So, you finally caved in and decided to level up and start growing your own cannabis. That’s great! You must feel excited and even a little overwhelmed when you think about all the new information you need to learn to make a good start. But don’t worry, growing marijuana is not that different than growing any other plant.
Growing your own weed, whether indoors or outdoors, isn’t that difficult, but there are certainly some caveats you need to learn in order to keep your plants healthy and with high levels of cannabinoids, as well as have a successful harvest. Once you master these things, you’ll quickly learn how to tell what your plants need, and will later be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
In this article, we’ll cover the basic needs of marijuana plants and give you a mini-guide on how to care for them during each stage of their life cycle.
What Do All Marijuana Plants Need?
There are basic requirements for marijuana plants you should know beforehand so you have a better idea of the process before you. Let’s review what your plants need for fruitful growth.
First, as a cannabis grower, you need a growing location. Will you be growing marijuana indoors or outdoors, or maybe in a greenhouse, which is a combination of both?
Indoor growers have the advantage of controlling and manipulating the growing conditions, including the lighting schedule. This allows them to speed up the flowering process and sometimes even have two harvests per year. However, large-scale indoor growing requires a lot of additional equipment and bigger energy expenditure.
Outdoor growers rely on natural sunlight and the outside elements, which can be an advantage if you live somewhere warm. Apart from regular feeding and watering, everything else is in the hands of nature. This means that bad weather conditions and pests can affect your crops, and this is the downside to this method.
Greenhouse growing offers you the best of both worlds where your crops are protected, but you still make use of the natural lighting cycle and outside temperature.
An Adequate Growing Medium
Choosing your growing medium is another important element. If you choose to grow in soil, you need to choose a high-quality soil that has good water drainage and is nutritious. If you choose to go soilless and use hydroponics (coco coir, perlite, rock wool) or aeroponics, keep in mind that the pH levels will be less forgiving as soilless methods are entirely dependent on nutrients.
The Right Temperature
Cannabis plants are sturdy and easily adaptable, but the point is not for your plants to just survive, the point is to make them thrive. If your plants are exposed to very high temperatures (or very low), their growth can be stunted and it will inevitably affect their chemical structure. The ideal temperature would be between 75 and 86°F. Beware as temperatures below 60°F and above 88°F can decrease the THC levels.
Specific Hours of Light
Lighting is essential for the growing process and for getting healthy plants. Whether you rely on direct sunlight outside or grow lights in your grow room, marijuana plants need specific hours of light and darkness, depending on the growth phase.
When you grow outside, the lighting schedule is dictated by nature. The best you can do is position your plants (if they’re planted in pots) so that you make the best of it. For achieving optimal vegetative growth outdoors, your plants will need to get at least 8 hours of direct sunlight, ideally between 10 AM and 4 PM. As the seasons change, your plants will start getting less sunlight until it’s time for flowering.
Indoors, you have to be a little more diligent. During the germination and vegetative phase, you will have to make sure that your plants get 16-24 hours of light and 0-8 hours of darkness in a 24-hour cycle. You will need to slowly decrease the hours of light as the plants are nearing the flowering stage. During the veg stage, though, 13 hours of light are sufficient.
When the plants enter the flowering stage, they will need equal hours of light and darkness, or 12 by 12. However, this may vary depending on the strain – some Indicas need about 8 hours of darkness during the flowering stage, while some Sativas need 13 hours.
Just Enough Water
Water is another essential element for healthy plant growth. If you grow outdoors in a climate that naturally has an ample amount of rainfall, your job will be done for you. Otherwise, you will have to provide your plants with enough water as marijuana is a thirsty plant and will need a lot of water.
However, remember that overwatering can do just as much damage as underwatering. Too much water prevents the root system from obtaining oxygen which can lead to the overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria which feeds on the roots, slowly killing your plant. When you water, make sure the soil soaks everything up before you add more.
The Right Humidity Level
When you grow outdoors, you don’t have control over humidity, but in a natural environment, marijuana will quickly adapt because it’s a resilient plant. Indoors, though, a great deal depends on you. Maintaining the right levels of humidity is important for encouraging healthy growth. If the humidity is high, you risk the development of mold, while dry air leads to slowed photosynthesis. The optimal humidity levels are between 40 and 60% RH (relative humidity).
To prevent humidity build-up, you’ll need to make sure there is proper airflow in your grow room. Proper air circulation encourages the exchange of gasses that are a natural part of your plants’ growth. Outside, they will get fresh air naturally, but inside, you may need to invest in a dehumidifier and fans for air movement.
Ample Amount of Nutrients
Nutrients are your plants’ food and fuel for growth. The roots take up the nutrients from the soil, and when the soil is depleted, growers add fertilizers that contain nutrients. Most fertilizers contain NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) as the most essential ones, but some also include secondary nutrients (calcium, magnesium, sulfur) and micronutrients (copper, zinc, iron, manganese, boron, chlorine, and molybdenum).
However, if the potting soil itself is very nutritious and contains vitamins, minerals, compost, and living organisms, it will be able to sustain your plants throughout their life cycle.
For soilless mediums, you can use pre-formulated nutrients blends that are specifically developed for each type of soilless medium.
How to Take Care of Your Cannabis Plants From Planting to Harvest
Now that you’re familiar with the most important elements for growing marijuana, let’s see how you can implement this knowledge during the various stages of growth.
Choosing the Seeds
Aside from choosing which strain you’d like to grow, whether an Indica, Sativa, or a hybrid, you also have to choose whether you’ll grow feminized cannabis seeds or you will choose auto-flowering seeds. The former are bred to produce only female plants and they depend on a light schedule for flowering, while the latter flower on their own and mature fast.
Germinating the seeds is the beginning of the process. The three most important things during this phase are moisture, warmth, and a good location.
You can plant the seeds directly in the growing medium and let them germinate there to avoid a transplant shock. Alternatively, you can place them on a plate between two moist paper towels and cover them with another plate to retain the moisture, and put them in a dark place with enough warmth. The seeds will have germinated within a week or so.
When cannabis grows, it needs enough room, and this is vital during this stage. It’s when the fan leaves and stalks grow rapidly, with the fan leaves reaching toward the light and the roots developing further and gaining strength.
Getting enough light and water is essential during this stage – thus, providing the plant with 12-13 hours of light is recommended. You’ll also need to inspect your plants closely for any wilting or yellowing of the leaves as this may indicate nutrient deficiencies, dehydration, or pest infestation.
Flowering Stage to Harvest
Outdoors, your plant will start flowering towards the end of the summer and beginning of the autumn, or when the day naturally decreases and the night increases. Indoors, you will have to mimic this cycle, but it doesn’t have to correspond with the exact hours of day and night.
During this stage, you might need to up the nutrients as the forming buds will need some boost. However, be wary of overfeeding, as this can cause a nutrient burn. Also, note that the budding won’t be very intense at the beginning of the flowering stage, but it’s the most noticeable towards the end.
Typically, the pre-flowers will start forming once the foliage growth starts slowing down. When the foliage stops growing, the buds will start fattening up and over the coming weeks, you’ll notice the trichomes becoming more and more resinous. When the pistils change their color from milky white to amber-brown, your plants will be ready for harvest.
The Takeaway – It’s Just Like Any Other Plant, but With a Twist
Marijuana is not a very demanding plant, especially if you cultivate it outdoors in a warm environment. However, not everyone lives somewhere with a perfect climate for growing cannabis, so sometimes you’ll just have to make the best of your situation.
Both growing indoors and outdoors have their advantages and disadvantages, but the most important thing to remember is that marijuana is a plant that needs warmth and a lot of light. Just make sure that you start off with a good growing medium and keep up with the basic needs of your crops and you should do just fine.