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Oh Right, Light Deps./Depping on a Modern Cannabis Farm and Getting Dicked in the Closet

Updated: May 10, 2021

It has been a perfect gift in a small and excruciatingly painful way, but nevertheless coming back to the world of cannabis after some years forced away, has allowed me to see into the questions and curiosities of the typical consumer. So many terms and concepts are used frequently in and around dispensaries, but lack a common understanding, such as CRC. With outdoor cannabis from Northern California producing the best hash on earth, it's time to tackle Light Deprivation.

A Bit of Backstory

Seeing that the market was transitioning once again, solventless refinement needed as many voices as it could get. With a plan to write, cannabis came calling at just the right moment, as I completed a Bachelor's Degree in English Literature and was poised to speak on a multitude of issues and life experiences. I'd witnessed legalization in Colorado back in 2013 and trust me, it wasn't legalization that interested me again, but the solventless revolution.


With cannabis going legal the year before in California, the solventless revolution was unstoppable. It was enough to re-inspire my obsessive compulsion to study and learn everything I could about hash making in a practical way the average consumer could understand and make sense of, leading to It was clear that little had changed in my years away and the more I learned about solventless refinement, the more I realized how little was known about chemical extractions and the ugly state of that industry.

Light Dep. with Black Tarp section fully retracted to allow maximum light (center rear). The automated tarp sections expand to cover the garden in darkness.

Point being I was away from cannabis and the industry long enough to see the operation with wonder and awe, that I had lost. Hell, I burnt out from a distance, until seeing my first gram of legit hash rosin in 2017. I didn't understand how it was even possible, but knew instantly that solventless refinement would change everything.

I grew cannabis enough in my late teenage/early twenties to have an appreciation and immense respect for the plant and for the life and life-cycle that growing taught me early on. This changed the way I view cannabis and only a nasty opioid addiction could have ripped me away, as it did. Overcoming addiction and returning just in time for the incredible evolution of solventless hash, left poised to educate.

Light Cycle

I have many of the same questions as everyone else and this concept of the "light-dep" seems to have come from nowhere, as they so often do in the Cannabis Community. Coming from Colorado myself, outdoor growing was rather foreign to me, but the principles and light cycles are the same. Light Deprivation or Light Deps, are an outdoor growing concept, one that has been heavily used the last decade, but is said to have originated in the late 1980s and 1990's Humboldt craft-cultivation scene. Light Deprivation, allows outdoor farmers to harvest two-to-three times per year, instead of only once in the Fall. By covering the plants with large-dark tarps or covers, outdoor farmers harnessed control of the light cycle.

The black tarp sections on the roof are retracted, but expand to cover the entire greenhouse canopy.

Think Indoors First

To help understand the concept of light deprivation outdoors, let's think about an indoor grower and his setup first. The grower controls the length of light each day for his plants. Most indoor growers have their lights set on a timer, mimicking the longer spring and summer days with eighteen or even twenty-four-hours of light per twenty-four hour period. After a month or two of this Vegetative Growth (as it's called) or whenever the grower chooses, the light cycle is changed and the daylight hours are cut back to twelve hours of daylight, versus the previous eighteen or more. And that's it! That is all that is necessary to induce flowering.

A Quick Sexing Cannabis Story

When I was about seventeen or eighteen and learning about growing cannabis, sexing the plant was worrisome. So, when I started growing from seeds a year later, I was truly mesmerized when simply changing the light cycle actually worked! I learned most of what I know through trial and error, but despite hardly believing it would work, I cut my lights down to twelve hours per day to induce the flowering stage. Sure enough, just a few days later I could notice a change. Within the first two-weeks of flowering, I'd lost five of my six plants after they rudely revealed their hideous male packages to me:

male cananbis flowers
Male Cannabis flower put out these huge Pollen Sacks, looking like balls.

Gross. Dicks in the Closet.

Shockingly, within days of turning the light cycle back the plants begin to reveal their sex, as the males develop these tight pods of pollen-sacks, looking thoroughly, like male balls at first. The females develop hairs in wisps, looking quite different and much more familiar to consumers, in just a matter of days.

Now luckily for the modern cannabis farm, they grow female clones instead of seeds and don't have to worry about sexing-out, or removing the males, but the flowering process and light-cycle concepts remain identical.

Clock Work Green

Like clockwork, cannabis will flower with less daylight, as the shortened period of light signals the coming of Fall and Winter when plants would naturally flower. Controlling the light cycle allows indoor growers to have numerous harvests per year, or a seemingly endless harvest of batches in perpetual rotation.

The outdoor grower doesn't have this luxury, instead depending upon Mother Nature's seasons. This means planting in the spring and waiting until fall, when plants will naturally flower for one big harvest per year. That is, ... without light deprivation.


Light Deprivation

Using tarps, tents, and high-tech automated systems, farmers now use light deprivation to create shorter daylight hours for their outdoor and greenhouse gardens. This technique allows outdoor farmers to harvest up to three times per year using natural light and light deprivation to block it out. For once the concept is as simple as the name implies, but the logistics of covering outdoor areas is a much different issue.

Manual Light Deprivation

Light deprivation comes in all types and styles including the hand operated tarps farmers must hang up at the end of every day and take down before sunrise every morning. Farmers use PVC pipes (see below) to create rows, which allow tarps to be draped over them.

It's a labor-intensive ordeal that demands a rigid schedule.

Light Deprivation tarps can be thrown over the PVC frame. From the legendary @humboldtkinefarms.

Leafly's article quotes Rachel Turiel of Herbanology saying, “Every day, someone has to be home to pull tarps. It absolutely ties you to the land," as “you can’t miss a day.” In fact, from my early growing years, messing with a plant's daylight schedule can cause them to turn hermaphrodites, exhibiting both male and female qualities, that must be removed to prevent pollination and seeds. “Every morning, I’m up at 5:30am to make my coffee. By six, I’m pulling tarps. And then again, I have to be home in the evening to do it all again" says Johnny Casali with Huckleberry Hills Farm.

High-Tech Light Deprivation

As if covering an outdoor garden wasn't inconceivable enough, we now have automated greenhouses that make light deprivation just a part of the daily auto-functions.

Take a look at the black areas about twenty to thirty feet apart that go up the sides and over the top of the garden. These are the light deprivation tarp sections that automatically open and close each day on timers. Below is a better shot of one tarp section retracted overhead (that is if you can take your eyes off the flower!).

Just left and over this stunning Cheetah Piss from @humboldtkinefarms & @manny_growz_, you can clearly see the black deprivation tarps fully retracted for the daylight period. The tarps will automatically close several hours before sundown and open just before sunrise during the flowering period.

That is what light deprivation tents are all about. They deprive the cannabis of natural daylight by covering the plants, or the greenhouses with tarps. For the shortest winter days, mixed lighting greenhouses can provide additional LED lighting to maximize growth during the shortest daylight periods of the winter. Either way outdoor farmers can harvest multiple batches per year thanks to light deprivation methods derived here in Humboldt County, CA.


"The Full Seasoners"

Then there's the traditional outdoor option of full-season growing as normal. These plants are the ones the size of trees by fall. Crops are planted right around this time of the year, and one large harvest will happen in the fall. Some farmers swear by the full season grow, but I've heard others prefer Light Deprivation.

I'll tell you right now, the best hash and rosin I have ever had or seen comes from mixed lighting greenhouses that utilize Light Deprivation.

Fresh Frozen Push

Thanks to light deprivation farmers have income several times per year, rather than depending on one harvest each fall. The ability to have numerous harvests per year was always a huge advantage for indoor growing, but not anymore. Solventless hash has helped shatter many of my long-standing beliefs that favored indoor cannabis, quickly realizing outdoor cannabis from Humboldt County, CA makes for the best hash on earth.

As Light Deprivation has pretty much become standard practice, cannabis farming continues to make massive improvements, partially thanks to the demand for the great equalizer --- The Wash --- The Acid Test --- that is, Ice Water Hash.



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