Don’t go overboard, though, he warns. Start with growing three plants in five-gallon pots. This way, if one dies, you’ll still have two plants, and the pots will limit their growth. A general rule of thumb is that they’ll grow one foot for every gallon of soil. He recommends mixing your own organic soil, which he explains how to do on his website and will save you the headache of adding nutrients or pH testing. “The soil is what we call alive,” he says. “It’s always breaking things down to replenish nutrients that are missing.” But if you can’t mix your own soil, or don’t feel like it, you could buy organic Pro-Mix soil, which Johnson says many outdoor growers use.
Johnson notes that the outdoor grow season lasts from around April to October, meaning if you plant seeds now, they’d still yield flower, but not much. Since it’s late in the season, he suggests buying a large clone, which will have more branches and therefore yield more flower.
Do your homework and read up on the laws in your state. Some states prohibit growing cannabis, while others, like my home state of California, permits anyone over age 21 to grow cannabis, but only up to a certain number of plants. NORML has a pretty in-depth guide to the laws in each state. Colorado, Oregon, Nevada, Vermont, and Maine also allow cultivation, but again, the specifics depend on the state. Definitely clarify what your rights are before you start the glorious path to at-home bud gardening.
While you can absolutely grow cannabis indoors, outdoor cultivation is much simpler and cheaper, says Ron Johnson, author of How to Grow Organic Cannabis: A Step-by-Step Guide for Growing Marijuana Outdoors, who also runs the website The Cannabis Gardener. “The sun is free,” he tells Mic. “You don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars a month in electrical bills.” An outdoor garden probably won’t allow you to turn over product fast enough, but it’ll suffice if you just want to grow weed for yourself. Plus, it’s gentler on the planet.
There are different harvesting methods, but Johnson cuts the whole plant at the base and hangs it upside down with some twine in a dark room at a temperature of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Add a fan for airflow — you definitely don’t want the room to be humid, which will cause mold to grow, rendering your crop unusable. It’ll probably take around a week to dry.
Before you get started
Cannabis cultivation laws vary widely state-by-state. Also, we can’t stress this enough: Growing cannabis is illegal in a lot of places, and the penalties — which include steep fines and prison time — can be much worse than possession, since growing can imply an intent to distribute. Black and brown folx need to be especially scrupulous about heeding these rules, since law enforcement targets us way more than white people for weed-related charges, even if we consume it at similar rates.
If you buy seeds from a seed bank, look for those labeled “feminized” to ensure they give rise to female plants, Johnson says. But if you’re a total newbie, he suggests buying clones, which are cuttings from a “mother” female plant, available at some dispensaries, as well as at nurseries. Not only are they easier to obtain, “they’re easier to grow. You get a clone, and you transplant it to some soil.”
When it comes to cultivating cannabis indoors, you need to be sure to provide your plant with the optimal temperature, humidity, air circulation, CO2, and nutrients.
Whether you are growing two or 30 plants in your house, grow equipment requires a significant amount of electricity, primarily from your lighting and air conditioning units. Make sure that all electrical equipment is installed by a trained professional to reduce the likelihood of an electrical fire. You don’t need to be an electrician to design an indoor grow, but having a basic understanding of watts, volts, and amps is essential. The equation below can be used to determine whether your property has the minimum amount of power for an indoor garden:
The health of your garden is completely dependent upon the environment you create and the equipment you select. It is easy to buy a new line of nutrients, but much more difficult to replace an undersized air conditioner. Careful planning prior to your grow will go a long way in saving you from expensive mishaps.
Creating the ideal environment
High-pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs are highly efficient HID lights that produce a very effective spectrum of light to promote growth during the flowering phase. Most HPS bulbs are double-ended and can last 10,000 hours without losing efficiency. While these lights are the workhorses of most grow rooms today, they produce a significant amount of heat that needs to be removed, increasing air conditioning requirements.
With lighting, AC, and other environmental controls in place, indoor cannabis plants will require large amounts of fertilizer or nutrients throughout their lifespans. Hydroponic systems lack the base nutrients that occur within soil; that leaves it up to you, the grower, to feed their plants with nutrient concentrations — the exact formula of which depends upon plant variety and phase of cultivation. With hydroponics, salt-based nutrients typically come in the form of a concentrated liquid or dry soluble powder that can be mixed with water.
Coco Coir is the fibrous material found on and in coconut shells. As a byproduct of the coconut industry, it is favored by growers as a sustainable and renewable medium. Coco coir is an inert medium with a neutral pH that does not provide or maintain any nutrients. These qualities are great for growers who know how to appropriately adjust pH, allowing for quick pH and nutrient changes. There may be a learning curve, but if you’re numerically inclined, it’s not too hard to get a grip on the process. Coco coir can be used either by itself or added to soil or hydroton for improved drainage and growth capability.
Unlike outdoor cultivation — where you almost always use soil to grow your plants — growing indoors offers several different options for growing systems and media. Some media are easier to work with than others, while some are a little trickier, but offer more control over the finer details. Different media retain moisture at different rates, which in turn determines how often plants need to be watered. Some media harbor beneficial microbes that can help roots absorb nutrients better.
The amount of CO2 you supplement your garden with depends on how much light your plants are receiving, the growth phase they are in, and their overall size. CO2 should only be used during the “daylight” period, as plants are unable to utilize CO2 at night or in the dark. Sealed grow rooms are ideal when supplementing CO2, as open rooms tend to exhaust the CO2 more quickly than the plants can use it.
Despite the hurdles, many first-time growers still choose to cultivate cannabis indoors (which is legal in Alaska, Colorado, Washington D.C. and Oregon), and there are steps to maximize a plant’s chances of succeeding. It all starts with a plant’s genetics. “For your typical closet setup, you’re going to want a plant that stays short,” Lipton said. “A lot of time that means an indica. Sativas are really tall and lanky.” (More on the difference between those two families here.)
Know the law.
It’s important to remember that cultivating even one cannabis plant for personal consumption is felony on the federal level and punishable by up to five years in prison. Meanwhile, four US states — Alaska, Colorado, Washington D.C. and Oregon — have passed local amendments, allowing citizens who are 21 years old and over to grow a limited number of plants without fear of persecution.
Find a healthy clone.
Even with a healthy clone, however, cultivating cannabis can be a long and arduous process — especially in tight indoor spaces. “A lot of people think growing is easy, but it’s not,” Lipton said. “You have to be really on it. Not everyone has success, obviously.”