Thousands of people are wondering. How do you grow cannabis at home? With the option for medical marijuana patients to begin growing our own medicine come January 1st, 2020, I thought it would be appropriate to make this the topic of my first contribution to The Medical Marijuana Community’s column. When speaking in terms of Illinois’ new law that allows people to grow cannabis at home, in this article, we are sticking to indoor growing information only at this time to keep things easy.
If you are new to cannabis (especially growing), I’m sure you’ve already experienced how it can be somewhat overwhelming. Here we will attempt to break down the basic essentials when it comes to getting started on your journey. An “introduction to growing indoor cannabis”, if you will. “Marijuana is a weed, it’ll grow anywhere”, this comment can be heard rather often. While this might seem true, cannabis is more closely related to roses than common weeds. Cannabis is classified in the genetic Order of plants known as Rosales. This Order contains many plants, including roses. Similar to roses, cannabis can survive a variety of climates and conditions. Also like roses, they require specialized care to reach their full and utmost potential.
Growing From Seeds:
There are two ways to start growing a cannabis plant. The obvious way is from seeds. Like any other seed, you plant it and allow it to germinate. The other way is from a clone. A clone is a “cutting” (branch) taken from a single plant and amended in such a way that it starts to grow its own roots. Thus becomes its own separate plant. Since the cutting was obtained from a single plant, it is an exact DNA copy of the plant from which it was taken. When growing becomes legal for medical patients on January 1st, clones will not be available. They are not legal for sale or trade, though you are allowed to make your own and keep them. There are two types of cannabis seeds available on the market today. photoperiod and auto-flowering. The life cycle of all cannabis plants is split up into two stages.
The first being the vegetative stage. This is when the plant grows its branches and leaves. Basically it’s the time the plants develop their body and structure. The second phase is the flowering phase. This is the stage of the plant’s life we all wait for. This is when flowers start to develop that will form into buds. Photoperiod cannabis plants will not enter the flowering stage until they receive 12 hours of darkness per day. Autoflowering cannabis plants will flower based on age. Even if left under light for 24 hours a day. Regardless if you are buying photoperiod seeds/clones or auto-flowering seeds, they are both separated into two categories. Feminized and regular.
Cannabis is a dioecious plant. This means it takes a male to pollinate a female in order to reproduce. Regular seeds contain males and females. Females are the only ones that produce fruit (buds). and if you want to ensure seedless buds, you should stick with feminized seeds/clones. Feminized seeds are all females. When choosing which cannabis plants to grow, these are the things to be aware of before moving on to the decision of which particular strains you plan on growing.
Do I Need Tents?:
The most simple and yet still effective place to grow cannabis is inside a grow tent. Grow tents come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The majority of mass-produced grow tents are assembled using an interlocking tubular constructed frame that you must assemble yourself. The canvas is then fitted over the frame following all manufacturer’s guidelines and instructions. The exterior canvas of most tents are usually a black woven nylon type material. The interior canvas’ of the majority of tents is a highly reflective foil-like (actually a stretched plastic) material called mylar (though other materials can be used). Mylar is used not just because it is highly reflective but because it reflects light evenly preventing hot spots and is extremely durable.
All tents use a zipper and flap system for closing and keeping interior light inside the tent while simultaneously keeping exterior light out. Outside light that reaches a female plant, when it is in its flowering cycle and in its 12 hours of darkness, can cause the plant to hermaphrodite. This is called a light stressed hermaphrodite. One major reason tents are so efficient and widely used, is the ability to prevent this from occurring. All tents contain access ports for venting as well as for power cord access. upper support bars are used for hanging your grow lights as NEEDED.
If using photoperiod seeds, then 2 tents would be ideal. That way one tent can be used for plants exclusively in the vegetative stage, while the 2nd tent can be devoted to plants in the flowering stage. When choosing the size of your tent, the three most important things to factor are: the amount of space the room the tent is to be located has available, the number of plants you plan to grow, and the size of the plants you plan on growing.
What Lights Are Best to Grow Cannabis?:
When deciding on which grow lights to purchase, it is important to remember the formulation of 50 watts per square foot of grow space. This calculation will allow the optimum results available to your specific plant. There are three basic categories of lights suitable for growing cannabis indoors. The first is HID (High Intensity Discharge). This category of light includes HPS (High Pressure Sodium), MH (Metal Halide), and CMH (Ceramic Metal Halide). These lights give off an extreme amount of light and require a separate ballast in which to power the light. The major drawback to these kind of lights, in relation to growing at home, is the heat. Out of all 3 categories of grow lights, HID’s far and wide produce the most heat. Many different type of HID lights are available on the market today.
The ones recommended for a tent set up, are the types that have the ability to connect ducting to the fixture. Ducted HID lights with the least amount of heat produced are known as cool tubes. Florescent is the second category of grow lights. They are usually sold in 2ft or 4ft light bars though CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) grow bulbs are available as well. Fluorescent grow lights should be used for clones and seedlings only. They do not have enough light output to be effective for multiple plants in the vegetative stage or even a single plant in the flowering stage. The third category of grow lights are known as LEDs. LED lights are made one of three ways: Full spectrum LED which gives off a light similar in appearance to a blacklight.
Also known as “blurple” LEDs, these are oftentimes the most cost-effective. Newer technology has ushered in cob LEDs and quantum boards. LED (light emitting diode ) lights usually consist of numerous single diodes mounted in a line with one another. Cob (chips on board) LED lights group these diodes into one lighting module. This can increase the lifespan as well as the overall performance of LEDs. The last for of LED available are known as quantum boards. Quantum board LEDs are large circuit boards with hundreds of single LEDs mounted to them. These types of LED lights give off a hyper bright white (not blurple) color of light.
They are very bright and run cooler than traditional HID lights. When buying LED lights, it is important to note the “true wattage” of the light you are buying. The watts a manufacturer claims can be vastly different from the actual watts drawn from the outlet. When comparing the strength of watts per light, disregard all manufacturer claims, and only go off of the “true watts” or watts from the wall.
How Do I Manage Ventilation/Air Flow
Airflow and circulation is of paramount importance when growing indoors. In order to keep humidity and temperature in check, as well as help strengthen your plants, fans must be used. Lack of airflow can cause a multitude of issues. Mold and overheating being the first two that come to mind. A combination of factors will determine the size and types of fans needed to keep your tent at the optimal environmental condition for growing.
For example, in a medium-sized tent, running 1000watt ducted HPS light, to achieve an ideal growing environment, one would need to install a 6in in-line fan using 6in flex duct to the light pulling cool air from outside one end of the tent through the light and exhausting outside the opposite end of the tent.
A 4inch in-line fan using a duct to pull outside air inside the tent to introduce cooler air, and a simple 20 in box fan or a 16 in oscillating fan to distribute air movement. While a 600 watt LED in a 2×4 tent may only require a 4-inch exhaust fan connected to duct running outside the tent in combination with a small oscillating fan. It is important to note, carbon filters are made for just about every type of inline grow fan-produced. Installation of a carbon filter to your exhaust fan line will significantly reduce any and all odors associated with the exhausted air from your grow tent.
What Are Mediums?:
When using the term “medium”, we are referring to anything the roots cling to. This can include different types of soils as well as other materials (used mostly in hydroponic setups). When growing cannabis, you have one of two options, to grow in soil or to grow in water. The “world of soil” is quite massive.
Choosing which to go with can be a daunting task in of itself. For the purposes of this article, we will stick with the two major ones: organic and non organic. Organic-based soils must contain at least 20%-25% formerly living carbon-based material. Nonorganic soil can be made into organic soil by adding organic amendments. Common organic amendments that are very beneficial to the growing of cannabis include bat guano and earthworms casing. Nonorganic amendments are often added as well. Such as perlite to help with drainage.
It is very important to stay away from any potting soil that claims to “feed” your plant. These types of soils have time-released nutrients and are not recommended for the growing of cannabis. Growing in water is known as growing “hydroponically”. When you are not using soil as a medium, another material must be used to help support the plant’s structure. This is accomplished by using materials such as clay pellets or coco fiber. These materials provide the top roots of the plant, something to hold on to while more roots search out moisture and nutrients.
There are different types of hydroponic systems and setups. A simple Google or YouTube search can help immensely when deciding on the right system to fit your specific needs. Hydroponic growing does present some unique advantages. The one that I personally like the best is the lack of pests. While pest damage can still happen, with the absence of soil, you, in turn, have the absence of anything that is living or has laid eggs in said soil.
Will I Need Nutrients?:
Cannabis requires specific amounts of key nutrients in order to survive. Nearly all commercially available nutrients will have a series of three numbers printed on the bottom of the label. These three numbers stand for N (Nitrogen), P (Phosphorus), and K (Potassium). Different levels of each of these three key nutrients are needed throughout the plant’s life cycle.
For example, cannabis requires a higher amount of Nitrogen during its vegetative stage than compared to its flowering stage where less Nitrogen and more Potassium and Phosphorous are required. Additional nutrients are obviously needed as well such as calcium and magnesium. In hydroponic setups, nutrients are added to circulating water. Nutrients can be added to the soil, in a variety of ways. You can amend soil naturally with additives such as bone meal, blood meal, bat guano, and earthworm casings to name a few.
There are also foliage sprays (which are sprayed directly to the leaves), liquid and powdered products that can be mixed with water and applied during normal watering. There are also organic “teas”. These are unusually homemade, though some premade teas are commercially available. Teas usually consist of organic material high in vital nutrients. Homemade tea recipes are readily available online. PH should be closely monitored when mixing and/or adding nutrients to your plants, soil, and water.
Other Basic Supplies to Grow Cannabis:
As can be seen, cannabis plants require a certain level of attention to detail. There are a variety of tools that can aid in making it a lot easier to provide the attention of detail required to have quality plants as well as bountiful yields. Inside your growing space, you will want to monitor certain variables. The first and foremost being the air temperature and relative humidity inside the area. This can be accomplished with the use of a thermal hygrometer.
Thermal hygrometers should be left in the grow space throughout the duration of the grow. This ensures accurate readings no matter the time of day or light schedule. Another variable, just as important as temperature and relative humidity, that needs to be monitored, is the PH of the medium. PH levels tell us how acidic something is. Cannabis has a certain PH range in which it thrives. These ranges can vary depending on the growing medium. It is important to check the PH of any water you are using to water your plants as well (regardless if nutrients have been added or not). PH “stick meters” can be used to monitor the PH of soil as well as water.
Many different types of both PH meters, as well as thermal hygrometers, are found on the market today. They are readily available online or at any nursery, home improvement, or grow store. Humidifiers, dehumidifiers, and portable air conditioners are known to be needed from time to time. Checking the humidity levels and temperature will determine if these are needed or not.
If these tips have helped you prepare how to grow cannabis, let us know and join the discussion in the community!