So you’ve made the decision to grow your own cannabis – congratulations! Whether gardening has been a hobby of yours for years or you’re a newbie to home cultivation, growing your very own personal-use cannabis can be incredibly rewarding.
Before you get started, however, you should do some research. Find out whether growing cannabis indoors is right for your dwelling (or whether you might be better off growing outdoors). To help you get started, we’ve put together a few tips to make sure your first batch is a fruitful one.
Tip #1: Set aside a grow space.
The first step to cultivating your own cannabis is creating a suitable environment for the plants to thrive. Since most of us don’t have the luxury of a cannabis grow room within our homes, you’ll likely have to get a little creative. Closets, tents, cabinets, or even a corner in your basement or spare room can work. Make sure you have enough space to work with the plant, and for the equipment you plan to use.
If this is your first attempt at growing cannabis at home, it’s a good idea to start small. One plant is plenty to take care of, and will be easier to monitor compared to a few (keeping in mind that the personal cannabis growing limit per household is four plants in most of Canada).
Tip #2: Light up properly.
Cannabis is a flowering plant, meaning it naturally bears its fruits only once per year, during the fall when daylight hours are shorter. Lighting is therefore crucial for growing cannabis because the light period (also known as the photoperiod) must be carefully controlled. A cannabis plant needs to be placed in 12+ hours of light every day to keep it from flowering. (You don’t want the plant to flower too early, as it needs time to grow, or “vegetate” – at least a few weeks prior to flowering.) To keep the cannabis in the vegetation stage, the plant should receive at least 16 hours of light, although 18 to 20 hours is optimal.
There are few options available to you when it comes to shining light on your cannabis plant. While serious growers often use highly specialized (and expensive) cannabis grow lights, you don’t have to empty your wallet to find the light. A 250-watt HID (high intensity discharge) bulb, which can be found in most hardware stores, will work fine. If you have a window with lots of sunlight, you may be able to get away with using fluorescent bulbs.
After 6 to 8 weeks, it’s time to trigger the flowering cycle. In other words, the light cycle now changes to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. To achieve this, you’re best off using a standard outlet timer set at a 12-hour cycle. It should be noted that some cannabis plant varieties are auto-flowering, meaning they can grow in 24-hour light cycles and don’t need as much lighting control. These types of plants move into the flowering stage as they mature, rather than in response to light/darkness.
Tip #3: Give your plant room to breathe.
For your plant to be happy, you’ll need to ensure there’s a steady stream of airflow in your cultivation space. This can be achieved by using a fan placed near the top of the room (to push away the warmer air) and a filtered air inlet at the opposite end of the room. It’s important to maintain the right temperature in your growing area so that your cannabis plants stay comfortable: somewhere between 21 and 30°C when the grow lights are on and between 15 and 21°C when they are off.
It’s also good practice to keep a circulating fan in the room, to keep a light breeze going – it strengthens the plants’ stems and helps prevent mold and bugs.
Tip #4: Pot your plant with the right mix of nutrients.
Your cannabis plant needs to be fed the right food. Depending on the medium in which you choose to grow, it will need a tailored combination of nutrients to ensure it thrives in your indoor grow space. The most traditional medium for indoor home cannabis growing is with soil, although hydroponic growing (where the plant receives its nourishment from a nutrient-rich liquid solution; either directly by suspending its roots in the solution, or via a soilless medium such as coco coir) has become popular in recent years.
If you choose to go with soil, you’ll need high quality potting soil that doesn’t contain any artificial extended release fertilizer. An apt choice for cannabis cultivation newbies is pre-fertilized soil, which can be purchased pre-made at most gardening suppliers. Some of these soils come with nutrients already mixed in, like guano and sea kelp. The more nutrients in your soil, the better.
Tip #5: Keep your plant dry (like you would your bud!)
Cannabis plants are extremely sensitive to over-watered conditions, so draining your plant is a must. The easiest way to ensure proper drainage is to drill holes at the bottom of your container and place it on a tray. Alternatively, you can use fabric pots that offer drainage and breathability at the same time. It’s important that your plants not sit in stagnant water; this will alter the pH and attract insects and mold.
Remember, if your first cannabis plant doesn’t succeed, that’s no reason to give up! Like any new hobby, it’s likely going to take a few tries before you get it right. But there’s a lot of reward that comes with growing your own cannabis, particularly if you have mobility issues and are cultivating the plant for medical purposes. With a little trial and error, your green thumb will become proficient in cannabis growing.
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