CAC’s Beginners Guide to: Growing Cannabis at Home
Have you ever wanted to grow your own cannabis but didn’t know how to or maybe you just need some tips? Well, we might be able to help! It may seem like a lot of information but if you are willing to put in the work, it is nothing but rewarding.
The following is a guide to growing your own cannabis at home. It is filled with advice and links to many different sources on growing. We have also asked some of our coworkers here at CAC for some tips and stories that helped them learn to be better home growers so we wanted to share with you all what I have found out. First, let’s talk about what you need to know BEFORE you start growing.
Even though it is legal in Massachusetts to grow cannabis, there are still laws that regulate how many plants you can grow and how you grow within your household. Make sure you are following these laws to ensure you are being compliant and legal. Here are the laws and regulations to keep in mind:
You can grow up to 6 plants in your home but if you have 2 or more adults in your home you can have up to 12 plants, but no more.
Wherever you decide to grow in your home, all plants and grow equipment will need to be located in an area that’s equipped with a lock or some sort of security device.
No one should be able to see your home grow without the use of any optical aids such as binoculars.
Cannabis based extracts and concentrates that are made with any liquid or gas, other than alcohol, that have a flash point of below 100 degrees Fahrenheit are NOT allowed to be produced at home.
Advice Before We Start
This section is filled with some great advice from my coworkers here at CAC about home growing that we really want to share before we get started. We felt the need to put this in our post while discussing this blog with my coworker and friend Darius (PSA/Head of Delivery) who has been growing for years. While trying to gain direction on how to write this post, I asked Darius for a piece of advice about growing that he wanted everyone to know. He emphasized to me the NEED for discipline, explaining that “It is work. You come home from a long day of work and do MORE work. Your plants don’t take days off.” In other words, if your plants are not taken care of, they will not succeed and neither will you. Put in the time, take care of them, treat them with respect and you will reap the benefits they provide.
When asked to give a piece of advice, Kait (Cultivation/Hiring Coordinator) replied “Listen to your plants. They will let you know when they are happy or when they aren’t. Don’t obsess over the little things, but make sure you are still paying attention to detail.” At this point, we genuinely could not remember if we were getting advice on how to grow cannabis or how to be in a successful relationship. But it makes so much sense! Plants are alive and we must treat them like the living breathing organisms they are. “So many first time growers come to me and say ‘Oh my gosh, my plant is dying. ’ because one lower leaf turned yellow.” Your plants are okay Kait says, this is normal. AND if your plant is half yellow, don’t freak out, change course.
Furthermore, Kait and Jaraud (Trim, Harvest, and Cure Manager) had the same piece of advice for us, which is to “Keep a journal.” Jaraud says “Make sure you track everything from your nutrient input to the environment for the day. This will help narrow down your desired feeding schedule and if anything goes wrong, you can look back and see what happened. Knowledge is key!”
And remember, no one is perfect, Sam (Fertigation Lead) professes that you must “Humble yourself” and “Ask questions” because we not only learn from our own mistakes but others’ mistakes as well. “Every grower has knowledge and insight that I may not have experienced or learned on my own. Why limit yourself to one avenue of learning?” Never stop learning and never stop growing. Pun completely indented.
There is more advice and some stories we have for you all and we will share those but first let’s go into the basic necessities for starting a home grow and the processes within each growth stage that we must follow to optimize success.
Basic Needs and Equipment
First and foremost, here is our piece of advice. Start small. Try one plant or just a few, so that you can really start to understand the process of growing. It is a small investment compared to an entire room full of cannabis grow equipment and plants that you cannot handle. The biggest reason most start growing cannabis is to save money. Don’t let your money go to waste, take it step by step. Here is a brief explanation of some options you have.
According to a Leafly article (link above) on how to grow indoors, it says you don’t need a special room. That even a closet, tent or corner can be sufficient for your few plant(s). It just needs proper ventilation, lightening, and other growing conditions explained below.
.Your seeds should always be dry and brown (light to dark), NEVER slimy, squishy and pale. You can get seeds a few different ways: Maybe you have a friend who grows? Ask them for a clone or if their plants have produced seeds. When you obtain seeds, make sure to store them in a dry, cool place until ready to grow.
Soil or Compost
Soil is everywhere but the best soil to use is an organic soil mix with 20-30% per lite because it helps drain the water so the roots get a solid amount of oxygen.
As for compost, it doesn’t take much effort to save your scrap food. You just need to ensure you add to it constantly and turn it to make sure all the scraps are decomposing evenly. (Here is a guide to composting: )
Soil is the easiest to use and access.
Compost will give your bud a more robust and complex taste profile.
They are the most natural soil mediums, filled with microorganisms and a balanced amount of nutrients.
Soil-less mixes (Coco Coir, peat moss, perlite, etc.)
With these mediums, the nutrients should be mixed into the water you feed your plants and cannabis tents to do better with these because there is more room for oxygen to reach the roots, since it is great at draining the water.
Less likely to run into pest problems
Less likely to over water
More direct hit of nutrients and oxygen right to the roots
Great for beginners
Hydroponics is literally water. The cannabis plants get a direct hit of all the nutrients you place in your water. The roots grow extremely fast and in huge clumps.
Fastest growth (especially when paired with HID grow lights, which we will go into next)
Fluorescent Grow Lights
Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) and High Output (HO) T5 grow lamps are some of the best lights for clones, seedlings and young plants.
They don’t use a lot of electricity or make too much heat so you don’t need a cooling system.
Great light spectrum for growing cannabis
Good choice for short spaces because they can be close to the plants
High Intensity Discharge (HID) Grow Lights,Metal Halide (MH), and High Pressure Sodium (HPS)
Most efficient type of grow lights
Best for the flowering stage
They can be hung the right distance and no need to adjust the lights frequently like you might have to with LED’s
LED Grow Lights
Most popular in the cannabis home growing world and some growers even believe LEDs produce more resinous buds. Keep the lights at least 18 inches above your buds to ensure you don’t burn your plants
Usually have built-in cooling system
The smaller ones can be plugged directly into the wall
They can hang right over the plants
Most effective for new growers
Combining LEDs with HPS grow lights is believed to get growers great results
The pH of the water you use should be between 5.0 and 7.0 and always make sure it is room temperature. Don’t over or under water because you could drown and don’t underwater because your plants need hydration and nutrients. Cannabis LOVES water but it also loves oxygen so again a soil medium that can drain well or allow for a good amount of aeration will be super beneficial.
Distilled water is boiled to the point of evaporation and the condensation is captured leaving a highly filtered water. This will be the most beneficial for inside grows because of the high quality, lack of minerals. It is not as effective as removing volatile chemicals as reverse osmosis but it is very acceptable to grow cannabis.
Lacks most contaminants and minerals
Ensures your plants will get high quality every time
Most accessible to new growers
Reverse osmosis water
Reverse osmosis is a high pressure filtration system that results in an ultra filtered water that is emptied of all its nutrients and minerals by passing through a series of fine membranes. This is the most expensive process of filtered water but it is the cleanest
Cleanest form of water, lacking the most minerals and volatile chemicals
Tap water/City water
This is totally okay to utilize but you have to ensure you aren’t contaminating your plants with too much chlorine and other chemicals and minerals existing in your city water. You can evaporate the chlorine out of your water but this surely isn’t the simplest method, just the cheapest.
Easiest to access
Are you growing organically? Then your starting soil is very important and quite frankly will taste phenomenal if you have a nutrient dense soil (compost is a great way to get this soil) with lots of microorganisms but if you aren’t growing this way you will need to put nutrients in your water source.
If you’re adding nutrients to your water, water until you see a little run off, about 10-20%, in order to properly flush out accumulated minerals from your soil medium. If not and you are going organic, you want to just moisten the soil to stop the moment it starts to drain even a little because you don’t want to lose any vital nutrients in your soil. If you have ever grown anything you probably know about the NPK ratio.
The NPK ratio is Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. These are three nutrients needed by most plants but these are not the ONLY nutrients your plants need. I will list these out but then give some resources that recommend the amounts of these nutrients. There is a link at the beginning of this section that goes into how to use these nutrients properly.
Macronutrients (Needed in large quantities)
Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium (NPK ratio)
Micronutrients (Needed in small quantities, still VERY important)
Boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc
The ratios, specified below are subject to change and vary based on strain type, it will be a lot of experimenting if you are taking this route. The big focus here is to give the plants what they need and not forcing them to do anything that they don’t naturally want to do. You can give too many nutrients and in fact it can cause the chemical burning of your plants so learn what your plants need for each stage of growth, journal the progress.
Like every living thing, cannabis goes through several growth stages and it is important to understand them to ensure you are growing your plants properly. Each stage has different needs, just like humans. Be very aware of what stage your cannabis is in and the needs of each phase. If you understand these stages and what is necessary for optimal growth, you will become a great grower one day.
Right now your seed is lying dormant before you germinate it. Invigorating it with water will cause the seed to burst with life! Not all your seeds will germinate, sprout or turn into seedlings so do not worry, use the ones that do and give the others time. It is no big deal if you don’t succeed the first time, just have the confidence that one day you will. Remember “Knowledge is key.” There are so many ways to germinate but I have specified one method below I have seen many growers use, not just cannabis growers.
Day: 70-85 Fahrenheit
Night: 5 to 10 degrees less
Medium Humidity (avoid low humidity): 40-60%
Wet Paper Towel Method of Germination
Soak paper towels in distilled water until it is damp all the way through. You do not want it dripping wet.
Place that towel on a plate and spread the seeds apart atop the towel.
Place another damp towel on top and then a second plate.
Store in an area between 70-90 degrees Fahrenheit.
This process will take anywhere from 1-7 days so check periodically to make sure the paper towels are still damp. Just do not touch the split seeds, they need to stay within a sterile environment.
Once you see your cute little tap root popping out the seed it is time to transplant your sprouts into the soil medium of your choice.
Transplanting Your Sprout
Pick up your cute little sprout with a clean pair of tweezers and plop it into a 2 inch pot filled with your soil medium.
You want it to be tap root facing down and then cover it lightly in soil.
Spray a little bit of water on your sprout, not too much, we don’t want to drown it. Pay attention to the temperature and moisture level and it should produce a seedling within the week!
How much light, water and nutrients you are giving your plant at this stage is vital to its initial growth. You will start off with those one or 2 leaflets but then you will start to see 3, and then 5-7 or more and it will really start to look like cannabis. Before this is happening consistently in the vegetative stage, you have to build that strength and solid growth in your seedling stage. You don’t want your plants to be reaching for sunlight, we want them to be a little more stout at first to provide your plants with a good strong stem.
Day: 70-85 Fahrenheit
Night: 5 to 10 degrees less
Humidity (avoid low humidity)
Medium Humidity : 40-60%
Just like a teenager, the vegetative stage is where everything happens SO fast. A lot of growth takes place because you’ve transplanted your seedling and it has so much space to grow. Here is where you will train your plants to be the strongest, healthiest adult flowering plants they can be. The roots are spreading so you want to water away from the stock to promote the spread and growth of the root system. They will need more water and nutrients to help their development. The plants are very resilient in this stage so if you make a mistake, figure out what is happening and change it, your plants should bounce right back.
Day: 70-85 Fahrenheit
Night: 5 to 10 degrees less
Humidity (avoid low humidity)
Medium Humidity : 40-60%
Light: 18- 24 hrs (depends on the strain of cannabis)
Nutrients (NPK Ratio)
Early Vegetative: 4-2-3
Vegetative to Flowering Cycle Change: 7-7-7
This best way I can explain this stage is relating it again to human development. These are feminized plants and they are going through a stressful but amazing time in their life. Imagine pregnancy in humans. Female organs are putting in SO much work to create life and even though we might be avoiding the development of seeds, these plants are going through the process of developing life. They want to spread their genetics but we are trying to control this process so again, your level of respect for these plants will show in the end result. Be cautious and note everything these plants are going through just how a pregnant woman must be aware of everything their body is going through.
It is as though the summer is ending and they are preparing for less light. Your buds are starting to develop and like I stated earlier in the stages of growth, you want to weed out the plants that are turning male. This will start to show a few weeks into this stage. So keep an eye out for that everyday because it occurs very fast. Do not prune at this time because it will upset the hormones of your plants.
Your plants need support, you can trellis them with netting so that the buds are supported and the stems stay strong and upright. Now is the time to give your plants blooming nutrients. This is a very tricky stage in the life cycle because you have to make sure to keep a close eye on your plants and look out for signs of deficiencies or overfeeding. For best practices, check out the link in the header of this growing phase
Temperature (avoid hot temperatures)
Day: 65-80 Fahrenheit
Night: 5 to 10 degrees less
Medium Humidity: 50%
Nutrients (NPK ratio)
Early bloom: 5:7:10
Mid–late bloom: 4:7:10
Late bloom: pH balanced flush
Harvesting, Drying and Curing
This is probably the most exciting part of growing cannabis because you are so close to the end result. You DO NOT want to rush these last processes though! Let me say that again, the slower and more controlled your dry process, the better the outcome.
In this process you will need a great pair of clippers, powder free latex gloves, clothes hangers, thin line to hang your cannabis plants on and labels. The best time of day to harvest is right when the lights go on in the morning because at night is when the plants have the most optimal resin growth.
Put on some gloves because the resin will be a lot and then start trimming any excess big leaves away from each individual to make it easier to cut your plants down. You could wait until you cut to do the majority of this but it may be easier to get the bulk of it done while they are standing upright.
You can cut your plants at the base, and one at a time. You must have a strong hand to cut and prune but be gentle with the growth at the same time. Don’t rip your plant out of the soil or snap it in half. If it falls over on it’s own, that is okay according to Jaraud, “I had a nearly finished flowering plant fall over because it was too top heavy. I was very nervous about what damage might have been done due to the fall but it was all good and smoked beautifully.”
Next, cut it from the base and lay it out to be trimmed properly. OR cut off individual branches if that makes more sense to you. Whatever is easier in this case is usually the best way to go. You can either wet trim your leaves off (right after harvest) or dry trim them (right after drying), it is personal preference but I suggest getting rid of the biggest leaves and trimming away all the little dried sugar leaves just before cure, just be cautious and use little precise clippers.
Even before you harvest, you want to prepare your drying area so it is as simple as moving it to that area and allowing the cannabis to do it’s thing right away. You can use hangers and string, drying trays and so much more. For all you options, here is a link to a blog specifically for this process:
Keep the room, closet, etc. at around 68 degrees Fahrenheit for the first 3 day and do not let it get warmer because it could cause mold to grow. Then bring the temperature even lower after the first 3 days, at about 65 degrees in order to slow down the process.
Keep it consistently in between 55 and 65 percent humidity to ensure it doesn’t grow mold or dry too fast.
If you can, set your fans to run for five minutes every two hours to ensure proper ventilation.
This process is fairly simple. First you place your newly dried weed in airtight glass jars and you let it sit in the jars for at least two weeks except for 10 minutes every day, where you open the jars and let them breathe. Just make sure the conditions below exist for proper cure.
About 65 degrees Fahrenheit
Keep the room DARK.
If you are storing your jarred cannabis for longer than cure, only a few times a month for twenty minute intervals to ensure quality and aeration.
Why did you start growing weed?
I started growing cannabis because I got into the industry! I figured since I am a cultivator here, the only way to expand my own skills and bring my personal knowledge and experience was to do it all on my own. Now I have a grow constantly going and let me tell you, there is no weed better than your own weed even if it’s not top quality. There’s just something so special about smoking cannabis that from seed to smoke was cultivated by you!
I started to grow cannabis because I wanted to know exactly what I was putting into my system. I started using cannabis recreationally at first and started to find some to be more therapeutic than others. Hence, I began studying on how to cultivate it and the science behind the scenes and fell in love. Now I continue my cannabis growing education and experience in hopes of becoming a master grower.
I paid for weed. It is free! I started researching cannabis and wondered “What was wrong with it?” It is all natural and it doesn’t show signs of harming people and other drugs are hurting people. It just made sense to try.
I started growing cannabis because I was tired of paying someone else to do it. I love learning, and competition. So weed was a great avenue. I was looking for a career as the prohibition was lifted in Massachusetts, so I figured why not do something I love. Plus, I love how simple of a plant cannabis is. It’s hardy enough to where you can push it to the limits, and usually still get a great result. It’s so responsive to environmental factors in almost predictable ways, which makes playing with it fun.
So, what type of home grower will you be?
A very special thanks to Darius, Kait, Jaraud and Sam for your responses! The stories, advice and pictures have made this process that much more exciting! It is making me want to grow and I hope it inspires others to learn about this rewarding process.
Growing Marijuana For Beginners: Top Mistakes to Avoid
T hanks to the legalization of adult-use and medicinal cannabis across the country, consumers not only have access to products in state-legal dispensaries, but many states also allow for consumers to grow their own cannabis in the safety and privacy of their own home. This has many benefits, including the ability to perform quality control on your plants and to grow the strains that work best for you, especially important for medical cannabis patients.
Additionally, the supply can be controlled, so you’ll never run out or have to go from one dispensary to another hunting for your preferred strain. After some initial up-front costs, it may be more cost-effective to grow your own in the long run. Once properly set up, growing cannabis at home can be easy, fun, and rewarding, but there are some common mistakes novice growers make. Let’s take a look at some top mistakes to avoid when growing marijuana.
Be Aware of the Seeds You’re Planting
Say a friend offers you a handful of marijuana seeds to get your cannabis grow started, and you think to yourself, “weed is weed, what could go wrong?” The answer, as it turns out, is a lot. But first things first. To grow cannabis that is both potentially therapeutic and euphoric, you’ll have to first hunt down seeds.
- Tips For Planting Your New Clone
- Essential Cannabis Growing Supplies
- Just How Resilient Are Cannabis Plants?
- Top Easy Cannabis Strains for Beginner Growers
Feminized seeds are great for beginner growers. Do your research on the cannabis breeder. Do they have any raving reviews? You can buy seeds that are mixed with males and females, but it takes some practice to identify the males and unfortunately, if you miss one, they could pop pollen later on and ruin all your hard work and harvest.
If you grab a knock off seed bag, it’s quite likely that there are males, hermaphrodites, or runts, and there’s no way to know by simply looking at a seed whether it’s feminine or otherwise. It’s also important to know whether those seeds are indica, sativa, autoflowering, etc.
Just as a mushroom is unlikely to grow in the dry ground of a desert, not every type of cannabis is acclimated to your particular climate. Some may need warmer temperatures like Triangle Kush while others may thrive in cooler weather like Northern Lights. Other aspects that are not one-size-fits-all propositions are how much nutrients or water to give your plants. Knowing what you’re planting can help you provide the proper environment for a successful grow.
Not All Soil is Created Equal
Picking the soil to grow your cannabis from is greatly important for the health of your plants. photo credit
You may be tempted to either reuse soil from another plant or to dig up dirt from your garden, but neither one of those mediums will contribute to a thriving harvest. Soil for cannabis should be light and not packed too tightly, which allows for proper water drainage and root growth.
Cannabis can be finicky when it comes to the kind of soil it’s grown in because it needs the proper balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for robust buds. It’s also important to make sure that the soil for your plant is free from fungi, pests, and contaminants, something you can’t guarantee when you use any old soil.
A great beginner tip is to start out mixing 50% soil, particularly from your local cannabis grow shop, with perlite and 50% coco coir. The coco coir helps with distributing the water throughout the pot evenly by absorbing it and helps prevent overwatering that could lead to root rot. The perlite helps with drainage and airflow.
Be Careful Not to Overwater
Water is the elixir of both plant and human life. Nonetheless, water for your marijuana plants can still be too much of a good thing. If your cannabis plant begins to sag and has a droopy appearance, chances are they’ve been overwatered. This waterlogging will prevent your plant from getting another all-important compound it needs to live, oxygen. Over time, too much water can kill your plants.
How to Avoid: Try not to water your plant unless it’s thirsty. To figure out if it’s time for a watering, push your finger about an inch into the soil. If your finger comes out with damp soil on your skin, hold off on watering. If it comes out dry, then it’s time to water your plant.
Nutrients are Great in Proper Moderation
It’s been said that the offering of food is the sixth love language, and of course, we want our cannabis plants to be happy and healthy. But feeding them too much is not the answer. Overfeeding your plant can cause nutrient burn or even nutrient lockout – the accumulation of minerals in the soil and potential bud killer.
Overfeeding is a very common mistake especially if you’ve been following a feeding schedule included with a nutrient system, the doses of which tend to be too high for an indoor grow.
Be mindful of the nutrients and fertilizers you are using because a little goes a long way. photo credit
How to Avoid: Start by giving your plants about one-quarter of the nutrient dose the feeding schedule calls for. If you’re winging it, follow cannabis’ cardinal rule; start low and go slow. Either way, check your plants daily to see how they’re responding and adjust accordingly. If you’re just not sure and need a more seasoned hand, check in with your local grow store or ask a friend in the know.