How to Farm Hemp: Full Hemp Farming Guide

Flowering hemp crops

Back in the 1930s, the hemp market was thriving, and many supporters, like Henry Ford, saw a bright future for this crop. However, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 ruined the rising hemp industry, and for decades, this plant was forbidden for its similarity with marijuana in the U.S.

Fortunately, things have changed in the most recent years. Nowadays, hemp can be grown for a plethora of products; flower, oils, concentrates, clothing, cosmetics, edibles, rope, biofuel, etc. This new agricultural crop is definitely a great investment for anyone who wants to start their own business and join the hemp train.

If you really want to grow hemp and are willing to put in the effort, this ultimate hemp farming guide will show you everything you need to know to have your own hemp farm.

Best Growing Conditions for Hemp

Farmers often agree on the fact that hemp is one of the easiest crops to cultivate. Moreover, it is considered a sustainable plant; it is very strong and consistently produces high yields. Hemp also enhances soil health by shading out weeds, and its roots absorb harmful chemicals, cleaning the soil. 

However, for this crop to thrive it is necessary to have the best growing conditions for hemp. While the plant can adapt to a diverse set of conditions, there are certain factors that will make the most out of your crop.

Best Soil for Growing Hemp

Without a doubt, the best soil for growing hemp is a loose, fertile, and well-aerated loam. If you plant your crop in a poorly drained soil, the excess surface water will damage your plant in case of heavy rains. On the other hand, more arid and dry places will need intense irrigation, which is an additional investment you wouldn’t want to make.

In addition, the soil temperature should be around 50°F.

Best Soil pH for Hemp

Between 6.0 – 7.5 is just perfect for your seeds to thrive.

Best Climate for Growing Hemp

Hemp grows best in a mild climate with a humid atmosphere. Rainfall should be around 25 – 30 inches per year, and 50-80°F temperatures are just perfect for the plant to thrive. Warm-weather areas are the most ideal since hemp loves the sun during its first weeks of growth. 

Best Moisture Conditions for Growing Hemp

While hemp doesn’t need a great amount of water, it is important to keep the seeds moisturized for the first 4 weeks. Watering your seedlings 1-2 times a day will provide them with proper moisture. Once they grow at least 2 inches in height, you can adjust the water depending on how the outdoors temperature is.

Best Cover Crop for Hemp

Cover crops are the best way to protect and nourish the soil during the growing period of your crop. When you have an adequate cover crop, they will suppress weeds and help build organic matter in the soil. This is very convenient for your hemp plant since they benefit the most from soil rich in organic matter.

Additionally, certain cover crops will help replenish nitrogen in the soil, pilling it from the air. For instance, legumes are extremely helpful for this purpose, since they have nitrogen-fixing bacteria. 

When choosing your cover crops, you must be aware of the purpose you want to give them. If you want to reduce erosion or reduce pests and diseases, the cover crop will be different. These are some of the cover crops we suggest you use in your hemp farm:

  • Reduce erosion and excessive nutrients: rye, oats, barley, and wheat are just a couple of grasses that will help you consume excessive nutrients. If you want to use these as cover crops, plant them between mid-September and mid-October, at about 50 to 100 pounds of seed per acre.
  • Replenish nitrogen: crop peas, clovers, and hairy vetch will pull nitrogen from the soil.
  • Control pests and disease: radishes, turnips, and mustards ward off unwanted pests since they contain high levels of glucosinolate, a component that acts as a deterrent for several pests. It is important to note that some of these crops can contain the blackleg fungus, so make sure to frequently monitor your crops to avoid the fungus from taking hold.

Best Companion Plants for Hemp

Just like cover crops, companion plants are a great way to provide your hemp plants with more nutrients and create a micro-ecosystem that will ultimately protect your crop. Some of the best companion plants for hemp include:

  • Basil
  • Lavender
  • Yarrow
  • Coriander
  • Chamomile
  • Peppermint
  • Marigold
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Sage
  • Corn 
  • Sunflower

Best Fertilizer for Hemp

For it to thrive, hemp needs soil that is rich in organic matter and other compounds. For instance, sulfur, potassium sulfate, and rock phosphate levels are important to test. The higher they are, the more your plant will find it hard to grow.

If you want to have proper soil, you will need around 80 to 100 lbs/ac nitrogen, 35 to 50 lbs/ac phosphate, and 52 to 70 lbs/ac potash.

Normally, nitrogen-based fertilizers are the most used to provide the plant with nutrients. For instance, a solid fertilizer like NPK 4-4-4 is often utilized to support robust growth. These fertilizers are made of different metals and minerals that the crop needs to grow healthily. However, nothing is better than making your very own organic fertilizer. 

Best Organic Compost for Hemp

One of the reasons why opting for organic compost for hemp is better than chemical fertilizers is simple; it is cheap, and you can also make one with anything you have at hand. Moreover, it is more environmentally friendly, and the quality of your crop will be improved. While chemical fertilizers have a complete combination of important nutrients, they can often burn your crop.

To create an ideal compost for hemp, you should make a 50:50 mix of brown, dry material (leaves, stalks, wood ashes, etc) and green material (eggshells, fresh leaves, fruits, etc). Make sure you don’t add plants or soil that has pests or diseases.

In addition to the basic compost elements, there are certain organic additives you should have in order to include the essential components to fertilize your hemp plant. In the following list, we share with you some of the most important elements you should add to your compost for hemp:

  • Blood meal: it contains a great amount of nitrogen.
  • Bone meal: in case you are interested in growing hemp for its flower, bone meal is rich in phosphorus, making it perfect during the plant’s flowering phase. 
  • Coffee grounds: the right pH of the soil is extremely important to growing a strong hemp plant. For this reason, when adjusting the pH level of your soil or compost (to make it more acidic), coffee grounds are a great way to balance the pH of the soil.
  • Manure: this element should be specifically added to the compost and not directly to the soil. While different animals produce waste that has different properties, your best options are rabbit, cow, chicken, and horse manure.

If you want to learn more about the best organic compost for hemp, check out this guide.

Best Farm Equipment for Hemp

If you have successfully followed the recommendations for growing hemp, then you surely have all to odds in your favor. In practice, however, it is always important to have the best farm equipment for hemp to have optimal results.

In case you need help finding farm equipment for hemp, The National Hemp Association has a list of sellers you can contact to acquire quality machinery and equipment.

Best Irrigation for Hemp

A good irrigation system will provide the plant with the required amount of water without overfilling the root zone of your crop. While the hemp plant is very adaptable and resistant, a proper irrigation system will make the difference in the finishing product, especially if you are growing hemp for CBD and/or CBG.

There are plenty of irrigation methods for hemp, each adapting to several factors like climate, field size, and the ultimate purpose you are growing hemp for. The principle of irrigation, on the other hand, remains the same; to water the hemp plant at minimal costs and with minimum effort.

In order to find out which irrigation system works best for your hemp plantation, we have gathered some of the most popular methods and their uses:

  • Pivot irrigation: with this system, a sprinkler pipe or boom pulls water from a water source. This way, it delivers it through a large row of hanging sprinklers. This system uses less water than other methods, and it can be automated to save yourself some time. The only problem with the pivot irrigation system is that a portion of the water won’t really make it to the roots of your hemp plant. Because it delivers water from above, the wet foliage and leaves can promote diseases.
  • Flood irrigation: being one of the oldest irrigation systems, it comes as no surprise that many hemp farmers use this method to water their crops. This system uses ponded water and pours it into their hemp fields, making it flow around the crops. However, this isn’t the best irrigation for hemp for many reasons. First, you would have to have access to low-cost or free water; secondly, it can lead to over-water your plants, promoting diseases. 
  • Drip irrigation: this is considered the best irrigation system for hemp nowadays. Also known as micro-irrigation, this method delivers water directly to the roots of your hemp plants. Normally, drip irrigation consists of a system made of a tube, tape, or a flexible pipe that delivers low-pressure water to the base of your crops through numerous holes. When used in combination with plasticulture, this becomes an extremely water-efficient irrigation method, because it goes directly to the root zone, leaving behind leaves. This way, there is less of a chance of weeds taking advantage of the moisture of the soil, and you can prevent the risk of diseases surging from wet foliage.

Best Combine for Hemp

Using the right combine to harvest your hemp is extremely important, since getting the wrong one can actually damage your crops. If you are looking to harvest hemp grain and biomass, the most important aspect to look out for is the height of your combine header. If it is high enough, it will only cut the plant below the seed head. This way, you will avoid a large amount of fiber from ending up in the combine.

For this reason, it is important to know the height of the variety you are cultivating. Normally, the cluster of seeds starts as high as 5 feet. This requires exhaustive research on which combine achieves such height. Moreover, you also need to analyze the size of your field, moisture levels, and temperature.

When reviewing some of the most popular combines for hemp, you should make sure that you can use these settings in your combine as a starting point:

  • Concave: 30-50 mm
  • Wind: 1070 rpm
  • Cylinder speed: 450-600 rpm
  • Sieve: 3 mm 
  • Chaffer: 10 mm 

Best Transplanter for Hemp

If you plan on having a large hemp field, you may want to use a transplanter for hemp. This will help you transplant the seedlings to the field, saving you more time and effort. While there are plenty of transplanters for hemp on the market, you will definitely benefit the most from a C&M (Checchi & Magli) transplanter. 

Best Baler for Hemp

Using a baler to compress your hemp is the best way to protect your seeds, roots, biomass, etc, from air and external pollution. A hemp baler won’t only compress your product, but it will also pack the bale with plastic bags. This will save you great space and the shipping costs of transferring your hemp bale to different places. 

You can find some of the best balers for hemp here.

Best Grain Drill for Hemp

It doesn’t matter if you have bought a high-quality seed for your hemp field. If you don’t have the adequate seed drill, you won’t have much efficiency going on your hemp operation. Grain drills meter out individual seeds, placing them at the right depth in the soil and covering them. In order to find the best grain drill for hemp, you must take into account the soil condition and the size of your field, so that you get covered as many rows as you can without wasting too much time.

Best Barn for Hemp Drying

If you are growing hemp for CBD or CBG flower, you should pay attention to the conditions of the barn you are drying your hemp at. This simple structure must be adapted to prevent the flower from producing mold since it will considerably lower its price. 

This facility must be under the roof, out of direct sunlight, and ventilated. Growers often tend to place several fans and have them blowing continuously. The goal with this setup is to have dry air circulating around the plants, drawing out the excess moisture that can cause mold.

Moreover, some barns are slatted on the sides to bring in the air from outside, which is natural airflow. Of course, these kinds of barns work best in places where the climate is also contributing to the drying process.

Best Greenhouse for Hemp

While growing hemp outdoors is a great choice for those who harvest in mass quantities, it isn’t a wise decision if you want to produce CBD or CBG. This purpose requires a more detailed maintenance that can’t be achieved outdoors. For this reason, many farmers prefer to grow hemp in a greenhouse.

Some of the benefits of growing hemp in a greenhouse include increasing your CBD or CBG yield since you can grow your crop almost all year. With a greenhouse for hemp growing, you can control the climate, which means that you can grow this plant all year adjusting it to the different environmental factors around you.

On the other hand, you will have fewer pest problems, since you won’t have bugs, rodents, and birds damaging your crops. Moreover, this means you will use fewer pesticides and more control over what comes and goes in your greenhouse.

If you’re thinking of growing hemp in a greenhouse, it is important you consider different factors such as how many plants you will have, the space you have, and make sure your structure can receive natural sunlight. There are two popular structures you can use to start using a greenhouse for hemp growing:

  • Cold frame greenhouse: also called a hoop house, this is an economical option for growing hemp the whole year. You can cover it with greenhouse-grade poly and add fans or natural ventilation, making it a great starter.
  • Poly-connected greenhouse: this option is best for those who think of expanding their hemp cultivation. This structure can be expanded upon desired, and it is the most cost-effective option for farmers who want a large-scale plantation. 

Best Greenhouse Light for Hemp

Although HPS lights are more used for cannabis growth than LEDs, some growers find that hemp adapts better to the latter. To begin with, LEDs emit less radiant heat than an HPS light, which makes it easier to control the climate of the greenhouse. In addition, LED lighting is consistent, and it minimizes seasonality issues. It has also proven to increase hemp yield; for instance, a 200W LED can yield up to 3.5 to 7 ounces of flower.

Best Moisture Meter for Hemp

As we mentioned before, it is very important to keep an eye on the moisture levels of your hemp crop, since excessive content can result in mold. Testing the moisture in your hemp plant is important from seedling till drying, and this task can only be done with a quality moisture meter.

While the F-2000 is a hay moisture meter, hemp producers have found it convenient to carry quality control checks on their various hemp products. You can learn more about this digital moisture meter here.

Best Drying Rack for Hemp

While drying and curing hemp buds by hanging them has been a long-time tradition, the creation of drying racks for hemp has made the process way easier for some farmers. The advantage of these elements is that they will dry the flower faster, making it better for those who don’t have much space at their barn.

However, there is no concrete answer on whether it is best to dry your hemp flower in a drying rack or by hanging it. According to some farmers, drying racks are better for machine-trimmed buds, and hand-trimmed buds are better dried when hanged. It all comes down to your own needs, budget, and time. 

If you are interested in this element, we have collected some of the best drying racks for hemp you can find on the market:

  • Highrise 3’ adjustable drying rack: you can hang these drying racks from the ceiling of your tent or grow room and put your herb to dry. The mesh material of this rack allows air circulation and uniform ventilation, making the process quick and even. It also has three detachable shelves, allowing you to have more control over the amount of space you have for drying hemp.
  • Casolly drying rack: made with a handy material that is easy to set up, you will only need to hang and drop this drying rack. Just like the drying rack above, you can also detach any extra shelf. This drying rack for hemp is convenient if you have a large amount of flower to dry since it is sturdy and has more space.

As you can see, hemp is a crop that needs a large amount of time, effort, and different equipment and machinery. However, the results will be totally worth the investment. This promising industry is fueling a global “Green Rush”, and states like Colorado and Oregon have seen enormous economic growth thanks to this market. Moreover, researchers estimate that the CBD market in the U.S. could reach a worth of almost $24 billion by 2023. 

If you want to get started on growing hemp, make sure to contact the Department of Agriculture of your state and get to know the current Hemp Program. While it is a totally legal crop, hemp still undergoes strict regulation, and in some states, laws can be quite tricky. However, if you manage to get a growing license, you can rest assured that the results of your investment will be satisfactory.

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