Cultivating marijuana can be a challenging but extremely rewarding endeavor. When you grow your own cannabis, you are in full control. You can decide if you want the plants to be grown organically or not, understand how well they were cared for, and know exactly what quality and strain you have. These benefits have led many to undertake their own grow operation, but getting started requires understanding how to design your grow setup and knowing what your plant needs to produce a good harvest. This handy guide will walk you through what you need to know to cultivate cannabis for yourself.
Getting started with cannabis cultivation requires some planning and effort to ensure a successful harvest in the future. Even if you are just looking to grow a couple of plants to maturity, you need to put some thought into your grow design, materials, and of course starting the plants. Some things you will want to think about include:
- Are you going to be growing indoors or outdoors?
- Are you starting plants from seeds or cuttings?
- How much space do you have to grow?
- What are the nutritional needs of your plants versus the nutritional value of your grow medium?
With these decisions in mind, you can move into designing your system. Your plants will need plenty of light, hydration, and nutrients for healthy growth and a high-yield harvest. Wherever you decide to start up your grow operation, you will need to be prepared to meet these basic plant needs. Also don’t forget to buy a license for a medical marijuana card in a weed clinic
After deciding on where you are going to put your plants and gathering the resources you need to keep them healthy and happy, it is time to start your plants. This can be accomplished by starting plants from seed or by using cuttings from a mature plant. Using cuttings has many benefits f this is an option for you. Cuttings have a higher chance of successful rooting and growth than seeds do. You can also better ensure that the mother plant does not have any defects or diseases that might hurt the seedling’s chances of survival. You can also guarantee a female plant by using cuttings from a female plant. If cuttings are not available, you can start your plants from seed. Seeds and cuttings both require moist soil and a light source to germinate and root.
Start seeds or cuttings indoors in grow trays with individual compartments to prevent the seedling’s from getting tangled together and protect them from the elements and pests. Cuttings can be started in water first and moved into the soil trays once roots have started to form. Seeds should be placed in the soil and lightly covered. A good rule of thumb is to bury the seed about four times its width deep. Keep the soil moist but not wet and ensure plenty of daytime light until the seedlings start to grow. After a few weeks, once they reach about three inches in height they are ready to be planted. Throw out any male plants once identified and only plant the female ones, as these are the ones that produce buds.
Marijuana can be successfully cultivated indoors using a variety of methods, depending on the space you have available and how much time you want to commit to your growth operation. There are three common indoor grow set-ups:
- Container Gardening – this is probably how you are used to growing houseplants. Marijuana seedlings are transplanted into large pots or containers that are filled with soil. This is the most similar method to growing outdoors.
- Hydroponic Gardening – this method skips the soil and allows you to grow cannabis in a water-based system where the water solution contains all the nutrients the plant needs. Most hydroponic gardeners still use some form of grow medium (like loose rocks, clay, etc.) to provide support to the plant and protect the roots from light.
- Aquaponic Gardening – this method is similar to hydroponic gardening, except it includes the addition of fish to the system. The fish and plants establish a nitrogen-cycle where the fish produce waste that is converted to plant food.
Your choices in indoor system design will determine how the types of materials you need to set up your growroom. Regardless of the indoor system type you choose, you will need to be sure you have plenty of light either from a strong natural source like a window or skylight that receives at least eight hours of direct sunlight each day or a powerful grow light, which you can purchase at a hardware or gardening supply store. Your grow space will also require appropriate airflow to keep your plant’s stems strong and to prevent mildew or fungus from becoming a problem.
Growing cannabis outdoors presents some additional challenges. Your plants will be exposed, which puts them at a greater risk for problems with pests, plant diseases, and theft. If you are growing outside, it is a good idea to keep your plants in a fenced enclosure and regularly check them for signs of insect or animal damage. If you notice something has been eating your plants, there are a variety of options that can help you depending on the type of pest you are dealing with. Just like an indoor system, your plants will need lots of direct sunlight outdoors, so they should be planted in an area that receives eight to ten hours of direct light each day.
Another focus when growing outdoors is your soil quality. If you are lucky, you might already have great soil, but more likely this will present some challenges for you. Marijuana prefers a soil with a lot of aeration and a fairly high nutrient content. If your soil is not naturally perfect, this may require some work. Till or aerate your soil well before planting and mix organic compost or fertilizer into the dirt to improve its quality. You can also look into building a convenient growbox that will allow you to use better soil and ensure your plant gets the full benefit of all the nutrients you add to the soil. Using an outdoor box also makes weeding easier.
Marijuana Nutrient Needs
Once you have your grow system setup and your seedlings planted in their final home, you need to keep a close eye on your plants to make sure their nutritional needs are being taken care of. This is an extremely important part of the cultivation process and may be the biggest factor in determining if you enjoy a bountiful harvest or find yourself frustrated with stunted plants or worse, dying plants. All plants need a variety of nutrients for healthy growth and flowering. This includes nitrogen, magnesium, iron, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium just to name a few of the most important. If your plants are missing one or more of these nutrients or not receiving the in an appropriate level, it can affect the growth and appearance of your plant. Some warning signs of nutrient deficiency to watch out for in marijuanagrowing:
- Deformed leaves and new growth
- Yellowing of older leaves
- Yellowing of newer leaves
- Lightening of the green color of the plant
- Burnt appearance or browning of leaf tips
- Leaf curling
- Early leaf loss
- Chlorosis or yellowing of the leaf in between green leaf veins causing a marbled appearance
- Bud death
- Darkening of the green of the leaves
- Poor or stunted growth
- Plant death
If you observe any of these symptoms, it is important to identify the nutrient or nutrients your plant is deficient in and correct the problem right away. Monitoring your plants for nutrient deficiencies and ensuring they get enough of the food they need to grow is just as important as making sure they have enough light or water. Cannabis requires different nutrient levels depending on its stage of life. During earlier, non-flowering stages, a nutrient mix that is high in nitrogen and potassium and contains medium levels of phosphorus is best. As the plant matures and you move to the flowering stage, a low-nitrogen formula with high levels of potassium and phosphorus will produce the best results.
Harvesting Your Crop
As you approach harvest and your plants enter their flowering stage, they will be able to tolerate brighter light and will bulk up considerably. This is also the time where their signature smell becomes the most noticeable. If you observe any male plants you missed earlier, destroy them at this time, so they do not turn your females to seed before the harvest. If you have a few stray male flowers that appear on your female plant, just pinch them off. Depending on your preference, you can harvest your buds beginning as soon as the red or orange pistil hairs begin to grow. Some individuals prefer early buds, while others prefer theirs be harvested later in the cycle. If you are not sure which you prefer, begin by harvesting some of the buds from the plant in the earlier stages and leaving some for later harvesting. It is possible to continue harvesting only the ready buds from the plant, extending the production cycle of the plant for a few weeks.
With these handy instructions, you have the information you need to grow healthy, high-yield cannabis plants indoors or outdoors. Do not let a setback stop you from pursuing your marijuana gardening. Growing any plant requires patience and attention to detail. As you get more familiar with the process, it will become easier, and you will find greater success. Seasoned growers can all tell of a time things did not go as planned, but the more you grow, the more comfortable you will become with understanding what your plant needs and how to get it to produce its best for you.
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