The Basics Of Growing Cannabis
The Basics Of Growing Cannabis – flowers of potent strains of cannabis are grown, harvested, dried and cured to become the buds that can be used to vaporize, smoke, eat (via edibles) or otherwise processed for recreational or medical marijuana purposes. For growers, growing cannabis can be a relaxing pastime that can save you a lot of money.Before you start growing, it’s important that you understand your local laws for the most part cannabis is illegal in many states and parts of the world do to it’s medical benefits, pharmaceutical company’s as will as the government would lose billions if it was legal. Even CBD is illegal in many parts on the world and dose not get you high but has a great deal of medical benefits often given to children for epilepsy and cancer.
After you start growing, it usually takes at least 3 months until harvest Auto flowers can be much sooner. After harvest, your cannabis buds takes around a week to dry. Lastly, for the best quality, most growers want to cure their bud for 2+ weeks to get a smoother taste and a higher perceived potency. After being cured in jars for 2-4 weeks, buds will feel stronger and be less likely to cause headaches or anxiety.
3+ Months – Seed to Harvest
1 week – Drying
2+ Weeks – Curing in jars
Total: 4+ Months
Cannabis plants will grow in VEG as long as you give them 18 or more hours of light and the right amount of nutrients. One you chance the light to 12 hours on and 12 hours off the plant will flower. Indoor growers usually put their grow lights with a timer to simulate the sun. This makes it easy to turn on and off the lights for each “day” so grow lights are more automated. There are many different sized grow lights, from the CFL light bulbs you already use in your house to bigger, more specialized grow lights HID/HPD to the new LED technology. There are indoor growing options for nearly everyone, even if you’re on a budget or only have a small space to work with, whether you want to grow in a bucket or a whole room. It seems simple, and it is! Just remember that there are two stages of life for cannabis, first the vegetative stage, and then the flowering stage (which is followed by harvest).
Male & Female Cannabis Plants
Cannabis plants have a gender. Each plant grows into a “male” or “female” plant. Although about half of plants are male or female, only female cannabis plants produce bud. Getting rid of male cannabis plants also prevents pollination (and seeds). Most growers are only interested in growing female plants so they can harvest the bud. Cannabis plants first show their sex at the end of the vegetative stage or at the beginning of the flowering stage. Male cannabis plants only produce pollen sacs, no buds, and few male plants produce a significant amount of THC or other cannabinoids. That’s worth repeating. Male weed plants do not produce buds with THC. Most growers throw them away on sight. Both male and female cannabis plants look exactly the same until they start flowering. There used to be myths and tricks on how to tell male from female plants from a young age, but none actually works 100% of the time. To this day, even scientists are not exactly sure what causes some plants to become male, and some plants to become female.
The Basics Of Growing Cannabis you will need to identify the gender of your plants as soon as possible and remove any males promptly, before they contaminate your females. The two most popular ways to get cannabis seeds via online seedbanks. If you want to to reduce the uncertainty and make sure you always grow incredible-quality cannabis, you need to start with great genes. Just like with animals, the way your cannabis plants turn out will have a lot to do with the genetics they started life with. Each cannabis plant is a mixture of the traits from its two parents. Because genetics have such a huge impact on your results, it is important to know a little bit about the genetics of the plant you’re working with. There are three main strains or types of cannabis: indica, sativa, and hybrid strains (hybrid strains are a mix of indica and sativa).
These types are not set in stone. Nearly all cannabis strains you run into with be some sort of hybrid. Some strains lean more indica, others lean more Sativa. Some are a class of their own. I’ve heard some people consider “Haze” to be a strain type, though it’s sometimes considered part of the “Sativa” family. There is also a very important other type of cannabis; “Ruderalis” or “auto-flowering” strains.
Indica, Sativa & Hybrids (plus Auto-flowering) Strains
Indica strains tend to cause more of a body high and tend to grow shorter and bushier.
Sativa strains tend to cause more of a cerebral or mental high. Sativas grow larger, have higher light requirements, and take longer to mature than indica plants so a sativa strain of cannabis may need special plant training to be suited for growing indoors. Sativas often have thin, finger-like leaves while indicas have fatter, rounder leaves.
It is often simplest to grow marijuana plants that are a hybrid strain because they have been bred to carry the best traits of both sativa and indica.
Auto-flowering or “Ruderalis” strains
Auto-flowering means these strains will start flowering regardless of its light schedule. These strains are usually a famous strain that has been bred to carry the “auto-flowering” characteristic. When growing with Ruderalis-based cannabis strains such as the Lowryder, you can give the plant up to 18 hours of light a day for the whole grow, and your plant will be ready to harvest in about 3 months. Because of their short lifecycle, Ruderalis cannabis stains generally do not grow taller than 1-2 feet.
Seeds are a good way for many people to start growing because they can be easily purchased off the internet and delivered discretely almost anywhere in the world. Viable cannabis seeds are usually hard and dark colored. If you have cannabis seeds which are small and white, they are often immature and won’t germinate. Healthy seeds can be stored in your fridge until you’re ready to use them, but it is not recommended that you freeze your seeds. Seeds which are kept in a cool, dry place away from light will remain viable for five years or even longer. Sometimes you will find good seeds in marijuana that you have purchased (these seeds are called “bagseed”) which can definitely be used to start growing. The downside of using seeds that you find in the bud you got from your local weed dealer is that about half of the seeds will end up being male, and only half will end being female. You also don’t know what to expect as far as how the plant will tend to grow. Still, many growers also start growing cannabis with bagseed that they’ve collected. This is a great way to get started growing, and many growers have happily made it to harvest with bagseed. Some growers get very lucky with bagseed, and end up with great results. But sometimes growers end up growing buds that are nothing like the ones the seeds were found in.
Whenever possible, get a trusted strain for best results
It is actually safe and reliable to buy your marijuana seeds online from a reputable seed source. The biggest problem for USA residents ordering online is the long wait time – nearly all cannabis seed sources are located overseas. I’ve had seeds take a month or longer to make it through customs and arrive to my door. Yet as long as you choose to get guaranteed delivery from your seed source, you know that they will always eventually come, even if it takes twice as long as expected. Getting seeds online will allow you to purchase feminized (all-female) seeds and will also let you pick the exact strain to match your size and time requirements. This can be helpful when setting up your grow space.
Clones are an exact copy of another plant. When starting with a clone, you can expect the plant to grow and produce buds in a very similar way to the mother plant it came from. This can be helpful to growers because they know exactly what to expect. In order to get cannabis clones, you will need to know someone who already has cannabis plants. As far as I know, there’s no way to consistently order cannabis clones online. The only online way to get cannabis plants is by ordering seeds. You may be able to buy cannabis clones from your local medical marijuana dispensary if you have a recommendation for marijuana from your doctor in a medical state. Unfortunately this option isn’t available for a lot of new growers. Starting with a cannabis clone can save you a couple of weeks to a month compared to starting with seeds because they have a head start on growth. Using clones instead of regular seeds guarantees the gender of your weed plant because the clones have the exact same genetics as their parent plant including gender. If you already have female plants, you can clone them to make more plants (copies) without ever having to worry about sexing your plants or creating seeds. If you’re starting out with a clone, you want to treat it gently for the first day or two that you have it. If your clone hasn’t established roots yet, then you want to make sure that it stays moist and gets gentle light (like from fluorescent tubes) until it develops some roots.New cannabis clones like warm, wet conditions. Think springtime.
Before your clones have made roots, they to get water through their leaves right until roots have formed. A cloner works great for getting clones to root, or you can mist your plants a few times a day until they start forming roots. Some growers will use a heating pad under their clones to help keep things warm. A little warmer than room temperature 72-77 °F (22-25 °C ) is perfect. Many automatic clones come with a heat setting. If your clone has already established its roots, then you can put it in its new home with your grow lights a bit further away than normal. Only give your clone just a little bit of water at first with either no nutrients or a highly diluted nutrient solution. It’s tempting to want to put your lights close to the new baby and give it nutrients because you want to do everything you can to make sure it does okay. However, in the very beginning, less is more for your clone. Your recently-moved clone is more sensitive to heat and light than an established plant, and putting it in a completely new environment can be stressful. It’s important to check on your clone frequently during its first 24 hours to make sure there isn’t any unforeseen problems such as it tipping over. Once the clone has started really growing (usually after a couple of days) then you can put your lights closer and start feeding it with full-strength nutrients. At this point you basically treat the clone like a cannabis plant in the vegetative stage (first stage of life).
You have more control over everything in an indoor growing environment, which means that indoor growers can consistently produce dank buds, but you also have more responsibility. If you don’t provide everything your plants need, they will die. What indoor space works best?
You can grow cannabis most anywhere with easy access to water and fresh air…
- a spare room
- a closet
- grow box
- grow tent
I believe grow tents are the best grow space for new cannabis growers. You simply need to decide how big a grow tent you should get for your space, and you’ve already given your plant so much that will improve their environment for better growth. Grow tents are cheap, effective, and will save you a lot of trouble. A quality grow tent is light proof, has reflective walls, contains built-in options to vent heat, a place to hang your lights, and waterproof floors for spills (so you never end up with water on your floor). A nice grow tent looks doesn’t always look like a grow tent to someone who doesn’t know what one looks like (I’ve had someone ask me if my grow tent was where I hung my clothes), but it contains many features that will help your cannabis plant thrive while reducing your work. It is often less expensive to get a quality grow tent than to try to make an effective grow space or grow box on your own.
Here’s the same grow tent as above, but with cannabis plants inside:
When thinking about where to grow indoors, you should also consider the temperature of your grow space (and remember your temps will likely rise once you have your grow lights running!). Young growing cannabis plants grow fastest when temps a bit warmer, in the 70-85°F (20-30°C) range. When plants are a bit older, in the budding/flowering stage, it’s best to keep temps slightly cooler, around 65-80°F (18-26°C) to produce buds with the best color, trichome production and smell.
Because temps are so important, it’s best to be able to have some amount of control over the temperature of your grow area. When growing indoors, your grow lights will give off heat. The more powerful your lights, generally the more heat they give off.If you’re growing just a few plants in a grow tent or box, usually you can install a fan to pull hot air away from the hot lights and out a window to keep things cool enough.
Choose Growing Medium
Many new growers instantly think of growing their cannabis in soil. Soil is the growing medium that most people are familiar with, and one of the most common growing methods, but it’s not the only one. Common Cannabis Growing Mediums
- Soil ← Most Common, Intuitive, Great Flavor in Buds
- Inert (Soilless) ← Intuitive, Faster Growth than Soil
- Hydroponics ← Fastest Growth, Biggest Yields, Potency
You can successfully grow cannabis plants in soil and other sorts of non-soil (soil-less) mediums, or you could grow your plants directly in water or even in moist air. Each growing medium that you use will have different care and watering requirements. I will talk about some of the different options to help you choose the growing medium that’s right for your grow area and experience level.
Which Size Pot Should I Use?
When growing cannabis plants in a container, you have to choose the size of your pot.
A general guide is to have about 2 gallons per 12″ of height. This isn’t perfect, since plants often grow differently, but this is a good rule of thumb.
When in doubt, get a bigger final container size as opposed to a smaller one. Plants that get rootbound from being in a too-small container will grow more slowly and be prone to problems.
It’s not good to transfer plants during the flowering/budding stage, so you want to have your cannabis plants in their final container at least 2 weeks before the beginning of flowering/budding.
Final Container for Desired Plant Size – General guide
12″ ~ 2-3 gallon container
24″ ~ 3-5 gallon container
36″ ~ 5-7 gallon container
48″ ~ 6-10 gallon container
60″ ~ 8-10+ gallon container
Choose your setup, get your nutrients, and germinate your seed! Get ready for incredibly fast growth, great yields, and amazing potency.
If you want to grow hydroponically, don’t worry that it’s too complicated – once you set up the right environment, growing hydroponically is just as straightforward as growing in soil. And you will be rewarded with faster growth, bigger yields, and the amazing potency of hydroponically grown buds. Growers who have trouble with hydroponics are usually victims of being given the wrong information. With proper setup and maintenance information, which is usually simple and easy-to-follow, you’ll be able to happily harvest every plant and reap the rewards of hydroponic gardening.
Benefits of Growing Hydroponic Cannabis
- Less Time to Harvest – Shorter vegetative stage gets you to harvest quickly
- Yields – Hydro grows consistently get bigger yields than growing cannabis in soil with the same setup
- Potency – Many growers claim hydro-grown cannabis buds are more potent than soil-grown ones, and this seems to be true from my experience.
In DWC, the roots are located in a nutrient reservoir full of water. Oxygen is provided to the roots by bubbling air through the water with an air pump. There are lots of different variations of the DWC method, including top-fed DWC.
In all hydroponic methods done right…
- More oxygen to the roots produces much faster growth than soil
- Providing a lot of oxygen at the roots is more important than lots of water – just make sure roots never actually get dry
- Keep nutrient levels on the low side in hydro for fastest cannabis growth
- After setup, tending to your plants in hydro is straightforward
If growing cannabis outdoors, the sun is generally all the light you need. Outdoor growers need to make sure that the plants are in a sunny spot where they get plenty of sunlight throughout the whole day (8+ hours of sunlight a day for best results).
When growing outdoors, you will need to consider that nearly all cannabis plants need to be started (or put outside) in the spring and harvested in the fall.
If growing cannabis indoors, you will need to provide your plant with the light it needs to grow.
ll Cannabis Grow Lights Need…
- Surge Protector – No matter which cannabis grow light you choose, make sure you get a surge protector
- Lighting Timer – All indoor grow lights should be put on a lighting timer – these timers will automatically turn your grow lights on and off for you. A mechanical one is shown below, and there are digital lighting timers as well. These are commonly found at hardware stores and have a variety of uses for non-growing purposes.
LED Grow Lights
LED grow lights are a relatively new type of grow light which claim to produce better quality buds and bigger yields, while using less electricity and producing less heat than other grow lights. But are all the claims true? Some are, while other claims are misleading. Protect yourself and learn what you need to know about LED grow lights for growing cannabis. If you’re not sure what to get, I encourage you to look at LECs, which seem to be consistently getting better yields than LEDs in our grow forum!
Pros of LEDs
- Cutting Edge & Custom Spectrum – One of the newest type of cannabis grow lights, LED grow lights are unlike anything else on the market for growing cannabis. In the last few years, prices have come way down and quality has gone up. LED yields are improving every year and there are now many reliable models of LED that have been proven for growing cannabis
- Stealth – Small LED spotlights or panels can be great for stealth growing since they can fit in many sized spaces, plus they usually have a built-in heatsink to disperse heat into the grow space (instead of letting the heat beam down directly on the plants)
- Options for low heat, low electricity – A small LED panel doesn’t produce much heat or use much electricity
Getting cannabis-friendly nutrients is important if you plan to use nutrients during your grow. Some types of nutrients just don’t contain the right “stuff” for the best plant growth and bud development. If you’re growing in soil, you will want to get nutrients made for soil. If you are growing in any medium besides soil, you will need to get hydroponic nutrients (nutrients specially formulated for hydroponic growing). Some popular soilless mixes for growing cannabis have special nutrients, for example there are many nutrient systems made specifically for growing cannabis in coco coir.
A marijuana-compatible nutrient system will contain everything your cannabis plant needs throughout the grow, and each of the systems I recommend on my cannabis nutrients page comes with a nutrient feeding chart that explains exactly how much nutrients to add at each stage, like a recipe you follow to water your plants. Keep in mind that you should treat the nutrient feeding chart that comes with your nutrients as the maximum amount to provide to your plants. I recommend that cannabis growers who are using a new type of nutrient for the first time to start with a fraction (I usually start with half) of the recommended nutrient levels and work your way up only if you see signs of nutrient deficiencies. Every nutrient schedule is considered a place to start, and to get the absolute best results, you may have to adjust the intensity (add more or less water) depending on what your plants tell you. Some cannabis strains love high amounts of nutrients, while others are actually very sensitive and will do best with half the amount of nutrients as other strains. If you start at half strength, I recommend to only move up to a higher dose of nutrients if needed. Use as little nutrients as possible for each plant (without the plant showing nutrient deficiencies) to achieve the best taste in your harvested buds. Because of this natural variation between plants, there’s no one universal nutrient schedule that works for all strains, but most strains have very similar nutrient needs to each other.
Nutrients, continued: The Importance of Root pH
In order for your plants to be able to actually absorb the nutrients through their roots, they need the right pH of the root environment. This is especially important for any growers using liquid nutrients.
Some people may get lucky and successfully grow cannabis without testing the pH of their water, but many growers using liquid nutrients who don’t test for pH will start seeing signs of nutrient deficiencies and other nutrient problems.
This is because the pH actually affects the form that nutrients take. Some forms are easier for the plant to absorb that others. So that means that even if the right amounts of nutrients are present, your plants just can’t absorb them if the pH is not right.
It’s actually really easy, quick, and cheap to learn how to check and adjust the pH of your water, and will take you less than 5 minutes each time you water your plants. You simply use a specially made pH kit to quickly test and and adjust the pH of your water. The results of paying attention to pH (bigger yields, more dense buds and healthy plants) speak for themselves. A general rule of thumb is to keep a root pH that ranges from 6.0-7.0 for soil, and a pH between 5.5 – 6.5 for hydroponics. There’s no exact number you need to hit. A little bit of range is actually healthy, since different nutrients are absorbed better at different pHs.
Soil: 6.0 – 7.0 pH
Hydroponics: 5.5 – 6.5 pH
Germinate Seeds or Care for Clones
If you have cannabis seeds, it’s time to get them to sprout. Basically you want to give your seeds a warm, wet place to start growing. There are many methods and techniques for germination, but I believe the easiest way to start seeds is to place them in a starter cube or seedling plug.
I use Rapid Rooters because they are easy to work with – you just stick your cannabis seed in the Rapid Rooter plug, keep your seed warm and slightly moist, and let the Rapid Rooter do its magic. Sprouts emerge and roots appear in just a few days. Once your seed has sprouted, you just stick the Rapid Rooter directly in your container or hydroponic system. Another great option for new growers is to germinate their seeds directly in their final growing medium. Sometimes nature’s way is the easiest way. In nature, cannabis seedlings would sprout in soil, and they would emerge as their taproots start growing down.
One of the biggest benefits of planting your seed directly in the growing medium is you don’t have to worry about moving young seedlings. Because seeds are already in their final resting place, they will immediately start adjusting to the environment. Every time you transplant or move a sprouted seed, it can cause stress as the young plant needs to readjust its new surroundings.
- Soil – Plant seeds a knuckle deep (0.5-1 inch OR 1.3 cm – 2.5 cm) in moist yet not soaking soil. Use a light or a heating pad to keep things warm. This is one of the easiest marijuana germination methods for beginners.
- Coco Coir or other soilless growing medium – Plant in a similar way to soil
- Hydroponics – I highly recommend using Rapid Rooters or other hydroponic-friendly starter cubes for starting seeds in hydro systems. Just place the seed in the Rapid Rooter, and then place the plug in your system.
The first two leaves from your cannabis plant will be round (called cotyledons), but after that all the leaves will be serrated like the cannabis leaves you are probably familiar with. If you’re starting with a cannabis clone, you want to treat it gently for the first day or two. It’s common for new clones to be a bit drooper, and it’s your job to make sure it stays healthy and happy. If your clone hasn’t established roots yet, then you want to make sure that it stays moist and gets gentle light (like from fluorescent tubes) until it develops some roots. New clones need to get their water through their leaves until their roots haven’t formed, which is why a nice humid cloner works great. If no humidity cloner is available, some growers mist their clones a few times a day until they start forming roots. A little warmer than room temperature 72-77 °F (22-25 °C ) is great for clones. Many automatic cloners come with a heat setting. Don’t give new clones 24 hours of light, without any dark periods. This can slow down the rooting process. Rooting seems to happen best when there’s some amount of darkness each day. I recommend starting new clones on a 16/8 or 18/6 (Light/Dark) schedule when you introduce lights. The most important thing is to keep a close eye on your new clones or seedlings until they’ve become well-established. Once young plants are growing new leaves and getting taller, they are officially in the vegetative stage.
This section will explain how to care for young cannabis plants in the vegetative stage. When your cannabis plant first starts growing brand new leaves and stems, it marks the beginning of the vegetative stage. The vegetative stage is a period of growth where your cannabis plant just focuses on getting strong and big. During this stage, cannabis plants will only grow leaves and stems, and will not grow any bud.
Indoor growers can keep cannabis plants in the vegetative stage for as long or short as they want by providing at least 18 hours of light a day. This is usually accomplished by putting grow lights on a timer.
Unlike outdoor growers, indoor growers have more control over the final size and shape of their plant.
Having a light period that lasts 18+ hours each day will make cannabis think that it’s summer/grow time. As long as cannabis plants get 18+ hours of light a day, they will remain in the vegetative stage, growing only stems and leaves. Use a timer to automatically turn indoor grow lights on and offIndoor growers usually provide either a 18-6 or 24-0 light schedule during the vegetative stage of cannabis. 18-6 means 18 hours of light and 6 hours of dark each day. 24-0 means 24 hours of light with no darkness each day.
18-6 vs 24-0 Light Schedule for Indoor Growing
Some people will keep their lights on 24 hours during this stage while others will keep the lights on a schedule where they’re 18 hours on and 6 hours off every day.
Which is better?
The answer depends on which grower you ask, and may even be different from plant to plant. Most weed strains are fine and will flourish when given 24 hours of light a day in the vegetative stage. Yet some strains may do better on 18/6. If electricity costs are a big concern, you may want to consider a 18/6 light schedule in order to help keep electricity costs down. This also allows growers to use the 6 hours of darkness to help cool the grow area. If your grow area gets too hot at certain times of the day, you could set your 6 hours of darkness to happen during that time, so lights aren’t running when it’s hot. marijuana do grow faster when given 24 hours of light during the vegetative stage. There will always be growers who feel that cannabis plants need some time with the light off (a dark period) in order to have optimal growth, while others believe that the extra hours of light are better since they give your plants slightly faster growth in veg.
However, many growers seem to agree that ruderalis or auto flowers strains of marijuana grow fastest when given just 18 hours of light a day. So if you are growing auto strains, you may want to consider an 18-6 light schedule. I personally keep my lights on and 18-6 schedule (18 hours of light, 6 hours of dark) for all my plants during the vegetative stage. It’s easy and my cannabis plants grow fast and healthy. Some delicate strains and autoflowering strains seem to get stressed by a 24-hour light period, and I believe many strains seem to grow healthier with a cool dark period every day. However, I used to grow using 24 hours of light a day for my cannabis plants in veg, and they grew just fine. 24 hours of light/day provides somewhat faster growth than an 18/6 schedule because plants are getting more light to make energy. It’s up to you to decide which light schedule is best for you. Both work great.
Daily Care in the Vegetative Stage
In the vegetative stage, your job is simple. Cannabis plants grow fast and are tough in the vegetative stage. To keep your cannabis happy and healthy, you need to do the following
Provide water – Water plants when top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. In containers, make sure water can drain freely out the bottom. In a hydro setup, there will always be plenty of water.
Nutrients – if providing nutrients, start using the included nutrient schedule at ½ strength, and only raise to higher levels of nutrients if needed. Simply add the directed amount nutrients to your water before giving it to plants or adding to reservoir. Manage pH levels if using liquid nutrients.
Provide light – Keep plants in sun or use your vegetative grow light as directed. Simply turn grow lights on and keep at the recommended distance from the top of your plants. Outdoors plants will continue vegetating until days start growing short. Indoors plants will stay in the vegetative stage as long as they’re getting 18+ hours of light a day
Not too cold, not too hot – Vegetative cannabis plants prefer a comfortable room temperature or slightly warmer. 70-85°F (20-30°C) is great. Avoid low humidity in the vegetative stage if possible. Never allow plants to experience freezing temps
Air circulation – Make sure cannabis gets a constant supply of fresh air so plants get the CO2 they need to grow, and keep air moving so there are no hot spots and leaves are always moving/rustling. Outdoors you may want to put up wind breaks if it gets too windy so plants aren’t being waved around.
How often do I water my plants?
Seedlings may need less water at a time until they are growing vigorously. Especially if young plants are in a big container, avoid giving a lot of water at a time until the plants starts growing faster. Once plant is growing new leaves and stems regularly, start watering using the techniques explained below. Water plants when soil feels dry up to your first knuckle.
How to water cannabis properly…
- Wait until the top of the growing medium is dry about an inch deep (up to your first knuckle – just use your finger to poke a hole in the soil and see if it feels dry).
- Add water until you see at least 20% extra runoff water drain out the bottom of your pot. Go back to step 1. Note: If water takes a long time to come out the bottom, or if pots take longer than 5 days to dry out before the next watering, you may actually have a problem with drainage
Some growers also use the “lift the pot” method to decide when to water your plants (basically wait until your pot feels “light” since the plants have used up all the water). It’s up to you to decide what’s easier for you.
Vegetative cannabis plants prefer a comfortable room temperature or slightly warmer. 70-85°F (20-30°C) is great. Avoid low humidity in the vegetative stage if possible.
Make sure to always check the temperature as experienced by your plants, not the ambient room temperature. Check the temperature directly under the light where the top of your plants are located. If temperature feels too hot for your hand after 10 seconds, it’s too hot for your cannabis and you need to take steps to bring the temperature lower. If it’s just a hot spot, you can use small fans to disperse the heat and provide good air circulation in the room.Cannabis plants cannot stand cold temperatures. Freezing temps can kill cannabis. So if plants are kept in a cold area (for example a basement), take steps to prevent the plants or roots from getting too cold. Grow lights will help keep the plant warm, but make sure the bottoms of the plants have a protective barrier from anything that might be too cold. Vegetative cannabis plants prefer a comfortable room temperature or slightly warmer. 70-85°F (20-30°C) is great. Avoid low humidity in the vegetative stage if possible.
Plant training is not crucial to success. You can get to harvest without training your plants. But plant training is crucial to getting the best yields from your grow lights. Outdoors, growers may want to train plants to grow short and wide, so they stay out of sight while producing a big yield.
Cannabis growers often want cannabis plants to grow into a certain size and shape to produce the best yields. The best time to train your cannabis plant is in the vegetative stage. There is very little plant training that can be done in the flowering stage. So if you have special space requirements, make sure you learn about training your plants before they get too big. As a grower, you have a lot of control over the final size and shape. Plant training techniques allow you to create a cannabis plant that grows the way you want. A cannabis plant that is trained to grow short and wide takes full advantage of indoor grow lights.
Notice how each of the colas are about the same size, since the plant was trained so that all colas received the same amount of light.
How long should cannabis plants be kept in the vegetative stage?
When growing indoors, the length of time to keep your plant in the vegetative stage will vary with how big you want your final plant to be. The longer your plant stays in the vegetative stage, the bigger it will get. Some people will turn their cannabis plants over to flowering when they’re barely more than a seedling while others will wait until the plant is much larger, after several months. A cannabis plant can stay in the vegetative stage for virtually forever, and plants can be kept in the vegetative stage for years if given enough hours of light each day. This is often how growers keep great genetics – they’ll keep a “mother plant” in the vegetative stage, and take clones off the plant when needed. Many indoor growers believe that it’s better to make many smaller plants and harvest often as opposed to having large plants and harvesting infrequently. If you are trying to keep your plants smaller, you will want to keep them in the vegetative stage for a shorter amount of time. For bigger plants, let them stay in the vegetative stage for longer until they’ve reached the size you want. The time spent in the vegetative stage is a big part of what sets the final height of the plant at harvest. A good rule of thumb is to let your plants stay in the vegetative stage until it reaches about half its final height. Cannabis plants often double in height after the switch to the flowering stage. The amount of “flowering stretch” is dependent on your strain, which is why it’s important to have picked a strain that suits your needs.
The cannabis “flowering stage” is when your female weed plants start to grow flowers (buds) and your male plants reveal themselves by growing pollen sacs that look like little balls. Your plants will start flowering in response to the amount of light they get each day. As long as your cannabis plants receive a 12+ hour dark period every day, plants will stay in the flowering stage until harvest. In the flowering stage, your cannabis plants will reveal their gender. Male plants grow “pollen sacs” (looks like bunches of grapes), and female plants grow wispy white hairs (pistils) at the joints of the plant. Here’s what cannabis pre-flowers look like for male and female plants:
Avoid Nutrients with Too Much Nitrogen During Budding: It’s important to switch to a flowering or “bloom” formula of nutrients during the cannabis flowering stage, which tend to be lower in nitrogen and higher in phosphorus. Nutrients made for the vegetative stage of growth contain too much nitrogen, which can hinder bud development. So avoid giving your plant a standard nutrient formula in the flowering stage, especially nutrients high in nitrogen (nitrogen is the first number listed on nutrient bottles).
Keep Nutrient Levels Low As You Approach Harvest: Many growers seem to get this idea that more nutrients = more buds. They might start ramping up on nutrients as harvest is coming, in an attempt to get bigger buds. This is not a great strategy.
While cannabis plants use a lot of nutrients in the first month following the switch to flower, your cannabis plants will slowly start needing less and less nutrients as they approach harvest. It can be a good idea to slowly start easing down on the amount of nutrients being provided about halfway through the flowering stage, just a little bit at a time.
Many growers also “flush” their plants by giving them just plain water for the last few weeks before harvest. By keeping nutrient levels relatively low during the second half of the flowering stage, you are preventing nutrient build-up in the plant that could possibly affect the taste of the buds, or prevent proper bud development. As long as your plant is not showing signs of nutrient deficiencies in the first month or two of flowering, you’re providing enough nutrients. Avoid supplements or bud ripening formulas that provide extra nutrients. In magazines and online, flowering cannabis plants are almost always pictured 2-4 weeks before harvest. This is because leaves start dying and the plants stop looking as picture-perfect as harvest approaches. In the last 2-4 weeks before harvest, it’s normal for the plant leaves to slowly start dying away, just like the leaves of trees in the fall. This isn’t a sign to increase nutrients; it’s a natural part of the plant aging process, and buds will continue to ripen until harvest time.
Control Growing Environment
In the vegetative stage, cannabis plants tend to be able to thrive in many environments. In the flowering stage, plants start being a little more picky about the environment. What helps a lot with bud development is to control the temperature and humidity of the grow area. Most importantly, avoid too-hot temps! Too much heat can burn off terpenes, which reduces the taste/smell of your buds permanently. There’s also some evidence that too-high temps can actually burn off potency too. In the flowering stage, strive for temps that range from 65-80°F (18-26°C). It’s better to have slightly cooler temps at night than during the day, as long as the temperature stays in that range. Keep low humidity if you can because low humidity in the flowering stage reduces the chance of mold and increases trichome development.
Harvest Buds at the Correct Time: Harvesting too early is one of the best ways to reduce your yields, and is a common mistake for new growers. Cannabis plants fatten their buds up considerably in the last few weeks before harvest, and this last-minute budding adds a lot of extra weight to your final yields.
When to Harvest Your Weed
There are several techniques to be able to look at your plant and tell if it’s ready to harvest. One method to find out if your cannabis is ready for harvest is to look at the little white hairs (pistils) that have been growing out of your bud. These little hairs are actually the pistils for the bud flowers (marijuana bud is actually just a bunch of little flowers called calyxes all clustered together). When the hairs first appear, they are all white. As time goes on, with most cannabis strains the pistils start to curl in and darken.
These hairs turn yellow, red, or brown, or even purple or pink, depending partially on the strain, and partially on growing conditions. A general rule of thumb is to harvest when 50-75% of the hairs have changed color, though each strain is different, and that’s just a rough guideline. Some strains (for example White Widow) tend to stay mostly white even as they approach harvest. No matter what, if it’s your first grow, you probably want to wait a few weeks longer than you expect. There will be lots of times where it seems like the cannabis buds are getting close to being done, then they will suddenly grow a whole bunch of new white pistils. It’s hard to be patient and wait for the pistils to turn, but doing so will also result in much bigger yields since the buds have extra time to fatten up. And remember, if you harvest too early, your buds won’t be as potent. While I like waiting until nearly all the pistils have turned, many others prefer to harvest sooner than that and they get great results too! You need to figure out what is optimal for you and your body. Just remember that there is a 2-week range where marijuana can be harvested, so you do have a little wiggle room.
Quick and Dirty Method: Look at the Pistils
This method looks at the hairs (“pistils”) on a growing cannabis bud to try to determine harvest time. This method is not as exact as the trichome method explained below, but gives growers a way to start guessing when their buds might be ready, especially if they don’t have a magnifier available.
- Wait until your buds have mostly stopped growing new, white hairs. By this point your buds should be fragrant (the whole grow room will likely smell like marijuana), plump and ‘filled out’
- After new white hairs stop growing, wait until at least 40% of the white hairs have changed color (darkened) and are curling in. This marks the potential beginning of the harvest window. Buds harvested now are not yet at full potency, and will tend to have more of a speedy effect.
- Harvest when 50-75% of the hairs have darkened for highest THC levels
- Harvest when 80-90% of the hairs have darkened for more a couchlock, anti-anxiety effect (some of the THC has turned into the more relaxing CBN)
Accurate Method: Look at the Trichomes
Just looking at the plants is not always precise enough especially when a plant is growing in an unexpected ways as you approach harvest time. When you’re not familiar with your particular strain, or don’t want to risk guessing, you can use a magnifier to look closely at the trichomes to pick the perfect harvest time. In Europe these trichomes are called “resin glands.” Trichomes are the ‘crystals’ or ‘glitter’ you see accumulating on your bud/leaves during the flowering stage. These trichomes are what contain the majority of cannabinoids (the good stuff) in your buds, and they change in appearance as harvest time approaches.
The cannabis trichome method is the most precise way of deciding when to harvest your cannabis plants. Growers can look at the glandular stalked trichomes on the buds under a magnifier, and this gives you the information you need to know the best time to harvest for your needs. The trichomes look like little mushrooms under a 30x-60x power, illuminated microscope. For harvest, you want to pay attention to the trichomes that look like the little mushrooms. You’ll also see tiny, clear hair-like trichomes without the mushroom head, these aren’t important to potency so just ignore these ones. Here’s a simple picture guide which breaks down when to harvest your weed based on the color of the trichomes. (some strains trichomes turn purple or pink instead of amber/gold/yellow)
Drying: How to Trim & Dry Newly Harvested Cannabis
If you prepare your marijuana buds the proper way, you will ensure the smoothest, best-tasting result. I will describe a simple and easy, yet effective method below. You can hang the entire plant but the drying process will go much faster if you cut off branches or individual buds from the plant and then hang up your pieces of bud to dry.
Some growers choose to trim their buds before drying, and some trim their buds after they’ve already been dried. It is less convenient to trim buds after they’re dried, but it will slow down the drying speed if the leaves are left on during the drying process. Optimally want to dry your buds slow, so this may be a good technique if you live in a very dry climate. I recommend always trimming buds BEFORE drying, unless you have a pressing reason not to. Trimming buds after drying is very difficult. After you have cut off and trimmed your buds, you hang them upside down in a cool. dark place with plenty of ventilation so that they can dry out. Make sure to space your buds evenly without touching each other so they can dry out properly without molding. Very humid air or too much moisture during the drying process is your enemy because it can cause mold. 60% humidity is optimal when buds are spread out and not touching each other, though most of us are at the mercy of our drying environments.
Where to Hang Buds?
Basically you can hang buds upside down anywhere you want. This is a time to use your creative skills!
An easy way to hang your buds to dry is pin them to coat hangers using clothes pins and simply hand the coat hangers in a closet. You can also place them on mesh drying racks. These are a good choice for a humid environment, or if you plan on drying a lot of fresh bud together in a small space. By removing the buds from the stems and putting them on a mesh rack, they will dry a lot more quickly than if they were hung upside down with the buds still on the stems.
If you’re not sure where to hang your drying cannabis buds, a closet works great. The inside of your grow space or grow tent can also be a really nice choice.A lot of growers hand their buds in their closets, or even across their living room on string.
I personally hang my trimmed cannabis buds in my grow tent which was holding my now-harvested plants. A grow tent is a great place to dry cannabis, with a controlled environment and many places to hang bud.
Curing: How to Cure Your Dried Cannabis Buds
Drying is the first part of the pot curing process. It’s important to take drying cannabis down at the right time to get the best results from curing. When the buds still have moisture in the center, their stems will bend without breaking when you apply pressure to the stem. Once the plants are dried to the middle, the stems will begin to snap instead of bend. Your marijuana buds are ready for the next stage of the curing process once the small stems snap, but the thicker ones don’t.
- Check your drying buds several times a day – don’t let them get overdried!
- Use your thumb to gently bend a few stems
- Once the smaller stems “snap” when you bend them, it’s time to start the curing process.
- At this point, the thicker stems should still be bendy, and won’t snap if you bend them. The bendiness means the bigger stems still contain moisture, which will be needed in the next part of the curing process.
You want to be careful of over-drying your weed, or buds will crumble when you try to break it up. If this happens, some growers recommend ways to re-moisten the buds with water and hang them to dry again, but this may not help. Cannabis bud seems to cure best if you dry it out slowly one time, and re-misting also means there is a greater opportunity for mold to grow. Many people growing weed for the first time accidentally hurt their cure by drying their buds too fast. This is why it’s important to keep an eye on your buds closely during the curing process. When the buds are dried past a certain moisture level, they can no longer be “cured” anymore. After the marijuana buds have dried, it’s time to cure the bud. This is done by placing the dried buds in quart-sized mason jars.
Buds that have not fully dried all the way are placed in mason jars to begin the curing process. The curing process is a delicate dance of trying to maintain enough moisture to continue curing the buds, but not enough moisture to promote mold. You try to keep things just right. You’re looking to keep the humidity around 60% in your jars during the curing process. A hygrometer will help.
Why Do We Need to Cure Marijuana Buds?
The purpose of curing is to improve the quality and taste of your buds before you smoke it. Almost all marijuana enthusiasts agree that the best smell and flavor is obtained after the marijuana has been cured for some length of time. Curing your buds for at least 2-4 weeks actually improves the apparent or perceived potency. Yes, that’s right, curing buds in airtight jars for a few weeks actually makes buds feel “stronger” or more potent.
How to Cure Your Dried Buds: Step-By-Step
To cure your freshly dried buds, just put them in a tightly-closed jar in a cool dark place.
A quart-sized mason jar works great. Each jar should be about 70-80% full after you’ve added the buds. Close the jars. You will be spending the next few weeks monitoring your buds in the jars, and in about 2 weeks, they will be ready for use. The best cure will happen if you can keep a very close eye on your buds throughout the cure and allow them to finish drying as slowly as possible. During the first few weeks of curing, you will want to open the jars once a day for a couple of seconds to get fresh air in your jars and release any moisture that’s built up. Some moisture is still stored in the stems of your buds, even after buds seem mostly dry, and once you start curing the buds, any remaining moisture will spread out evenly through the plant and come to the surface. You know this has happened when you check on curing buds, and they seem like they’re moist again.
Whenever the outsides of buds feel wet, simply open the tops of your jars and allow the buds to be exposed to air until buds feel dry on the outside. It may take 10 minutes, or it may take a few hours depending on how wet the buds are. This will allow your buds to drying slowly, just enough to remove extra moisture trapped in the jar. There needs to be moisture for the curing process to continue, but buds should never be allowed to feel wet on the outside or they are more likely to be attacked by mold. Many growers who don’t check buds often enough may end up growing mold and ruining their crop just before it’s ready. If you open the jar and it smells really funky (not a good funky), there may be hidden moisture in some of your buds which may not have dried completely and could be in the beginning stages of growing mold due to the moisture. This especially tends to happen with big fat buds that were cut off the main cola. I generally recommend trashing any buds you suspect may have mold. Your health just isn’t worth it.
For the first 2 weeks of curing: Open your jars for a few seconds regularly. This can be done 1-3 times/day, but open all jars at least once each day.
From 2 weeks and on: Open jars at least once/week after that. If buds are wet or moist when you open the jars, then keep opening them every day until they have felt dry to the touch every day for at least a week.
Buds are usually considered “done” curing after 2-4 weeks, though many growers continue curing for longer. I usually let my buds cure for 3-6 months, as they seem to get more potent as time goes on.
It’s so important to regularly check on your buds as they’re curing and drying, especially if you’re not monitoring the humidity, this process of “burping” the jars regularly actually helps curing happen more effectively.. I encourage you to keep your buds in their curing jars until you use them, but if you have a lot of buds, make sure you take out at least 3 weeks worth of bud at a time so you’re not constantly going in your jars and accidentally drying out your beautiful bud. Some people only cure their bud for 1-2 weeks total while other cure their bud for 1-2 months or more. Because you need to open the jar regularly, you can always sample some as it’s curing to get a feel for whether it’s done or not. Buds continue curing for up to 6 months. At that point, they will not gain any more benefits from further curing, and you should start thinking about long-term storage. For long term storage of cannabis buds, add fresh Boveda humidipaks to each quart-sized jar (bigger jars aren’t suitable for long-term storage), and place jars in a cool, dry place. Check on buds at least once/month. Different people have different preferences, but luckily you can ‘test out’ your buds at any stage of curing, to figure out what works best for you.
Regarding humidity, grow areas should not be particularly damp or dry. Optimum humidity levels are from 40-60% though cannabis can stand a higher or lower humidity. Cannabis kept in lower humidity conditions will drink more water, while cannabis in high humidity conditions will collect water through the leaves and drink less through the roots. Cannabis tends to prefer a more humid environment – about 60% relative humidity – in the seedling, vegetative, and early flowering stages. However, towards the end of the florwering stage, cannabis will do better in a drier environment. Excessive humidity at any stage can cause problems with mildew and mold (like the common, dreaded “white powdery mold.” Too-high humidity is anything above 60-70%. Some strains are especially prone to mold at high humidity. Therefore if you have explainable problems with your plants, and you know your grow area is very dry or humid, try investing in a humidifier or dehumidifier. You may be surprised how often fixing the humidity fixes mysterious marijuana plant problems.
Towards the last few weeks before harvest, it becomes essential to keep humidity lower in order to prevent mold, especially when there are huge, dense buds. Many pro growers dramatically drop humidity with a dehumidifier during the last two weeks before harvest. This increases resin (THC) production and prepares the buds for drying/curing while preventing mold. During the last two weeks before harvest, you can basically drop the humidity as low as possible. A thermometer with a humidity sensor can be extremely useful in monitoring a grow area.
Cannabis plants “breathe” CO2 like we breathe oxygen. They need a constant supply of CO2 (usually by giving the plant fresh air) to flourish. In addition to your exhaust fan, it’s often a good idea to get a few smaller fans to blow air above and below your plant canopy. This will help prevent hot spots, and gets fresh air and CO2 to all the plants in your grow space. Just make sure your fans aren’t strong enough to actually wave your plants around. Plants that are kept right in front of a fan may get “wind-burned” leaves, which is when leaves that have been waving around too much from the wind start curling and dying.
One of the most recognizable aspects of cannabis is its pungent, unique smell. Unfortunately, that same delightful smell is instantly recognizable, and can cause lots of trouble for growers. Fortunately, smell control in the grow room is straightforward. There are two ways of stopping smells in the grow room. Either you find a way to “scrub” the smells out of the air, or you find a way to cover up the smell.
Stealth – No smell, no sell, no tell
There are a lot of ways to keep you and your grow safe, but this is the heart of it all.
No smell – No one should be able to smell your grow or smell cannabis on you. This makes you an easy target for police and marijuana haters!
No sell – Statistically, people who are growing strictly for personal use deal with far less legal troubles than people who sell their cannabis. This even applies in places like Colorado where it’s legal within the state!
No tell – Having fewer people know about your grow reduces the chances of you getting busted by law enforcement or burglarized by thieves. I know it’s hard to not show off your awesome growing skills, but this one secret that needs to stay a secret! Don’t tell ANYONE that you’re growing. It can be amazing how fast information can spread to a group once one person knows.