People learn how to grow marijuana from seed to have complete control over theirr own supply of cannabis and ensure it is pesticide free. Want to grow cannabis from seeds? Read on for everything you need! Includes info on your genetics, lights, nutrients, grow tents, soil media, and more! Come learn how to easily grow organic cannabis at home! This article discusses soil options, seed selection, containers, and tips for ongoing care.
How to Grow Marijuana From Seed: A Step-by-Step Guide
There’s nothing quite like watching your own marijuana plants grow from seed to stalk. Growing your own marijuana, indoors or outdoors, can not only be a fun way to spend time. It’s also a way to ensure a completely pesticide-free product. While growing from seeds takes a little bit of time and effort, it’s often well worth it. This article will equip you to begin growing marijuana from seed.
What is needed for Marijuana Seeds to Germinate?
Germinating seeds is a way of “waking up” your seed, bringing it from dormancy into an activated state so that it will begin to grow.
Like infants of any species, marijuana seeds perfect, comfortable environments in order to give them a head start on life. There are a few different methods you can use to germinate marijuana seeds. They include soil and water germination, or using a sprouter commonly used for other seeds such as alfalfa. Below, we’ve outlined a simple step-by-step process that doesn’t require any special equipment – only a couple segments of paper towel.
How to Acquire Marijuana Seeds
The best way to acquire marijuana seeds is to visit a licensed dispensary in your area. You can also look into purchasing weed online as well. Keep in mind that the legality of marijuana varies state by state, and also by medical versus recreational uses. So be sure to brush up on the laws near you. If you live in a state where medical, but not recreational, marijuana is legal, you may need a prescription in order to make any purchase.
How to germinate cannabis seeds
Below are some simple steps that will help you sprout marijuana seeds and get them ready for planting.
- Wet one sheet of paper towel so that it is damp, but not dripping. Lay it across a plate.
- Place your marijuana seeds onto the paper towel, about an inch apart.
- Cover with another sheet of paper towel.
- Place the plate into a dark area. This can be a kitchen cabinet that doesn’t get opened too frequently, or a closet. You can also cover the plate with a bowl and leave it on your counter. The ideal temperature for the seeds is around 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Over the next few days, keep an eye on the seeds. Ensure the towels remain moist. Once you begin to see a white root begin to appear from the seeds, it is ready for planting.
Transplanting germinated cannabis seeds
One thing you’ll learn as you grow marijuana from seed is that transplanting germinated seeds requires a delicate touch. It’s advisable to get some tweezers for the task, since the seed and root are extremely fragile and can easily break between clumsy fingertips.
The first step to transplanting is to prepare a small pot. Fill it with soil, and using a pen or pencil, make a hole about a half an inch deep. Then, using tweezers, pluck your seed from the paper towel and carefully place it into the hole. Cover with soil and spritz with a little water. Then, sit back and wait for the little green leaves to appear. It can occur within a day or so, but it can also take longer, so be patient.
What to Avoid When Planting and Germinating Weed Seeds
There are a few mistakes to be aware of when germinating and planting cannabis seeds. Especially if this is your first attempt, be aware of the following:
- Cleanliness is key. Seeds require a sterile environment to grow, particularly when the root has just emerged. Be sure to use clean water when soaking the paper towels -distilling the water beforehand is a wise idea. And try to avoid touching the seeds as much as possible, since this can introduce harmful bacteria that can hinder growth and even be lethal to seeds.
- Letting the root grow too long. The root, also known as the taproot or radicle, is very delicate. If it is allowed to grow too long, it may adhere to the paper towel, and can easily break off during attempts to free the root from the paper.
- Crowding pots. When planting, be sure to give each seed adequate space. In smaller pots, stick to one seed per pot. Putting seeds too close together can lead to overcrowding later on in the grow.
What is the Level of Difficulty in Growing from Seeds?
Generally, growing your own weed from seeds is easier than beginning from clones, even though this may seem counterintuitive. While clones can reduce the time it takes to reach the harvest stage, clones can be problematic. The plants can easily get traumatized during the transport and repotting stages, which can slow their growth, render them susceptible to illness or even cause death. They can also be exposed to bacteria or other pathogens during the transport process which can seriously affect their health.
Growing from seeds, on the other hand, is a more fool-proof way to begin your marijuana harvest. The only transport occurs from the sprouter to the pot.
Those who grow marijuana from seed know it can be a great alternative to buying dried cannabis from dispensaries. Growing marijuana from the comfort of your own home or garden is a gratifying way to take your enjoyment of the cannabis sativa plant to a whole other level.
How to Grow Cannabis from Seeds in 7 Steps: The Ultimate Guide to Your Best Cannabis Grow – 2020
Growing cannabis from seeds is easier than you might think. Read on for info on genetics, soil & other grow media, grow tents, lights, nutrients and more!
Before we begin, I’ll be straight with you: All you really need to grow cannabis from seeds is a pot, grow media like soil or coco, seeds, water, plenty of light, and a few nutrients. That’s it. Of course there are other supplies you could use such as a grow tent or high performance LED light, but they’re not always necessary. Cannabis has a long history of wild growth without any help from people. There’s a reason they call it “weed,” and that’s because it grows like one.
But even though you can grow cannabis without any special equipment, there’s an advantage to spending a little money on the right equipment. Industry experts are constantly improving their products which in turn help produce higher cannabis yields and a better flower. So today, as part of our mission to educate and provide valuable information, we’re going to go through each stage of your cannabis grow and highlight some of the equipment that can help you maximize your harvest.
Do you want to learn how to grow cannabis? Check out Growers Network University!
1. Cannabis Genetics
Genetics is just a fancy word for your seeds, and that’s what you need if you want to grow cannabis from seeds! The term can also refer to cannabis clones, but for the beginning grower, seeds are much easier to source. If you are interested in starting from clone stock, you can generally purchase them from a qualified local grower, assuming there are no laws against clone sales in your jurisdiction.
But which Cannabis seeds to buy? That depends on your grow style and personal preference. You’re going to choose an Indica, Sativa, or hybrid or course, but do you want regular seeds, feminized seeds, autoflowering seeds, or some combination? With regular seeds you’ll have to remove any males before they mature and pollinate your females or you’ll end up with seedy, low-quality buds. Additionally, cannabis grown from regular seeds will only flower in response to a change in the photoperiod (how many hours of light they are exposed to) so farming these types of seeds requires a bit more care and attention than autoflowering strains (which produce buds when they are old enough, not in response to the light) or feminized seeds which eliminate the need to monitor for males. If you’re looking for the simplest type of seed, you can go with autoflowering, feminized seeds.
Note: See our cannabis seed FAQ section below the article.
2. Cannabis Germination
Germinating refers to sprouting your cannabis seeds prior to planting. This isn’t always necessary when growing cannabis from seeds, but it WILL improve your chances of germination. The easiest way to do this is to fold your seeds inside of a moist paper towel and wait for a few days, making sure your paper towel remains moist. In this time you should see your seed “pop” as the tap root emerges. Now you’re ready for planting.
If you want a more controlled germination of your cannabis seeds, there are mini-greenhouses available with starter pods which allow your seeds to begin rooting prior to transplanting them into your grow media and offers an overall safer transition from germination to pot.
You can have a look at germination domes here.
3. Grow Media, Grow Tents, & containers
More than likely, you’ll be growing indoors in a grow tent and in soil. There are a variety of media types available including soil, peet, and coco. We recommend soil for the beginner, but whichever you choose it’s important not to skimp on the media. Spending a little extra money on your media will pay off in terms of cannabis quality and help you avoid problems such as pests, unbalanced pH, and poor nutrient delivery. You can see a few recommended soil and other media products here.
You’ll probably also need a pot. The pot you choose should be at least one-gallon and allow excess water to drain off. Once you’ve added the media to your pot and have your seeds, you’re ready to plant. Just insert your finger into the soil to create a ½ inch to 1 inch divot and place your popped seed inside. Cover and water appropriately. We recommend fabric pots which are reusable, lightweight, and drain very well.
The last thing to consider when planting your germinated seeds is where are you going to grow them? Are you growing in a closet? Do you have a dedicated space somewhere in your home? If not, a grow tent is an excellent option for creating a highly controlled growing environment. Grow tents are easy to assemble and their reflective interior maximize light efficiency. There are even kits that will provide everything you need including a fan to generate necessary air flow and a filter that will help keep the smell of your plants from wafting from your grow tent into your personal space. Even if you don’t mind the smell, your neighbors might! You can check out this grow tent configurator which will guide you through the best grow tent set up depending on the space you have available and the number of plants you plant to grow. You can check out our recommended soil media here. Need a pot? Check these out.
4. Cannabis Grow Lights and the Vegetative Phase
The vegetative stage is where your plants bulk up and develop the frame necessary to support the eventual flowers. As mentioned in the genetics portion of this guide, your seed choice will influence the amount of care and attention you’ll need to provide. If you choose regular seeds, the vegetative stage of cannabis growth will require an 18-6 light cycle (18 hours on and 6 hours off). The size of your grow will determine your light requirements and there are many choices. I tend to recommend LED lighting because they’re energy efficient and produce less heat than other types of grow lights, which will help keep overall temperatures down in your grow. Check out a few LED recommendations for your cannabis grow here. Keep in mind the size of the light if you’re using a grow tent to assure it will fit.
Fluence is a great LED brand, but far from your only option.
The vegetative phase is also where you begin monitoring the sex of your plants and then remove and destroy the males as soon as you identify them. If you have access to female clones, this step isn’t necessary, but it will be if you grow cannabis from seeds. You can check out our guide to sexing your plants here. Again, this is a step you need to take when growing from regular seeds. If you use feminized seeds you can be nearly 100% certain that all of your plants are female (1 in 1000 feminized seeds may turn out male).
Since the vegetative stage of growth is where your plant will bulk up and develop its framework, you’ll want to make sure you use some quality nutrients to ensure your cannabis grows strong and healthy. Click here for our recommendations.
A nutrient bundle is a great way to save money
Last but not least, an important consideration during the vegetative stage is pest control. It’s important that you monitor for pests and diseases during the duration of your grow to deal with any problems before they reach crisis level and threaten your crop. Fortunately, close monitoring and cleanliness will help you avoid most of these problems, but should you encounter pests or disease, there are a number of great, organic products that can take care of nearly any problem. And don’t worry, we recommend only products suitable for treating consumable plants. Check them out here.
5. Flowering & Nutrients
The flowering stage is when your cannabis plants will develop their buds. Again, if you choose to grow from “regular” seeds, you’ll change up the light cycle from the 18-6 you used in veg to a 12-12 cycle (12 hours on and 12 hours off up until harvest); autoflowering varieties won’t require this change as again, they flower when they are mature enough.
During this stage you are going to want to continue monitoring for pests and also add a “bloom formula” nutrients to help make big healthy buds. See our recommendations for your cannabis grow here.
6. Cannabis Harvest
A week or so before harvest you’re going to want to “flush” your media. This simply means that you stop feeding your plant nutrients and give only water. This allows your cannabis to use up all the available nutrients remaining in the soil so they won’t end up in your buds. Also, you can expect a degree of leaf yellowing during this final week as your plant converts its available resources into energy for continued bud development.
You can see our full article on when to harvest your buds here, but generally, you can determine when your buds are ready for harvest by examining the trichomes. You can use microscope to get a close up look at the trichomes. Clear trichomes generally mean it’s too early to harvest and your buds won’t be as potent. Milky white-amber trichomes means you are ready to harvest and can expect decent buds. If you wait longer, until the trichomes are completely amber in color, you’ll get a stronger psychoactive effect as CBD levels decline.
Harvesting generally requires scissors or gardening shears to remove your colas (bud sites) from your cannabis plants. Be gentle as to not disturb the potent trichomes.
7. Drying and Curing
Before we go into drying and curing, we should quickly revisit trimming. Trimming can be done before drying (wet trimming) or after drying (dry trimming). Either method is fine and will depend on your preference. The goal when trimming isn’t only to make your buds pretty by removing any fan leaves (which it definitely does) but also to collect the “sugar leaves” that surround your buds. Don’t get rid of these sugar leaves. They’re great for extracts, hash making, and in a pinch you can even smoke them, though smoking them will be a bit harsh.
With proper temperature and humidity control, you’ll be able to dry your cannabis in the same space you grew it. Most growers I’ve spoken with dry for a minimum of one week and often up to 10-14 days. There are a number of drying racks available that will allow you to spread out your buds for even drying. If you choose to dry trim, you’ll do this after drying but before curing.
Curing is a specialized drying process that comes after the initial drying and trimming. The goal is to cure the buds much like you would with homegrown herbs. You want a dark space with low humidity. You can cure in a glass jar, plastic tub, or a specially designed c-vault. You’re going to want to “burp” your container daily to remove any moisture remaining in your buds, and this is accomplished by simply opening the container and closing it again. The curing process can last anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks. Check out a few helpful products here.
A hanging mesh drying rack is only one option for your drying needs.
The CVault is designed to provide complete darkness and airtight bud curing.
So are you ready to grow cannabis from seeds? Hopefully we provided some good tips for media, lighting, and grow tents to get you started. We’d love to hear from you regarding your grow so please leave a comment in the survey below or click one of the “Join Now” buttons at the top and bottom of this article to get into our private, vetted, professional forum. And don’t forget to check out Growers Network University! See you there and happy growing!
A few questions about mail order cannabis seeds
Where can I buy cannabis seeds safely?
There are a number of good seed vendors out there. Our recommendations are established companies with great customer reviews so you know you’re purchasing quality cannabis seeds.
Is it safe to order cannabis seeds through the mail?
People always wonder about the legal risk of purchasing cannabis seeds through the mail. Legitimate seed vendors (including those we recommend) ship discreetly to most locations. Seeds can be stopped by customs, but this doesn’t happen often. You also want to make sure that wherever you decide to purchase your seeds will also ship to your country. This information should be transparent and available on the vendor’s website.
Before You Purchase
Questions you should ask before purchasing Cannabis seeds online
- Do you recognize the name of the cannabis seed company name? Branding goes a long way and a recognized, established brand is something to consider when purchasing Cannabis seeds online.
- What are customers saying in their reviews? Did they receive their seeds? Were they high quality?
Researching these questions will increase your chances of being happy with your Cannabis seed purchase.
- Do you know anybody who has used them as their Cannabis seed supplier?
Word of mouth recommendations are very powerful in the cannabis community. Someone else’s first hand experience can be helpful if you aren’t sure about which brand of Cannabis seeds to purchase.
- What’s their return or refund policy?
A good seed shop should at least have generally positive reviews and a well-defined refund or exchange policy.
Beware of cannabis Seed Scams
If you’re contacted via social media to purchase seeds, chances are you’ve been targeted for a scam. We recommend using established cannabis seed vendors such as those linked above.
How To Grow Cannabis Organically: Seeds, Soil, Containers & Care
The topic of “how to grow cannabis” has such a funny vibe about it. If you browse around online, you’ll see there are many cannabis growers with extremely strong opinions about “the right way” to grow cannabis, though all of their methods vary… Esoteric language, expensive supplies, and complicated recipes or instructions are often used, making it a very intimidating and confusing subject for new home growers.
I am here to hopefully take some of the mystery out of it for you! The methods we choose to use for growing cannabis here at home are pretty dang simple! Sure, there are some steps to follow and supplies to gather, but growing cannabis is not all that more complicated than growing high-quality organic food at home. Or at least that is how we approach it. All you need is rich healthy soil, a large container, and either cannabis seeds or started seedlings – called “clones”.
Read along to learn about our preferences for soil, containers, seeds, and how to get started growing cannabis at home, organically!
This article will get you started with your growing season, then check out the follow-up posts for ongoing care – with tips on routine fertilizing, organic pest control, and how to harvest, dry, and cure your cannabis too. Keep in mind that our goals are not all about high yields. The goal is to grow safe, high-quality, organic cannabis that we can utilize and enjoy with peace of mind – knowing how it was treated from “bean to bowl”. It is about quality over quantity, though we end up with more than enough anyways!
This post is intended for people living in states who are legally allowed to grow cannabis at home, either medicinally or recreationally. If you have any questions about this, please refer to your local cannabis regulations. Note that today’s post is also geared around growing cannabis naturally outdoors, so I will not touch on light deprivation or indoor grow set-ups. I do plan to write an indoor grow guide in the near future, but most of the tips in this article can easily be applied to an indoor grow too!
Where to get cannabis seeds or clones
Keep in mind that cannabis has not been legalized at the federal level – with the exception of low-THC, high-CBD hemp. Therefore, even if you live in a state that has legalized marijuana, shipping cannabis seeds and products across state lines is technically still illegal. But it is commonly done nonetheless. To my knowledge, people buy cannabis seeds online fairly easily and without issues. However, if cannabis is legal in your state, the most safe and “by the book” way to procure seed or started plants (clones) is from a licensed cannabis store.
Here are a few reputable places that discreetly sell cannabis seeds online:
– A popular ‘seed bank’ with a huge selection, including CBD! (money order only) (autoflower seeds only) (based out of the Netherlands, ships to US) (UK, ships to US)
Keep reading to the “Cannabis Growing Conditions” section below for information on exactly when and how to start cannabis seeds (or plant clones).
Feminized, Regular, or Autoflower Seeds
Cannabis comes in many shapes and sizes! Obtaining feminized seeds or plants guarantees that they will flower. Aka – they’ll grow buds. “Regular” seeds could grow up to be males. They’re pretty useless unless you want to breed plants. Any males in vicinity will pollinate your female plants, make them produce seeds in the buds, and reduce their THC development. Most people cull the males before they produce pollen to avoid this. We grow with feminized and sometimes regular seeds too.
If you do grow regular seeds, see this article to learn how to determine the sex of your cannabis plants in the early pre-flower stages. You may also want to start regular seeds a few weeks earlier than you would feminized seeds, which allows for ample time to ID the ladies (or gentlemen).
For a super-quick growing season and small, manageable plants, you could try autoflower cannabis types. Autoflowers are available in feminized, sativa, and indica options too.
Young cannabis seedlings we started from seed. If the seeds are ‘regular’ (not feminized) we usually pot them up into larger nursery pots (shown in the background on the right) until we can identify if they’re male or female. Once we identify the ladies, then they are transplanted into their final grow bags, shown on the left. If this sounds too involved, stick with feminized seeds to start!
Strains: Sativa vs Indica
Sativa-dominant plants are typically more uplifting and energizing. Sativa plants also get taller, lankier, and take longer from seed to harvest. Indica-dominant strains finish a little faster, pack on fatter buds, and are generally shorter and wider plants. These make them a preferable variety for northern climates with shorter growing seasons. Indica is also known for more of a mellow, sleepy, heavy, couch-lock kind of vibe.
We generally prefer uplifting, happy, energetic sativa-dominant hybrids – ones that are balanced with enough indica to keep things smooth, relaxing, and still make for a great night of sleep. “Maui Wowie” is a long-standing favorite here, and “Rosetta Stone” is our new go-to lately.
Beyond all of these broad categories, each strain will also have unique attributes that may make it more or less desirable to you. Find what suits your needs! What works for us may not be what works for you. To read more in-depth on the differences between sativa, indica, and autoflowers (including their health benefits) check out this post.
Autoflower cannabis plants in the greenhouse, in smaller 5 gallon smart pots. They take up far less space, and time!
THE PERFECT CANNABIS SOIL
If you checked out our post about how to build the perfect organic soil for raised beds, our methods for building the perfect cannabis soil isn’t all that different. We’re shooting for something that is rich, biologically active, full of micronutrients, and has an excellent balance between moisture retention and drainage. Reference that raised bed soil post if you want to dive deep into detail, but otherwise here is a quick-and-dirty for cannabis soil:
I’m going to give you all two options below. One is a little more involved, which is crafting your own soil from scratch. This is what we do. The second option uses pre-made soil, and requires less ingredients and steps upfront.
Either way you choose to go, please note that we follow a no-till method. That means the soil is a one-time upfront cost, aside from some amendments you’ll need on an ongoing basis. Those last a long time before needing replenishing too! At the end of a growing season, the mature cannabis plant is cut down at the soil line, and the roots left in place to decompose over the winter with the aid of worms and light moisture. The soil is used year after year in the same container, improving with age. This is also called ROLS – recycled organic living soil.
Here are two of our 25-gallon cannabis grow bags, full of recycled organic living soil. These are kept in a shed over winter (and some outside too), and kept alive with an occasional light watering. The soil is reused the following season.
Option 1: Our Organic Cannabis Soil Recipe
Combine the following ingredients. If you plan to fill several large containers (like grow bags – discussed below) then it may be easiest to mix all of these in a very large tote or even spread out on a tarp, and then add some to each bag. Note that it is best to pre-moisten the peat moss before mixing it with everything else. Peat tends to be hydrophobic when dry, and can make your soil less likely to absorb water well if it is mixed without wetting first.
- 1 part Canadian sphagnum peat moss (We often use Roots Organics or Premier – both found at our local ‘grow shop’.)
- 1 part high quality compost (We love Malibu’s Biodynamic Compost, but it’s only available on the West Coast. There is a similar East Coast option by Coast of Maine. You could use aged homemade compost, or shop around to see what is available. Maybe there is a local worm farm in your area?)
- 1 part aeration additive (We prefer 3/8-inch Lava rock, aka lava cinders. You could use pumice or perlite instead.)
Evenly mix in the following amendments:
, ½ cup per cubic foot of soil* , ½ cup per cubic foot of soil , ½ cup per cubic foot of soil , 2 cups per cubic foot of soil , 1 cup per cubic foot of soil , 1 cup per cubic foot of soil
- A handful of worm castings and a few compost worms, if possible
- Optional: Biochar, 2-4 cups per cubic foot of soil
*In the recipe above, when I mention the amendment amounts “per cubic foot of soil”, I mean the total combined volume including peat moss, compost, and aeration. Also note that all of these amendments are things we also use in the garden, and last many seasons!
Curious about what all these things are for?
Kelp meal contains over 70 different vitamins and minerals. It helps promote overall plant health, vigor, and tolerance to stress, pests ,and disease. It is also a renewable, sustainable resource – so that’s a huge plus.
Neem meal enhances microbial activity, making your soil even more alive! It also strengthens root systems, and can help control unwanted nematode populations, fungus, and soil pathogens.
Crab or Crustacean meal is high in chitin, which stimulates the soil food web and beneficial microbe activity. It may also help combat root knot nematodes. This meal contains both macro and micronutrients as fuel for the plants.
Rock Dust contains micronutrients and trace minerals that are essential for a plant’s core biological processes to work at their strongest, such as nutrient uptake and photosynthesis.
Gypsum contains calcium and sulfur, and helps the plant better utilize and uptake potassium, which is one of the key macronutrients that all plants depend on for life. In the “NPK” ratio for all fertilizers, the K stands for potassium. Adequate potassium availability and uptake enables plants to photosynthesize, produce energy and important enzymes during growth, and also assists with water uptake and drought resistance.
Oyster shell flour is an excellent source of calcium for the plants, as well as phosphorus. Adequate calcium carbonate protects plants from heat stress, makes them more resistant to disease and pests, strengthens plant cell walls, and increases nutrient uptake and overall vigor. Oyster shell flour also acts as a pH buffer.
Here is a little video of our organic living soil in action:
A note about peat moss:
Peat moss gets some flack for being not very sustainable. However, it also gets some of the best reviews and results for growing cannabis. Cannabis likes very slightly acidic soil, which peat moss naturally is. It is also an incredibly common ingredient in almost all bagged soil, so it’s hard to avoid in the gardening world. Aaron put together our soil before we were fully aware of the environmental concerns. Because we are reusing and recycling it each year, the best thing for us is to continue utilizing it!
Some people who grow cannabis choose to replace the peat moss portion of this recipe with coco coir, which is a more renewable, sustainable material. I can’t speak to its effectiveness because we haven’t used it for cannabis, though we do add a little coco coir to our raised beds sometimes, and also use it as bedding in our worm bin. Honestly, we have heard not-so-great results and read numerous studies that show coco coir has inferior performance to peat moss.
Option 2: Use Pre-amended Bagged Soil
If mixing up all those amendments sounds a little too “extra” for you, you could do the following instead:
Use mostly pre-made, high-quality, bagged organic soil. If you have access to it, try to add in a little rich aged compost, worms, worm castings, and/or aeration too! Experiment with building your own soil, with a premade base. Check out this post on how to start a super simple worm bin, if you’re in need of worm castings! They can also be purchased.
For this method, you could skip a lot of the additional amendments upfront, though you’ll still want to add some as the growing season progresses. Cannabis is a hungry plant! The choices and availability of bagged organic soil options will vary depending on where you live. If you can, get top-of-the-line stuff – it is going to be more pre-amended for you.
Examples of popular cannabis soil brands to keep an eye out for are Roots Organics products, Fox Farm’s Ocean Forest/Happy Frog, or Recipe 420 by E.B. Stone. Even some of the Kellogg or G&B Organics could work well, especially when premium compost is added. Check to see if there are any hydroponic stores or “grow shops” in your area. Those stores cater to cannabis growers, and are more likely to carry premium bagged soils over the stuff at big box nursery centers.
Now that you have a soil choice in mind, what are you going to put it in?
CONTAINERS FOR GROWING CANNABIS
We prefer to grow our cannabis in grow bags, and I’ll explain why below. If you want to stick your plants in garden beds or right in the ground, be my guest! This is just what works for us. Check out how to build a durable and deep raised garden bed here.
Benefits of Grow Bags
The preferred container for growing cannabis for many people, ourselves included, is in large fabric grow bags. As opposed to a hard-sided container, they promote better aeration, drainage, and even moisture. Solid containers like 5-gallon buckets could be used, but have the tendency to be drier on top and soggy on the bottom. Grow bags also accomplish something called air-pruning. When the cannabis plant’s roots near the edge of the bag, the exposure to air naturally prunes them back. This is a way to keep the plant happy and healthy in its given container, naturally limiting itself and keeping the roots healthier. In contrast, a solid container allows the plants roots to continue to grow in circles around the container and themselves – becoming root bound. This is not a good thing.
Grow bags are great because they allow people to grow cannabis in a variety of living situations, be it on a patio, indoors, or in a greenhouse. By using a container, you have ultimate control over the soil you choose to fill it with.
Additionally, you can make them mobile! We make rolling dollies to sit all of our cannabis grow bags on, out of 2×6’s and heavy-duty casters. See the photos below. That way, we can easily roll or rotate the large (and heavy!) plants out of our way or into better sun as needed. If you do the same, make sure you get casters that are rated for at least 50 to 80 pounds of weight per wheel, minimum. Ours are 2″ and okay for the flat patio, but 3-inch wheels probably would have made it even easier to move.
Our DIY dollies with casters. Three redwood 2×6 boards are held together by a supporting 2×4″ in the opposite direction, screwed into each board. To catch runoff, we use large plant saucers. This one is 25-inches (top rim to rim) and can hold the 25-gallon grow bags that are 21″ at the bottom. Lava rock is sitting in the bottom of the saucer to keep the grow bag from sitting in standing water.
Grow Bag Brands and Sizes
The bags we prefer to use are the Smart Pot brand, or GeoPot. These are extremely durable and long-lasting. You get what you pay for. We have used cheaper grow bags in the past and they rip and degrade within a season or two of use. Smart Pots will last for years and years. We have bags that are three years old and still as good as new. Call me silly, but I also love being able to choose tan or brown colored bags. I like a pretty garden space and prefer the look of those to the stark black choices.
The size of your grow bag will dictate the size of your cannabis plant, and its health. Obviously, the size of your space will determine how big of bags you can use too. The smallest I would suggest for a traditional photoperiod plant is about 15 gallons. We generally use 20-gallon or 25-gallon bags for those big girls.
If you have a lot of room and want really large plants, you could go even larger! On the other hand, if you are growing autoflower cannabis plants, a 5-gallon or 7-gallon bag would work just fine. Not sure what the difference between a photoperiod and autoflower cannabis plant is? Check out this post that explains it all.
Okay, we have our soil and our bags… now on to the most important part of this post: the cannabis itself.
See how big they can get? Those are our Maui Wowie girls. Also note the DIY dolly below the grow bags. We can easily roll them aside when we want to enjoy our patio space, and put them more in the middle when we’re not outside.
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CANNABIS GROWING CONDITIONS
In most places, cannabis seeds are started indoors in March or April, and transplanted outside in April or May once the risk of frost has passed. Basically, cannabis seedlings need to be protected from freezing or other harsh conditions – just as any other seedling does! If you aren’t sure about your area’s frost dates, stop by this article. In it, I share veggie seed-starting calendars for every USDA hardiness zone. For cannabis, you can essentially follow the timing recommendations for tomatoes (but on the later end of the given windows).
Depending on the strains you are growing and your summer daylight hours, the average cannabis plant will continue to grow larger in size (in its vegetative state) until the days begin to shorten and it receives less than 12 hours of sunlight per day (e.g. after summer solstice). Then, it switches into its flowering stage and begins to develop buds. Most outdoor cannabis plants will be ready to harvest in September to October. The exception to this would be for autoflowers, which can start and finish their entire life cycle in as short as 3 months.
Starting cannabis from seed
We prefer to grow from seed. Once we obtain seeds, we treat them pretty much like any other garden seed! They’re germinated in 4” pots full of seedling start mix, inside on a heat mat. Keep the containers covered and moist until they sprout. Ideal germination temperature is around 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
After sprouting indoors, cannabis seedlings need strong bright light – such as that provided by a supplemental grow light. Unfortunately, a sunny window will not provide enough light, and the plants will get extra tall, weak, and leggy. Once our seeds pop indoors, we move the cannabis seedlings to our greenhouse for a few weeks before going fully outside. We also use lights for growing autoflowers in the off-season in the greenhouse. (See this article for more information about choosing and using grow lights.)
To read more in-depth information about how we start seeds, check out our seed starting 101 post!
Cannabis seedlings in our greenhouse, being treated just like the peppers, eggplants, and other garden plants!
Note that you do not need a greenhouse or fancy supplies to start cannabis! If you don’t have a heat mat, I suggest pre-soaking the seeds in non-chlorinated water overnight before planting. This will aid in germination. In lieu of seedling start mix and little pots, another option is to germinate the seed inside a moist root riot cube, then plant the whole cube in its final grow bag after it sprouts. If you aren’t equipped to raise seedlings indoors for several weeks, plan to start in late April to early May. Most locations will be adequately warm enough by then for the seedlings to go right outside after germination (or to sow seeds directly outside, if you wish).
Once they’re a few weeks old and the weather is right, we transplant our seedlings outside to their final large grow bag. When they are transplanted, we sprinkle some mycorrhizae in the planting hole and on any exposed roots. Mycorrhizae enhances nutrient uptake, and disease and drought resistance. If you did have your seedlings indoors under lights for a few weeks, don’t forget to properly harden them off before moving them outside! This helps to strengthen them and prevent transplant shock.
If you are growing from clones instead (such as those you purchase at a local dispensary, or obtain from a friend), you can skip straight to potting them into grow bags outside.
Some young cannabis plants, recently transplanted into their final large grow bags. The small support stakes will be replaced with larger ones as they grow.
Sun and Support
Full sun is best! If you have a wide open location that receives full sun all summer and into fall, you’re in luck. We have changing sun patterns, with some shade from our house and trees to contend with. That is the beauty of putting the grow bags on dollies – we can move them around to receive the most sun possible as the seasons change.
Provide support for the main stalk with a sturdy stake. As the plant gets larger and starts to put on bud weight, you may find the need to further support individual branches. This will depend on the strain. Some growers get crazy with their support and training systems! We start with a small stake for seedlings (shown above) and then swap it to a 5 or 6-foot tall stake as the plant matures.
In regards to water, the goal is to provide consistent, even moisture. Do not let the soil completely dry out between watering, but don’t drown it out either. As with many things, this will vary a lot depending on your climate. If you’re in a very hot and arid place, you will need to water more frequently than someone in a cooler coastal climate like ourselves.
As the plant grows and the root ball gets larger, it will drink water faster and therefore need more, and more often. I will write a follow up post about watering and fertilizing (which often go hand-in-hand) throughout the growing season soon.
If possible, use dechlorinated water. It isn’t a deal-breaker, but the plant and soil microbes will definitely appreciate it. If you are on city tap water, allowing a bucket of water to sit out overnight can help the chlorine dissipate. We mostly use our captured rainwater. Another option is to use a simple hose carbon filter to remove chlorine.
Mulch the top of your grow bag to maintain a healthy soil. We love using biodynamic accumulators that not only provide moisture retention, but will later break down into more nutrients and energy for the cannabis. Some examples of biodynamic accumulators are borage, comfrey, yarrow, and dandelion greens. Fava bean greens are also excellent for green mulching, since they’re nitrogen fixers! If you don’t have access to these types of plants, straw or hay will work.
I don’t know about you… but to me, that mulch is looking super sexy! Yarrow, comfrey, borage, lavender, dandelion greens, and straw.
Another popular mulch option is to use an organic cover crop seed mix, and lightly working it into the top inch of soil when you first plant your cannabis seedling. As it gets watered, cover crop will grow under the canopy of your plant. It becomes a living mulch, and also enhances your living soil food web. As it grows tall, you can “chop and drop” mulch with it. That is when you trim it and leave it in place to decompose as green mulch.
And just like that, you’ve given your cannabis a stellar start! You’ll be enjoying your own homegrown organic bud in no time.
Once you have your cannabis off to a strong start, come learn about the ways we routinely fertilize our plants! Also, how to keep the pests at bay:
- “How to Feed Cannabis, Organically: Top-Dressings, Teas & More”
- “Organic Cannabis Pest Control: How to Keep the Bugs Off Your Nugs”
Last by not least, when the time comes, here an article all about processing your cannabis: “How to Harvest, Dry, Trim, Cure, & Store Homegrown Cannabis: The Ultimate Guide”. When IS the time right to harvest? You’ll learn that here too. This guide is basically everything you need to know, from the best timing, temperature, humidity, methods, and more.
Once you have your homegrown goodies properly dried and cured, it is all ready to use: whether you like to smoke or vaporize your cannabis (read this important article on the subject), make cannabis-infused oil for edibles, homemade cannabis tinctures, or create healing topical salves. The options are endless!
I hope this all took some of the mystery out of growing cannabis for you. Please feel free to ask questions and pass this post along. To the left, of course. Wishing you the bet of luck with your growing adventure!