by Nebula Haze
This is a super condensed version of this tutorial! You may also enjoy our marijuana life timeline or complete beginner’s guide. The following tutorial is very basic, but if you follow just these steps you will get to harvest!
Step 1: Choose Your Place to Grow
I personally think grow tents are a cheap (under $100) and easy way to set up the perfect grow environment, but there are lots of great places to grow!
The main thing to remember about your growing environment is that when the temperature, humidity and overall airflow feels nice to you, it’s probably good for your plants, too! Learn more about setting up the perfect environment.
Step 2: Choose Your Grow Light
If your goal is to harvest…
Compare different grow lights.
Step 3: Choose Your Growing Medium
There is no best way to grow! Each option has its own pros and cons.
- Soil – Close to nature, especially if growing in amended and composted soil without any liquid nutrients. Slightly slower growing but buds tend to have a stronger and more complex taste/smell.
- Coco Coir – Coco is a hand-watered medium that looks and acts a lot like soil, but is actually made out of broken up coconut husks. Plants grown in coco grow a little bit faster than in soil, and coco has properties that soothe plant roots. As a result, coco tends to be more forgiving than most other grow mediums, and plants are more resistant to heat. Another advantage is pests are much less likely to attack plants in coco because many bugs need soil to live. If you’re not sure which medium to start with, I highly recommend starting with coco! That’s what I did and I’m so happy because it was also a perfect way to train for moving on to either soil or hydro 🙂
- Hydroponics – Setting up a hydroponic reservoir takes more work than soil or coco but hydro grown plants get the fastest vegetative growth of all grow mediums, meaning you get to harvest more quickly with the same amount of electricity. Some growers also believe hydro-grown buds are more potent than buds grown from soil.
If you’re starting in composted, amended soil, you don’t need to worry about adding extra nutrients. For regular soil growers, you want to supplement your plant with extra nutrients after it starts using up the nutrients in the soil. For coco and hydro growers, you provide all your nutrients directly to your plants from the beginning. Luckily all quality nutrients come with an easy schedule to follow, so you don’t have to think about it!
What Nutrients to Get for Each Stage of Life
- Vegetative Stage – In this stage you should use nutrients that are high in Nitrogen (N). Almost any general plant food will work. The extra nitrogen will provide what your marijuana plant needs in the vegetative stage
- Flowering Stage – Plants need a low-Nitrogen (“Bloom”) formula that is high in Phosphorous (P) and Potassium (K) in the flowering stagea. In a pinch you can usecactus or succulent nutrients, because they use a similar nutrient ratio.
Learn more about cannabis-friendly nutrients
Step 5: Get Your Cannabis Plants
If you don’t have access to live plants or seeds, the best way to get started growing is to order seeds online. You can get seeds delivered anywhere in the world, including Canada, Australia, the UK and every state in the USA.
Learn more about researching strains to figure out which one you might like best!
Step 6: Germinate Your Seeds
These already moist when you get them and are designed to give your seed everything it needs for the first few days of growth. Just put your seed in the pre-cut hole and leave in a warm place until your seedlings appear! Add a few teaspoons of water if they start to dry out but don’t add so much water they actually look wet. You don’t want to drown your seedlings!
Simply put your seeds in the pre-moistened plugs and wait for seedlings to appear 🙂
After germination, you place your Rapid Rooter directly into soil/coco, or insert into a net pot if you’re in hydro. The Rapid Rooters make it so you can’t really mess up transferring seedlings!
If you see roots out the bottom, it’s time to transfer plant into its next destination!
There are other ways to germinate seeds if you don’t have or don’t want to use Rapid Rooters. For example you could use the popular “paper towel method” or even plant your seeds directly into the growing medium! Learn about other ways to germinate your seeds here.
Step 7: Vegetative Stage
Your Main Duty: Water Plants & Adjust Grow Light
In the vegetative stage a marijuana plant really does grow like a weed! It can recover from a lot even if you mess up! You can almost even think of it as a regular houseplant, just a really fast growing one!
At this point your main job is to water your plants (or give them water if you’re in hydro). Unless growing in super soil, you should also be checking the pH regularly, as this will prevent most nutrient problems. If you are using nutrients, try to give plain water at least once every other watering.
When it comes to nutrients, follow the nutrient schedule or recommended dosage for “vegetative” growth. However, it’s a good idea to start at half strength at first since most nutrient recommendations are a bit too strong for marijuana.
When the top inch feels dry to the touch, water your plants well and remove runoff water. If using nutrients, add them to your water every other watering.
During this stage your plant only grows new stems and leaves, and overall the plants will keep getting bigger and bigger. Many indoors growers choose to train their plants in the vegetative stage to grow in a flat, table-top shape, as this will increase your yields under indoor grow lights. But even if you don’t do anything your plants will still grow just fine. Just try to make sure you keep your grow lights a good distance away so they’re not burning your plants, and other than that just wait until your plant has reached half the final desired size.
Plants in the vegetative stage only grow stems and leaves, no buds!
Plants in the vegetative stage can grow several inches a day after they get going!
If you don’t watch out, your grow space can get out of control 🙂
If want to know more about what to expect (and what to look out for) in the vegetative stage, check out the complete vegetative stage tutorial!
Step 8: Flowering Stage – Buds Start Growing!
When your plant has reached half the final desired size, it’s time to tell it to start making buds! After you do this step, your plant will about double in size so don’t wait too long!
Switch to the flowering stage when your plant has reached half the final desired height. Your plant can double in size after the switch!
You “tell” your plant to start making buds by putting your grow lights on a timer that is set on a 12/12 light schedule. This means the grow light is on for 12 hours, but the plant is in uninterrupted darkness for 12 hours every day. This daily dark period is like a message that tells your plant winter is coming. It will start growing buds within about 2 weeks after the switch to 12/12.
The first few weeks after the switch to 12/12, your plant will be growing fast! This extra fast growth period is known as the flowering stretch.
Here are two plants right after they are given a 12/12 light schedule. Notice how both get taller, but one gets far taller than the other. The amount of “stretch” after the switch is determined by strain/genetics. Hopefully this animation gives you an idea of how plants develop in the flowering stage from 12/12 to harvest.
Male vs Female – When your plant starts making flowers, you need to double check that they’re all making buds and not pollen sacs. Learn where to look on the plant to figure out the plant gender as soon as possible.
You can skip this step if you started with feminized seeds (since all plants will be female and make buds).
If your plants are female they will start growing wispy white hairs that eventually turn into buds. If your plant is male, it will grow pollen sacs that look like little bunches of grapes, and these will open up into flowers that can pollinate your buds and make them full of seeds.
It’s important to identify any male plants as soon as possible and remove them from your grow room so your female buds don’t get seedy.
About ~6 weeks from the switch to 12/12, your plant will stop growing bigger and focus completely on bud growth.
Your Main Duty After Week 6: Watch Buds & Leaves Closely For Problems
For most strains, your plants mostly stop growing new stems and leaves after about week 6 of the flowering stage (though some plants may grow bigger for longer, especially Sativa and Haze strains).
That means you’re basically just waiting for buds to fatten and mature until harvest.
It’s hard to be patient for harvest time after week 6 because you usually aren’t seeing a lot of new growth any more, so it might seem like buds are done. But even though you might not see it, your buds are getting bigger and more potent each day!
At this point you’re just “holding on” until the end, continuing to do what you’ve been doing, and watching plants closely so you can react to any problems quickly so you cruise to the finish line 🙂
Most plants are ready to harvest about 10-14 weeks after the switch to 12/12 though some strains take more or less time.
Here are examples of marijuana buds that are ready to harvest
You can choose when to harvest your buds based purely on looks, but if you want to get scientific about it you can use a magnifier to look at buds closely and determine whether they’ve reached peak potency.
Learn how to look at trichomes with a magnifier to determine when to harvest
This is done by looking at the “trichomes” or glitter that grows on buds. When buds have reached the highest levels of THC the trichomes turn milky white. Waiting until a few trichomes turn amber can give buds more of a body or relaxation effect.
Step 10: Dry & Cure Your Buds Like a Professional
Trim off the extra leaves and hang buds upside down in an enclosed space like your grow tent or a closet.
After drying buds for a few days to a week, the small stems will snap and most buds should pop off on their own without being bendy or leaving strings behind.
At this point put the buds in quart-sized glass mason jars, filling them about 80% full. Open jars daily and make sure the buds don’t feel wet or stick together. After the first 2 weeks you can open jars just once a week or less.
The process of sitting in glass jars is known as “curing” and increases the quality of your buds considerably! The quality will continue to improve for up to a few months.