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seed to weed

Seed to weed
Some outdoor growers start their plants indoors to give them a headstart before putting plants outside.

Cannabis Light Schedules: Vegetative Stage vs Flowering Stage

Cannabis plants keep getting bigger and bigger with long days, and start making buds when you give them long nights.

Cannabis is a “photoperiod” plant, which means the amount of light received each day decides when the plant starts flowering or making buds. This article explains how much light a day your photoperiod cannabis plants need to grow and start budding, so you get to a happy harvest day. What about auto-flowering strains?

Vegetative – Seedling or clone leads to Vegetative Stage –
Give 18-24 hours of light a day

Flowering – Flowering (Budding) Stage leads to Harvest –
Give 12 hours light & 12 hours dark each day

Seedling or Clone

While not technically a “stage,” all grows start with cannabis seeds or clones.

Indoors

Plant your seeds or clones when you’re ready to start growing! What are clones? https://www.growweedeasy.com/cloning

Outdoors

Some outdoor growers start their plants indoors to give them a headstart before putting plants outside.

If you’re growing cannabis outdoors with seeds, you should wait until a few weeks after the spring equinox to put your seeds outside. In the northern hemisphere this means seeds go outside in-or-after April, In the southern hemisphere seeds go outside in-or-after October.

For growers starting with cannabis clones, generally you should wait a few weeks longer than with seeds. Cannabis clones are more prone to flowering early outdoors than seeds, so you might want to put your clones out in late Spring or early Summer. (What are clones?)

If you live in a cold climate, you must also wait until after the last frost before putting your plants outside. Freezing temps will kill cannabis plants. Strain choice is very important. Some strains flower earlier than others. For outdoor growers in cold climates, it’s important to make sure you grow a strain that is matched up with your local weather, so that plants are ready for harvest before temperatures drop.

Vegetative Stage

The vegetative stage is one of the most important parts of the life of your cannabis plant.

The vegetative stage is the growing stage of the plant. When in veg, cannabis plants grow bigger and taller, growing only stems and leaves. As a grower, you are able to control the size and shape of your plants in the vegetative stage using simple training methods.

During the entire vegetative stage the plant does not produce buds at all. It only grows stems and leaves. During the vegetative stage plants tend to grow very fast, especially when conditions are right.

What keeps cannabis in the vegetative stage?

Short nights keep cannabis plants in the vegetative stage. You can keep a cannabis plant in the vegetative stage for basically forever as long as the plant continues to get short nights (shorter than 1s-12 hours, depending on the strain).

Cannabis will stay in the vegetative stage as long as the plant gets short nights (less than 11-12 hours of darkness each day)

Whether you’re growing indoors or outdoors, you must make sure your cannabis plants get at least 13 hours of light each day to stay in the vegetative stage. If your plant gets a few long nights, it may start budding before you want.

The plant can receive as much as 24 hours of light a day while in the vegetative stage. Many indoor growers provide 18-24 hours of light a day (known as 18-6 or 24-0 light schedules) during the vegetative stage to encourage faster vegetative growth.

Don’t want to worry about light schedules? For growers that don’t want to pay attention to light schedules, there are auto-flowering strains of cannabis, which will automatically go through their whole life in about 3 months no matter what light schedule is provided. For some growers, an auto-flowering strain may be more simple than a traditional (photoperiod) strain.

Indoors

Most indoor growers provide 18-24 hours of light a day (known as 18-6 or 24-0 light schedules). Giving your cannabis plants more hours of light each day in the flowering stage will encourage faster growth.

Lingo: When a grower provides 18 hours of light a day and 6 hours of darkness, this is commonly known as the 18/6 light schedule. For 24 hours a day, this is referred to as the 24-0 light schedule.

Outdoors

As long as your plant is getting plenty of light a day, your plant will automatically stay in the vegetative stage from late spring until late summer. Every strain is a bit different.

Flowering Stage

Cannabis starts budding when plants get at least 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness each night. After plants start budding, they must continue to get long dark nights until harvest or they may revert back to the vegetative stage.

Indoors

Indoors most growers put their plants on a 12-12 schedule to initiate flowering. Outdoors the plant will naturally start budding in late summer when nights are growing longer and longer as winter approaches. Just make sure plants aren’t exposed to light during their dark period!

What is 12-12 Lighting?

The indoor grower will need to artificially induce flowering/budding in plants by changing the light schedule so the plant receives only 12 hours of light a day, and 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness.

Once the plant is changed over to the flowering (12/12) light schedule, there is generally another 6 weeks-5 months (average 2.5 months) before the plant’s buds are ready for harvest.

Outdoors

Outdoor growers wait until their cannabis plants start naturally flowering on their own, usually after mid-summer when days start getting shorter than 12 hours.

It’s important to make sure plants aren’t exposed to light at night during their dark period, even street lights or spotlights, as this can prevent cannabis plants from flowering properly.

Growing Indoors? Not Sure When To Switch To Flowering?

So indoor growers have a choice to flower their plants whenever they want… When is the best t ime to start flowering your cannabis indoors?

The real answer is that it’s a matter of personal preference and also depends on what end result you’re looking for. There are two major considerations when choosing the right time to switch to 12/12, the age of the plant and the height of the plant:

Age: Some growers feel that a marijuana plant which has been grown from seed will not produce as many buds or have enough resin production if the plant is not given at least 60 days in the vegetative stage to mature before it’s changed over to the flowering stage. This is not true. many growers initiate flowering soon after germinating a seed in order to keep plants small and short. This is often called “12-12 from seed.” Just remember, no matter what you do, a young cannabis plant will not start flowering until it is 2-3 weeks old. Even if you put a seed on a 12-12 schedule from the beginning, it will not start properly budding for about 3 weeks. When growing with cannabis clones, age is not an issue and growers can switch directly to flowering once your clone has established roots. This is because even though a clone may be small, it’s still a ‘mature’ plant since it is made of a piece from a mature plant. Rooted clones tend to grow much faster for the first few weeks than plants grown from seed. In any case, age is not much of an issue, and you should switch your light schedule at the time that best fits your needs.

Height: A general rule is that your marijuana plant will double or triple in size during the flowering stage from the point where you first change over the light schedule to 12/12. Some plants will grow more, some will grow less, but a good rule of thumb is to change your light schedule over to flowering when your plants have reached half of their final desired height. Bending, known as “LST” or “low stress training” can be used to control colas that get too tall. Simply bend too-tall colas down and away from the center of the plant. Some growers will even slightly break or “supercrop” branches to get them to bend at a 90 degree angle. For those growing in a small space, height may be the primary concern. However, there are many techniques available to grow a short, bushy weed plant or basically train your cannabis plant to grow into any shape you want.

Here’s an example of LST to keep a plant short:

In optimal conditions if height and space is not an issue, you would probably want to vegetate your cannabis plant for 60 days or more before switching it over to flowering. This gives your plant plenty of time to grow big (so you get bigger yields), and allows new growers to dial in their grow before plants enter the sensitive flowering stage. In the vegetative stage, it is easy to recover from problems, but problems are a lot more serious in the flowering stage, where mistakes can dramatically hurt your final yields.

Giving cannabis plants more time in the vegetative stage, and taking time to train them to fit your space, will give you the best final yields. However, if space is tight, then it’s better to switch when the plant is half the final desired height, or even to just attempt to flower your cannabis plant straight from seed.

Harvest!

After the vegetative and flowering stage are over, it is time to harvest your plants!

Seed to weed
Vegetative Stage
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.

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:

  1. Before You Start Growing Weed (0-4 weeks) – Get seeds and supplies so you’re set to start growing!
  2. 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…

    Seedling Stage
    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
    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
    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!

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