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How to Grow Cannabis 101 – Part 1

A complete guide to HomeGrow – understanding quality genetics, discussing the benefits of living soil, touching on the importance of light source, establishing a healthy IPM routine and exploring proper drying and storage. 

The process of beginning as a budding Cannabis cultivator can be daunting – there are so many different ways to grow Cannabis from outdoor vs indoor, soil medium vs soilless mediums, LED lighting vs gas bulbs, seeds vs clones, different instruments and methods. These first few steps of growing can seem like an impossible task when you are first starting out. The good news is Cannabis is known for its ability to grow all over the planet relatively easily (after all, it’s referred to as “weed” for a reason), however there is a huge difference between successfully growing a Cannabis plant and successfully growing high quality resin-rich Cannabis plants. In this article, we will walk you through important considerations and also provide suggestions focusing on growing high resin-rich Cannabis.

Stage One: Preparing Your Garden

Seeds or Clones?

While many variables matter when it comes to Cannabis, none may be as important as your starting genetics. Ideally you want to start out with genetics – whether they come from seeds or clones – that will be at least moderately resistant to stress and disease, that grow in a form that is suitable for your grow environment (tall and lanky vs. short and bushy, and everything in between), and that feature aromas and other qualities that you like. Growing from seeds will ultimately result in more hardy plants for your specific grow environment and avoid the risk of bringing in foreign diseases, bacteria, and pests that clones could. For more information on purchasing cannabis seeds please click here.

Growing Medium – Soil vs Soilless?

There are many different ways to grow plants. Plants can grow in soil, but they can also be grown in soilless mediums as well. This includes coco coir mixes that can resemble soil (this type of medium contains little to no actual sand, silt or clay which are core components of “soil”), hydroponic systems that focus on keeping roots exposed to nutritive water, or even aeroponic systems that mist the air around the roots of plants with a nutritive mist.

There are pros and cons to every growing style. However, soil based cultivation can be a bit more forgiving overall. Soilless media requires the cultivator to pay close attention to the pH and nutrient load of the solutions used to deliver food to the plants. For beginners, soilless media can be very challenging and expensive. Additionally, soilless media systems require the use of liquid fertilizers and pH adjusters, plus additional pumps, controllers and other equipment to ensure that the nutritive solutions move properly.

On the other hand, soil can be very cheap to acquire and requires very little skill to use functionally. However, soil can get complicated fast depending on how dedicated a grower is to perfecting their crop. Soils have both a mineral and nutritive aspect, but also a microbiological component which is critical. There can be all the nutrients your plant may ever need present in soil, but if those nutrients are not available in a form the plant can use, they are of little use. 

Micro-organisms provide critical functions by “unlocking” nutrients in the soil to make them available for plant roots to uptake. Additionally, some micro-organisms can work synergistically with plants to help the plants get better access to both nutrients and water. Many growers will tell you that growing Cannabis is as much about growing your soil as its growing your plant. By encouraging a healthy balance of biological activity in your soil, you can help your plants get access to more nutrients and water, which ultimately means that the grower does not have to spend as much resources on bringing in additional nutrients and water. When a soil is rich in biological activity, it is often referred to as “living soil.”

So how do you cultivate living soil? The potting soil in our kit has compost, worm castings and other beneficial mites, fungus and microbes which are necessary for living soil. If these are not present in your potting soil you will need to introduce more micro-biology to your soil by using compost or fermented teas to help fertilize your plants. Compost teas are produced by brewing compost in aerated or semi-aerated water to extract micro-organisms and nutrients from the compost into the water. The resulting brew is then often diluted and fed to plants which are able to utilize some of the nutrients right away. While the micro-organisms in the compost tea make their way into the soil to start breaking down organic matter and possibly making symbiotic relationships with the plant’s roots.

Establishing a healthy organic mulch layer is another major part of living soil. A mulch layer will help improve your soil’s structure, drainage, suppress weeds, and nutrient-holding capacity. We establish this mulch layer in our kit by using barley straw and germinating our cover cop seeds. Fungi and other organisms such as worms help decompose organic mulch layers and help bring beneficial nutrients to our plants. A mulch layer will typically be supported by the application of top dressing.

HomeGrow Soil Kit

Designed for the novice and enthusiast Cannabis cultivators, this HomeGrow Soil Kit provides the essential elements to grow organic craft cannabis at home.

How Important is Lighting?

Do you plan to grow outside or inside? And if its outside, do you know how much sun your property gets throughout the year? Cannabis plants love lots of light, and require around 16-18 hours of light per day to remain in their vegetative stage where they are focused on producing shoots and leaves. Once a Cannabis plant is exposed to around 12 hours of light and dark per day, the plant starts going into the flowering stage, which is when the plant really starts to pack on the resin. If your outdoor area does not get enough sunlight each day, you may risk your plants going into the flowering stage very early, resulting in smaller plants with lower potency overall. It is important to note that autoflower varieties will flower on their own and are not dependent on this light cycle change.

If you are growing indoors, you have several options available to you. The primary types of lights used for Cannabis cultivation are high-pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs, metal halide bulbs, and LED lights. HPS bulbs tend to emit an orange glow, metal halide bulbs tend to produce a white light, and LED lights can emit any number of colors depending on how they are used. HPS and metal halide bulbs produce heat and are much more energy intensive than LED lights, making LEDs more environmentally friendly overall. Investing in a Par Meter such as the one pictured below will be able to tell you the strength of your artificial light or how much sun your garden gets. LED’s will be the preferred lighting source for beginner growers.

Without quality or the right amount of light, Cannabis plants will produce significantly less resin and beneficial phytocompounds. For indoor growers, we suggest considering the following light options – Fohse Aries 640W, Fluence Spydr 2x Series, Timber Cypress 3 or 4, and Migro Aray 2 or 3.

Stage Two: Seed Germination/Vegetative Growth

Once you have figured out what varieties of Cannabis you want to grow and in what media you want to grow them, you are ready to start growing. When growing from seed you will need to first germinate your seeds by exposing them to water. There are several methods you can use to do this. Seeds can be germinated directly in water or a mix of water plus aloe to form a germination soak. Soak seeds overnight or for 12-48 hours, at 65-70 degrees F° or until a root is visible. This soaking method will allow water to permeate effectively and encourage germination. Remove seeds from soak and plant just below surface of soil. Water soil and keep the area moist. Expect seedlings to emerge from soil in 3-10 days.

As mentioned previously, when your plants are exposed to 18 hours of sunlight or more per day, they will enter the vegetative growth stage where the plant focuses on producing shoots and leaves in order to collect as much energy from the nearby light as possible. When you start growing your plants, you will want to be sure that they have exposure to plenty of light to support that vegetative stage.

The Takeaway

  • Start with quality genetics that can withstand environmental stressors
  • Grow in a living soil medium
  • Have a quality light source because cannabis loves a lot of light

Most issues in the plant’s health start with over or under watering and cascade into more severe problems. When watering, try to aim for watering in between 5-10 percent of total soil volume. For example, if you have 7.5 gallons of soil in a 10 gallon pot that would be 0.375 gallons or 1.5 quarts of filtered water. For more information please continue to How to Grow Cannabis 101 – Part 2. Thank you for reading and happy growing!