A Beginners Guide to Growing

January 11, 2017

Cannabis is an easy plant to grow indoors if you are prepared and have the necessary knowledge, space and equipment. There are many different ways you can grow indoors, but this tutorial will be kept simple for beginners using soil as the medium. From seed to harvest it should take you approximately 4 months, give or take depending on the strain you decide to use.

Choosing the Right Place to Grow

A small room, a closet, a garage, a cellar, or an attic are all great places for you to grow indoors. Ideally, you’ll want to get a small, inexpensive grow tent. These tents provide adequate grow space, reflective interior linings to reflect light back at your plants rather than absorb it, and privacy. Regardless of where you choose to grow you’ll want to make sure the space has electricity access and a window for fresh air and ventilation. By using Cultivate Tech LED grow lights you won’t have to worry about cooling equipment for your space since the fixtures produce virtually no heat, but you will want to make sure the space is a comfortable temperature as close to 80 degrees as you can get. 

Equipment Checklist

  1. Light

This is our specialty. You’ll want the light you choose to be bright and you’ll want it to focus on the wavelengths in the color spectrum that matter most to your plants. Cultivate Tech LED fixtures are designed to do just that. The lighting fixture you choose will heavily depend on the size of your grow space and how many plants you are growing at once. A 2x2 or 2x3 space can grow 1-2 plants comfortably. You’ll want to make sure the light fixture you choose provides light to cover the entire canopy of your plants. For example, using a 2x2 sized space growing 1 plant, the Cultivate Tech Growtech 160 would more than meet your lighting needs. The overhead LED light fixture should hang 24”-30” above your plant canopy. They should be no higher than 36” and no lower than 12”. Supplemental lighting can be added to the bottom of your plants to hit the parts of the plant top lighting often cannot. Cultivate Tech’s Bud Booster is a fixture designed to be placed on the bottom (or any area of the plant you would like to provide more light to) and is completely waterproof so it will not be damaged during watering.

  1. Grow Tent

This is optional but is highly recommended to contain and reflect lighting back at your plants. It will also provide the needed total darkness your plants will need during times when the lights are off and assists in containing odors. Most grow tents come with openings for ventilation and electrical wires.

  1. Container

Pots and buckets work just fine for containing your plants. The size of the container will depend on how tall you wish to grow your plants. To grow a 12”-30” plant, you’ll want to use something at least the size of a 5 gallon bucket for each plant, as the roots need plenty of space to expand downward. The taller you wish to grow the plant, the larger container you will need. Drainage holes will need to be drilled into containers that do not already have these. You’ll want to place a tray or saucer under the container to catch the water runoff that will drain from the drainage holes.

  1. Soil/Nutrients

Any growing soil will do just fine, but you’ll want to make sure your plant has all the nutrients it needs to thrive. You can readily find soils that contain added nutrients that are great for plants. Soil mixes even exist that are formulated specifically for cannabis plants and contain nutrients known to boost budding, blooming and root development. If providing your own nutrients, a cannabis-compatible nutrient system will contain everything your cannabis plant needs throughout the grow, almost all will come with instructions and a nutrient feeding chart that explains exactly how much nutrients to add at each stage.

  1. Timer

While not absolutely necessary, timers will make life a lot easier on the grower. In order to thrive, cannabis plants must adhere to a strict light schedule. This schedule will change depending on what cycle your plant is in, vegetative or flowering. By setting your light to a timer, you will insure that the light is being turned on and off at the exact times they need to be each and every day.

  1. Fans/Ventilation/Filters

Your plants will need a continuous supply of fresh air. A light, steady breeze helps develop strong stems, all the better to support big buds. Good air circulation also helps keep your temperature in the sweet zone (75 – 80 for veg, five degrees cooler for budding, to help bring out aromas and flavor). Air flow makes it harder for pests to get a foothold, and helps prevent mold. In a smaller grow area, an intake fan at the bottom of the room with an exhaust at the top will work great. Attaching a carbon filter will help eliminate the odor. Always keep a stronger fan on the exhaust than on the intake, so your room has a suction that prevents odor from leaking out the intake.

To Start Growing Cannabis

Now that you’ve selected the place where you’ll be growing and have all of the equipment you need, it’s time to start growing!

  1. Germinating your seeds

The easiest option for new growers is to germinate their seeds directly in their final growing medium. The biggest benefit of planting your seed directly in the growing medium is you don't have to worry about moving young seedlings which can cause stress to the young plant as it readjusts to its new surroundings.

  • Plant seeds a knuckle deep (0.5-1 inch OR 1.3 cm - 2.5 cm) in dampened soil (you don’t want to over water the seeds) this is one of the easiest marijuana germination methods for beginners.
  • After 3-5 days you should notice a sprout. The first two leaves from your cannabis plant will be round (called cotyledons), but after that all the leaves will be serrated like the cannabis leaves you are probably familiar with.
  1. The Vegetative Stage

When your cannabis plant first starts growing brand new leaves and stems, it marks the beginning of the vegetative stage. The vegetative stage is a period of growth where your cannabis plant will only focus on getting strong and big. During this stage, cannabis plants will only grow leaves and stems, and will not grow any bud. A benefit of growing indoors is that you can keep cannabis plants growing in the vegetative stage for as long or short as you want by keeping them on what is known as the vegetative light cycle.

  • Light- The most common light cycle to have plants in the vegetative state on is a 18-6 schedule. This means 18 hours with the light on and 6 hours of darkness. Having a light period that lasts 18+ hours each day will make cannabis think that it's summer/grow time. This is where the timer mentioned above will be invaluable in making sure your plants are on a consistent cycle of 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness each and every day. If the plant is growing upwards without much leafing, this is a good indication that your plant is not getting enough light and “reaching” for the light source. You can keep a Cultivate Tech light fixture 12”-36” from the top of your plant, so adjust accordingly as you watch the plant grow.
  • Water- Using LED lights means you will not have excess heat in your grow space like you would with a more traditional lighting source. This means less water evaporation so watering can occur less frequently. You will want to water the plants only when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. At this point you will want to water the plant until you see about 20% water runoff through your means of drainage. The plants can now be left alone again until the top inch of soil feel dry to the touch.
  • Temperature- Plants in the vegetative stage will thrive in comfortable room temperatures or slightly warmer. 70-80°F should be what you are aiming for. Never allow plants to experience cold/freezing temperatures.
  • Air circulation - Make sure cannabis gets a constant supply of fresh air so plants get the CO2 they need to grow. A fan will help keep the air in the room/tent circulating and the leaves on the plant moving.
  • Nutrients- If providing nutrients, start using the schedule included with your nutrients at ½ strength, and only raise to higher levels of nutrients if needed. Simply add the directed amount nutrients to your water before giving it to plants or adding to reservoir. Make sure to manage pH levels if using liquid nutrients.

How long does the vegetative state last?

When growing indoors, this mainly depends on how big you want your plant to be. Simply put, the longer you keep your plant in the vegetative stage, the bigger it will get. Some indoor growers prefer to make large numbers of small plants while some prefer to have larger plants that are harvested less frequently. This all comes down to personal preference and the type of plant you want to grow. A good rule of thumb is to let your plants stay in the vegetative stage until it reaches approximately half the height of the final height you desire for it, since there is still going to be some growing occurring during the flowering stage. For example, if you’re looking to have a 2’ plant when it’s time to harvest, it would be a good idea to switch from vegetative to flowering when the plant is a little over 1’.

Once you’ve decided your plant is large enough, it’s time to change your light cycle to trigger the flowering stage!

  1. The Flowering Stage

Light- The lighting schedule change is what is going to tell your plant to go into the flowering stage. By shortening the light exposure your plants get and increasing its time in darkness, you are essentially telling it that winter is approaching, which is why they start producing buds.

To get your plant to enter the flowering stage you will need to change the light schedule from 18 hours on and 6 hours of, to an even 12 hours on and 12 hours off. Again, this is easiest to do using a timer and changing it to a 12-12 cycle so that the lights automatically turn off for 12 hours a day.

Darkness- A new factor that becomes extremely important in the flowering stage is making sure your plants not only get the 12 hours of light, but also get 12 hours of completely uninterrupted darkness each day. If consistent night periods are not maintained, your plants can stop flowering and revert back to the vegetative stage. Even grow areas that appear dark without the lights on can have spots where light leaks in. Even a little bit of light on the plants can be disruptive during these dark periods. This is another reason why a grow tent is highly recommended. Not only will the interior of the tent reflect light back at your plants when the light is on, but they provide total darkness to your plants when the lights are off.

Supplemental Light- During the flowering stage something that can be done to greatly increase yields is to expose the parts of your plants growing buds to more light. Some growers tuck or remove leaves that are covering buds sites, but the best solution is to add supplemental lighting to area of the plant that are not being adequately hit by your primary overhead light. Cultivate Tech’s Bud Booster is designed to lay under your plant or be positioned on various sides of the plant to hit normally shadowed areas with sufficient light to bloom into fuller buds that will match those only seen on the top of your plants. If your plant is healthy, you should be harvesting plenty of bud from the top regions, but adding a supplemental light during the flowering stages can increase your yield up to 30%. 

Gender- There is no way of determining the gender of your plant when it is a seed or even in vegetative stage. Only in the flowering stage will your plants will reveal their gender. Male plants grow "pollen sacs" (looks like bunches of grapes), and female plants grow wispy white hairs (pistils) at the joints of the plant. Male cannabis plants do not produce buds with THC and most growers dispose of them immediately after the gender is discovered. Male plants in the same vicinity of female plants will pollinate the female plants resulting in weaker, “seedier” buds. So it’s best to remove the males and only have female plants present. “Feminized” seeds can be obtained which will only grow female plants which can make things much simpler for the indoor grower.

         MALE PLANT                               FEMALE PLANT

 

Possible Problems- It’s very important to stay on top of problems in the flowering stage. In the vegetative stage the plant will just keep growing new leaves to replace any that are lost if there is a problem but towards the end of the flowering stage, the plant stops making new leaves as its focus shifts entirely to forming flowers, i.e. buds.

Changing of color in the leaves is perfectly normal in the flowering stage, as most of the plants energy is now being diverted to the buds, but you’ll want to make sure the majority of them are staying green. Heavy discoloration throughout the plant should be a warning that something is wrong and you’ll want to reevaluate the temperature of the room as well as the light, air, water, and nutrients your plant is receiving and make sure everything is as it should be. 

  1. When and How to Harvest

As a beginner grower, it may be tempting to harvest early. Your patience will pay off, as full ripened buds will be of much higher quality than those that are harvested too soon.

When- A full 2 months in the flowering stage is the minimum amount of time to wait before you harvest. Some strains can even remain in the flowering stage to 3-4 months before they are ready to be harvested. A popular method to finding out if your cannabis is ready for harvest is to look at the pistils (tiny white hairs) that have been growing from your buds. When you first started noticing the pistils growing from your buds they would have been white in color. As the flowering stage progresses, the buds will fatten up and the pistils will start to darken, often turning yellow, orange, red or brown.

A rough guideline to follow is to harvest when 50-75% of the pistils have darkened. There is about a 2 week window when the buds stop producing white pistils and the current pistils start to darken.

  • Harvesting when about 40% of the pistils have darkened will result in less potent buds with lower THC content and give a “speedy” effect.
  • Harvesting when 50-75% of the pistils have darkened will result in peak THC levels in your buds. This is when most growers will want to harvest.
  • Harvesting later when about 80-90% of the pistils have darkened will result in a buds that give a more mellow effect, often referred to as ”couchlock”. These types of buds have been shown to have a great anti-anxiety effect.

How- It may seem like this step is self-explanatory, but taking the time to harvest your buds the proper way will ensure the smoothest, best tasting buds.

Trimming- Trimming your buds after drying can be very difficult, so it’s recommended to do this step first. You will want to trim off all of the leaves leaving just the buds. The tiny leaves closest to the buds can either be discarded or kept to make edibles, as these will also be high in THC content.

Drying- Some growers will remove and hang the entire plant when drying. It is much faster to cut off individual branches or buds and hang them separately. You can use any method you choose to hang the buds with many growers using clothespins, string or coat hangers. You will want to hang the buds upside-down in a cool dark area that gives them plenty of ventilation so that they can properly dry out. Make sure to give the buds enough space apart so they can dry properly and to avoid mold. You’ll want to make sure the area where they are drying out is not too humid as this will also cause molding. A good place to hang the buds is actually your grow tent, as this is already a controlled environment.

It is best to let your buds dry out relatively slowly. This process takes about 3-7 days. You will want to keep your buds hanging until they feel dry and smaller stems can snap off when you apply pressure. The larger stems should still have a little give to them when you try to bend them. Do not over-dry. Over drying will result in brittle buds that will crumble in your hands. The buds should be dry enough to not stick together, but moist enough to not break apart when handled.

Once your buds have dried properly it is now completely usable, but to get the best of the flavors and potency a final cure is necessary.

Curing- At this stage you’ll want to do a final trim of all your dried buds. Make sure any tiny leaves that might still remain are clipped off. The buds can now be removed from their stems and placed into a container. Bags and plastic containers can be used, but glass (like a mason jar) is recommended.

For about 1-2 weeks you’ll want to open the jars twice a day and allow them to ‘breathe’ for 15 minutes or so. This allows for a complete air exchange and removes any remaining moisture. Different strains may cure at different rates, but after the roughly 1-2 week period your buds should be fully ready and if they remain stored correctly you will find that your buds only get better in time.

Congratulations on your first grow!

As you’ve most likely come to find out, growing cannabis is not an exact science and different growers can have vastly different methods. By using these steps as a basic guideline and experimenting with what works best for you, each grow will be better than your last. 



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