Everything you need to know to grow your cannabis plants at home

Published Jan 25, 2019 05:30 p.m. ET

 Now that legalization of marijuana has swept the globe, customers are finally getting to see what the cost of purchasing cannabis from legally licensed distributors is, and most aren’t impressed. While many argue there are deals to be had, you will need to be forking out a fair amount of cash if you’d like to partake. Luckily, at least in Canada, it is now legal in most provinces to grow some of your own. The general rule is four plants per household. The cost of the product is significantly lower when growing it yourself. You also get the ability to decide precisely what goes into it. Many commercial operations will use fertilizers that make some people uneasy. While you may still choose to use fertilizer, when growing it yourself you can opt for more organic options like crushed eggshells.

You must be thinking about what you need to start growing weed. Many assume that pot plants are finicky and require extra care to thrive, but that isn't usually true. Cannabis plants, for the most part, are reasonably hardy. This beginners guide should help to answer any questions you may have about growing marijuana indoors. Including steps, materials, time, and other variables to consider. Ready to get started on your cannabis grow room? Here’s what you will need to start growing weed.

Begin by choosing a strain

If you are really at square one, then you need to begin by choosing a strain that appeals to you. Make sure to do your research. Seeds can generally be purchasedfor anywhere from $5- $100 each depending on what kind of seed you buy. Discounts can often be found in bulk orders. Cheaper seeds tend not to be feminized. Feminized seeds will only produce females. Female plants are the ones you need, as male plants produce buds full of seed, and yield next to nothing. Male plants also have much less THC content, so likely won’t give you high you are looking for. When comparing seed prices, you should also be looking at the total expected yield, average produced THC content, and length of time required to fully mature. Lastly, consider the space you plan on growing in. Is it warm? Cooler? Try to choose a strain with needs that can be easily met in the area you are providing for it.

Materials/tools needed to grow:

  • Pots (fabric will slowly degrade but is recommended over plastic because they allow oxygen the easiest access to the roots) the size of pot will depend on the size of your space, but generally, 1-2-gallon pots are recommended
  • Seeds
  • Soil (the best quality available as it will come with the most nutrients)
  • LED grow lights or the more recommended HID light and timer
  • A small well-ventilated room
  • Fertilizer (one made specifically for marijuana is best, but any fertilizer meant for veggie plants will work well)
  • A fan
  • Peat moss pots or paper towel and a baggie to germinate the seeds

Set-up

Begin by choosing the room you will use for your cannabis grow room. If the room is large, you may want to consider building an enclosure or hanging curtains to contain the light, but for this guide, we are going to keep things simple. Hang your lights. The best thing to keep in mind here is if your lights get too hot and are too close to a ceiling, they can create a fire hazard. The next thing you need to know is the reach of your light. For instance, some will evenly light several feet, where others focus their energy more within only a few feet. The cheapest LED lights should be hung as close to your plants as possible throughout the process of growing as they aren't nearly as strong. Make sure all of your lights can be set by a timer. Some will have one built in. If yours don't, you can find one at any Home Depot for under $10. They are usually placed over the plug before you plug your lights in.

Step 1: First step is to germinate your seeds. There are two different ways to do this.

  • Soak peat moss pods until ready for use in room temperature water. Once the pods are fully expanded plant one seed 2cm deep into each pod. When finished place all pods into a container that will make it easy to water and keep them moist. You want to be able to water the pods from the bottom and allow them to soak up the moisture on their own. You never want to pour water directly onto the pods, or you will uncover or completely lose your seeds. The container can be placed anywhere room temperature and should sprout in 3-7 days. Light is not necessary until you see the sprouts emerge.
  • The other method frequently used it the paper towel method. Just dampen a paper towel and place it flat into the baggie. Space your seeds by approximately one inch and then cover with a second layer of damped paper towel. Do not seal the baggie. The baggie can then be hung on the wall with a small piece of tape. Hanging it sideways will also allow any excess water to run out. Sprouts should begin to emerge over the next 3-7 days.

Step 2: Once your plants sprout it’s time to set a timer on your lights. If you are using peat moss pods, they can be placed under the light in the pods for the first few days.

If you are using the paper towel method, you can place the baggie near the light, but you will need to transfer them into dirt and pots once you see roots fully forming. When they are ready gently remove the sprouts from the paper towel. Be careful not to break any of the roots, and plant each one in its pot approximately one inch deep. Enough that all roots are covered, and the plant can hold itself up. Timers at this stage should be set to stay on for 18 hours, and off for 6 hours. Lights should stay set this way for 3-5 weeks.

Step 3: Make sure to keep them moist. You do not want to see any pooling of water on top of the dirt. If you do, gently empty it and wait until the soil dries before you water them again. If using peat moss pods, once you see roots breaking through the casings they will need to be planted into larger pots of soil. Do this by digging a hole just a little wider, and deeper than the pods. You want to be able to place the pod inside the hole and completely cover it while also burying 1 inch of the stem. Once finished water generously to soften the new soil and place the plants back under the light.

*Tip for watering- Young plants require watering an average of once every seven days. Larger plants require watering every day. *

Step 4: Once your plants are between 3-4 weeks old you can adjust the light setting to on for 12 hours and off for 12 hours. Next, it’s time to add a fan to the room. The blowing will simulate the wind and give your plants strength. At this stage, you should also begin fertilizing. Follow the directions according to the fertilizer you chose. Some can last for weeks after being sprinkled on the dirt, while others are added into the water infrequently. You do not want to put fertilizer directly on top of plants. It can burn them. The higher end soil will provide nutrients for the first few weeks, but after that, it’s up to you. At 3-4 week the plants begin to shift from a vegetative stage to the flowering stage.

Step 5: You should begin to see buds appear approximately four weeks after setting your lights to 12 hours on and 12 off. At this stage, if you used non-feminized seeds, you will need to be separating the males. Non- feminized seeds have a 50/50 chance of producing either a male or female, so be prepared to lose a few here. You can identify males by their “balls.” Males at this stage are beginning to form seeds. That’s what the balls are. Females are more likely to have crystals, and red or white hairs visible. Males must all be immediately removed from the vicinity to avoid pollination. If the males get a chance to pollinate the females, then the whole crop can be ruined. In the very least, you will end up with seedy weed and a lower yield.  

Step 6: Cannabis plants will fully mature after two to three months of flowering. The exact amount of time depends on the strain chosen. You should be able to tell when they are ready by visually inspecting them. They should smell, they should have visible crystals, and the plants overall growth will have been stunted by this point.

Step 7: Once you are sure they are fully mature, it’s time to harvest your bud! Harvesting is easy. Cut each plant down at the base, leaving the plant itself still fully intact. Take scissors and cut any extra leaf by trimming all the edges. The leaf is smokable but doesn’t get you high. The leaf can be kept for making things like cannabutter or oil. If that doesn't interest you, then you can throw it away.

(insert photo of trimmed vs. untrimmed buds)

Step 8: Now it’s time to dry it. You can layer your plants on newspaper, or hang them in a dark, dry room for 7-8 days. If they are placed anywhere with too much moisture, they could mold instead of drying. Do not forcefully dry it. If you heat it with an oven or hair dryer, you will ruin the taste. To check for proper dryness, try to pull off a bud at the stem. The stem should crack and not bend. If it still seems moist allow a couple more days to finish drying.

Step 9: Time to enjoy! It’s that easy!

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