With skyrocketing flower prices and more of us spending time at home, there are plenty of reasons why you may want to start growing cannabis on your own — especially if you’re a medical marijuana patient in places like Michigan. As an adult consumer or caregiver in Michigan, you can legally cultivate up to 12 plants for personal use: Now that’s a lot of green!
While growing your own cannabis at-home may seem intimidating, it can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience whether you have a green thumb or not. No matter what color your thumb might be, JARS is here with a Beginner’s Guide to Growing Cannabis where we’ll breakdown 7 simple steps to get you started on your way.
Step 1: Set Up Your Space for Growing Cannabis
The first step in setting up your very own cannabis garden is creating a suitable space in which to grow. This space doesn’t even need to be a traditional room — you could use a closet, grow tent, cabinet, spare room, or a locked shed in your yard. While small spaces work just fine, keep in mind that you will need to tailor your equipment and plants to fit the space.
When tackling your first grow project, you’ll want to start small for multiple reasons:
- The smaller the grow operation, the less expensive it is to set up
- It’s much easier to monitor a few plants than an entire greenhouse
- The inevitable mistakes as a first-time grower will be less costly
Remember, most new cannabis growers will experience a few setbacks and learn a ton of lessons about how to best nurture their plants. Thus, starting with a small grow of one or two plants will put a far smaller dent in your wallet than having several plants on your hands.
… But Not Too Small
When creating your space, you’ll need to consider not only the amount of room your plants will need, but also your lights, ducting, fans, and other necessary equipment. You’ll also want to leave enough room for you to work as the plants continue to grow. Cannabis plants can double in size in the early stages of flowering, so make sure you have adequate space both around and above your plant babies.
If your grow room is a cabinet, closet, or other tight space you can simply open it up and remove the plants to work on them. If your space is a little larger, you’ll need to make sure you leave yourself a little elbow room to tend to your plants.
Cleanliness Is Crucial
You know what they say: cleanliness is next to godliness and your plants will agree. Make sure your space is easily sanitized to avoid any unwanted pests or other undesirable circumstances. Avoid hard-to-clean surfaces like carpeting, drapes, and raw wood in order to get the most out of your grow.
Keep It Light-Tight
Another crucial criterion for a grow room is that it be light-tight, which essentially means you do not want any unwanted light to get out or into your space. Light leaks during dark periods will confuse your plants and can cause them to produce male flowers, instead of the female flowers you are looking to achieve.
When deciding on your grow space, you’ll also want to consider:
- Convenience: Growing cannabis is a precise process so you’ll need easy access to your plants in order to monitor them carefully. Many growers check on them every day, and it is recommended that beginners to check in on their plants several times per day until they have everything dialed in. If your room is hard to access, this crucial step will be a huge pain in the butt.
- Temperature and Humidity Concerns: If your grow space is already hot and sticky, you’ll have issues controlling the perfect grow environment. If you have a space that is cool and dry with ready access to fresh air from the outdoors, your job will be a whole lot easier.
- Stealth: You’ll most likely want to conceal your grow from nosy neighbors and pesky onlookers, so be sure to pick a place where noisy fans and potent smells won’t garner any undesired attention.
Step 2: Choose Your Grow Lights
The quality of light in your grow room will easily be the number one environmental factor in the quality and quantity of your final yield, so choose wisely. Here’s a brief rundown of two of the most approachable lighting setups for your first-time grow.
Fluorescent Grow Lights
Fluorescent light fixtures, particularly those using high-output (HO) T5 bulbs, are quite popular with small scale hobby growers for a number of reasons like:
- They tend to be cheaper to set up, as all of the necessary pieces are included in a single package
- They don’t require a cooling system since they don’t generate near the amount of heat of other large scale setups like HID grow lights
The main downside is that fluorescent lights are less energy-efficient than other LED lighting options, as 80% of their energy is released as heat. Space is another concern, as you need more light bulbs to produce the same wattage as the expensive professional grow lights. However, fluorescent lights are easy to find, simple to use, and great for caregivers who are just now figuring it all out.
LED Grow Lights
Light-emitting diode (LED) technology has been around for a number of years, but only recently has it been adapted to create super-efficient light fixtures for indoor cannabis grow ops. The main drawback to LED grow lights is their cost: well-designed fixtures can make a huge dent in your wallet. That being said, the benefits are that LED grow lights last much longer, use far less energy, create less heat, and the best designs generate a fuller spectrum of light, which can lead to bigger buds and huge final hauls.
Unfortunately, there are a ton of shoddy LED lights being produced and marketed towards weed-growers, so do your research and read product reviews before spending any of your hard-earned cash.
Step 3: Let Your Plants Breathe
As you probably learned in your elementary school science class, plants need fresh air to thrive, and carbon dioxide (CO2) is essential to the process of photosynthesis. This means you will need a steady stream of air flowing through your grow space, which is easily achieved by placing an exhaust fan near the top of the room to remove the warmer air, and a filtered air inlet on the opposite side near the bottom of your space.
You’ll also need to make sure that temperatures stay within a comfortable range for your plant babies and fresh air plays a big role in that. We suggest aiming to stay in between 70-85°F when lights are on and between 58-70°F when they are off. Some varieties of cannabis (generally Indica strains) prefer the colder side of the range, while others are more tolerant of higher temperatures, so plan accordingly based on what strains you have picked.
Finally, your plants also enjoy a constant light breeze in their environment as this strengthens their stems and creates an unappealing space for mold and annoying flying pests. A wall-mounted circulating fan works well for larger rooms and small clip-on fans work well for tight spaces — just don’t turn it on high in order to protect your plants from windburn. You just want a little breeze, not Chicago-like gusts of wind.
Step 4: Pick Your Climate Controls & Monitors
When it comes to growing cannabis, automation is your friend. While there are sophisticated units available that control lights, temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels, they often come with a hefty price tag. The beginner will generally need a simple 24-hour timer for the light and an adjustable thermostat switch for the exhaust fan.
Cannabis plants are incredibly fickle, especially when it comes to lighting. Generally speaking, you will have your lights on for 18 hours per 24 hour period while the plants are in vegetative growth, then switch to 12 hours of light per 24 hour period when you want them to flower. It is absolutely crucial that your lights turn on and off at the same times every day or you risk stressing your plants out, so a timer is essential. You can use a timer for your exhaust fan as well, but many prefer spending a few extra dollars on a thermostat switch to make their life a little bit easier.
With the most simple models, you just set the thermostat on the device to the maximum desired temperature for your grow environment and plug your exhaust fan into it. Once the temperature rises to your pre-set maximum, it will turn the fan on until temperatures fall a few degrees below the set threshold. This not only saves energy but also helps maintain a steady temperature so that your plants can thrive.
Unless you plan on spending most of your time in your grow space, a combination hygrometer/thermostat with high/low memory feature can be very handy in keeping tabs on the conditions inside your grow room when you’re not around. These small, inexpensive devices can make a huge difference in your final product — you can also rest easy knowing that your plants are being kept in their ideal circumstances.
Step 5: Decide On A Cannabis Grow Medium
While there are an array of options at your fingertips, like coco noir, rockwool, and even complex hydroponics systems, most at-home growers choose to go with good old-fashioned soil as their growing medium.
Soil is affordable, easy to find, and the most forgiving of all the mediums, making it the go-to for beginners and pros alike. Any high-quality potting soil that you find at the hardware store will work, as long as it doesn’t contain artificial extended-release fertilizer (like Miracle-Gro), which is a big no-no when it comes to growing quality cannabis.
Perhaps the best choice for beginners is organic pre-fertilized soil, sometimes referred to as “super-soil”, that can grow cannabis plants from seed to harvest without any added nutrients, if used properly. Another popular option is to use a regular soil mix and then supplement your plants with cannabis-specific liquid nutrients as the soil is depleted. There are plenty of nutrient brands that focus on catering to at-home weed growers to help make feeding time a breeze.
Keep in mind that cannabis plants need to be fed in order to produce the best buds, so do your research and pick what works best for you and your plant family.
Step 6: Pick Your Container
Next, you’ll need to pick a pot for your pot (see what we did there). While traditional pots with a drainage hole will do the trick, many growers opt for disposable perforated plastic bags or cloth bags, while others choose to spend more on “smart pots,” which are containers that are designed to enhance airflow to the plant’s root zone. Others simply grab a 5-gallon bucket and get to work.
Whatever you choose, remember that drainage is key. Cannabis plants are very sensitive to water-logged conditions, so if you’re repurposing a container or using something unconventional, be sure to drill holes in the bottoms and them in trays.
Step 7: Water Your Plants
This may seem obvious, but simply taking a watering can full of H2O straight from the faucet may not do the trick when it comes to your at-home grow operation. Depending on where you live, some tap water contains a high amount of dissolved minerals that can build up in the root zone and affect nutrient uptake, or it may contain fungus and other pathogens that aren’t harmful to people but may be harmful to your plants.
In addition, some places may have high levels of chlorine in the water supply, which can damage helpful microbes in the soil. For these reasons, many people decide to filter the water they use in their gardens.
Besides the chemical contents of your water, you will also need to be careful not to overwater your plants. As we briefly mentioned, cannabis plants are extremely susceptible to fungal root diseases when conditions are too wet, and overwatering is often the culprit behind these harmful diseases — so avoid that rookie mistake and only water your plants as needed.
Your first grow is all about learning — so whether you’re a medical marijuana enthusiast or a caregiver looking to deepen their medicinal practice, be gentle with yourself. As you gain experience and knowledge with each grow, you will slowly be able to craft your process into a perfect science that works for you.
In the meantime, this JARS guide will give you a solid place to start your growth journey. And remember, growing cannabis is a labor of love, so have fun and enjoy the ride!