I have taught a countless number of growers over the years how to grow cannabis and the most common question that new growers ask me is, “What is the first step?” There is so much information to learn about growing cannabis and most new growers don’t know where to begin.
The first two steps to growing cannabis are – determine a proper area to grow cannabis and obtain reading material which explains the process to grow cannabis. There are far too many people who start growing cannabis without completing these first steps. As a result, they cost themselves incredible amounts of time and money and usually don’t even have a harvest to be able to show for it.
First, what’s a proper grow space? If you’re going to grow outdoors, you need about six months of warm weather ahead and a sunny secure location that you have the right to grow in. You also need a convenient water supply nearby and you’ll need to factor in that you’ll be going there regularly. For indoor growers, the right space is any clean, carpetless room with a couple of free electrical outlets. The room also must have a way to vent air out.
Airflow is very important for reasons that you’ll discover as you go along. Can you grow inside of a closet that has no ventilation? Yes, people have done it, but the quality of the final product will reflect that airflow problem. Finally, the indoor space must have a water supply. Once you have a space that works, it’s time for step two, studying.
The internet has all of the information you need to learn how to grow cannabis but it’s often disorganized and out of order. Forums dedicated to growing cannabis are only semi-reliable; some people on forums give advice when they haven’t even grown cannabis themselves. It’s often a recipe for disaster. My advice is get a good book to easily learn and reference everything you need.
As you read the book, make a list of equipment to buy on a piece of paper. One of the best books for beginners to learn how to grow cannabis is 7 Steps To Grow Cannabis by Mr. Grow It. Yes, written by me 😉. I wrote a book specifically for beginners with the goal that this one piece of reading material will walk someone who is new to growing cannabis through the entire growing process. This book will walk you through all the steps to grow cannabis – getting equipment, seeds, germination, vegetation stage, flower stage, harvest, and also covers the top plant problems to look out for. All with pictures and illustrations and all in just over a hundred pages. You can actually get through reading this book in just a couple days. For more information and to buy the book, click here.
The next book is a solid, very comprehensive guide with a lot more of the science and case studies included. The book is called, The Cannabis Grow Bible: The Definitive Guide to Growing Marijuana for Recreational and Medicinal Use by Greg Green. Be warned though that it gets technical very early on and may confuse a new grower. For years and several editions, this was the go-to book for growers. For more information and to buy the book, click here.
Once you’ve completed the first two steps, figuring out if you have a proper grow space and reading a good horticultural book, you will know what to do next. In fact, you’re going to have a whole To Do list on your hands. Now let’s move onto the life cycle of a cannabis plant.
The Life Cycle of a Cannabis Plant
If you decide to start growing cannabis, knowing the life cycle of a cannabis plant can be extremely helpful. In this section, I’m going to introduce you to the main phases of the life cycle of a cannabis plant. There are four phases – germination, seedling phase, vegetation phase, and flowering phase. Let’s start with the first and shortest phase – germination. This is the initial stage of growth and occurs when the seed’s embryo cracks open and the seedling produces a root. The best seeds tend to germinate quickly and develop long white roots. This phase is often over in 24 hours in optimum germination conditions but for some seeds, it can take several days.
Next, the seedling phase starts. The plant is now poking out of the ground after the embryonic leaves are receiving light and the plant begins to produce another small set of new leaves. These leaves actually look like cannabis leaves. Slowly, more sets of leaves start to appear from the center and before you know it, you have three sets of little branches on your plant. After that, more rapid foliage growth starts and it’s considered to be the end of the seedling phase. Then, vegetation phase gets underway.
The plant now begins to grow at a faster rate and fill out. During this stage, the plant still needs lots of hours of light and plenty of food. It will continue to grow upwards producing new leaves and it will also produce more fingers on every individual leaf. This is also the phase where gender can be determined with a magnifying lens.
Click here to learn how to determine if a cannabis plant is male or female
The vegetation phase is very flexible in terms of how long it is. It can be very short or it can be very long. How many weeks it lasts has a big impact on the final size of the plant. The longer the vegetation phase, the more the plant will grow during flowering.
The flowering phase is the last phase and it’s usually the longest and most exciting one. The plant gains most of its height and overall size during this period. Plant gender also becomes obvious without a magnifying lens. The biology of the plant is now either getting ready to pollinate (if it’s a male) or to be pollinated (if it’s a female). Towards the end of this phase, the pistils on the plant turn from white to brown. Signs of browning pistils indicate that the life cycle of the plant will soon come to its completion. The plant is then harvested, dried, trimmed, and cured before the buds are able to be smoked.
Species of Cannabis
Now let’s talk about classifying cannabis. People who are new to cannabis might think that cannabis is all one species with one variation that’s just being grown in different ways. In reality, cannabis is one of two things depending on how you want to look at it. It’s either one species with tons of different strains or cannabis is a genus with three distinct species that each have tons of strain variations. Those three species of cannabis are cannabis sativa, cannabis indica and cannabis ruderalis.
These three species have different cannabinoids, different terpene profiles, and will produce different effects when smoked. Let’s talk about each of them individually starting with cannabis sativa. Cannabis sativa is a species of cannabis originating out of Asia. They actually grow naturally in many countries that are close to the equator. Sativa generally is very tall with large, long narrow leaves. This type of cannabis produces a soaring, energetic, active high. Due to this, sativa is a great type of cannabis for daytime use.
The second species, cannabis indica, came out of Pakistan and India. Indica is more short, stubbly and have wider leaves than sativa. Since this type of plant is short and more controllable in regards to height, it is often grown by indoor growers. Indica strains have a heavy, couch-lock, narcotic kind of high. Almost all cannabis is not a genetically pure sativa or a pure indica. The overwhelming majority of cannabis is some kind a hybrid of both of them. It’s usually dominant sativa or dominant indica.
Now for the last and often overlooked third species – cannabis ruderalis. Several variations of ruderalis grow in Central North America right out in the open. They look very different from the stereotypical cannabis plant. They are very short, weedy, and have a lower THC content when comparing to photoperiod plants. Due to the fact that ruderalis plants do not rely on different light cycles, they have been used as a genetic tool to create autoflowering cannabis that flowers without changing a light cycle. It’s worth noting that other groups of cannabis have been separated from the pack over the years by various experts as potentially distinct species. For example, cannabis of afghanica or cannabis kafiristanica. Those variations are interesting but the majority view is that they are merely variations under one of the three species. As opposed to distinct species themselves.
There are the basics in regards to the different species of cannabis. Now that you have an understanding of the first steps of growing cannabis, the life cycle of a cannabis plant, and the different species of cannabis, you are ready to continue to the next section -> Seeds