Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania have liberalized laws on cannabis. But, if you live there and want to grow cannabis at home, you’ll have to move.
The other states permitting adult-use and medical marijuana have decidedly different rules on how much you or a caregiver can cultivate. Most permit citizens to raise six plants at home. Some permit as much as 12 plants, especially where you are located at considerable distance from a dispensary.
What’s the problem?
The problem is you must know what you’re doing. But, it’s not that hard if you follow these 10 easy steps to grow cannabis at home:
1. Pick a place. Little cannabis plants eventually get big. So, you’ll have to find something better than your kitchen windowsill. And, wherever you decide to grow, you must make sure it is child- and pet-proof.
You need a space where the plant or plants can grow fully. Depending on the strain, the cannabis plant will grow tall and skinny or short and stumpy. By the time its ready for harvesting and depending how you cultivate it, a plant is likely to at least reach your knees.
So, you need a grow space where you can raise the plants, so they are “comfortable” because as they grow taller, they grow wider. The plants need space to breathe, and you need space to work around them. With a little research, you can buy a grow room for a reasonable price or how-to guides on building your own.
2. Get good dirt. You don’t use dirt to grow cannabis. Dirt from your yard may include toxins and pollutants. A good nursery can select a quality potting compost. It needs a texture that retains water yet allows drainage.
You can buy packaged quality soils online or in quality nurseries. But, you can also think about a soilless mix. Good ones have a pH factor of 6 to 7. A good mix includes 30% perlite, 30% vermiculate, and 40% worm castings, a recipe you can prepare on your own.
3. Light it good. Flowering plants want light, but if your space is limited, you must choose lights well. You start by measuring square footage because the lamps generate heat as well as light.
CFLs and LEDs work well for spaces under 5’ by 5’. They light well and provide enough heat but not enough to burn or dry the plants. And, you must check for a light spectrum that supports your growth from seed to budding.
You must understand that plants need light from all sides and from underneath, so placement is important. And, you should consider reflective materials to disburse the light throughout.
4. Select good plants. With some research under your belt, you can shop for plants, seeds, or clones. Depending on your state laws and cannabis dispensary, you can purchase small plants. In some jurisdictions, you can get started plants from trusted cannabis collectives or local dispensaries.
Your option is to buy seeds from reputable online seed banks that provide details on seed genetics, growth pattern, and breeding ancestry. Or, you could consider clones, starter plants “of true and tested genetics that will taste and yield within the standard range of whatever strain you select” (Green State).
5. Start good. Seeds want light and water. And, to make it easier, you place one seed into a starter cube that you keep moist and warm. If you go this route, you’ll seed seedlings within a week.
But, the traditional towel method works well for most growers. You place a damp paper towel on a plate. After distributing a few seeds across the towel, you cover them with another damp towel. You cover everything with another plate, and check on the and dampness every day. Seeds should sprout root within four days.
You, then, use tweezers to pick up the sprouting seeds and place them about one inch into the growing medium. Covered loosely with medium, the seedling will break the surface within days under the heat and light of CFL bulbs lit 24 hours a day.
6. Feed ‘em good. Plants need nutrition, and cannabis plants thrive on balanced nutrients. The plants progressively suck the nutrients out of the existing grow medium as they approach budding. But, there are any number of good supplements available at dispensaries, nurseries, and online.
What you must regularly test the pH factor with test kits because hard water kills. As the plant grows, it wants more “balanced” water, so you want to keep the pH measure at 6.0 to 7.0.
7. Grow good. The vegetative stage starts when your seedling sprouts its first tier of leaves. After that point, the plants grow best in light generated warmth of 70⁰ - 85⁰.
As the plant grows, you apply nutrients as directed on the container to avoid burning the plant and add water enough and frequently enough to keep soil moist but not soaked.
8. Bud good. The vegetative stage leads to the flowering stage where plants produce the buds you are waiting for. This stage expects you to reduce the lighting to 12-hours a day and the heat to 65⁰ - 80⁰.
But, you also must identify the plant’s gender because only the females produce the buds. The females reveal themselves by sprouting fine white hair above each joint between leaf and stem. If you buy clones or feminized seeds, they will already be identified as male or female.
9. Pick the goods. You must be patient until the buds stop producing those fine white hairs. Then, you wait a little longer until about 40% of those hairs darken and curl up.
The aroma will be strong and the potency quick acting. When 50-70% of the wisps turn dark, the THC level is highest. And, when 80-90% are dark and curled in, the buds are heavy with CBN.
With some experience and research, you can learn about timing your harvest. When ready, you clip the buds off at the base with tweezers and a pair of narrow pointed garden scissors.
10. Cure the goods. The harvested buds are not ready for smoking until they are dried and cured. Depending on the strain, your buds should be plump and colorful. It’s time to hand them top down in a well ventilated cool, dark place until they dry out.
Keeping your eye on signs of mold or other pests, you wait some more until you can snap the thin stems and bend the thick ones. When dried, the buds go into quart-sized glass jars with tight lids.
Over the first weeks of curing, you must open the jars to admit fresh air and release moisture for a few seconds daily. Once you feel less moisture by touch, you can open the jars weekly instead of daily. But, you can expect the process to take up to 30 days.
How easy is it to grow cannabis at home?
The main problem with growing cannabis at home is that there is so much information out there. If you start small with two to four plants, you can build on your own experience. There will be mistakes, and somethings will work better than others. But, since the growing involves some investment in equipment and supplies, you will likely not repeat mistakes. So, you might think of this as a hobby with a real pleasurable result.