through early summer and plants reach maturity in as quick as 60 days for some species. More commonly hemp is allowed to grow for 90-120 days allowing the plant to complete it’s full life cycle. The timing of the harvest is based on the end harvesting goals. Most recently hemp has been grown primarily for grain in North America (Canada) and the leftover stalks were viewed as a nuisance. But now with the ever growing market for hemp based products, more and more farmers are letting the plants grow 60+ days to harvest the flowers for CBD extraction, leave a section to continue growing to 90+ days for seeds, and once both are harvested, cutting down all the stalks for fibre harvest production. Making a three distinct harvests from one plant. Getting the most out of their time, land, and money.
When to Rotate Hemp Crops
Hemp can be grown year after year on thhee same section of land, but good crop rotation is key to the sustainability of any good farm. Rotating the hemp plot with buckwheat (phosphorus regeneration), legumes (nitrogen regeneration), and alfalfa (nitrogen regeneration) are all good solutions to maintaining the soil.
The soils health is key to keeping a great operation alive and well, so taking the time to plant a cover crop, replenishing the soil with nutrients and minerals can make the difference in growing healthy crops for years to come. A 4-year rotation is recommended.
- Year 1: Hemp (planted for harvest)
- Year 2: Common Buckwheat (planted for soil phosphorus regeneration)
- Year 3: Hemp (planted for harvest)
- Year 4: Alfalfa (Planted for soil nitrogen regeneration)