Before we begin, I’ll be straight with you: All you really need to grow cannabis is a pot of soil, seeds, water, and plenty of light. That’s it. Cannabis has a long history of wild growth without any help from people. There’s a reason they call it “weed,” and that’s because it grows like one.
But even though you can grow cannabis without any special equipment, there’s an advantage to spending a little money on the right equipment. Industry experts are constantly improving their products which in turn help produce higher cannabis yields and a better flower. So today, as part of our mission to educate and provide valuable information, we’re going to go through each stage of your cannabis grow and highlight some of the equipment that can help you maximize your harvest.
Genetics is just a fancy word for your cannabis seeds. The term can also refer to cannabis clones, but for the beginning grower, seeds are much easier to source. If you are interested in starting from clone stock, you can generally purchase them from a qualified local grower, assuming there are no laws against clone sales in your jurisdiction.
But which Cannabis seeds to buy? That depends on your grow style and personal preference. You’re going to choose an Indica, Sativa, or hybrid or course, but do you want regular seeds, feminized seeds, autoflowering seeds, or some combination? With regular seeds you’ll have to remove any males before they mature and pollinate your females or you’ll end up with seedy, low-quality buds. Additionally, cannabis grown from regular seeds will only flower in response to a change in the photoperiod (how many hours of light they are exposed to) so farming these types of seeds requires a bit more care and attention than autoflowering strains (which produce buds when they are old enough, not in response to the light) or feminized seeds which eliminate the need to monitor for males. If you’re looking for the simplest type of seed, you can go with autoflowering, feminized seeds.
You should always source your seeds from a qualified vendor. We at GN really like True North Seed Bank. They have a huge variety of seeds from a number of top breeders, offer discreet shipping, and will ship to almost any location across the globe. You can check out what True North has to offer here.
Germinating refers to sprouting your seeds prior to planting. The easiest way to do this is to fold your seeds inside of a moist paper towel and wait for a few days, making sure your paper towel remains moist. In this time you should see your seed “pop” as the tap root emerges. Now you’re ready for planting.
If you want a more controlled germination of your cannabis seeds, there are mini-greenhouses available with starter pods which allow your seeds to begin rooting prior to transplanting them into your grow media and offers an overall safer transition from germination to pot.
You can have a look at germination domes here.
More than likely, you’ll be growing indoors in soil. There are a variety of media types available including soil, peet, and coco. We recommend soil for the beginner, but whichever you choose it’s important not to skimp on the media. Spending a little extra money on your media will pay off in terms of cannabis quality and help you avoid problems such as pests, unbalanced pH, and poor nutrient delivery. You can see a few recommended products here.
You’ll probably also need a pot. The pot you choose should be at least one-gallon and allow excess water to drain off. Once you’ve added the media to your pot and have your seeds, you’re ready to plant. Just insert your finger into the soil to create a ½ inch to 1 inch divot and place your popped seed inside. Cover and water appropriately. We recommend fabric pots which are reusable, lightweight, and drain very well.
The last thing to consider when planting your germinated seeds is where are you going to grow them? Are you growing in a closet? Do you have a dedicated space somewhere in your home? If not, a grow tent is an excellent option for creating a highly controlled growing environment. They’re easy to assemble and their reflective interior maximize light efficiency. There are even kits that will provide everything you need including a fan to generate necessary air flow and a filter that will help keep the smell of your plants from wafting into your personal space. Even if you don’t mind the smell, your neighbors might! You can check out this grow tent configurator which will guide you through the best set up depending on the space you have available and the number of plants you plant to grow. You can check out our recommended soil media here. Need a pot? Check these out.
The vegetative stage is where your plants bulk up and develop the frame necessary to support the eventual flowers. As mentioned in the genetics portion of this guide, your seed choice will influence the amount of care and attention you’ll need to provide. If you choose regular seeds, the vegetative stage of cannabis growth will require an 18-6 light cycle (18 hours on and 6 hours off). The size of your grow will determine your light requirements and there are many choices. I tend to recommend LED lighting because they’re energy efficient and produce less heat than other types of grow lights, which will help keep overall temperatures down in your grow. Check out a few LED recommendations here.
The vegetative phase is also where you begin monitoring the sex of your plants and then remove and destroy the males as soon as you identify them. You can check out our guide to sexing your plants here. Again, this is a step you need to take when growing from regular seeds. If you use feminized seeds you can be nearly 100% certain that all of your plants are female (1 in 1000 feminized seeds may turn out male).
Since the vegetative stage of growth is where your plant will bulk up and develop its framework, you’ll want to make sure you use some quality nutrients to ensure your cannabis grows strong and healthy. Click here for our recommendations.
A nutrient bundle is a great way to save money
Last but not least, an important consideration during the vegetative stage is pest control. It’s important that you monitor for pests and diseases during the duration of your grow to deal with any problems before they reach crisis level and threaten your crop. Fortunately, close monitoring and cleanliness will help you avoid most of these problems, but should you encounter pests or disease, there are a number of great, organic products that can take care of nearly any problem. And don’t worry, we recommend only products suitable for treating consumable plants. Check them out here.
The flowering stage is when your cannabis plants will develop their buds. Again, if you choose to grow from “regular” seeds, you’ll change up the light cycle from the 18-6 you used in veg to a 12-12 cycle (12 hours on and 12 hours off up until harvest); autoflowering varieties won’t require this change as again, they flower when they are mature enough.
A week or so before harvest you’re going to want to “flush” your media. This simply means that you stop feeding your plant nutrients and give only water. This allows your cannabis to use up all the available nutrients remaining in the soil so they won’t end up in your buds. Also, you can expect a degree of leaf yellowing during this final week as your plant converts its available resources into energy for continued bud development.
You can see our full article on when to harvest your buds here, but generally, you can determine when your buds are ready for harvest by examining the trichomes. You can use microscope to get a close up look at the trichomes. Clear trichomes generally mean it’s too early to harvest and your buds won’t be as potent. Milky white-amber trichomes means you are ready to harvest and can expect decent buds. If you wait longer, until the trichomes are completely amber in color, you’ll get a stronger psychoactive effect as CBD levels decline.
7. Drying and Curing
Before we go into drying and curing, we should quickly revisit trimming. Trimming can be done before drying (wet trimming) or after drying (dry trimming). Either method is fine and will depend on your preference. The goal when trimming isn’t only to make your buds pretty by removing any fan leaves (which it definitely does) but also to collect the “sugar leaves” that surround your buds. Don’t get rid of these sugar leaves. They’re great for extracts, hash making, and in a pinch you can even smoke them, though smoking them will be a bit harsh.
With proper temperature and humidity control, you’ll be able to dry your cannabis in the same space you grew it. Most growers I’ve spoken with dry for a minimum of one week and often up to 10-14 days. There are a number of drying racks available that will allow you to spread out your buds for even drying. If you choose to dry trim, you’ll do this after drying but before curing.
Curing is a specialized drying process that comes after the initial drying and trimming. The goal is to cure the buds much like you would with homegrown herbs. You want a dark space with low humidity. You can cure in a glass jar, plastic tub, or a specially designed c-vault. You’re going to want to “burp” your container daily to remove any moisture remaining in your buds, and this is accomplished by simply opening the container and closing it again. The curing process can last anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks. Check out a few helpful products here.
A hanging mesh drying rack is only one option for your drying needs.
The CVault is designed to provide complete darkness and airtight bud curing.
So are you ready to start growing? Hopefully we provided some good tips to get you started. We’d love to hear from you regarding your grow so please leave a comment in the survey below or click one of the “Join Now” buttons at the top and bottom of this article to get into our private, vetted, professional forum. And don’t forget to check out Growers Network University! See you there and happy growing!
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About the Author
Chris DeWildt is a graduate of Grand Valley State University and Western Kentucky University. He worked in education and publishing for ten years before joining the team at Growers Network. In addition to editing the GN blog, Chris also works on the Canna Cribs series.