So, you’re looking for a grower’s guide to cannabis cultivation. Why? Because you can – it’s legal! If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the many states that allow you to grow cannabis, of course you want to exercise your right to do so. The control is in your hands now. Believe it or not, every aspect of the growing process can be done under your own roof.
Published December 16, 2020
Updated August 5, 2021
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Why Grow Your Own Cannabis?
Transparency and openness haven’t always been the name of the game when purchasing cannabis. It can be hard to verify whether garden inputs were regulated or what kind of product you’re really getting. By growing cannabis at home, you can choose what you want to grow and how you want to grow it. And growing cannabis isn’t just reserved for the professionals or wealthy hobbyists – anyone can learn how to grow weed easy on a budget.
These are exciting times for cannabis enthusiasts everywhere. Whether you’re a beginner or experienced home gardener, it’s easier than ever before to learn how to grow cannabis. If you can ride out the initial investment and learning curve, you will eventually recuperate your start-up costs and save money by growing your own bud. This grower’s guide has everything you need if you want to learn how to grow weed.
Grower’s Guide to Getting Started
Growing cannabis is fun and rewarding, but before you flex your green thumb and designate your entire basement as a grow-op, understand that growing your own weed presents a unique set of challenges. Here are some considerations for beginner growers.
First, Is Growing Cannabis Legal?
Familiarize yourself with the legalities of growing cannabis in your area. There will be different guidelines based on your location, such as the number of permitted plants, whether you can grow for recreational or medicinal purposes, and traveling with cannabis.
Next, Is it Worth it?
Gain a sense of the commitment (time, effort, and money) that is required for a home grow. Expect to spend at least $100 for the most basic setup, and don’t forget about electricity costs. Growing cannabis won’t just cost you money; these plants require a lot of time and effort in order to reap a good harvest.
Cannabis plants have regular, almost daily demands. Weeks of growth can be lost by missing a grower’s guide step and ignoring something a cannabis plant needs for a couple of days. While growing cannabis will initially feel laborious, tending to the plants will eventually become part of your daily routine and a source of pride.
Finally, Tips to Get You Started
Here are a few grower’s guide tips we think you should consider before learning how to grow weed:
Choose a Suitable Grow Space
Choose a spot in your home or outdoors where you can control as much of the environmental factors as possible. Outdoors, all you need to get started is a hole in the earth and a clear path from the sun to your plants. Indoors, fancy grow tents are convenient, but they aren’t necessary. A DIY grow tent, or a repurposed grow cabinet are also options. With the right tools and preparation, even a dark corner in the basement or a small closet can become a comfortable home for your cannabis plants. Ensure everything you need (lights, fans, and other equipment) can physically fit and function in the space while still leaving enough room for you to maneuver around your plants.
Start Small but Think Big
Don’t take on more than you can handle, but be prepared to grow huge plants! Most beginners try to grow too many plants to start off with, and the entire yield suffers. A smaller grow is less expensive and easier to monitor, and first-time grower mistakes won’t be as costly. You can always expand your setup for your next grow once you’re familiar with the care and inputs needed to make your plants thrive.
Stealth Is Wealth: Concealing Your Crop
You may want to conceal your crop from nosy neighbors or tempted thieves, so choose an area that isn’t out in the open and highly visible. If you’ve chosen an indoor area like a room in your home or a shed, consider putting a lock on the door to keep unintended visitors out and all your plants in. Grow boxes are also a great choice if you’re looking for a small and inconspicuous setup.
You shouldn’t have to worry about grow setups being particularly dangerous if others come into access with them. Still, you don’t want small children messing around in an area with electrically powered equipment and chemicals (or unintentionally ingesting any plant material). It’s best to think of your grow space as a liquor cabinet or cleaning product space if you have youngsters or vulnerable adults living in the home.
Choose an Indoor or Outdoor Grow
To stay in or to go out? That’s the first decision we’ll help you determine in our cannabis grower’s guide.
Growing Cannabis Outdoors
Whether you even have the option to grow outdoors obviously depends on where you live and the climate (we don’t recommend trying to grow cannabis outdoors in Alaska). While outdoor grows do minimalize costs and setup effort, you’re going to be dealing with environmental variables like the temperature and relative humidity (RH). Outside, your grow will also be exposed to all of nature’s pests (including fungus gnats and nosy neighbors).
Growing Cannabis Indoors
Choosing an indoor grow setup has the primary advantage of more easily controlling the environmental conditions. Cannabis plants don’t respond well to stress from sudden or extreme variations in temperature, humidity, and nutrient levels. These factors can be better managed inside where you can set up the right equipment to maintain a consistent grow environment. Because of this, our grower’s guide to growing cannabis from seed to flower focuses on how to grow marijuana indoors.
An indoor setup can be any indoor area that is repurposed for a grow. Some people designate a closet, cabinet, shed, or garage as their grow space. More advanced DIY growers will often set up shop in a spare room or basement. With these repurposing options, keep in mind that you will likely need to drill holes for ventilation (or use a window in the case of a grow room), hang lights, and seal in the space to keep it light-tight. You may also want to line the floor, ceiling, and walls of these grow areas with material that is waterproof and reflective to keep things clean and maximize your light coverage. There are many other things your indoor grow space needs, such as enough square footage for the plants you intend to grow, a power supply, and a water source.
Indoor Grow Setup Supplies
After you’ve considered all that a cannabis grow entails and decided on a grow area that best suits you, you’ll need to purchase the appropriate materials and equipment for an indoor grow setup.
Before we cover the materials and equipment in detail, you should know that there is much debate over what is needed versus what may be optional. At a minimum, we think you should consider getting the following items for an indoor grow:
Seeds usually cost $8-12 per seed, but prices can be as high as $20 each or more, depending on the quality and variety of cannabis. Sure, you can try to grow bag seeds, but we recommend you purchase feminized seeds from a reputable breeder so you don’t waste any time trying to weed out the male plants (only female plants will produce the cannabinoid-rich flowers you’re after). Most importantly, novice growers should choose a forgiving cannabis strain that is resistant to mold, disease, pests, and drought. Here are some other key things to consider when purchasing weed seeds:
Strain selection – You have the option to choose between indica- or sativa-dominant strains, and which you’d prefer comes down to the effects you’re looking for and the space you have available. All strains are technically hybrids, but an indica-dominant strain is said to be a little sedative and will tend to grow short and stocky, while a more sativa-like strain is thought to be more stimulating and will grow tall and lanky.
Autoflowering or photoperiod plants – Autoflowering plants do just that – they automatically start flowering in a short period of time (usually after a few weeks of growth) and have a fast-growing period of 2-3 months from seed to harvest. Growing weed from autoflowering seeds is a little easier in some ways, like the fact they never need to be transplanted. Photoperiod plants take a little longer to mature and require a change in the light cycle (fewer hours of light per day) to indicate that it is time to switch into flowering mode. If you’re a beginner grower, photoperiod plants tend to be easier to manipulate, and they can take a bit more abuse. Their longer growth cycle gives you more time to make amendments for the plant and adjust conditions as needed.
Number of seeds – If you’re learning how to grow weed indoors, the size of your grow space will determine how many seeds you should purchase. On average, one medium-sized plant takes up 2×2’ of floor space. Keep in mind that retailers usually only guarantee an 80% germination success rate, meaning that four out of five purchased seeds should become plants.
You’ve likely heard of different options for growing cannabis, including hydroponics, organic soil, coco coir, and soilless mediums. A growing medium is simply the substance through which plant roots grow and extract water and nutrients. Our grower’s guide focuses on using soil because it is the most common medium and the most forgiving one for a first-time grower.
However, you can’t just fill a pot with soil that you dug up from any old place and expect to get a great cannabis yield. The best soil for marijuana is a rich yet airy medium, or you can buy a high-quality potting soil and add perlite until the mixture is about 30% perlite.
Autoflowering or photoperiod plants – If you are growing an autoflowering plant, they are usually planted in a medium-sized container (3-5 gal), and they are grown in that container for their entire life cycle. An autoflowering plant will likely begin to flower when the plant is just a few weeks old, so you need to avoid transplant shock during this short timeframe as it can slow down growth and result in a lower yield. For a photoperiod plant, you’ll need to purchase different container sizes so you can transplant it into a new pot when it outgrows the smaller one.
Container sizes – You don’t need any fancy pots to grow pot; a Solo cup and other repurposed containers (with plenty of drainage holes) will work. For a photoperiod plant, we recommend you purchase three container sizes for the entire growth cycle: 0.5–5 L, 2-3 gal, and 5-7 gal. It’s best to give your plant time to recover between transplanting, so you should wait at least a few days after transplanting your plant into its final grow container before flipping it into flowering. We’ll walk you through the transplanting process in our grower’s guide below on how to grow weeds from seeds.
Watering frequency – Consider how often you want to water your plants. Bigger grow pots hold more soil, which can be expensive, but smaller pots that fit less soil also hold less water. A smaller pot around 3 gal will need to be watered daily during flowering, so choose a larger pot if you want to lessen the watering task to more like every 2-3 days.
Size of grow space – You should also consider how much vertical space you have available for your plants to grow and how tall the container is because that will be the height you lose in the grow space. For instance, if your space is 6’ tall but your pot is 1’, you only have 5’ left to work with, and you’ll still have a ventilation system to install, which may take an additional 1.5’ off the top of that space.
Plastic versus fabric – You can choose between plastic or fabric containers for your plants, or a plastic air-pruning pot, which is a mix between the two. Plastic containers are fairly cheap and can be cleaned to be used repeatedly; however, the plant roots will continue to grow and circle around the inside of the pot, eventually making the plants root-bound. Fabric pots are more expensive and can only be used for 1-2 grows before replacement, but they aerate the root zone, preventing the circling of roots.
If you’re growing outdoors, congratulations, you get to use the best light source around, the sun! If you’re growing indoors, you’re going to have a few decisions to make about your light source: primarily, which type, and how much. Don’t worry, our grower’s guide will shed some light on everything you need to know to get the best light for your grow.
Light type – There are a few main types of indoor grow lights to choose from (HID, LED, or fluorescent), and there are pros and cons for each. Based on your indoor grow setup and amount of plants, you’ll have to determine how much light you need and choose the most efficient light source. If you’re handy and have some experience in configuring electrical equipment, there are even some DIY grow lights.
Light timer – Consider purchasing a simple 24-hour light timer so you don’t have to babysit your grow lights. Your plants will be on a light schedule of 18 hours on and six hours off at the beginning of your grow. So, unless you want to turn off the lights at, say, 12am and back on at 6 am, you should consider a timer that automates this schedule.
Light tip – Keep it light-tight. What does this mean? Seal the light into your grow space by covering up any cracks or windows that allow natural light to enter or your artificial light to exit. Cannabis plants grown indoors require a strict light schedule, and any disruption to their darkness period could cause them to prematurely enter the flowering stage, which will ultimately affect the quality and yield of the cannabis plants. You also maximize the light coverage your plants get by making the setup light-tight, and more light means more bud.
It’s important to have suitable air exchange in your indoor grow setup so your plants can breathe. The most basic ventilation system will include an inline fan to exhaust the old air out and an open vent to allow fresh air in. A couple of tips before you purchase your own ventilation kit:
Check out your grow space and make sure you’re prepared to add a ventilation system. If you’re repurposing a closet or cabinet, you may have to drill holes in the wall to attach a ventilation system. Hopefully, if you’re repurposing an entire room in your house, that room already has a window that you can use to install a ventilation system. Most grow tents will already have exhaust and intake vents to attach to your ventilation system. To connect the pieces of your ventilation system together, you’ll also need to purchase some ducting, which can be cut to fit your needs.
Make sure your ventilation system will fit in your grow space. If you’re using a grow tent, you’ll want to find out the vents’ diameter in the tent and purchase a system that is about the same size. Some grow tent vents are adjustable, so you can purchase ducting and fans with a smaller diameter than your vent, then adjust the vent size using a drawstring.
Before buying your system, know how big your indoor grow setup is in cubic feet. You determine this by multiplying the length x width x height (in feet). Ventilation systems should include information called the CFM (cubic feet per minute), which is essentially the volume of air that the system can move per minute. You want to purchase a system that can exhaust all the air from your tent every 1-3 minutes.
Your plants will require different levels of nutrients depending on what growing medium you’re using as well as other environmental conditions. If using soil, we recommend you purchase a fertilizer set that comes with different nutrient combinations: one for the seedling stage, another for the growth/vegetative stage, and another for the final stage of bloom/flowering. This type of nutrient trio will likely have everything you need for the entire grow, including the main three nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. There are many other additives you can feed cannabis plants like silica, PK booster, and microbial inoculants, which do increase the health of the plants in various ways, but they’re not recommended for beginners because they complicate the feeding process.
You can usually obtain a feeding schedule from the manufacturer, but start off with half the recommended dose and watch your plants carefully for signs of nutrient burn or deficiency. One of the top beginner mistakes when growing cannabis is adhering to a strict feeding schedule rather than learning the signs of healthy plants.
There are lots of additional items that are not strictly necessary but will make your life easier and help guarantee a hearty harvest. We’d like to suggest:
We think the easiest and most rewarding grow setup for a beginner is a small grow tent indoors, fitted with full-spectrum LED lights and some basic grow tent ventilation. Why do we recommend using a grow tent? There are so many different tent shapes and sizes, so you’ll be sure to find one to fit in whatever space you have that will serve your growing needs. You can get such cheap grow tents these days to get you started, so unless you’re a great DIYer who is really tight for space, it hardly makes sense to go through all the work of designing and constructing your own indoor grow setup from scratch.
If you’re looking for a grow tent, you should focus your search on a tent within your budget for the grow and the right size to fit in your space and hold the plants you intend to grow. Then, once you have narrowed down your candidates by price and size, you can review details like the materials used for the tent fabric and zippers to ensure you are buying a durable tent that will last.
You can customize your space and purchase the parts for an indoor tent setup separately, or you can check out the all-inclusive small tent kits that Amazon offers in the range of $300-500. Grow kits typically come with a tent, lights, and ventilation, and they sometimes even include fertilizer and other handy tools like a thermometer/hygrometer. These grow kits might be a little more expensive than buying the equipment individually, but they sure do simplify getting your grow started. With a grow kit, you can rest assured that your lights and ventilation system will fit and work in your tent when they all come together, and you don’t have to compare all the choices of buying each part separately.
To add to your ventilation system, we recommend getting a properly sized carbon filter to handle odor control. A carbon filter is basically like an air freshener for your grow tent; it cleans the air and removes odor. Cannabis plants smell, especially during the flowering stage, so if you want to conceal your indoor grow setup, a carbon filter is a great start. This filter attaches to the inline fan, and when the fan sucks air out of the tent, it will pass easily through the filter, but that skunky smell will bind to the carbon and won’t leave the tent.
Carbon filters need to be replaced eventually, but they should last quite a while. Extend a filter’s life by washing the pre-filter (the machine-washable cloth material), which gathers dust and particles from the air, so they don’t get stuck in the carbon filter.
If you’re buying your fan and filter separately, they must match up in diameter for the airflow – you don’t want a huge powerful fan blasting air through a tiny filter because there’s no way the filter will have time to do its job.
Even with an inline fan, the air in an indoor grow setup can still get stale or too hot in certain spots, or it can allow humid pockets to form, which can potentially cause powdery mildew. An oscillating fan is a great addition to your ventilation system to maintain good airflow. This fan also creates airflow around your plants that causes them to sway, similar to the natural wind, which encourages them to grow strong stems to support your buds and anchor themselves with a healthy root system to take in nutrients.
Heater or Air Conditioner
You’ll want to maintain certain temperature ranges throughout your grow, and you may need some help from a heater or an AC to do this. Our grower’s guide suggests the ideal temperature range for growing cannabis is 21-27°C (70-80°F). It’s okay if the temperature drops to around 16°C (60°F) once the plant is well established during late growth but avoid huge temperature fluctuations that may shock your plant or extremely high temperatures that could cause heat stress.
Keep in mind that HID lights give off more heat than LED lights, and the temperature in your grow space will drop when the grow lights are turned off during the dark period of the light cycle. For this reason, you may want to invest in heating or AC units that monitor the temperature of the grow space and start and stop accordingly to maintain a steady temperature.
We also suggest investing in a thermometer for your grow space so you can monitor the temperature.
Dehumidifier or Humidifier
If your grow space can become very dry or humid, you may want to purchase a humidifier or dehumidifier to keep the RH at about 50%, along with a hygrometer to measure the humidity levels. Units that automatically turn on or off based on a set humidity level are best. If the humidity levels are too low, plant growth may be stunted, and if the humidity levels are too high, you risk getting bud rot, mold, and powdery mildew.
Testing Tools: pH Meter and ppm Tester
Testing tools for pH and ppm may not be necessary for a beginner grower as they do complicate the feeding process, but they sure help to prevent any nutrient issues with your plants. Depending on the growing medium you’re using, cannabis plants require a certain pH around their root zone to take up nutrients. The ppm level refers to the concentration of minerals and soluble matter in your water solution. Measuring the ppm level ensures you are not under- or over-feeding your plants. We recommend purchasing these testing tools so you can measure the pH and ppm levels of the water you’re using to feed your plants, as well as the water runoff from your plants. Don’t worry, we have more in our grower’s guide below about watering techniques and testing!
Our last grower’s guide equipment suggestion is to invest in a good pair of bud trimmers. Throughout your grow and at the final stage of harvest, you’ll want to remove any undesired vegetation from your plant – this is called trimming or pruning. There are different types of bud trimmers for different purposes, like precision trimming shears to remove delicate sugar leaves and trimming machines that clean up harvested buds for curing.
How to Grow Weeds from Seeds: Step-by-Step Instructions
Ready to learn how to grow weed easy? Our grower’s guide covers each of the cannabis growth stages and all of the care needed along the way, from seed to flower. We simplify the steps so that even a first-time gardener can get a great harvest.
Grower’s Guide: Germination of Seeds
Cannabis Growth Stage
None – total darkness
70-90°F (21-32°C), best at 78°F (25°C)
When the conditions are right, cannabis seeds will wake up and germinate, which means they will swell and crack, and a white taproot will emerge. Germination of cannabis seeds takes 1-2 weeks and requires moisture, warmth, and darkness. Our grower’s guide to germinate marijuana seeds recommends the paper towel germination method from our friends at Crop King Seeds. Once the seeds are in water, and the germination process begins, a dry period will cause the seeds to die, so do not let the seeds dry out. You can skip our germination process and place the seeds directly in the soil, but there’s no guarantee that they will be in constant moisture, and germination is not as likely to be successful.
How to Germinate Marijuana Seeds
Submerge your seeds in distilled water in an opaque container, place in a dark, warm location, and wait 18-24 hours.
Rule of green thumb: Seeds have started to germinate when they sink to the container’s bottom when poked.
Check your seeds after 18 hours and remove them if there are signs of germination (seed cracking or white taproot emerging), but do not leave them in water for more than 24 hours.
After 24 hours, you can dump the seeds and water onto a plate (or a plant tray) lined with paper towel. The paper towel should be damp but not soaking wet, so remove the excess water while being careful not to discard any seeds. Also, don’t seal the seeds into anything airtight like a plastic baggy as they need air to breathe.
Fold the paper towel over the seeds and return them to the container in a dark, warm location for 2-7 more days in the dark, until a root (of at least ¾”) forms. Check on your seeds every 12 hours and remoisten the paper towel with water as needed.
Plant Your Germinated Seeds
Before you start, make sure your container of choice has plenty of drainage holes in the bottom.
Pre-moisten your soil, then add your soil mix to your small seedling pot, leaving a 1” gap at the top.
Rule of green thumb: The soil is wet enough if you squeeze it in your hand, and 2-3 drops of water are released like a damp rag.
Make a small indent in the soil and gently place the cannabis seed in with the root down.
Cover each seed with ¼” soil and lightly water the seed in. Tag each container with the date and variety of seeds.
Grower’s Guide: Seedling Growth Stage
Cannabis Growth Stage
Light:Dark 18:6 hours
How long does it take for seeds to sprout? It may take a couple of days after planting a germinated cannabis seed in soil to see it start to sprout (stem and green leaves appear above the soil). During the seedling stage, the seed leaves (cotyledon) will first emerge from the soil then the true leaves, which look more like marijuana leaves, begin to develop. Plants will appear to be growing slowly at first as they’re mostly working on developing their root structure.
Light is needed as soon as the seedling emerges from the soil and must remain on for at least 18 hours a day, then off for 6 hours a day. Follow your light manufacturer recommendations for the distance between the grow light and plants.
It is crucial during this stage of growth that the temperature and humidity levels remain in their ideal ranges. High humidity is crucial as the plants do not have a very developed root system to take up water from the soil. Check on your plants daily and give them a mist of water if needed. If you do not have a Humidome or humidifier to keep the humidity level high, place a plastic baggy over the top of the cup (unsealed).
Grower’s Guide: Vegetative Stage
Cannabis Growth Stage
3-4 weeks including germination
Light:Dark 18:6 hours
4+ weeks (up to several months)
Light:Dark 18:6 hours
Once your plant has developed two sets of true leaves, it is usually considered to be in the vegetative stage of growth. During the vegetative stage of growth, your plant needs plenty of light, water, air circulation, and nutrients (especially nitrogen) to help with good foliage growth. If you’re growing a photoperiod plant, you can keep it in the vegetative stage for as long as you want until you change the light cycle.
Rule of green thumb: Provide more light if the sets of leaves spread out along the stem instead of growing very closely on top of each other.
Cannabis Watering Technique
A good watering technique is key to learning how to grow weed. Many beginner growers overwater, but in our grower’s guide, we recommend you water the plants less frequently, but when you do water them, drench the entire medium.
Allow the soil to mostly dry out (at least the top inch of the medium) before watering again.
Use half the capacity of the container of water (e.g., if the container is 4L, use 2L water).
Water with half the total amount of water (e.g., 1L), wait about 10 minutes, then use the other half of the water (e.g., another 1L). If you water the full amount at once, the water can run quickly out of the pot rather than fully saturating the medium.
After watering, you should see about 10% water runoff (e.g., 100ml).
Rule of green thumb: You have an overwatering or drainage issue if it takes more than 10 minutes for the pot to drain after a watering or if it takes as long as 4-5 days for the soil to dry out after watering.
Nutrients During Vegetative Stage
Depending on your growing medium, you may not have to add additional nutrients until your plant has been growing for several weeks or months. Most growers start supplying supplemental nutrients to their plants in soil after about three weeks of growth. Please don’t add more nutrients than what is needed, thinking it will help, because it generally does not. Less is more, and you can always add additional water and nutrients, whereas it’s really difficult to adjust for too much of these things by flushing out nutrients or drying the medium.
If you purchased a complete fertilizer set, add the nutrients intended for the vegetative stage to your water. Start with ¼ or ½ the recommended dose, increase slowly, and monitor for signs of nutrient toxicity.
Test the water pH and ppm before feeding as well as the collected runoff after feeding.
Our grower’s guide recommends a feed-water-feed schedule, which is when nutrients are only added to the water every second time the plants are watered.
The plant is drying out quickly and needing daily waterings.
Plant growth has started to spread out over the sides of your first pot.
You see white roots emerging from the bottom of your container.
Transplanting is moving a plant from one container to another, usually to a larger container, when the plant has outgrown the previous one.
Loosen the plant from its grow pot by squeezing the sides, then transplant by transferring the plant to your next container (2-3 gal). Starting with pre-moistened soil, fill the larger pot 1/3 full, then add your plant and top with more soil until the soil meets the plant’s base.
If your plant is at all leggy (indicated by a tall and weak stem), this is a good opportunity to bury the stem deeper in the soil. Just like tomato plants, when you do this, a more robust root system will form along the stem that’s planted in the soil and will help steady your plant. A great root system is also essential for nutrient and water uptake. However, new plant growth (the new stems) will continue to grow weak and thin if you don’t improve the lighting, and you need strong stems to support big, heavy buds!
Please don’t wait too long to transplant; when plants are root-bound, their growth can be stunted. Preferably only transplant during the vegetative stage as transplant shock can be detrimental to bud development during the flowering stage.
Depending on your plant growth (usually when it doubles in height or you see signs of it being root-bound), you can transplant to your final container (5-7 gal) in a couple of weeks.
You can top your plant by gently pinching or cutting off the very tip. A week or so after topping, you will see two new stems start to grow from where you clipped the tip. This technique helps create multiple main stems instead of one main cola. This is a good time to even out your plants’ heights by taking off more or less of each plant’s tops.
LSTing (low-stress training) is another beginner-friendly technique but requires patience and a gentle touch. This process is bending and tying down the branches of the plant with the goal of the side branches to then have new growth vertically to create an even canopy. You can start this technique anytime, but most growers start when the plant has five nodes, and it has been planted in its final grow pot. This is a great training strategy to use if your grow space has height restrictions.
Begin LSTing by carefully bending your plant stem toward one side of the pot and securing it with string. LSTing will manipulate your plants to grow more like a bush with a good base of leafy growth and the flowers all the same distance from the light source.
Grower’s Guide: Flowering Stage
Cannabis Growth Stage
5+ weeks (up to 3 months)
2 weeks before harvest
0-400ppm, less than 100ppm is best
When you are happy with the plant’s size, or it has started to outgrow your grow space, you can induce flowering in your photoperiod plant by changing the light schedule.
A decrease in the time your plant is provided light will mimic autumn’s natural changes and indicate that it’s time to flower. The flowering stage is when your plant starts to produce mature plant parts in the nodes, either male pollen sacks or female pistils. You should be able to determine the sex of your plant a week after you switch the light cycle.
The plant will still grow vertically for 2-3 weeks into flowering. This is called the stretching phase, and plants may double in height, so consider this before forcing flowering. A few weeks into flowering, the plant will focus its energy on bud development for the remainder of this stage. The flowering period usually lasts 6-10 weeks on average in photoperiod plants.
Grooming During Flowering Stage
During weeks 2-3 of flowering, you can start the lollipopping training method, which consists of removing the lower plant growth that is no longer getting much light so the plant can focus its energy on the growth of the upper bud sites. By removing the underdeveloped lower buds and energy-sucking foliage on the lower part of the plant, the main bud sites’ yield will be more plentiful. To lollipop, prune the bottom third of the plant, including leaves, stems, and small bud sites, using clean scissors or pruners. This should only be done up until day 21 of flowering, then stressful grooming should be avoided.
Nutrient Needs During Flowering
Monitor your plant closely at the beginning of the flowering stage for nutrient deficiency as nutrient uptake will be significant. It is normal at this stage to have some yellowing or sickly looking leaves as your plant channels its energy toward maturing the flowers.
Before you harvest, you should flush your plant during the last two weeks of flowering by providing it with only pH-balanced water. Flushing your plant of chemicals will help improve the taste and smoke of your final product.
Grower’s Guide: Harvesting Your Cannabis
One of the biggest challenges for beginners learning how to grow weed is deciding when to harvest their crop. Unfortunately, most beginner cannabis growers harvest their plants too early due to excitement, meaning lower yields and less cannabinoid potency.
There are three primary methods to determine when to harvest cannabis:
1. Breeder Guidelines
Most will provide an estimated flowering period for the strain you purchase, which will be anywhere between 6-10 weeks. If the flowering period is eight weeks, then at the eight-week mark into the flowering stage, you should be able to harvest. However, this is just a general guideline as your growing methods, and environment can impact how quickly your cannabis matures, so it can’t be too precise. Many breeders will also provide a flowering range like 6-8 weeks, which isn’t very helpful with pinning down an exact harvest date.
2. Visually Checking Pistils
Some experienced growers can simply look at their cannabis and determine if it is time to harvest. They just visually check the buds and look at the pistils (the small hair-like fibers that grow out of the bud). These hairs start off white but usually turn orangey-brown and start to curl up close to the bud when it’s time to harvest. Our grower’s guide does not recommend this method because it’s tricky for beginners to recognize these signs, and the pistils of some strains turn brown early while others remain white even when it is time to harvest.
3. Trichome Method
The best way to determine whether it is harvest time is by examining the trichomes on the buds. Trichomes (aka trics) are the crystal bits on the buds and sugar leaves. They’re the resin glands that are filled with all the good things you want, like cannabinoids and terpenes. These slender, resin-filled stalks with bulbous heads look sort of like tiny mushrooms and grow all over the buds’ surface. Trichomes are very small, so you can’t see them well enough with the naked eye – you’ll need a magnifying glass or scope in the 20-60x range.
You should start monitoring your trichomes about two weeks before the expected harvest provided by the breeder (around the same time as your start flushing your plants). The resin starts off clear, then as the plant ages, it turns milky and finally amber. Ensure you are checking the trichomes on the actual bud as the ones on the sugar leaves tight to the bud will mature faster and aren’t the best indication of the bud’s ripeness.
When the trichomes are completely clear, the plant is not ready to harvest. When almost all of them turn milky, the plant has the highest THC levels and can be harvested. While opinions vary regarding the exact ratio of each type for harvesting, as a general rule, when the majority of the trics are milky, and 10-20% of them are amber, it is probably time to harvest the plants. People often say that an early, milky trichome harvest produces more of a head high, whereas the more amber trichomes give a more stoned effect or a body high.
When you’re trying to decide when to harvest your cannabis plants, try to remember that this should be a fun process – you’ve finally made it to the finish line. Many growers worry about harvesting at the exact right time to achieve desired effects. But the truth is, your genetics (i.e., the strain you choose) will primarily determine the cannabinoid content and type of high you feel, although you should still wait at least until you see some clear maturity signs like coiled orange pistils and milky trichomes. A couple of days may seem to change the color of your trichomes dramatically, but this should only slightly impact the effects.
Grower’s Guide: Drying Your Cannabis
Now, you are itching to try your home-grown cannabis. But don’t even try to roll a joint with these freshly harvested buds. The water content of raw cannabis is much too high, so you probably couldn’t get it to light, and even if you could, it would taste and smell like skunk.
Wet Trim Vs. Dry Trim
You need to dry your weed before you can smoke it. Whether you trim your buds before you dry (wet trim) or after you dry (dry trim) comes down to personal preference. Having a good pair of trimming shears available makes this job easier, though some people merely snap off the leaves with their hands. If you are using shears, keep some rubbing alcohol nearby to clean them as required.
To harvest your plant, you should first remove the whole plant from its container by cutting it at the stem’s base. You may need some strong pruners or garden loppers. You can cut individual branches to hang or, alternatively, just hang the whole plant. We recommend at this stage that you trim off all the larger fan leaves before you hang the branches or full plant.
Cannabis Plant Drying Conditions
You will need a place that is dark and cool with fairly low humidity. If you used a grow tent for your cannabis grow, it can also dual as a great drying closet. You may need to add a humidifier or (more likely) a dehumidifier to keep the RH around 40-60%, depending on how leafy your plant is during the drying stage. If you wet trim your cannabis plants, they’ll have less foliage and will dry faster, so you’ll want to keep the humidity level closer to 60% to prevent them from drying out too quickly. You’ll want to maintain a much lower humidity level, closer to 40%, if you are drying a full, bushy plant to prevent mold or mildew from developing and rotting your bud.
Drying then involves hanging the plant upside down in your drying closet until you can hear a snap when you bend a stem, and it breaks easily – this normally takes somewhere between 7-21 days. Regardless of how you hang your harvest, leave room between the plants to allow for sufficient airflow.
Speaking of airflow, don’t try to speed up the drying process by using a fan. Fans cause the plant to dry unevenly, and all kinds of plant material are blown around, making a huge mess. On the other hand, if you are using a tent, you can keep your venting fan on to pull fresh air into the tent and run the skunky air through your carbon filter.
Some people try to speed up the process by using heaters or ovens. This is not recommended as the results will be very stinky and, again, uneven. Do not force the drying process by running excessive air conditioners, dehumidifiers, or fans.
Trimming Your Bud
After drying but before curing (or consuming!), you will need to trim your buds. This process involves cutting off each bud from the branch and any remaining excess plant material such as fan leaves, leaving beautifully manicured nugs. If you don’t have access to a machine trimmer, welcome to trim jail. Trimming can be a very timely process, but if you’ve gotten this far in learning how to grow weed, you’re almost there. One plant can easily take an hour or more to trim, but if you want to do it faster, consider inviting some friends over for a trim party! A word of advice: always wear nitrile gloves when trimming as cannabis resin is very sticky. In fact, it is a good idea to cover your entire table surface with disposable plastic sheets if possible.
You can certainly smoke your bud after trimming, but to really achieve the maximum potency and flavor, consider curing your cannabis first.
Grower’s Guide: Curing Your Cannabis
The role of curing is to allow the dried buds to outgas the remaining chlorophyll in the plant. This is done by loosely packing your buds into some sort of airtight jar or bucket (we prefer glass mason jars) and then opening the jars periodically for at least a couple of months. If you have children or vulnerable adults in the home, ensure your cannabis is stored in childproof cabinets or containers to avoid accidental ingestion.
While you don’t need anything besides a jar to cure your cannabis, consider purchasing some curing sachets. These small pouches (about the size of a sugar sachet) are intended to keep the RH in your jar to a very precise level. For curing, we recommend around 55% RH bags, but prior to using the product, up the RH just a little by using a 62% pouch.
The regular opening of the jars is called burping, and we recommend that for the first week or so, you vent your storage container 1-2 times a day for 15 minutes. After a week, do the same for a couple of minutes a day for about a month, then once a week for another two months. This allows the buds to lose most of their skunky odor and replace it with the plant’s true terpene flavor profile, allowing the cannabinoids to reach full potential. Once you start curing, you will find uncured cannabis to be harsh and stinky.
You can cure for up to 12 months, and the buds will just keep getting better and better, assuming you can leave it on the shelf for that long! As with drying, it’s best to store your curing containers in a dark, cool place if possible.
Your buds will grind up beautifully and burn perfectly. Well-cured cannabis at the proper RH has a lovely odor that shouldn’t offend anyone.
As you can imagine, the processes described above take patience and a no-rush attitude. It will, though, reward you for your efforts in the end with the top potential.
What’s Next? Taking It to the Next Level
You’ve completed your first home grow, and with experience, you will be able to manage several crops each year. Take the time to improve your space, your skills, and ultimately, your grow.
Space – Look back on your last grow and reflect on the problems and successes you had. What worked and what didn’t? Were you missing some tools that would make your life a lot easier like automated controllers for fans/lights or water testing tools? Make the required changes to your space.
Skills – You now know your strengths and weaknesses as a home grower, so take the time to research and practice anything you struggled with. Were there training techniques you had difficulty executing? Do you know the signs and symptoms of nutrient problems and common pests?
Strain – Should you try a new strain better suited to what you’re looking for as a recreational or medicinal crop? Maybe you chose the perfect strain last time, so you can learn how to save seeds or clone your plant to help ensure you get a similar harvest next time.
It’s called ‘weed’ for a reason – if you plant a cannabis seed in the ground, it will likely find the strength to grow. Growing high-quality weed, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated. As you’ve learned, you can’t neglect your plants and expect them to thrive like your common lawn weeds.
But remember that the more you grow, the more you’ll know! Enjoy the experience of learning how to grow weed, have fun, and take the time to reach out to seasoned growers who can help you learn and grow.
Amy Davis is an ‘expert in the field’, and her passion for this work stems from her agriculture degrees and cannabis oil research. Her education and horticultural therapy training have allowed her to share her love of plants through teaching at Dalhousie University, senior facilities, and most recently, a federal women’s prison. Amy believes in the restorative power of people-plant interactions and serves on the board of the Horticulture for Health Network (NSHHN). If Amy is not working or tending to her live-in jungle, she is probably off spoiling her little dogs Chester & Murphy.