By now, you should have done plenty of reading on growing, and setup your room or closet, as seen in Step 1: Equipment & Setup. In Step 2 I am covering growing and cultivation. Now, with seeds or clones in hand, you are ready to get started!
Remember those charts you made in fourth grade on the life cycle of a tomato? Well here is the same style chart, only for something we like a whole lot more:
Life Cycle of Cannabis:
Starting Off: Seeds Or Clones?
Seeds are easy to get from sellers online, and if you are wanting to grow a specific strain that you can’t find locally, this is the way to go. Prices vary wildly from seller to seller, and shipping can come with its own hurdles if you live in an area where it isn’t legal.
Most reputable companies have stealth shipping, and will replace a lost or sized order if it was insured. Check out reviews. I recommend BonzaSeeds, RoyalQueenSeeds, and OldSchoolBA.
If you are in an area with legal marijuana, the easiest way to get started is with a clone. There are several advantages to using a clone is that the plant is guaranteed to be female (only females produce bud, and one male mixed in with your females can make your whole crop produce less bud and more seeds, instead of producing the huge buds you want.)
A clone is also an exact copy of its mother, so if it comes from a hybrid, you will get the same phenotype. Seeds from a hybrid may show dominant traits of either parent, or a mix of the two. Once you start your crop, taking clones from your best plants is the best way to save money on seeds, and have a constant supply of the same type of bud.
Seeds are not going to sprout 100% of the time, and if you don’t know the source, you could have a type of weed you weren’t expecting.
If you went with clones, treat them gently for the first few days. You want to make sure they don’t go into shock, and that they develop strong roots. If they don’t have roots yet, moisten them by spraying the leaves a couple times a day.
Clones will get their water this way until they get roots. Gentle flourescents will help without overpowering them. Clones may look weak and limp at first, so be gentle and help them get well established.
Have your veg lights and nutes at half of your regular strength until it has at least 4 – 5 vertical nodes (areas where the main shoot branches off) before putting it in full strength veg. Don’t have your plants on 24 hour light, root growth is stimulated by the dark cycle, so give them a good 8 hours darkness.
If you are starting from seed, sprouting is easy. You can place your seeds directly in your grow medium. About an inch deep in soil, keep warm and moist but not soaked. Every time you transplant your babies, they can potentially go into shock, so if you can start them off in their adult grow containers, this is ideal.
If you are rotating crops, or grow space, you will probably have a specific area for seedlings and clones, and will need to transplant them once they are ready to veg. There are several ways to sprout your seeds. A small pot of grow medium works for soil or soil-less growing. A hydroponic starter cube or plug is ideal for transfer to a hydro system.
My first grow, I had very little room, so I used paper towels in ziploc bags, and thumb-tacked them to the wall behind a fabric wall-hanging picture. The wall faced south, and received light all day. It worked great, as I was able to sprout dozens of seeds, and select the strongest ones to grow.
Just lay out the towel, fold into a strip 4 inches wide, place the seeds 2 inches apart in a row down the center, and fold lengthwise in half. Moisten with a spray bottle, and fold sideways so it will fit in your baggie. Once inside, spray again, then exhale some air inside so the bag is not completely flat, and lay in a warm place, like a window sill. Open it twice a day to get air, and keep it moist, but not soaked. Keep the temperature stable with a heating pad if necessary.
Whether clones or seeds, once your plants have several nodes of leaves and are well rooted, it is time to put them in the veg area.
If you used hydro cubes or plugs, then it’s as easy as popping them out of one socket and into another. If you are using soil, then transplanting is a more delicate process.
Start by getting your veg planter ready to receive the plant, scooping out a hole that holds the seedling in its current container. Next, moistening your soil so it is slightly damp, but not soaked and soggy.
Tap your seedling container on the base and gently squeeze the sides, loosening the soil from the edges without crumbling the root ball. Tip the plant horizontally, supporting the stem along your forearm as you slide the plant from the seedling container.
Place it in the new pot, gently loosen the soil to encourage the roots to spread. Finally, tamp the soil down lightly, and water the plant in its new container.
Veg Stage: How To Train Your Plant For Massive Yields!
Growing indoors allows you to control exactly how long your plant stays in the vegetative state. Outdoors, plants will automatically change from veg to flower as the days get shorter in the fall.
As long as you give your plants 18+ hours of good light, they will veg. Some growers choose to give 24 hours of light, with no dark period, to speed up growth. Plants are tough in this stage. Keep the temperature between 70 – 85 F.
Water after the soil is dry over an inch and a half down. Make sure water drains well, check ph of water with nuts added. Nutes at half strength. Plenty of air circulation.
When a plant grows, it reaches for the light. If your lights are too far away, your plants will stretch, becoming lanky. Tall slender plants are harder to keep in the green zone (not too close, not too far from light). The more of the plant that is in this zone, the bigger buds it will produce from the energy it gets. Why have a skinny tree with one big bud at the top when you can have a stout bush with several huge colas (buds)?
Reflector hoods on your lights, and light that spreads out, like metal halide and flourescents, helps make a sticky plant, but sometimes genetics make the task hard. Sativas are naturally tall and lean, and hybrids with Sativas in their pedigree can also show these traits. The last thing you want is a plant outgrowing it’s lights, especially in a small grow.
When cannabis switches from veg to flower, it can double it’s height (or triple, with some Sativas), so keep an eye on height. To get the most bud from your crop, and your space, you need to train your plants to grow how you want them to.
Low Stress Training (LST) – LST takes advantage of the plant’s reach for light. Start by bending your plant over in its container, and then place a gardening wire or soft tie across its stem to pin it in this position.
Your main trunk will turn back up to the light after a few days and the branches that were facing up will become main colas. You can bend your plant around and around, creating more growth sites, as long as you don’t pinch it, and you give it time to heal.
As you get more branches, spread your plant out to let each node have light and air, and you get a more even plant with more colas.
Supercropping (Extreme LST) – Supercropping is similar to LST, except you do a little damage to the plant to get it to do what you want. Bending the stem firmly until you hear a snap, without damaging the outside of the plant.
If a wound occurs, cast it up with electrical tape or planters’ tape. Don’t leave an open wound. A “knuckle” will form, and the whole plant will react to the stress by bushing out.
Good to use to spread out fan leaves to get more light to your plant, but takes about a week for the plant to recover, so you will have to extend the veg time accordingly.
Sea of Green (SoG) – Sea of Green is the grow strategy of growing many small plants close together, and switching to flowering state earlier, to achieve an even canopy and as much or more bud than longer grows with a few larger plants. Ideally, if you have the room, and don’t want to wait as long between harvests. This allows you to grow plants naturally, rather than training them to grow short.
Screen of Green (ScrOG) Screen of Green is a grow method where a mesh screen is placed over the grow, and as plants grow through it to reach the light, you spread the canopy along the mesh to increase light surface of the plant’s. This method works well with other training methods to bush out your plant, to give you LOTS of colas, all at the same height.
—> Make sure you know that ALL your plants are female before doing this, because the canopy will be too thick to see until it’s too late. <—
Topping and Fimming
Topping – In topping, you cut off the top of your plant, just above one of its nodes. This reduces height, (good if you let it get too tall), and gives you two colas where there would just be one. This should be done when the plant is just 3 – 5 nodes tall. This will also cause the plant to bush out more.
FIMing – FIM stands for F***, I missed! This is similar to Topping, except it can give you up to four colas instead of two. Look at your plant, along the main stem, right where it branches out to two fan leaves. There will be tiny nodes there, just above the junction, on the branches. By pinching these nodes with the stem, without cutting, it stimulates growth. Do this at the 3rd node. Both Topping and FIMing can be complemented by LST to get even more colas.
Mainlining / Manifolding
Do this early in the veg stage, when the plant is only a few weeks old, to really add those extra colas. Wait until you have 6 nodes, then top down to 3rd node. Now you have 2 tops. Let each grow 2 to 4 nodes, then top those at the 1st or 3rd node. Now you have 4 tops. Let each grow 3 nodes, then top down to 1st. Each time, clean away extra growth leaves.
Manifolding gives you evenly spaced branches, which distribute nutrients equally, giving you large colas on every top. Use LST to spread out the growth, and the resulting trunk will be thick and strong.
Don’t go whacking leaves off your plant willy-nilly! They need them to grow. However, if you have had a couple grows and want to try focusing the plant’s energy, you can remove lower leaves or leaves that are blocking light to other leaves and especially buds, so the rest of the plant gets more light.
Many growers believe the reason for small buds on the lower areas of the plant is that they lack light and air. Removing select leaves to get better light and air can help, but don’t do this until you are confident in your growing abilities.
Flowering Stage: Ladies Only!
Only female plants produce bud, and only unfertilized females produce bud without seeds. Once you switch over to 12 hours light and 12 hours darkness, your plants go through “puberty”.
Females grow little white hairs at the joints of the plant, and makes grow pollen sacs (yes they look like little balls). If you grew from clones, don’t rest easy! Some plants have genes that will make them change sex or hermaphrodite, and you want all the males gone.
Plants can also do this if light interrupts their dark cycle, so if you need to tend your plants while they sleep, use green lighting. They won’t notice.
Drop the temperature and humidity in this stage. 65 – 80 is fine, and in some strains, exposure to cooler temps brings out more color, especially purple, in the buds.
Note: If you have a Cannabis plant with Ruderalis genes, it will autoflower, changing to flowering shortly into its life, regardless of conditions.
Make sure to change your nutrients, dropping the nitrogen. Give plants maximum air circulation and you can up your nutrients to full strength, but only for the first few weeks, then drop them down to half. As your buds get close to finishing, you want to spend the last week or two doing a “flush”. Water with no nutrients so the plants use up everything they have absorbed, giving the buds a cleaner flavor.
You can tell when harvest time is near when the hairs on the buds change color. Wait until about half to two-thirds have changed. Don’t rush it. Don’t worry if the leaves start to die off in the final couple weeks either. Your plants are coming to the end of their life cycle.
Enjoy The Process!
Growing cannabis is a fun, challenging, and rewarding experience. Let them grow naturally, bend them to your will like bonsai, maximize their production, but most of all, take pride in growing your own bud. It is the culture of growers that have transformed cannabis from a dried brick that had to be bought from a shady dealer, to an artistic masterpiece cultivated by friends and neighbors. It is the growers that have allowed us to fight the drug war, and win.
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!