There’s a lot that goes into growing your own cannabis at home. You need to set up a space, choose all your equipment and supplies, nurture your plants through every stage of the grow cycle, harvest your plants, dry your flower, and cure your flower. Needless to say, home growing requires quite a bit of planning and care.
Yet, while there are many steps in the marijuana growing process, it’s simple once you know how it’s done. And if you want to learn how to start growing your own cannabis, this guide is for you. Below, we’re going over everything beginners need to know about growing their own cannabis indoors. We’ll start by going over how to set up your space and choose your grow materials, then we’ll cover how to care for your cannabis plants as they grow and what to do once you finally reach harvest time.
Setting Up Your Cannabis Growing Space
Growing marijuana indoors is ideal for beginners, since indoor cultivation allows you to control every aspect of your plants’ environment. There may be more initial setup needed when you grow indoors rather than outdoors, but it’s well worth it the ease, control, and quality an indoor grow setup provides.
The first element you should pin down for your indoor grow setup is your grow space. This includes not just the empty space you’ll be growing in, but also all the equipment you’ll be using in your space to control elements such as:
- Air Circulation
- Temperature and Humidity
Choosing Your Space
While grow spaces are often called “grow rooms,” you don’t need an entire room for your grow space. Any light-tight space that can accommodate your plants and equipment can work for your grow space. This space could be a room, but it could also be a closet, a cabinet, or a grow tent.
As you plan your space, remember that you, the home grower, also need to fit in the space (unless you plan to take your plants out as you tend to them). Another thing to think about is how large cannabis plants can become. Cannabis plants can double or triple in size once they reach the flowering stage, so you need to leave room for them to grow. If you’re short on head room, you may want to grow indica plants rather than sativa plants, since indica plants tend to grow shorter and bushier while sativa plants tend to stretch tall.
Light control is extremely important for your home grow setup because marijuana plants need different amounts of light during the different stages in their growth cycle.
- Germination Stage (3 to 10 Days): 16 Hours of Light Per Day
- Seedling Stage (2 to 3 Weeks): 16 Hours of Light Per Day
- Vegetative Stage (3 to 16 Weeks): At Least 16 Hours of Light Per Day
- Flowering Stage (8 to 11 weeks): A Maximum of 12 Hours of Light Per Day
It’s most important to control light exposure during the vegetative and flowering stages. You need to give your plants at least 16 hours of light during the vegetative growth stage. Some growers give their plants a full 24 hours of light in the vegetative stage. Once your plants are ready to enter the flowering stage, you need to make sure they get at least 12 hours of darkness. Most indoor growers switch to a 12/12 light schedule during the flowering stage.
There are different types of lights you can use in an indoor grow space. The most common are:
- High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Lights: HID grow lights are considered industry standard for indoor growing. They offer a good mixture of output, value, and efficiency. They are more expensive than fluorescent lights, yet also produce much more wattage and light per energy unit. They aren’t as efficient as LED lights, but they’re much less expensive. Be aware that HID lighting setups require a ballast and a reflective hood for each bulb. HID lighting setups also generate heat, which means you will likely need to have a cooling mechanism in your grow space to control temperature if you use HID lights. This increases up front costs, but will make it easier for you to control the temperature in your grow space long term.
- Metal Halide (MH) Lights: MH lights are blue-white HID lights that are usually used during the vegetative growth stage.
- High Pressure Sodium (HPS) Lights: HPS lights are red-orange HID lights that are used during the flowering stage.
- LED Grow Lights: LED lights have many advantages. They’re impressively energy efficient, they’re longlasting, they generate very little heat, and they can generate a full spectrum of light. The main drawback of LED grow lights is their high upfront cost. Good quality LED light setups can cost up to 10 times as much as good quality HID lighting setups.
- Fluorescent Grow Lights: Fluorescent lights tend to be popular among home growers due to their ease of use, their inexpensive start up cost, and the fact that they don’t generate much heat (so they don’t necessitate a cooling system). Yet, fluorescent lights have potential drawbacks, including their large size and the fact that they are less energy efficient than other lighting options.
There is no single best type of light that every home grower should use. When choosing what type of lights you’ll use for your set up, take some time to consider which will work best for your grow plan, your grow space, and your budget.
Controlling Air Circulation
While you need to keep your grow space light-tight in order to control your plants’ photoperiod, you certainly don’t want it to be airtight, since cannabis plants need carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. Your plants need fresh air in order to thrive, so you need to make a plan to circulate airflow.
A simple way to circulate fresh air in your space is by using fans. An exhaust fan can suck out air, while a passive fan can bring air in, and an oscillating fan can keep air circulating. It’s ideal to place exhaust fans high in a room in order to remove hot air, which rises, and to place it on the opposite side of your passive fan (or other cool air input). This tends to create a good path for fresh airflow.
Controlling Temperature and Humidity
Marijuana plants need to be within certain temperature and humidity ranges to experience healthy growth. These ranges vary depending on where the plants are in their grow cycle:
- Seedling Stage: 75 °F to 85 °F, 70% Relative Humidity
- Vegetative Stage: 70 °F to 85 °F, 40% to 60% Relative Humidity
- Flowering Stage: 65 °F to 80 °F, 50% to 60% Relative Humidity
To keep your grow area within these temperature and humidity ranges, you need monitoring equipment and equipment that can help you regulate temperature and humidity.
When you’re first starting out, keep your monitoring setup simple. All you need is a thermometer that can tell you the temperature and a hygrometer that can tell you how much water vapor content is in the air. If you want to step your monitoring up a notch, you can also get an infrared thermometer, which can tell you the temperature of your plants’ leaves.
As far as equipment goes, what you’ll need will vary depending on the climate you live in, the lighting setup you’ll be using (which can add heat), and the airflow you have in your space. Every space is different, so some spaces only need fans, while others need an air conditioner, a heater, or both.
To regulate the humidity in your grow space, you may need a humidifier or a dehumidifier. Depending on the conditions in your space, you may also be able to control the humidity in your environment using simply a spray bottle of water, which can add humidity, and airflow, which can reduce humidity.
Marijuana plants have a strong smell, especially once they start to flower. This smell can be a problem if you, your neighbors, or someone else in your household isn’t fond of it.
If you don’t want the odor from your grow space to seep out into your home or neighborhood, you need some type of odor control plan. First, you’ll want to minimize the odor in the space itself. You can do this by keeping your temperature and humidity levels optimal and making sure air is circulating out of the space. Second, you’ll probably need some type of odor control solution. Two options are odor absorbing gels and activated carbon filters, also called carbon scrubbers.
Automating Your Grow Space
If you try to control all your equipment manually, it’s going to be challenging to continuously ensure that you have optimal light, airflow, temperature, and humidity levels in your space. So, it’s definitely a good idea to invest in some type of automation for your grow room.
If you can only get one automation tool, we recommend getting a timer for your lights. Consistently giving your plants the right amount of light exposure is crucial if you want them to thrive. A timer can help you do that with ease.
Other elements you can automate include your fans, heater, air conditioner, dehumidifier, and humidifier. Generally, it’s best to do this type of automation by selecting equipment that has a built-in auto adjusting thermostat function, but you can also use external thermostats.
Deciding on Your Growing Materials
In addition to setting up your space, you need to choose all your grow materials. This includes your plant containers, grow medium, nutrients, and starter.
Selecting Seeds or Clones
You can start growing cannabis using either cannabis seeds or clones, which are cuttings from mother plants.
Most cannabis cultivators recommend that first time growers use seeds instead of clones. Specifically, experienced growers recommend that newbies use auto-flowering seeds that have been feminized, since these will produce female plants that flower automatically.
The reason growers recommend that first timers use seeds over clones is that, though they take longer to grow, they’re less finicky compared to clones. You need to germinate cannabis seeds, which adds an extra step to your grow process. However, this extra step will produce seedlings that are considerably tougher than clones, which are delicate due to their lack of a tap root.
Choosing Your Containers
When choosing containers for your marijuana plants, you want to think about providing a safe, healthy place for root development. Healthy roots are vital to growing cannabis. They’re not only what anchors your plant, but also what absorbs nutrients and retains water.
There are four main things to think about when picking out your containers:
- Space to Grow: Without enough space, your plant will become rootbound and choke.
- Water Drainage: Without proper water drainage, your plant will likely become waterlogged, leading to root rot and death. Root rot due to overwatering and lack of drainage is a top problem among new growers.
- Nutrient Conditions: Without proper nutrient conditions (ideal temperature, pH balance, nutrient presence), your plants will not thrive.
- Oxygen: Without some oxygen, delivered through container perforation, your roots will not be able to function.
You can achieve these four necessary elements using a variety of containers. The most popular options include:
- Fabric Pots: Fabric pots are very popular for growing cannabis plants. They are affordable, allow for good airflow, have fantastic drainage, and they cause roots to grow densely due to air pruning. On the other hand, they are flimsy and require more maintenance because they do not retain water well.
- Plastic Pots: Plastic pots are easy to find, inexpensive, and good for drainage. They’re also less durable and protective than other containers, and can experience airflow issues with certain grow mediums.
- Clay Pots: Clay pots are sturdy, moisture retentive, and temperature regulating. Yet, they are also heavy and they may lack proper drainage.
- Hydroponic Trays: Hydroponic trays are used only with soilless hydroponic systems. Hydroponic growing is complicated, with a steep learning curve, so it’s best for those who are ready to dedicate more time to growing.
Each of these options has its pros and cons. The right one for you will depend on your grow style and choice of grow medium.
Choosing Your Grow Medium
There are two main types of grow medium: soil and soilless.
Soil is a traditional grow medium that can be great for beginners, as it’s very forgiving. Super soil (pre-fertilized soil) is a top recommendation for new growers. Since super soil is pre-fertilized, growers can often avoid ever having to add nutrients to their soil. This makes it a fairly fail-proof grow medium option.
Note that there’s one type of soil you always want to avoid when growing cannabis: artificial extended release fertilizers. This soil (a common brand is Miracle Gro) is not conducive to growing high quality cannabis.
Soilless growing involves adding concentrated nutrients to a soilless hydroponic media, such as coco coir, perlite, clay pebbles, and rockwool. Soilless growing makes it easy to control your plants’ nutrition, but it’s more high maintenance and easier to do incorrectly compared to soil. Therefore, soilless growing isn’t something we would necessarily recommend for beginners.
If you aren’t using pre-fertilized soil, you’ll need to feed your cannabis plants a nutrient solution once a week or more. It’s possible to make your own nutrient solution at home. However, for beginners, we recommend choosing a ready-made nutrient mix, which is much more fail-proof.
Caring For Your Plants
Once your space is set up, your marijuana plants are in their grow medium, and you’re stocked with supplies, it’s time for daily care.
Your daily grower checklist may have unique “to dos” on it that other growers won’t have. But here are some things that all growers should do for maintenance (do this daily in the seedling stage, then every 2 to 3 days after that):
- Watering: Check your soil for moisture. When your soil is completely dry, it’s time to water your plant (with or without nutrients, depending on where you are in your schedule). Always check your water pH levels before watering.
- Check Environment: Check to make sure your temperature and humidity is at optimum levels for where you are in your grow cycle, and that your lights are not burning your plants.
- Check Equipment: Check that all your equipment is running as it should be. This includes your lights, fans, heater, AC, dehumidifier, humidifier, and timers.
- Check Plants For Issues: Check your plants for issues like mold, pests, dehydration, and nutrient deficiencies.
- Prune: If needed, prune any dead leaves on your marijuana plants.
- Adjust Spacing: As your plants grow, they may begin to crowd and shade each other. Get in the practice of checking your plants’ spacing to ensure they’re all getting airflow and light.
Harvesting, Drying, and Curing Your Cannabis
When your cannabis flowers are fully mature, it’s time to harvest, dry, and cure them. Harvesting, drying, and curing are three distinctly separate stages of the cannabis cultivation process, but they’re done back-to-back and they all work towards the same goal: preserving your flower and making sure it’s as high quality as possible.
Here’s an overview of how to harvest, dry, and cure your cannabis flower once it’s harvest time:
- Harvest: You can harvest marijuana using pruners and/or scissors. Start by cutting off large branches, making sure to be delicate with your flower buds. Then, decide whether you want to dry trim (dry whole branches, then trim off dried buds) or wet trim (trim buds of fresh branches, then dry them). If you’ll be dry trimming, move onto the dry process. If you’ll be wet trimming, trim your flowers now.
- Dry: Whether you’re dry or wet trimming, dry your cannabis in a dark room that’s around 60 °F, between 55% and 60% humidity, and has good fresh air circulation. If you’re dry trimming, hang your branches to dry them. It usually takes 7 to 10 days for cannabis branches to fully dry. Your flower is ready when it feels dry to the touch on the outside and your stems are starting to snap. If you wet trimmed, place your wet buds on a flat drying rack that allows for good airflow, such as a mesh drying rack. It usually takes around 2 to 3 days for wet trimmed buds to fully dry. Your flower bud is ready when it feels dry to the touch after you lightly squish it.
- Cure: Curing removes bacteria and enzymes from your buds, which is crucial for their shelf life. It also improves the taste of cannabis flower and helps to maximize potency. To cure cannabis buds, you need airtight containers (such as mason jars) and a hygrometer for each container. Place a hygrometer in each container, fill each container around three quarters full, tightly seal your containers, and then store them in a cool, dark, and dry place. Now, you want to keep the humidity level in your jars between 55% and 65% for the curing process, which can be done for anywhere from 2 weeks to 8 weeks. Check your jars daily to monitor their humidity. If their humidity level is too high, remove their lids for half a day or a day, then reseal. Even if your humidity levels are perfect during week one, note that you should “burp” each jar by taking their lids off for a few minutes daily. This replenishes oxygen and releases moisture. Past the first week, you can switch to burping your jars every few days. If there’s ever an ammonia smell coming from your jars, leave them open for a full day, then reseal. An ammonia smell is a sign of bacteria growth, so you need to let moisture escape if it occurs.
This is just a summary of these three processes. If you want an in-depth look at how to harvest, dry, and cure your marijuana, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide to How to Dry and Cure Marijuana.
Final Thoughts: Start Small
We have one last piece of advice for first time cannabis growers: remember to start small. Even the most green-thumbed people experience a learning curve when they start growing a new plant. So, if you’re new to growing cannabis, you’re probably going to go through a period of trial and error. However, you can make this trial and error process easier by starting small and growing just one or two plants at most. That way, any issues that arise will be much easier to tackle and move on from.