Set Up & Supplies
Here's what you'll be doing in this section to get set up to start growing cannabis.
Pick Your Grow Space
Growing Indoors vs Outdoors
There are many considerations to take into account when deciding whether to grow your plant indoors or outdoors.
As someone who lives in the suburbs of a city, with many close neighbors and far away from any wilderness, I only grow weed indoors.
Most cannabis growers have an idea about whether they want to grow indoors or outside, but check this list of pros and cons to help if you’re still not sure
You have more control over everything in an indoor growing environment, which means that indoor growers can consistently produce dank buds, but you also have more responsibility. If you don't provide everything your plants need, they will die.
What indoor space works best?
You can grow cannabis most anywhere with easy access to water and fresh air...
* I believe grow tents are the best grow space for new cannabis growers. You simply need to decide how big a grow tent you should get for your space, and you’ve already given your plant so much that will improve their environment for better growth. Grow tents are cheap, effective, and will save you a lot of trouble. A quality grow tent is light proof, has reflective walls, contains built-in options to vent heat, a place to hang your lights, and waterproof floors for spills (so you never end up with water on your floor). A nice grow tent looks doesn’t always look like a grow tent to someone who doesn’t know what one looks like (I’ve had someone ask me if my grow tent was where I hung my clothes), but it contains many features that will help your cannabis plant thrive while reducing your work. It is often less expensive to get a quality grow tent than to try to make an effective grow space or grow box on your own.
Here's the same grow tent as above, but with cannabis plants inside:
When thinking about where to grow indoors, you should also consider the temperature of your grow space (and remember your temps will likely 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. The more powerful your lights, generally the more heat they give off.
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.
Growing cannabis outdoors is cheaper to get started outdoors since you probably don't have to get grow lights or create an indoor grow area, though you do have to worry about privacy/stealth, possible pollination, people stealing your plants, bugs, deer and other unexpected outdoor visitors.
If you pick the right strain and live in a good environment, it will likely be cheaper to grow outdoors, since you don't have to provide as much for your plants. The sun and mother nature will do a lot of the work for you.
And when you're growing outdoors, you can produce plants like this...
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 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.
Choose Growing Medium
Many new growers instantly think of growing their cannabis in soil.
Soil is the growing medium that most people are familiar with, and one of the most common growing methods, but it’s not the only one.
Common Cannabis Growing Mediums
You can successfully grow cannabis plants in soil and other sorts of non-soil (soil-less) mediums, or you could grow your plants directly in water or even in moist air!
Each growing medium that you use will have different care and watering requirements. I will talk about some of the different options to help you choose the growing medium that's right for your grow area and experience level.
The most important thing is to choose a growing medium that makes you excited!
Is it your first cannabis grow?
First Grow, Never Grown a Plant in Your Life
Recommended growing mediums (go with your instinct!)
If it’s your first cannabis grow, and you’ve never gardened or grown a plant, it’s okay. Maybe you have a “black thumb” and every plant you’ve ever grown has died.
That’s exactly how I was before I started growing. I managed to kill every plant that ever made it into my possession, even though I was trying my best. I somehow even managed to destroy other people’s plants, with accidental over or under-watering. Sometimes it seemed I just looked at a plant the wrong way and it would dry up and dry.
Even if you’ve never grown any plants before (like I hadn’t) you can still grow cannabis successfully. This website will teach you everything you need to know to breeze through your first harvest.
You already have what it takes to grow cannabis as long as you are willing to follow step-by-step instructions, like following a cannabis growing “recipe,”.
Cannabis plants are weeds in the wild. All your plants need is the right conditions, and they will grow and make beautiful flowers you can harvest and dry for your own unlimited supply of bud. .
As a grower, you can give your plants a better environment than they would ever get in the wild, and your plants will reward you with bountiful flowers.
The most important thing is to choose a growing medium that you feel excited about. Don’t be afraid to try the growing medium you really want, even if it seems like it may be too complicated! All growing mediums have their upsides and downsides, but they are all straightforward once you have the information you need to provide a perfect growing environment. Yes, even hydroponics!
First Grow, Already Have Soil or Gardening Experience
Recommended growing mediums (go with your instinct!)
If you’ve grown in soil before, hydroponics may not be something you like unless you’re really interested (in which case, we will guide you).
Generally, most growers who have grown in soil tend to go with soil or soilless. When growing in soil, the cannabis will get nutrients from the soil itself. You may also provide extra nutrients in your water. With coco coir, you always provide the nutrients in the water. Other than that, the two methods are similar to each other. Soil is known for better taste, while soilless (particularly coco coir) is known for faster growth, bigger yields, and great potency.
If You’ve Grown Cannabis Before, Consider Trying Something New!
Already know which cannabis growing medium you want?
Just stick the seed in the soil and go. Choose a great soil for growing cannabis and you’re ready to get started.
If you feel certain that you want to grow in soil, do it! Soil is a great way to grow cannabis and there are many different types of soil growing. For those who want something simple and quick to get started, you can use high-quality potting soil and use specially made soil nutrients to give your plants exactly what it needs until harvest. You could also compost your own super soil, which is a relatively advanced way of growing that can be intimidating for new growers who’ve never grown in soil.
Some growers claim growing cannabis in soil produces the best smelling and tasting buds.
General Guidelines for Good Cannabis Soil
Recommended Soil Brands
*About Fox Farms soil for growing cannabis: The Fox Farms company offers several different types of soil that contain different mixes. "Ocean Forest" soil works well by itself for the whole grow, but it may be a bit too strong for young seedlings and cause some light nutrient burn to young plants until they get a little bigger. After they’ve grown bigger, the plants will no longer experience nutrient burn from Ocean Forest. If this is not acceptable, it’s often recommended to mix Ocean Forest with one of the other, lighter soil mixes offered by Fox Farms. A great mix is their Ocean Forest soil mixed with half "Happy Frog" or "Light Warrior" plus about 30% perlite.
Get your nutrients, plant your seed, and start watering! Get the same experience as growing cannabis in soil with nutrients, except experience faster growth and bigger yields.
Soilless growing uses an inert medium like coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, etc to grow cannabis plants.
These growing mediums do not have any nutrients, instead you hand-water the plants just like you would in soil, and provide all the nutrients in the water. One of the downsides is there is less of a “buffer” with soilless growing mediums than with soil, which contains nutrients of its own.
Soilless growing is very much like growing in soil with added nutrients. It provides some of the benefits of both soilless and hydroponic growing. Many growers find soilless growing to be as intuitive as soil since both growing methods seem close to what we naturally observe in nature.
With specially made nutrients, the soilless growing experience can be just like growing in soil, but successful soilless growers will be rewarded with faster growth and bigger yields.
Some Possible Soilless Mediums for Cannabis
* Perlite is occasionally used by itself as a growing medium, but is most often mixed with something else for better drainage and increased oxygen to roots. Perlite usually looks like small white pebbles, but each piece weighs very little. It almost reminds me of popcorn. Perlite is made from a “puffed up” type of volcanic glass and cannot hold onto much water. Many growers mix perlite with their soilless mediums or soil to add air and drainage, and some growers use perlite as a wick for wick systems.
While it can be done, growing cannabis in just perlite is rare. It’s difficult to get perlite to hold enough water, and other growing mediums are much easier to use. But perlite
Make Your Own Soilless Mix for Cannabis
Here's a Seedling Growing in the Above Coco/Perlite Mix
Sometimes coco coir is already broken up to use ready directly for planting (bagged coco potting mixes include Canna Coco Coir). But most of the time coco coir comes in bricks. All coco coir should be rinsed well before you start your grow (though some packages states the coco has been washed and pH’ed). Brick coco especially needs to be rinsed well to remove extra salt. Bricks are usually much cheaper than the bagged coco coir because each brick is easier and lighter to transport - you add the water at home. Make sure to let a coco coir brick sit in water for at least an hour first - this way you know it’s fully expanded before you start rinsing.
Once you have expanded and thoroughly rinsed your coco coir, it should easily break into a consistency that is a bit like dark rich soil. At this point, mix your coco with perlite; use more perlite in a humid environment, less in a very dry environment. Once your coco and perlite are mixed you’re ready to go!
Coco coir has grown so popular as a growing medium for cannabis that now there are many brands of specialized nutrients for that exact combo.
What Container Should I Use to Hold My Growing Medium?
All containers for growing cannabis need to have drainage holes so water can drain out the bottom
Get a container that provides plenty of oxygen to the roots for faster growth
Recommended Containers for Growing Cannabis
Fabric Pots are Great Containers for Growing Cannabis
There are popular brands of fabric pots like "Smart Pot," but you can also make your own fabric pot at home. The great thing about these containers is they get more air and oxygen to the roots, which encourages faster growth.
Which Size Pot Should I Use?
When growing cannabis plants in a container, you have to choose the size of your pot.
A general guide is to have about 2 gallons per 12" of height. This isn't perfect, since plants often grow differently, but this is a good rule of thumb.
When in doubt, get a bigger final container size as opposed to a smaller one. Plants that get rootbound from being in a too-small container will grow more slowly and be prone to problems.
It's not good to transfer plants during the flowering/budding stage, so you want to have your cannabis plants in their final container at least 2 weeks before the beginning of flowering/budding.
Final Container for Desired Plant Size - General guide
Choose your setup, get your nutrients, and germinate your seed! Get ready for incredibly fast growth, great yields, and amazing potency.
If you want to grow hydroponically, don’t worry that it’s too complicated - once you set up the right environment, growing hydroponically is just as straightforward as growing in soil. And you will be rewarded with faster growth, bigger yields, and the amazing potency of hydroponically grown buds. Growers who have trouble with hydroponics are usually victims of being given the wrong information. With proper setup and maintenance information, which is usually simple and easy-to-follow, you’ll be able to happily harvest every plant and reap the rewards of hydroponic gardening.
Benefits of Growing Hydroponic Cannabis
One of the more common hydroponic grow setups for growing cannabis is known as a “DWC” or “deep water culture” system.
Here's a diagram showing how DWC works for growing hydroponic cannabis.
In DWC, the roots are located in a nutrient reservoir full of water. Oxygen is provided to the roots by bubbling air through the water with an air pump. There are lots of different variations of the DWC method, including top-fed DWC.
In all hydroponic methods done right…
Grow Lights (or Sun)
Light For Growing Cannabis: Do I Need Indoor Grow Lights?
If growing cannabis outdoors, the sun is generally all the light you need. Outdoor growersl need to make sure that the plants are in a sunny spot where they get plenty of sunlight throughout the whole day (8+ hours of sunlight a day for best results).
When growing outdoors, you will need to consider that nearly all cannabis plants need to be started (or put outside) in the spring and harvested in the fall.
If growing cannabis indoors, you will need to provide your plant with the light it needs to grow.
All Cannabis Grow Lights Need...
The most common types of indoor grow lights for cannabis are:
High Intensity Discharge (HID) lights
This class of grow lights includes High Pressure Sodium (HPS) and Metal Halide (MH) grow lights. Considered the "gold standard" for growing weed, these lights are powerful and proven to provide great yields. The bigger models use quite a bit of energy and produce heat that may need to be vented from your grow space, but the lower-wattage models of HID lights are much more manageable for the small indoor grower.
Two most common HID bulbs:
Pros of MH/HPS
Cons of MH/HPS
CFLs & Other Fluorescent Grow Lights
CFLs and other fluorescent lighting use a low amount of electricity and work perfectly for growing young cannabis plants or clones. These grow lights are often used during the vegetative stage, which is the first stage of life. Many growers switch to more powerful grow lights in the cannabis flowering stage because because fluorescent lights are usually not bright enough to produce big yields (cannabis needs a lot of light during the flowering stage to make buds).
However, CFLs and fluorescent lights like the T5 can grow cannabis plants from seed to harvest if plants are trained to grow short and bushy. When used in the flowering stage, these grow lights usually don’t yield as much as other types of grow lights, but they can be a great choice for someone looking to harvest just a few ounces at a time, especially those who don’t have a lot of height to work with!
Two most common fluorescent grow lights for cannabis:
Pros of CFLs & Fluorescent Grow Lights
Cons of CFLs & Fluorescent Grow Lights
I actually started growing indoors with CFLs in coco coir, and they served me well. I believe CFL grow lights are a great choice for a small hobby grower who just wants to harvest a few ounces at a time. They are also a great way to get introduced to growing cannabis without making a big investment or using a lot of space.
Here's a tutorial I wrote on how to grow cannabis with CFLs
LED Grow Lights
LED grow lights are a new type of grow light which claim to produce better quality buds and bigger yields, while using less electricity and producing less heat than other grow lights.
But are all the claims true? Some are, while other claims are misleading. Protect yourself and learn what you need to know about LED grow lights for growing cannabis.
Pros of LEDs
Cons of LEDs
I’ve used LED grow lights and been pleased with my results. The bud quality and smell from LED-grown bud is unique, and LEDs are a class of their own. That being said, I generally wouldn’t recommend that new growers get LEDs unless they’re willing to do a bit of research about how to use their lights to get the best results.
Always beware of scam LED sellers! You should always conduct research to determine the best LED grow light for your space. There are some crooked LED sellers, so it’s recommended you only purchase LED grow lights from a trusted seller who can answer questions and offer a guarantee on their lights
On Choosing Your Cannabis Grow Lights...
Each type of light system has their pros and cons, but you will need to find the one that fits your budget, grow area, and grow style.
Nutrients (if needed)
Getting cannabis-friendly nutrients is important if you plan to use nutrients during your grow. Some types of nutrients just don’t contain the right “stuff” for the best plant growth and bud development.
Cannabis nutrients are easy to use - just follow the directions, like a recipe
Unless you have composted your own cannabis super soil, you will most likely want to supplement your cannabis grow with nutrients to make sure plants are getting everything they need.
If you're growing in soil, you will want to get nutrients made for soil.
If you are growing in any medium besides soil, you will need to get hydroponic nutrients (nutrients specially formulated for hydroponic growing). Some popular soilless mixes for growing cannabis have special nutrients, for example there are many nutrient systems made specifically for growing cannabis in coco coir.
A marijuana-compatible nutrient system will contain everything your cannabis plant needs throughout the grow, and each of the systems I recommend on my cannabis nutrients page comes with a nutrient feeding chart that explains exactly how much nutrients to add at each stage, like a recipe you follow to water your plants.
Keep in mind that you should treat the nutrient feeding chart that comes with your nutrients as the maximum amount to provide to your plants. I recommend that cannabis growers who are using a new type of nutrient for the first time to start with a fraction (I usually start with half) of the recommended nutrient levels and work your way up only if you see signs of nutrient deficiencies.
Every nutrient schedule is considered a place to start, and to get the absolute best results, you may have to adjust the intensity (add more or less water) depending on what your plants tell you.
Some cannabis strains love high amounts of nutrients, while others are actually very sensitive and will do best with half the amount of nutrients as other strains. If you start at half strength, I recommend to only move up to a higher dose of nutrients if needed. Use as little nutrients as possible for each plant (without the plant showing nutrient deficiencies) to achieve the best taste in your harvested buds.
Because of this natural variation between plants, there's no one universal nutrient schedule that works for all strains, but most strains have very similar nutrient needs to each other.
Nutrients, continued: The Importance of Root pH
In order for your plants to be able to actually absorb the nutrients through their roots, they need the right pH of the root environment. This is especially important for any growers using liquid nutrients.
The easiest way to maintain proper pH is to test and adjust the pH of your water before you water your plants.
Some people may get lucky and successfully grow cannabis without testing the pH of their water, but many growers using liquid nutrients who don't test for pH will start seeing signs of nutrient deficiencies and other nutrient problems.
This is because the pH actually affects the form that nutrients take. Some forms are easier for the plant to absorb that others. So that means that even if the right amounts of nutrients are present, your plants just can't absorb them if the pH is not right.
Here's an Example of a pH Kit
You simply use a specially made pH kit to quickly test and and adjust the pH of your water. The results of paying attention to pH (bigger yields, more dense buds and healthy plants) speak for themselves.
A general rule of thumb is to keep a root pH that ranges from 6.0-7.0 for soil, and a pH between 5.5 - 6.5 for hydroponics. There’s no exact number you need to hit. A little bit of range is actually healthy, since different nutrients are absorbed better at different pHs.
What pH are you looking for when growing cannabis?
Soil: 6.0 - 7.0 pH
Hydroponics: 5.5 - 6.5 pH
Supplies Checklist - Are You Ready to Start Growing?
The following checklist is a quick summary of everything you’ve gone through so far. Before you start growing, make sure you’ve got everything from this checklist.
If growing outside you most likely are going to use soil. For indoor growers, by this point you’ve chosen your growing medium of the many options available to you.
You’ve chosen that nutrients (if any) you plan on using with your cannabis plants.
You’ve gotten your cannabis clones or ordered your seeds. Without any plants, growing cannabis is impossible!
That’s It! You’re ready to start growing!