As cannabis legalization continues to spread across the United States, many people now have the option of legally growing their own. It makes a lot of sense to do so, because cannabis can be expensive for those who enjoy it on a regular basis. Not only that, but by growing your own, you’re in charge of the process, and you decide on the growing method (soil or hydroponics) and exactly which strain you want to grow and enjoy later. Cannabis also makes a great gift for friends who enjoy it, so being able to do so legally is something you can do with pride and without breaking any laws.
Besides growing for personal use, some people grow because they’re caregivers or involved in the cultivation end of industry. A grow can be as simple as growing one plant in a tent or growing several hundred in warehouse as a commercial endeavor. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on home cultivators who grow for themselves or as a caregiver, whether the grow is indoors or outdoors.
Define the Location
Growing cannabis is a wonderful endeavor, but for the best results it pays to plan carefully. Hobby growers who merely sprouting some seeds and stick them in cups on their windowsill to decide what to do with later are less likely to produce high quality cannabis than those who plan carefully.
Two of the first decisions to make is the location of the grow and how many plants will go into it. Space limitations—or lack thereof–will help you define the scope of the grow and the strains you want to harvest. Growing areas with low vertical space will play a part in deciding what strains to grow, because some cultivars, particularly sativas, can grow to lofty heights and take longer to mature than indica strains. Many indoor grows lack a large growing area but allow for a more controlled environment compared to outdoor growing sites. Once you decide on a grow space, measure the square footage. This will help you decide on the number of plants to grow. Home growers are more likely to grow from seed than commercial growers, who usually grow from seed only for specialized purposes, not mass production. Growing from seed results in a lower level of consistency as far as height and plant structure than growing from clones.
Indoor growing areas can vary widely, from a single grow tent of cabinet to a large room. It pays to have a floor surface made of concrete or other hard surface like tile, because it makes water spills and cleanup easier. Floor surfaces that contain drains to control overflow are ideal. If growing on a carpeted surface, extreme measure should be made to ensure it is protected with plastic or other material, because dirty water spills are inevitable, and these will ruin a carpet.
Select pots and containers that provide good drainage and room for root development. Air pots and other smart pots are a good choice because they encourage root growth without the possibility of the plants becoming root bound. These types of pots are merely on option, many standard plant pots available at nurseries will suffice. For indoor grows, it usually makes sense to use pot saucers or trays to catch runoff water. Discard this excess saucer or tray water to prevent it from becoming stagnant and promoting root rot. Excessive saucer water also will heighten ambient humidity beyond optimum levels which will promote the growth of fungus or mold.
You must ensure your grow has adequate ventilation. This may as simple as opening a window and using portable fans to circulate air as well as introduce fresh air and remove old, stale air. More advanced ventilation strategies involve vents with forced air capabilities to pull air in and out of the room. Fans of an appropriate size for the grow space will do a good job of gently circulating air throughout the room. The setting should be low, because you don’t want to create a wind tunnel, just gently distribute the air. An oscillating fan can assist with even distribution.
The grow space’s wall surface should be reflective to maximize illumination within. Many grow tents and cabinets come with reflective interiors included as well as air ducts built in, so these prefabricated grow areas make good sense for those who only plan to grow one to a few plants or use the tent for a mother plant or young clones. In a room setting, a highly reflective white paint improves illumination. Better yet, covering the walls with mylar or other highly reflective surfaces will result in extreme brightness the plants will appreciate. Extend this reflective material to the maximum height the plants will reach.
When it comes to the grow lights you will use, there are many choices available. Whether you decide on high-pressure sodium (HPS), metal halide (MH), or light-emitting diode (LED), provide the appropriate number of lights and wattage for the grow space. Every cannabis grower has his or her favorite when it comes to lights so opinions on this topic will vary widely. In today’s cannabis space, HPS and LED are the most common. HPS and MH light s can produce a great amount of heat, so don’t overdo the wattage and ensure the grow area has cool air circulation. LED lights, while more expensive to purchase, use less energy and are more economical to use when it comes to electric bills. LEDs also run cooler than HPS and MH, so there are good reasons for their growing popularity. The grow space should allow for the height of the lights to change as the plants grow—so providing adequate vertical grow space is important (many cannabis strains add a surprising amount of height during the flower phase). For larger grow operations, the plants can occupy pallets on wheels for easy relocation to another lighted station as the plants grow. This plant mobility eliminates the need to change the height of the lights.
Adding humidity control, supplemental CO2 or air purification may or may not make sense depending on where you live the level of detail you want to put into your indoor grow, but there are definitely benefits to these types of environmental manipulation.
Outdoor cultivation projects include a separate set of concerns. Outdoor grows, usually provide a larger growing area, but security measures and pest deterrent are concerns indoor growers don’t need to worry about. Many outdoor grows allow for cultivation directly in prepared soil. Adding compost to the grow space before planting is a great idea, as is supplementing with compost throughout the growing period.
Providing automated watering to outdoor grows is relatively simple with products purchased at most nurseries. Drip systems work well for a variety of outdoor crops, including cannabis. While automated systems will work indoors, too, they are particularly simple to use with outdoor grows. Increased humidity can be promoted with misting systems.
Outdoor growing spaces should receive as much daylight as possible—at least 8 hours of direct light under optimum conditions. While unobstructed sunlight is the goal, visual barriers will provide an extra measure of security from prying eyes and potential thieves. The trick is to not allow visual barriers to block sunlight. For optimum sunlight, grows in North America should ideally face southeast or southwest. Directly south is another good plan when defining a location for outdoor growing.
Whether a grow is located outdoors or indoors, cultivating your own cannabis is a fun pastime, for personal use or otherwise. It’s not a difficult process, and practice will help improve your results. If you love cannabis, the real question is not why should you grow but why not? Go ahead and take the plunge!