At this point, it is legal to grow marijuana (to some degree) in 30 states, and that number is only increasing over time. That means more people can start growing weed in their own homes and yards.
Indoor growing is popular where you need to grow discreetly. It’s also a great option for those who want to manage the growing environment better, especially when it comes to maximizing growth. However, if you live somewhere where outdoor growing is legal, why not add marijuana to your existing garden?
Here’s what you need to know to get started on growing marijuana as a garden variety.
Which Strains to Grow: Autoflower vs Photoperiod
Autoflowering marijuana is a popular type of marijuana plant that’s relatively new (to the mainstream anyways). Their smaller size makes them easier to disguise in your garden, and you will have more room to grow them indoors.
These little ladies grow very fast, produce high yields, and are pretty resistant to pests. They are great for those wanting a plant that’s guaranteed to flower regardless of the amount of available light. No worrying about light timers!
Just as the name suggests, autoflowers flower automatically. An autoflowering cannabis plant flowers once the plants reach a certain age, instead of flowering due to lighting adjustments. Autoflowers will begin to flower after a few weeks, changing the game for marijuana growers.
Autoflower strains tend to have a shorter lifespan than photoperiod plants and are ready to harvest in 10 weeks, which is excellent if you want multiple harvests each season.
Photoperiod seeds also grow quickly and are relatively easy to grow outdoors as long as you time it right.
These are often listed as "feminized" by seed sellers but this is a misnomer. Feminized seeds are bred to eliminate male chromosomes so that all plants turn out to be female. This form of breeding ensures you won’t need to locate males and remove them during the flowering phase. Autoflowers are technically feminized, too.
The difference between photoperiod cannabis and autoflowering is when and how they flower. Photoperiod cannabis needs a consistent 12+ hours of darkness to flower. This happens naturally in the late summer when the days begin to get shorter again. This means that you only get one harvest of outdoor photoperiod cannabis a year-- a much longer growing season, but the plants get much larger during this extended lifespan.
However, you want to be careful because various growing conditions could cause any plant to produce both sexes. When feminized strains are stressed, they can produce hermaphrodites. Feminized seeds are also ideal for breeding more seeds.
Understanding the Outdoor Growing Season
Growing outdoors is undeniably a natural and cost-friendly method for growing your own weed. Where you live will determine what you will need to do during certain months to grow your plants.
For instance, the outdoor growing season in the northern states does not start until the middle of May, but you can begin prepping in February.
Of all the northern states, Alaska receives the most sunlight, with the Northwest coming in second. Pacific Northwest growers experience their warmer months in the spring and lower than average temperatures in the summer.
Growers in locations like Boston and New York experience cooler temperatures and more frost throughout the year. It’s a good idea to begin your plants indoors if you want to prolong your growing season. To get started earlier, germinate your seeds indoors with LED lights at the end of February.
In the Southern states and Hawaii, you can also begin growing in February if you want to extend your growing season.
It is OK to wait until May but getting an early start will give you more time to grow more weed. When your location gets its typical final spring frost, this means you are clear to start outdoor growing. Southern central states such as Texas will generally receive more sunlight and cooler typical temperatures all year long. These areas typically have the warmest summers; meanwhile, the climate is the hottest during spring and fall in the Southeast.
Hawaii is unique in that its summers are shorter than the Southern states. On this island state, to start early, keep your plant indoors until the weather warms up.
You can also prep your soil after the final frost. Start by loosening up your soil and adding compost and worms to it.
Identifying male and female plants
It is essential to identify the sex of your cannabis plants by examining early on if it is flowering male or female. Although male plants are necessary to create new marijuana strains or crossbreed, no grower expecting prime weed wants to end up with male plants. Male plants can influence the quality of nearby female plants.
Only female plants produce the flowers we know as weed. Male plants grow pollen sacks at the nodes right above the leaves attached to the stalk. Once these nodes age, they will crack, sending pollen all over the place.
Since the pollen sacks stay pretty small, it would be wise to invest in a small, hand-held microscope that correctly identifies male versus female plants.
Before the flowering stage, female marijuana plants appear similar to males. An excellent way to distinguish the two early on is by examining the female plants for tiny hairs!
Unlike male plants, the female sex organs show up as “bracts,” which have thin white hairs coming out of them. Bracts are the key to determining whether your plant is male or female before flowering.
Stressful growing conditions can, at times, produce a hermaphrodite plant, which may begin growing male flowers alongside the female ones. When it comes to an entirely female garden, hermaphrodites can cause several plants to produce unwanted seeds.
It is always best to examine several nodes on various parts of the plant to determine the gender. Another method is to check for anthers, or bananas, which usually have a yellow color and curved form. Discard anthers immediately because they can pollinate female flowers without even cracking open.
Starting Your Pot Seeds
Proper germination techniques are a necessary part of your marijuana plant’s beginnings. There are several options for sprouting cannabis seeds.
Sometimes you need to try different approaches until you see what works best for you. The correct moisture, care, and temperatures (68-72 Fahrenheit) matter during this process.
There are three easy germination methods: water, soil, and paper towel. For the water method, place the seeds in fresh water at a temperature of 65 degrees F for up to 7 days. However, most seeds will germinate within 48 hours, so don’t leave them in the water too long. Seeds need the perfect amount of moisture to sprout, and the water method is a great way to ensure that.
If your seeds sink to the bottom, this means they are soaked, which is not what you want. The water germination method makes it simpler for the seed since it doesn’t have to force its way through the soil. Because germinated seeds are quite fragile, growers are taking a chance with the water method. Place your seeds delicately in the soil after they sprout (tail down) when using the water technique.
Planting the seeds directly in the soil tends to work well as this is the way seeds start naturally in the wild. This way prevents the chance of potentially damaging the frail roots. The type of soil you use is important. Ideally, you should start with something like the seed germination kit included in our complete grow kit.
You can also use paper towels as a germination method. The paper towels help to lock in the right amount of moisture, and the seeds remain protected. Use plain, single-ply paper towels, so the roots do not grow into them. Place the seeds between two paper towels in a plastic bag and place them between two plates in a dark space. It should take about 2-5 days for the seeds to germinate. This is not our favorite method but it can work!
Our favorite way is actually a combination of the first two just with a handy dandy jiffy pellet. Jiffy pellets are made up of peat moss which has its pH raised to be the perfect nest for starting your sweet baby plant.
Providing the Ideal Growing Environment
Marijuana plants are generally self-reliant except when it comes to the way temperature affects them. While sweltering temperatures may not kill them, they need to be in an environment where they receive the right amount of light and heat.
Exposure to temperatures 80 degrees or higher can cause marijuana plants to grow slower and affect the buds’ smell and strength. Too much heat may stress your plants, cause enzyme reduction, lessen protein development, and affect photosynthesis, which growers want to avoid.
Sativa dominant strains come from the equator and generally prefer warmer temperatures. Except for desert strains, such as Durban Poison, these plants can handle higher humidity when budding, unlike indica strains. Sativas are great for early summer growing because high light intensity is no problem for this type of strain. Temperatures should not be higher than 85 degrees F, and humidity kept around 60 percent RH.
Indica dominant strains evolved from the Himalayan mountains; therefore, they can withstand extreme temperatures, but indicas, on the other hand, do not handle humidity well. Mold is an enemy to indica strains and will harm them in most cases. The temperature in the Himalayan mountains tends to get very cool at night. With that being the case, indicas will produce the best harvest if the temperature drops during the flowering phase by 10-15 degrees F at night.
Feeding and Watering Your Plants
Properly feeding your plants is probably the most important thing to focus on when growing. For the best results, the NPK ratio must be correct.
The NPK ratio is the percentage of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium required for your plants to be healthy and thrive. The NPK ratio appears on the nutrient package, so it is easy to write down or memorize. The vegetative state requires a ratio of 9-3-6. The flowering phase will need to be low-high-high, and less nitrogen is best.
The easiest way to ensure your plants have the correct NPK ratio, is by planting them in a super nutrient-dense soil. No stress, no measurements, just letting the plants uptake their nutrients naturally.
Overwatering Marijuana Plants
One of the most frequent mistakes and the worst thing a grower can do is overwater their plants. Plants need adequate water for their well-being, but it is easy to overdo it accidentally.
Overwatering could drown your roots which will reduce or potentially pause your marijuana plant’s growth and development.
Overwatering can even cause chlorosis. While underwatering is not as bad as overwatering, you still need to avoid making this mistake. Underwatered plants can die from dehydration. The leaves will begin to wither and fall off. You can resolve this by giving the plant sufficient water, but the growth may still be negatively affected, and your plant may not grow as it should.
Training and Pruning Your Plants
Pruning is a method of carefully trimming plants to increase the number of flowers that develop. It guarantees you get the most out of your cannabis plants.
Pruning is perfect for growers who want to increase their yield while dealing with limited space or growing dense indicas. Pruning trains your plants to develop additional flowers and more prominent, hefty buds. This is important because many cannabis plants produce too many branches when left alone, killing several leaves.
There are several methods for training your plants:
- Topping involves cutting off the top at the stem between the nodes while the plant is in its early stages. Your plant should have about 4-5 nodes when you do this.
- Fimming method can make your plant grow thicker and is safer than topping. Fim during the vegetative phase.
- Super Cropping is an excellent method used to increase your plant’s health, yield, and potency. You do this by crushing the inside of the stem, which then causes the plant to be more effective and more robust.
- Low Stress Training (LST) which is using gentle methods like jute string, pipe cleaners, or green tie to open up a plant's canopy. This increases available bud sites. The simplest LST is just gently tugging or twisting on your plant's branches which causes small tears which the plant has to rebuild. Kind of like going to the gym!
You never want to harvest too early. Doing so could mean your will end up with less potent weed. But you also don't want to harvest too late as THC degrades as it ages.
Luckily, the cannabis plant gives pretty clear signs as to when she is ready to harvest. Including:
- wider stems
- yellowing leaves
- darkened pistils (red/orange/brown)
- cloudy trichomes
When you see this, it is most likely harvest time.
Indica strains are ready to harvest after flowering for eight weeks. Sativa strains are typically ready after ten weeks of flowering. Autoflowers flower the quickest, with a harvest within ten weeks from seed to bud.
Are you ready to harvest? The best, most reliable judge of that will be your trichomes. These are the tiny (seriously, you need a magnifying lens to see properly) crystals that adorn your plant's beautiful buds. The plant has the highest concentration of THC (peak potency) when trichomes have rounded, mushroom-like heads and are cloudy or milky in appearance. Immature trichomes have flat heads and are clear or glassy. When trichomes are past their peak, they will turn amber. This is a sign that THC is degrading into a different cannabinoid, CBN.
Growing marijuana as a garden variety requires a little work. Knowing what helps your cannabis plant flourish is essential to maximize your growth. Proper watering, pruning, and adequate sunlight go a long way.