Growing cannabis is not the same as cultivating vegetables

Published Jan 6, 2021 02:00 p.m. ET
iStock / amenic181

If someone were to ask you what type of plant grows similarly to cannabis, would you suggest vegetables? Most who are trying to make light of the work that goes into the process of cultivating cannabis will use vegetables as a comparison tool because they are one of the most common and easiest consumable goods to grow, but the reality is that the needs of a cannabis plant are much more demanding and refined than what you might be used to if your only experience is with a small vegetable garden.

1. Light

Vegetable plants tend to do well outdoors during the growing season because their basic needs are met by nature, but in an ideal world, most types of veggies thrive best under prolonged light exposure that can average between 18-24 hours. A potted plant, on the other hand, only enjoys this might light exposure during the vegetative stage, and once the flowering stage begins, for optimal yields, any kind of grow lights or sunlight must be reduced to 12 hours on and 12 hours off to prevent unnecessary stress.

2. Cost

If you’ve purchased some vegetable seeds lately, then you know that they don’t cost more than a few dollars per package, and that is because it is really easy to harvest just part of a crop to be processed into seeds rather than being sold as produce. They are also cheap to care for, requiring very little after planting, but one single cannabis plant seed can cost upwards of $10 or more, and the specialized care that they require to flourish really adds up by the end of the season.

3. Environment

When you’re looking at the difference between the environments that are required for a pot plant versus your average vegetable, then you need to consider both heat and humidity.

  • Heat
    Ideal temperatures for vegetables can range from the lower end of the spectrum for leafy greens to higher need varieties such as tomatoes or strawberries, but the needs of a cannabis plant are much more specific. Any temperature drops that go below 25°C or go above 32°C could be damaging to the production of buds, as the decrease triggers a stress-induced response that stunts growth.

  • Humidity
    Though you may be able to get a small harvest from a cannabis plant that’s flowered in a dry region, these tropical species do the best when they are surrounded by an environment that maintains an average of 75% for seedlings, and between 50%-60% once they reach the flowering phase. Leafy vegetables, on the other hand, do better at between 40%-50%, and fruiting varieties such as tomatoes require an incredibly high 60%-70% to be at their very best.


4. Watering

You need water to cultivate any type of plant, but how much you need and how frequently you should do it highly depend on the species. Though both vegetables and cannabis can do well, using hydroponics, growers have found that cannabis can be cultivated more efficiently to produce a larger harvest using a smaller amount of water that is consistently fed through a drip type system. Some vegetables like spinach thrive under a wetter growing medium, whereas root vegetables only really need a lot of water during the rooting or intubation stages.

5. Reproducing

Most types of vegetables do not fare well with the cloning process, and many simply don’t have the structure for it to be plausible, which forces you to have to start each plant with seeds, but cannabis has the built-in benefit of being perfectly suited to be cloned, a process that can turn one single plant into more than dozens that have the same genetic structure as the mother plant they were taken from. Cannabis can of course, also be produced with seeds, but this is a time and space consuming endeavor that can be avoided entirely with a single female pot plant.

Is a cannabis plant harder to grow?

There are benefits and struggles to be experienced no matter what type of plant you choose to grow, but one thing is clear and it’s that cannabis plants cannot be treated in the same way that you would vegetables because, in most ways, their needs are significantly different from one another.

That doesn’t necessarily make one easier or more challenging than the other, and skills in this area are transferrable, but if you want your plants to thrive, it is important that you realize they can’t be treated like any old plant that you might stick out in your garden because if they are, you probably aren’t going to be satisfied with the results of your experience.

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