How To Grow Northern Lights
Northern Lights is one cannabis strain that will never lose its luster. This classic Indica has been a staple among indoor growers for decades. Breeders have used it to produce countless elite strains such as Bubba Kush and Super Silver Haze. Its high yield, delicious flavor, and potent effects make Northern Lights a shining example of the ideal cannabis variety.
Northern Lights presents a myriad of desirable traits, but growers must learn how to properly care for it in order for this cultivar to reach its full potential. Selecting the right seeds, providing the right growing environment, and properly harvesting and curing the plants are essential steps in producing a flavorful and abundant harvest.
This article will shed some light on the history and characteristics of Northern Lights and offer some tips to cultivate this legendary strain.
Northern Lights History
Although Northern Lights is widely popular, its origin is shrouded in mystery. Many sources state that the strain was developed in the 1970s by a grower known as “the Indian,” on an island near the coast of Washington. Some diehard fans of Northern Lights say that he germinated 11 pure Indica plants, reported to have come from Afghanistan. The Indian favored two of the female plants, referred to as “No. 1” and “No. 5,” because they displayed the best characteristics of the strain. These two phenotypes grew vigorously, produced copious amounts of resin, and were sexually stable.
For more than a decade, Northern Lights circulated around the United States, where it became popular with many indoor growers. In 1985, Nevil Schoenmakers, the founder of Holland’s first cannabis seed bank, brought the strain to Europe. Schoenmakers hybridized it with a Thai Sativa in hopes of increasing the yield; however, other phenotypes of Northern Lights retained their pure Indica genetics.
Northern Lights has been a widely popular variety for decades and is still cultivated by growers and breeders today.
Northern Lights Overview
One of Northern Lights’ best traits is its sweet and spicy aroma, best described as a pungent bouquet of fresh soil and pine, with sweet floral undertones. Depending on the phenotype, some plants may present more earthy pine aromas, and some may lean toward a floral and sweet cherry fragrance.
The smoke of Northern Lights is smooth and flavorful. This variety produces an earthy taste, with strong notes of skunk and citrus. Some phenotypes may be sweeter, and some may be spicier.
Northern Lights is a potent Indica variety that, when properly grown, can produce up to 21 percent THC. This cultivar delivers a narcotic and euphoric high that is reported to ease tension in the body and calm the mind. In light of its powerful analgesic effect, the strain is an excellent choice for medical cannabis users. Many users maintain that Northern Lights may reduce pain, elevate the mood, and promote a good night’s sleep. Because of its potent Indica effects, Northern Lights is best enjoyed at night.
Northern Lights’ short, compact structure makes it an ideal variety for indoor growing. The plants are of small to medium height, with robust branches and dark green leaves. Although this strain is somewhat diminutive in size, it is capable of producing a hefty yield. Northern Lights grows vigorously in the vegetative growth period, and rapidly forms massive colas during the flowering period. The buds are dense and frosty and may turn purple when exposed to cold temperatures.
How To Grow Northern Lights
Buy the Best Seeds
The first step in growing Northern Lights is to acquire seeds or clones from a reputable source. Low-quality seeds may have low germination rates or may produce subpar plants that are sexually unstable and lacking in flavor and potency.
Feminized Northern Lights seeds may be the best choice for most growers. Feminized seeds make the growing process easy by eliminating the need to isolate male plants. For breeders, choosing regular seeds will allow them to easily create their own hybrids with Northern Lights. Regular seeds produce roughly 50 percent male plants and 50 percent female plants.
Choose a Growing Medium
The next step in growing Northern Lights is to select a growing medium. This strain is very hardy and adaptable and can thrive in a variety of growing media. Growers can use coco coir, rockwool, soil, or many other types of growing media. For most growers, soil presents the easiest and most affordable growing medium. Organic soil, according to many growers, will produce buds that are more flavorful than cannabis grown in soilless media.
Because of Northern Lights’ resilience and adaptability, it can be grown in many types of soil; however, loam soil is regarded as the best type for growing cannabis. Loam soil comprises a mix of sand, silt, and clay. It tends to be rich in minerals and organic nutrients. As a rule, cannabis thrives in loam soil that is slightly acidic. Growers should choose a soil mix with a pH of between 6.0 and 7.0, as this range will allow the plants’ roots to maximize the absorption of nutrients.
Let There Be Light
Lighting is one of the most important considerations when growing cannabis. To remain in the vegetative growth phase, Northern Lights requires 18 hours of light per day. When exposure is reduced to 12 hours of light per day, Northern Lights will enter the flowering phase. Because Northern Lights is a small and compact strain, keeping the plants in the vegetative growth period for at least five weeks will ensure a sizeable yield.
To ensure ample lighting and a bountiful harvest, many growers choose metal halide or high-pressure sodium lights. These lights are powerful, but they are not energy-efficient. They also produce a great deal of heat, which may burn cannabis plants if they are too close to the lights. In recent years, LED lights have become popular with indoor growers, as they are highly energy-efficient and do not produce as much heat as metal halide and high-pressure sodium lights do.
Create the Ideal Environment
Northern Lights thrives in warm, sunny climates, with daytime temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. When exposed to colder temperatures, the leaves and buds of this variety may display dramatic hues of blue and purple. This variety should not be exposed to temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Chilly conditions may slow bud production and make the plants susceptible to pests and diseases.
Due to the density and frost of Northern Lights’ buds, some phenotypes of this variety may be prone to bud rot. During the flowering period, growers should keep the humidity level below 50 percent to prevent the growth of mold and fungus.
Feeding Northern Lights
Like most cannabis strains, Northern Lights thrives when fed an ample and diverse supply of nutrients. During the vegetative growth period, this strain tends to require larger amounts of nitrogen. During the flowering period, it requires more phosphorous and potassium. In addition to nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, Northern Lights requires smaller amounts of calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. It also requires trace amounts of boron, copper, iron, manganese, and zinc for optimum plant health.
Most high-quality soil mixes contain enough nutrients to feed the plants for three to four weeks. After the nutrients have been depleted, growers will need to feed the plants with liquid fertilizers or top-dress the soil with dry amendments. Although Northern Lights is a heavy feeder, growers should be careful not to go overboard with nutrients. Overfeeding the plants may lead to leaf burn and can diminish both the quality and yield of the final product.
Growers should adjust the pH of their nutrient mixes in order to ensure optimum nutrient uptake. For soil growers, feeding with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0 is ideal. Plants grown in hydroponic and soilless media require a slightly lower pH, in the 5.5 to 6.5 range.
Training Northern Lights
Northern Lights is a high-yielding strain, but growers can use a variety of high-stress and low-stress training methods to increase the yield even more. Techniques such as topping or super cropping can redirect the energy of the plants to the lower branches, causing these branches to form multiple colas. Twisting and pinching the branches may increase their size and strength and make them sturdy enough to support the weight of the large buds. Finally, pruning the plants may allow for light to reach the lower bud sites and further increase the yield. Removing too many leaves may stall growth, so a light touch is recommended.
Preventing Pests and Diseases
Although Northern Lights is resilient to most pests and diseases, it is not immune to them. Keeping the growing area clean and well-ventilated will help prevent the spread of mold, fungus, and insects. Keeping the humidity level below 50 percent during the late flowering period will help prevent diseases such as powdery mildew and bud rot from developing. Pruning the plants may help increase air circulation and prevent diseases and infestations.
To stop insect or fungal infestations, growers can use foliar sprays such as neem oil, insecticidal soap, or sodium bicarbonate and water solutions during the vegetative and early flowering periods. Applying foliar sprays to budding plants may leave undesirable residues in the buds.
Providing too much water, or watering the plants too frequently, may drown the roots and deprive them of oxygen. Overwatering also can lead to root rot, which may stall growth. In extreme cases, excessive watering may even kill the plants. The key to success is to keep the growing medium moist, but not wet, and to water the plants when the medium has become dry. One way to determine if the plants need water is to lift the container. If it feels light, the plants are likely dry. Another way is to stick a finger into the top of the soil. If it feels moist and spongy, the plants do not need additional water.
Harvesting Northern Lights
Northern Lights is a fast-flowering strain, with most plants reaching maturity in six to eight weeks. Growers can determine the ripeness of the plants by using a microscope to observe the trichomes. If the trichomes are transparent, the buds are not fully ripe. Growers will know the plants are ready to be harvested when most of the trichomes have turned white, with some starting to turn amber. When harvested early, Northern Lights may produce an uplifting and cerebral high. When harvested early, the plant’s effects tend to be more narcotic. This is because THC degrades into cannabinol as the plants mature. Harvesting at the correct time is essential in producing a large yield of potent buds.
Approximately one to two weeks before harvest, growers typically cease feeding the plants with nutrients and begin flushing them with distilled water. This may help to remove excess fertilizers from the buds and improve the quality of the final product. After the plants have been thoroughly flushed, they are ready to be harvested. The first step is to cut down the ripest colas and remove the large fan leaves. Then it is time to manicure the buds by trimming off the small sugar leaves around the flowers.
Curing Northern Lights
After trimming the buds, growers should hang the branches up to dry, or place them on a drying rack for three to six days. Growers will know the flowers are dry when the stems snap rather than bend. Once the buds are dry, they can be stored in sealable glass jars. Growers should open the jars twice a day for the first few days and continue to open them once a day for the next two weeks. After this curing period, the flowers are ready to be smoked.
Final Thoughts on How To Grow Northern Lights
Northern Lights has maintained its spot as one of the top Indica varieties for several decades. This cultivar is a brilliant choice for indoor growers, who will appreciate its compact structure and high yield. Growers of all skill levels will appreciate its hardy growth and resilience to pests, diseases, and environmental stresses. Lastly, Northern Lights’ potent high and delicious aroma and flavor make it a treat for medical and recreational cannabis users.
Greenpoint Seeds offers several strains that are similar to Northern Lights. For example, Bodega Bubblegum, a hybrid of Indiana Bubblegum and Stardawg, produces compact plants that are short to medium in height and may display purple hues during the flowering period. This variety also delivers a potent and narcotic stone, similar to that of Northern Lights.
Have you grown or smoked Northern Lights? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below.