"Some of my finest hours have been spent on my back veranda,
smoking hemp and observing as far as my eye can see."
- Thomas Jefferson
After entertaining the idea for a while, we decided that pursuing hemp was going to be something we chased whole-heartily and began visualising our careers being in the industry. Being so new to it all, we wanted to learn everything we could about growing a crop, how cannabis grew and what it would take to get it from start to finish, or "soil to oil" as it's been said. We bought the typical grow manuals and other literature explaining how CBD works on our body's endocannabinoid system and what conditions CBD helps with. We started gathering supplies and taking a conscious approach looking at how much it would cost, the viability of our dream and the impact our operation would have on both our environment and community.
Initial Infrastructure and Planning
Anyone who has been on YouTube knows it's easy to let videos play out and you'll end up off topic in a matter of 2-3 videos! Well lucky for me, the channel "Swedish Homestead" popped up one night while dozing off. After checking out a few of his videos I found the inspiration I needed for how to build a cold-frame, or miniature greenhouse, to start our hemp plants in. I had been gifted some full-sized greenhouse metal ribs, but wasn't able to erect it in time for this year's starts. That's a project for the very near future and which we could definitely use some help with!
The project was fairly simple in design and easy to assemble, it serves its purpose well and could make a great place to start seedlings for any home gardener. Most of the wood used were scrap 1x boards found around the farm and four 2x4x10 boards. I spent less than $50 in material costs, most of which was the clear plastic, the black landscape fabric, sand and screws.
The idea is to face the broad slanted surface to the South to let in as much light during the colder months, it will allow light and energy though to your plants and also heat up the material behind and below it (in this case it was the concrete garage foundation to the back and the sand below). Keeping the plastic pulled over primarily allows the air temps to rise, but also protects the seedlings from heavy rains and keeps the inside humidity high. A local big box store had the clear plastic for $10 and was enough to make a double layer membrane.
For our first time growing plants from starts, I was happy with this set up, but of course it has some pros and cons. The pros are that it kept all my plants happy; the air held more moisture, the trays and soil received good light and stayed warm, germination rate was good (93%), I could control the amount of water they received, it's footprint was small and out of the way, it took no supplemental heating to stay warm, it held 20 seedling trays (that's 1020 trays at 72 cells/tray or 1,440 plants total) and when weather got warmer I just rolled up the plastic around the 2x4 and let the breeze through.
Now on to the cons, which aren't really cons but rather user error. If I had known it was going to take me so long to get 1 acre planted (all 1,440 plants) I would have staggered the days I planted the seeds in the trays. So do 5 trays this week, 5 trays the next and so on until all 20 trays are planted. Staggering would have allowed time to get the first round planted before the next round are too big for their cell. Unfortunately, I planted all 20 trays in a single afternoon. The bigger problem that resulted was the older seedlings had sent their roots deep out of their cells and into the moist sand beneath, elevating them slightly off the sand would have helped with this.
Another problem I didn't account for was the plumb tree just 5' due south of my cold frame. The leaves came in earlier than expected and while we still had one or two frosts with the seedlings under the cold frame, it had no effect on the plumb tree leaves. Around noon every day enough shade was cast on the middle of the cold frame which had a definite impact on plant growth.
The only other inputs we paid for at this point were the 1020 seed flat trays and the potting mix. We used 20 seedlings trays for the 1,440 plants, costing ~$100. For the potting mix we used a combination of peat moss, vermiculite and compost made on site for another estimated ~$10.
Total price thus far: $160
The purpose of this build was to get us off the ground growing hemp without massive inputs or access to capital. This was our first year growing hemp or any plant really at a commercial scale. We hope to show with some bits of wood and ingenuity anybody could start 1,400 seedlings of any plant type at a reasonable cost!
Sneak peak into the next blog post ....
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