How to Get Started Growing Your Own Cannabis

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When you are just starting out, the prospect of growing your own marijuana can definitely be a scary one. There’s such a wide base of knowledge available to new growers that it can quickly become overwhelming. Do you really need to know everything there is to know about every nutrient system, lighting pattern, and the latest and greatest in growing equipment before you get started? It can feel like that at times, but the real answer is no- you don’t. It doesn’t need to be as convoluted and complex as some cultivators make it seem. It’s not rocket science. The plant is called weed for a reason- it will grow almost anywhere given the proper conditions! So don’t worry too much about whether or not you’re going to be successful. The chances are good that you will, because honestly, you would have to make several big mistakes in a row to ruin your crop completely, and if that happens you’ll know what to avoid the next time around!

Instead of making you wait until you achieve guru status and know everything there is to know about growing marijuana (which will be never, by the way) this simple guide will give you just enough information to get you started on the road to success. Whether you intend to grow just one pot plant in your home for personal use or you intend to use an elaborate setup and take the world by storm, the first steps are the same. So, here’s the least you need to know in order to start growing one plant in your home today.

What You’ll Need

There’s no getting around it, unless you’re a dedicated gardener already, you WILL need to buy some specialized equipment for growing your own marijuana. However, you may also find that you have several of these items on hand already. Here’s a plain and simple list of all the materials you will need to get started:

1. A Grow Light

 These come in many different varieties, but don’t get carried away here. If you have a good window that gets bright sunlight for most of the day, you’re already ahead of the game. In that case, you could probably get away with just a small fluorescent bulb like a T5 or a T8 to shine on your plant after the sun sets. In a pinch, you could even get away with a standard CFL bulb. If you don’t have a sunny window, you’ll need something more powerful like a 250 watt HID bulb. You can find these at your local hardware store, but don’t forget that you’ll need to install a special HID -compatible fixture because these bulbs won’t plug into anything you’ve got at home already. The more intense light you can give your plants, the better your yield will be, but this is also usually the most expensive aspect of any grow, so don’t overreach yourself.

2. An Enclosed Cabinet or Closet

Once your plant begins flowering, you’ll need to move to a strict light cycle with 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. You’ll need a small, enclosed space where you can house your plant during this time to control the amount of light it gets and prevent any light leaks.

3. Light Timer

You can get a simple light timer at any hardware store. You’ll need it to automatically turn the grow lights on and off according to your plant’s light cycle schedule.

3. A Container

Anything that’s breathable and has good drainage will do. Fabric pots are a popular choice, but you could use any type of container with drainage holes in the bottom. If they’re not there already, you could even drill some in yourself. It’s critical that the plant’s container has good drainage so that the roots aren’t constantly sitting in stagnant water, which may cause them to rot. Set this container on top of a tray or saucer to catch any runoff that will seep through after you water your plant.

4. Planting Medium

Breathability is key here too. There’s a lot of chatter about which medium is best, and a lot of weird terms being thrown around like coir, sphagnum, and peat. The truth is, a basic, organic potting soil will work just fine. Pick it up at any garden or home improvement store. The best part is that a lot of these organic potting mixes come with some nutrients already incorporated, so you may not have to worry about adding any more at all until your plant begins to flower.

5. Nutrients

These aren’t strictly necessary, but adding in some nutrients, if only while the plant is in its flowering stage, will really help your yield. You can find a wide variety of organic nutrients and compost at your local garden store. Most any of these will work, just make sure to avoid salt-heavy artificial formulas like Miracle Grow, which will do your plant more harm than good. Add once a week while your plant is flowering. Putting in too many nutrients too soon can harm your plant, so don’t go crazy with it.

6. A Clone or Seeds

If you can get hold of one, a clone is definitely the easier way to go, since it’s already survived through infancy and they cut a month or more off your total grow time. They also produce a more predictable result, so if there’s a specific strain you want to replicate, it’s best to get a clone of it. If seeds are your only option, make sure to buy them from a reputable grower.

7. A Good Scale

After all’s said and done, you’ll want to know how much you were able to harvest, right? A good weed scale can help you keep track of your yields from year to year and help you figure out which techniques work best for you.

When to Start

If you’re growing indoors, there’s not really a right or wrong time to start your grow. In an outdoor environment, weed starts to flower in the Fall when the days start to get shorter. That’s why we replicate this indoors with the 12/12 lighting cycle when we want the plant to flower. But, to get the best harvest it’s better to let the plant grow in its pre-flowering vegetative state for at least a month, until it gets big enough to give off a good yield of buds. The sooner you start, the sooner you can enjoy your own custom pot, so the very best time to start is right now.

What to Do

Gather your supplies. Plant your clone firmly into the planting medium in your container of choice. Deep enough that it’s supported and can stand up straight. If you’re using seeds, dig a hole, place them in, and cover with 1 to 2 inches of soil. Place the plant either in your sunny window or in your grow cabinet, whichever setup you decide on.

Do not overwater the plant. This is one of the classic mistakes that beginners tend to make, and it can lead to fungal or mold growth, which you definitely don’t want. Speaking of water, most of the water we get from the tap is treated with chlorine at some point. Unfortunately, even this small amount of chlorine can really hinder your plant’s growth and negatively affect your harvest. To combat this, leave water out in an open container for at least 24 hours before you water your plant with it. This will allow the chlorine to evaporate off, and your plant will definitely thank you for the extra effort with a more bountiful harvest. The easiest way to make sure your plant is getting enough water, but not too much, is to only water when the soil is dry. This likely won’t be every day, but every day you should do a touch test and if the soil feels bone dry, drench it with water. Then, don’t water again until the next time the soil feels totally dry.

Let your plant grow in the vegetative state until it is strong, large, and healthy. This should take at least a month of the 18/6 light cycle. Once you feel confident that it’s big enough to support a healthy harvest, switch it to the 12/12 cycle and watch the flowers come in. During the flowering stage it is very important that it gets all the dark time it needs WITHOUT any light leaks, so use all your willpower not to peek at it when it’s “sleeping”. Doing so could cause the plant undue stress and it may even start to go hermaphrodite, which will ruin your harvest, so don’t do it! Not even once.

Once the plant is flowering, feel free to add extra nutrients to the soil once per week. Don’t do it any more than this, or you could give your plant nutrient burn. Follow the directions on the packaging of your specific nutrients, but most of them are designed to be added to water, so just add the designated amount to your aired-out water once a week when you were going to be watering the plant anyway. Don’t incorporate an extra watering session just to add nutrients if the soil isn’t dry yet.

After 8 to 10 weeks of flowering, you will be ready to harvest. You’ll know your plant is ready for harvest by a number of signs. In general, it will look as if your plant is starting to decline in health. The pistils of the plant may turn red, resin on the buds will start to turn brown, and the leaves of the plant will yellow and start to fall off. This is good news for you! You’re ready to undertake your first ever harvest of your own premium bud. Carefully cut off each and every sticky bud that you’ve worked so hard to grow over these last few months. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for!

All that’s left now is to dry and cure your bud. The easiest way to do this is to hang your buds upside down in a cool, dark location. It’s vital to have a cool, dark place to keep mold growth at bay and also ensure that chlorophyll production in the plant has stopped. Leave them to dry out slowly over the course of 4 to 10 days, and don’t use any fans or heaters to try and speed up the process.

You want it to go slowly so that the plant converts all its remaining chlorophyll into glucose. If you rush it, you’ll get a harsh, bitter final product that will not be enjoyable to smoke and could very well ruin all the hard work you put in to get to this point. Be patient, and you’ll have an out-of-this world weed that you made yourself from start to finish.

By now you’ve earned the right to enjoy the final product however you like, and you may even want to show it off to some friends. After the celebrating is done, the best way to store your extra weed is in airtight jars. No need to freeze or refrigerate. Some people like to store their weed in vacuum sealed bags, but it’s really not necessary and just adds another step and another tool to the process. Airtight jars will work just as well and are much less of a hassle.

Now kick back, relax, and enjoy a day or two of well-deserved rest until you decide to start your next grow! I know you won’t be able to stay away for very long once you’ve tasted the high quality product of your first success. The next time around you may decide to add more plants, change up your technique, or just try a new strain. Enjoy!

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Lauren Fallon is a cannabis enthusiast, amateur grower, and freelance writer currently writing for Cannabis Education. She loves making marijuana more accessible for everyone with straight-forward, simple guides.