Whether you’re growing indoors or outdoors, cultivating your own cannabis can be extremely exciting and rewarding. However, growing a perfect crop requires time, patience, and a bit of know-how.
Since most states have only legalized cannabis recently, a lot of information has been passed down anecdotally from one grower to another. There are so many ‘expert’ tips about germinating, growing, and harvesting marijuana that it’s hard to tell solid advice from pure fiction.
Once you’ve confirmed that growing marijuana from seed is legal in your state, you’re ready to start your journey. Here are five tried-and-true tips to help you along the way.
1. Reduce Light During the Flowering Stage
When you first begin to grow cannabis, you’ll probably make a few mistakes. That’s normal – that’s how all master growers learn. One of the most common mistakes newcomers make is with their lighting – especially if they’re growing indoors.
When your plants reach the vegetative phase, you’ll want to provide them with plenty of light. Because they are actively growing, they’ll need as much as 18-22 hours of light per day. Once your plants reach the flowering phase, however, things will change.
When your photo-flowering plants enter their flowering phase indoors, you should decrease the amount of light they receive. Reducing their light to just 12 hours per day will trigger the flowering phase and prompt them to start producing buds.
If you’re growing your cannabis outdoors, don’t worry – the seasonal changes in light will naturally trigger the plants to enter the flowering phase.
2. Less Fertilizer is More
Another common mistake new growers make has to do with their fertilizing regime. Once your cannabis plants reach the growing stage, you should decrease the amount of fertilizer they receive. While this may seem counterintuitive, cannabis plants only need a small amount of nutrients to survive.
Too much fertilizer can result in ‘nutrient burn,’ which appears as a crispy leaf tips that can spread to the whole plant. Leaves ‘burned’ by nutrients can’t produce or store energy for the plant, which can result in a decreased yield or even a crop failure. Other symptoms of too much fertilizer are an unpleasant chemical odor and taste in the final buds and a lower potency.
To avoid nutrient burn, stick to half the recommended dosage and frequency on the fertilizer bottle and only increase it if you notice obvious signs of nutrient deficiencies.
3. Use the Right Growing Medium
One of the most important factors for cannabis crop success is choosing the correct growing medium. Using an unsuitable growing medium can lead to reduced yield, disease, and root rot.
Cannabis plants prefer a light, airy medium that doesn’t retain too much moisture after watering. Fast-draining soil mixes that contain perlite, sand, and coco coir will be better than heavy, water-retaining clay soil. There are thousands of recipes for soil mixes online, or you can order a pre-made soil mix specially designed for cannabis.
4. Airflow is Critical
If you’re growing cannabis indoors, the importance of adequate airflow can’t be understated. If your grow space is poorly ventilated, your plants can succumb to rot, mold, mildew, and humidity-loving pests like fungus gnats and mealy bugs.
If your grow area is densely packed, the best solution to increase airflow is to install vents and fans. Ensuring your grow room is properly aerated will also reduce the chances of heat stress.
5. Timing Your Harvest and the Curing Process
Although you’ve reached the home stretch of your journey, so many things can still go wrong during the harvest and post-harvest stage of your grow.
It’s important to know when it’s the right time to harvest your buds – too early or late in the flowering stage can dramatically reduce the yield and potency of the final product. How you will know when to harvest your cannabis will depend on the appearance of your buds.
During the flowering stage, cannabis buds will “sprout” tiny white hairs (pistils) from their calyxes. If you look at these hairs through a jeweler’s loupe, you’ll see the tiny trichomes – they look like resinous or milky white crystals.
When these trichomes mature, they’ll begin to turn an amber color. You want to harvest your buds once half of the pistils have deepened in color – this is when the psychoactive compounds have reached the height of their potency.
Once you’ve harvested your buds, you’ll need to dry them in a dark, ventilated space. You’ll know they have dried enough when the stems snap cleanly. Then, you’ll move onto the curing process.
Seal the buds in airtight containers and open them once per day, allowing air to circulate inside the containers for one minute. This is called “burping.” Repeat this process for three weeks or until you’re satisfied with the buds’ aroma.