Hemp is a plant with magical properties, it is part of the Cannabis Sativa family and has a wide variety of uses; from its medicinal uses, to its nutritional benefits and its unique ability to be an eco-friendly fibre with real world application.
Hemp is not meant for smoking or getting high from. To be classified as hemp most legal states require the plant to have almost no THC, the chemical that causes you to feel high. Hemp is rather known for its industrious material usage.
With the Cannabis plant becoming legally more widely available around the world cultivating your own Hemp has never been easier.
Most states allow cultivation of Cannabis if THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) amounts are below 0.3%, but you should always check your local laws.
With 62% of Americans supporting the legalization of Cannabis, the plant is now legal in some way or another in 46/50 States in the US. Additionally Canada’s recent nationwide legalization of weed for recreational and medicinal purpose there is reason to believe that 2019 will be the year in which Cannabis will go mainstream.
For industrial uses it is recommended only to grow industrial hemp (for textiles, seeds, or oils for example) if you have plots of land at least 50 acres large (20 hectares, or 0.2 square kilometers). Hemp’s profit as a crop is low compared to grains, but high compared to vegetables, with a wide profit range between $130 to $730 per acre ($32K – $180K / km^2).
Now Industrial hemp farming is not the most profitable crop to grow if you are solely after mass production and obtaining the highest profit margins, but that is not what this article is about.
If you wish to create a mini hemp farm in your home and use it to create your own hemp oils, and seeds then this article is for you.
Reasons for growing your own organic hemp
- Hemp does not require any pesticides to grow, saving money as well as being better for your health.
- Hemp does not require any synthetic fertilizers.
- It’s the perfect crop to grow organically at home due to the lack of attention required.
- The stems and stalks of the plant can be used as a fibre to build clothes, paper, or furniture with.
- the stalks, but more importantly the seeds can be broken down, refined and filtered to create your very own hemp oil.
- Hemp seeds are one of the most nutritious seeds out there, they contain high amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, useful in preventing many heart and brain illnesses, moreover Hemp seeds contains about 7 grams of protein per tablespoon, more than double that of flax and chia seeds.
- You can create your own hemp based soaps, shampoo, or moisturizers, perfect for at home or to give away to friends and family.
- furthermore by growing your own hemp plants you can ensure that the seeds and oils are not coated in any toxins.
Getting your hands on hemp seeds
Currently if you live in the United States there are still states which the act of buying live or viable hemp seeds meant for growing can still be against Federal Law. If you still want to buy seeds meant for germination then you have to get into contact with you States local Agricultural department.
The reason why it is still sort of a hassle to obtain hemp seeds meant for germination is that hemp is part of the same plant as marijuana which is a common soft drug. Many believe however that marijuana has been demonized and unfairly portrayed for years in an effort to suppress its effect on many industries.
After ensuring that it is in fact legal to grow your own hemp seeds in your country, state or territory it is now time to look for a seed which has the characteristics (genetic variation) you want. The Hemp plants don’t just vary in stalk, seed, and oil amounts but also in many other characteristics mentioned below.
The Hemp seeds you generally find are not meant to be planted but rather they are meant to be consumed. This is apparent if the seed has been hulled or shelled for example, which is when the outer shell (which is a little harsh to eat, but contains a lot of fibre) has been removed.
Almost by definition hemp contains no more than 0.3% THC.
However there are other characteristics in hemp that can be chosen from. Such as the
- grain yield
- fibre yield
- planting rate
- flowering time
- CBD content
- THC content
- Optimal grain harvest date
- Fibre content
For reference; When purchasing hemp seeds, 1 lbs of hemp seeds is equal to about 24,000 seeds. (1 kg ~= 52,800 seeds)
What can you expect?
- Most Hemp plants have a flowering time of about 8-11 weeks.
- They can have CBD ranges around 10-16% depending on the genetic variation.
- Most hemp plants can grow to be 130 – 200 cm tall (4’3” – 6’6”).
- If you are looking to plant hemp for hemp seeds you can plant about 25 hemp plants per acre. (25 per 0.004km^2)
- If you are looking to plant hemp for hemp fibre you can plant double that, 50 hemp plants per acre. (50 per 0.004km^2)
Depending on whether you plant the hemp plants inside or outside the cost varies a lot.
Outdoor growing will be a lot cheaper but you are completely at the mercy of the climate and the weather so you will have to do your research whether or not it is possible to grow hemp outdoors. If you are able to cultivate hemp in your garden you are lucky. The startup costs associated with planting hemp outdoors is approximately $110 per square meter.
Indoor growing is much more expensive but is better controlled. The startup costs associated in getting an Indoor hemp farm started can go up all the way to $800 per square meter, Although you most likely will be farming for personal use, the average cost for wholesale marijuana production was $450 per square meter.
Although more expensive indoor growing allows for higher quality plants as well as being able to cultivate plants year round.
Where do the costs lie?
You need space
If you are growing one or two plants for personal use you could possibly store your plants in your garage or basement assuming that the temperature and light conditions are satisfactory. However if you want to mass produce hemp you will need to invest in a warehouse, at which point it might not make sense to grow hemp anymore, but rather marijuana with THC as it earns more.
If you are growing outside, then you will need to find a place with direct sunlight and possibly ensure that the plant is not visible to curious onlookers, you never know what your neighbors might think.
If you are growing indoors, you will need a strong light
There is a large variety of LED lights you can purchase to help grow your indoor hemp plant. You will have to find a light which satisfies your requirements. When buying a light you have to keep into account that each light can only cover a certain amount of area.
If you are aiming to have just one hemp plant growing in your garage it would make sense to buy a small 2×2 feet LED light cover that will run you about $200. When using an LED light make sure you keep the LED light 45cm (18 inches) away from the top of the plant, and also make sure your LED light emits full spectrum light, as it will ensure that your plant does not become vulnerable to nutrient deficiencies.
If you do not have 45cm of space above your plant, you might want to go for fluorescent lights. When buying fluorescent lights for cultivation you will have to buy several types to give the plant the full spectrum of light. Most growers use CFL lights in combination with T5s. The nice thing about fluorescent lights is that they only need to be 5cm (2 inches) above the top of the plant.
It goes to say if you are using lighting you will go through electricity as a variable cost. Make sure you know the wattage of your lights and do not be surprised if your electricity bill has a slight bump. One tip to maximize your lights is by using reflectors, as this will reflect all the light back and around the plant.
Of course if you are farming outdoors you can ignore all of the above, as your plants will thrive under natural sunlight.
Temperature and Humidity
When growing at a personal level, temperature, humidity and ventilation shouldn’t be an issue, however if you do notice that the lights are generating too much heat, it is wise to invest into a fan.
If you want to increase the quality of the hemp you might also wish to invest into humidifiers and ventilation systems however these will make your startup costs skyrocket, as they can run you $1000-$3000. It has to be said though if you have a window try just opening that first.
Your plant will also need some sort of medium to grow in.
If you are growing indoors, you will need a 40 liter (10 gallon) pot, which will run you about $10.
to fill up a 40 liter pot you will need about $15 worth of soil.
This makes the startup cost per plant, $25.
The soil used should be alkaline. The minimum allowed pH level is 6, however anything between a pH level of 7 to 7.5 is best.
Although not completely necessary when farming at a personal level, you might want to purchase a fertilizer. Your plants need a variety of mineral nutrients and non mineral nutrients to be grown, a lack of these can result in unhealthy growth. Remember if your plant has access to the nutrients it will only make your produce (hemp seeds, hemp oil) more nutritious.
Mineral nutrients obtained from the soil:
- Nitrogen (N)
- Phosphorus (P)
- Potassium (K)
Non-mineral elements derived from air and water:
A liter of fertilizer usually costs around $5-$10 with certain bottles being specialized for marijuana plants. However if you just purchased soil, check the packaging since some soils are pre fertilized.
Hemp is a very rigorous plant, although you can invest into the most expensive appliances to make your hemp farm ideal it often is not going to make a very big difference. Hemp plants can be used for many things. The stalks can for example be used as a fibre to craft things such as clothing or paper. From the stalks however you can also derive hemp oil.
Hemp plants also contain hemp seeds, something we already covered before. Hemp seeds are a magic seed providing very high levels of protein compared to flax or chia seed, perfect for proper functioning and repair of the body. Hemp seeds also contain large amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids, one of the most important nutrients to prevent many forms of heart disease as well as brain related diseases. Hemp seeds are easily incorporated into your diet as you can just sprinkle them over your favorite salad, smoothie or sandwich.
When you cold press the seeds and stalks of the hemp plant you get hemp oil. Hemp oil can be used not only in cooking but also it goes well over a salad (has a slight nutty, almost pinecone-y taste.)
It is also possible to create your own soaps, shampoos and lotions with hemp oil perfect to give away as a present.