I’d like to start growing my own cannabis plants. How do I get started?
Dear Green Thumb,
The truth is, cannabis will grow anywhere. After all, its nickname is weed. Whether outdoors, indoors, in a pot or in the ground, you can have a successful harvest.
That being said, some growing conditions are more foolproof than others. If you have the option to grow indoors, I would recommend it. Outdoor growing is great if you can ensure that your plant will receive 16+ hours of sun every day; if you can’t, well, your yield might suffer.
All you need to start growing indoors is a space large enough to hang a hefty light bulb – a spot that has good airflow and temperature control.
If you’ve bought cannabis seeds, you must first germinate them. Dampen two paper towels with distilled water, but don’t over-soak to the point that water is dripping off. Place the seeds an inch apart and enclose them in the damp towel. Put the seeds somewhere dark where light cannot reach them, and leave them for a few days. Don’t fret if nothing appears within three days; this process can take up to a week. Keep the temperature warm (~25 degrees Celsius/77 degrees Fahrenheit).
Once the first sprout is seen from the seed, gently transfer it to a small 2-inch pot. Try not to use your fingers; wooden tweezers are your safest option. Fill the pot with airy soil, and using your finger, poke a hole 1-2 inches deep. Set the seed in and lightly water until the soil is damp. You don’t want to oversaturate the pot with water because it will be too much for the seedling.
Now, here comes the sun – or in this case, your light system. This is the most expensive part of growing, mostly because a proper light fixture can cost about $200 dollars, but happily, light bulbs are as low as $25. A 250-watt HID (high-intensity discharge) bulb, HPS (high-pressure sodium) or MH (metal halide) can be used.
The seedling will need approximately 18-24 hours of light each day, a temperature of approximately 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit, and humidity control of 70%. Once the seedling has begun to sprout leaves (2-3 weeks), it’s time to transfer to a larger pot.
Fill a 3-gallon (11.35 liter) pot with organic soil, preferably with some sea kelp, peat moss or sphagnum moss. Again, don’t pack in the soil too tightly. (Pro tip: Avoid synthetic soils). The roots of the cannabis plant need ample oxygen. Gently remove the seedling from the small pot, taking care to keep the roots intact.
The Vegetation Stage
You have now entered the vegetation stage; this is when you decide how large you want your cannabis plant to grow. Lasting between 3-8 weeks, the longer you allow your plant to grow in this stage, the heftier the buds will be at harvest. Much like the seedlings, the cannabis plant will need 16-20 hours of light per day at approximately 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity factor of 70%.
The Flowering Stage
Plants have a special relationship with light because it acts as a regulator; it gives the plant energy and prompts life cycle cues. To trigger the flowering stage, change the light cycle. Reduce the light exposure to 10-12 hours a day for 3-8 weeks. Cannabis plants naturally flower in the fall, when the heat of the summer calms down and the angle of the sun becomes less direct.
During the day, keep the temperatures at 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit, but at night, let them fall to 20 degrees Celsius or 68 degrees Fahrenheit. And open a window, if you’ve got one. This will mimic the natural flow of nature during the fall season. During the day, the leaves of the cannabis plant will be soaking in CO2, but at night, the roots will be scrambling for O2. Keep the room full of fresh air at night.
Your plant will also need a helping hand. The buds can get heavy, so drive an untreated wooden (or similarly non-toxic) stake into the pot and loosely bind your cannabis’ stalk to keep it upright.
This is the fun part! Not all the buds on the plant will mature at the same rate. The buds at the top will be the first to mature, so those can be taken first. You know that a bud is ready to be taken when the stigma (top of the flower) turns orange. The stigma looks like wispy, thin straws.
Want to get scientific? Take a magnifying glass and peep at the trichomes. Trichomes are a plant’s chemical secretions that look like microscopic teardrops. For cannabis, this is what houses THC. Buds that are still developing will have clear trichomes; ready-to-harvest buds have opaque (milky) trichomes; and those that have begun degrading THC will be amber.
You’ve got (or can at least acquire) all the tools to successfully cultivate your cannabis plant. By keeping in mind a few things like the light cycle, room temperature and stages of growth, you’ll be able to harvest buds that are ready to roll. What’s more satisfying than that?
Illustration by Gabrielle Lamontagne
Van der Pop does not endorse or condone the illegal consumption of cannabis.