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Photo by openrangestock / Adobe Stock Photo

Learn | 03.06.2023

How To Grow Cannabis: A Step-by-Step Guide For Beginners

Here's a complete beginner's guide to successfully growing cannabis plants.

There are countless weed brands on the market. Sort of makes you think, why bother growing your own cannabis? 

 Well, one reason that immediately comes to mind is cost. Growing weed could save you a few bucks, and you’d be gaining a hobby simultaneously. 

The problem is time. If you grow your own weed to supply your smoking needs entirely, you’d need to invest quite a bit of time, especially if you like mixing and matching strains. The amount of time looking after a small grow op explains why companies can charge a pretty penny for their work.

At the end of the day, you’re more than capable of growing high-quality marijuana if you put in the time. In doing so, you’ll learn ample information to sharpen your cultivation skills and make you an independent pro grower. 

You’ll develop a new hobby, and if you’re passionate about cannabis, then organizations like I Love Growing Marijuana, aka ILGM, are here to help you achieve your first harvest the right way.

See below for more information about growing cannabis plants and a step-by-step guide to help you out. 

The 10-Step Guide To Your First Cannabis Harvest

As you’d have it with any recipe. Before we get to the nitty-gritty of how we’re supposed to do this thing, we first have to list out the ‘ingredients’ you’ll need:

  1. Light
  2. Growing Medium (Soil, etc.)
  3. Air
  4. Temperature 
  5. Nutrients
  6. Water
  7. Seeds 

We’ll learn the best types of ingredients you can get for your specific recipe later down below. But if you have access to all 6 items, then you’re set. 

Oh, you’ll also want to make sure that you’re not giving your plants too much or too little of each. Which, again, we’ll learn about in a few seconds.

If you’re not sure of where to get your materials and marijuana seeds, the only thing you need to do is visit ILGM for detailed information on anything related to cannabis growing.

Things To Know About Indoor Growing

Indoor growing is a surprisingly cheap option. Sure, you’ll need an initial investment upfront, but it’s not as expensive as you might have first thought. Especially if you’re going for a small grow op of just a few plants. You might even be able to get creative and build your growth system yourself. Just make sure it has enough space for air and no exorbitant amounts of humidity & temperatures.

Indoors grow ops provide an easier way to control your ‘ingredient’ quantities or the access to other variables that your plants are getting. Something you won’t be able to do on outdoor harvests.

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Photo by Dino Mendoza

While indoor grown plants can produce buds more consistently, they are also more reliable on you. So they will ask for more of your time than an outdoor-grown flower.

Average temperatures to follow:

  • Young plants: 20-30 C.
  • Flowering Stage: 18/26 C.

In enclosed areas, different accessories like fans and exhaust systems might be needed. In addition to controlling the temperature given off by your lighting system.

Things To Know About Outdoor Growing

The first time human beings ran into cannabis they ran into outdoor growth landraces that had been enjoying a wild life for a while. We don’t know who the genius that suggested smoking it was, but the point is that they were growing outdoors.

That means outdoor growth operations work. You just need to find the right climate. Not too humid, not too dry, not too cold, not too hot. Not an easy feat, but even if you don’t have the perfect temperature there’s nothing that adjusting watering quantities can’t help you with.

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Photo by HubbardSteve / Adobe Stock Photo

Outdoor growing is much cheaper, mainly because the sun is doing the heavy lifting for you. Meaning no initial investment in lighting accessories or a higher energy bill.

However, outdoor growing is less reliable, less private, and brings more danger to your plants.

Choose Lighting Options (Natural Vs. Synthetic)

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Photo by Kaya Blaze Kelley for Herb

If you’ve chosen your growing location then you have already chosen the type of lighting you’ll be using by default. But choosing specific lighting is a whole different ball game, especially with indoor growth ops.

These are the options you can choose from:

  • The Sun: Well, that much you knew if you chose to go outdoors.
  • Regular LEDs: Sure you could go with CFLs but results are better with LEDs.
  • Other Fluorescent Lighting: Not recommended for cannabis but could work if you control the temperature correctly.
  • Growing LEDs: These are made for exactly what you need, so naturally, they’re your best option. 

Although you’ll always want to go with the best option, the reality is that the best option is not always the best option for your pocket. So you’ll have to determine your budget and compare it with the cost of the lighting you need.

Choose A Growing Medium (Soil)

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Photo by mintra / Adobe Stock Photo

A medium sounds kind of strange for what we’re trying to do here. We’re talking about the soil, but technological advancements and innovations have allowed us to have different alternatives to good old-fashioned soil.

Although a ‘medium’ is kind of a weird word to use for this subject, that’s exactly what you are shopping for here, a medium where your plants will grow. You have the following 3 different options:

Potting mixes and alternative mediums are a good option and could turn out to be very effective. But the best option will always be home-made compost & natural soil.

Buy The Nutrients You Need (If Any)

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Photography by Kaya Blaze Kelley for Herb

Nutrients are a great way to boost and enhance your growing medium. By adding nutrients to your soil, potting mixes, or water in the case of hydroponics, you might be able to find incredible results.

The amount of nutrients you use will depend on the type of nutrients you purchased and the strain you’re growing. A good budtender will be able to point you in the right direction in terms of the nutrients you purchase and how much to dose at each stage of the growth cycle.

If you don’t have a budtender then you can learn just as much just by visiting ILGM without even having to leave your apartment.

Choose A Strain And Get Your Plants (or Seeds)

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Photo by Aleksandr / Adobe Stock Photo

I’ve been waiting for one of my friends to keep his promise of gifting me one of his plants. But it’s been almost 8 months since that promise was made and it looks like it will never happen.

Fortunately, I already have my own plants and this would just be an addition to the lineup. So if you don’t have a friend that keeps their promises, then you can solve that issue by purchasing your seeds from a respectable source like ILGM, where you’ll find seed deals and exciting seed variety packs if you’re not sure of what lineup of strains you should get.

At ILGM you’ll find an incredibly wide variety of seeds with genetics you can trust.

Germinate Your Cannabis Seeds

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Photo by cendeced / Adobe Stock Photo

If you did happen to find a friend that keeps his promises, then you might have gotten a full-grown plant or a clone seedling. IN that case, you don’t need to do any seed germination because it has already been done for you.

Germination is when a seedling sprouts from a seed for the first time. Once the seed has been germinated it can be transferred to the growing medium.

If you are starting from scratch then you’ll have two germination methods you can use:

Germination Trays

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Photo by Ilike / Adobe Stock Photo

These are regular plastic trays with small openings that can hold small amounts of soil with a seed inside them. They can be watered easily and efficiently.

Some trays have heating systems that add to their versatility and simplicity. In other cases, you can just apply heat through your lighting. Either way, you should have a glimpse of your first seedlings in 3-7 days.

Once the seedlings have sprouted you can take the whole cube of soil in the tray and plant them where you plan on growing the mature flower later down the line.

Paper Towel Method

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Photo Credit

The paper towel method is something you might have already done in fifth grade. In case you haven’t, then you probably already suspect it’s quite simple to do.

Just place a couple of seeds in the middle of a damp paper towel. Close the paper towel down the middle, put it on a plate, and cover the whole thing with a second plate. If plates don’t sound like what a real grower uses, then you might be able to find something to work with at your go-to hardware store.

Check on your germination process regularly and once the seedlings have sprouted take them and plant them in your growing medium of choice.

Vegetative State

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Photo by Shannon Price / Adobe Stock Photo

I like saying that the vegetative stage is the part of the process when you feel more ‘in tune’ with your plants. This is when you have to be the most sensible and notice how the plant is ‘talking to you’.

This stage is the part of the process when your plant is leaving the seedling stage and becoming a real plant. Leaves start to grow but you don’t yet have a flower to trim. You’re looking at a young plant by this point.

The plant will look gloomy or strong and it’s your job to analyze what this means. Perhaps she’s asking you for more or less water, a nutrient dose change, or a temperature change. Getting to know your plant is all part of the process and the FUN.

Flowering Stage

Growing your buds is likely the reason why you want to start growing your plants. Growing strong-yielding plants is the exciting part because it shows you the results of all the hard work and care you’ve put into your harvest. Remember it is at this stage that you’ll want to lower your temperatures to 18-26 C.

The flowering stage is characterized by two main tasks you must accomplish:

1. Adjusting Your Light Schedule

If you’re growing your cannabis indoors, then you’ll want to adjust your light schedule to 12 hours of total darkness and 12 hours of light. Which should be easy to do in an indoor growing environment.

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Photo by Kaya Blaze Kelley for Herb

If you’re growing outdoors, then this is something you won’t be able to do immediately. You’ll have to plan for it in advance from the germination stage. Plan out your growth cycles so your plants reach their flowering stage when the days get shorter, which should be sometime during autumn or fall.

2. Identifying Your Plant’s Gender

Plant gender is important because it will make the difference in whether you are growing flowers you can smoke or just cannabis plants for the sake of it.

Female plants grow flowers, while male plants do not. Meaning, you can only harvest smokable flowers from female cannabis plants.

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Pistils like this mean that your plant is female

Females are easily identifiable because they will start growing pistils on the joints of the top branches. Pistils or calyxes are small white hairlike structures that will keep growing and eventually develop into bushy flowers.

Males can be identified because instead of growing pistils the pollen sacs (small green balls) will stay ‘unsprouted’ and you won’t be able to spot any pistils.

You can also choose to get rid of male plants but this is totally up to you. Male plants are usually disposed of by professionals because it increases the risk of your females being pollinated by the males. 

Which may end up in weaker female plants with less potent flower buds. Additionally, you’ll be investing time and money into a plant that will not give you any smokable flower.

Time To Harvest (Pick & Trim)

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Photo via Getty Images

The trick here is understanding when is the best time to harvest your flower buds. The harvest window will start when your flowers stop growing white hairs. From there on out you’ll have three options to cut down your flower buds:

  • Approximately half of the white hairs have turned darker for low potencies.
  • When a little more than half of the hairs have changed for maximum THC potency.
  • When most hairs have turned darker for potent relaxing effects but lower THC levels.

Picking and trimming are easy to do in theory. You just need to cut your flower from the plant with a scissor and then trim the buds from their stems.

Dry & Cure Flower Buds

Curing and drying your buds is the step where you put the cherry on top of this long process and leave your flower ready to smoke.

Take your picked and trimmed buds and hang them upside down in a cool dark place. A closet with enough ventilation and low humidity could do. Just try to stay away from kitchens or bathrooms where humidity tends to be higher.

You’ll know the buds are dry enough when the thinner stems snap and the thick stem is bendy.

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Now you can take these down, finish trimming the stems as much as possible and place them in glass mason jars. The jars should be tightly sealed and filled to roughly ¾ of their capacity.

Open the jars every day for a few seconds for the first 3 weeks of the curing process. Touch your buds and feel if they are retaining moisture or not. If you can’t seem to get rid of moisture you could also use moisture packs that help you control the moisture.

After buds have felt dry for a whole week every time you open the jars to check on them you’ll be able to cut back to open the jars once a week. Curating can take up to 30 days but time will depend on you and your own taste. At the end of the day, you’re growing your plants for yourself and not for anyone else.

I suggest not going over a month’s time but feel free to explore and make it fun for you!

Herbworthy: Pinnacle Hemp’s Delta-8 Pre-Rolls

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Rachel Abela

Stop By NETA In Brookline, Northampton, and Franklin For Your Cannabis Needs & Therapies

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Rachel Abela

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