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You’ve selected the perfect CBD hemp cultivar for your farm. You’ve carefully nurtured and grown out healthy hemp seedlings ready for transplant. Now it’s time to plant your young hemp seedlings. But, what plant spacing will optimize growth and hemp flower production and work the best to meet the logistics of your CBD farming operations?
Remember, those tiny hemp seedlings will grow rapidly into a vigorous plant loaded with premium quality hemp flower. While it is alluring to consider planting as many hemp plants as you can, there is a sweet spot between reaching a good plant density but not so thick that you sacrifice quality for quantity.
At Colorado Breeders Depot, we know the importance of proper plant spacing. We want to help you find the optimum planting spacing for your operation, a critical step on the road to a successful CBD flower harvest.
To determine the proper spacing for your hemp transplants, you need to consider:
Many growers new to CBD hemp farming imagine those amazingly dense and tall fields of hemp often used to showcase the amazing hemp plant.
But that’s for an industrial fiber hemp crop, not CBD hemp. Fiber hemp is grown completely differently than CBD hemp. It is planted closely, almost always direct-seeded, at around four to six inches between plants. This encourages a thick, dense canopy of plant growth that encourages each hemp plant to grow tall and straight, producing valuable fiber, and drowns out weeds.
But growing hemp for cannabinoids is an entirely different product to harvest (flowers for cannabinoids versus fiber), requiring other growing practices. A good analogy is to consider the difference between growing broccoli plants for the fresh produce market versus canola for oil. They are both the same plant species (brassica), but they are grown for different uses and in entirely different ways.
CBD hemp plants are harvested for their flower buds. The more you have and the bigger they are, the better. To encourage flower production, each plant needs plenty of room to spread out. Many CBD hemp farmers aim for five feet square per plant, although it can depend on the cultivar.
Not only does proper spacing encourage great CBD flower bud production, but it heads off mold, disease and pest outbreaks that can ruin an otherwise great harvest. Proper airflow between plants is critical for avoiding wet, damp conditions that favor disease and mold.
The first thing you need to know before dialing in your plant spacing is the spacing needs for the CBD hemp varietal you are growing.
Most varietals available, dominant in CBD and even CBG, are the traditional photoperiodic plants bred from the Indica and Sativa strains of the cannabis plant. Photoperiodic plants are triggered to flower based on daylight hours. For the most part, these plants are big, needing traditionally at least four feet square in outdoor grow operations and even as much as six feet square spacing.
But, there are also “auto-flower” hemp varietals, which are much smaller plants. Auto-flower hemp was bred from a different type of cannabis (Cannabis ruderalis) and is not dependent on daylight hours to trigger flowering.
The plants grow and come into flower rapidly — typically around 55 to 70 days versus the traditional photoperiodic strains take 95 to even 110 days to flower. And auto-flower plants are much smaller, generally needing only about two feet square between plants.
Another consideration for plant spacing is whether your CBD hemp farming operation will be indoors or in a greenhouse.
While you still need to accommodate the size of the hemp cultivars you are planting, indoor grows can generally get away with closer plant spacing. Why? Because in an indoor operation, you can control the environment and add fans and humidity control to prevent disease and mold issues. Some indoor hemp growers create complicated trellising systems to optimize spacing and bud production.
But, proper spacing is still critical even in greenhouse growing and while you might be able to pack your plants in a bit tighter, make sure you’re not sacrificing quantity for quality. There is a sweet spot in any hemp farming operation, be it outdoors or indoors, that will maximize the most production at the highest quality. It will take some experimenting to dial in the perfect spacing for your CBD hemp farm.
Another critical consideration for outdoor CBD hemp farming operations is the equipment at your disposal. It makes no sense to plant out your hemp seedlings and then realize your row spacing doesn’t match the tractor’s wheelbase you were planting to cultivate them with!
If you are planting to use equipment in your operation — whether that is a tractor for cultivating out weeds while the plants are small, a mower between rows to chop down weeds or overhead pipe irrigation — think about what spacing you’ll need to accommodate your machinery.
Once you’ve taken into account all these considerations and come up with a planting plan, you can start to calculate how many hemp plants you will need (and therefore, how many hemp seeds you need or how many hemp transplants or clones you must order), and start planting!
If you still aren’t sure the best spacing for the hemp cultivar you’ve chosen to grow, the best resource is the hemp breeder. Here at Colorado Breeders Depot, we are committed to helping our customers optimize their CBD hemp farming operations using the cultivars we have bred ourselves. We support our customers with consultation and advice from start to finish of their hemp farming operations.