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If you love cannabis and have never grown it yourself, you’ve most likely wondered exactly what it takes to grow top-drawer flower on a limited budget. The idea of managing a personal cannabis garden may be intimidating to some people who feel they lack the skill to produce anything truly exceptional. “Leave it to the experts” is the philosophy of the majority of avid cannabis consumers, but there’s really no reason why this should be the case.
While there is some learning involved, growing good cannabis isn’t rocket science. By the third or fourth grow, most novice cannabis cultivators should be armed with the knowledge to grow exceptional flower. From then on, the quality is bound to get increasingly better with each successive grow. At that point, growing cannabis is fun, and a hobby most people enjoy for a lifetime. Not only can a grower derive great satisfaction from the fruits of their labor, but they also will save a considerable amount of money, because excellent cannabis flower has always commanded a fairly high price.
In this article, you’ll learn more about the basics of what it takes to grow good cannabis. Hopefully, you will feel less intimidated by the prospect of growing your own, and you’ll be ready to hit the ground running with cultivating a garden of your own.
What Do You Need?
Before you can begin, there are some initial start-up costs involved. After this outlay of cash, however, subsequent grows will be much cheaper. Rest assured that this initial cost will more than make up for itself after the first grow with the savings the cultivator enjoys from not having to buy flower ever again—unless he or she chooses to do so, of course.
Here are the essentials of what you’ll need:
High-Quality Cannabis Genetics
The quality of the cannabis you grow is limited only by the quality of genetics you purchase. Most home growers cultivate from seed, but if you have access to good clones in your area, this is another option that makes the process easier since the plants already have a head start. Seed banks and brokers are great sources for exceptional cannabis genetics, and many of them will ship worldwide in discreet packaging. They can help you decide which strains are quality like Blue Dream or OG Kush.
Your grow room will require high-quality grow lights. Whether you use HID lights (usually high-pressure sodium or metal halide) with ballasts or light-emitting diode (LED) lights, you will determine the number of lights you will need based on the square footage of your grow area. Good lights are a long-term investment, so weigh your options and choose carefully.
Eye Hooks, Chains, or Wire
Durable eye hooks are necessary for hanging your lights. Since the height of the lights will change as the plants grow, small-gauge chains (heavy wire will substitute in a pinch) will allow you to adjust the lamps at various stages during the grow.
As obvious as this component of the grow may seem, it’s the one that most people have difficulty accommodating. The grow room requires the approximate amount of space for the lights that will go within. It must also allow for air circulation and ventilation. A large walk-in closet or room is often the perfect area. In the absence of these spaces, a grow tent or cabinet will also suffice—and many of them are quite good—but it will limit the grow to fewer plants.
Most cannabis consumers today appreciate the superior flavor and lack of synthetic additives that organically grown cannabis provides. Organic soil mixes are the best way to ensure you will accomplish this goal.
Organic Soil Additives. Cannabis plants will grow well in the initial stages from the organic nutrients contained in their soil. As these nutrients deplete over time and are flushed from the oil from watering, they will require organic additives, or as close to purely organic that’s possible from a bottle. There are a number of fine soil additives for cannabis on the market.
Growing cannabis requires good-quality pots that drain very well. The pots must have enough holes and open panels at the bottom to make this possible. Smart pots and Air Pots® make good choices for cannabis since they promote good root development and make overwatering nearly impossible.
Mylar Wall Covering
A grow room always benefits from a mylar wall covering that reflects the light rays back onto the plants, magnifying their effectiveness. Rolls of mylar are readily available in sheet form that is easy to install as wall covering. In the absence of mylar, bright white paint works well, too.
Water pH Meters
Water with a proper pH level is important for plants to reach their full potential. Cannabis grows best when provided with water ranging from 6.0 to 6.5 pH. Since a lot of city tap water pH is not within this range, pH boosters and reducers may prove beneficial.
There are many products on the market that will help optimize a grow but are not absolutely essential. Some of these extras are more useful in some environments more than others. The list includes humidity meters, humidifiers, thermometers, heaters, plastic sheeting (floor protection), pot saucers and trays, wood, wire, or twine for a SCRG Grow screen.
Once you determine how much space you will allocate for your cannabis grow, you need to set up the room so it’s ready once you have young clones or germinated seeds to begin your cultivation project. Invest in your seeds wisely since they can be expensive. For your first few grows, go with a hardy strain rated as a good choice for beginners. Good genetics do not have to be expensive, so go with one of the time-tested favorites.
Be careful with your seeds, and don’t bury them too deep in soil once they germinate. There are different methods for germinating seed, but the paper towel method is one of the easiest and best procedures to follow. Once your seeds are germinated and in soil, they are ready to go into the grow room, where they will receive 18 hours of light and six hours of darkness per day for the entire vegetative phase of growth. As a new grower, you will undoubtedly want to monitor the plants closely, but the best thing to do is leave them alone and not mess around with them unnecessarily. Do not overwater them! Overwatering is one of the most common mistakes beginner growers make. The soil should be moist to the touch but never sopping wet. Young seedlings will appreciate moister soil than older plants, but be sure to not overwater. As the seedlings grow, you will want to water when the soil surface appears dry and is moist slightly below the surface. In arid environments, water may be necessary daily, but in more humid climates, it may only be necessary every two or three days.
Most varieties of grow lights should be placed a few feet above the plants at all stages of growth. As the plants grow upward, the lights will require height adjustments.
If you plan to top your plants for bushier plant growth and higher yield per plant, top them after there are four nodes. Topping twice is probably the most common practice, but topping is at the discretion of the grower, and some people will top only once, while others will top three times. Topping should only be done during the vegetative growth phase.
The height the plants grow to before being placed in the flowering phase of growth is up to the grower, but most people wait until they are 2 feet or a little taller. The plants will stretch and experience considerable stretching and upward growth when in flower mode, and this will vary depending on the strain.
The time it takes the plants to mature once placed in flower mode is another variable that is largely determined by the strain being grown. Indica strains take considerably less time than sativas and most sativa-dominant strains. This being the case, indica strains are usually the better choice for beginners. Many indicas are hardy and forgiving of occasional minor miscalculations on the part of beginners.
With careful planning and attentive care, a harvest will soon follow. The timing of the harvest can vary slightly depending on what the grower desires in the final product. Evaluation of the pistils (the hairs that grow from each calyx on the flowers) and trichomes (the tiny translucent mushroom-shaped secretions on the flowers) is the way to determine when the plants are ready to harvest. Most beginners to growing want to see amber colors and red hairs on 75 percent of the trichomes and pistils.
Ready To Get Growing?
Within a few months’ time, you can complete a cannabis grow from start to finish. Once you successfully harvest your first grow, subsequent grows will be easier. Most likely you will wonder why you didn’t engage in cannabis cultivation earlier. The rewards can be great!
Luis Cordova is a distinguished author, and renowned expert in cannabis cultivation, who possesses a Master's degree in Plant Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Science. As a valued contributor to highly esteemed publications such as Cannabis Training University and Maximum Yield Magazine, Luis has emerged as a trusted source of guidance and knowledge in the cannabis industry. Having written thousands of informative articles, Luis is widely recognized for his comprehensive expertise on cultivating cannabis, both indoors and outdoors.