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how do i grow cannabis seeds

The Absolute Most Basic Guide to Growing Cannabis

When you read guides on growing cannabis, they often expect you have a certain level of horticultural knowledge. Not all of us grew up with gardens, though. As we approach legalization in Canada, we thought it was a good time to produce a truly basic guide to growing. One that makes no assumptions about your prior knowledge. If you have a basic understanding of how a plant grows (put a seed in the ground, water it, and a plant pops up) you can learn the basics of cannabis growing here.

Make Room

Cannabis plants take up space. That’s a simple fact. You can grow small plants in small spaces, and big ones in big places, but you’ll need a bare minimum of a couple square feet per plant. For your first grow, we recommend growing one or two plants. You’ll probably make mistakes and do some experimenting as you get started, so don’t risk ruining a big crop for your first ever attempt. To accommodate outward growth for each plant and give yourself some leeway, try for 3-4 square feet per plant. Plus, several feet of growing room above the plant. An unused closet, spare room, or grow tent is ideal.

Our guide is going to focus on indoor growing, as it offers you the greatest control and yields the highest quality cannabis. Outdoor growing has many more variables to consider: the weather, change of seasons, security issues, and higher risk of pest infestation. We don’t recommend it for the best results, or for inexperienced growers.

Get the Gear

Before you start growing cannabis, you need to get some gear. While you could throw a seed in some dirt, water it, and hope it works out, that’s not going to produce very good bud — if the plant even survives. Instead, it’s well worth investing in the proper gear. Not only will this result in higher quality bud, it will also make the process more straightforward. Just follow the instructions to a ‘T’, and you’ll be growing bud in no time!

Just the Essentials

Here’s a list of the absolute bare-bones essentials to get started growing:

  • Cannabis seeds or clones[This guide is only intended for those with medical licenses to grow cannabis. You cannot otherwise legally purchase seeds or clones.]
  • Grow tent (optional but strongly recommended). Grow tents are closed, box shaped frames covered in canvas — a tent. The insides are made of reflective fabric, to maximize efficiency from your growth lights. They come in a range of sizes, from 2’x2’x4’ to more than double that size. For your first grow, a simple 2’x2’x4’ tent should be sufficient, unless you’re fairly confident you’ll use more space in the future.
  • Soils and fertilizers for each growth stage. We recommend our Craft Cannabis Kit as a one-purchase solution for organic growing! There are lot of considerations in choosing a growing medium. There’s also a lot to learn about growth stages and the differing needs of mature and immature cannabis plants. The Craft Cannabis Kit contains all the soil, fertilizers, and growing instructions you need to get started. If you choose other soils and adjuncts, you’ll face the challenge of trying to understand some fairly complex growing science. Finally, you may want to read up on some of our growing guides to learn about some growing concepts in a straightforward way.
  • Potting containers. 5-gallon buckets work very well for this, but any similar-sized container will do. Be sure you’ve drilled holes for drainage every few inches around the base of the container.
    Trays to catch drainage from your potting containers. Otherwise, you’ll get muddy water all over your floor. Not ideal. You don’t want your plants to sit in standing water. If too much drains into the tray, you may need to drain the excess water.
  • A light. There are so many options for what kind of light to choose, from LEDs to CFLs and specialized HID lights. Some of these options produce a lot of heat or use a ton of power, like HIDs. While others are relatively cool and energy efficient. For first time growers, LEDs are a good choice. They are simple to set up and use little power while generating small amounts of heat. Suspend them about 18 inches above your plants, adjusting height as they grow. A light is generally the biggest up-front and ongoing cost for indoor growing. Expect to pay a minimum of $75 for a grow light, and anywhere from $20-$75/month in electricity bills, on top of what you’re paying now.

Get Growing!

Once you’ve got all your gear in order, you’ll need to assemble everything. As each grower likely has a different setup, it’s hard to provide catch-all advice for your particular setup. However, there are some basics to keep in mind.

Germination and Watering

First, if you’re working with seeds, you’ll need to germinate them. Germinating cannabis seeds is very straightforward. All you’re doing is ‘waking up’ the seeds with warmth and moisture. You can get seeds started by simply burying them a half inch to an inch into your growing container’s soil, and watering them into the soil. However, you may find water management difficult in a large container. Planting in a small container, like a disposable cup with holes punched in it, can help you ensure you don’t flood your plant, damaging or killing it.
You should water whenever the top half inch to inch of soil feels dry. Water until you saturate the soil, and about a fifth of your water has filtered through the soil and into the drainage tray. This will wash out salt buildup that can cause nutrient deficiencies over time.

Some prefer to germinate their seeds in seedling plugs. Then they’ll transplant the plug into their main growing container once the seedling is established. Seedling plugs offer perfectly ideal germination conditions for cannabis seeds. You can purchase them at most hardware stores and garden centres.

Pruning

Entire books could be written on pruning cannabis. There are dozens of ways to train a cannabis plant with the intention of producing higher yields, and this guide simply can’t cover the full details. The basic principle is to improve airflow and ensure leaves and buds get exposure to proper amounts of light. Pruning the lower branches of your plant that receive little to no direct light is a good start. Removing small branches tangled in the canopy of the plant will increase airflow and exposure to light. You can also trim individual leaves that are shrunken or dying off due to lack of light.

You can (and certainly should!) learn a lot more about cannabis pruning than this guide covers. Don’t expect your first few grows to have perfect pruning jobs. It’s a skill that takes a lot of practice.

Feeding and Light Schedules

Once your plant is germinated (or your clone is transplanted) you’ll need to set up a watering, feeding, and light schedule based on the growth stage of your plants. Before the plants enter flowering stage, they should get exposure to light for 18-20 hours a day. This helps them grow foliage and roots without triggering the flowering stage, which is when they’ll begin developing buds. Keep them in the vegetative state until they’ve filled out your growing area.

Once your plants are an appropriate size, it’s time to enter the flowering stage. You’ll do this by changing the light cycle to 12 hours light, 12 hours dark. If you’re using our products, you can use our growing calendar tool to establish feeding, watering, and light requirements throughout the flowering duration. Otherwise, you’ll need to do some research into the nutrients and adjuncts you’ve chosen to use. Proper nutrition will ensure high yields of great bud.

Harvesting and Curing

After you’re done the flowering phase, you’re ready to harvest. There are a variety of ways you can harvest buds. The simplest way is to simply trim off each branch containing the bud, and hang the branches from the ceiling in a dark, cool room, with a fan on low speed to circulate air. Once the buds are dry to the touch and the branches are brittle, it’s time to thoroughly trim the buds, removing stems and leaves. Place the buds in sealed containers to cure, opening the jars a few times a day for several days to allow moisture to escape. Store them this way for several weeks to allow the bud to cure fully. This ensures you’ll have great tasting, potent bud.

That’s It!

That’s pretty much all there is to basic cannabis cultivation. Like many subjects, it doesn’t take long to grasp the basics, but takes years of research and practice to become truly proficient. You’re going to learn from your mistakes and keep improving with each successful grow. We’ve written some growing guides to help you understand some of the more complex growing concepts. Keep at it, and you’ll be a pro in no time!

Growing cannabis outdoors: pots or open soil?

There are various ways to approach outdoor cannabis growing. Some growers prefer to simply sow seeds or plant seedlings straight into the open ground, while others prefer containing their plants within planters or pots. Here, we take a brief look at the pros and cons of each method.

Growing Cannabis outdoors in pots

1 – One of the most obvious pros of growing outdoors in pots is the fact that your plants are therefore easily transportable. This provides a degree of flexibility to the grower that planting straight into the soil simply does not afford.

For example, if living in an area of occasional extreme weather, the ability to carry your plants to a sheltered spot can be a huge advantage. Leaving plants at the mercy of gale- or hurricane-force winds, driving rain or sleet, or golfball-sized hailstones can be disastrous, and months of hard work can be ruined in one night.

Similarly, if you are growing at a time of year where hours of daylight are not optimum, moving your plants to an artificially-lit room (or a dark room if days are too long to induce flowering) can mean the difference between a good harvest and a non-existent one.

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2 – Another advantage of growing outdoors in pots is the ability to control the growth rate and eventual size of your plants, which can be highly useful if concealment is an issue.

Some varieties of cannabis (particularly sativas and sativa-dominant hybrids) can easily exceed two metres in height, meaning that if nosy neighbours are taking an interest, your plants will be easy to spot and identify.

Containing your plants in pots ensures that once they have run out of space for the roots to occupy, they will cease vegetative growth.

3 – A third advantage of growing in pots is the ability to control the uniformity and quality of the growing medium, and to fix any problems that may arise by simply transferring to a new pot with new soil.

You can be certain that your pots contain only what you put in them, and that no mixing with native soil has occurred. This may also go some way towards controlling unwanted pests and bacteria, although in an outdoor environment total control of this aspect may be difficult.

1 – On the other hand, containing plants in pots may be undesirable for the very fact that it restricts growth, thereby reducing potential harvest and general overall health of the plant. Of course, there are some huge pots available for outdoor cultivation, but if you truly wish to maximize the potential of your large plants, restricting their access to soil is not the way to go.

2 – Another potential problem lies in the fact that plants are transportable in pots—it’s a definite advantage for many outdoor growers to be able to move plants indoors or into a greenhouse if necessary, but the fact that you can pick them up and carry them around also means that other, less well-intentioned people can do the same.

If your site is very remote and there is little chance of trespassers discovering your crop, this may not be an issue, but for many back-garden growers in villages and towns the world over, theft is a very real concern.

3 – Another possible disadvantage is the need for more regular and meticulous maintenance when plants are in pots. Hand-watering is typically essential, as even if your pots are in a position to receive water from precipitation, they will not have access to the groundwater or moisture held within the topsoil—which for plants grown in open soil, can potentially entirely negate the need to water by hand.

Growing cannabis outdoors in open soil

1 – The most obvious advantage of sowing seeds or planting seedlings in open soil is the fact that they have full, unrestricted access to nutrients and whatever moisture can be reached by the roots. As the roots are able to freely grow downwards, they may be able to fulfill their water requirements purely from the groundwater.

This ensures that your plants can achieve their full potential in terms of height, vigour and eventual yield, and also means that less maintenance is required. If conducting a ‘guerrilla grow’ in a site that is not easily accessed on a daily basis, open soil is often preferred for this reason.

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2 – Another potential advantage of growing in open soil is reduced set-up cost. While purchase of pots is not generally going to break the bank, keeping costs low is generally a good thing, from the smallest hobby-gardener to the biggest criminal outfit.

When factoring in the fact that growing in pots generally necessitates the need for several transplants throughout the plant’s life into incrementally bigger pots, cost of pots alone can run into the low hundreds for a small grower, and possibly even thousands for large-scale growers.

1 – Of course, growing cannabis outdoors in open soil means your plants are not transportable, which is an advantage if theft is an issue, but can also be a great disadvantage.

Non-transportable plants means that you are at the mercy of the weather and season—if thunderstorms, gales, or floods occur, your plants may well not survive them, unless you are able to construct screens or wire cages to protect your crop from the worst of the severe weather.

2 – Furthermore, if your plants cannot be moved, they must be grown only at favourable times of year, as they cannot be moved into a well-lit or completely dark space if natural daylight is preventing them from flowering or from vigorous vegetative growth.

3 – Another big concern with growing cannabis outdoors in open soil is the quality and uniformity of soil. Most growers opting for this method will make great effort to ensure that the soil is appropriate in terms of drainage, consistency, and pH, and will often mix the soil with additives such as lime (to increase pH), sand (to improve drainage), or manure (to increase available nutrients).

However, without an impenetrable barrier between your plants’ soil zone and the native soil, these efforts can be negated—by agricultural runoff contaminating your soil zone with toxic chemicals, for example.