Since the days of total prohibition, cannabis cultivation has come a long way. With more and more states jumping to legalize the plant—and an all-time high of support for legal marijuana at 68%—there may be no better time to start growing.
Whether you’re hoping to sell your cannabis to match the fast-growing demand or you just want a small plot for your own use, growing your own cannabis has many benefits. From better control over the product to money savings, cannabis cultivation can inspire a new appreciation for your favorite buds.
Even better, the growing process isn’t as hard as many beginners fear! Even if you don’t consider yourself as having a “green thumb,” following through on a few basic steps can help you get started. Let’s take a look at the basic process and supplies you’ll need.
Consider Your Local Regulations
Before you start cultivating cannabis seeds, it’s important to consider your local regulations. These vary from country to country and even from state to state, so you’ll need to do your research before you dive in.
In Canada, it’s legal both to buy seeds and to grow cannabis. In the United States, on the other hand, the legality depends on where you live. For example, recreational and medical cannabis cultivation is legal in California, but other states may only allow it for medical purposes. In addition, the laws are changing all the time, with many new states adopting or changing their cannabis cultivation laws in recent months.
For this reason, it’s crucial to make sure you’re familiar with the latest requirements and regulations in your state. Though some people choose to grow cannabis regardless of local laws, it’s never a good idea. Depending on where you live, it could earn you both hefty fines and prison time.
Decide Where to Grow Your Crop
Once you’ve considered the legal matters, it’s time to decide where to grow. Whether you’re planning on recreational or commercial cannabis cultivation, you’ll need to decide where you want to grow your crop inside.
Considerations When Growing Cannabis Outside
When possible, choosing to grow cannabis outside is often the best option for first-time growers. After all, the outdoors provide all of the elements cannabis plants need to thrive: natural light, fresh soil, and precipitation. This also means you won’t have to invest in special lighting or tools for growing, which can help you save more money up front.
Most cannabis plants are hardy enough to adapt to a range of local climates. However, different strains are also native to a range of regions from tropical to temperate, so you’ll need to do your research into your chosen strain’s ideal climate.
On the other hand, an outdoor environment isn’t suitable in all locations. In general, a sustained temperature above the mid-80s can have a negative impact on your crop, and temperatures below 50 degrees can damage it as well. Areas prone to severe hail, wind, or rain—as well as insect pests—may also be a poor choice for outdoor growing.
Considerations When Growing Cannabis Indoors
When the weather outside prohibits you from growing your cannabis crop, bringing your plants indoors can be an ideal option. This can be as simple as creating a setup within your home or as complicated as placing your crop in a greenhouse or warehouse setting.
When you grow cannabis inside, you’ll need to factor in more upfront costs. You’ll need utilities like electricity and water, as well as equipment like irrigation systems and even a growing tent.
In addition, you’ll need to make sure you have enough space to set up a growing area. Full-sized plants demand an area of 3’x3’x6’ for proper growth.
Choose a Grow Medium
You might be surprised to know there’s a full spectrum of options when it comes to cannabis growing mediums. Each option has its pros and cons, but finding the right choice for your setup can help your plants grow and thrive faster than they might otherwise.
As the traditional choice, planting soil is easy to get your hands on. In addition, some say that growing cannabis in soil adds to the final smell and taste! If you’re growing outside, this may be a natural resource you don’t have to invest in, but indoor growers will need to get the right soil for the job.
Wherever your soil comes from, opting for a pre-made mix specific to cannabis can be your best bet. This may cost more up front, but it can save you money and time on supplementing the soil with extra nutrients as often.
Hydroponic systems are where your growing options can become complex. This type of system involves soilless growing, and it also depends on water or other growing media. While you’ll have to invest in the system itself, hydroponic growing can be a great choice for growers who want full control over the nutrients going into their plants.
There are several types of hydroponic systems you’ll want to consider:
- Soilless: These include solid but permeable growing mediums
- Deep water culture (DWC): This system suspends the plant’s roots in a liquid nutrient solution
- Ebb and flow: These are similar to DWC systems, but the water rises and drains away to provide aeration and nutrients
- Drip system: This system allows a liquid nutrient solution to drip onto the roots from above
- Wick system: With this system, the liquid nutrient solution rises through a wick to enter the root system
Each of these systems is effective in its own way, but you’ll need to do research to find one that works for your needs. Consider your equipment budget and decide how hands-on you’d like to be in order to make the choice.
Choose Your Nutrients
As hinted above, cannabis needs specialized nutrients in order to thrive.
Pre-made soil mixes can be a great place to start, but even with them, you’ll still need to replenish the nutrients on occasion. This is especially true once your plants get to the flowering stage, as your plants will need a lot of energy to produce buds.
For soilless growers, you’ll want to grab nutrients made for hydroponic setups. Some products will work best with solid mediums like coco coir, while others are best with liquid mediums.
Whatever growing option you’ve decided on, do your research to find the right nutrient brands to buy from. Working with a trusted product from the start can set you on the right path.
Propagate Your Plants
With your growing media in place and your setup ready to go, you’re in a good position to get your hands dirty! Let’s talk about the main methods of propagating cannabis plants, regardless of how and where you grow them.
Growing From Seed
Anyone who is unfamiliar with how to cultivate cannabis should start here. Growing from seed is straightforward enough for anyone who has gardened before, and the process is relatively quick. In most cases, you’ll be able to germinate cannabis from seeds in anywhere from two to fourteen days.
To find seeds online, search for a reputable seed bank. Alternatively, you can also work with a breeder in your area to get a mix of seeds from your preferred strain.
Cloning, also called propagation, is a method of creating an identical genetic copy of a plant. The techniques for doing this involve more effort than seed germination, but it’s not beyond the abilities of most growers.
With propagation, you’ll start with an adult plant that you or someone else has grown. You’ll then take cuttings from it, keeping it in a liquid solution until roots grow. At this point, you’ll be able to move the new plant to your soil or hydroponic system.
Consider Cannabis Anatomy and Sex
With most common plants people grow, the details of the species’ anatomy and sex don’t matter. This isn’t true for cannabis! Understanding the intricacies of these plants can mean the difference between a successful yield and low to no yield at all.
Cannabis plants can be male or female. Make sure to note that the female plants are the ones to choose: these offer the flowers or “buds” that we picture when we think of cannabis. While male plants do flower, their buds are much smaller and not often useable.
As a result, growing “feminized” seeds is ideal. If you grow a mix of male and female cannabis seeds, you’ll need to be experienced enough to watch for male growth.
Male cannabis plants can pollinate the rest of your crop. This will make the female plants stop producing resin and produce seeds instead, rendering them useless for most cannabis growers’ purposes!
Make sure to brush up on your understanding of cannabis anatomy and sex to avoid costly mistakes like this.
Make Time for Plant Training
If your aim is to maximize your yield, you’ll need to maintain your plants well. This means watering them according to the needs of your strain and adding nutrients according to your chosen product.
However, it’s also important to bend and secure your marijuana plants. You’ll hear this called “training” or “maintenance,” and there are two main options to choose from.
Low-Stress Training (LST)
If you’re familiar with the practice of bonsai, you’ll find LST similar. With this training method, you’ll bend and tie your cannabis branches into certain shapes.
This is more than a cosmetic detail: it can actually help your plant receive even lighting from top to bottom. The result is larger buds that are evenly distributed across the plant.
High-Stress Training (HST)
On the other hand, high-stress training—as the name suggests—is a more aggressive form of maintenance. Though it comes in several techniques, the basic principles revolve around cropping plants or bending the branches to the breaking point.
These techniques can be effective, but it’s best to perform them only on plants that are well-established and able to tolerate high stress.
Harvest and Cure Your Cannabis
Once you’ve reached the end of your plants’ growing cycle, it’s time to harvest. The best time to do this is when the trichomes of the plant turn from white to amber.
You can time your harvest according to the effect you want: darker trichomes will offer a stronger taste. Tellingly, this is the point where commercial producers growing THC-rich products like Delta 8 THC will harvest, as reddish-brown trichomes are richer in THC. For more on Delta 8, get more info.
From here, it’s time to dry and cure your cannabis to make the cannabinoids more potent. Removing the water content also makes them crispier and easier to use, and it helps avoid the spread of mold and mildew.
You’ll need specific tools for the drying process, from a mesh rack to a dehumidifier. You’ll also want to find a lightless, room-temperature area with about 50% humidity. However, the overall process isn’t difficult to carry out—and the end result is fresh, homegrown buds!
Get Started With Cannabis Cultivation
Though many beginners balk at the complexity of cannabis cultivation, it isn’t a difficult process. You will need to carry out a great deal of research, however, and you’ll also need a fair amount of planning and forethought—in addition to a startup investment of growing media and other supplies!
However, once you’ve followed through with the process, you’ll find that it grows more intuitive with every step. Whether you aim for recreational or commercial growth, you’ll be harvesting your own buds in no time at all.
Want more essential step-by-step guides like this one? Check out our other posts for additional insights.