There are plenty of reasons for wanting to grow your own cannabis, and all of them are good. Whether you want safer access, quality control, uninterrupted supply, specific strains, or just to save money, have no fear. There is a reason it is called a weed.
Why grow your own marijuana?
Today, many personal growers have the dedication to strains and quality of presentation that would make any professional rose gardener proud. But you don’t have to be an expert to learn how to grow marijuana.
It has been amateur lovers of the plant that have made many of the advancements we enjoy today. New strains, new grow techniques, new ways to fall in love with cannabis.
Whatever your background, I am here to show you how to grow marijuana! You can do it and I will be here to guide you step-by-step, so you achieve the big, sticky, monstrous buds you have been dreaming of.
How to grow marijuana
In this first article, I am going to go over what you will need in order to get ready to grow your own bud. I will focus on indoors growing and inexpensive setup. Depending on where you live, outdoors may not be an option, and since it won’t allow year-round growing, I will focus on indoors.
Growing indoors also allows you complete control over every variable of your plant’s life, helping you achieve healthier, more productive crops.
Here’s a breakdown of the factors we want to control when we get ready to grow cannabis. Having these things planned and prepared will prevent 90% of your headaches before they happen.
- Grow Medium
Space: Be size wise
Let’s talk space. Before you try to grow a monster in your closet, you need to make sure it will fit. You can grow a tiny plant in an empty computer tower or cabinet, or even a five-gallon bucket if you just want an ounce or two. You can also use an entire basement to grow dozens of 6-foot monsters, but the rules are the same.
The larger the space, the more work, and money, you will need to setup your grow. More space also means more bud in the end, but if you are just beginning, I always suggest starting small for two reasons.
First, if you start with a small grow, you will be able to keep a closer eye on the process, and the mistakes you DO make will cost you less. This is a learning process, after all, let’s not make it a costly one.
Second, if you choose to not work within the parameters of your local laws, it’s better to be in the wrong for 2 plants than for 20. Hopefully, you are legal to grow where you live because although losing your freedom over a plant is stupid, stupidity hasn’t stopped governments yet. Be safe.
A good rule to follow is that your plants will roughly double is size when you go from the vegetative state to the flowering stage (a little more for sativas). So if you are going to grow in a small space, be extra careful to leave enough room. You will also have to take into account the overhead space for lights, ducting, and air filters in room setups.
Your grow area needs to have room not just for the plant and lights, but you as well. Working in a cabinet grow or bucket you can simply open the space, and possibly pull out the plant. Anything larger, and you need room to access the roots and adjust the height of the lights.
If they are too far away from your plants, they won’t get the full benefit. If you can’t access the back of the plant to monitor for mold or pests, you could miss the problem until it’s too late.
Beyond that, the biggest factor in choosing your space is budget. Larger space means more plants, but that requires more lights, more nutrients, and a way to eliminate that potent smell from announcing to the neighbors the valuable hoard you have.
Cops aren’t the only thing to worry about with a grow. Thieves are a possibility as well. We will keep all this in mind as we go through the next sections, and when you have a handle on all these factors, then you can make the final decision.
If you are a first-time grower, just go with soil. It is more forgiving, and less expensive for most setups. A good potting soil will do fine, as long as it is NOT one with extended release nutrients, like Miracle Gro.
Original Miracle Gro soil has the wrong balance of nutrients for cannabis, and the extended release can wreck your balance, especially in the late stages of growth. Go with a simple all-purpose potting soil, and add in some coco fiber and perlite to keep it airy.
Other great soil additives are compost, bat guano, worm castings, blood and bone meal, peat moss, rock dust, etc. The downside to soil growing is the extra room needed to mix the soil, and once the nutrients in it have been used, you have to replace the soil.
Throwing out buckets of dirt can seem suspicious. But if you keep the original containers, you can “re-gift” it to your outside gardens, and as long as you show those the same love as your secret garden, none should be the wiser.
Do not reuse soil. Salts, the waste product of the plant, build up in the soil and will damage your plants.
My Personal Mix: Well turned compost (leaves, coffee and teabags, bark, old plants, fruit peels, etc. With composting bacteria mix from the garden store), worm castings, and perlite at a 10-10-30 ratio, with Fox Farms Happy Frog soil as the other 50%.
Soil-less growing takes more attention to nutrients, as you use an inert medium like coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, rock wool, or expanded clay, ect. There are no nutrients in the medium, so here you buy liquid nutrients and add them to your watering schedule.
Because absorption is faster, you can expect bigger yields and faster growing in soil-less medium, but if you over do your nutrients, you can burn your plants easily. A good soil-less mix is about 60% coco coir, for water absorption and root growth, and 40% perlite, for air circulation and drainage.
I always put a shallow layer of aquarium rocks at the bottom of my buckets so the roots don’t rest in standing water, whether I’m using soil or soil-less. Soil-less medium are lighter than regular soil, which makes the work easier, but generally more expensive.
Thrifty, not cheap
As far as containers go, buckets work fine. Put holes in the bottom for drainage, make sure it doesn’t make a seal with the tray beneath it, never leave standing water in your tray, easy. However, you do want to make sure your buckets are made of a plastic that won’t leech any unwanted properties into your plants.
You can be thrifty, but don’t go cheap. A quality bucket is reusable many times, so spending a little extra pays for itself every time you plant.
Fabric pots are new to the scene, but if you have ever seen a tree in a burlap sack, it makes sense. It allows more air to the roots than buckets, resulting in healthier plants and bigger yields, but they aren’t generally reusable. Food for thought.
Growing hydroponic weed is not complicated, it just takes some prep work and study, as there are several possible setups. Many growers rave about the potency, fast grow times and big yields. Here is my list of Pros and Cons on hydro.
- Bigger yields, faster grow times
- No soil mess, no re-potting (after seedling to veg)
- Less chance of pests
- More potency
- More sensitive to nutrient fluctuations, root problems, easier to kill
- More expensive and complicated setup (some customization)
- More expensive to run (electricity for water pump, airstones)
- Soil imparts more flavor
If, for you, hydro is the way to go, more power to you. But all points considered, if you are new to the passion, start off simple and work your way up to it. I would rather you love the experience of growing one plant in dirt, and thirst for more challenges, than to have you jump straight in the deep end, just to become frustrated and never grow again.
Most importantly, do your research and take information from several sources, not just one.
Lighting is your biggest expense, both in setup and grow cycles. Do the homework and focus on these keys: wattage, lumens, light penetration, heat buildup, ballast needs, voltage, and coverage area.
Extra costs include proper electrical wiring in the room, reflective wall and ceiling covering, reflector hoods, mounting hardware, etc. Light should be either full spectrum or focused on the red (480nm) and blue (650nm) portions where cannabis gets the most benefit. Ideally you want 16,000 lumens for vigorous grows.
*WARNING! FAULTY OR IMPROPER WIRING RUINS EQUIPMENT AND CAN CAUSE FIRES! PLEASE BE CAREFUL!*
Compact fluorescents are fairly energy efficient, more so than HID’s or MH. If your grow is smaller than 4 X 4 ft, these are a great option. CFL’s need to be close to your plants, within about 10 inches, to give the best light, so adjusting them every couple days as your baby shoots up can become tedious.
The T 5 works nicely when put on a moveable chain. Light penetration is low, so extra bulbs on the dark areas of your canopy may be necessary. Heat is not too bad in small setups. Good for starting off, not great on yields
High-intensity discharge lights, such as High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) and Metal Halide, have long been the most popular choice for growers. The highest cost to run is balanced by best yield and fastest grow, and relatively low setup cost. These bulbs tend to burn out after one or two grows, so replacement costs factor in as well.
Light penetration is excellent, but these guys can put out a lot of heat, too much for some smaller grows. HID’s mean extra cost for venting and cooling. If you choose to run these, try to find a ballast that lets you switch bulbs, so you can use HPS (yellow light) for your flowering cycle, and MH (white/blue light) for your veg cycle.
If you have to use just one, use HPS. The stronger the wattage, the higher from the canopy you need to stay.
The fastest advances in lighting are in LEDs. Able to give full spectrum or focused on the light most used by the plant, these lights are usually the most expensive, but the investment pays off quickly. They use the least electricity and last for years. There are a lot of great lights available now but beware of cheap junk.
There are 2 kinds of nutrients your plants need, macro and micro. The most important are the macro: N -nitrogen, P- phosphorus, and K- potassium. Nitrogen helps grow leaves, and potassium helps in bud production. Cannabis needs different ratios in the veg stage than the bud stage.
There are plenty of cannabis specific nutrients available, so start there. If you are using soil, get soil nutrients. If using soil-less or hydro, get hydro nutrients. Make sure your grow area has an area to mix your nutrients, and NEVER open them except in the grow area except in small grows a separate clean area is okay.
Store in a dry place. Don’t get caught up in complicated multi-step products, just get one for veg and one for budding, or bloom. Start off at half-strength, most plants won’t need full strength unless under strong lights.
Your plants will need a continuous supply of fresh air. A light, steady breeze helps develop strong stems, all the better to support big buds. Good air circulation also helps keep your temperature in the sweet zone (65 – 80 for veg, five degrees cooler for budding, to help bring out aromas and flavor). Air flow makes it harder for pests to get a foothold, and helps prevent mold.
If you have a smaller grow, an intake fan at the bottom of the room and an exhaust at the top will work fine. With larger grows and more lights, you will want in-line ducting to suck the heat from your lights out of the room.
Larger grows also produce more tell-tale aroma, so a carbon scrubber attached to your exhaust is necessary to eliminate the odor. Always keep a stronger fan on the exhaust than the intake, so your room has a suction that prevents odor from leaking out the intake.
I’m sure you have heard of supplying CO2 to increase yields, but that is only necessary for very high power grows. CO2 opens the stomata on the plant’s leaves to help with photosynthesis when high heat from lamps causes problems. Keep the temperature right, and it isn’t needed.
Cannabis enjoys water, but not swimming. The biggest mistake is watering too frequently. Wait until the soil is dry on the top inch, and then water until you have a fifth runoff. Cannabis likes the ph of its roots to be between 6 – 7, and in hydro between 5.5 – 6.5.
Test your water, and adjust it every time if needed. Nutrients only need to be added to your water once out of every 2 or 3 feedings.
Water and electricity don’t mix. Keep wiring up and tied out of the way.
Standing water causes mold. Always use drain trays; never leave standing water.
If you want to avoid problems in general, having a way to monitor your grow environment is key to protecting your investment. At the least, have a timer for your lights, a ph testing kit, and a temperature and humidity sensor. The extra money gives you great peace of mind, and takes the guesswork out of adjusting conditions.
A perfect grow, with perfect conditions, can be destroyed by simple laziness. Keep it clean. Bleach containers before and after each grow. Clean your walls every 2 weeks or so with a diluted bleach to prevent mold. Keep outside items out of your grow.
Dirty clothes, tools, skin, hair, and shoes can bring in pests and molds, so clean yourself up before visiting your ladies. Take any trash or old plant material out quickly.
Once you have decided the location, type, and size of your grow, the other factors fall in place. I suggest having a two-section grow: one area for mother plants, clones, and veg growth, the second for plants in bloom.
It’s a good idea to keep your supplies in their own area, and have your trimming/drying/curing area attached to your grow area. This helps with keeping the privacy of your grow, and makes environment control easier.
The most important thing is to enjoy the experience of growing your own cannabis, so keeping a journal of the experience is a great idea. It also helps you keep track of what worked and what didn’t. Now get out there and get ready to grow!
His other positions include Co-founder and product design for Cool Vapes and Creative Director for Ergrow Systems.
He is also Founder / President / Creative Director for The Official Cannabis Book of World Records.
Unity through Compassion!