Why Grow Cannabis?
There are so many good reasons to grow Cannabis, but most of them come down to two things: medicine and recreation. A lot of the time, it is a combination of the two. Whether you want to relax after a hard day or self-medicate your glaucoma, Cannabis is your friend.
There was a time, not all that long ago, when I would not have been able to publish an article like this one. Indeed, it could have been an encouragement of criminal behavior. Thankfully, many states and jurisdictions have outgrown the negative myths about Marijuana. In many places it is legal to use, own, and grow.
For legal purposes, we must state that this article is for those who live in jurisdictions where Cannabis is legal to grow. We wouldn’t want to get anyone in trouble here, so don’t take the risk of growing where it isn’t allowed. The penalties are usually harsh, and not at all worth the gain. If you need to grow discreetly, check out these grow tents.
Although buying isn’t as risky as growing, you should still refrain from buying illegal black-market weed that still floats around your area. Even if you discount the risk of going to jail, this weed is often questionable quality and quantity. It may even be contaminated with other drugs.
That being said, Cannabis is now legal in many states, and there is no reason to be intimidated if you live in one of them. All states will have limitations on how many plants you can grow at one time, but it’s perfectly legal. If you enjoy Marijuana for any purpose, there is no reason that you shouldn’t grow as much as possible!
Growing Weed Can Save You Money
Why buy weed when you can grow? As long as it is legal, you would be foolish to overlook this option. Dispensary weed is often very expensive, even though the quality is usually top-notch. Still, Cannabis does not have to be expensive. Most dispensaries are charging high prices because state governments are taxing them heavily. This forces them to pass on the extra cost to the customer.
Cannabis Is Quick And Easy To Grow
One of the best things about weed is…the fact that it’s a weed. That means it’s easy to grow. You certainly don’t have to be a skilled gardener or an experienced farmer to grow a little Cannabis. Most people go to great lengths to remove weeds, and this is only necessary because weeds are hard to kill. Cannabis is very easy to grow when compared to most other useful crops. You can get anywhere from an ounce to a pound (16 ounces) from a single plant. We’ll show you how to aim for the pound. 🙂
Like most other weeds, Cannabis grows pretty quickly. It takes only four months to turn a handful of seeds to a grow tent full of stanky buds. The exact growing time will vary somewhat according to strain and conditions. Cannabis plants are usually be ready for harvest after 65-70 days of flowering. Maintenance is usually pretty low, though some plants might require trimming toward the end of their growing cycle.
Let’s talk about the different strains. Sativa strains will usually take a lot longer than Indica strains to reach full maturity, while hybrid strains fall anywhere in between. So, if you want a quick harvest, Indica is the way to go. Choosing a pure (Landrace) Indica strain will make this crop even more time-efficient than it already is.
Trial And Error
Of course, not everyone will be successful at growing weed. You need to be patient and remember that you might fail the first time or even the first few times. It doesn’t matter. This is only a plant, after all, so don’t let it get you down. Just try to learn from each failure and keep trying. As much as it sucks, failure is the greatest teacher.
Growing Cannabis is a spiritually fulfilling practice that allows you to get in touch with nature. You can try to connect with your plants by talking to them or playing music for them.
There is some evidence to suggest that this practice is helpful. There is also a certain feeling of satisfaction that comes from self-sufficiency. You can chuckle to yourself and say, “only suckers pay for weed!”
A Word About Marijuana Sexing
Cannabis is an example of a dioecious plant, meaning it has two sexes. Most plants are basically hermaphroditic, but Cannabis is one of the exceptions. It isn’t hard to tell the difference between the two. Male plants have what look like clusters of peas, which are actually pollen sacs. Female plants have sharper, pointier little buds called calyxes. Only female plants produce the sticky buds that are so good in your pipe or a blunt. Males don’t really do anything except fertilize the females, so you don’t need any of them. You also need to know that females will produce male flowers if you expose them to excessive light.
What You Will Need To Begin Growing Weed
There is no way around the fact that you will have to spend some money here. You could just grow the plant outdoors and let nature take its course. However, that will have a relatively low success rate. To create a setup that will produce the best results, you will need:
- Growing closet/cupboard/tent
- A good-quality grow light
- Exhaust fan with carbon filter
- Growing medium (Potting mix, etc.) and pots
- Watering can/spray bottle
Of course, a cloning setup will require a little bit more. You might also be able to make do without a specially-made grow tent. A good-sized closet might do the job just as well, and save you some money too. Just know that the grow tent will contain the smell. Whatever you use, make sure that your growing environment has:
- Waterproof flooring for easy cleaning
- Good light reflection
- Convenient and discrete location
- Enough space to let the plant reach full height
- Total enclosure from outside light
- Ventilation to the outside
- Acceptable temperature at all times
Here’s a great overview of grow tents and what to look for:
Lighting: The Most Important Thing
Lighting is the number one factor that determines whether or not you will have a successful grow. As such, it is the most important part of your setup. Plants love light because they use it to produce energy in the same way that humans use food. As such, more light will add up to bigger yields and higher quality. This process of feeding on sunlight is called photosynthesis. This is a defining characteristics of all plants.
It is hard to underestimate the importance of choosing a full-spectrum grow light. Light comes in many different wavelengths, and all of them are essential for the health of your plants. Broad-spectrum lights are good enough for your plants to survive, but there is ample evidence to show that a wider spectrum will result in better results.
You should also be aware that plants will always grow toward the light. This can be manipulated to make them grow in specific directions, but most people don’t do that. Just make sure that there is plenty of space between your plants and the light fixture; you don’t want to burn your plants. You will probably have to adjust the height as the plants grow, so bear that in mind as well.
Let’s take a look at all the most common types of grow lights, with a few words about their specific qualities:
HID stands for “High-Intensity Discharge.” These are the old-school favorites that have been popular for years. Yet, they do tend to raise your electric bill. If you’re looking for an energy-efficient bulb, this isn’t the one. HID units tend to be cheap, but you’ll pay for it when the electric bill arrives.
Each hood needs ballast, adding to the weight. It also needs a reflector, without which it isn’t much good. With these types of bulbs, you will need to use a 400-watt Metal Halide bulb during the vegetative (young adult) phase, and a 600-watt Sodium bulb during the flowering phase. A larger grow will require you to upscale that number. This generates some serious heat, which creates a potential safety issue. But, you do get something for all this hassle. HID bulbs can provide 2-4 times the yield of fluorescent light.
There are two types of HID light:
These bulbs are at the “cooler” end of the spectrum, providing a bluish light that is ideal for the vegetative stage. These lights are most commonly 600-watt and can cover a 1.5×1.5 area.
This type of HID bulb produces a yellowish-red light, putting it on the warmer end of the spectrum. These types of lights tend to get even hotter than other HID lights, but they are the best way to maximize your yield in the budding/flowering stage. The recommended method is to use just a little bit of HPS light during the vegetative phase, switching to HPS-only mode during the budding/flowering phase.
These are long fluorescent bulbs that usually stay within the purple-white spectrum. Although these lights do not cover a very wide spectrum, they are popular among many growers for their low heat output and low electricity usage. These lights should not be your primary grow light, but they are ideal for new clones, seedlings, and small plants.
These lights don’t provide the same level of illumination as an HID light. The plus is that they are very inexpensive in every way and much more convenient overall. For this reason, they have often been used as a budget option by new growers.
Compact fluorescent bulbs can be compared to training wheels in this case. When you are growing Cannabis for the first time, and you only have one or two plants, this kind of bulb can do the job. It isn’t the best by a long shot, but it will work, particularly if you use more than one. These bulbs will plug into any standard light socket, so no need to buy a fixture. These bulbs also have the advantage of being very light on electricity.
LED lights are the newest kind of grow light technology. Just a few short years ago, LED lights were unable to handle heavy-duty uses like this. The high-powered LED lights that are required for growing weed represent fairly new technology. That means you are going to pay a lot more.
LED lights are definitely the most power-efficient option. They use only a fraction of the electricity that an HID light would use. However, they do not produce the same yield as a traditional bulb. In fact, the cheaper LED grow lights will produce tiny little buds that aren’t even worth the trouble. If you opt for these lights, make sure you get a rig that includes green and white light. Some of them only include red and green, and this is not enough.
Check out this video to see a comparison of some LED lights versus a T5 light for growing lettuce:
Induction lights may be the best option of all, but they are definitely not the cheapest. In fact, that’s putting it lightly. Consider this random example from Amazon… you can see the costs yourself.
These lights are based on the use of magnetic fields to manipulate light. This little trick was first discovered by Nikola Tesla and allows for the creation of bulbs without filaments or electrodes. These bulbs will last a very long time, at least ten years, according to most sources. They emit very little heat and provide excellent illumination. The best option, really….except for that price tag.
It is important to remember that you are creating a small, artificial, and sealed-off biosphere in which your plants will grow. As such, you must play the role of mother nature and control every aspect of the climate.
Factor One: Ventilation
First of all, you’re going to need proper ventilation. Plants feed on light, but they also feed on Carbon Dioxide. In order to give them regular access to the CO2 that they need, you need an air inlet with a fan to pull the air inward. This inlet needs to be filtered with a charcoal-based filter. At the same time, you need an exhaust fan to pull out the stale air. This setup ensures constant ventilation.
Below is an example of what NOT to do if you don’t want to stink up your whole house.
By keeping everything ventilated, you can prevent mold, fungus, mildew, rot, and bugs from invading your ganja paradise. All of those things require moisture to survive, and ventilation will keep that moisture from building up to a dangerous level. Just remember that hot air always rises, so you should put your exhaust fan at the top of the enclosure.
Good ventilation may also contribute to stronger stems. There is even reason to believe that strong ventilation produces greater yields by forcing the plant to remain short and bushy. However, you should take care to never point the fan directly at the plant, as this will produce a phenomenon known as “wind burn.”
The charcoal filter serves several purposes. First, it helps to hold down the notoriously strong smell of the Cannabis plant. Even though you aren’t breaking the law here, you probably don’t want to smell weed 24/7 every day of your life. Chances are, your neighbors don’t want to, either.
As for the kind of fans you need, a 6-inch fan is the standard for most grow tents. However, you should check the manufacturer’s specifications to be sure. These specs will also tell you how strong your fan will need to be in cubic feet per minute. You could try to use a normal 6-inch fan from the local department store, but it probably won’t be strong enough.
Factor Two: Temperature
A weed-growing enclosure should always be kept below 64 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. An ideal temperature for most circumstances is 77 degrees Fahrenheit. You could install a small air conditioner or a small space heater to correct any problems maintaining the proper temperature.
Factor Three: Humidity
Ventilation is one of the best things you can do to prevent excessive humidity. You might also have to invest in a dehumidifier if your humidity is consistently high. This will increase your electricity costs, but it probably can’t be avoided. If you need to increase the humidity, simply spray the plants with water or invest in a humidifier.
The proper humidity levels for Cannabis plants are as follows:
- 85% when cloning
- 65% during vegetative stage
- 45% during flowering stage
- 50% when drying
Factor Four: PH
You will need to regularly test both the soil and the water that you give to your plants. The soil needs to be slightly acidic, as the plant can develop nutrient deficiencies without such. As for water, the PH of pure water should always be around 7.
Factor Five: Water Purity
Cannabis has been known to function as a bio-accumulator. This means that the plant has a tendency to absorb heavy metals and other toxins from the environment. While this is good news for environmental cleanup purposes, it’s not so good for you. Make sure that you only give your plants water that has been purified. Above all, do not give them tap water unless the chlorine has been removed.
Some growers like to add extra CO2 to their growing enclosures. Since this is what plants feed on, the idea is sound. Many growers say that it increases the final yield significantly.
Controls And Monitoring
The following is a list of devices that you can acquire for your weed setup. All of them are intended to either provide feedback about environmental conditions or control certain functions automatically.
- Timer switches to turn devices on and off at specific times. This can be used to mimic the natural day/night cycle.
- Thermostat switch for exhaust fan, so that excessively hot air can be vented quickly.
- Thermometers (any type) to keep temperature between 64F and 86F.
- PH meter for checking soil and water.
- PPM meter to measure nutrients.
- Hydrometer to measure humidity. See chart above.
One of the most important questions regarding your growing is the question of what to use for a growing medium. Most options fall into one of three categories: natural, artificial, and hydro. Let’s look at the most common option first.
There is no reason not to grow your weed outdoors in an organic fashion if you aren’t particularly worried about THC content. Outdoor bud will usually have a higher terpene content, and this is very important from a medicinal point of view. Growing indoors with synthetic nutrients will usually yield the highest THC levels.
If you aren’t able to obtain good-quality soil from your environment, you can make your own organic potting soil mix. This is done by mixing:
- Alfalfa meal
- Oyster shell
- Blood or bone meal
- Humic acid
Common mistakes when using soil:
Make sure not to add too much water, or rotting can commence. Wait until the first three inches of soil are dry to the touch before adding more water. You also don’t need to add nutrients as often when you’re using soil, since it retains them very well.
Don’t use Miracle Grow or any kind of slow-release soil. This might work fine for vegetable plants, but it doesn’t work so well for weed. These soils will keep your plant from getting enough nitrogen during vegetation. Also, these soils will soak up a lot of extra nitrogen during the flowering stage, which can kill your plant.
Another common mistake is not providing sufficient drainage. Your container (a 5-gallon bucket is the most common container for a weed plant) must have enough holes in the bottom to allow water to flow through without puddling in the bottom.
You have probably heard of this kind of setup. Hydroponics involves the use of water (or sometimes sand/gravel) as a growing medium. There is no soil involved, but nutrients are added to the water when necessary. For this process, it is best to stick with chemical nutrients rather than natural sources. Natural sources of nutrients will have a tendency to rot in the water and cause problems.
One of the best things about a hydroponic setup is that the whole system can be automated to a greater degree. By using a combination of timers and pumps, you can make this into an almost effortless system.
Deep Water Culture Hydroponics
This is one of the easiest hydroponic growing methods, and involves the suspension of the roots in a reservoir full of water. To set up this kind of operation, you will need the following:
A water reservoir (fishtank, thick-walled plastic tote, etc.) with an opaque lid
- Air pump
- Air stone
- Expanded clay pebbles
- Plastic tubing
- Net pots
- Aquarium thermometer
- Hydroponic nutrients
It works like this. You cut holes in the lid of the reservior so that your net/basket pots will fit. The roots of the plant are passed through this net pot and into the reservoir of water below. You need to leave about 1.5 inches of the roots above water and change the water once a week to prevent rotting.
The rest of the baskets are filled with gravel, sand, or expanded clay pellets. You must also have an air pump constantly pumping air into the water. The air stone (sometimes called a bubble stone) can be bought at a pet shop for very little money. It will send air bubbles up through the water, aerating not only the water but the roots above.
Obviously, the air stone has to be placed directly under the roots of the plant. For a larger setup, you might need more than one. Of course, you can also use the same technologies mentioned above to automate the system. Here is a video that may give you a better idea of how the whole thing looks when finished.
Advantages of this kind of system include faster growth, more precise control, and very easy maintenance. Changing the water and adding nutrients are pretty much the only maintenance tasks required. You can also add beneficial bacteria to the water if you feel it necessary.
It is very important to maintain relatively constant levels of each essential nutrient. Too much variation in nutrient levels may shock the plant and keep it from reaching its full size. It is also vitally important to keep the water temperature between 60-8 degrees Fahrenheit. A small aquarium heater is one easy way to adjust the temperature level. You can also insulate the reservoir to achieve a similar effect. PH levels for this kind of system need to be maintained between 5.5 and 7. You will probably have to use phosphoric acid to lower the PH of your city water.
This is a plant substrate that can be used in a variety of ways. It makes an ideal hydroponic substrate, as it can soak up nutrients and hold them for a long time. What’s more, moisture will make this stuff expand to nearly ten times its original size. This definitely helps to cut down on shipping costs. You might also opt for a 3:1 coconut coir to perlite mixture. Make sure to use Cal-mag if you go this route.
Let’s begin with a list of common nutrients, in order of how important they generally are to the health of your plants:
The first three of these are macronutrients. This means that they are more important to the plants, and that the plants require more of these things. This is why most fertilizer is rated by its levels of these three macronutrients. This is called an NPK level. For instance, 10-5-5 means 10% nitrogen, 5% phosphorous, and 5%potassium (in that order).
You need to be careful of adding too many nutrients. This is a common mistake, as it is easy to believe that you can’t have too many nutrients. However, there is such a thing as nitrogen toxicity, and other nutrients can also cause problems if they reach high enough levels. Also, nitrogen can stunt your buds and make them taste strange. Only add more nutrients if your plants seem pale. This is where your PPM meter will come in handy. Keep the nitrogen level between 900 and 2800. Any more than that could result in death.
During the vegetative stage, you need to use a solution that is high in potassium and nitrogen with a medium level of phosphorous. For the flowering stage, you want high potassium, low nitrogen, and medium levels of phosphorous.
One little trick that you can do is to leave tap water out all day. After this, the chlorine evaporates, and it becomes safe to use on your plants. Still, distilled water would be better for hydroponic purposes.
You will probably have to do some research regarding the recommended nutrient intake for your specific strain. If you cannot find anything on your strain, research its closest relatives.
Step One: Choosing The Seeds
First, you will need to acquire some seeds. You shouldn’t have to buy seeds unless you are starting with a new strain. Otherwise, you should always save a little seed from every harvest so that they can be re-used.
In selecting a strain, you need to think about the qualities that you desire. Are you using this plant for medicinal purposes or recreational purposes? Do you want an active buzz or a more laid-back high? Sativa usually gives an energetic buzz while Indica produces more relaxation. You could also go for a hybrid and try to get a happy medium. If you are growing for medicinal purposes, CBD (cannabidiol) content is probably going to be more important than THC content. For recreational use, the rule is reversed.
Step Two: Seed Germination
Start by soaking the seeds in water for 2-3 hours to activate them. Next, place them in a growing medium like a cup of potting soil or a wet folded napkin. After five days, the seeds should “pop,” meaning that you should be able to see something beginning to grow as the husk of the seed splits. After two weeks, the plant should be a visible sprout. At this point, place it in the growing medium (if you haven’t already done so). Make sure that the soil is good and loose so that the plants have an easier time putting their roots down. Always water after transplanting.
Some people like to use rock wool cubes, plugs, jiffies, or other pre-made germination devices. While these aren’t necessary, you may find them to be helpful. One thing that can make a big difference is the use of coconut coir over traditional potting soil as an initial germination medium.
Although it is hardy enough to grow just about anywhere, the Cannabis plant is originally a tropical dweller. As such, they like hot and humid conditions. Therefore, you can speed the germination process by using heat lamps and frequent watering/spraying to simulate a tropical environment as much as possible.
As an alternative, you could go with some cloned plants. You could buy them from a variety of suppliers, but it’s easier to clone your own. In fact, cloning is actually a little bit easier than traditional growing if you know how it’s done.
Start by choosing a healthy plant to clone. This could be one of your existing plants or one purchased from a store. Begin by flushing the soil of the mother plant with water, to reduce the levels of nitrate in the soil. Nitrates can inhibit the cloning process by tricking the plant into producing vegetation rather than roots. You also need to wear gloves and use sterilized tools throughout the whole process. Any kind of contamination could keep the cloning process from working. Use rubbing alcohol to sterilize any tools that you will use as well as your gloves/hands.
Clip the top from one of the branches, taking a piece about as long as your hand. Make sure to cut at a 45-degree angle with a sterile blade. Trim this clipping down to 1-3 leaves so that the plant will not have to work so hard. Dip the clone into the growth hormone, and then place it into a cube of pre-treated rock wool. Don’t forget to treat your rock wool to the proper PH! Now, just give the clones a thorough misting with pure water and enclose them in a humidity dome. At first, they should remain enclosed to hold as much humidity as possible. Once the clones begin to establish themselves, you can provide a little bit of ventilation. The whole process will take between five and fourteen days.
This video shows a great take on the whole process:
Step Three: Vegetative Stage
For clones, this stage begins when the plant has developed its root system and no longer requires a humidity dome. After transitioning these new clones, slowly increase the ventilation on the dome before you remove it completely. You should also incrementally get them used to the grow light.
During this phase, your plants will need 18 hours of light, followed by 6 hours of darkness. Set your timer switches accordingly. Use a full-spectrum light to encourage maximum growth during this crucial period, and keep the humidity at 45-65%. Correct temperature at this stage is 72-85 degrees F.
Step Four: Flowering Stage
This is the stage at which you will get the sweet, sticky buds that you want. For Cannabis, this stage begins when the plant is about 18 inches tall. It should have at least 3-6 leafy branches by this stage. Keep the humidity at about 70%. This stage will last about 8 weeks. You can expect to get the first buds in the third or fourth week. At this point, switch to the nutrient profile for this stage (see above). At this point, you want those buds to be exposed to as much light as possible. Some growers will even tie the plant down to bend it and expose more of the buds to the light.
Harvest: Time To Collect The Funk
There are several ways to tell when your bud is ready for harvest. The surest way is to bust out a magnifying glass and take a look at the trichomes. When the trichomes turn from clear to amber/milky, the buds are ready. Buds with amber trichomes will give you more of a body buzz while those with milky trichomes provide a deep and cerebral high. It’s a good idea to flush the plant of all fertilizers for 10-14 days prior to harvest, as this will improve the taste.
It is very important to harvest at the right time. Too early, and your weed will not have a high enough potency, nor will your yield be particularly good. If you harvest too late, you will get “sleepy weed.”
After picking the buds, trim the outside leaves to remove anything that isn’t up to par. Then, hang the plants upside down in a completely dark room. Any light will compromise the THC content. Humidity in the room should be 45-55%. The drying process should take at least two weeks, and you can expect that the bud will lose about 75% of its weight.
To test if your bud is dry, simply take a thick stem and break it in your hand. If it breaks cleanly with a snap, it is ready to go. The buds should not stick together any more than what is considered normal. To cure the buds, place them in a glass jar, leaving about a quarter of the jar empty. Burp the jar from time to time by opening the lid and releasing the air.
The curing process should take 2-8 weeks, though some strains may vary. For storage, any sealed container will do. Your buds should be good for about two years, although they probably won’t last that long.
Although this is meant to be a basic growers guide, we hope that we have given you a thorough understanding of home Cannabis cultivation. We are confident that if you follow these instructions well and do a little research of your own to supplement this general outline, you will have no problem producing the best weed you could imagine. Like we said before, it’s a weed…so you won’t have an easy time messing it up!