Discover how you can grow your own cannabis on a budget. Learn how to set up the perfect cannabis grow space with affordable supplies. Learn best techniques and preparation required for cloning marijuana, plus tips to ensure optimum root development following clipping from the mother plant. Come learn how to easily grow organic cannabis at home! This article discusses soil options, seed selection, containers, and tips for ongoing care.
How to Grow Your Own Cannabis for $200 Start Up
Yes, it is possible to grow cannabis on a budget. Growing, curing and keeping your own cannabis is a very rewarding hobby, especially if you are doing it so you can have your own supply. Just like with every other hobby, cultivating your own cannabis also comes with costs; and unfortunately, some growers don’t have deep enough pockets to help them afford certain materials and equipment.
The good news is you can still grow your own weed without having to spend a king’s ransom. Recent advancements in the 420 industry have helped reduce the cost of cultivating your own plants.
Download Our 7 Page Guide to Growing Cannabis
For a long time, growing cannabis has been associated with high costs, often hindering many cannabis enthusiasts from pursuing this hobby. They often think of high electricity bills because of grow-lights and having to spend a minimum of $60 for a bag of cannabis seeds. Fear not, because the current market has plenty of budget-friendly options!
These days you can find small, self-contained units and machines that will grow your cannabis for you from start to finish, and you won’t even realize that it’s there. Such advancements help bring down the costs associated with growing marijuana and open new doors for more conventional cultivation.
What You Need to Grow Cannabis on a Budget
There are many factors involved in growing cannabis. In this article, we examine how you can grow weed on a budget. Before we go on, here is a checklist of things you need to grow cannabis successfully indoors:
- Space to build your grow room. Most start with a space of 3 feet by 3 feet, or approximately 1 meter squared.
- Cannabis seeds.
- A grow tent, preferably with reflective walls.
- Lights. LED lights are more expensive initially, but can ultimately save money in terms of power consumption.
- Minimum light wattage needed for the flowering period is 300 watts, but 400 watts is recommended. Higher wattage lamps cost more and can be more difficult to cool down. Unless you have such equipment, higher wattages can prove to be a negative return.
- Plant pots of various sizes, so you can transfer to bigger pots as the plant gets bigger and the roots start to grow more vigorously.
- Soil (hydroponic grows can be more expensive and need more plant feed).
- Plant feed (remember: less is more when doing soil grows, and no feed at all is necessary for about 6 weeks, as soil contains most nutrients needed).
- A fan to circulate heat and air around the grow room. You will need an exhaust and intake fan in order to draw air in and expel it out.
- Thermometer – you want the temperature in the grow room to stay stable at around 26 degrees Celsius or 79 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the day.
- A platform to keep your pots raised from the floor of the grow room. A simple crate will suffice.
- Carbon filters to help get rid of the smell. For small grows, one is usually enough.
Download Free Beginner’s Guide to Growing Cannabis
Many of these items can be expensive when bought new and, except where necessary, we recommend buying most of the above second-hand if you want to keep costs to below $200. There are many growers and ex-growers wanting to get rid of equipment they no longer need, especially if their operations are expanding or if they’re moving. Checking out classified advert and auction websites can help save a pretty penny, and for beginner growers can be a better investment.
If you are looking to buy all the above brand new, expect total costs to run to about $400 – $500 minimum (realistically about $600 – $800 for a 3 x 3 grow space requiring a tent and some 400-watt lights). If most of the above is bought second-hand, or if you buy a small, self-contained unit with most of the above included, you are looking at a total cost of $200 – $300. In terms of height, it is recommended that you have 6 – 8 feet of vertical space, especially if you are planning to grow sativas. However, you can train your plants to grow smaller and have a height of around 4 – 5 feet, especially if you are growing indica plants. In such a small space, it is recommended to flower using lower wattage lights to prevent burnout, so 250 watts is OK.
Electricity costs are also important to consider. During the vegetative stage, under 200 watts of light (many go for 100 – 120 watts) for between 18 and 24 hours a day should suffice. For the flowering stage, 12 hours of dark and 12 hours of light is needed. Most would recommend that the vegetative stage last between 2 weeks and one month to ensure the establishment of a healthy root system. Flowering times for most indicas are 7 – 9 weeks, hybrids 8 – 10 weeks and sativas 10 – 14 weeks. Ruderalis plants can go straight into 12 hours of light and 12 of dark with no vegetative period. If you are using 400 watt or 600-watt lights, expect the cost to be between $45 and $60 per month for a 3 x 3 grow space, depending upon where you live. You can see a breakdown and method of determining electricity costs here.
Author: MOCA Cannabis; Source
It is also important to do your research and get a grasp of how to grow cannabis. While many things about growing cannabis are best learnt through hands-on experience, it is worth watching videos from people who have experience in cultivating marijuana and can give valuable advice for those starting out. Jorge Cervantes’ videos are an excellent place to begin.
The Importance of Cannabis Genetics
It’s easy for one to think that in order to grow weed for less than $200, you will need to purchase cheap seeds. This is wrong because the seeds are where you should be putting a good proportion of your total spend limit. Investing in seeds that possess quality genetics can help you go a long way in preserving the health of your plants. This is true even if you go with low-quality products right around the later parts of the plant’s growth cycle.
Going for autoflowering genetics can also help you save. In most cases, auto plants start flowering 2 to 3 weeks after germination. Unlike photoperiod plants, autos don’t rely on a certain number of hours of light to grow, as their flowering period is determined by age, not light. Autos will go from seed to harvest in a faster amount of time, thus saving indoor growers plenty of money along the way. You essentially cut away the vegetative period of the plant by going the autoflowering route, which can save time and money.
Autoflowering plants are also adapted to grow in cold climates, so can withstand colder temperatures. Many are hybridized so as to ensure vigor and develop mold, mildew and pest resistance to a certain degree. This can be very useful for beginners, those growing in unforgiving climates, those who need a fast turnover of plants, and those who are guerilla growing. Another option is to buy cuttings from dispensaries, which can also eliminate the vegetative part of the cycle and ensure some good-quality genetics.
There are a few issues with autoflowering plants. Many come in feminized form only meaning that, if you want to produce and breed your own seeds, this is not easily possible with feminized autoflowering seeds (although non-feminized autoflowering plants can be bred with one another for seeds). Another common complaint is that autoflowering strains have lower yields, although this is starting to change with better breeding techniques. Lower THC (but higher CBD) content is also common in autoflowering plants. As experience of growing improves, many growers go for a mixture of regular and autoflowering strains to take advantage of both types of cannabis plant.
Author: Ryan Bushby; Source
However, you do not have to necessarily spend huge amounts to get good genetics. Be wary of breeders and seed companies “overcharging” for their seeds. It is also worth researching the seed’s genetics, background and checking out forums for other growers’ experiences. Sometimes, you can have an otherwise excellent company selling a strain that isn’t well-tested for consistency, meaning the end product may be disappointing. This can be avoided by going for a strain that has a background of “tried, tested and true” genetics such as Skunk #1, Blueberry, Northern Lights and Haze.
Some of the more trustworthy of the mainstream breeders include Mr. Nice Seeds, TGA Subcool, Cali Connection, DJ Short, Serious Seeds, Dr. Atomic Seeds, Mandala Seeds, Underground Originals and some others. They tend to sell good genetics at a reasonable range of prices.
And when it comes to seeds, you can’t do better than HomeGrown Cannabis Co.
Essentials for Your Cannabis Grow Room
Now we move on to another important aspect of cannabis growing: The Grow Room. Your grow space has to be properly set up to give your plant a place where it can have the nourishment it needs. Growing cannabis indoors is often a more expensive endeavor than growing it outdoors, so we’re going to be looking into the essentials of every indoor grow space. However, there are still advantages to growing indoors vs. outdoors. Pests are less of a worry, you are less at the mercy of the elements, and there is much less worry about law enforcement and thieves.
Author: Plantlady 223; Source. This is a hydroponic growing system.
Cannabis Grow Lights
Cannabis needs light in order to grow, and a grow room without a light source shouldn’t even be called a “grow room” at all because no plants will ever grow in it. Indoor lighting setups can be quite expensive because they have to mimic the energy that the sun produces. The cost becomes even greater when you are growing multiple plants.
However, there are still options that will let you save on your lights. For starters, you can purchase used lamps. You will only need to spend money on new bulbs. You can purchase reflectors and lamps on websites like eBay that can perform just as well as brand new models.
If you want to save on your electricity bill you can always opt for LED lights, but take note that these are going to be your most expensive option. There are also fluorescent bulbs that are cheaper than LED but consume more power. What’s more, you’re going to change the bulb types once the plant transitions from its vegetative cycle to flowering.
Don’t lose hope though because there are plenty of affordable LED lights available that cost less than $90. As a grower, it will be up to you to do some research on which affordable LED lights would work best for your grow room and give you the best value for your money.
Heat and Air Circulation in a Cannabis Grow Room
One of the most important aspects of maintaining a healthy growing environment for your plants is air circulation. The lights in a grow room will release heat, and your plants are going to transpire every day. Therefore, it is important for you to constantly bring in fresh air into your grow space and let the stale air out. A small amount of air passing through the grow room will also help strengthen the plant’s stalk, through a mechanism called “passive ventilation”.
For this, you will need to invest in some reliable exhaust and intake fans. eBay and other similar websites sell second-hand fans for under $20, and you can even make a carbon filter to keep the smell at a minimum.
Once you start to simulate the nighttime environment, your grow space will start to cool down, so for this, you will need to have extra heating. Investing in extra heating equipment may seem costly, but it is a worthwhile investment because of how much it can benefit your plants once they are needed. There are websites that sell heating equipment for less than $100, but make sure to research their quality before purchasing.
Reflective Walls in a Cannabis Grow Room
To make sure that your grow room is getting the most out of the lights, you’ll need to set up some reflective walls. Also known as reflectors, these will bounce the light all across the room so they can reach every part of your plant. This has the potential to give you better yields while still using the same amount of lamps.
One simple and budget-friendly solution is to purchase a grow tent. These can be purchased for less than $100. Grow tents are usually water-sealed and airtight and are very practical setups that can easily fit in most grow rooms.
Marijuana Indoor Grow Room Hemp Pot Cannabis. Source
Growing Cannabis on a Budget
So, who says you need to spend a fortune to start growing cannabis? With our tips, not only will you be able to grow your own marijuana plants, but you’ll be saving some money at the same time. If you’d like to know more about the laws on growing cannabis, check out the Leafwell state guide to growing marijuana.
Also, connect with one of Leafwell’s cannabis physicians today if you’d like to obtain a medical marijuana card.
Cloning Marijuana: How to Grow Cannabis Without Seeds
Cloning is a bit of a hot-button issue in the world these days. Only as far as cloning humans is concerned though. That’s fair enough considering all the moral, ethical, and spiritual considerations that come along with premise of replicating a human life. There’s no such questions to be debated in the botany world, and cloning plants has been done with much success for decades now. For example, cloning marijuana is an example of this approach to growing plants is a hit with home grow enthusiasts around the world.
You CAN grow a marijuana plant from a seed, but if want the same strain with exactly the same properties, and in some case the same unique characteristics, then you will need to clone it. If you ask an expert about how this process works, be prepared to absorb a LOT of information.
But ask them how to make clones from weed plants and you’ll find it’s quite straightforward. Not as easy as it is to buy marijuana clones, but those of you who like being hands-on with your home grow experiments will want to give cloning marijuana a try.
Cloning Marijuana Guarantees an Identical Plant
An overview of cloning marijuana will explain how it involves cutting of a small piece of an existing marijuana plant and then having that plants develop its own roots . The cut piece of plant will have the same gender and exact same genetic structure as its donor plant, meaning that the plant that eventually regrows itself from the cut piece will too .
Let’s say you have a particular marijuana plant that’s especially healthy and hardy and gives you a bountiful yield of exactly the type of bud you love . Would the sound of having a number of those EXACT same plants sound good to you? Darn right it would, and if you have that plant then achieving this is entirely possible.
Other advantages to cloning marijuana include:
- Expanding on your crop at no additional cost – asides from basic supplies, making clones is free
- The ‘head start’ that clones have in comparison to seedlings, meaning in the big picture that they’ll be at their flowering stage more quickly
- Better choice for those hoping to practice Sea of Green or 12/12 from seed techniques due to clones already being mature and able to be oriented to the flowering stage immediately
Cloning Marijuana: Guidelines
The first consideration you’ll need to have when cloning marijuana is that a ‘mother’ plant will be required to get the clones from. Obviously, choosing a female plant that displays signs of vigor and good health is best. If you have one of those you’ve likely at least mastered the basics of how to grow marijuana, but now you’re about to start down a whole new path.
Here’s a list of the primary supplies you’ll need:
Sharp scissors – You’ll need these to clip your clone pieces from the mother plant, as well as for future defoliation and trimming once your clones have grown into being their own plants
Starter cubes – these are also essential, as they’ll be the homes for your clones while they develop their own roots
Cloning Gel or Cloning Powder – These products are good because they provide a sealant around the cut plant tissue and then supply it with the hormones required for optimum root cell development
Proper lighting – This will be very well understood if you already know how to grow cannabis, but we’ll go over it again briefly in case it’s not. Natural sunlight is best of course, but that’s not possible for many growers much of the time. If that’s your situation, T5 grow lights are the best for clones and seedlings, and especially when suspended 8 or 9” above your clones.
Depending on your situation you may need more supplies, but everyone who’s going to try cloning marijuana will need these four.
Taking Your Clones
Alright, we’re now going to assume that you’ve got your healthy mother plant and all the supplies you need to start. The first thing you’ll do is determine the readiness of your mother plant. There is one basic criteria for this; if the leaf shoots or nodes of the plant are alternating (which means not connecting at the same point on the stem) it is mature and ready for cloning.
Next, soak the starter cubes in water for just a few minutes. No longer. This is important – soak them too long and you’ll reduce the effectiveness with which they’ll promote the clones developing a good root.
Now let’s get down to the hands-on part of how to make clones from weed plants. You want to clip new growth tips on the plants, where there is a new branching and a new top. It is also better to take your clippings from the lower half of your plant, as these leaf shoots have more rooting hormones than those higher up. They will grow roots more quickly because of these hormones.
These growths should be easy to identify being right on the top and often a much lighter green in colour.
Now, with scissors in hand, prepare to make your cut:
- Use your thumb and index finger to grab the shoot an inch or so below the new growth tip
- Eyeball your new cuttings so that they will be between 5 to 8” long, so you will be cutting 5-8” below the growth tip
- Hold it steady as you take the scissors and proceed to cut the branch away at a 45-degree angle
- After making the cut, use the sharp inside edge of one of your scissor blades to ‘scuff’ up the area just above your cut. This will expose more of the stocks ‘raw’ genetic material inside it and aid in the cloning process
Immediately after this you should place the cutting into a glass of water, and do the same for all cuttings you take. After a short period of time you can remove them and trim off huge lower leaves or clip top fan leaves. Return to the water right after doing so.
Once removed, if you’re going to use cloning gel or cloning powder now is the time. If not, proceed to place your new clones into moistened starter cubes. Press around the bottom of them to ensure they’re well sealed.
The last tip here is to keep your resettled clones out of grow lighting for the first couple of days to give them a chance to settle. No longer than 2 days though. And once you do start to give them lighting, don’t give them 24 hours of it. 16-18 hours a day is better.
Just like that you’ve got no need to buy marijuana clones, you’re now sufficiently in the know to create your own using nothing more than your existing crop and a few supplies.
How To Grow Cannabis Organically: Seeds, Soil, Containers & Care
The topic of “how to grow cannabis” has such a funny vibe about it. If you browse around online, you’ll see there are many cannabis growers with extremely strong opinions about “the right way” to grow cannabis, though all of their methods vary… Esoteric language, expensive supplies, and complicated recipes or instructions are often used, making it a very intimidating and confusing subject for new home growers.
I am here to hopefully take some of the mystery out of it for you! The methods we choose to use for growing cannabis here at home are pretty dang simple! Sure, there are some steps to follow and supplies to gather, but growing cannabis is not all that more complicated than growing high-quality organic food at home. Or at least that is how we approach it. All you need is rich healthy soil, a large container, and either cannabis seeds or started seedlings – called “clones”.
Read along to learn about our preferences for soil, containers, seeds, and how to get started growing cannabis at home, organically!
This article will get you started with your growing season, then check out the follow-up posts for ongoing care – with tips on routine fertilizing, organic pest control, and how to harvest, dry, and cure your cannabis too. Keep in mind that our goals are not all about high yields. The goal is to grow safe, high-quality, organic cannabis that we can utilize and enjoy with peace of mind – knowing how it was treated from “bean to bowl”. It is about quality over quantity, though we end up with more than enough anyways!
This post is intended for people living in states who are legally allowed to grow cannabis at home, either medicinally or recreationally. If you have any questions about this, please refer to your local cannabis regulations. Note that today’s post is also geared around growing cannabis naturally outdoors, so I will not touch on light deprivation or indoor grow set-ups. I do plan to write an indoor grow guide in the near future, but most of the tips in this article can easily be applied to an indoor grow too!
Where to get cannabis seeds or clones
Keep in mind that cannabis has not been legalized at the federal level – with the exception of low-THC, high-CBD hemp. Therefore, even if you live in a state that has legalized marijuana, shipping cannabis seeds and products across state lines is technically still illegal. But it is commonly done nonetheless. To my knowledge, people buy cannabis seeds online fairly easily and without issues. However, if cannabis is legal in your state, the most safe and “by the book” way to procure seed or started plants (clones) is from a licensed cannabis store.
Here are a few reputable places that discreetly sell cannabis seeds online:
– A popular ‘seed bank’ with a huge selection, including CBD! (money order only) (autoflower seeds only) (based out of the Netherlands, ships to US) (UK, ships to US)
Keep reading to the “Cannabis Growing Conditions” section below for information on exactly when and how to start cannabis seeds (or plant clones).
Feminized, Regular, or Autoflower Seeds
Cannabis comes in many shapes and sizes! Obtaining feminized seeds or plants guarantees that they will flower. Aka – they’ll grow buds. “Regular” seeds could grow up to be males. They’re pretty useless unless you want to breed plants. Any males in vicinity will pollinate your female plants, make them produce seeds in the buds, and reduce their THC development. Most people cull the males before they produce pollen to avoid this. We grow with feminized and sometimes regular seeds too.
If you do grow regular seeds, see this article to learn how to determine the sex of your cannabis plants in the early pre-flower stages. You may also want to start regular seeds a few weeks earlier than you would feminized seeds, which allows for ample time to ID the ladies (or gentlemen).
For a super-quick growing season and small, manageable plants, you could try autoflower cannabis types. Autoflowers are available in feminized, sativa, and indica options too.
Young cannabis seedlings we started from seed. If the seeds are ‘regular’ (not feminized) we usually pot them up into larger nursery pots (shown in the background on the right) until we can identify if they’re male or female. Once we identify the ladies, then they are transplanted into their final grow bags, shown on the left. If this sounds too involved, stick with feminized seeds to start!
Strains: Sativa vs Indica
Sativa-dominant plants are typically more uplifting and energizing. Sativa plants also get taller, lankier, and take longer from seed to harvest. Indica-dominant strains finish a little faster, pack on fatter buds, and are generally shorter and wider plants. These make them a preferable variety for northern climates with shorter growing seasons. Indica is also known for more of a mellow, sleepy, heavy, couch-lock kind of vibe.
We generally prefer uplifting, happy, energetic sativa-dominant hybrids – ones that are balanced with enough indica to keep things smooth, relaxing, and still make for a great night of sleep. “Maui Wowie” is a long-standing favorite here, and “Rosetta Stone” is our new go-to lately.
Beyond all of these broad categories, each strain will also have unique attributes that may make it more or less desirable to you. Find what suits your needs! What works for us may not be what works for you. To read more in-depth on the differences between sativa, indica, and autoflowers (including their health benefits) check out this post.
Autoflower cannabis plants in the greenhouse, in smaller 5 gallon smart pots. They take up far less space, and time!
THE PERFECT CANNABIS SOIL
If you checked out our post about how to build the perfect organic soil for raised beds, our methods for building the perfect cannabis soil isn’t all that different. We’re shooting for something that is rich, biologically active, full of micronutrients, and has an excellent balance between moisture retention and drainage. Reference that raised bed soil post if you want to dive deep into detail, but otherwise here is a quick-and-dirty for cannabis soil:
I’m going to give you all two options below. One is a little more involved, which is crafting your own soil from scratch. This is what we do. The second option uses pre-made soil, and requires less ingredients and steps upfront.
Either way you choose to go, please note that we follow a no-till method. That means the soil is a one-time upfront cost, aside from some amendments you’ll need on an ongoing basis. Those last a long time before needing replenishing too! At the end of a growing season, the mature cannabis plant is cut down at the soil line, and the roots left in place to decompose over the winter with the aid of worms and light moisture. The soil is used year after year in the same container, improving with age. This is also called ROLS – recycled organic living soil.
Here are two of our 25-gallon cannabis grow bags, full of recycled organic living soil. These are kept in a shed over winter (and some outside too), and kept alive with an occasional light watering. The soil is reused the following season.
Option 1: Our Organic Cannabis Soil Recipe
Combine the following ingredients. If you plan to fill several large containers (like grow bags – discussed below) then it may be easiest to mix all of these in a very large tote or even spread out on a tarp, and then add some to each bag. Note that it is best to pre-moisten the peat moss before mixing it with everything else. Peat tends to be hydrophobic when dry, and can make your soil less likely to absorb water well if it is mixed without wetting first.
- 1 part Canadian sphagnum peat moss (We often use Roots Organics or Premier – both found at our local ‘grow shop’.)
- 1 part high quality compost (We love Malibu’s Biodynamic Compost, but it’s only available on the West Coast. There is a similar East Coast option by Coast of Maine. You could use aged homemade compost, or shop around to see what is available. Maybe there is a local worm farm in your area?)
- 1 part aeration additive (We prefer 3/8-inch Lava rock, aka lava cinders. You could use pumice or perlite instead.)
Evenly mix in the following amendments:
, ½ cup per cubic foot of soil* , ½ cup per cubic foot of soil , ½ cup per cubic foot of soil , 2 cups per cubic foot of soil , 1 cup per cubic foot of soil , 1 cup per cubic foot of soil
- A handful of worm castings and a few compost worms, if possible
- Optional: Biochar, 2-4 cups per cubic foot of soil
*In the recipe above, when I mention the amendment amounts “per cubic foot of soil”, I mean the total combined volume including peat moss, compost, and aeration. Also note that all of these amendments are things we also use in the garden, and last many seasons!
Curious about what all these things are for?
Kelp meal contains over 70 different vitamins and minerals. It helps promote overall plant health, vigor, and tolerance to stress, pests ,and disease. It is also a renewable, sustainable resource – so that’s a huge plus.
Neem meal enhances microbial activity, making your soil even more alive! It also strengthens root systems, and can help control unwanted nematode populations, fungus, and soil pathogens.
Crab or Crustacean meal is high in chitin, which stimulates the soil food web and beneficial microbe activity. It may also help combat root knot nematodes. This meal contains both macro and micronutrients as fuel for the plants.
Rock Dust contains micronutrients and trace minerals that are essential for a plant’s core biological processes to work at their strongest, such as nutrient uptake and photosynthesis.
Gypsum contains calcium and sulfur, and helps the plant better utilize and uptake potassium, which is one of the key macronutrients that all plants depend on for life. In the “NPK” ratio for all fertilizers, the K stands for potassium. Adequate potassium availability and uptake enables plants to photosynthesize, produce energy and important enzymes during growth, and also assists with water uptake and drought resistance.
Oyster shell flour is an excellent source of calcium for the plants, as well as phosphorus. Adequate calcium carbonate protects plants from heat stress, makes them more resistant to disease and pests, strengthens plant cell walls, and increases nutrient uptake and overall vigor. Oyster shell flour also acts as a pH buffer.
Here is a little video of our organic living soil in action:
A note about peat moss:
Peat moss gets some flack for being not very sustainable. However, it also gets some of the best reviews and results for growing cannabis. Cannabis likes very slightly acidic soil, which peat moss naturally is. It is also an incredibly common ingredient in almost all bagged soil, so it’s hard to avoid in the gardening world. Aaron put together our soil before we were fully aware of the environmental concerns. Because we are reusing and recycling it each year, the best thing for us is to continue utilizing it!
Some people who grow cannabis choose to replace the peat moss portion of this recipe with coco coir, which is a more renewable, sustainable material. I can’t speak to its effectiveness because we haven’t used it for cannabis, though we do add a little coco coir to our raised beds sometimes, and also use it as bedding in our worm bin. Honestly, we have heard not-so-great results and read numerous studies that show coco coir has inferior performance to peat moss.
Option 2: Use Pre-amended Bagged Soil
If mixing up all those amendments sounds a little too “extra” for you, you could do the following instead:
Use mostly pre-made, high-quality, bagged organic soil. If you have access to it, try to add in a little rich aged compost, worms, worm castings, and/or aeration too! Experiment with building your own soil, with a premade base. Check out this post on how to start a super simple worm bin, if you’re in need of worm castings! They can also be purchased.
For this method, you could skip a lot of the additional amendments upfront, though you’ll still want to add some as the growing season progresses. Cannabis is a hungry plant! The choices and availability of bagged organic soil options will vary depending on where you live. If you can, get top-of-the-line stuff – it is going to be more pre-amended for you.
Examples of popular cannabis soil brands to keep an eye out for are Roots Organics products, Fox Farm’s Ocean Forest/Happy Frog, or Recipe 420 by E.B. Stone. Even some of the Kellogg or G&B Organics could work well, especially when premium compost is added. Check to see if there are any hydroponic stores or “grow shops” in your area. Those stores cater to cannabis growers, and are more likely to carry premium bagged soils over the stuff at big box nursery centers.
Now that you have a soil choice in mind, what are you going to put it in?
CONTAINERS FOR GROWING CANNABIS
We prefer to grow our cannabis in grow bags, and I’ll explain why below. If you want to stick your plants in garden beds or right in the ground, be my guest! This is just what works for us. Check out how to build a durable and deep raised garden bed here.
Benefits of Grow Bags
The preferred container for growing cannabis for many people, ourselves included, is in large fabric grow bags. As opposed to a hard-sided container, they promote better aeration, drainage, and even moisture. Solid containers like 5-gallon buckets could be used, but have the tendency to be drier on top and soggy on the bottom. Grow bags also accomplish something called air-pruning. When the cannabis plant’s roots near the edge of the bag, the exposure to air naturally prunes them back. This is a way to keep the plant happy and healthy in its given container, naturally limiting itself and keeping the roots healthier. In contrast, a solid container allows the plants roots to continue to grow in circles around the container and themselves – becoming root bound. This is not a good thing.
Grow bags are great because they allow people to grow cannabis in a variety of living situations, be it on a patio, indoors, or in a greenhouse. By using a container, you have ultimate control over the soil you choose to fill it with.
Additionally, you can make them mobile! We make rolling dollies to sit all of our cannabis grow bags on, out of 2×6’s and heavy-duty casters. See the photos below. That way, we can easily roll or rotate the large (and heavy!) plants out of our way or into better sun as needed. If you do the same, make sure you get casters that are rated for at least 50 to 80 pounds of weight per wheel, minimum. Ours are 2″ and okay for the flat patio, but 3-inch wheels probably would have made it even easier to move.
Our DIY dollies with casters. Three redwood 2×6 boards are held together by a supporting 2×4″ in the opposite direction, screwed into each board. To catch runoff, we use large plant saucers. This one is 25-inches (top rim to rim) and can hold the 25-gallon grow bags that are 21″ at the bottom. Lava rock is sitting in the bottom of the saucer to keep the grow bag from sitting in standing water.
Grow Bag Brands and Sizes
The bags we prefer to use are the Smart Pot brand, or GeoPot. These are extremely durable and long-lasting. You get what you pay for. We have used cheaper grow bags in the past and they rip and degrade within a season or two of use. Smart Pots will last for years and years. We have bags that are three years old and still as good as new. Call me silly, but I also love being able to choose tan or brown colored bags. I like a pretty garden space and prefer the look of those to the stark black choices.
The size of your grow bag will dictate the size of your cannabis plant, and its health. Obviously, the size of your space will determine how big of bags you can use too. The smallest I would suggest for a traditional photoperiod plant is about 15 gallons. We generally use 20-gallon or 25-gallon bags for those big girls.
If you have a lot of room and want really large plants, you could go even larger! On the other hand, if you are growing autoflower cannabis plants, a 5-gallon or 7-gallon bag would work just fine. Not sure what the difference between a photoperiod and autoflower cannabis plant is? Check out this post that explains it all.
Okay, we have our soil and our bags… now on to the most important part of this post: the cannabis itself.
See how big they can get? Those are our Maui Wowie girls. Also note the DIY dolly below the grow bags. We can easily roll them aside when we want to enjoy our patio space, and put them more in the middle when we’re not outside.
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CANNABIS GROWING CONDITIONS
In most places, cannabis seeds are started indoors in March or April, and transplanted outside in April or May once the risk of frost has passed. Basically, cannabis seedlings need to be protected from freezing or other harsh conditions – just as any other seedling does! If you aren’t sure about your area’s frost dates, stop by this article. In it, I share veggie seed-starting calendars for every USDA hardiness zone. For cannabis, you can essentially follow the timing recommendations for tomatoes (but on the later end of the given windows).
Depending on the strains you are growing and your summer daylight hours, the average cannabis plant will continue to grow larger in size (in its vegetative state) until the days begin to shorten and it receives less than 12 hours of sunlight per day (e.g. after summer solstice). Then, it switches into its flowering stage and begins to develop buds. Most outdoor cannabis plants will be ready to harvest in September to October. The exception to this would be for autoflowers, which can start and finish their entire life cycle in as short as 3 months.
Starting cannabis from seed
We prefer to grow from seed. Once we obtain seeds, we treat them pretty much like any other garden seed! They’re germinated in 4” pots full of seedling start mix, inside on a heat mat. Keep the containers covered and moist until they sprout. Ideal germination temperature is around 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
After sprouting indoors, cannabis seedlings need strong bright light – such as that provided by a supplemental grow light. Unfortunately, a sunny window will not provide enough light, and the plants will get extra tall, weak, and leggy. Once our seeds pop indoors, we move the cannabis seedlings to our greenhouse for a few weeks before going fully outside. We also use lights for growing autoflowers in the off-season in the greenhouse. (See this article for more information about choosing and using grow lights.)
To read more in-depth information about how we start seeds, check out our seed starting 101 post!
Cannabis seedlings in our greenhouse, being treated just like the peppers, eggplants, and other garden plants!
Note that you do not need a greenhouse or fancy supplies to start cannabis! If you don’t have a heat mat, I suggest pre-soaking the seeds in non-chlorinated water overnight before planting. This will aid in germination. In lieu of seedling start mix and little pots, another option is to germinate the seed inside a moist root riot cube, then plant the whole cube in its final grow bag after it sprouts. If you aren’t equipped to raise seedlings indoors for several weeks, plan to start in late April to early May. Most locations will be adequately warm enough by then for the seedlings to go right outside after germination (or to sow seeds directly outside, if you wish).
Once they’re a few weeks old and the weather is right, we transplant our seedlings outside to their final large grow bag. When they are transplanted, we sprinkle some mycorrhizae in the planting hole and on any exposed roots. Mycorrhizae enhances nutrient uptake, and disease and drought resistance. If you did have your seedlings indoors under lights for a few weeks, don’t forget to properly harden them off before moving them outside! This helps to strengthen them and prevent transplant shock.
If you are growing from clones instead (such as those you purchase at a local dispensary, or obtain from a friend), you can skip straight to potting them into grow bags outside.
Some young cannabis plants, recently transplanted into their final large grow bags. The small support stakes will be replaced with larger ones as they grow.
Sun and Support
Full sun is best! If you have a wide open location that receives full sun all summer and into fall, you’re in luck. We have changing sun patterns, with some shade from our house and trees to contend with. That is the beauty of putting the grow bags on dollies – we can move them around to receive the most sun possible as the seasons change.
Provide support for the main stalk with a sturdy stake. As the plant gets larger and starts to put on bud weight, you may find the need to further support individual branches. This will depend on the strain. Some growers get crazy with their support and training systems! We start with a small stake for seedlings (shown above) and then swap it to a 5 or 6-foot tall stake as the plant matures.
In regards to water, the goal is to provide consistent, even moisture. Do not let the soil completely dry out between watering, but don’t drown it out either. As with many things, this will vary a lot depending on your climate. If you’re in a very hot and arid place, you will need to water more frequently than someone in a cooler coastal climate like ourselves.
As the plant grows and the root ball gets larger, it will drink water faster and therefore need more, and more often. I will write a follow up post about watering and fertilizing (which often go hand-in-hand) throughout the growing season soon.
If possible, use dechlorinated water. It isn’t a deal-breaker, but the plant and soil microbes will definitely appreciate it. If you are on city tap water, allowing a bucket of water to sit out overnight can help the chlorine dissipate. We mostly use our captured rainwater. Another option is to use a simple hose carbon filter to remove chlorine.
Mulch the top of your grow bag to maintain a healthy soil. We love using biodynamic accumulators that not only provide moisture retention, but will later break down into more nutrients and energy for the cannabis. Some examples of biodynamic accumulators are borage, comfrey, yarrow, and dandelion greens. Fava bean greens are also excellent for green mulching, since they’re nitrogen fixers! If you don’t have access to these types of plants, straw or hay will work.
I don’t know about you… but to me, that mulch is looking super sexy! Yarrow, comfrey, borage, lavender, dandelion greens, and straw.
Another popular mulch option is to use an organic cover crop seed mix, and lightly working it into the top inch of soil when you first plant your cannabis seedling. As it gets watered, cover crop will grow under the canopy of your plant. It becomes a living mulch, and also enhances your living soil food web. As it grows tall, you can “chop and drop” mulch with it. That is when you trim it and leave it in place to decompose as green mulch.
And just like that, you’ve given your cannabis a stellar start! You’ll be enjoying your own homegrown organic bud in no time.
Once you have your cannabis off to a strong start, come learn about the ways we routinely fertilize our plants! Also, how to keep the pests at bay:
- “How to Feed Cannabis, Organically: Top-Dressings, Teas & More”
- “Organic Cannabis Pest Control: How to Keep the Bugs Off Your Nugs”
Last by not least, when the time comes, here an article all about processing your cannabis: “How to Harvest, Dry, Trim, Cure, & Store Homegrown Cannabis: The Ultimate Guide”. When IS the time right to harvest? You’ll learn that here too. This guide is basically everything you need to know, from the best timing, temperature, humidity, methods, and more.
Once you have your homegrown goodies properly dried and cured, it is all ready to use: whether you like to smoke or vaporize your cannabis (read this important article on the subject), make cannabis-infused oil for edibles, homemade cannabis tinctures, or create healing topical salves. The options are endless!
I hope this all took some of the mystery out of growing cannabis for you. Please feel free to ask questions and pass this post along. To the left, of course. Wishing you the bet of luck with your growing adventure!