Successful cannabis cultivation requires prolonged practice and a certain level expertise. But rest assured, most growers didn’t start out as experts. Indeed, it takes a lot of trial and error to perfect your cultivation style. If you’re new to the process or plan to experiment with your first small grow op, a few general guidelines can increase your chances for maximum life span and yield results of your precious plants.
Seed To Soil
First off, let’s start by focusing on seeds. (Check out this story for more information on seeds vs. clones.) Seeds likely to germinate will be dry, dense and brown in color. Be sure not to overwater, and keep grow spaces clean, dry, and at the humidity sweet spot. This will help to prevent disease, pests and mold from breeding. To assess your progress, roots should be white in color with a firm, dense structure.
Soil — and soilless grow medium — comes in various forms, but seeds should start in simple potting soil to prevent excess nutrient intake during early stages of development. Soil type should be determined based on grow conditions and environment. Rich soils suitable for growing tomatoes are a solid base, as cannabis tends to thrive in similar mixtures.
Set-Up For Your Soil
To start, seeds should be planted in a 1×1-inch cube. Once the roots establish a solid foundation within the soil, plants should be moved to a 4×4-inch pot, before being transferred to gallon-sized containers as they outgrow each pot.
Which Pot To Choose — Plastic, Ceramic Or Fabric?
The choice between fabric, plastic or ceramic containers comes down to personal preference. A plastic pot is inexpensive and offers a solid structure that’s easy to aerate (just punch more holes in it), while transplanting is a relatively uncomplicated affair. However, plastic pots won’t offer protection to your root zone if the temperature fluctuates, are likely to crack over time, and may cause airflow issues, depending on the type of grow medium you’re using.
Ceramic or terracotta pots absorb moisture well, and moderate higher temps on hot days. Also, because these containers are heavy and cumbersome, ceramic pots are less likely to topple over and break. On the downside, these sorts of pots offer less than ideal drainage, and drilling additional holes in the structure can prove labor intensive. Also, because these pots are so heavy, you may need several pairs of hands to transport.
Fabric pots provide an optimal grow environment for thick and healthy root systems, and of course the airflow offered with these pots is unparalleled. Also, they provide excellent drainage.
Lighting Up Your Grow And Keeping It At A Comfortable Temp
For indoor grows, lights are a crucial element. Full-spectrum and LEDs are typically best, as plants thrive when exposed to a wide range of light wavelengths.
Maintaining optimal temperatures and controlling humidity are also important factors for longevity and bud growth.
Temperatures in your grow room affect the health, growth rate, size, quality and yield of your plants. For that reason, root-zone temps should be maintained around 68–75 degrees Fahrenheit, and should be about 5 degrees cooler than plant temp. The perfect temperature for your plants should be maintained between 72–82 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure optimal trichome production and plant growth.
Watering Your Cannabis Plants
H2O intake will continuously increase as the plant matures. The container should be thoroughly soaked each time with run-off. Water should sink into the soil, but not sit on the surface for much longer after watering.
Be sure to wait until the soil is fully dry before watering again. As a general rule, plants should be watered every two to three days; growers should take note of progress or signs of overwatering, which can include drooping, pale leaves that may appear to be burnt, or a powdery mildew forming on leaf surface.
Light Cycles & Plant Maintenance
Light cycles, watering and overall maintenance should be adjusted accordingly for plant types and phases. Read on for proper care methods pertaining to both stages of your plants’ growth cycle.
The Vegetative Stage
The first stage of the grow cycle will last approximately 2–8 weeks.
Cannabis should be watered closer to the root stock at first. As plants grow and develop, they should be watered more thoroughly around the base so that root tips can absorb water effectively.
Trellising can be done to add structure, shade and increased efficiency upon harvest. It’s important to note that sativas and indicas generally grow differently — sativas tend to be taller and lankier, while indicas usually appear short and stocky.
During this stage of plant growth, cannabis will require 13–24 hours of light. Temperatures should range between 68–77°F, with high humidity levels of between 60–70 percent.
The Flowering Stage
Flowering cycles typically last between 6–8 weeks.
When plants are ready to flower, light time should be adjusted to equal 12-hour cycles of light and darkness. Distance between lights and plant tops should be properly spaced to prevent burning and to preserve buds.
Temperature and humidity should be adjusted accordingly. Low humidity (30–40 percent) is ideal for bud development, and levels can be controlled efficiently using a dehumidifier. Temperature should range from low 60s to high 70s, and kept cooler in the dark cycle.