Step 1: Choose Where You Will Grow (Indoors or Outdoors)
Growing indoors is much more private than growing outdoors and gives you more control over your grow.
An indoor cannabis grow can be surprisingly cheap to get started and maintain, especially if you plan on growing just a few plants.
Take a look at a few completed indoor grow journals to get an idea of how much you can expect to harvest in different types of indoor setups.
You have more control over everything in an indoor growing environment, which means that indoor growers can consistently produce dank buds. However, this dank weed-growing power comes with more responsibility. As an indoor grower, your plants are 100% reliant on you your care if they are to survive. If you don’t provide everything your plants need, they will die.
What space works best?
You can grow cannabis almost anywhere that has easy access to water and fresh air…
- a spare room
- a closet
- grow tent
- extra bathroom
- even the inside of a computer case!
(though I recommend a Space Bucket instead 🙂
When thinking about where to grow indoors, you should also consider the temperature of your grow space (and remember your temps will likely rise once you have your grow lights running!).
http://equalmedicine.com/product-category/cultivation/Young growing cannabis plants grow fastest when temps a bit warmer, in the 70-85°F (20-30°C) range.
When plants are a bit older, in the budding/flowering stage, it’s best to keep temps slightly cooler, around 65-80°F (18-26°C) to produce buds with the best color, trichome production and smell.
Because temps are so important, it’s best to be able to have some amount of control over the temperature of your grow area. When growing indoors, your grow lights will give off heat. Generally, the more powerful your lights, the more heat they give off.
If you want to install a lot of bright lights in a small space, you will likely have to install an air conditioner in addition to your exhaust system to make sure you keep your temps in the right range.
If you’re growing just a few plants in a grow tent or box, usually you can install a fan to pull hot air away from the hot lights and out a window to keep things cool enough.
Some lights tend to cause more heat problems than others, and we’ll help you find the right lights for your space in Step 2.
Growing outdoors is cheaper to get started since you probably don’t have to get grow lights or create an indoor grow area, though you will have to worry about privacy/stealth, possible pollination, people stealing your plants, bugs, deer and other unexpected outdoor visitors.
If you pick the right strain and live in a good environment, it will possibly be cheaper to grow outdoors, since you don’t have to provide everything for your plants. The sun will do a lot of the most cost-heavy work for you.
Of course, when you’re growing outside, it’s not always possible to control the environment perfectly. If it’s dry, you will need to water your plants. If it’s too rainy, you need to protect your plants from getting overwatered.
When it comes to temperatures, a good rule of thumb about cannabis plants is if it’s too hot for you, it’s probably too hot for your plants. And just like humans, cannabis plants can die if exposed to freezing temps.
So if you know it’s going to be extremely hot or cold where you live, you may need to take extra steps to protect your plants from the elements, like setting up a small greenhouse.
Step 2: Choose Your Grow Light – What kind of light do you need to grow cannabis successfully?
There are lots of different grow lights for cannabis, including:
- The Sun
- Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs)
- Other Fluorescent Lighting (T5 / T8)
- LED grow lights
- LEC (CMH) grow lights
- Metal Halide (MH)
- High-Pressure Sodium (HPS)
When you’re growing with the sun, you need to make sure that your plants are getting at least 8+ hour of direct sunlight each day for the best results.
It’s best that your plants get direct sunlight from at least 10am-4pm, and more light is better. Because of the high light needs of the cannabis plant (it needs more light than many other types of plants), it is not well suited to growing in a window (though I’ve seen plenty of growers start their seeds in sunny windows before moving their plants to a more suitable final location).
Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs)
Beginners often start small indoor grows with CFL bulbs, since they’re cheap and easy to get a hold of, though they lack the power of dedicated grow lights. In fact, growing with CFLs is what I did my first grow. Although LED lights are common as replacements for CFLs as regular house lighting, these LEDs usually come with shielding that makes them much less effective for growing cannabis.
Other Fluorescent Lighting (T5/T8)
These lights are traditionally made for plants that need lower light intensity than cannabis. If you do get other fluorescent lighting, I recommend sticking with a High-Output T5 light since the high-output T5 bulbs are the brightest grow lamps in this group. Even so, I generally recommend changing to stronger grow lights for the cannabis flowering stage unless you do major plant training (to keep plants very short) since these lights have a short light brightness range and must be kept very close to the tops of your plants. Learn more about other fluorescent lighting.
LED grow lights
LEDs are more powerful than CFLs and other types of fluorescent lighting, but they are also much more expensive. In fact, currently, LEDs are probably the most expensive type of grow light you can buy.
LED grow lights can work great for growing cannabis and some companies have been at it for years. But there are also some unscrupulous LED sellers out there trying to make a quick buck, so you need to make sure you buy LEDs from a company that you can trust.
Each LED model is different and needs to be kept a different distance away from your plants. It can sometimes be hard to find any “standard” advice about growing with LEDs unless you find a dedicated cannabis LED grower and follow everything they do using the same model of light. However, there are some brands which are well-tested and trusted by cannabis growers and these brands tend to have good support for questions.
LEC (CMH) grow lights
LEC (Light Emitting Ceramic) is a brand name for a type of light (CMH – Ceramic Metal Halide) that has existed for quite a while. These types of light have come back into vogue after some rebranding, combined with a few positive traits they have over HPS lighting. Although they are still slightly less efficient than an HPS, they have a more natural color that doesn’t scream “WEED GROWING HERE!”, and they don’t seem to emit EMI (Electro Magnetic Interference) as much as their noisy HPS cousins. Are LEC Grow Lights Good for Growing Cannabis?
Metal Halide (MH) & High-Pressure Sodium (HPS)
Also known as “HID” lights, MH/HPS grow lights (like the combination light pictured to the right) are the “golden standard” for growing cannabis indoors. They are surprisingly cheap to buy and set up, especially considering how incredibly powerful they are.
HID lights work very well for growing cannabis and produce consistently good results indoors. However, the higher wattage HID lights tend to run hot and can leave a big mark on your electricity bill, so you want to make sure you’re getting the exact right lights for your space – you don’t want to be paying for more light than you really need. HID lighting (HPS in particular) has another problem in that it’s been less popular over the last few years which has made it increasingly difficult to find quality models if you’re not looking for 1000W.
That being said, the smaller MH/HPS grow lights are actually really well suited to a small grow and don’t produce nearly as much heat as their bigger cousins. Check out a grow under a 250W HPS in a 2’x4’x5′ tent. I didn’t even use an exhaust!
Step 3: Choose Your Growing Medium
Each growing medium that you can use has different care and watering requirements.
These are the most common grow mediums:
- Soil – grow in organic composted super soil for the easiest growing experience, or start with the popular Fox Farms Ocean Forest soil mix (FFOF already contains enough nutrients to last the first month of your young plant’s life).
- Soilless Mix – anything besides soil including coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, etc. (all soilless mixes are technically considered hydroponic growing since there’s no soil).
- Directly in Water / Hydroponics – Get some of the fastest growth and biggest yields possible, especially when combined with HID grow lights – these days I personally grow using a top-fed DWC system.
- Less Common Types of Hydro – Some people grow with plant roots suspended in misted air (aeroponics) or in a tank with fish (aquaponics), but these are relatively less common for cannabis growers.
What’s the Best Soil? Your absolute best option would be to compost your own soil (or purchase composted soil) which gets incredible taste results but does take a little more work (or money if you buy it).
For those of us who prefer pre-made mixes, I recommend starting with the popular Fox Farms Ocean Forest soil (often referred to as FFOF) since it’s already supplemented with plenty of nutrients that work very well for young cannabis plants. It’s a rich yet still somewhat airy soil that is made for plants just like cannabis and has been used by growers for years.
If you have limited soil options, choose an organic potting mix which is usually available in some form in the gardening section of any big-box store. As long as you use good cannabis nutrients (more on that below), a regular organic potting mix will work just fine.
Common cannabis-friendly potting mix brands in the US:
- Fox Farms Ocean Forest Soil (best)
- Black Gold All Organic Potting Soil (good)
- Espoma Organic Potting Mix (okay)
- Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix (worst) – If you say you’re growing in Miracle-Gro soil, a lot of cannabis growers will wag their fingers at you. In addition to poor drainage, the original Miracle-Gro soil contains slow-release Nitrogen which is good for vegetative plants but bad for bud growth in the flowering stage and you can’t really rinse it out. Too much Nitrogen in the flowering stage can lower yields as well as possibly add a green or chemical “taste” to buds. However, if you’re going to use Miracle-Gro, their Organic Choice Potting Mix doesn’t have slow-release nutrients, which makes it a better option for growing cannabis than their standard version. It still drains poorly even with perlite, but if you’re desperate it does the job and you can get good results if you use good nutrients. The truth is that many growers have made it to harvest over the years with Miracle-Gro, despite some problems along the way, and even though it’s definitely not optimal, sometimes you have to do what you have to do!
Pick up a bag of perlite (found in the garden section) to help soil drain better unless it already contains perlite. Perlite looks like little white rocks and should be mixed in so you have about 70% soil and 30% perlite.
What type of pot should I use for soil or soilless growing mediums?
If you’re having a tough time deciding on a grow medium, you might want to think about starting with a mix of coco coir and perlite. It’s easy and low-maintenance. That’s how I got started growing (with CFLs as grow lights). Growing with coco coir can be a good choice for beginners because it’s cheap, holds water well, and doesn’t have as many of the problems associated with soil (bugs, root problems, etc.). Yet since it’s hand-watered, it’s intuitive and has a lot of the ease of soil growing.
I’ve heard many people recommend against growing cannabis hydroponically for your first time because it’s “too complicated,” yet I’ve seen growers succeed at every grow type even on their very first grow. If you really want to grow hydroponically, I recommend you don’t waste your time doing something else first. If you’re passionate about hydroponic growing and do your research before you get started, there’s no reason you won’t be able to do incredibly well your first time.
Step 4: Choose Your Nutrients
Soil growers – unless you’re growing with composted super soil, you will need to get cannabis nutrients made for soil to make sure your plants produce at their best. Even if you started with an amended soil like FFOF, you will still need to start adding nutrients once you reach the flowering/budding stage as cannabis plants are heavy feeders and your plants will have already used up most of the nutrients in the soil by the time budding begins.
Soilless & Hydroponic growers – If you are growing in any medium besides soil, like a soilless mix or directly in water, you will want to get cannabis nutrients specifically made for hydroponics. Some nutrients are even more specific like Canna Coco is formulated to work best for growing weed in Coco Coir. For hydronic grows, I highly recommend the General Hydroponics Nutrient Trio – here’s the cannabis-friendly GH trio nutrient schedule I use with my cannabis plants.
One nutrient system to rule them all…
Dyna-Gro can be used at half-strength in soil, water, coco coir, or any growing medium and works amazingly well for growing cannabis. It does not build up salt in your growing medium like many other inexpensive fertilizers, and it will never clog your hydroponic system.
Just use the “Grow” bottle during the Vegetative stage and the “Bloom” bottle during the Flowering stage. You can actually follow the instructions on the bottle. It’s super simple.
Like all nutrient systems, avoid starting at full strength or it can burn your plants! Learn more about nutrient burn. Only raise the dosage if you notice that your lower leaves are turning yellow and falling off (except in the last 2-4 weeks before harvest, when yellowing lower leaves is a natural part of the budding process)
Is my tap water “good enough” for growing cannabis?
Before I address pH, let’s talk about the “hardness” of your water…
How much extra “stuff” (like minerals and/or impurities) is contained in your regular tap water? You can contact your local water supplier for more information (ask for a “municipal water report”), or you can test the PPM of your water at home. Generally, as long as your water has less than 200-300 PPM (parts per millions) of extra stuff, it should be okay to use it for growing. If you are worried about the quality of your tap water, you can choose to use purified or Reverse Osmosis (RO) water, but you may then need to add extra Cal-Mag and possibly a few other supplements to help make up for the random minerals and nutrients that are normally found in tap water. I’ve personally always grown with straight tap water (in a big city in California with a natural PPM around 370, which is pretty high), and I’ve never had a problem. However, some places have very hard water, or tap water with unacceptable impurities, and growers in these areas will likely need to use purified water to get the best results.
Step 4B: Nutrients, continued: The Importance of Root pH
It’s important to maintain the pH of your root environment to prevent nutrient problems.
The easiest way to do that is to test the pH of your water before you water your plants or add water to your reservoir.
There are certain types of grows (such as when growing cannabis in organic composted super soil) where you don’t need to test your pH unless you run into problems. This is because with a properly composted super soil, you actually have microbial life living in the soil that will take care of the pH and hand-deliver the nutrients to the roots of your plants for you. However, this is a rare exception to the pH testing rule, and almost all growers need to regularly test and maintain pH for a successful grow. If you’re not growing in super soil that you have amended and composted yourself, testing and maintaining pH is a MUST.
Some growers will always get lucky and successfully grow weed without testing the pH of their water, but most people who don’t test for pH will start seeing signs of nutrient deficiencies and other nutrient problems.
If the pH at the plant roots is too high or too low, your plants won’t be able to absorb nutrients properly
Even if plants do fine in the vegetative stage, cannabis plants tend to be more picky and prone to problems in the flowering/budding stage. Many growers have written in to tell me they got all the way to the flowering stage without testing pH, then were surprised that they start running into nutrient problems as soon as the plants start budding. In order to make sure this doesn’t happen to you, it’s important to get in the habit of testing pH right from the beginning!
It’s actually really easy, quick, and cheap to learn how to check and adjust the pH of your water, and there are “pH test kits” specifically made for this purpose.
After you get the hang of it, checking and adjusting the pH and will take you less than 3 minutes each time you water your plants. And your results (monster yields with huge buds and healthy plants) will speak for themselves.
Soil: Maintain 6.0 – 7.0 pH
Hydroponics: Maintain 5.5 – 6.5 pH
Getting the pH exactly right isn’t nearly as important as checking regularly and making sure it stays within these ranges.
Click here for more information on pH testing.
Step 5: Get Your Cannabis Plants (& Choose Your Strain)
For those growers lucky enough to know other cannabis growers in real life, getting plants is usually pretty simple. Many cannabis collectives and dispensaries will happily sell you clones though they tend to be a little less liberal when it comes to selling seeds. A great advantage of purchasing clones or seeds from a trusted source is that you know you can trust the genetics you are receiving.
Step 6: How to Germinate Cannabis Seeds
- If you have already a rooted clone (a live cannabis plant) please skip right to Step 7.
There are many methods for cannabis seed germination.
Personally, I think one of the easiest ways to germinate a cannabis seed is to place it directly in a specialized starter cube like a Rapid Rooter.
Just keep starter cubes moist (but not soaking) and warm. Seedlings should pop in a few days to a week.
So far Rapid Rooters have given me the best germination rates of any method. They work with any growing medium, too – once the seedling has emerged, you can stick the cube directly into your growing medium or hydroponic system.
Another popular way to germinate seeds is via the paper towel method.
Paper Towel Method:
- Cannabis seeds
- 2 plates
- Paper towels
- A place to plant sprouted seeds
NOTE: If seedlings seem to be “stretching” upwards or growing very tall, usually it’s because they want more light.
Step 7: Vegetative Stage – Grow Your Plant Big and Strong
Once your plant grows the first “regular” set of leaves, it’s pretty much officially in the vegetative stage.
Cannabis plants keep getting bigger and bigger with long days (vegetative stage) and start making buds when they get long nights (flowering stage).
Young growing cannabis plants grow fastest when the temperature is a bit warmer than a comfortable room temperature, around 70-85°F (20-30°C). But as long as it doesn’t get freezing cold or burning hot, your plants should be able to grow in a wide range of temperatures.
How often do I water my cannabis plants?
In this stage, your plant will focus ONLY on getting big and strong. Buds and flowers are not part of the plant’s vocabulary yet.
If you’re feeding your plant with additional nutrients, start at half strength as it can be easy to burn your young cannabis plants. Bring to 3/4 strength one plant starts growing vigorously and if your plant displays signs of needing more nutrients even though the pH is in a good range.
Only feed nutrients at full strength if the plant is showing signs that it needs more nutrients (lower leaves are turning lime green, then yellow, then falling off – the first sign of a nitrogen deficiency, the most common type of deficiency if the plant is not getting enough nutrients).
At this stage, you can’t tell if one of your cannabis plants is going to be a boy or a girl yet.
- Give plants 18-24 hours/light a day in the vegetative stage when growing indoors. 18 hours of light a day is preferable, 24 is for the experimental type of grower.
- If growing outdoors, try to make sure you plant gets strong, direct light for most of the day, at least from 10am-4pm, and more if possible.
The size your plant gets in this stage will have a huge impact on the final size of your plant.
Step 8: Flowering Stage
This is the stage where your plants start making buds. This stage will last until harvest!
During this stage, you will need to…
- Change to 12-12 Light Schedule
- Identify Gender of Cannabis Plants
- Get Rid of any Males
We’re getting to the exciting part!
Most strains of cannabis begin this stage once they’re getting at least 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness a night. Autoflowering cannabis plants will start the flowering stage without needing a lighting change.
- Indoors, you must change to a 12-12 light schedule, with 12 hours of light & 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness each day (usually accomplished by putting your lights on a timer) to get your cannabis to start flowering (making buds).
- Outdoors, your weed will naturally start flowering when the days get short enough, usually a few months before winter.
The flowering stage is where your plant goes through “puberty” and basically reveals whether they are a boy or a girl.
Unfortunately, for regular seeds, half your plants will end up female and half will end up male. That’s why a lot of growers prefer starting with clones or buying feminized seeds – all the resulting plants will grow into females.
As cannabis growers, we’re only looking for females as female plants are the only ones that make buds. Male plants just make pollen sacs (balls) that cannot be used for smoking.
A week or two after you initiate the 12-12 light schedule (or naturally in the wild), your plants will reveal their gender…
Female plants start growing wispy white hairs at the tops of branch joints. These are the pistils of her flowers/calyxes. You’ll get bunches of these calyxes growing on top of each other to make buds, and each calyx will have a few white hairs coming out of it. This is great news, that means this plant will eventually grow beautiful weed with buds/flowers/ganja that you can smoke.
Male plants start growing balls/pollen sacs with no white hairs/pistils. Unfortunately, most male plants do not develop psychoactive properties like girls do in their flowers. Plus, male plants can pollinate (“impregnate”) your female plants and cause them to make less bud and more seeds. Therefore, most serious cannabis growers choose to remove and dispose of male plants as soon as they show their balls.
Note: The sturdy green growths are not pistils, they are always there on both boy and girl plants. When looking for gender, you’re specifically looking for white wispy hairs (pistils).
Ok, so you’ve gotten rid of your male plants. Your female plants will be growing more and more white hairs and before you know it, actual buds/flowers/trees are forming. Woohoo!
Now that you’re fully in the flowering stage, it’s best to keep temps slightly cooler, around 65-80°F (18-26°C) to produce buds with the best color, trichome production and smell.
It’s important to pay close attention to your cannabis plants during the flowering stage. This is because in this stage your plant is much more likely to suffer from nutrient problems as they’re focusing all their energy on growing buds.
Step 9: Harvest Your Weed
When to Harvest Weed? Is She Ready for Harvest?
- Wait until your buds stop growing new, white hairs. By this point, your buds should be fragrant (the whole grow room or area will likely smell strongly as cannabis), plump and ‘filled out’.
- Wait until at least 40% of the white hairs have changed color (darkened) and are curling in. This marks the beginning of the harvest window. Buds harvested now will have more of a speedy effect and are not at full potency.
- Harvest when 50-70% of the hairs have darkened for highest THC levels
- Harvest when 80-90% of the hairs have darkened for more a couchlock, anti-anxiety effect (some of the THC has turned into the more relaxing CBN)
The hardest part of growing cannabis for many new growers is waiting for the right time to harvest.
Learn exactly when to harvest your cannabis (with tons of pictures and explanations)
I sometimes get asked how to harvest weed… (i.e. cut it down from the plant)
Just get a sturdy pair of scissors and cut the plant down in the most convenient way possible. Seriously…that’s it!
Trimming comes next; it’s one of the most rewarding and physically taxing parts of the entire grow, but it’ll be worth it!
Step 10: Dry and Cure Your Newly Harvested Buds
After you have cut off and trimmed all of your glittery, beautiful fat buds, you will want to hang them upside down in a cool, dark place with plenty of ventilation so that they can dry out.
Dry buds slowly for best results and check often for mold or overdrying. You’ve worked way too hard to lose your crop now!
After your cannabis buds have dried (thin stems snap, but the thicker stems are still a bit bendy), it’s time to start curing them so they’re smooth, taste good, smell good, and have the best effects.
To cure your buds, put them in tightly-closed quart-sized mason jars in a cool dark place. Fill each jar loosely about 3/4 of the way full.
For the first 2 weeks of curing, open the jars once a day for several seconds to get fresh air in your jars and release any moisture.
If your buds feel moist when you check on them, leave the tops of the jars off until the outsides of the buds feel dry to the touch. Too-moist bud is what causes mold!
Special products like “Boveda 62% Humidipaks” will make curing a lot easier, as they will naturally regulate the humidity in your jars.
After your cannabis has been curing for at least 2 weeks, and they haven’t felt wet every time you’ve checked the jars for at least a week, you can start opening the lid once a week instead of once a day.
Some people only cure their bud for 1-2 weeks total while other cure their bud for 30 days or more. Because you need to open the jar regularly, you can always sample some as it’s curing to get a feel for whether it’s done or not.
I personally think that cannabis tends to be more potent if you cure it for at least a month.
Curing for longer than 6 months doesn’t do anything, and cannabis can become less potent over time as THC turns to CBN. Keep your harvest in a cool, dry, airtight space for long-term storage.
(Cannabis Grow Guide – http://equalmedicine.com/cannabis-grow-guide Keywords – website, data, translations, examples, swell, basis, word, business, gain, company, call, crecer)
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