Green Thumb: An Idiot’s Guide to Growing Your Own

Growing your own, personal marijuana plant in your home is not as difficult as you might think. You can get started for under $150 in materials. After that, with a little time, space, and some ingenuity, growing your own marijuana plant is a labor of love that will reward you with a bountiful harvest a few times each year. And learning how to grow cannabis has truly never been easier.

After consulting with an expert who we’ll call “Gary”, here’s a basic growing guide that walks you from seed to flower:

How to Grow Cannabis

Lighting

When it comes to growing weed indoors, you’ll need the right intensity and exposure to light to grow a plant that produces buds. Marijuana plants naturally flower in the fall as the days are growing shorter; that means that your plant will need between 16-20 hours of sunlight or artificial light each day to suppress the growth of flowers until the plant is ready (about four to six weeks). This is called the vegetative phase. When you’re ready to see your plant start pumping out some buds in the flowering phase, give it exactly 12 hours of light and 12 hours of complete, undisturbed darkness. No peeking when your plant is in its dark cycle, as this can ruin your harvest.

If you’re growing just one plant in small enclosure, you don’t need to invest in specialized and expensive grow lighting. Soft white compact fluorescent bulbs should do the trick. You’ll need about 150 watts of compact fluorescent power for one plant. Since compact fluorescent bulbs aren’t good at diffusing their light, it’s better to buy several low-wattage bulbs total up to 150 watts. One of the benefits of using a compact fluorescent source of light for growing weed indoors is that the bulbs are much cooler than other conventional grow lamps, excluding pricey LED lamps.

As your plant grows, you’ll need to be able to adjust the position of your light bulbs. They should always be about four inches away from the top of the plant so that your it is getting enough light but isn’t getting burnt by the bulbs either. Also make sure that the lower parts of you plant are no more than ten inches away from a light source; otherwise, your plant is going to be drenched in shadows.

How to Grow Cannabis: An Idiot's Guide to a Green Thumb

Space

While your plant is in the vegetative stage, it can pretty much live wherever you want to put it, as long as it’s getting enough light to grow; remember, that’s 16-20 hours of direct lighting. Once you’re ready to get your plant flowering though, you’ll need a lightproof-able space that’s about 2’ x 2’ 4’ so that it will be large enough to house your plant once it’s ripe for picking.

Your grow space should be between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the light period and between 58 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the dark period. The humidity of the grow space should be between 40 and 70 percent during the vegetative period. During the flowering period, your plant will do best on the cooler side of the temperature range and needs the humidity to be more moderate, between 40 and 50 percent. These conditions usually mirror the comfortable living conditions of an average household with central air, but keep in mind that your grow space is probably going to be a few degrees warmer. Other than that, the only thing you’ll likely need to fuss over regarding growing conditions is making sure that your plant gets ample ventilation.

Whether in an enclosed grow space or not, simply keeping a small fan running near the plant is one way to keep your plant happy and ensure that it grows strong roots and stems. (Just make sure it’s not blowing directly on your plant to avoid damaging it.) In an enclosed grow space, which you’ll need for the flowering stage, you’ll want air movement within the space as well as a constant supply of fresh air. Having an input fan as well as an output fan should keep fresh air circulating through.

Set up your grow space with lights and fans before you place your plant inside and allow yourself to monitor the conditions for a few days so that you can apply any major adjustments without subjecting your plant to stress. Once your plant is inside, you’ll still want to keep an eye on conditions, especially if there are any major fluctuations in household temperature and humidity.

Get Your Hands Dirty

The easiest medium for a single potted pot plant is pre-fertilized soil that is placed in a vessel with ample drainage. Opt for soil that’s as organic as possible, as conventional synthetic fertilizers are not going to jibe with your plant. When watering your plant, it’s best to use filtered water as regular tap water can contain elements that will weaken your plant.

Now that you’re sure you have the right environment to host your new pet marijuana plant, it’s time for you to buy the seeds. Make sure you purchase feminized seeds so that you know your plant will produce buds. You can pick whatever strain you like, but indicas are a great starter plant as they tend flower a bit faster than sativa and also don’t need as much headroom.

Once you have your seeds — they usually come in a pack of at least three — you just need to germinate them and hope that at least one successfully sprouts a taproot. To germinate your seeds, keep them enveloped in a few paper towels, storing them in a warm, dark, protected space. Something as simple as placing them in a shallow bowl with some sort of lid on top is fine. Keep this in a space that’s at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit but not hotter than 90 degrees. Spritz the paper towels with water if they are getting too dry.

Once the taproot has emerged from the outer shell, gently transfer your seed to a small pot using a pair of tweezers. You’ll want to set it about a quarter inch deep into the soil, with the taproot facing down. Cover your seed with a little more soil, then give it a spritz of water. Transfer it to a larger pot as it grows.

Don’t overwater your plant. That’ll be the death knell of your domestic cannabis project.

When to Harvest

When the pistils turn from white to orange, it’s almost time to harvest your buds! In order to harvest your buds at the right time, you’ll need to get a microscope with at least 30x magnification to peek at the trichomes. The trichomes will start out clear, begin to grow opaque, then become a nice amber color indicating their peak production of THC. Going past that point, the THC content of your bud will start to break down and become another non-psychoactive cannabinoid called CBN. Make sure to observe bud at different plant sites, as they will mature at different times.

You have now grown your own, fully-blossomed plant. At that’s left to do is to trim and cure your buds. Enjoy your harvest!

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