Beginner’s Guide to Growing Cannabis
If you’ve ever been interested in growing your own weed at home and have some cash to spare, but aren’t really sure how to go about it, then keep reading! This guide will teach you how to set up your own grow tent, show you the equipment you’ll need, and how to use it. For the sake of simplicity, we will just be covering the traditional soil growing method and we will leave hydroponics for another article.
A quick list of what you will need:
- Grow tent, or designated grow area
- Peat pellets (for germination)
- Grow light
- Air circulation
- Odour control
- Optional: measuring instruments, pH kits, microscope
Legal disclaimer: Please check the laws on growing cannabis at home in your country or state first. Some places may allow you to grow at home but there may be a limit on how many plants you can grow, so please make sure you know what this is before starting.
Grow tents come in several sizes, so you can choose one that fits the dimensions of your grow space. Most grow tents have internal surfaces that are reflective, helping you make the most of your light source. The fabric also doesn’t let light in, so when you turn your grow light off your plants will get the rest they need.
Soil and Fertilizer
Organic soil is perfect for marijuana plants especially, as it will make sure that your buds have a great flavour. One of our favourites is the OMRI certified organic potting soil from Black Gold. They sell their soil in 16-quart (4-gallon) bags, and it contains pumice and perlite to increase drainage and air space, and organic fertilizers such as earthworm castings. With all this added goodness, you won’t have to add extra nutrients to the soil for a good 3-4 weeks.
After about a month, you will need to start adding fertilizer to the soil to keep your plants well nourished. It’s best not to use chemicals for this, as it will affect the taste of the buds. Lots of high-quality fertilizers are available, and it’s important to use the best if you want the best yield.
It is generally better to water your plants with purified or filtered water, as water from the tap contains small amounts of chemicals that could potentially hinder the growth of your plants. You could use an ordinary water filter, or even place a filter on your faucet, such as the PUR filters. These filters fit most faucets, last for about 100 gallons, and warn you when it’s time to change filters.
How often should you water your plants? Generally, younger plants need watering once a week, and adult plants once a day. If the leaves on your plants are drooping or the soil feels warm, they need watering. If the soil feels cool, then wait to water them. Alternatively, you could use a hygrometer to check how much water is in the soil before watering.
A useful tool to have for watering is, of course, the watering can. Grab one with a long spout, and make sure it fits under your tap so you can fill it easily. Some watering cans even come with built-in liquid fertilizer dispensers!
Depending on where you live, cannabis seeds can be bought in weed shops or online. Once you have your seeds, make sure that they have a tiger stripe pattern on them. This ensures that they are what it says on the tin. Avoid planting any black seeds, as these seeds are dead and will not grow. Once you have your healthy cannabis seeds, it’s time to germinate them.
Peat pellets are used to help your seeds germinate. The pellets first need to be soaked in water so that they expand, and then you can place the seeds roughly half an inch into the pellet. They will need to be kept moist throughout germination (three to seven days), but you will have to water them from the side to avoid dislodging the seeds.
Pots for Planting
Once your seedlings have successfully germinated (you will see the roots coming out of the pellet) it is time to pot them. Keeping the seedling inside the pellet, bury it in the soil up to about halfway up the stem.
We currently love fabric pots to grow our marijuana plants, as they are breathable and thus reduce the risk of root rot. A good brand that sells fabric plant pots is Smart Pot. They sell many different sizes of pots for all your gardening needs, but our favourite for growing weed is the 5-gallon fabric pot.
During germination, your seedlings won’t need any light, but as soon as they start sprouting they will need 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness each day. Once they are about three weeks old, this changes to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness per day, which will kick start the flowering stage.
We recommend LED grow lights, as they are super energy efficient and won’t overheat. They provide your plants will full spectrum light while keeping your utility bills down, and there is little risk of them singeing your plants or drying up your soil.
Timers are incredibly useful for keeping track of when to switch your grow light on/off. We think high-quality programmable timers are the way to go; these are the ones that can handle a large amount of current being drawn by your grow light.
One recommendation is the Enover timer, which is programmable for up to seven days and can cope with up to 15A of current. It isn’t UL or CSA listed yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s not safe to use, just that it is not yet certified.
A timer that is UL listed is the iPower 7-day Dual-Outlet Digital Timer, which is capable of recording eight separate schedules every day for a week! It has an LCD display and two outlets with surge protection, which could come in handy if you need to use more than one grow light.
Cannabis plants require a certain amount of heat for optimal growth, but past that point, they begin to dry up. In order to prevent this, good air circulation is vital. Stand-alone fans are a good buy, like the Holmes Dual-Blade Twin Window Fan, which has two-speed settings and a water-resistant motor. It runs quiet and has reversible airflow too.
Another ventilation option is to get a grow tent with built-in fans, such as the Gorilla Grow Tent package, which includes a 750W LED grow light, a fan and charcoal-filtered ducts, and even a hydro-thermometer to monitor the conditions inside your tent.
Cannabis plants can give off a distinctive smell that may be undesirable for many weed growers. Charcoal air filters help to rid your grow area (and living space) of the weed odour. We recommend the iPower Inline Air Carbon Filter for its low maintenance – it will last a year if you reverse the flanges after about six months.
Measuring Temperature and Humidity
You need to monitor the temperature of your plants and the humidity (soil moisture) to make sure that your plants are happy and well-watered. One tool for this is the Extech 445715 Hydro-Thermometer, which measures both temperature and humidity accurately with its probe. If you are on a budget, then Etekcity’s sensor for measuring soil moisture will do the trick.
Harvesting and Curing
When your plants begin to mature, you need to know which are female and which are male. If you want your plants to produce seeds, then you’re good. If you want the females to produce bud, then you will need to get rid of the male plants.
At about 12 weeks, the white hairs on the female plants will start to turn brown. When they are all brown, gently start trimming the buds from the plants. If you want to be extra sure, you could examine the sticky parts of the buds (the trichomes) with a digital microscope to see if they have also turned brown.
Once you have harvested your bud, it is time to cure. Place your buds in large glass jars such as mason jars and put the lid on. Leave them for anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months. After 6 months, curing will not have any effect on your buds. A good month’s curing will drastically improve the taste and intensity of your weed.
The final step is to enjoy your weed any way you like!