There’s no time like the middle of a global pandemic to start learning to grow your own weed!
Seriously though: there’s no bad time to start growing your own, really. Sure, depending on where you live, there are better times of year to plant if you’re growing outside. And starting a grow room or a garden can carry with it a $600-$700 investment. But before you can plant, grow and harvest your own weed, you need to make a series of decisions about how you’re going to do it. There’s a whole variety of methods that growers have been developing and perfecting for literally thousands of years – so all the homework has been done for you, and all you have to do is choose.
Here’s what you’ll need to consider before even making your first trip to the store.
1. Should you plant marijuana indoors or outdoors?
These questions aren’t in any particular order, but this is probably the most important one, since it’ll determine a lot of your costs and logistics. Planting outdoors might seem like the natural way to go – after all, aren’t most gardens planted outside? – but decades of prohibition have given the growers who came before you ample opportunity to figure out newer, and sometimes better, methods of planting indoors and away from prying eyes.
It’ll probably boil down to how much space you have and, indeed, whether it’s legal to grow marijuana in your state. If you have a lot of land and it’s legal, give your backyard a try. If you do, you’ll need to learn everything you can about your local climate; cannabis is adaptable, but it does react badly to extremes of hot and cold, high winds and heavy rainfall. You’ll also need to know about your climate’s trends toward sunshine and cloud cover.
If you grow indoors, you’ve got two choices: grow a small amount of weed like a potted plant – which won’t yield much when it comes time to harvest – or grow a larger amount and dedicate a portion of your home (or a backyard shed) to your crop. You don’t need a whole room – you can use a closet or cabinet, or a corner of your basement. But obviously the amount of space you devote will determine how much dank you’ll yield.
Growing indoors also means setting up alighting system and perhaps a tent. Choosing lights is a topic for an entirely different article, but keep in mind that some lights – generally high-intensity discharge lights – generate heat as well as light. If you’re growing your weed in a spot you can’t afford to get too hot, consider LEDs.
2. Will you plant from seeds or clones?
Seeds are just what you think they are, but clones are something you may not have heard of. Don’t let the name scare you – clones aren’t that complicated. They’re just clippings of grown plants. Their primary benefit is that they have the same genetics as their parent plants, meaning you know what kind of product they’ll yield when it’s time to harvest. Seeds can be less predictable. But it’s a challenge for clones to root, and they’ll need higher humidity and light levels, as well as a warmer temperature. Take your time with this decision.
Oh, and in case you’re thinking of planting the seeds you found in that one batch of crappy weed you bought last year – don’t bother. Those kinds of seeds can’t be trusted to take root or even germinate. Your best bet is to find a breeder who sells seeds from trusted plants.
3. What growing medium will you use?
You’ve got two options here: Soil and hydroponics. Soil is easier than many types of hydroponic systems. It’s probably better overall for beginners as well, since it’s more forgiving and requires less babysitting. But it’s also more expensive, can take up more space, and can take longer to show evidence of problems than hydroponics.
Hydroponics probably seems complicated to the uninitiated grower. That’s because it is complicated. Not so complicated that a reasonable person can’t learn it with little difficulty, but complicated enough to deserve its own article. We’ll post one soon; watch this space.
4. Which strain will you plant?
You may think this doesn’t matter as much in the very beginning stages of your pot-growing career; you want to know that you’re capable of growing it in the first place before you get picky about strains. But it’s not being picky; it’s being prepared. Choosing a strain early in the planning process will help you make a lot of the other determinations on this list, since some strains have unique growing needs. Think about planting a nice hybrid like Orange Creamsicle, an indica strain like London Punch Cake, or a sativa like Mimosa.
5. How will you keep your plants watered?
Watering your cannabis plants isn’t like watering houseplants (again, unless you’re growing one as a houseplant). They need to be kept pretty moist, which means you’ll need to water them a lot, which means there are lots of opportunities to forget to water them. But it’s also possible to overwater – so if your budget allows, you may want to think about automating the watering process. In hydroponic systems this is baked into the process, but if you’re growing in soil it’ll be an external system. And if you’re growing in soil indoors, you’ll need to consider drainage factors as well.
6. When will you know that it’s time to harvest?
Keep a magnifying glass near your grow site; it’ll come in handy. You’ll be spending a lot of time looking at trichomes – tiny mushroom-shaped glands in the cannabis flower that produce THC, CBD and all the other good stuff we grow weed for. Early in their growth cycle, trichomes are translucent. Later, it turns cloudy and even later, amber. If you’re looking for a more stimulating high, you’ll want to harvest when the trichomes are cloudy; harvesting during their amber phase will yield bud that provides a more body-relaxing high.