Marijuana Grows Indoors with LEDs 101
Welcome to our online class about growing cannabis indoors with LEDs. If you are here it’s because you are looking for a simple guide that will walk you through the steps of a successful first grow. How exciting for you because everything you are going to need to know can be found in this article. The information on how to grow weed indoors provided will bring you from a newbie all the way to a successful grower.
You may have heard or might think that growing marijuana indoors is a difficult process but this online course will bring you up to speed one step at a time until you have the confidence to grow. Anyone can grow cannabis it only requires the will to learn, a few minutes a day to watch over and maintain your cannabis plants and some space for your grow.
Cannabis has many slangs; weed, pot, marijuana, bud, ganja and many more. These refer to the dried and cured buds of a female cannabis plant. Cannabis plants grow all over the world in many different climates. Female cannabis plants produce famous flowers that you think of when you think of weed.
The flowers of these female cannabis plants contain the potent ingredients that people are looking for; THC and CBD. It is these flowers that are harvested, dried and cured to produce usable marijuana. The cured buds are used to smoke, vaporize and consume via edibles.
Ten years ago, when I first started my cannabis journey it was difficult to locate quality buds anywhere. We are talking about the days of low quality, seed-filled weed that barely had any medicinal quality yet alone barely got you high. Since it was hard to find quality cannabis I looked towards growing my own. That’s when I started learning how to grow weed indoors using LED grow lights.
LED Grow Lights
LED’s are the new kids on the block. The technology has come very far in a short amount of time. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have even talked about LED grow lights but now it’s all that I use.
LED suppliers have claimed for a long time that their LED systems provided bigger better buds and yields while using half the electricity of HIP lighting. Until recently this was not true. People have been sold low quality LED lights and were told they would grow better plants and it was just not the case for several years. Now people are still selling junk LED grow light kits that are worthless but many companies have cracked the nut and developed LED grow light kits that do produce like any HIP system.
I would strongly encourage the new grower to invest in new LED technology as it is easy to work with and will cost much less to produce your plants over time. I’ve reviewed 15 LED grow light systems and my findings are here.
Pros of LED lights
- Cutting Edge & Custom Spectrum – LED grow light technology has arrived! You can now grow plants from seedling to flower with one light; with the flip of a switch, your light bands can be altered to provide the best light for vegetative and flowering stages.
- Stealth – LEDs are the perfect lighting system for growing indoors and especially good for growing in tents. These lights require very little room above your plants leaving much more height in your grow space for your plant to stretch out. The low heat generated by LEDs generally won’t need to be vented out of your grow space like and HID would.
- Options for low heat, low electricity– A LED panel doesn’t produce much heat or use much electricity
- Wide Spectrum LEDs that provide more color spectrums that cannabis plants use
- 50,000 to 100,000 hours life
Cons of LED lights
- Expensive setup– LED grow lights are a more expensive upfront investment. The cost of purchasing a quality powerful LED will be 3 to 4X more expensive than a HIP system. Saving come after you have a few grows under your belt when the energy cost savings start to add up.
- Selecting LEDs requires research– Every LED system is different, especially when compared to your basic HIP system. Each maker and model uses different LED chips, different wattage chips, different reflectors and so on. If you don’t read my review on the best LED grow lights I wouldn’t purchase an LED system. You won’t know what you’re getting.
- Light Burn and Bleaching– Quality LEDs are so powerful that they can burn or scorch your plants. When first starting out with LED you’ll need to start your lights about 4 feet above your plants until they are used to the light. At that point, you can experiment and find out the best height for your particular LED system. Currently, I’m growing with two different LED grow lights. One of the lights requires about 28 inches of space above the plants, the second setup only requires about 10 inches.
- Lower Yields than HIDs– This is a tricky con as some LEDs do not perform as well as HID lights. Many LED’s I’ve tested and seen have produced lower yields then HIP systems. I’ve never found a difference in THC potency. But like I’ve said the newer LED grow light systems can yield as much or almost as much as HID systems. You just need to get the right LED system. There are higher end LED lights that will grow bigger plants than HID available at the higher end of the cost scale.
Like I’ve mentioned I’ve switched to LED grow lights exclusively and am very happy with the results I see. I love the quality and smell of the bud I produce and it is a little different than when I grow with HIP setups.
There might be a slight reduction in yield but nothing to really complain about. I seem to grow the same amount of bud with LED as I did with a HIP. I wouldn’t switch back to HIP if you paid me. I just find LED once setup is a no hassle system that lasts basically forever and doesn’t require light bulb switching when you change growth states from vegetative to flowering.
Always beware of scam LED sellers! You need to know what you’re buying when it comes to LED. Do some research or read my reviews before buying any LED system. You can easily be scammed and end up with a less than amazing quality LED that won’t have the energy to flower your plants.
Do yourself a favor and read my 2018 LED grow light reviews. If you purchase one of the systems I recommend you won’t have any issues. I lot of people are going to say that LED isn’t good enough yet but they are wrong. I based my decision to switch to LED on hard information that I collected and tested.
The last word on choosing Your grow lights
Each lighting type and lighting system has their pros and cons. You need to find a system that fits your budget and grow area best. Try to look to the future when you buy and go with LED.
Are You Ready to Start Growing? Here’s your checklist.
Here is a full list of requirements to make sure you have everything you need before you start. Please check the list closely before starting any grow. This summary will make sure you haven’t forgotten any of the important requirements.
- Grow Space– your tent, grow room or grow box etc. Your cannabis plants need a place to grow! As I’ve already discussed we’ I recommend getting a grow tent even if you have a space to grow in that doesn’t require a tent. Tents just keep things clean and controlled.
- Temperature Control– You might get lucky and your grow space could have the perfect temperature needed to grow cannabis, for the rest of us you’re going to need climate control. Make sure you have the required venting and fans so that you can keep the grow area temperature between 22C or 72Fand 28C or 82F with a relative humidity of around 35 to 40%. How do I know? Get a small weather station for your grow area.
What’s In My Growers Tool Box? Critical Tools For Successful Grows
Over years of growing cannabis I’ve developed a simple, cheap and very effective tool kit for growing cannabis. I’m going to share this knowledge with you to save you hours of time and loads of money on items you just don’t need. All of the tools I use are available on Amazon so its cheap and easy to get a hold of all of these tools. The cost my personal grow kit when added up is around $200 without the grow light.
These are the exact tools I use after testing many brands and options over the years. Take advantage of my learning and experience while saving money by using these tools for your cannabis grow.
*Do Not Try To Grow Cannabis Without a pH meter!
Growing cannabis without a pH meter is like trying to drive a car at night without headlights. Cannabis plants are extremely sensitive to pH changes and do best with a steady pH balance of between 5.6 and 6.5 depending on the plant’s life stage. Tap water, water from filters and purchased water will all have different pH balances and so will the nutrients you add to the water. There is no way to hit that pH level in that perfect range without extensive careful measurements and management, none of which can be performed without the actual measuring tool the pH Meter. Be sure to get a quality meter because not all of them are accurate enough for growing cannabis. We tested 20 pH meters to create this list of 5 pH meters that are perfect for growing cannabis.
For me growing was a necessity but also became a relaxing pastime, something that I grew proud of as my results improved each grow. It’s just a happy coincidence that growing also saved me loads of cash and greatly improved the quality of the cannabis I was smoking.
Cannabis is literally a weed in the wild that grows successfully in many climates all over the world. Cannabis can be very easy to grow depending on how hardy the strain you pick is. Yes, there are strains that are better for beginners because they’ve been genetically altered to be easy to grow.
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Plants such as Northern Lights, Early Miss and NYC Diesel have been genetically built to grow only female plants and even more amazing is the fact that these plants auto flower. No need to change your light cycles or search for male plants that need to be destroyed. Because of these new magic strains growing has been made drastically easier for the beginner grower. Beside easy grow genetics you can count on this website to show you the rest of what you will need to know to grow massive healthy buds.
Why I started to grow Marijuana Indoors
- save money – Saving a load of money, do you need a better reason?
- health reasons –I use medical marijuana for anxiety and depression
- safety– I no longer had to deal with drug dealers or strangers or bring illegal bud from outside into my home.
- Supply for my demand– Once I started growing I was never short of cannabis nor did I have to spend time trying to source cannabis
- higher quality cannabis – Because I’m in control I know the quality and care to go into my buds
- choice of strains– this is the top reason I grow, I like to experiment with different strains to achieve different medication.
Know the laws of the land
The good news is that Cannabis is slowly becoming legal all over North America, one city at a time it seems. Until growing and smoking cannabis is legal everywhere you should know the laws in your area for if no other reason so you know how stealthy you need to operate.
If you live in the USA, this website may help. If you are lucky enough to live in Canada then this day July 1, 2018, has great meaning to you as it’s the day cannabis is legalized in Canada. No matter what the legal status is currently in your area we will provide you with everything you need to know to have a safe, stealthy grow to avoid any legal issues.
I’m ready to start but how long will it be before I’m smoking my own buds?
Your grow will take about just under 4 months from seed to cured ready to smoke bud. The actual time is hard to calculate because there are several factors that can affect growing time. For example, so strains take a few weeks less or a few weeks more to mature, your available light can greatly affect the time to grow of your plants as well. If your growing non-auto flower plants you might decide to keep your plants in a vegetative state longer to increase the size of your plants. Your time from seed to finished buds will be around 12 weeks.
You will also need to add 1 to 2 weeks for drying depending on the humidity of the area you are drying your buds in and finally 2+ weeks to cure your buds to improve taste and increase THC strength.
In total, it’s a safe estimate to say 4 months from seed to finished cannabis product.
- 3+ Months – Seed to Harvest
- 1 week – Drying
- 2+ Weeks – Curing
Total: 4+ Months
In the wild Cannabis plants will grow from seed to flowering in a once year cycle. It is important to understand the normal life cycle of the cannabis plant because you can use this information to manipulate the growth of your plants.
The Vegetative State of Cannabis
Cannabis plants remain in a vegetative state as long as their access to sunlight doesn’t decrease. As sunlight hours decrease, this signals the plant to begin its flowering stage. How can I use this light cycle for my benefit? When growing indoors with electrical lighting you can play god to your plants. You can control how long your plants stay in their vegetative state by keeping their light exposure to 12 hours or more per day. I personally give my plants 18 hours of light per day and 6 hours of darkness which gives your vegetative growth a real boost. Once your plants have achieved your desired growth you can switch your lighting to 12 hours on / 12 hours off. This will signal your plants to start flowering.
To keep things simpler, I do recommend that beginner growers work with auto flower, feminized seeds as a starting point. These seeds have been specially bred to not produce male plants and to automatically begin flowering once the plant is large enough to sustain blooming. This makes your life so much easier in the beginning. You can get many great strains in auto flower, feminized seeds such as White Widow, Candy Cane, Northern Lights, Early Miss, NYC Diesel and Train Wreck. If you are growing in an area with the limited height you can actually get seeds that produce dwarf plants called low flyers, these plants grow shorter and also bloom on smaller sized plants.
If you go the harder growth route of using non-feminized, non-auto flowering seeds you’ll need to learn how to identify male and female plants. Male plants are a hassle to growers as they will cause your female plants to grow seeds which are not optimal for your finished product. You can identify the difference between male and female plants as early as 3 weeks after seeding. Male plants produce small sacks which contain pollen, the female plants will produce small wispy hairs when are called Pistils.
Early sprouting on your plants as early as 3 to 4 weeks can show male plants and 4 to 6 weeks will start to show female plants. Where ever there are new growth buds on your plant should enable you to identify the sex of your plants. Once identified get rid of your male plants. This is why feminized seeds are so great, you end up growing 100% female plants every time.
The basic components of growing cannabis
Cannabis as a plant requires very little for successful growth. By providing the following resources in the correct amounts your plants will thrive and produce large buds.
- Light – providing the needed color spectrums and intensity of light will translate into larger more potent buds.
- Air quality – Your plants not only require air exchange but need air movement to help grow sturdy stems and leaves.
- Grow Medium – is the place where you will root your plants. There are several options including soil, coco coir, or even hydroponics with no soil.
- Temperature – it’s very important that you don’t let the grow area temperature fall to less than 22C or 72F. Heat from lighting should be exhausted from the grow area so that the temperature stays below 28C or 82F. I relative humidity of 40 to 50% is best for cannabis plants. Don’t let humidity climb above 50% or you will start to have issues with fungus and other pests.
- Nutrients – are very powerful and can injure your plants if you don’t follow the instructions on your nutrient mix. Start out using half the strength called for on your nutrients label. Once your plants have had exposure to the nutrients for 3-5 days you increase your mix to the directed strength on the packaging. More isn’t always better when it comes to nutrients, I generally mix my nutrients down 20% from the recommended measurements.
- Water – To maintain health cannabis plants your water/nutrient mix should maintain the correct pH Balance. For best results in soil aim for a pH of between 6-7. Make sure you have a pH tester as part of your basic grow kit.
If you provide the correct amounts of these six simple resources you’re grow will go smoothly and your product will be fantastic. We will explore each of these topics in further detail in this grow guide so don’t worry!
The most common newbie mistake is lack of research
The most common mistake a newbie grower makes is to not do their research ahead of time. There is nothing worse than being up against the wall when you suddenly experience issues with your plants. It could be too late to save your plants if you don’t know what you should be looking for on a day to day basis. Don’t guess or experiment with your plants, to be successful you need to follow the lessons you will learn from this course.
An example of the experiment due to lack of preparedness is to administer nutrients such Miracle-Grow because you have it laying around the house. This nutrient blend would actually harm your plants and reduce yields because the mix of nutrients isn’t correct for cannabis.
The only way to know is research like the reading you’re doing right now on budsgrowguide.com or by searching google.com for reputable information.
What nutrients can I use to grow quality cannabis?
The time to figure out what you will feed your cannabis plants is before you start your grow! If this is your first time around there is a sea of information about nutrients out there and you could waste a lot of time trying to figure out your best option. We’ve done the research for you and have provided you with nutrient ideas that are proven and easy to work with.
There are many companies each with different nutrient formulas each for different purposes. I prefer using a total growth solution from just one company, no mixing and matching nutrients. Total growth solutions include nutrients that are designed to work together for each stage of your plant’s growth from rooting to blooming.
For the best results, your cannabis plants need specific ratios of the nutrients Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium also known as “NPK for short.
Optimal NPK values for cannabis growth
Vegetative: high nitrogen – medium phosphorus – high potassium
Flowering: low nitrogen – medium to high phosphorus – high potassium
Your nutrient packaging may also have 3 numbers on the label that represent the mix, here is an example of how it may look and what it means:
2% Nitrogen, 1% Phosphorus and 6% Potassium
So why is it called NPK when the ingredients Spell NPP? Well, that’s simple it’s called NPK because they use the atomic symbols and the symbol for potassium is “K” from Neo-Latin kalium. Don’t worry that’s as far as we are diving into Latin.
When to start feeding your Cannabis plants
Nutrients are started just after the first 4 leaves open, but at this time remember to use a half strength nutrient formula for the first week so you don’t burn your plants.
Feed your plants nutrients every other watering. So, your first watering should have no nutrients, then every other watering should contain half strength nutrients for the first week. After one week, your plants will be used to the nutrients so you can switch to feeding your plants full strength nutrients according to the label instructions. Nutrients are continued every other watering through the whole vegetative stage of your cannabis plants.
It’s important to remember to change your nutrient formula as you reach the flowering stage of your grow. If your using auto flower plants this will be when you first see blooms starting on your plants. If you are growing regular plants you will switch to flowering nutrients when you start your flowering light cycle change. The increase of nutrients and increased dark time cycles will trigger your plants to start to flower.
Your nutrients for flowering will contain much less nitrogen then required in the vegetative state. Increased Potassium will bring more weight to your buds while increased Phosphorus will produce more followers. But remember too much of a good thing is bad it will kill your plants. Follower your nutrient directions very closely. Companies such as Remo Nutrients provide a great pin-up sheet you can follow that shows you the nutrient mixes and timings.
Another question: organic or chemical nutrients?
I’m asked all the time what are the differences between chemical and organic nutrients, and the second question is which are better. Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer as they both have benefits.
- Better smelling and tasting buds – because natural nutrients aren’t as strong and contain natural beneficial organisms. Working with organic nutritional supplements is more complicated because you will be mixing different ingredients and concentrations which must be correct.
- More natural – People think natural is always better. Personally, I prefer Chemical nutrients because they are easier to use and generally produce bigger plants and flowers.
- Hydroponics – You can’t use organic nutrients if you choose to grow with hydroponics.
- Increased Strength While organic fertilizer is better for taste and smell, chemical nutrients increase the potency of your buds
- Faster Growth – Chemical nutrients are easily dissolved in water which maximizes the absorption rate of the nutrients which leads to faster growth overall
- The only choice for Hydroponics – since your plants are grown in the water these nutrients are less likely to allow bad microorganisms to grow in your water.
What are the differences between nutrient brands?
- Nutrient ratios – every company has their own formula for what they believe will provide the best growth for cannabis plants. None of them are wrong any of the well-known makers such as Dutch Pro, General Organics, and Fox Farm.
- Ingredients – There are many chemical and natural ingredients used to formulate these nutrients. These mixtures of ingredients all interact with each other so even formulas that contain the same ingredients may interact differently with your plants and provide different results.
- Coir or Hydro – Your growing medium affects your watering and nutrients. Since this is a beginner’s guide and because it’s my performed medium we are only covering nutrients for the soil. If you plan to grow Hydro or Coco you’ll need to do more research before you get started with your grow.
The importance of proper pH balance in your water/nutritional supplements
When growing cannabis plants don’t leave things to chance. Control as many factors as you can so that you reduce your risk of sick or dying plants. To mitigate this risk, you must test the pH of your water/supplements every time you mix them and only mix enough for one watering. Maintaining a proper pH is as important as providing the correct amount of nutrients.
Maintaining proper pH helps your plants absorb nutrients from the soil through the plant roots and prevents nutrient deficiencies. What is the correct pH for a cannabis plant? If you are growing in soil your pH should be between 6 and 7 pH.
Cannabis Lives and Dies By pH Levels
To determine the pH of your water/nutrient mix you’ll need either pH strips or better yet a pH meter. A meter will cost you more money (around $20) but the benefits are worth the cost over the old-fashioned test strips which aren’t as easy to use and aren’t as accurate as the meter.
To check the pH of your water/nutrient mix follow the directions that came with your pH Meter. If your mix isn’t measuring between 6 and 7 pH then you’ll need to make an adjustment.
To adjust the PH of your water/nutrient mix you will need to use pH UP or pH Down which are products used to raise or lower pH. Your PH is low if your measurement is above 7 and is high if your measurement is below 6. Add pH UP, or pH Down accordingly. It takes very small amounts of pH Up or Down to affect change in your water/nutrient mix. To give you an idea of how much product you will need 1ml of UP or Down in a gallon (3.7 L) will change your pH by 1 point on average.
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You will also need to test the pH balance of your water after it penetrates your soil and roots. This is the critical measurement. To measure the pH at the root level, water your plants with your current water/nutrient mix and quickly test the runoff water from the bottom of your pot.
Based on the pH of this measurement you will mix your next water/nutrient batch with a higher or lower pH depending on if your runoff pH was lower or higher then 6-7 pH. For example, if the pH was 1 point high you will make your next water/nutrient mix 1 point lower, which will bring down the higher pH measurement from your soil. REMEMBER that it takes very little pH Up or pH Down to adjust the pH 1 point. Be careful you get the measurement right by making small adjustments, mixing, testing, repeat until your water/nutrient mix is between 6-7 pH.
What Kind of Water should I use?
Don’t be a water snob, you don’t need to water your plants with spring water. Tap water does just fine if you filter it. Using a simple filtration device like those used on your home tap or those you pour water into such as a Britta work great. Filtering the water through one of these devices will remove Chlorine and other chemicals present in drinking water making it clean enough for growing healthy cannabis plants. Rainwater is another great option if you don’t mind collecting it. Remember, you still need to check the waters pH balance regardless of where it comes from.
An example of a LED tent grow
Indoor cannabis growing
Many cannabis growers love to grow outdoors because you don’t need to provide light for your plants which are the number one cost associated with indoor grows. But growing outside even where legal is a risky business. There are always going to be people willing to rip off your grow or even just destroy it. Finding a private safe area that receives at least 8 hours of direct sunlight a day is very difficult if you live in a city.
That’s where indoor grows shine so to speak. Since I live in a city there is just no way that I would risk growing outdoors, that’s why every grow I’ve completed in the past 10 years has been grown indoors. That’s also why this guide provides information on growing indoors and not outdoors, I don’t have outdoor grow experience at all
When growing indoors lighting plays one of the largest roles in a successful grow. Indoor lighting is a bit more complicated and requires you to act as God for your plants. There are many things you don’t need to worry about when growing cannabis indoors such as seasons, bad weather, more pests, and theft. Indoors you are in total control of your plant’s success or failure.
Newbie indoor cannabis growers like the idea of growing their plants in a sunny window, like a houseplant. This is not a good idea, please don’t do it. First off window light may be strong enough to grow a seedling but it won’t be strong enough to sustain and flower a mature plant. Having your plant in a window is also a risk because people could more easily spot it and then know what you are up to. Stealth is always my number one priority.
Indoor cannabis growing with led lights
As a grower of fine cannabis, you have many options when it comes to providing light energy to your plants. I grew with HPS (high-pressure sodium) for 8 of the 10 years I’ve been growing. The past two years I switched to LED and never looked back. Sure, it was a big investment to switch to LED up front, but I was looking ahead.
Technology advancements in the field of LEDs have made it possible to successfully grow high-quality cannabis with greater yields. Early LED grow lighting wasn’t very successful due to a lack of light intensity and color wavelength limitations. But that was then and this is now. LED’s can provide as much light intensity as HPS systems and provide a full spectrum of light wavelengths capable of growing cannabis plants from Seedling to Harvest. If that wasn’t enough LED grow lighting achieves this while using 50 to 60% less electricity.
Energy costs where I live have been increasing every year and have hit a point now where I can easily spend $300 in electricity to feed my plants for one grow. Suddenly the cost of upgrading to LED made sense.
Here are the top reasons why I switched
- LED grow lights use between 50% and 60% less electricity
- LED grow lights reduce your grow footprint. Running a couple of HPS lighting systems draw enough energy that your electricity provider could ask questions about why you are using so much electricity. (not likely but if you went to 3 or more HPS it would become very likely)
- LED grow lights can provide full spectrum light wavelengths which are suitable for vegetative and flowering stages of your grow. (No need to switch bulbs)
- LED grow lights produce 80% less heat making it easier to vent and climate control your grow area.
- LED grow lights can contain UV light which reduces pests, mold, and fungus.
Stay out of the closet, why tents are the way to go
I started out like many, growing in a closet. Let me tell you it only took one grow before I started researching another option. Closets, they just aren’t built to be grow rooms. There are issues bringing in electricity, with climate control and air flow. The solution if you are starting out or even upgrading to the next grow size is simply a grow tent.
Here’s a big grow hint, when you look for a tent; do yourself a favor and get one that is 80 inches tall. Think about it your LED grow light is likely 6 inches high, you need 18 to 24 inches of space between your grow light and the top of your plants that are 24 inches of height lost already, more like 35 inches if you use HPS grow lights. That only leaves at best 54 inches of height for your cannabis plants. If you purchase a 60-inch tent your grow height becomes just 35 inches, that’s really pushing it for a beginner. Your plants will require pruning and training to be productive at that height.
Grow tents have been specifically designed to be grow rooms and their features make growing much easier at every stage. These are the benefits and options you should look for when purchasing a grow test:
- Lightproof – not light spillage from your grow lights
- Sealed – grow tents are sealed environments which make them easier to control
- Cord ports – flexible, light-proof sleeves where power cords can be run safely into the grow tent
- Ventilation ports – flexible, light-proof sleeves where you can fit 6-8inch ventilation pipe
- Reflective on all surfaces
- Provides support for suspending lighting
- Spill tray removable floor – you should be able to remove the bottom of your tent without taking down your whole tent. My tent uses Velcro to hold everything together.
- 80-inch heigh
Climate control in your grow area
To truly control the environment your plants, live in you must be able to control the temperature and humidity within your grow area. Plants require temperatures of between 24C and 28C or 75F to 82 F and a relative humidity of between 40 to 50%. Keeping your enclosed grow space within these measurements takes ventilation and fans within the grow area.
Proper Ventilation and Odor Control
Ventilation is an easy issue to adjust by using an exhaust fan. I recommend using a venting system that uses a 6-inch duct hose for a larger amount of air transfer. You should also employ a charcoal filter before you exhaust the air into your home or outdoor environment to greatly reduce the power smell of your growing cannabis plants. Complete ventilation/filter systems are available for reasonable prices. If you are growing indoors I highly recommend a charcoal filter system, as your plants mature they will take on a very powerful smell that will overpower the area they are located in. Filtering the air will remove 90% of the smell.
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Choosing the Right Strain
The two most ways to get cannabis seeds or clones is in person or via online seed banks. Clones which are an identical copy of a plant are a faster way to start plants over seeds but the problem is where to get clones. If you have access I would use them to cut 2 or 3 weeks of grow time. Once you are an experienced grower you can clone your own female plants instead of starting from seed.
Cannabis plants like animals have a lot to do with their genetics, each plant starts out as a mix of their two parents and contains genes from both plants. This means that each plant is a mixture of traits from its parent plants.
There are three main strains or types of cannabis: Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid strains which are mixes of Indica and Sativa. There is also another important strain of cannabis called Rederalis (auto-flowering).
Indica, Sativa & Hybrids (plus Auto-flowering) Strains
Think of Indicas and Sativas as being a spectrum and Hybrids lie between the two main strains. They two strains are not opposed – they don’t counteract each other. They have different cannabinoid profiles containing varying amounts of CBD and THC
At one end are pure Indica strains, which tend to be more calming. On the other end is pure Sativas which stimulate energy and activity. Between the two lie hybrid strains, which balance the effects of each.
Indica strains tend to cause more of a body high (calming effect) and tend to grow shorter and bushier with smaller leaves and a darker green color.
Sativa strains cause more of a cerebral high (energizing). Sativas also grow larger, have higher light requirements, and take longer to mature than Indica. Sativas often have thin, finger-like leaves while Indicas have fatter, rounder leaves. Sativa is harder to grow then Indica and any hybrid of the two only get easier to grow.
The simplest to grow cannabis plants are a hybrid strain because they have been bred to carry the best genetics of both Sativa and Indica.
Auto-flowering or “Ruderalis”
Auto-flowering cannabis strains will start flowering regardless of the amount and length of light it receives. Most strains that are picked to be bred into auto-flowering seeds are popular strains that are then bread with Ruderalis to insert the auto-flowering characteristic. These auto-flower cannabis plants can be exposed to aggressive light cycles without affecting the vegetative/flowering stages of growth. Personally, I grow with 18 hours of light and just 6 hours of darkness which can decrease growth time to just 3 months. Do not try to extend your growth cycle longer than 18 hours as your plants need rest time to ensure quality growth. The largest difference in auto-flowering plants will be that the plants only grow up to about 2 feet tall before flowering starts.
When researching which strain of cannabis, you are going to grow pay attention to the light requirements and grow times to be sure that the strain is a solid match for your growing area and conditions.
Electricity is your largest ongoing expense
For the indoor grower, your largest ongoing expense is electricity for your lighting and fans. If you are using traditional incandescent lighting such as HPS (high-pressure sodium) you can expect a hit on your electricity bill. That’s why I’ve moved away from HPS lighting to LED grow lighting.
I know LED is a new technology and I’m sure you’ve read mixed reviews on it on the internet. The mixed reviews are correct, there are many LED grow lights on the market that are junk and will do a poor job at growing cannabis. The important thing to know is that LED technology has come a long way in a very short period of time. I’ve tested almost 20 LED grow light systems that are available on the market and found 10 extremely good options that will grow the hell out of your cannabis plants.
All that being said the reason to switch to LED grow lights is that they use half the energy of incandescent lighting and produce about a quarter of the heat. That’s how efficient these LED lighting systems are. LED also has a life of about 50,000 hours. Basically, you are going to make your upfront investment in purchasing LED grow lights back in 4 or 5 grows due to your electricity bill savings.
For small-scale growers, the extra cost on your electric bill might not be that noticeable. For example, I grew one plant under a 250W HPS grow light, and it ended up costing me around $280 over the course of the four months the light was running. I yielded 7 ounces (only $45/ounce or $1.60/gram).
The difference in cost will increase with larger lights such as 600W HPS lights which use about the same energy as an air conditioner. That’s why again I’m going to point you right back at investing in LED Grow Lights. Half the cost in energy plus you don’t need to pay for air conditioning to cool your grow area from the extremely hot HPS lighting.
But for some of the bigger grow lights, the electric bill can grow quite a bit, especially when using AC units. Yet even with the cost of electricity, it’s usually far cheaper for people to grow their own cannabis indoors than to purchase it.
Just to give you a real example, a 900W grow light (one of the larger types of grow lights) uses about the same electricity as two refrigerators. That equivalent in LED lighting would use only 350 Watts of electricity and produce the same amount of plant growth as the HPS light.
Under the 900W LED grow light I can grow 8 plants from Vegetative to flowering over 4 months and the cost will be around $325.00 in electricity. Another savings is not needing air conditioning to cool your grow area, that would cost another 200.00 over 4 months.
Off that $325 in electricity cost, I’m able to yield around 1.5 pounds of finished bud. Now let’s talk about seem cheap buds! Let me get my math hat on here that’s a total of 680 Grams of bud at a cost of $2.00 per Gram. It doesn’t get any sweeter than that! The same amount of weed would cost roughly $4.80 per gram if grown under a traditional HPS 900W grow light.
Before you start growing do some planning and decide how much bud is enough. This will help you choose the right growing setup.
Outdoors, the starting cost is greatly less than indoors – no grow lights or electricity, just soil, nutrients, and sunlight – the issue with growing outdoors is finding a good spot that’s private, convenient for you to get to, with easy access to water, and 8+ hours of direct sunlight every day. Yes, growing outdoors is cheap but you have to come to terms with the fact that you’re grow could be gone before you harvest it. People love to steal or destroy weed plants when they are found.
Outdoors: Free – $200
Indoors, your cost depends on your setup and what you’re looking for. If you want to harvest an ounce here and then, it may cost very little to get started, even just $100 (check out space buckets).
For a premium indoor setup with a grow tent, grow light, fan, air filtration, plus growing supplies, you’re looking at spending $500 – $1500 to grow around 4 to 6 plants. This setup could yield a pound of finished bud.
Indoors: $100 – $1500+
Set Up & Supplies
Here’s what you’ll be doing in this section to get set up to start growing cannabis.
- Pick Your Grow Space
- Choose Growing Medium
- Choose Grow Lights LED or HPS
- Supplies Checklist- Are You Ready to Start Growing?
Pick Your Grow Space
We aren’t going to discuss growing outdoors in this guide. I have very little experience growing outside because I live in an urban environment like most of you. It’s just way to high risk to grow outdoors when you have people living 50 feet away from your grow
Even if you have access to a private quality growing area when starting out I would still recommend growing indoors. An indoor grow allows you to have much more control over your growing environment. You are controlling the light, water, air, and feeding which makes for more responsibility but an easier grow overall. We haven’t even talked about outdoor pest control, that’s a whole other topic if you want to grow outdoors.
What space works best for indoor grows?
Growing cannabis can be done anywhere with access to electricity, water, and fresh air. You’ll also need some headroom for your plants. Cannabis plants will need at least 60 inches of height to fit you’re grow light if LED and your plants. If you are using HPS you’ll need at least 80 inches or more because the lighting needs to sit farther away from your plants.
- a spare room
- a closet
- grow box
- grow tent ← Best choice*
- extra bathroom
* I’ve learned from experience that a grow tent is the best way to go for new cannabis growers. Tents are sealed off, provide access ports and prevent light leakage. Grow tents are cheap, effective, and will save you a lot of trouble.
To move forward with a tent, you just need to decide what size of grow you are going to be doing and purchase a tent based on the size required. Lighting choice will also be based on the size of your tent. For example, 1000W HPS or a 500W LED can cover a 4×4 tent, within that space you could grow approximately 10 plants. So, you can easily extrapolate that a 2×2 tent with a 400W to 500W HPS or a 200W to 250W LED can grow about 5 plants.
It is defiantly more cost effective to purchase a tent that to try and build out a proper grow area or box of your own. Don’t invest your time in something that can be done better and cheaper with a tent.
Choose Growing Medium
If you are new to growing then the first option for growing your cannabis plants in would be soil. Soil is one of the most common and best-growing mediums but there are others. We’ll go over all the options but for the sake of this guide we will be focused on soil
Cannabis Growing Mediums
- Soil ← Most common, intuitive, great flavor in buds
- Inert (Soilless) ← Intuitive, faster growth than soil
- Hydroponics ← fastest growth, biggest yields, potency, most complicated
Cannabis plants can be successfully grown in any of these mediums but each has its own watering, care requirements as well as a learning curve.
If this is your first grow I recommend one of the following mediums but again we will be growing in soil for this guide.
When I first decided to grow cannabis, I was very worried that my black thumb would cause me to kill plant after plant. I’ve never had a green thumb and I’ve killed almost every plant I had ever cared for. No worries! If that is you, this guide was written for you. I was just like you and spent years perfecting grows, I’ve taken all that information and built this guide for you. If you read and follow this guide you will be successful despite your black thumb or any other reservations you may have.
If it’s your first cannabis grow, and you’ve never gardened or grown a plant, it’s okay. Maybe you have a “black thumb” and every plant you’ve ever grown has died.
There are so many things you can do wrong to your plants that will kill them but with my guidance and a little reading by you, you’ll be growing amazing bud from your first grow!
If you can take the time to read this guide and follow step by step instructions you are going to be able to grow beautiful buds right from the start. Cannabis is nothing more than a weed, keep that in mind. Weeds grow as long as they have the basics for life.
As a grower of cannabis, you are playing god to your weed by providing everything they need to grow and produce flowers. Just follow the basics provided in this guide and we guarantee you will be successful. Just provide a better environment for your plants when they get in the wild and you will be rewarded with loads of potent buds for your work.
Generally, people with experience growing in soil will stick to it or possibly try soilless with a neutral growing medium. When growing your plants in soil they will receive their needed nutrients from the soil itself as well from nutrients that you add to the water. If you are growing in a neutral medium such as Coco Coir then all the nutrients the plants will require are provided by fortifying water with nutrients.
Soil is known for better taste, while soilless (particularly coco coir) is known for faster growth, bigger yields, and great potency.
So, you fancy Soil
Pick a great soil and you are ready to stick a plant in it and start your grow!
Typical black nutrient rich soil used for growing just about anything
Soil is great for growing cannabis and is my personal comfort zone when it comes to growing medium. There are different kinds of soil for growing for those looking for the simple quick option just pick up high-quality potting soil. You can add all the extra nutrients your plants will require later!
The other more work but an awesome option is composting your own soil. This is more for the advanced grower. By composting you will be adding specific nutrients to the soil based on what material you add and break down into compost. Some growers claim that soil that is composted is super soil and can grow bigger more potent buds. I have not found this to be the case and feel much more comfortable using potting soil and then using something like Dutch Pro Nutrients in my water for feeding.
Guidelines for Good Cannabis Soil
- No “extended release” or “slow release” nutrients. Don’t go anywhere near products like Miracle grow as they don’t provide the correct nutrients and will ruin your flowering as well as produce bad tasting buds.
- If you use regular potting soil that isn’t formulated for a plant like cannabis, you can use specially-made soil nutrients during the grow as we’ve already discussed in depth. These nutrient supplements are actually changed when the plant switches from vegetative to flowering.
- A good soil will contain ingredients like… coco fiber, perlite, compost, earthworm castings, bat guano, fish meal, crab meal, bone meal, blood meal, kelp meal, peat moss, pumice, composted forest humus, humic acid, sandy loam, soybean meal, alfalfa meal, rock dust, Mycorrhizae fungi, etc. All that being said regular black potting soil will do the trick for any grow.
What container should I use to hold my pants?
When picking a container to grow in make sure that the container you pick has drainage holes in the bottom and that the container isn’t shallow. Fabric pots are an even better solution for growing cannabis. Fabric growing pots allow air to get to the roots very easily. Cannabis roots need room to grow and a shallow container just won’t provide the space necessary for a healthy plant to grow. This extra space allows for roots to uptake oxygen and nutrients faster.
Which size pot should I use to grow my pot? Wait that sounds strange.
When growing a cannabis plant in a pot the size of the growing area will determine the size of your finished plant. The bigger the pot the bigger the plant, it’s that simple.
A real general guide is to have about 2 gallons per 12″ of height. Not a perfect measurement but a very good average guesstimate. If you are worried always go bigger unless you are trying to restrain the size of your plants. For example, if you are growing in a small tent then you likely want your pots to be on the smaller side of the scale we just talked about. You need to restrict how bushy and tall the plants will get and that is partially done by pot size as well as trimming and training but we’ll get into that later.
Fabric Grow Pots Feed Air to Your Roots
Fabric or plastic pots that allow air to easily reach the roots of your cannabis plants are the ideal solutions. If you grow in basic pots that have no air flow to the roots you can experience stunted grow and root issues. For the sake of a couple of bucks, I would invest in cloth pots, the 4 or 5-gallon cloth pot is your cannabis plants best friend. The more oxygen that can reach the roots of your plants the better nutrient and oxygen uptake that can take place not to mention that overwatering is a thing of the past.
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Once you transfer your seedlings into their final growth put its best not to transplant them again. Make sure you transplant your seedlings into the right sized final pot. No changes later as this could shock your plant. At the very minimum, it’s going to stunt and slow growth.
A general guide to container size:
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
Remember that your plant must fit into your grow area and you must account for space for your lighting gear. Take that into account when selecting your pot size. For a 2x4x60 tent, for example, I would grow with two 2-3-gallon containers.
We’ve discussed several options but as mentioned I’m focused on soil growing and so will this guide.
- By now you’ve chosen, your grow light. Hopefully, you’ve decided to move forward with LED grow lights after reading our guide on LED options. If you are using HID that’s fine too but you’ll need to make sure you are venting air outside the grow area to prevent your plants from wilting or cooking from the heat. If your HID lighting has built in fans make sure those are vented outside your grow area/tent through a charcoal filter to prevent smell.
- You’ve tested and set up your grow lights in your grow space and have them wired in for electrical. If you are working with LED then your lights can be hung about 20 inches above the tops of your plants. If you are using HID lighting then you will need 36 to 48 inches of space above the tops of your plants.
- You’ve set up your grow lights on a digital or mechanical timer of some sort. As we discussed earlier you need to control your day and night periods for your plants and this is done with a timer. Set up your timer for 12 hours on and 12 hours off if you are growing standard seeds or clones. If you are growing Auto-Flower seeds then you can set your timer for 16 on and 6 hours off.
If you look back in this article you will find that we’ve already discussed nutrients in depth. You’ve likely already decided to use a particular brand such as which I use. You won’t need to give your plants nutrients right away. Introduce your nutrients 2 to 3 weeks after potting your plant at half strength.
Clones or seeds, we’ve talked about them and you need them to start your grow. If you haven’t got them yet then get them and then come back to the guide to learn how to germinate them.
You’ve now got everything you need to grow your own cannabis. Let’s get started!
How to germinate sees in 4 easy steps
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 on a plate inside a wet paper towel.
- Step one is to grab a plate our saucer and fold a piece of paper towel into a square. Wet the paper towel until its soaking wet. Place the towel onto the plate and then place your seeds on top of that paper towel.
- Step two is to fold another piece of paper towel into quarters. Soak the paper towel and then place it on top of the seeds and first paper towel which is on your plate.
- Step 3 is to place another plate on top of the first plate but upside down so it leaves a large area of space between the two plates.
- Step four is to place the plates into a warm dark area such as a cupboard. Now you just wait. Check it once daily to ensure that the paper towels have remained wet. In 2 or 3 days, you’ll have sprouted seeds ready for soil.
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.
Since you are just starting out and won’t have access to clones, seeds will be the best way to start your grow. There are seed banks and seed stores in most major cities in the world as well as online sales of seeds. I buy my seeds online from CropKingseeds.com, they deliver to Canada and the US and have the best selection of seeds including Feminized and Auto-Flower seeds. The biggest benefit of starting with seeds is the incredible choice of strains you will have to pick from. If you purchase seeds from a reputable seller or seed bank you should have upwards of a 95% success rate in growing seedlings from your seeds.
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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. You can also look for cracks in the seeds which likely means there is damage to the seed.
After purchasing your seeds, you can store them for up to 5 years if you keep them in a cool dry place without light.
Seeds that are sourced from cannabis you have purchased from a dealer are called “bagseeds”. These seeds can defiantly be viable for growth and many people collect these seeds for use in grows. The downside to “bagseed” is that you won’t likely know the strain and 50% of the seeds will produce male plants which will need to be tossed away. Some people have very good luck growing “bagseeds” I personally don’t recommend it.
Whenever at all possible use a trusted strain and purchase the seeds from a reputable source.
When ordering online expect your seeds to take 4 to 6 weeks to be delivered. If possible always chose a premium shipping method to get those seeds in your hands faster. Most quality seed stores will provide a delivery guarantee so you don’t have to worry about them getting lost or stolen in the mail.
Have your seeds? Get started with germinating your cannabis seeds
Things are getting really exciting now! We’re about to start your first germination of seeds! Germination is the process of causing seeds to sprout. The first white tendril that emerges from the seed is known as a taproot which just means it’s the first root your plant produces. As this taproot grows you will notice that the shell will continue spitting apart as it grows. The first leaves that grow are called cotyledons and are round.
The cotyledons were already created as part of the plant embryo in the seed itself, so the cannabis seedling doesn’t have to grow them. In fact, the emerging first leaves are what break apart the shell after it’s cracked open by the taproot, as pictured here.
After your first two round leaves have developed the next set of leaves to appear will be your plants first true leaves and will have jagged edges. Once your plant has four leaves it is now called a seedling.
What do cannabis seeds need to germinate?
To achieve the highest seed germination rates, you must supply:
- Moisture – Everything must be kept moist but not wet. Seeds can be soaked in water for up to 24 hours to soften their shells but once sprouting of the taproot is seen just keep it most, never let it dry out during the sprouting phase.
- Rest – Your seeds need darkness during the sprouting phase. Only look at your seeds when checking their moisture levels, otherwise, leave them alone.
- Warmth – Germination is more effective when the air is warm. Seeds can absolutely sprout in cool air but it could slow the process down. Don’t let your sprouting area get hot!
- Gentle– Don’t touch the seeds during the germination process. The taproot is extremely fragile and can easily break off rendering the seed dead. Use extreme care if you must move the sprouted seed and keep it clean (wash your hands or instruments).
- The root goes down – When planting a germinated seed place the taproot down into the growing medium not up towards the light.
- Plant Depth– When planting your germinated seeds place them in your grow medium about as deep as your first knuckle or 1.3 cm to 2.0 cm (.5 inches to .75 inches). Any deeper and you could slow or prevent the growth of the seed.
Your seedling is ready to be planted once the taproot is about 2cm (.75 inches) long or if green leaves start to protrude from under the seed shell. Your seedling will take between 3 and 7 days to reach this length.
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.
Here’s what you’ll find in this section about the cannabis vegetative stage:
- Vegetative Light Schedules
- Daily Plant Care in the Vegetative Stage
- Plant Training
Vegetative Light Schedules
Indoor growers truly play God to their cannabis plants compared to outdoor growers. Indoors you can keep your plants in a vegetative stage for as long or short as you like. This allows the grower to have control over the final size and shape if their cannabis plant. This God-like control comes from a simple cheap timer that you install on your lights and program.
Providing your plants with 18 to 24 hours of light per day will keep your plants growing leaves and stems. Your plant will not flower while receiving this much light. Once you decide your plant is big enough you change your light timer to 12 hours on 12 hours off and this will trick your plants into starting the flowering state
What’s a lighting schedule all about?
There are growers who will provide 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness to their cannabis plants, some use 24 hours of light and zero hours of darkness. I personally stick to the 18/6 schedule. My feeling is that any living thing needs downtime to remain healthy.
Which option is better?
This is awkward, there really isn’t a complete answer to this question. Some growers like 18/6 and some like 24/0. You are going to do alright on either of these schedules so it’s really up to you. Running lights 24/0 will likely result in faster vegetative growth when compared to plants on an 18/6 schedule.
Electricity costs are always a concern so lowering the amount of time your lights run will save you a few dollars. Where I live we get charged different rates for electricity. During peak hours, we pay more. I try to run my downtime during those peak hours to help squeeze out a bit more savings. The other benefit to the 18/6 schedule is that it gives your growing area time to cool down. It will make managing your climate conditions much easier.
If you choose to grow Auto-Flowering plants (ruderalis) then your plants will require an 18/6 light schedule. Playing with the light requirements won’t change anything for an auto-flower plant.
A daily routine for caring for plants in the vegetative stage
When your plants are in the vegetative stage they are tough and resilient, as well there isn’t a load of work to do to maintain your plant’s growth. Here are the basics that you’ll need to keep on top of so that your plants flourish.
Provide water – Watering is very important. Don’t over or under water your plants! Water your plants when the top 2 inches (6cm) of soil is dry to the touch. You can use a hydrometer or your finger to test how wet the soil is. Also, make sure that your growing containing contains enough holes on the bottom so that it provides ample drainage for your plants. As mentioned earlier in this guide you must note use tap water directly with your plants. You must filter and PH balance your water.
Nutrients – Your plants really do not need additional nutrients during the first two or three weeks. At that time, you can start to administer nutrients by adding it to your water. To start, mix your nutrients at half strength for the first week. You can bring the concentration up to full strength after a week of watering with the half strength water/nutrient mix. It’s important to check the PH of your water when you mix in your nutrients to make sure that your PH is between 5.8 and 6.2. You should also check the PH of your runoff water from the bottom of the plant after you water.
Provide light – Use your vegetative grow light or setting on your grow lights as directed. Be sure that you have your timer setup correctly so that your plants are getting 18 hours of light per day and 6 hours of darkness. Be sure to keep your grow lights the recommended distance from your plants. To start if you are using LED set them to 18 inches above your plants if you are using HIP grow lights set them up to be 36 inches away from your plants to start.
Not too cold, not too hot – Don’t let your plants cook! Vegetative plants need warm conditions but not hot. Your goal should be a temperature range of 70-85°F (20-30°C). Make sure the relative humidity in your grow area is at least 30 to 40% as well.
Air circulation – Your cannabis plants require a constant supply of fresh CO2 to grow. This means you need to provide a source of constant fresh air to your grow area. Within your grow area it is also important to use a fan to ensure good air movement to keep your leaves moving gently. This movement of your leaves will strengthen your stems and leaves as they grow.
What do I need to watch out for during my first grow?
- Spotting or strange coloring on your leaves. Don’t panic if you see the odd leave turning yellow or brown and even die. Its normal to lose a small number of leaves as the plant grows. Nearing harvest time when your buds are growing most you might notice leaves turning yellow as your plant directs all its nitrogen to the bud. Other than these two situations your plants should look green and healthy during your grow. If you do find leaves with spots or that have changed colors and you are concerned you can read or section in this guide about identifying problems with your plants.
- Watch out for leaves curling up and falling off if it’s happening more than a few leaves a week. If it’s happening more than this there is something wrong with the plant.
- Smell your plants and grow area closely every day or so looking for rotten or bad smells. These smells could indicate that you have bacteria, mold or rotting issues within your grow area or plants. If you do smell something bad try to locate the issue. If your plants start to smell skunky that’s a good thing and
- Keep a sharp eye out for signs of mold on your leaves. I use a 100x loop to examine my plants. If you find what looks like a white powder on your leaves this is likely a mold known as Powdery White Mildew.
- Watch for “stretching” which is when your plant grows tall with a lot of space between nodes or leaves whereas normally the plant would be bushy with a lot of leaves. This situation calls for increased light because the plant is stretching out to reach more light. Generally, you can lower your lights to increase the amount of energy absorbed by your cannabis plants.
- Keep an eye out for pests including mucus trails, eggs, spots, aphids, flys etc.
- Most issues with your cannabis plants can be solved and treated early and will not affect the longer-term growth of your plants. That’s why keeping a close eye on them is so important. The sooner you catch an issue the more likely you can fix it.
How often do I water my plants?
When dealing with seedlings it’s important not to over water. Seedlings only require damp soil not wet. They also should be kept damp all the time and should not be left to dry out at all. As the seedling matures and grows more leaves and height you can increase the water intake for the plant. At this point use the knuckle technic to know if your plant needs watering. To perform this technic just insert your finger into the soil down to your first knuckle. If the soil is dry at that level then it’s time to water. The other option is to lift the pot up and feel how heavy it is if it’s significantly lighter then it’s dry and requires more water.
To know how much water to give your plants at this stage you should provide water to the plant until about 20% of the water you have poured into your plant drains out the bottom. If you find that water isn’t draining out of the bottom of your pots then you likely have a drainage issue that will need to be corrected. You can add pebbles or rocks to the bottom of your pots to maximize drainage.
No, you can’t train your plants to come like a dog but you can train them to grow and produce the best possible yields. This is not a necessary step and you might want to wait for your second or third grow before experimenting with training.
Training can help you deal with a restricted growth area such as a short tent or a narrow tent area. “Plant training” literally means physically manipulating to achieve the desired results. You can train your plants to be wide and short or tall and bushy, it’s up to you and the requirements of the grow space. If you are going to train your plants you must do it during the vegetative stage of growth. You can’t do very much training for your plant once it reaches the flowering stage.
The buds are about the same size since the plant was trained so that all buds received the same amount of light.
Why do indoor plants generally need to be trained for best results?
When cannabis plants grow under normal sunlight conditions they grow in somewhat of a Christmas tree shape, this is due to how sunlight moves throughout the day. The plants stretch out in many directions to achieve the most sun exposure possible as the sun moves through the sky.
When growing indoors you are providing a stationary light source. This means that your plants won’t achieve the same Christmas tree effect. To counteract the stationary grow lights you need to physically move the plants surface to maximize sunlight exposure.
Indoor grow lights also do not penetrate as deeply into a thick canopy of plant matter. To spread out the canopy training is used so that all of the areas of the plant can receive the maximum amount of grow light.
The three main types of cannabis training are:
- Bending and securing – Bending and securing of the plant are completed with the minimum amount of damage to the plant as possible
- Damaging and removing – Damaging or removing parts of the plant are completed strategically to achieve the desired effect
- Manipulating timelines – Grow times are manipulated in order to produce faster results with higher yields.
Important note: When growing Auto-Flower strains of cannabis it is best to not manipulate timelines or do any aggressive training. With these shorter lifespan plants, this damage could stunt the plant’s growth altogether. Stick to pending and securing with these plant types.
Common cannabis training techniques:
Low-Stress Training (LST) involves bending stems and securing them in place. The grower is looking to bend the stems down and away from the middle of the plant creating a much wider flat plant shape. This shape maximizes the amount of light the plant will be able to collect which leads to bigger healthier buds in the end. It is best to start bending and securing when the plant is young so that the stems are pliable and flexible. This will allow you to bend the plant without damaging it.
Common options for securing your stems are twist ties such as those that come with garbage bags, string or what I like to use are thin pipe cleaners. Pipe cleaners bend easily and have a soft surface which will be gentle on your plants.
Super cropping (Extreme LST) When super cropping the training is more extreme. This technique is used when your plant stems are thick, woody and very hard to bend without breaking the plant. While super cropping you are trying not to break the skin of the plant but softening the inside flesh of the plant. This slight damage to the plant will encourage bushy growth and higher THC concentrations due to the plant trying to heal itself.
Screen of Green (ScrOG) You’ve likely heard this term before but have no idea what it means. (ScrOG) means that you are training your plant to be very flat and wide like the shape of a table. This is accomplished by placing a screen over the plants when they are in the vegetative stage. Once the plant reaches flowering stage the screen can help support heavy buds but the larger improvement is that the plant is all one height and encourages many more buds to grow.
Topping and FIMing are techniques used to slightly injure your young plants to increase the number of buds it can grow when the plant matures.
Topping is completed when the plant has 5 or 6 nodes on the main stem. When topping your plant, you are completely removing the top of your plants main stem. This will lead to your plant growing multiple stems which in turn will produce multiple colas. Once again do not top or FIM older plants. Only perform these options on young plants who will have plenty of grow time to recover and grow.
FIMing is an acronym that stands for “F*CK I Missed” meaning you pinch off the top of the plant and not cut the plant off at the nodes completely. FIMing and Topping both have similar results to the plant. It will grow multiple Colas but FIMing is less invasive to the plant and will speed up the growth of the plant whereas Topping can slow down the plant’s growth.
What you are actually doing is removing two tips at once. When you make the cut you are going through the main tip and the nascent tips that form inside the main tip. This will cause 4 heads to form instead of two. FIMing also promotes bushy growth over your whole plant.
Main-Lining (Creating a Manifold) takes place when the plant is young and is basically evenly splitting the stem into two parts. This will break the apical dominance which will allow the plant to grow big colas/bud sites throughout the plant.
When a cannabis plant is split in this fashion is destroys the apical dominance which is the tendency of the plant to focus its energy on the main stem. With this tendency broken the plant will tend to grow many long and thick bud sites instead of just growing one main bud.
Once the stem is split in two and its next round of growth starts and creates new nodes on the split stems you can then FIM or Top the nodes to create even more bud sites on a single plant.
How long to can you grow your plant in a vegetative stage?
The answer to this is simple if the plant isn’t auto-flowering then you can keep the plant in the vegetative stage for as long as you want. By keeping your plant in its vegetative stage, it will continue to grow bigger without growing buds until you change your light schedules and shorten the amount of light it gets each day. Why would I keep my plant in a vegetative stage longer? Another easy answer, you do this to maximize the plant’s size to fit within your growing space.
If you want to grow a mother plant to cut clones from in the future you would keep your plant in a vegetative state as long as you want so that it continues to grow and you can continue to take cuttings for clones from it. I’ve kept a plant in a vegetative state for 3 years now without any issue.
Do I want bigger plants?
Some growers like myself for example like to grow their plants a large as possible before flowering them, some growers believe that your yields are better by growing more small plants and then flowering them. I’ve tested both ways and found that I do get a much better yield by maximizing my plant size before flowering it. If you have a limited amount of growing space, especially vertical space you’ll want to flower your plants when they are smaller so that you aren’t running out of growing room for your buds.
One rule to follow here is that your plant will double in height from the time you start flowering until it finishes. Take that into account when planning your grow. For example, if you have a 60 inch grow height in your tent and you need 24 inches for an LED grow light and for space between the light and your plants that only leaves you 36 inches of plant height. That means you should start flowering your plant when it reaches just 18 inches maximum or you’ll run out of space for those beautiful buds your growing.
The distance that your plant grows from the start of flowering to the end is called “flowering stretch”.
All strains of cannabis have a different growth profile beyond what you do with training. Some plants are short and bushy, some are tall and lanky. Some plants could stretch more than double the size of their vegetative growth. This is directly dependent on the strain. You can find out the normal growth profile for your plants by reading the packaging your seeds came in. The strains are normally labeled like this:
- Short – usually stretches less than double the height after switching to flowering stage
- Average – may double in height after switching to flowering stage
- Tall – may double or triple in height after switching to the flowering stage
So please keep your flowering stretch in mind when deciding how large you want to grow your plants. You will be greatly restricted by your grow space and the plant’s genetics. This is good news though because you know your plant’s genetics, you know your grow area size and the number of plants you are growing you can make an educated call on when to stop vegetative growth.
The flowering stage will start shortly after adjusting their light schedule down to 12 hours on and 12 hours off. Using your timer select the new on and off time for your plants. Take the cost of energy at peak periods into consideration and try to minimize your energy use to off-peak hours. Your plant won’t know the difference if you change its awake and sleep times.
If you are not growing Feminized or Auto-flower seeds you will need to sex your plants shortly after starting your new grow light schedule and it’s very important that you don’t forget this step or your buds will be full of seeds, YUCK!
At this flowering stage, your female and male plants will begin to show themselves. Your female plants will grow wispy white hairs (pistils) at the joints of the plant and your male plants will grow small sacks that look like little balls.
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. When you make your switch to the “flowering stage” you should start to examine your plants closely every day to inspect for these changes.
Some people also differentiate the sexes of cannabis plants by examining the number of leaves per fan as well as how thick the stems are. Male plants have fewer leaves per fan and have thicker stems.
Once you identify the male plants get rid of them immediately. They are of no use to you and will only cause issues. They do not produce much THC so there is no reason to keep them.
Here’s what cannabis pre-flowers look like for male and female plants:
- When Does Flowering Start?
- The initial growth spurt- flowering “stretch”
- Increasing bud growth(get higher yields)
- How to identify harvest time
- Trimming, drying and curing your buds
When Does Flowering Start?
As mentioned earlier when the grower changes the grow lighting schedule from 18 hours on and 6 hours off or 24 hours on and 0 hours off to the flowering schedule of 12 hours on and 12 hours off; flowering will start shortly thereafter
It is very important to make sure there is no light leak in your grow area, this is another great reason for using a grow tent. If there is any light leakage it could cause your plants to stay or change back to vegetation mode
The 12 hours on 12 hours off schedule signals to the plant that winter time is arriving and that it should start flowering to reproduce itself before dying.
It is very important that no light reaches your plants during their 12-hour lights off period. You should plan on checking on your plants during their daylight cycle otherwise you will interfere with the flowering cycle. It only takes a little light once or twice to reset the plant back to vegetative mode. This change could also cause your plants to become hermaphrodites which means your plant will produce both pollen sacks and buds. This will cause your buds to be full of seeds.
You’ve put a lot of care and work into getting your plants to the flowering stage which is really the most exciting part of growing cannabis as you start to see the growing fruits of your labor. The bad news is this stage of life is prone to more issues such as watering and nutrient problems. From the time, you start on the road to flowering you need to check your plants every day even after you’ve finished sexing your plants.
Issues can show up very quickly at this stage of life so you need to catch things as soon as possible to be able to react and rectify whatever is going on with your plants. Plants stop producing new leaves during the flowering stage as all the plant’s energy is focused on growing buds. Because of this any issues with your leaves such as burning them, nutrient deficiencies or discoloration will lead to leaves that aren’t replaced. Leaves that become discolored lose their ability to absorb energy for the plant when your plants need energy most.
Even if you have some issues with your leaves you should be ok if your buds are intact and you have enough green leaves left to produce energy for your plant. Just stay on top of any issues that arise.
If you notice more leaves yellowing during the last few weeks of flowering you don’t need to panic, its normal to have some loss at this stage. As your plant has grown taller it makes it harder for light to penetrate deep into the plant and this can cause some of the lower leaves or leaves growing from the bud itself to yellow. Just pick off the dead leaves as they happen. Light penetration issues are exactly why you should train your plants from early on. At this stage of the plant’s growth that training will have created ideal conditions for your buds to accept as much light as they can get.
Since your buds require so much energy to grow large and healthy it’s very important to check for a dark or shadowed area of your plants. These shadows mean that your plant will not get enough light in those areas and will cause your buds to grow small or not at all. If you see shadows or dark areas do your best to clear those areas by removing a few leaves or bending the plant to a new position. Get as much light as you can on your buds/flowers, the more light they get the bigger and more potent they will become.
We are getting late in the grow now and you’re likely getting excited and want to harvest those beautiful buds. Stop, relax, take a breath, you need to wait until the right time to harvest or you will lose a lot of the bud’s potency. You’ve come so far don’t ruin it now! A few weeks difference in growing time could make the difference between full strength THC and half strength, yes it can be that big of a deal to harvest early.
Initial Growth Spurt (flowering “stretch)
When cannabis reaches the flowering (budding) stage, different strains tend to start growing more different from each other.
When strains are well-matched, they will tend to stretch about the same amount as each other.
Some strains grow very tall after being switched to flowering, doubling or tripling their height (or more). Other strains stay short and squat after being switched to flowering, and may not stretch much at all.
What to expect for the “flowering stretch?”
A strain that is labeled…
- Short – usually stretches less than double the height after switching to flowering stage
- Average – may double in height after switching to flowering stage
- Tall – may double or triple in height after switching to the flowering stage
How to increase bud growth and yields during the flowering stage
If you have made it this far then you are in pretty good shape. It’s time to start working on increasing the size of your buds during the flowering stage.
Open Buds Site to light: a simple option to increase bud growth is to provide more light directly to the bud areas of the plant. You may need to open bushy areas of your plant to expose your buds to more light. By opening up the surrounding area of the bud you are allowing more light and air to penetrate into the buds which will greatly increase their growth.
To expose these grow sites, you can tuck leaves away from the bud, remove some leaves that are covering the bud or bend branches away from the bud sites. Do not over stress your plants at this stage. Take extra care not to remove too many leaves or to damage the plant stems if you move branches or stems out of the way of your buds. Again, it’s common to pull too many leaves. Be very careful with the number of leaves you remove. Focus instead on moving branches and tucking leaves away as much as possible.
Give plenty of light: Maximize the amount of light reaching your plants by lowering grow lights closer to the plants. Be careful to only lower you’re grow lights 1 inch every few days. After lowering your light watch for signs of burning such as browning, or rolling up of leaves. You may also see the ends of your leaves drying out and turning brown. If this happens you need to raise your light back up 1 inch. This technique works best with LED grow lights. HPS lights produce way too much heat to lower your units very close to your plants. Another check for using LED lights!
Avoid Nutrients with Too Much Nitrogen During Budding: During the flowering stage, your plants require different nutrient mixes. At this point, your plant requires less nitrogen and more phosphorus for healthy growing buds.
During the vegetative stage, the nutrients you provided your plant were high in nitrogen and that will defiantly stunt the growth of buds. I wrote much earlier in this article about nutrients. I use Dutch Pro which contains both vegetative and flowering nutrients in one kit. That’s why I like Dutch Pro so much. When it’s time to switch to flowering you just mix different nutrients in your water. You will be switching to a blooming formula which has less nitrogen and more phosphorus. Be very careful about your nutrients and nutrient mixes at this stage, there isn’t a lot of time to correct issues you may create from the wrong nutrients or even worse too much nutrient.
Lower your nutrient levels as you start flowering: Many growers seem to get this idea that more nutrients = more buds. They might start ramping up on nutrients as harvest is coming, 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 number of nutrients being provided about halfway through the flowering stage, just a little bit at a time.
If you want good tasting buds without spoiling the flavor with nutrients you’ll need to flush your plants as harvest time arrives. The last two weeks before harvest it’s important to switch to 100% water and stop all nutrients. From now until harvest your plants just need water. This ensures that any nutrients built up in the plant are slowly used up or washed away leaving the plant with a much better flavor.
Most of the time when you see pictures of plants ready to harvest they show you pictures from 2 to 4 weeks before harvest. This is because plants will start looking a bit beat up and haggard the closer you get to harvest. This is normal, you will experience leaves yellowing and dying off. This isn’t a nutrient issue but just a natural part of the flowering process. Your buds will continue to ripen and mature while this is happening so don’t panic.
What is truly important is to not over fertilize your plants at any stage of growth and also to ensure that you flush your plant starting at least 2 to 3 weeks before harvest for the best-tasting bud.
Harvest Buds at the Correct Time: Growers that are relatively new or brand new to growing cannabis tend to harvest their buds too early. By harvesting early, you can lose 40 to 50% of your yield weight as well as lose THC potency. The last few weeks of growth before harvest is strictly focused on the fatness of your buds so you want to be sure not to pick early.
Preparing to harvest your cannabis: Not only will harvesting your cannabis early means a loss of yield it can also change the euphoric feeling it creates when consumed. Cannabis harvested early tends to create a head high experience for the user. This high can cause a headache, nausea, and anxiety in some people. If you harvest later the buzz will change and become more stony, relaxed and give you the feeling of heavy eyelids.
Growers have a long window to pick up their cannabis. Some people will harvest 2 months into flowering and some will wait as long as 4 months before harvesting. The right answer is somewhere in the middle.
It’s important to pay attention to the cannabis while it’s growing, and also figure out what works for you. However, there are some general rules to follow.
Here’s a tip to fatten up your buds and make them taste better during the last two weeks of growth before harvesting. Stop all nutrients and switch your water mixture to contain a tablespoon of blackstrap molasses. This process will remove the nutrient flavors from your cannabis while adding a sweet flavor to your buds. This process also adds sugar to the water which is used by the plant to fatten up your buds. Many Bloom formulas will contain sugar for just this purpose.
Some growers also feed their marijuana plants one teaspoon of blackstrap molasses per gallon of water during the last two weeks to help produce bigger and tastier buds.
When to Harvest Your Weed
There are several ways to judge when your cannabis buds are ready for harvesting. The first method involves using a loop to examine the hairs on your buds (pistils). The bud of your plant is made up of bunches of these flowers also called calyxes. These hairs will first appear white in color and as the bud ages will change colors.
The hairs on your buds will change colors from white to yellow, brown and even purple or pink depending on the genetics of your plant. When 50 to 75% of the pistils (hairs) on your buds turn color, this is a good indicator that your plant is ready for harvest. There are acceptations to this rule as some strains remain white for example White Widow.
More accurate Method: Examine your Trichomes closely
The most arcuate way to make a call on when your buds are ready for harvest is to use a loop to examine the Trichomes on your buds. The Trichomes are also known as resin glands, crystals or glitter can provide you with the best option for calculating the correct harvest time.
Trichomes change color as the bud matures from clear to cloudy. 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.
A digital microscope that takes video works even better than a jeweler’s loupe since you get a much clearer pic of the trichomes. These buds are.
These videos were created using the Carson zOrb hooked up to a laptop. This is the most effective way to view your trichomes instead of squinting under a tiny loupe.
Here are some guidelines about trichomes, hairs, and harvesting.
- When white “hairs” are sticking straight out and are clear or translucent your plant is far too young for harvesting. Harvesting at this point would create low yields of non-potent buds.
- The beginning of the harvest window opens when your plant has stopped growing new white “hairs” or pistils and at least 40% of the white hairs have darkened and curled in.
- Under the magnifier, most of the trichomes have turned a milky white cloudy consistency. Milky trichomes contain the highest levels if THC and create the sot after euphoric head high.
- Towards the end of the harvest window, the trichomes are a darker color usually amber or gold. These amber/gold trichomes lead to a body high. Some of the THC has converted to CBN which has other medicinal properties.
Due to these principles, people that want a heady high harvest their buds earlier. For the “strongest” buds with the most effects, harvest when nearly all trichomes are cloudy/milky. For relaxing, more anti-anxiety buds, wait until some of the cloudy trichomes have darkened to amber.
Don’t Harvest Too Early
Remember, 2 months is the minimum length of the flowering stage while your cannabis is growing buds. Some strains of cannabis need to be flowered for a solid 3-4 months or more before they’re ready for harvest.
When using an illuminated microscope or loupe for the first time, my advice is to remove a small piece of bud from the plant. It’s much easier to view the tiny trichomes from a still piece of bud. Next firmly place the microscope over the best section of bud and press the bud down with the microscope or loupe. Now you can focus on the plant material more easily. If the bud is still and the scope is pressing down on the bud you should be able to see the trichomes come into focus.
At this point, you can closely view the trichomes and check their color as well as luminosity (how milky) with your scope.
Trimming, drying & curing time
You’re so close to the finish line. Don’t make any mistakes now, you’re just a short time away from smoking your own home-grown bud. You’ve mastered the grow at all stages and now it’s time for harvest.
You first cut down your plant to prepare it for the drying and curing processes. Use thinly pointed shears for cutting your plants.
“Curing” is the act of drying your buds slowly to preserve and enhance their taste and smell. Your buds have started curing the moment they’ve been cut from the plant and have stopped receiving water and continues if the bud has liquid remaining. When curing you aren’t trying to dry all the moisture from your buds but to reduce the moisture content to around 60% The process of curing your buds removes water as well mellows the taste and smell of your plant matter. Some also say that THC increases in strength during the curing process but I have never been able to prove that is the case.
Drying: How to Trim & Dry Newly Harvested Cannabis
You’ve come so far growing the perfect buds and it’s not time to ruin the whole process by not trimming and drying them correctly. Take your time, do it the right way the first time. The more time you invest in your buds the better they will smoke. Here is a simple method for trimming your buds.
It’s best to remove the buds completely from the branches and leave the rest of the plant matter alone. You only care about the buds so focus your energy on the buds. Buds can be hung by their stem to dry.
Next, you will need to trim the leaves from your buds while they are still fresh. It gets much harder to trim leaves from your buds once they have started drying.
You should aim to remove 100% of the leaves from the bud if possible. Any of the trimmings that come off your buds should be saved as they still contain THC and can be used to make Bubble Hash or Cana butter from them.
Once you have trimmed the leaves from your buds to your satisfaction, take another once over and look closely at all your buds, can you improve the trimming on any of them? If so you really should take the time to clean them up perfectly. Now that you are satisfied with the trimming you completed it’s time to hang the bud’s upside down for the drying process.
Make sure you have plenty of ventilation where you hang your buds to dry as well make sure its ok to have a potent smell of skunk. I personally use my grow tent to dry my buds. I put up a few strings and use alligator clamps to hang each piece if bud from the strings in my tent. With containing the drying buds in your tent, you can continue to use your air scrubber to remove the smell of the plants while they dry in your tent. When hanging the buds make sure that none of the buds touch each other.
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. 60% humidity is optimal when buds are spread out and not touching each other. It’s better if you have a dehumidifier to help reduce the humidity but if you don’t have one it will just take longer. You can also pour white rice into jars and place them inside your grow tent to help decrease humidity.
Drying as slowly as possible without mold will give you the highest quality buds, as this enhances the curing process.
Curing: How to Cure Your Dried Cannabis Buds
Drying is the first part of the cannabis curing process. It’s important to take drying cannabis down at the right time to get the best results from curing.
When there is still moisture in the center of your buds the stems will remain easily pliable. Once the buds have dried all the way to the center the stems will become stuff and snap if you apply pressure to them. At this point, it’s time to take down your buds and get them ready for the curing process. Curing is the final process before you can start to smoke your buds.
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 smaller stems will begin to snap instead of bend.
- Check on your buds several times a day to be sure they don’t over dry. 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 larger stems being bendy is a sign that there is still moisture in them which will be used in the final curing process.
Cannabis buds cure best if you dry it out slowly one time. Don’t let them dry out or you will need to re-wet the buds and this can lead to mold issues.
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.
Cure your dried cannabis buds: step-by-step
To cure your freshly dried buds, just put them in a tightly-closed jar in a cool dark place.
I use any jars I can get but many people will use a quart canning jar. My favorite jars to use are old food jars. For example, I love honey jars. If you need to cure a lot of bud at once you can just go buy a case of canning jars for $20.00 and have enough storage for a larger grow.
Each of your jars should be willed with your buds up to about the 75% mark which leaves 25% of the jar from airspace. Close the jar lids loosely to allow small amounts of air to enter or leave the jars.
The number one rule here is to check your curing buds often. At this stage, it would be truly sad to over dry your buds. You really want to cure the buds over a few weeks or as slow as possible.
When are my Buds Cured?
Buds are considered cured when the moisture content is about 60%. The buds should feel dry to the touch but still be pliable and squishy to the touch. Remember to open your jars regularly to reduce the moisture levels if need be.
I generally keep my bud in jars until I smoke it. The jars allow you to control the moisture content over time while the buds wait to be smoked. Remove bud from only one jar and leave the rest of the jars closed once the curing process is over. You don’t want to be letting all the moisture out of your jars. You can even remove a weeks’ worth and keep it in a bag to prevent having to open the jars often.
Congratulations. You’ve started from seed and now have cured cannabis ready to smoke. It’s a journey and a process but you will likely feel very satisfied when you smoke your own homegrown for the first time. I know I’m extremely proud of my product and love to share it to get peoples comments.
Just remember the time it took to grow from start to finish. If you are planning on growing again right away you should get your seeds germinating as soon as possible and start the process over again. I currently grow 3 times a year with a couple weeks off between each grow. You could get 4 grows a year out if you start seeds ahead of time in a separate area.