Before we dive into the topic, marijuana growers should know that growing marijuana plants, whether indoors or outdoors, is a demanding task and a time-consuming challenge that requires a great deal of commitment on the part of the grower.
Knowing what you’re getting yourself into in advance will put you at an advantage, as you can calculate how much time and investment you need to get started and decide whether it pays off or not.
If you have thought about growing your own weed, our job is to give you a detailed overview of the whole growing timeline.
We will make a comparison between indoor and outdoor growing, mention the equipment and ideal setting for the plant, as well as give you some tips if you are a first time grower. Finally, we will answer the burning question – what is the amount of time you will need to grow weed from seed to weed plant, harvest, and beyond.
Growing Cannabis Plants: Indoor Growers vs Outdoor Growers
Cannabis growers are curious to know whether farming cannabis indoors is better than outdoor farming. The truth is, there’s no short answer as what works for some growers might not work for others.
To give you the bigger picture, we’ll focus on some of the most decisive factors that everyone who wants to dab into cannabis growing should think about.
Most of the time, your living situation will dictate your growing method as it makes a huge difference whether you’re living in a summer house in the countryside where your closest neighbor lives half a mile away, you’re living in a house with a small garden surrounded by inquisitive neighbors, or you’re walled in a city apartment.
Warmth and Light
If you want your Cannabis plant to thrive, you need to make sure it has enough warmth and light. Indoor growing lets you control your environment more than outdoor growing does because you can adjust the temperature and water level and use artificial lights. The temperature should be between 70-85°F with the lights on or 58-70°F with the lights off.
It has been proven that indoor growing produces weed with higher THC concentration. However, others argue that outdoor plants have better taste and aroma.
Of course, outdoor farming would probably cost you less as you don’t have to pay for artificial light, soil, or a temperature control system and exhaust fan.
Photoperiod Or Autoflowering Plants
Another decision you will have to make is whether you’ll plant photoperiod or autoflowering strains. Since cannabis is a plant that has a life cycle of one year, you should decide which type of plant suits your needs.
The difference between both is their flowering phase, which comes after the vegetative phase. The first take a longer period to reach harvest, but produce higher levels of CBD and bigger plants, while the latter have faster growth times, but produce smaller quantities.
Deciding which one you would like to plant depends on the grow space and the grow lights. For a successful indoor grow you will need autoflowers, or if you have a lot of room, you may opt for a photoperiod strain.
The preparation stage includes the time you need to obtain your seeds and equipment and set up your growing area. If you’re purchasing seeds and equipment from a seed bank abroad, you need to calculate the shipping time as well. It’s up to you whether this stage will last just a couple of days or a month.
It’s also useful to decide on a budget beforehand because this can help you narrow down your choices later on. For example, depending on whether you’re growing weed as a hobby or aim to make a profit, you can spend from $500 to more than $1,000 solely on purchasing artificial lights. Typically, you would use high-intensity discharge (HID) lights.
This is also the time when you should think about your growing method and whether you will use soil, hydroponic, or coco. Hydro is used to get bigger and faster growing plants, and is often used by experienced growers, while soil is the easiest beginner-friendly method. Coco, on the other hand, is an in-between method for intermediate growers.
The growing area itself can either be a spare room or simply a closet, cabinet, or a corner in the basement as long as it’s dry and cool. Also, don’t forget to make sure it fits the Cannabis plants and equipment.
The length of time it takes to grow the Cannabis plant can be divided into different phases.
From Seed to Harvest
This phase can be divided into three different stages: germination, vegetative, and flowering stage.
The seed germination phase is the time your marijuana seeds need to sprout, i.e. move from seed to seedling, also known as “popping” seeds. For this to happen, the seed needs enough water to increase in size, break its shell open, and form the root.
Germinating your seeds starts with a 24-hour water soak. You can leave the seeds in water for up to 72 hours so they can sprout their tails before you plant them, either in small pots or directly into the soil. This stage typically lasts one week.
The vegetative stage is the most important stage of your Cannabis plant growth. During this time, the plant only gets bigger and taller, growing stems and leaves. The plant grows no buds at this stage.
Typically, in the right conditions (meaning: 12-18 hours of light per day), three to four weeks is enough for your plant to grow in height and produce a decent amount of buds in the next stage. Some growers, however, leave their plants in the vegetative stage for two months or more so that they can grow larger and produce more cannabis buds.
Flowering Stage And Cannabis Strains
The flowering period can last from five to sixteen weeks as it mostly depends on the type of Cannabis strain you’ve planted. There are three typical marijuana strains:
- Hybrid strain.
Sativa strains give the user uplifting and energizing feelings, as well as a burst of creativity and imagination, which is why these types of strains are generally used at social gatherings and creative projects.
Indica strains are known for their sedating and relaxing effects and are often used before bed in order to help the user sleep better.
The hybrid strains can be sativa-dominant, indica-dominant , or balanced.
Here’s what the breakout of this stage looks like.
At this point, your plant is at peak flowering time. The flowering stage itself starts when you switch to a 12-12 light cycle, i.e. when your plant starts getting at least 12 hours of darkness. During these weeks, your plant will start growing even more and this fast and stretchy growth period is referred to as the flowering stretch.
It’s time for your plant to start producing buds, or “budlets”. During this time, your plant will become a bit needier and pickier about its environment, so you need to keep a closer eye on it. It’s completely normal to start losing some leaves, especially those that aren’t getting any light.
Around this period is when trichomes appear on your plant. In nature, they are a way to defend the small plants against insects and animals when planted in nature. Trichomes contain resin which gives the marijuana buds stickiness. This is also when your plants start to smell, which signals that a plant is nearing the end of its growing time, and is getting closer to harvesting time.
By weeks 4-6, your buds will start fattening up and getting bigger and denser. You’ll notice their pistils are white at this point.
From week 6 onwards, your plant won’t grow any new stems or leaves but it’ll keep growing and forming its buds instead. The remaining leaves should still be green at this stage, but the pistils will get darker.
Around weeks 8-10 your buds will be fully fattened, so you need to keep treating your plant until ready for harvest. Some growers flush their plants for up to two weeks by giving them plain water without nutrients because it improves their smoothness and quality.
Harvest and Post-Harvest
Finally, it’s harvest time. You have given your plants enough room to grow and now it’s time to reap the fruits of your labor.
The harvest and post-harvest stage can last between 2 weeks and 2 months. Let’s take a look at this process step by step:
- Step 1: Remove the larger fan leaves.
- Step 2: Dry your buds for no less than 4 days. If you want to preserve the plant’s terpenes and get a better quality weed, you should dry them for at least two weeks.
- Step 3: Trim any remaining leaves that are shielding the buds.
- Step 4: Separate the buds from the stems and put them into glass jars. They should stay in the jar for at least two weeks. During those weeks, open them twice a day for 5 minutes to let them “breathe”. Your buds are now ready to be smoked or made into Cannabis-infused oils and topicals.
The first thing that anyone interested in growing weed should do is take into account their living situation, climate, latitude, and costs, and decide whether farming indoors or outdoors would work better for them.
The next step is getting some Cannabis seeds, buying the necessary equipment, and setting up the growing area. This is followed by the plant’s germination, vegetative, and flowering stage.
Overall, if we exclude the preparation period, the average time you’ll need to grow your weed from seed to harvest (drying and curing process included) is 3 to 5 months. Again, this depends on the strain you had planted and whether you’re okay with waiting an additional month or two for better quality weed (e.g. if growing weed isn’t just a hobby for you).
Green, G. (2001). The Cannabis Grow Bible: The Definitive Guide to Growing Marijuana for Recreational and Medicinal Use. Green Candy Press
Hough, M. et al. (2003). A Growing Market: The Domestic Cultivation of Cannabis. Joseph Roundtree Foundation
Potter, G. R. (2011). “Weed, Need and Greed. A Study of Domestic Cannabis Cultivation“, Drugs and Alcohol Today, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 160-161.