A s you may know, the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana across several states has enabled many consumers to become accustomed to purchasing cannabis from a dispensary. Even more intriguing though is the opportunity that legalization has created for adults and medical patients to cultivate cannabis in their own homes.
While the laws, limitations and regulations are different for each state, almost every state with some form of legalized marijuana does allow home cultivation to some extent. Even though it’s completely legal, some people do not take advantage of their right to grow cannabis due to the perception that it is too difficult, expensive or time-consuming.
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Don’t let the lack of ambition from others discourage you though. If done correctly, growing cannabis at home can be fun, simple and cost-effective! We believe everyone should have access to their own clean cannabis. That’s why we decided to bring you a comprehensive guide to growing marijuana, created specifically with beginner growers in mind.
With essential grow knowledge, you’ll learn the benefits and tips of different grow methods, how to maximize plant yields and grow times, the best harvesting, drying, curing methods and much more! Who’s ready to start their cannabis growing journey?
Part 1 – Understanding Marijuana Grow Mediums
Deep Water Culture Hydroponics
Before starting your cannabis grow, you must decide if you want an indoor growing system or an outdoor growing system. When it comes to indoor growing mediums, DWC, or deep water culture, is a type of hydroponic growing method where each plant’s roots are growing in a tub of water.
One of the main benefits of a DWC system is that it promotes faster growth. Unlike growing cannabis in soil, roots grown in DWC don’t need to expend energy to search for what the plant needs; nutrients are easily accessible by the roots.
Plants have an unlimited supply of oxygen because of added oxygen from the air stone in the reservoir. Since the plant is spending less energy finding what it needs to grow, it channels that energy to plant growth. In addition, with proper guidance and a quality set up, DWC takes less time to maintain than an average grow.
When implementing a DWC system, a bubbler bucket reservoir system is recommended.
A bubbler bucket reservoir is a simple system that suspends the plant’s roots in a highly oxygenated nutrient solution. The roots are submerged in the nutrient-water solution in the bucket and are then replenished, as needed.
The most important growing tip is to check on your cannabis plants daily. As with many processes, the easiest way to fix a problem is in the beginning stages! If something is wrong with your plant in a DWC system, your first step in remedying your plant should always be to change out the reservoir. It is common for root rot to occur when roots are consistently in water, therefore, it is imperative to establish a preventative routine of changing out the reservoir every seven days. Adding beneficial bacteria to the reservoir is also effective in avoiding and combating root rot.
When growing from seeds in DWC, use each reservoir port (or net cup) to vegetate, then pick the strongest looking females to continue growing.
Keeping air and water temperatures under control are also very important measures to take. Air temperature should be 75-85°F when the lights are on and will drop by 10 degrees when the lights are off. Water temperature should remain at a constant temperature at all times. Your empty portholes can be used to change out the reservoir water by using a pump, allowing you to easily inspect what’s going on inside.
A common mistake to avoid when growing with DWC is not checking the pH levels of the water. This is important for any grow! Dirty reservoirs or not using an aerator 24/7 are two additional crucial mistakes, as roots must have excessive oxygen so they don’t drown. While some people like to maintain a completely sterile reservoir with just nutrients and water and no traces of anything alive, there are some good sources of beneficial bacteria that can be added. Bad bacteria is obviously, bad, but we wanted to emphasize the possibility of bacteria that can benefit your grow. To avoid potentially harmful bacteria, be proactive about changing the reservoir water.
In addition, having too many plants in one reservoir can lead to problems such as white powdery mildew. Don’t cramp your plants, instead, we recommend growing one plant per reservoir to allow the roots to spread out and give the leaves and buds more space.
Setting up a water transfer pump for this task can speed up the process. For best results, learn how to flush your cannabis plants.
Flushing your plants by removing any nutrients and salts improves the quality and taste of your final product. By simply draining your bubbler bucket reservoir and adding plain (pH neutral) water for two-three days before harvest, the plant will use all its existing nutrients contained in the stems, leaves and buds.
Growing Cannabis with Coco Coir
Coco coir is another great growing method, especially for beginners. It provides the ease of soil gardening with the rapid growth of hydroponics by using fibrous coconut husks instead of a potting mix. Compared to just soil growing, it absorbs moisture much easier, allowing plants to take up more nutrients and retain oxygen more efficiently because of its lighter texture. It also provides a forgiving buffer by reducing shock stress when human errors are made, such as adding too many nutrients, a common mistake.
Coco is much easier to flush than DWC because you aren’t changing an entire water reservoir. In fact, watering coco coir is very versatile. You can use a flood and drain hydroponic system, which is when the nutrient system temporarily floods from beneath the plant, controlled by a pump and timer, instead of dripping from above like most hydroponic systems. You can also use the most recognized top water to waste system, which is simply taking a water pail and watering your plant until water comes out of the bottom of the pot.
When growing cannabis with coco, good quality coco coir makes an immense difference, especially regarding root development. For beginner growers, a three-to-one coco to perlite mixture is recommended as it requires less watering frequency and holds moisture and nutrients better.
For more experienced growers, a one-to-one coco to perlite ratio is recommended as you are able to water more frequently, giving the plant more nutrient uptake and allowing more aggressive root growth.
With coco, water around the outside of the pot in early stages of growth to encourage roots to reach out and fill up the entire container.
Some common mistakes can occur when growing with coco if a grower allows the coco to get too dry, as the mixture dries quickly. Not checking the pH of the nutrient-water solution and not flushing on a consistent basis are also critical errors, as you are using more nutrients with coco and the excess residual nutrients can cause common nutrient deficiency symptoms.
It’s also very important to use Cal-Mag, or Calcium and Magnesium, in your coco growing medium. Calcium plays a direct role in a plant’s root development, nutrient uptake and protein synthesis. Magnesium is an essential part of chlorophyll production, helping your plants with photosynthesis, as well as aiding in the synthesis of sugars and proteins. Together, the correct amount of magnesium and calcium will help keep your cannabis plant healthy.
Outdoor soil growing is a common gardening technique that most people with house plants or vegetable gardens are familiar with. Using techniques such as top-fed watering, deep irrigation or wicks are all viable methods to water your plants. You can either use organic, composted soil, or store-bought soil with added liquid nutrients.
To make organic soil, you need a mixture of biolive, alfalfa meal, oyster shell for calcium, blood meal and bone meal, humic acid to keep the roots clean, and kelp. With store bought soil, use organic nutrients and start adding them about three weeks into the vegetative stage. With synthetic nutrients, you must flush them out regularly. Flood the soil with as much fresh water as it can withstand and leave it for a few minutes to allow the nutrients to be picked up, then flood it again to get the nutrients away from the plant.
Always remember, less is more with non-organic nutrients. If you are adding nutrients, a good rule-of-thumb is to add them about once a week.
A benefit to outdoor soil growing is that if you have a good base-soil built up, it’s not necessary to add nutrients throughout the plant’s life cycle. That means less work for you! It is also likely that the smell and flavor profiles of your buds will increase as well.
A common mistake when growing outdoors is overwatering. Wait to water your plants until the first three inches or so, or about knuckle depth, of soil is dry. You can gauge your soil by pulling the container it is in slightly outwards. Not checking the pH after mixing nutrients, or using nutrients too frequently are also common mistakes that you’ll want to avoid.
Don’t use miracle grow or other similar slow release soils. Your plants will not get the correct amount of nitrogen needed during vegetation and they will receive too much nitrogen during flowering.
Part 2: Learning Cannabis Grow and Plant Maintenance Techniques
Growers have recorded a plethora of marijuana growing techniques over the years to ensure you make the most of your crop. If you want to maximize yield and maximize the amount of light your cannabis plant receives, it is important to practice bending and securing parts of the plant, or removing parts of the plant altogether. While there are many different methods, it is important to note which ones will be the most sustainable for your growing medium.
Bending & Securing Your Cannabis Plants
Screen of Green (ScrOG)
One technique for bending and securing parts of marijuana plants is ScrOG, or Screen of Green. ScrOG is perfect for an indoor grower who is only growing a small number of plants. In places like Colorado, for example, this method is ideal as the legal growing limit is three flowering plants at a time.
ScrOG is designed to optimize the energy from a light by creating an even canopy space where bottom growth of the plant is forced upward to form a flat canopy. By spreading out the canopy and growing the plant horizontally until a few weeks into the flowering stage, more main cola budding sites will take place. The canopy of one plant can be grown as large as a four-foot canopy.
New to growing cannabis? Don’t worry, our beginner’s guide to growing marijuana will help you through the process. From seed to harvest, we have you covered with tips, tricks and step-by-step procedures.
Types Of Pots For Growing Weed
Not all growing containers are equal. Some types of containers are better suited for some purposes than others. Likewise, growing pots don’t just differ in size. You can find containers from the classic flower pot to advanced smart pots or specialty containers for hydro systems. Learn what you need to know about growing containers for weed.
Selecting the optimal growing containers for weed isn’t always easy and straight forward. While you may be able to get by with the ol’ flower pot for your first grow, you want to choose the right growing containers, that provide for optimal growth and healthy plants. Let us take a look at the various types of growing containers available along with their differences, advantages and drawbacks.
If we were to simplify things a bit, the optimal growing containers for your weed plants would be those types of pots, that will provide your plants with the best possible environment for their roots. Healthy roots are essential for optimal nutrition and water intake and quite literally are the foundation for the healthy growth of your plants.
Knowing this, we can go from there when we want to find the optimal type of pot, since we can take into account what cannabis plants need for healthy roots:
The roots of your cannabis plants should never entirely dry out, since dried-out roots mean, that your plants would likely die.
Roots will also want adequate aeration and oxygen. When the roots have easy access to oxygen, this not only promotes fast growth, but will also help keeping mould and other growing troubles in check. A stale root zone depleted of oxygen will almost always lead to problems, if not entirely kill off your plants.
TYPES OF GROWING CONTAINERS AVAILABLE
If you visit a grow store or search around online to get some pots on the internet, you can find various types of containers for cannabis growing. Here are some of the most common types of growing pots.
STANDARD FLOWER POT
This is the good ol’ flower pot, that you can get almost everywhere for little money. They are most often made from plastic these days, but you can also find the old classic types, which are made from terracotta. If you get these standard flower pots, you will usually want to get them together with a matching saucer, that serves to catch your runoff water below the pot.
What’s important to know about these types of pots, is that you want them to have drainage holes at the bottom to avoid water logging. Not all pots come with prebored holes, sometimes you will have to break them out, before you use the containers to grow your plants.
Terracotta planters are heavier than plastic pots, but they can be a good choice. Terracotta has a natural ability to soak up and store excess moisture and can provide a cooling effect, which would benefit your plant’s roots in the hot summer months.
SMART POTS (FABRIC POTS)
The principle behind fabric pots, these so called “smart pots”, is to prevent, that your plants would become rootbound. Rather than growing in a cycle as would be the case in normal (closed) pots, smart pots made from fabric are air-pruning the roots as soon as they reach the sides of the container. This ensures constant new growth of roots and can help promote better plant growth.
Fabric growing pots or bags have the added advantage, that they make it pretty much impossible to overwater a cannabis plant. They can also easily be stored when not in use.
Make note, that the soil in smart pots dries out faster when compared to standard pots. To avoid the smart pots drying out too fast, you want to get double the size pots as you normally would. Of course this comes with the slight drawback, that you will require a bigger amount of growing medium. Since these types of pots leak water to the outside, they may not be suitable for all growing environments.
RQS FABRIC POT WITH AQUA-BREATHE LAYER
Royal Queen Seeds re-engineered the standard smart pot to create an improved version that continues to air-prune roots for enhanced growth while preventing overwatering. But it also includes several new features that make it easier to use.
If you’ve ever struggled to move a standard smart pot once your plants reach their full size, you’ll really appreciate the convenient side handles of the RQS fabric pot. They’re double-stitched and securely attached to the main body of the pot. You won’t believe the difference they make.
Although it’s not as clearly visible as the handles, the inner “Aqua Breathe” layer is the real game-changer. This inner layer of specialised material gives the RQS Fabric Pot another advantage over a standard smart pot. It allows air to flow through the pot, but ensures the water drains only from the bottom and not from the sides. Not only does this keep your grow space cleaner and preserve your nutrient mix, it prevents unsightly salt stains from forming on the sides of the pot.
Featuring the iconic RQS logo embroidered on the side in gold, the RQS Fabric Pot is a useful and attractive addition to any grow space. It can be used inside or out, in hydro or in soil, and it’s environmentally friendly. It’s washable, biodegradable, and available in a convenient 11-litre size.
Air pots make use of the same principles as the above mentioned “smart” pots. These are plastic containers with openings on the side, that provide automated “air-pruning” for the roots of your cannabis plant. Like smart pots, you will have to water more often, since these pots can dry out faster as compared to standard pots. Compared to fabric pots and grow bags, air pots have the advantage, that they are sturdier and won’t likely tip over. Since air pots are also leaking water from the openings at the side, you may want to set them above properly sized saucers.
Hempy buckets are providing a type of manual hydroponic system for growing cannabis plants. The difference to normal pots is, that the drainage hole isn’t at the bottom, but several centimetres above, which leaves a small reservoir of nutrient solution at the bottom of the hempy bucket.
As compared to soil grows, you would normally fill the hempy bucket with a mix of perlite and vermiculite or use clay pebbles and then feed the plants with hydroponic nutrients. The nutrient reservoir at the bottom of the bucket means, that you can water less frequently.
Since hempy buckets are a manual and passive way of hydroponic growing with no pumps for oxygen, you need to ensure, that the nutrient solution left in the pot won’t become stagnant, since this could lead to growing troubles.
CATCHING RUNOFF WATER WITH SAUCERS
Since you don’t want runoff water flooding your entire growing area, you want saucers placed under your pots. Normally, you would have a matching saucer for each of your growing containers.
Some types of growing containers like smart pots or air pots will require much bigger saucers, since excess water will flow down the sides when watering. Take this into account.
Most cannabis growers will likely get into a routine of frequently emptying out their saucers. This isn’t much of a problem if your plants are still small and you can easily access any pot in your growing area. Sometimes, in particular when your plants have grown taller, reaching to each and every pot and removing the saucers can become quite a chore, if not entirely impossible due to space constraints.
One solution for this problem can be if you use large trays underneath a number of growing pots as opposed to smaller, individual saucers under each. If you set this large runoff tray on a small incline, the water will usually collect in one space and you can then easily remove it with a shop vac.
Another more advanced solution can be with an automated pump, that can take care of the runoff water, that will collect in your tray.
WHAT SIZE OF GROWING CONTAINER IS BEST
Not all cannabis plants require the same size of growing containers. Some plants, for example autoflowering varieties, are not growing too tall and can do well in smaller or medium sized containers. When you select the size of your growing pot, consider the final size of your cannabis plant.
As a first starting point for selecting the right size pots, you can use pot sizes of approximately 7.5l for each 30cm of plant height. Just know, that not all cannabis varieties grow in the same way. Some strains can grow wide and bushy, while others can grow tall and slender, but this rule can help you get started finding the right sized pot.
GROWING CONTAINERS FOR SEEDLINGS
The same principles for healthy growth will apply for smaller containers for your seedlings. You need to ensure proper drainage for your seedlings as well. Since pots for seedlings can be very small and don’t hold too much growing medium, the soil dries out quicker, which means, that the risk of overwatering is lower.
Many cannabis growers use solo cups (“party cups”) for their seedlings without problems. Just make sure to cut drainage holes in the bottom of the cup.
Not always can it be recommended to start out cannabis plants in a small pot or cup and then transplant them later. Any repotting will always cause some stress to your plants, that you want to avoid.
For autoflowering varieties, that by their nature have a preset and rather short life cycle, it can often be best to start these plants in their final container. The reasoning here is, that you want to avoid any stunted and halted growth from repotting during their short growing life cycle if you want to max out your plant’s growth and yield.
TRANSPLANTING YOUR PLANTS INTO BIGGER GROWING CONTAINERS
Most of the time (with some exceptions as mentioned above) you will likely start out your seedlings or clones in small containers and transplant them to bigger pots when the right time has come. The reason here is, that a bigger container allows for a larger root system, that your now rather grown-up cannabis plant will require to get all her nutrients.
Transplanting on the other hand can always cause some stress for your plants and if not done carefully, could even kill your plant, say, should you damage the roots when transplanting. It is therefore important, that you move your plants, so that you don’t disrupt their roots in any way.
The best time to transplant is when your cannabis plant has developed a vast root system, but is not rootbound in the pot yet. Normally, the right time for a transplant is when your plant’s roots would show through the holes of your pot, as if they were searching for more room to grow. You want to avoid the plant having become completely rootbound though.
Carefully take out the plant from the first pot and try not to disturb the roots. In the bigger pot, make a hole in the middle of the growing medium where you carefully place the plant. Fill any remaining gaps in the new pot up with soil or whatever growing medium you are using.
When you transplant your seedlings, the best time for larger ports is usually when the seedlings have grown 3-4 sets of leaves.
If you want to avoid any type of potential growing troubles and want to keep it on the safe side, simply skip transplanting altogether and start your plants in their final pots. Your plants may start out slower than if you were to start them in smaller pots, but the reduced risk and then the less work from transplanting can be worth it, especially for less experienced growers.
Learn about the types of containers for growing weed to find the optimal container for fast and healthy growth of your cannabis plants.