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If you enjoy cannabis, growing your own can be a very rewarding practice—yet many people seem to struggle to produce truly top-drawer bud. This introduction to cannabis cultivation will help you avoid the most common pitfalls and put you on a path for success with growing cannabis. The information shared here is meant for true beginners, although anyone who appreciates marijuana would do well to follow these simple guidelines.
So, if you’re a newbie with a strong desire to develop your green thumb, read further to ensure that you get off to a good start. By setting yourself up for success from the get-go, you will soon enjoy the rewards of your efforts. In just a few months’ time, you will have a significant supply of high-quality cannabis.
Getting Your Cannabis Grow Started
First, eliminate any doubts that you can grow excellent bud. Contrary to what you’ve read or been told, cannabis is a very resilient plant and is relatively easy to grow. Many people consider it more challenging to grow outstanding tomatoes than outstanding cannabis flowers. You can do this! All you need is a little practice and confidence.
To start, let’s discuss one of the main things that will set you up for success: genetics. Good genetics are very important to the overall quality of your plants and the flowers they yield. While it makes sense to use bag seed while you learn the ropes and gain some experience, you will most likely have better results buying a hardy strain from a commercial seed or clone company.
Using Cannabis Clones
Clones provide a definite advantage since the plant already has a head start and is growing into something that is already a known quantity—an OG Kush clone will definitely grow into an OG Kush plant that is the same quality as its mother plant since it’s a cutting from that plant. Seeds are more variable, with a variety of phenotypes that can emerge from a single pack of seeds—all similar but somewhat different. Seeds and clones appeal to people with different mindsets and goals. Clones provide reliable consistency, but seeds provide the possibility of producing something new and exciting.
If using clones from an outside source, be sure to examine them carefully and, if possible, keep them separate from established plants in your grow until you are confident they won’t introduce parasites or diseases into your grow, which most often present themselves in the form of spider mites or powdery mildew. Once established, spider mites and powdery mildew are a challenge to eradicate, so keeping them out of your grow is extremely important. Prevention is the best medicine.
Growing Cannabis From Seed
If you choose to grow your plants from seed, a variety of methods work to germinate them (see here). The towel method is one of the oldest methods and is simple and reliable if monitored closely. You want the sprouted seed to develop a family long root (an inch or so), and if a seed sheds its outer shell, you can still plant it, and the resulting seedling will be viable.
Both soil and hydroponic methods of cultivation are popular for growing cannabis. For beginners, soil is the best choice. Young cannabis plants require very moist soil—but not wet. This is probably the biggest mistake that beginner cannabis cultivators make. Proper soil drainage and providing just enough water to make the soil moist to the touch but not wet is critical. There should never be pools of water on the soil surface. Just like soil additives (fertilizers), more is not better—in fact, it can cause serious problems for the plants and result in root rot and an overall failure to thrive. Once again, heed this warning.
The vessel in which you plant your cannabis seeds or clones is extremely important. Adequate drainage is essential to robust, thriving plants. Many beginners will use a paper cup or other container that lacks proper drainage. If the growing vessel doesn’t allow complete drainage, water will collect at the bottom, and the roots will be exposed to constant, stagnant water—which is very undesirable and will result in root rot and very sick plants. A 3- to 5-gallon pot purchased at any nursery or home improvement store will serve your needs well. Although you can use smaller pots and gradually transplant to a larger size as the plants grow, using the final size from the beginning will cause less stress to the plants and allow the root systems to stretch out and grow unhindered until the plant’s flower stage.
Choose a good soil mix in which you will plant your seeds or transplant your clones. Fox Farms makes a good organic soil mixture, and the Fox Farms Big Bloom, Grow Big, and Tiger Bloom soil additives work very well together and are about as close as you can get to pure organic cultivation from a bottle. Fox Farms and other companies that sell fertilizers (usually referred to as “soil additives” in the cannabis space) will often provide feeding schedules. Provide additives at about half the recommended dosage, and add slightly more if necessary. Many new cannabis growers go with the “more is better” approach, which is nearly always a mistake. Cannabis will succumb to too much nitrogen in its diet, with the result being burned, curled flower tips and an overall failure to thrive. Heed this warning to not overfeed, or you will be sorry.
The first step to growing is planting your sprouted seed. Using well-moistened soil, use your index finger to create a small hole on the soil surface. Then, carefully insert the sprouted seed, root side down until the sprout almost reaches the level soil surface. To complete planting, cover the sprout so it’s barely covered with soil. Then, very carefully trickle a small amount of water directly over the covered sprout, ensuring it remains covered. Maintain moist—but not sopping wet—soil, and your plants will break the soil surface in one to three days.
Proper Lighting for Your Cannabis Grow
Light cycles dictate the vegetative and flower stages of the cannabis lifecycle. Although experienced growers experiment with various light cycle durations—even going as long as 24 hours of continuous light during the vegetative stage—the best approach for beginners is to provide 18 hours of light and six hours of darkness per day during the veg stage. Deciding when to induce flowering is largely up to the grower and depends on how tall the grower want the plants to grow. To induce flowering, the grower must adjust the timers to an even 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. Reducing the light cycle from 18 hours of light to 12 hours will cause the plants to reveal their sex in as little as a few days to as long as two weeks for some strains.
These tried-and-true light cycles will provide the plants with all they need for proper photosynthesis. Of course, if growing plants outdoors, the natural shortening of daylight time during late summer and fall will naturally induce the plants to flower. With indoor cultivation, however, the grower must manually manipulate the vegetative and flower cycles with the use of appropriate timers (make sure the timers are compatible with the light wattage). High Pressure Sodium (HPS), Metal Halide (MH), and Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting are the most commonly used lights for cannabis—with LED and HPS being the two most commonly used. An internet search will provide plenty of information and sources for each of these lights.
SOG and ScrOG Cannabis Growing Methods
Large grows—including commercial grows—often utilize SOG and ScrOG growing methods. ScrOG promotes the development of multiple bud sites, while SOG promotes the development of a single large cola (the largest buds on a cannabis plant). Beginners may eventually advance to utilizing these growing methods, but for simplicity’s sake they shouldn’t worry about it while developing their early cultivation skills. Instead they should simply choose to grow the same strain throughout the grow or choose strains that will reach a similar height. Among the most popular cannabis strains on the market, both Blue Dream and Gorilla Glue #4 are great choices for beginners. These strains are hardy and forgiving to minor mistakes on the part of the grower.
Most strains these days are available in regular and feminized versions (auto flowering versions are also gaining in popularity). Novice growers should choose feminized seed for their first gardens. Feminized seed will ensure that all of the plants will mature to be females, eliminating the need to identify and weed out any males that will occur when using regular seed. Not identifying males and removing (destroying) them soon enough can have a devastating effect on a cannabis grow, because no one likes to consume seeded marijuana.
Topping Your Cannabis Plant
Regardless of what strain the grower selects, the decision of whether or not to top the plants should be made during the vegetative stage. For most indica strains topping is not required, but for lanky sativas and some sativa-dominant hybrids that like to stretch, topping is a serious consideration. Topping cannabis plants should be done about two or three weeks prior to the flower stage. To top a plant, simply cut the tip off the apical meristem, the growing tip of the main shoot—the very top of the plant. This will cause the main stem to fork into two main branches. Topping will also promote lateral growth of the lower branches, causing the plant to develop a bushier, shorter look overall.
Ready To Start Growing Your Own?
By following the general guidelines outlined here, you will succeed at growing good cannabis—and depending on the genetics you use, your crop could be outstanding. If you enjoy cannabis, growing your own will help ensure you have a steady supply of high-quality flower at all times. So, roll up your sleeves and take the plunge. You’ll be happy you did—and probably wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!