Average Time to Grow (and Be Ready to Use) Your Own Weed:
3 – 5 months
How Long Does It Take to Grow Weed Indoors?
This is one of the most common questions we receive from curious soon-to-be indoor cannabis growers: How long does it really take to grow weed? What’s the growing timeline?
It’s actually a really good question! Every new marijuana grower should know how much work they’re signing up for! The short answer is…
The Average Indoor Grow Takes 3-5 Months
The long answer is: from Day 1 of your weed plant’s life to actually smoking your harvest, it can take… 8 weeks – 7+ Months! That’s a huge range, right?
That’s why most cannabis growers won’t give you a straight answer. The truth is, there are many factors will affect the total time until you have ‘ready’ buds, by days, weeks or even months. This includes your strain, your setup, and how big you plan to grow your plants (bigger plants need more time!). So instead of giving you a huge range, an easier-to-swallow answer might be to say that the average grow takes 3-5 months for indoor growers.
This includes the time needed to grow your cannabis plant from seedling to harvest plus an additional 2 weeks (or more) which is used to cure your cannabis buds after harvest (making them more potent and better smelling).
Additionally, for at least the first time you grow, you also need to consider the time needed to get your equipment and seeds/clones.
This article will give you the total time breakdown, so you can plan out the details of your grow in order to achieve the harvest times you desire:
Ultimately, How Long to Harvest Marijuana Depends on the Desired Yields, Strain and Grow Style
Today I will show you how to plan your grow so it takes the amount of time you want!
Jump to the Section of the Tutorial You’re Interested in:
- Before You Start Growing Weed (0-4 weeks) – Get seeds and supplies so you’re set to start growing!
- Time Needed to Grow Weed, From Seedling to Harvest (8 weeks – 5+ months)
- Germinate Your Seeds (1-7 days) – Learn about fail-proof methods to germinate perfectly in soil/coco or hydro.
- Vegetative Stage (3 weeks – 8+ weeks) – In the vegetative stage, the cannabis plants are growing just stems and leaves. On average, most indoor growers vegetate their plants for 4-8 weeks. Seedlings are able to start flowering as early as 3 weeks from germination, but the resulting plants will be tiny. Most growers choose to let plants vegetate for longer because giving them more time to grow results in bigger plants, which tend to produce bigger yields as long as you have enough light to cover all the bud sites. That being sa >If you choose the right strain, you could be smoking your own buds as soon as 3 months from germination!
Before You Start Growing Weed
Total preparation time needed: 0 days – 4 weeks
Here’s the breakdown…
Get equipment: 0 days – 2 weeks
This includes purchasing your equipment and/or waiting for it to show up in the mail. Once you have your marijuana growing supplies, you’ll need to setup your growing area and equipment. Depending on how you purchase your equipment and how quickly you setup, you could be ready the same day or in two weeks (after factoring in shipping time).
Check out examples of new grower shopping lists to learn exactly which supplies you’ll need.
Get seeds or clones: 0-4 weeks:
If you have instant access (like knowing a grower, or ordering seeds from a seed bank in your country), this should take only a little time. If you order from a seed bank overseas (especially US residents), expect a wait of about 1-4 weeks to get seeds.
Time Needed to Grow Weed, From Seedling to Harvest
Total growing time needed: 8 weeks – 5+ months
Here’s the breakdown…
Germinate your seeds: 1 – 7 days
Seedlings can sprout in as little as a day, but by 3-5 days they should be good to go. If you have access to clones, you can skip this wait.
Learn my fail-proof method to germinate your seeds in soil/coco or hydro.
Vegetative Stage: 3 weeks – 2+ months.
The length of this stage is a matter of personal preference. Most cannabis plants need at least 3 weeks in the vegetative stage before they will start making flowers, but after that you get to choose how long your plant spends in this stage (unless using an auto-flowering strain), because you’re the one to ‘flip the switch’ and get your plant to enter the next life stage: flowering.
When you start with a seed, even with an auto-flowering plant, you will always have at least 2-3 weeks of vegetative growth before any buds start forming no matter what you do. Growers generally allow their plants to stay in the vegetative stage from a few weeks to a few months.
The size your plant achieves in the vegetative stage has a very large effect on your final yields since bigger plants produce more bud sites than smaller plants. However, you need enough light to cover all the bud sites or they will never develop properly. Light is like food for bud growth!
These vegetating plants are about 4 weeks old from germination
To give you an idea as to what your FINAL marijuana plant may look like depending on how long it spends in the vegetative stage…
This plant didn’t spend any time in the Vegetative Stage. It was given 12-12 lighting almost immediately after sprouting. It’s so small that it spent its whole life in a solo cup, and its only light came from CFLs. I weighed down the bottom of the cup so it didn’t fall over. It ended up yielding about 0.75 oz.
These auto-flowering plants spent about 3 weeks in the vegetative stage before they automatically started flowering, and were ready to harvest just 5 weeks later. They were about a foot tall at harvest and yielded approximately 2 ounces each. Read the step-by-step tutorial to grow plants exactly like this.
This marijuana plant spent about 6 weeks in the vegetative stage before being changed over to flowering and yielded just over 6 ounces at harvest. View the complete grow journal with instructions on how to grow your plant so it looks just like this at harvest!
These cannabis plants were vegetated for about 8 weeks before being flipped to the flowering stage. Although they were grown in the exact same conditions from seed to harvest, their final heights are remarkably different because their strains had vastly different genetics. The smaller plant produced 6.6 ounces, while the big plant produced 9.3 ounces. Strain can make a big difference! Learn about growing different strains together.
These cannabis plants were vegetated for about 9 weeks before being flipped, in the exact same setup as above, and produced over 10 ounces each. Besides an extra week of veg, the biggest difference between this grow and the one above was simply the strains.
This human-sized plant (one of my very first plants) spent a little more than 3 months in the vegetative stage before I realized I needed to turn it over to the flowering stage. It then spent another 12 weeks in the flowering stage before it was ready to harvest because it was a long-flowering strain. It got way too tall for its space (taller than me!) and started falling over. However, despite the huge size and more than 5 months of growth, it only ended up yielding about 6 ounces. This is because it was under weak CFL grow lights. Though there was a lot of buds, the lack of strong light made them airy, without a lot of weight. Click the picture for a close-up. ?
Some people put their seedlings or clones right into the flowering stage if they want to harvest quickly though this makes for extremely small plants. For example, super-stealth growers who are growing in small hidden spaces – like out of a computer case – would want to put their seedlings into flowering nearly right away to keep their plants as small as possible. It’s also important to remember that container size and grow lights make a big difference. Small containers constrain the roots and keep plants from getting as big as they could, and small lights prevent buds from fattening up as much as they could.
I personally recommend at least 4 weeks in the vegetative stage with 18+ hours of light each day for the best results. Plants that are forced to start flowering sooner than 4 weeks don’t yield much compared to how much work you put in. That being said, keeping plants relatively small does have some benefits!
A good rule of thumb…
Your plant will likely double in size (maybe a bit less, maybe more) from when you first put it into the flowering stage; this is known as the Flowering Stretch. So make sure you end the vegetative stage before your plant reaches half the final height you want, or your cannabis plants may outgrow your grow space during the flowering stage!
Flowering Stage: 5 weeks – 16+ weeks
Here’s the breakdown…
- Week 1-3 – Transition to Flowering
- Week 3-4 – “Budlets” Form
- Week 4-6 – Buds Start Fattening Up
- Week 6-8 – Buds Ripen, Pistils Darken – some strains spend longer in this stage
- Week 8-12+ – Flowering Ends, Final Flush, Harvest
The length of time needed to stay in the flowering stage depends heavily on the strain. Once you have switched your plant into the flowering stage they will stretch (the ‘flowering stretch’), form buds and then fatten.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite and best cannabis strains by length of flowering period:
Short (6-8 weeks)
- Northern Light – Known for being especially easy to grow
- Critical Mass CBD – High-yielding, medical, high-CBD, medium-THC strain
- Quick Critical + – Based on their award-winning Critical+ strain but with a much faster finish
- Blue Cheese – This version of Blue Cheese is not only fast flowering, the plants grow fast and should be flowered when the plant is only 1/3 the final desired size because it may triple in height after the switch. This shaves extra time off the vegetative stage. Great effects!
- Frisian Dew – One of the best strains for outdoor growing (and buds may turn pink or bright purple!)
- Shiskaberry – A gem by Barney’s Farm, this strain “lifts you up” and causes a strong “head high” that can be a great way to relax after a tough day, or for when you want to get in a creative mood.
- Seedsman Fast Collection – Seedsman sells seeds from a variety of breeders, but they also breed their own strains. They created a selection of 3 of their most popular “fast” strains that need about 6-7 weeks in the flowering stage. Anything that’s been bred by Seedsman is a great choice, and you will get exactly what they describe (very reliable strains).
- Auto-flowering Ultimate – One of the most potent auto-flowering strains I’ve grown so far, ready in about 10 weeks from germination (7 week flowering stage) and just overall a healthy and high-yielding plant. I plan on growing another one in my next auto-flowering grow!
- In fact, if you’re interested in a very short flowering time, most auto-flowering strains are ready to harvest less than 3 months from seed.
Frisian Dew plant growing outdoors with deep purple buds
Medium (8-12 weeks)
- Original Amnesia – Strong effects and very easy to grow. View grow journal
- Supreme CBD Durban – Medical strain, has a THC:CBD ratio of 1:1
- Pineapple Chunk – An award-winning strain that’s fruity, vigorous and potent! Its yields are not necessarily the highest, but I believe it’s worth it for the extremely high quality of buds. One of my favorite strains I’ve grown, and I definitely plan to grow it again!
- Liberty Haze – An award-winning strain that’s curiously strong and one of the few “haze” cannabis strains that doesn’t take forever to finish flowering. Good yields!
- Gelat.OG – An amazingly well-done cross between Gelato and OG Kush, which are two extremely popular strains in the US on the west coast. Finishes on the faster side, yet has great yields, potency and smell!
- Wedding Gelato – Another beautiful Gelato cross, this time with the famous Gelato 33 clone (a very specific cut of Gelato), with Wedding Cake (which has taken the west coast by storm in the last few years).
- Strawberry Lemonade – As pleasant as it sounds, with high potency and uplifting effects. Also is typically very easy to grow.
- Gorilla Zkittlez – Another west coast favorite, this is produces beautiful buds that are covered in crystals/trichomes and is also very high yielding.
- Peyote Critical – This strain seems to get rave reviews from everyone who tries it. Buds produce powerful effects and occasionally the buds even turn purple.
Long: (12-14+ weeks)
- Many Haze strains, as well as some Sativa strains, and generally any strains that originated near the equator.
- Arjan’s Ultra Haze #1 – A cross between some of the best Haze strains in Southeast Asia. If you want to try something different that is almost impossible to find in the US or Europe, this is it! It produces psychedelic effects that defy its cannabinoid content. May be too intense for some people!
In general, most strains (besides auto-flowering strains) are in the medium range as far as how long they take to flower.
It’s not exact – There’s a 2-3 week harvest window for most plants, and keeping your plants in the flowering stage for a bit longer tends to increase your yields. This is because the plants tend to really bulk up their flowers once they’ve become ‘ripe’.
So often times, even though you could harvest at the shortest recommended time, waiting an extra week or two will give you an extra 10-30% more yield compared to harvesting as early as possible.
Utopia Haze is a mix of Brazilian landrace strains
Post-Harvest (before you smoke you should do this stuff too)
Total post-harvest time needed: 2.5 weeks – 1.5+ months
Drying: 4 – 10 days
Good marijuana buds can be dried in as little as 4 days, but ideally, drying should be a slow process taking up to a week or more. Making sure your plants have been thoroughly dried (but not over-dried) will lower chances of mold during the curing process.
Curing: 2 weeks – 1+ months
Curing really seems to make the effects of buds feel less ‘speedy’ and be better suited to medical applications like treating anxiety, reducing pain, and improving feelings of depression.
Additionally, curing gets rid of any ‘cut grass’ smell, harsh taste and other undesirable traits of some freshly dried buds. Over time with proper curing, those traits will be replaced by the ‘real’ smell and potency profile of your buds.
Two weeks is considered the minimum time to cure your buds, but I personally cure all my buds for a month or even a bit longer because the buds continue to improve for several more weeks.
So, after you’ve bought seeds and equipment, grown a plant from seed to harvest, trimmed, dried and cured your buds, that brings us back to the original answer…
Total Time to Grow (and Be Ready to Use) Your Own Weed:
8 weeks – 5+ Months
Average Time to Grow (and Be Ready to Use) Your Own Weed:
3 – 5 months
If you haven’t started growing your own weed yet, today is the day!
New Grower Shopping Lists – What You Need to Get Started
How to Grow a Pound of Cannabis – Step-by-Step Instructions from Seed to Harvest
7 Tips for Growing Top-Shelf Buds – How to Grow Better Cannabis than the Dispensary!
For those of us who prefer pre-made mixes, I recommend starting with the popular Fox Farms Ocean Forest soil (often referred to as FFOF) since it’s already supplemented with plenty of nutrients that work very well for young cannabis plants. It’s a rich yet still somewhat airy soil that is made for plants just like cannabis and has been used by growers for years.
How to Grow Cannabis in 10 Easy Steps
Table of Contents
Your Growing Cannabis Information Kit:
Get to Harvest in 10 Steps!
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!
Are you ready to start growing?
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!
This 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.
What does a cannabis plant need to thrive?
In order to thrive and grow, every cannabis plant needs:
- Light – 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.
- Growing Medium – the stuff your plants grow in; soil isn’t your only choice!
- Air – a well-ventilated space with good air exchange and a slight breeze is best.
- Temperature – 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.
- Nutrients – 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.
- Water – like all plants and living creatures, cannabis needs water to survive and grow. Is my tap water “good enough” for growing cannabis?
When growing cannabis indoors or outdoors, you will need to ensure that it gets the proper amount of these 6 resources.
How long does it take to grow cannabis?
If you planted a cannabis seed today, when is the soonest you could be actually smoking your harvest? Probably about 9 weeks with a quick-finishing autoflowering strain.
Indoor grows tend to be shorter than outdoor grows since you have more control over when the plant starts budding. Auto-flowering grows also tend to be very short. But with shorter grows, you also tend to get smaller yields. Certain strains and certain outdoor grows can take up to 7 months or more.
On average, I’d say it takes a grower about 3 – 5 months to grow, harvest and cure their own buds.
Don’t Make the 3 Most Common Cannabis Growing Mistakes!
- One of the most common mistakes by new cannabis growers is 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!
- The next most common problem new growers have is the tendency to skip 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!
- Don’t re-invent 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
Step 1: Choose Where You Will Grow (Indoors or 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 space works 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.
Step 2: Choose Your Grow Light – What kind of light do you need to grow cannabis successfully?
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).
Household Lighting: Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) & Household LEDs
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. Learn more about growing with CFLs.
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. Learn more about growing cannabis with fluorescent lighting.
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 (HPS)
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. Learn more about HID grow lights.
→Don’t know what type of lighting to pick? Choose your grow type based on your starting cost…
Step 3: Choose Your Growing Medium
Each growing medium that you can use has different care and watering requirements.
These are the most common grow mediums:
- Soil – grow in organic composted super soil for the easiest growing experience, or start with the popular Fox Farms Ocean Forest soil mix (FFOF already contains enough nutrients to last the first month of your young plant’s life).
- Soilless Mix – anything besides soil including coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, etc. (all soilless mixes are technically considered hydroponic growing since there’s no soil).
- Directly in Water / Hydroponics – Get some of the fastest growth and biggest yields possible, especially when combined with HID/LEC/LED grow lights.
- Less Common Types of Hydro – Some people grow with plant roots suspended in misted air (aeroponics) or in a tank with fish (aquaponics), but these are relatively less common for cannabis growers.
What’s the Best Soil? Your absolute best option would be to compost your own soil (or purchase composted soil) which gets incredible taste results but does take a little more work (or money if you buy it).
For those of us who prefer pre-made mixes, I recommend starting with the popular Fox Farms Ocean Forest soil (often referred to as FFOF) since it’s already supplemented with plenty of nutrients that work very well for young cannabis plants. It’s a rich yet still somewhat airy soil that is made for plants just like cannabis and has been used by growers for years.
If you have limited soil options, choose an organic potting mix which is usually available in some form in the gardening section of any big-box store. As long as you use good cannabis nutrients (more on that below), a regular organic potting mix will work just fine.
Common cannabis-friendly potting mix brands in the US:
- Kind Soil Pre-Made Super Soil (top-tier and organic)
- Fox Farms Ocean Forest Soil (top-tier)
- Black Gold All Organic Potting Soil (good)
- Espoma Organic Potting Mix (okay)
- Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix (worst) – If you say you’re growing in Miracle-Gro soil, a lot of cannabis growers will wag their fingers at you. In addition to poor drainage, the original Miracle-Gro soil contains slow-release Nitrogen which is good for vegetative plants but bad for bud growth in the flowering stage and you can’t really rinse it out. Too much Nitrogen in the flowering stage can lower yields as well as possibly add a green or chemical “taste” to buds. However, if you’re going to use Miracle-Gro, their Organic Choice Potting Mix doesn’t have slow-release nutrients, which makes it a better option for growing cannabis than their standard version. It still drains poorly even with perlite, but if you’re desperate it does the job and you can get good results if you use good nutrients. The truth is that many growers have made it to harvest over the years with Miracle-Gro, despite some problems along the way, and even though it’s definitely not optimal, sometimes you have to do what you have to do!
Pick up a bag of perlite (found in the garden section) to help soil drain better unless it already contains perlite. Perlite looks like little white rocks and should be mixed in so you have about 70% soil and 30% perlite. Should you add perlite to your soil?
If you’re having a tough time deciding on a grow medium, you might want to think about starting with a mix of coco coir and perlite. It’s easy and low-maintenance. That’s how I got started growing (with CFLs as grow lights) and it’s also what I used in my 1-pound 315W LEC grow. Growing with coco coir can be a good choice for beginners because it’s cheap, holds water well, and doesn’t have as many of the problems associated with soil (bugs, root problems, etc.). Yet since it’s hand-watered, it’s intuitive and has a lot of the ease of soil growing.
I’ve heard many people recommend against growing cannabis hydroponically for your first time because it’s “too complicated,” yet I’ve seen growers succeed at every grow type even on their very first grow. If you really want to grow hydroponically, I recommend you don’t waste your time doing something else first. If you’re passionate about hydroponic growing and do your research before you get started, there’s no reason you won’t be able to do incredibly well your first time. Read our bubbleponics tutorial to see how GrowWeedEasy.com co-creator Sirius got started growing cannabis with top-fed DWC on his very first grow.
Step 4: Choose Your Nutrients
Soil growers – unless you’re growing with composted super soil, you will need to get cannabis nutrients made for soil to make sure your plants produce at their best. Even if you started with an amended soil like FFOF, you will still need to start adding nutrients once you reach the flowering/budding stage as cannabis plants are heavy feeders and your plants will have already used up most of the nutrients in the soil by the time budding begins.
One nutrient system to rule them all…
Looking for a suggestion? One of the simplest (yet inexpensive) nutrient systems that works extremely well for beginning cannabis growers is Dyna-Gro (Grow, Bloom)
Dyna-Gro can be used at half-strength in soil, water, coco coir, or any growing medium and works amazingly well for growing cannabis. It does not build up salt in your growing medium like many other inexpensive fertilizers, and it will never clog your hydroponic system.
Just use the “Grow” bottle during the Vegetative stage and the “Bloom” bottle during the Flowering stage. You can actually follow the instructions on the bottle. It’s super simple.
Like all nutrient systems, avoid starting at full strength or it can burn your plants! Learn more about nutrient burn. Only raise the dosage if you notice that your lower leaves are turning yellow and falling off (except in the last 2-4 weeks before harvest, when yellowing lower leaves is a natural part of the maturation process)
Is my tap water “good enough” for growing cannabis?
Before I address pH, let’s talk about the “hardness” of your water…
The “hardness” of water describes how much extra “stuff” (like minerals and/or impurities) is contained in your regular tap water. You can contact your local water supplier for more information (ask for a “municipal water report”), or you can test the PPM of your water at home. Generally, as long as your water has less than 200-300 PPM (parts per millions) of extra stuff, it should be okay to use it for growing. If you are worried about the quality of your tap water, you can choose to use purified or Reverse Osmosis (RO) water, but you may then need to add extra Cal-Mag and possibly a few other supplements to help make up for the random minerals and nutrients that are normally found in tap water. I’ve personally always grown with straight tap water (in a big city in California with a natural PPM around 370, which is pretty high), and I’ve never had a problem. However, some places have very hard water, or tap water with unacceptable impurities, and growers in these areas will likely need to use purified water to get the best results.
Step 4B: Nutrients, continued: The Importance of Root pH
It’s important to maintain the pH of your root environment to prevent nutrient problems.
The easiest way to do that is to test the pH of your water before you water your plants or add water to your reservoir.
There are certain types of grows (such as when growing cannabis in organic composted super soil) where you don’t need to test your pH unless you run into problems. This is because with a properly composted super soil, you actually have a microbial colony living in the soil that will take care of the pH and hand-deliver the nutrients to the roots of your plants for you. However, this is a rare exception to the pH testing rule, and almost all growers need to regularly test and maintain pH for a successful grow. If you’re not growing in super soil that you have amended and composted (or purchased) yourself, testing and maintaining pH is a MUST.
Some growers will always get lucky and successfully grow weed without testing the pH of their water, but most people who don’t test for pH will start seeing signs of nutrient deficiencies and other nutrient problems.
If the pH at the plant roots is too high or too low, your plants won’t be able to absorb nutrients properly.
Even if plants do fine in the vegetative stage, cannabis plants tend to be more picky and prone to problems in the flowering/budding stage. Many growers have written in to tell me they got all the way to the flowering stage without testing pH, then were surprised that they start running into nutrient problems as soon as the plants start budding. In order to make sure this doesn’t happen to you, it’s important to get in the habit of testing pH right from the beginning!
Even if the right amounts of nutrients are present, your cannabis plants simply cannot absorb them if the pH isn’t in the correct range.
It’s actually really easy, quick, and cheap to learn how to check and adjust the pH of your water, and there are “pH test kits” specifically made for this purpose.
After you get the hang of it, checking and adjusting the pH and will take you less than 3 minutes each time you water your plants. And your results (monster yields with huge buds and healthy plants) will speak for themselves.
Soil: Maintain 6.0 – 7.0 pH
Hydroponics: Maintain 5.5 – 6.5 pH
Getting the pH exactly right isn’t nearly as important as checking regularly and making sure it stays within these ranges.
Step 5: Get Your Cannabis Plants (& Choose Your Strain)
For those growers lucky enough to know other cannabis growers in real life, getting plants is usually pretty simple. Many cannabis collectives and dispensaries will happily sell you clones though they tend to be a little less liberal when it comes to selling seeds. A great advantage of purchasing clones or seeds from a trusted source is that you know you can trust the genetics you are receiving.
Yet many people do not know any other growers in real life. For these soon-to-be growers, the best option may be to purchase cannabis seeds online from a breeder or seed bank.
Surprising Fact: No one in the US has ever gone to jail or prison from simply ordering cannabis seeds online from overseas.
If you are considering this for the first time, you may be surprised to learn that, because of the way the laws about customs work in America, it is actually reliable and safe to buy your cannabis seeds online from a reputable seed bank as long as you get it from outside the US (sending seeds from one place to another in the US can get you in big trouble though!).
Get Seeds – View a list of tested & trusted seed vendors: https://www.growweedeasy.com/seeds
Get Clones – You need to know someone with live female cannabis plants if you want to get clones. Many cannabis dispensaries and collectives will sell clones to prospective growers, or you might know someone who can give you a clone. Learn how to make your own cannabis clones!
Step 6: How to Germinate Cannabis Seeds
- If you have already a rooted clone (a live cannabis plant) please skip right to Step 7.
There are many methods for cannabis seed germination.
Personally, I think one of the easiest ways to germinate a cannabis seed is to place it directly in a specialized starter cube like a Rapid Rooter.
Just keep the Rapid Rooters moist (but not soaking) and warm. It can help to put your tray on a seedling heat mat. Seedlings should pop in a few days to a week.
So far Rapid Rooters with a heat mat have given me the best germination rates of any method. They work with any growing medium, too – once the seedling has emerged, you can stick the cube directly into your growing medium or hydroponic system.
Another popular way to germinate seeds is via the paper towel method.
Paper Towel Method:
- Cannabis seeds
- 2 plates
- Paper towels
- A place to plant sprouted seeds
NOTE: If seedlings seem to be “stretching” upwards or growing very tall, usually it’s because they want more light.
Step 7: Vegetative Stage – Grow Your Plant Big and Strong
Once your plant grows the first “regular” set of leaves, it’s pretty much officially in the vegetative stage. How long is the vegetative stage?
Cannabis plants keep getting bigger and bigger with long days (vegetative stage) and start making buds when they get long nights (flowering stage).
Young growing cannabis plants grow fastest when the temperature is a bit warmer than a comfortable room temperature, around 70-85°F (20-30°C). But as long as it doesn’t get freezing cold or burning hot, your plants should be able to grow in a wide range of temperatures.
In this stage, your plant will focus ONLY on getting big and strong. Buds and flowers are not part of the plant’s vocabulary yet.
If you’re feeding your plant with additional nutrients, start at half strength as it can be easy to burn your young cannabis plants. Bring to 3/4 strength one plant starts growing vigorously and if your plant displays signs of needing more nutrients even though the pH is in a good range.
Only feed nutrients at full strength if the plant is showing signs that it needs more nutrients (lower leaves are turning lime green, then yellow, then falling off – the first sign of a nitrogen deficiency, the most common type of deficiency – if the plant is not getting enough nutrients).
At this stage, you can’t tell if one of your cannabis plants is going to be a boy or a girl yet. Wait, why do I care if my plant is a boy or a girl?
- Give plants 18-24 hours/light a day in the vegetative stage when growing indoors. 18 hours of light a day is preferable, 24 is for the experimental type of grower.
- If growing outdoors, try to make sure you plant gets strong, direct light for most of the day, at least from 10am-4pm, and more if possible.
The size your plant gets in this stage will have a huge impact on the final size of your plant.
Step 8: Flowering Stage
This is the stage where your plants start making buds. This stage will last until harvest!
During this stage, you will need to…
- Change to 12-12 Light Schedule
- Identify Gender of Cannabis Plants
- Get Rid of any Males
We’re getting to the exciting part!
Most strains of cannabis begin this stage once they’re getting at least 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness a night. Autoflowering cannabis plants will start the flowering stage without needing a lighting change.
- Indoors, you must change to a 12-12 light schedule, with 12 hours of light & 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness each day (usually accomplished by putting your lights on a timer) to get your cannabis to start flowering (making buds). When should I change my light schedule to 12-12?
- Outdoors, your weed will naturally start flowering when the days get short enough, usually a few months before winter.
The flowering stage is where your plant goes through “puberty” and basically reveals whether they are a boy or a girl.
Unfortunately, for regular seeds, half your plants will end up female and half will end up male. That’s why a lot of growers prefer starting with clones or buying feminized seeds – all the resulting plants will grow into females.
As cannabis growers, we’re only looking for females as female plants are the only ones that make buds. Male plants just make pollen sacs (balls) that cannot be used for smoking.
A week or two after you initiate the 12-12 light schedule (or naturally in the wild), your plants will reveal their gender…
Female plants start growing wispy white hairs at the tops of branch joints. These are the pistils of her flowers/calyxes. You’ll get bunches of these calyxes growing on top of each other to make buds, and each calyx will have a few white hairs coming out of it. This is great news! It means this plant will eventually grow beautiful weed with buds/flowers/ganja that you can smoke.
Male plants start growing balls/pollen sacs with no white hairs/pistils. Unfortunately, most male plants do not develop psychoactive properties like girls do in their flowers. Plus, male plants can pollinate your female plants and cause them to make less bud and more seeds. Therefore, most serious cannabis growers choose to remove and dispose of male plants as soon as they show their sex.
Note: The sturdy green growths are not pistils, they are always there on both boy and girl plants. When looking for gender, you’re specifically looking for white wispy hairs (pistils).
Ok, so you’ve gotten rid of your male plants. Your female plants will be growing more and more white hairs and before you know it, actual buds/flowers/trees are forming. Woohoo!
Now that you’re fully in the 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. Learn more about what you need to do in the flowering stage to produce top-shelf buds.
It’s important to pay close attention to your cannabis plants during the flowering stage. This is because in this stage your plant is much more likely to suffer from nutrient problems as they’re focusing all their energy on growing buds.
Step 9: Harvest Your Weed
When to Harvest Weed? Is She Ready for Harvest?
- Wait until your buds stop growing new, white hairs. By this point, your buds should be fragrant (the whole grow room or area will likely smell strongly of cannabis), plump and ‘filled out’.
- Wait until at least 40% of the white hairs have changed color (darkened) and are curling in. This marks the beginning of the harvest window. Buds harvested now will have more of a speedy effect and are not at full potency.
- Harvest when 50-70% of the hairs have darkened for highest THC levels
- Harvest when 80-90% of the hairs have darkened for more a couchlock, anti-anxiety effect (some of the THC has turned into the more relaxing CBN)
The hardest part of growing cannabis for many new growers is waiting for the right time to harvest.
There are additional cannabis harvest methods which are much more precise – such as using trichomes to know when to harvest your buds.
I sometimes get asked how to harvest weed… (i.e. cut it down from the plant)
Just get a sturdy pair of scissors and cut the plant down in the most convenient way possible. Seriously…that’s it!
Trimming comes next; it’s one of the most rewarding and physically taxing parts of the entire grow, but it’ll be worth it!
Step 10: Dry and Cure Your Newly Harvested Buds
After you have cut off and trimmed all of your glittery, beautiful fat buds, you will want to hang them upside down in a cool, dark place with plenty of ventilation so that they can dry out.
Dry buds slowly for best results and check often for mold or overdrying. You’ve worked way too hard to lose your crop now!
After your cannabis buds have dried (thin stems snap, but the thicker stems are still a bit bendy), it’s time to start curing them so they’re smooth, taste good, smell good, and have the best effects.
To cure your buds, put them in tightly-closed quart-sized mason jars in a cool dark place. Fill each jar loosely about 3/4 of the way full.
For the first 2 weeks of curing, open the jars once a day for several seconds to get fresh air in your jars and release any moisture.
If your buds feel moist when you check on them, leave the tops of the jars off until the outsides of the buds feel dry to the touch. Too-moist bud is what causes mold!
Special products like “Boveda 62% Humidipaks” will make curing a lot easier, as they will naturally regulate the humidity in your jars.
After your cannabis has been curing for at least 2 weeks, and they haven’t felt wet every time you’ve checked the jars for at least a week, you can start opening the lid once a week instead of once a day.
Some people only cure their bud for 1-2 weeks total while other cure their bud for 30 days or more. Because you need to open the jar regularly, you can always sample some as it’s curing to get a feel for whether it’s done or not.
I personally think that cannabis tends to be more potent if you cure it for at least a month.
Curing for longer than 6 months doesn’t do anything, and cannabis can become less potent over time as THC turns to CBN. Keep your harvest in a cool, dry, airtight space for long-term storage.
That’s it! 10 Simple Steps and You’ve Got Your Very First Cannabis Harvest!
FOR SERIOUS GROWERS ONLY
Are you interested in… LED Grow Lights?
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t believe most models of LED grow lights are suitable for first-time growers.
Unless you know someone who has experience growing with a particular model of LED light, you’ll often spend a grow or two trying to get your light model “dialed in” so you know how far away to keep the lights from your plants for best results.
But when you do know someone who has experience growing cannabis with a particular brand of LED grow lights, you know that the lights will work for growing cannabis. And if you have access to their grow notes, you’ll also know exactly how to use the LED to get the best results.
And you’ve probably heard the incredible benefits of LEDs… low electricity usage, low heat, no ballast… you just plug the LED panel directly in the wall. Fans are built right in, and many high-quality models don’t need any additional cooling.
Want to see a successful grow journal featuring LEDs?