Cannabis legalization is spreading like wildfire across the US, Canada and in many other countries around the world. Many people are finally allowed to legally grow their own supply of cannabis!
Growing cannabis can seem like it’s complicated, but often it only seems that way because you haven’t been given the right information. A lot of people unintentionally make growing harder than it needs to be, but that ends now.
Our cannabis growing guide will help you discover the best way to grow cannabis, for your unique situation.
Find a grow style for…
- Your grow space
- Your budget
- Your desired yields
Growing cannabis plants is actually pretty straightforward, and almost anyone with a few extra minutes a day and a spare closet or a garden in the backyard can grow their own professional-quality buds at home.
In order to thrive and grow, every cannabis plant needs:
Whether you’re using sunlight or grow lights, you must understand the light needs of a cannabis plant to get the best bud quality & yields.
The stuff your plants grow in; soil isn’t your only choice!
A well-ventilated space with good air exchange and a slight breeze is best.
A good rule of thumb for cannabis plants is if it feels too hot for you, it’s probably too hot for your plants. Just like humans, cannabis plants can die if exposed to extreme temps.
You can buy pre-formulated nutrients that you just add to your water, or you can compost your own super soil so that it already includes all the nutrients you need.
Like all plants and living creatures, cannabis needs water to survive and grow. Is my tap water “good enough” for growing cannabis?
3 Most Common Cannabis Growing Mistakes
conducting spur-of-the-moment experiments that hurt or possibly even kill their plants. Always take a second to google your idea before you try it. Luckily when it comes to growing cannabis, there is a good chance that someone has tried it already.
Skipping crucial steps like understanding light schedules, or why root pH levels are important for reducing nutrient deficiencies. While you can get lucky and succeed at growing weed without taking these steps, you are a lot more likely to end up with plants that are sickly or don’t produce well. Make sure you follow all the steps listed in this guide – you deserve to harvest your own top-quality bud.
Re-inventing the wheel! You can benefit from the mistakes of others by learning how not to make the same mistakes. Don’t be afraid to look something up or ask a fellow grower.
10-Step Beginner’s Guide to Growing Cannabis
CHOOSE WHERE YOU WILL GROW
Indoors vs. Outdoors
Growing indoors is much more private than growing outdoors and you also get more control over your grow.
An indoor cannabis grow can be surprisingly cheap to get started and maintain, especially if you plan on growing just a few plants.
Take a look at a few completed indoor grow journals to get an idea of how much you can expect to harvest in different types of indoor setups. My lastest 315W LEC grow yielded over a pound (497g) of dried and cured cannabis.
You have more control over everything in an indoor growing environment, which means that indoor growers can consistently produce dank buds. However, this dank weed-growing power comes with more responsibility. As an indoor grower, your plants are 100% reliant on you your care if they are to survive. If you don’t provide everything your plants need, they will die.
What indoor spaces work best?
You can grow cannabis almost anywhere that has easy access to water and fresh air…
- a spare room
- a closet
- grow tent
- extra bathroom
- even the inside of a computer case!(though I recommend a Space Bucket instead)
When thinking about where to grow indoors, you should also consider the temperature (also referred to as ‘temps’) of your grow space and remember your temps will rise once you have your grow lights running!
Young growing cannabis plants grow fastest when temps a bit warmer, in the 70-85°F (20-30°C) range.
When plants are a bit older, in the budding/flowering stage, it’s best to keep temps slightly cooler, around 65-80°F (18-26°C) to produce buds with the best color, trichome production and smell.
Because temps are so important, it’s best to be able to have some amount of control over the temperature of your grow area. When growing indoors, your grow lights will give off heat. Generally, the more powerful your lights, the more heat they give off.
If you want to install a lot of bright lights in a small space, you will likely have to install an air conditioner in addition to your exhaust system to make sure you keep your temps in the right range.
If you’re growing just a few plants in a grow tent or box, usually you can install a fan to pull hot air away from the hot lights and out a window to keep things cool enough.
Some lights tend to cause more heat problems than others, and we’ll help you find the right lights for your space in Step 2.
Growing outdoors is cheaper to get started since you don’t have to get grow lights or create an indoor grow area, though you will have to worry about privacy/stealth, possible pollination, people stealing your plants, bugs, deer and other unexpected outdoor visitors.
However, if you pick the right strain and live in a good environment, it can be much cheaper to grow outdoors, since you don’t have to provide everything for your plants. The sun will do a lot of the most cost-heavy work for you by providing a free grow light.
Of course, when you’re growing outside, it’s not always possible to control the environment perfectly. If it’s dry, you will need to water your plants. If it’s too rainy, you need to protect your plants from getting overwatered.
When it comes to temperatures, a good rule of thumb about cannabis plants is if it’s too hot for you, it’s probably too hot for your plants. And just like humans, cannabis plants can die if exposed to freezing or too-hot temps.
So if you know it’s going to be extremely hot or cold where you live, you may need to take extra steps to protect your plants from the elements, like setting up a small greenhouse.
CHOOSE YOUR GROW
There are lots of different grow lights for cannabis, including:
When you’re growing with the sun, you need to make sure that your plants are getting at least 8+ hours of direct sunlight each day for the best results.
It’s best that your plants get direct sunlight from at least 10am-4pm, and more light is better. Because of the high light needs of the cannabis plant (it needs more light than many other types of plants), it is not well suited to growing in a window (though I’ve seen plenty of growers start their seeds in sunny windows before moving their plants to a more suitable final location).
Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) & household LEDs are what people commonly use to light up their homes. They aren’t really made for growing plants, but can be a good way to get your feet wet in the growing world without a significant investment. They lack the power of dedicated grow lights, but can get the job done. CFLs and home LEDs like these are dirt cheap, and you can usually buy them from any big-box store without arousing suspicion. In fact, growing with CFLs is what I did for my first grow and I got them from a local Home Depot. I imagine that my first grow would’ve ended the same (or even better) had I used small household LEDs instead of CFLs, though they weren’t available back then.
Other Fluorescent Lighting (T5/T8)
These lights are traditionally made for seedlings and plants that need lower light intensity than cannabis. If you do get other fluorescent lighting, I recommend sticking with a High-Output T5 light since they are the brightest option in this group. Even so, I generally recommend changing to stronger grow lights for the cannabis flowering stage unless you do major plant training (to keep plants very short) since these lights have a short light brightness range and must be kept very close to the tops of your plants.
LEC (CMH) grow lights
LEC (Light Emitting Ceramic) is a brand name for a type of light (CMH – Ceramic Metal Halide) that has existed for quite a while. This type of light has come back into vogue after some rebranding, partly because it has some very positive traits for growing cannabis compared to HPS lighting. For one, LECs have a more natural color that makes it easier to care for and diagnose plant problems. Plus, it’s a lot better for security to have a light that doesn’t scream “WEED GROWING HERE!” like the unearthly yellow hue of an HPS. They produce significant levels of UV light, which can possibly increase trichome production. Additionally, they don’t seem to emit EMI (Electro Magnetic Interference) as much as their noisy HPS cousins which means you’re less likely to have a HAM radio enthusiast accidentally tracking down your grow. The plants grew surprisingly fast under a 315 LEC and we were impressed by the yields we achieved on our first grow.
LED grow lights
LEDs are much more powerful than CFLs or any other fluorescent lighting. They are top-tier grow lights on par with HID lighting (HPS, LEC) when it comes to how much bud they can produce. They’re visually attractive and tend to be more appealing to growers because they’re not as ‘old-fashioned’ (though they tend to cost more). In fact, LEDs are the only grow lights that have seen major technological research and development in the past 10 years.
LED grow lights work great for growing cannabis and some companies have been refining their models for years (the combination of parts is almost like a company’s recipe). Each LED model is different and needs to be kept a different distance away from your plants. It can sometimes be hard to find any “standard” advice about growing with LEDs, yet these days there are quite a few brands which are well-tested and trusted by cannabis growers and these brands tend to have good support for questions. When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to just ask the manufacturer about how far away the lights should be kept, as that’s where new growers are most likely to mess up.
Metal Halide (MH) High-Pressure Sodium
MH/HPS grow lights (like the light pictured here) are a type of “HID” light like LECs. A combination of MH/HPS is what most commercial growers use when growing cannabis indoors. They are surprisingly cheap to buy and set up, especially considering how incredibly powerful they are.
HID lights work very well for growing cannabis and produce consistently good results indoors. However, the higher wattage HID lights tend to run hot and can leave a big mark on your electricity bill. You definitely want to make sure you’re getting the exact right lights for your space so you don’t pay for more light than you really need. HID lighting (HPS in particular) has another problem in that it’s been less popular over the last few years. This has made it increasingly difficult to find quality models if you’re not looking for a huge 1000W.
That being said, the smaller MH/HPS grow lights are actually really well suited to a small grow and don’t produce nearly as much heat as their bigger cousins. Check out a grow under a 250W HPS in a 2’x4’x5′ tent. I didn’t even use an exhaust!
See another grow under the same 250W light (with autoflowers), and yet another grow we did with 2 plants under a 600W HID grow light a while back.