Whether it's to control budget or because it's hard to acquire clones, many are interested in learning how to grow cannabis from seed. Growing marijuana has never been easier or more accessible. Our guide to growing cannabis takes you from the planning stages to the final stages of your harvest. If you’re ready to start growing your favorite strain, keep reading.
Step 1: Sourcing and Germinating Seeds
If you can’t or don’t want to grow from clones, seeds are a great (and some may say better) alternative. Finding high-quality seeds is easier said than done. Dispensaries in states with medical or adult-use cannabis may carry cannabis seeds. In states without cannabis laws, finding seeds is strictly limited to online cannabis seed banks.
Do your research on the many available seed banks that ship to the U.S. While many say they ship worldwide, they may exclude the U.S. in the fine print. Seed banks differ in seed selection. They also offer a variety of payment methods and discreet shipping. Some of the most popular seed bank sites include Attitude Seed Bank, True North Seed Bank, Amsterdam Marijuana Seeds, and Seedsman.
Cannabis seeds require germinationto jumpstart the growing process. The simplest way to achieve this is through the paper towel method. During this process, the germ in the seed breaks through the outer shell forming a root, also known as a taproot. Germination can take a day or up to a week. Germinated seeds can be placed in the growing medium.
Step 2: Location and Light
Cannabis can be grown indoors or out. However, most towns that allow for home cultivation require gardens to be secured and away from public view. Regardless of where you choose to grow, your space must have the right amount of light and space to grow.
If you’re growing outdoors, consider any large trees that may cast a shadow or shrubs and bushes that can limit its space. North American growers should plant their garden in a space that faces the South to increase the amount of light it gets.
Growing indoors? Consider the height of your space and garden. Don’t forget about including the hanging lamp height in your calculations. Grow lights need to be a certain distance away from lights to prevent burns and avoid stretching if the light is too weak.
Indoor growers can grow in basements, garages, rooms, and even closets. Many growers start off with a grow tent, which provides a contained space for cannabis gardens. Many tent options come with all the necessary pots, lighting, filters, and fans needed to start growing from seed.
Once you’ve chosen your preferred space to grow your garden, it’s time to consider lighting, an integral part of the process. Most growers choose metal halide (MH) lamps during the vegetative stage. They switch over to high-pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs during the flowering stage.
Others may stick to their fluorescent and LED options. These can provide the right level of supplementary lighting for HID lamps. If you’ll be depending on LED lamps for your garden, make sure they have a full spectrum of white light. Full-spectrum LEDs are a bit more expensive than conventional HID lights, but they can save you money on energy bills. 250 to 400-watt HID lights can work for small gardens.
Step 3: Medium and Container
The medium of your plant refers to the base structure of your plant’s roots. A container keeps your medium, nutrients, and water contained when needed. Outdoor growers can use dirt, topsoil, compost, and other soil amendments to create a thriving microbiome needed to feed the plant’s roots.
Indoors growers, on the other hand, are increasingly preferring soil-less growing methods. Mediums made from peat, sphagnum, and coco act like soil. They hold the moisture and air needed to absorb the necessary nutrients.
Many smart pot options have holes around the sides and bottom of the container to improve water drainage. These breathable pots allow roots to get oxygen during the dark cycle. The pots prevent water build-up, which can lead to root rot and mold.
Step 4: Nutrients
Choosing the right nutrients is important for the best growth possible. Cannabis plants require certain nutrients to grow its roots, foliage, and buds. Nutrient solutions usually include an N-P-K ratio (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium). Nutrient solutions come in grow and bloom formulas for vegetative and flowering stages, respectively. Grow formulas have higher ratios of nitrogen compared to bloom formulas due to their differing needs.
Start off by reading your nutrient solution’s instructions and create a diluted solution at ½ to …” the recommended dosage. Starting off with a lower-than-recommended dose ensures you don’t overfeed and ruin your crop. If within a week or 10 days you don’t see any signs of nutritional deficiencies, you can increase the dosage to the listed levels on the packaging. If however, your plant looks healthy, you can continue your feeding levels.
Ideally, you want to use organic fertilizers to avoid salt build-ups in the medium. Organic and veganic nutrients are pricier than synthetic fertilizers, but they produce a far better product. Organic nutrients are helpful to bring out the cannabinoid and terpenes from your strain.
Some outdoor growers choose to feed their gardens through a composted mediumthat has many of the minerals needed for the plant’s growth. Others use time-release pellets that contain nutrients that are slowly released into the medium.
Step 5: Vegetative Stage
A plant’s vegetative stage is the first (some might say most important) part of the growth process. Much of the plant’s size and yield are produced during this time. Some may say that longer vegetative periods can lead to bigger yields. Vegetative periods can last between a couple of weeks to a couple of months.
Plants will remain in a vegetative stage when the light-dark cycle has more light than dark hours. Indoor growers set light timers to provide their plants with a minimum of 18 hours of light per day during this stage. During its dark cycle, the roots develop, so every hour of light and darkness matters.
Many growers use MH bulbs during this stage. MH bulbs have blue wavelengths, which are necessary to keep your plants from growing tall and wild. Indoor growers may prefer this set-up to keep their plants short and bushy. MH bulbs can produce plants with short internodal lengths (the distance between the main stem and the branches).
During this stage, you can employ different training and pruning techniques to maximize growth and yields. For instance, topping a plant involves removing the top shoot of the main stalk near the end of the vegetative stage. When cut, the plant produces additional shoots under the shoot’s cut, where buds can form during the flowering stage.
During this time, you can also install a trellis system to train the plants to grow a certain way. A trellis system can stretch out your plant to get better and more even light coverage. When branches become too heavy, the trellis can support the structure, but requires you to weave the branches through the trellis grid.
Step 6: Flowering Stage
After the vegetative stage comes the flowering stage. When growing outdoors, the flowering stage comes after the summer solstice (late July), when there are fewer daylight hours (under 12 hours of light).
Indoor growers can mimic the same process by reducing the light period using a light timer. Growers can set their timers on a 12-12 light-dark cycle. Strains vary in their flowering period, but most strains can flower in 8 to 9 weeks.
You’ll want to pay close attention to your plants during the final part of its flowering stage. Plants can grow half their size in the late stages. Some growers use HPS bulbs to increase the yield, but this can also cause plants to stretch. Try balancing the red wavelengths of HPS bulbs with an MH bulb with shorter blue wavelengths.
Throughout the flowering stage, you’re going to have to prune your plant. During this stage, most of the focus should go into growing the bud sites, not leaves or stems. It’s up to you to prune the dead leaves that take focus and energy away from bud growth.
Most bloom nutrient formulas lack the nitrogen needed during its vegetative stage. But, they have a higher ratio of phosphorus and potassium. This lack of nitrogen is the cause of the yellowing leaves and foliage growth.
Step 7: Flushing
Flushing is a critical aspect of the growing process. During this process, growers use water at the late stages of the flowering period. A water-only diet ensures the nutrients are completely flushed from the plant. Growers can flush for a week or up to two, depending on their preference.
Flushing may result in your plant’s leaves turning a yellow color, a clear sign of nutrient loss. Don’t fret, flushing is for the good of your plant and buds. Proper flushes ensure you have a smooth smoke or vape. Some say that cannabis that burns into white ash has been properly flushed compared to one that burns black.
Step 8: Harvest and Drying
After many weeks of tending to your plants, it’s finally time to harvest your buds. Cutting and drying weed requires a careful hand to produce a ripe bud. Generally, growers should cut down their plants at the end of the dark cycle, just before the sun or lights appear.
Cutting down branches during this time allows you to prevent the plant from starting up its photosynthesis process, which can bring moisture and minerals back up from the roots.
But, how does one cut down a plant exactly? Many growers start off by cutting individual branches at the top of the plant. Cut the branch right below the first shoot. This cut allows you to hang each branch upside down from its base during the drying process.
If you’re dealing with more than one strain, make sure to label each branch with its appropriate strain name and plant.
Once you’ve cut down all your branches, hang them upside down in a dark and dry space for 5 days to a week. Proper air circulation is a must to keep the evaporation process going. Fans are helpful tools to maintain air circulation. A hygrometer can help you keep track of your space’s humidity levels. If levels get too high, bring in the dehumidifier to maintain a balance.
Step 9: Trimming and Curing
Don’t lose steam quite yet. The trimming and curing process may be one of the last, but certainly not least important steps of the process. How well you cure your buds determines the quality, aroma, and flavor of your cannabis.
Before you cure your cannabis, you need to trim your nugs from your cannabis plant. Large scale growers may send branches through a machine trimmer, but home growers depend on hand-trimming for a more effective prune.
Now, let’s consider the differences between wet and dry trimming. Wet trimming involves trimming the buds immediately after the harvest without letting any of the moisture evaporate. Dry trims happen after the bud branches have been dried for a certain amount of time.
Theres a debate between which method is best, but it ultimately depends on your preference. Some growers say dry trimming is easier compared to pruning sopping wet buds. Others say that wet trimming ensures less of the trichomes stay on its bracts. Regardless of the method you choose, you must trim before curing your cannabis.
Curing is another integral aspect of the harvesting process. Curing is a slow drying process that usually occurs in a UV-protected glass jar. Cannabis buds are placed inside the jar for a week or up to two months, depending on your preference. Some growers argue that longer cures result in better cannabis, but it’s all subjective.
During the curing process, you want to store your cannabis jars in a dry and cool place that doesn’t get a lot of direct light. For maximum freshness, burp your jars once or twice a day. Burping your buds allows the moisture to slowly evaporate and release from the jar. Just leave your jars open for up to 10 minutes every time.
Buds are usually cured for a week or up to 10 days. Use your senses to determine their peak freshness. Open the jar and smell your buds. Do you notice a difference over time? Practice makes perfect. Over time, you’ll learn the best time to stop curing and start smoking.
Step 10: Enjoy
Once you’ve grown your plant to its maturity, you can reap the fruits of your labor. Growing your own cannabis allows you to control every aspect of the process. You can smoke or vape your cannabis. You can also create a range of edibles, concentrates, and topicals using your home-grown buds.
Online Cannabis Training
Want to learn how to grow your favorite strain? Enroll in CTU’s online cannabis training program. Our curriculum teaches you the basics of starting up your garden. Even if you're on a tight budget, cannabis gardens can be affordable. We give you cost-cutting tips to grow cannabis in any-sized space!