A s you may know, the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana across several states has enabled many consumers to become accustomed to purchasing cannabis from a dispensary. Even more intriguing though is the opportunity that legalization has created for adults and medical patients to cultivate cannabis in their own homes.
While the laws, limitations and regulations are different for each state, almost every state with some form of legalized marijuana does allow home cultivation to some extent. Even though it’s completely legal, some people do not take advantage of their right to grow cannabis due to the perception that it is too difficult, expensive or time-consuming.
Interesed in growing? Click here to purchase your own seeds and start growing today!
Don’t let the lack of ambition from others discourage you though. If done correctly, growing cannabis at home can be fun, simple and cost-effective! We believe everyone should have access to their own clean cannabis. That’s why we decided to bring you a comprehensive guide to growing marijuana, created specifically with beginner growers in mind.
With essential grow knowledge, you’ll learn the benefits and tips of different grow methods, how to maximize plant yields and grow times, the best harvesting, drying, curing methods and much more! Who’s ready to start their cannabis growing journey?
Part 1 – Understanding Marijuana Grow Mediums
Deep Water Culture Hydroponics
Before starting your cannabis grow, you must decide if you want an indoor growing system or an outdoor growing system. When it comes to indoor growing mediums, DWC, or deep water culture, is a type of hydroponic growing method where each plant’s roots are growing in a tub of water.
One of the main benefits of a DWC system is that it promotes faster growth. Unlike growing cannabis in soil, roots grown in DWC don’t need to expend energy to search for what the plant needs; nutrients are easily accessible by the roots.
Plants have an unlimited supply of oxygen because of added oxygen from the air stone in the reservoir. Since the plant is spending less energy finding what it needs to grow, it channels that energy to plant growth. In addition, with proper guidance and a quality set up, DWC takes less time to maintain than an average grow.
When implementing a DWC system, a bubbler bucket reservoir system is recommended.
A bubbler bucket reservoir is a simple system that suspends the plant’s roots in a highly oxygenated nutrient solution. The roots are submerged in the nutrient-water solution in the bucket and are then replenished, as needed.
The most important growing tip is to check on your cannabis plants daily. As with many processes, the easiest way to fix a problem is in the beginning stages! If something is wrong with your plant in a DWC system, your first step in remedying your plant should always be to change out the reservoir. It is common for root rot to occur when roots are consistently in water, therefore, it is imperative to establish a preventative routine of changing out the reservoir every seven days. Adding beneficial bacteria to the reservoir is also effective in avoiding and combating root rot.
When growing from seeds in DWC, use each reservoir port (or net cup) to vegetate, then pick the strongest looking females to continue growing.
Keeping air and water temperatures under control are also very important measures to take. Air temperature should be 75-85°F when the lights are on and will drop by 10 degrees when the lights are off. Water temperature should remain at a constant temperature at all times. Your empty portholes can be used to change out the reservoir water by using a pump, allowing you to easily inspect what’s going on inside.
A common mistake to avoid when growing with DWC is not checking the pH levels of the water. This is important for any grow! Dirty reservoirs or not using an aerator 24/7 are two additional crucial mistakes, as roots must have excessive oxygen so they don’t drown. While some people like to maintain a completely sterile reservoir with just nutrients and water and no traces of anything alive, there are some good sources of beneficial bacteria that can be added. Bad bacteria is obviously, bad, but we wanted to emphasize the possibility of bacteria that can benefit your grow. To avoid potentially harmful bacteria, be proactive about changing the reservoir water.
In addition, having too many plants in one reservoir can lead to problems such as white powdery mildew. Don’t cramp your plants, instead, we recommend growing one plant per reservoir to allow the roots to spread out and give the leaves and buds more space.
Setting up a water transfer pump for this task can speed up the process. For best results, learn how to flush your cannabis plants.
Flushing your plants by removing any nutrients and salts improves the quality and taste of your final product. By simply draining your bubbler bucket reservoir and adding plain (pH neutral) water for two-three days before harvest, the plant will use all its existing nutrients contained in the stems, leaves and buds.
Growing Cannabis with Coco Coir
Coco coir is another great growing method, especially for beginners. It provides the ease of soil gardening with the rapid growth of hydroponics by using fibrous coconut husks instead of a potting mix. Compared to just soil growing, it absorbs moisture much easier, allowing plants to take up more nutrients and retain oxygen more efficiently because of its lighter texture. It also provides a forgiving buffer by reducing shock stress when human errors are made, such as adding too many nutrients, a common mistake.
Coco is much easier to flush than DWC because you aren’t changing an entire water reservoir. In fact, watering coco coir is very versatile. You can use a flood and drain hydroponic system, which is when the nutrient system temporarily floods from beneath the plant, controlled by a pump and timer, instead of dripping from above like most hydroponic systems. You can also use the most recognized top water to waste system, which is simply taking a water pail and watering your plant until water comes out of the bottom of the pot.
When growing cannabis with coco, good quality coco coir makes an immense difference, especially regarding root development. For beginner growers, a three-to-one coco to perlite mixture is recommended as it requires less watering frequency and holds moisture and nutrients better.
For more experienced growers, a one-to-one coco to perlite ratio is recommended as you are able to water more frequently, giving the plant more nutrient uptake and allowing more aggressive root growth.
With coco, water around the outside of the pot in early stages of growth to encourage roots to reach out and fill up the entire container.
Some common mistakes can occur when growing with coco if a grower allows the coco to get too dry, as the mixture dries quickly. Not checking the pH of the nutrient-water solution and not flushing on a consistent basis are also critical errors, as you are using more nutrients with coco and the excess residual nutrients can cause common nutrient deficiency symptoms.
It’s also very important to use Cal-Mag, or Calcium and Magnesium, in your coco growing medium. Calcium plays a direct role in a plant’s root development, nutrient uptake and protein synthesis. Magnesium is an essential part of chlorophyll production, helping your plants with photosynthesis, as well as aiding in the synthesis of sugars and proteins. Together, the correct amount of magnesium and calcium will help keep your cannabis plant healthy.
Outdoor soil growing is a common gardening technique that most people with house plants or vegetable gardens are familiar with. Using techniques such as top-fed watering, deep irrigation or wicks are all viable methods to water your plants. You can either use organic, composted soil, or store-bought soil with added liquid nutrients.
To make organic soil, you need a mixture of biolive, alfalfa meal, oyster shell for calcium, blood meal and bone meal, humic acid to keep the roots clean, and kelp. With store bought soil, use organic nutrients and start adding them about three weeks into the vegetative stage. With synthetic nutrients, you must flush them out regularly. Flood the soil with as much fresh water as it can withstand and leave it for a few minutes to allow the nutrients to be picked up, then flood it again to get the nutrients away from the plant.
Always remember, less is more with non-organic nutrients. If you are adding nutrients, a good rule-of-thumb is to add them about once a week.
A benefit to outdoor soil growing is that if you have a good base-soil built up, it’s not necessary to add nutrients throughout the plant’s life cycle. That means less work for you! It is also likely that the smell and flavor profiles of your buds will increase as well.
A common mistake when growing outdoors is overwatering. Wait to water your plants until the first three inches or so, or about knuckle depth, of soil is dry. You can gauge your soil by pulling the container it is in slightly outwards. Not checking the pH after mixing nutrients, or using nutrients too frequently are also common mistakes that you’ll want to avoid.
Don’t use miracle grow or other similar slow release soils. Your plants will not get the correct amount of nitrogen needed during vegetation and they will receive too much nitrogen during flowering.
Part 2: Learning Cannabis Grow and Plant Maintenance Techniques
Growers have recorded a plethora of marijuana growing techniques over the years to ensure you make the most of your crop. If you want to maximize yield and maximize the amount of light your cannabis plant receives, it is important to practice bending and securing parts of the plant, or removing parts of the plant altogether. While there are many different methods, it is important to note which ones will be the most sustainable for your growing medium.
Bending & Securing Your Cannabis Plants
Screen of Green (ScrOG)
One technique for bending and securing parts of marijuana plants is ScrOG, or Screen of Green. ScrOG is perfect for an indoor grower who is only growing a small number of plants. In places like Colorado, for example, this method is ideal as the legal growing limit is three flowering plants at a time.
ScrOG is designed to optimize the energy from a light by creating an even canopy space where bottom growth of the plant is forced upward to form a flat canopy. By spreading out the canopy and growing the plant horizontally until a few weeks into the flowering stage, more main cola budding sites will take place. The canopy of one plant can be grown as large as a four-foot canopy.
New to growing cannabis? Don’t worry, our beginner’s guide to growing marijuana will help you through the process. From seed to harvest, we have you covered with tips, tricks and step-by-step procedures.
7 Tips to Improve Cannabis Bud Quality
by Nebula Haze & Sirius Fourside
Table of Contents
- Start with Top-Shelf Genetics – get the effects and appearance you want! Your grow skill makes a huge difference, but a plant can’t overcome its genes! If you want buds that are potent, dense, sparkly or purple/pink, you need the right genetics.
- Give Your Cannabis Lots of Light! – this increases yields, density and potency
- Nutrients & Supplements – learn about smell enhancers, bloom boosters and bulk builders!
- Better Taste, Better Smell – learn other techniques to increase terpene content so buds taste and smell better
- Manipulate Temperature & Humidity in the flowering stage to increase resin production (“glitter” and stickiness), bring out colors like pink or purple & prevent smells from burning away
- Great Air Flow Around Every Cola – you can gain surprising increases in the size and density of your buds by making sure that every cola gets lots of direct light and good air flow from the beginning to the end of the flowering stage. Cannabis is wind-pollinated in the wild and so more energy is put into buds that have been exposed to a breeze from when they first started forming.
- Master the Basics of Growing – especially harvesting, trimming and drying/curing! Although a lot of growers don’t pay as much attention to what happens to plants after harvest as during the grow itself, these 3 post-harvest factors determine almost 50% of your final bud appearance. Properly drying/curing also intensifies smell and increases bud potency!
Have you ever had weed that knocks your socks off? The kind of cannabis buds that people brag/warn their friends about?
I’m talking about the really really good stuff!
The truth is, you can successfully grow cannabis with very little effort, make a ton of mistakes, and still harvest buds that will do the job.
But have you ever wondered how people grow truly top-shelf buds? The kind of bud that beats the marijuana you get in a dispensary?
If so, you’re in luck, because today I’m going to teach you 7 tips to consistently growing top-tier quality cannabis buds with effects that will stick in your memory for years to come. Plus, I’ll teach you how to make your cannabis look pretty!
1.) Start with Top-Shelf Genetics
It’s really tough to get truly top-shelf buds if you start with mid-grade seeds, clones, or the dreaded bagseed; you’re giving yourself a much higher chance of disappointment because no growing method can overcome genetics!
These buds were both grown in the exact same setup at the same time, but have different genetics. Look how differently the buds turned out! Choosing the right strain lets you choose the looks and effects you want!
When I first started growing, I would grow any seeds I could find. These would usually grow pretty well but the resulting weed never ended up being as good as the buds I found them in. And sometimes the buds would be airy and not-that-potent.
After a few attempts at growing bagseed, I tried buying marijuana clones from the local dispensary with crazy strain names like “Super Grand Daddy Purple” and “Grapefruit Bubblegum Kush,” but my yields and results still left a lot to be desired. It’s not that there’s any inherent problem with clones – clones are awesome! – but I got a feeling these plants weren’t really the strains the dispensary claimed them to be. I didn’t have any grower friends at the time and I thought bag seed and local clones were my best choices.
Until I discovered online seed banks.
Ever since I started buying seeds from a reputable cannabis seed bank and getting my chosen strains shipped to me, I have been able to consistently produce high-quality buds!
Getting your genetics from a reputable breeder is key to producing gorgeous and potent buds!
If you want to grow buds that are pink or purple, you must choose the right genetics!
Just switching to better seed stock caused a dramatic increase in my yields without any other changes. But even more importantly, the quality of my harvests drastically improved. Not to mention the freedom of being able to choose which strain you want to grow instead of hoping to find a good seed in your buds!
Clones are still a great way to start a grow with good genetics, but you have to make sure you always get clones from a trustworthy source!
If you want to take your quality to the next level, don’t start with just any clones or seeds. Search for the right, true quality genetics and don’t be afraid to research to make sure you’re getting exactly what you want! Good seeds cost more than bagseed, but the money you pay for quality is worth it, especially when you consider what you’re getting in return!
2.) Give Your Cannabis Lots of Light!
If you want great bud, you have to provide plenty of light!
When you start a grow with good genetics – from good seeds or clones – your plant has the potential for a high level of quality (yields, potency, resilience). However, it’s nearly impossible to get your buds to reach that potential if you use lights that are underpowered.
Powerful grow lights like HPS, LECs or LEDs produce the biggest and most dense buds
For example, there’s no amount of plant training or growing skill that can make up for the amount of light produced by an incandescent bulb; the bulb simply doesn’t have what it takes to do the job.
Similarly, growers can have the same problem when they try to grow a larger plant with a few small CFLs or T5s. Although CFLs and T5s make great growing lights and produce a high-quality product, it’s important to pick the right tool for the job. These two types of lights are better at stealth, discretion, and smaller grows than producing lots of super potent bud.
Strong, bright light is what powers the growth of buds in the flowering stage – light is like “food” for your plants!
When it comes to indoor cannabis gardening, more light is better…to an extent. If you give your flowering cannabis plants all the light they can handle without giving them too much, it increases your potency, density and yields.
Strong, bright light is a crucial part of reaching a strain’s full potential!
Strong light is incredibly important for the highest bud density, potency and yields!
3.) Nutrients & Supplements to Increase Bud Quality
First, before adding any special supplements, you need to make sure you’re giving your plant the correct base nutrients in the flowering stage.
Base Nutrients in the Flowering Stage
- Low Nitrogen (N) – Give your plant relatively low levels of Nitrogen, especially in the second half of the flowering stage when the plant has stopped growing vegetatively and buds are fattening up. The plant needs a lot of Nitrogen for vegetative growth but doesn’t need nearly as much for making buds. In fact, too much nitrogen in the ripening stage can discourage bud production and hurt your yields.
- Plenty of Phosphorus (P) – Phosphorus is incredibly important to flower production and giving plants plenty of Phosphorus in the flowering stage will help increase the total number of flowers
- Potassium (K) – Potassium is often overlooked compared to Phosphorus (which is often considered a bud booster) but Potassium may actually be even more important! Providing a good source of Potassium increases the size and density of each individual flower.
In general, when it comes to feeding nutrients in the second half of the flowering stage, less is more! Keeping nutrient levels low can also improve the taste of your final buds because high nutrient levels are associated with a chemical taste to the buds.
Giving cannabis the right ratios of nutrients during the flowering stage will greatly increase the quality of your bud!
Supplements in the Flowering Stage
Supplements in the flowering stage come in many different flavors, and they have different goals or purposes
- Sugar or carbohydrates – improve taste/smell and increase bulk. Some of these, like the Botanicare Sweet Carbo Line, not only include sugar, but also certain terpenes and esters that are stored unchanged in plant buds, giving your buds unique subtle flavors like grape, citrus, berry, and “raw” (which is just a generally sweet smell).
- “Bloom Enhancers” – These offer a variety of non-nutrient ingredients that may help the plant grow better or more efficiently in some way by improving processes or providing the plant with amino acids and humic acids, so the plant doesn’t have to make everything itself.
- PK Boosters & “Shooting Powders” – With this type of supplement, the main ingredients are just Phosphorus and Potassium because they are important for flowering. These also sometimes contain some amount of sulfur. In general, use these sparingly as they’re usually very potent! And don’t forget that every quality base Bloom nutrient should already contain plenty of P and K.
Often, bloom supplements will include a mix of some or even all of these types of ingredients! It can definitely get a little confusing so I’ll try to break it down a little 🙂
Sugar or Carbohydrates
A cheap alternative to expensive sugar-based bloom boosting supplements is blackstrap molasses. Giving this to your plants for the last few weeks before harvest can help them get bigger and smell/taste better. It’s not specially made for plants; it’s the regular stuff you’ll find in your kitchen or at the grocery store. Blackstrap molasses adds sugars, amino acids and trace minerals. Unfortunately for hydro growers, anything organic like molasses is not suitable for a hydroponic reservoir! But molasses works great for soil and coco growers 🙂
For last 2-3 weeks before harvest, give 1/2 tsp of Blackstrap Molasses per gallon when watering (for soil or coco coir)
For those who prefer something in a bottle, I’m really intrigued by Botanicare’s Sweet Carbo line. According to Botanicare:
The natural esters in Sweet are easily absorbed by the plant, but are not broken down further once deposited within the plant tissue. This means that as new flowers develop they will contain small amounts of these natural esters which contribute to the overall flavor and aroma of the finished product.
They offer flavors such as grape, citrus, berry, and “raw” (which is just a generally sweet smell). These should be used throughout the flowering stage to help build smell/flavor in the buds as they mature. However, since these contain a small but significant amount of magnesium, they should not be used while flushing during last 2-3 weeks before harvest. At this point, the smells have already been deposited into the buds. Another cool thing about these supplements is they contain amino acids and some other enhancers, so it’s kind of like getting a lot of different products at once.
Other growers who’ve tried the “raw” version have said they can definitely notice an increase in the amount of “sweet” smell in their buds and it’s made me curious/jealous. I plan to use Sweet Grape as my primary supplement for the flowering stage in a future grow; I’ll report back whether buds actually smell like grape, sweet or plain ol’ cannabis 🙂
The jury is still out and which is the most effective supplement, but many growers are happy with bloom promoting supplements that include sources of…
- amino acids
- humic acids
- trace minerals
I personally don’t use this type of supplement so I can’t recommend a particular one, but some of the most popular cannabis supplements based on this type of formula include…
- Floralicious Plus (by General Hydroponics)
- Liquid Karma (by Botanicare)
- Diamond Black (by General Organics)
Note: These are only for soil or coco coir! (Since these supplements contain a lot of organic materials like guano and fishmeal, they are not suitable to hydroponic reservoirs)
PK Boosters & “Shooting Powders”
The supplements listed above use ingredients that add only tiny amounts of base nutrients (NPK). This means that they have less of a chance of overwhelming your plant with too high levels of nutrients (which can be easy to do if you’re adding a lot of supplements!).
However, this last set of nutrients directly adds P and K. If you’re using a regular Bloom nutrient already, this can make it really easy to go overboard with P and K. Whenever using this type of nutrient, a tiny amount goes a really long way! Whenever possible, try to choose a supplement by the same company as your base nutrients – this will help prevent negative interactions between the nutrients and the supplements. In general…
- Phosphorus (P) increases number of flowers
- Potassium (K) increases weight/density of flowers
These sometimes also come with a small amount of Sulfur (S), and possibly other ingredients like amino acids, trace minerals and/or sugar like the supplements above.
Suitable for Hydro, Soil or Coco – Supplements to Increase Yields/Density with extra P & K
- Liquid Koolbloom (by General Hydroponics)
- Hydroplex (by Botanicare)
- Beastie Bloomz (by Fox Farms)
4.) Better Taste, Better Smell – Increase Terpene Content
The smell and scent of cannabis buds are produced by plant chemicals known as “terpenes” (also “terpenoids”, which are a class of terpenes).
Terpenes contribute to the flavors of many household spices (like cinnamon, rosemary, cloves and ginger) and help create the scent of most flowers.
The unique combination of terpenes and terpenoids produced in cannabis flowers (buds) cause most of their taste and smell as well.
There are a variety of ways to increase the terpene content of your buds so you produce cannabis that tastes and smells great, and there are also a couple of common mistakes you should know about that can actually ruin the taste and smell of your buds.
5.) Maintain Proper Temperature and Humidity
Maintain daytime temperatures around 65-80°F (18-26°C) in the flowering stage unless you’re using CO2 which does best at around 80-90°F (26°-32°C). However, even if you’re using CO2, most growers recommend you back off and bring the temps down to 65-80°F for the last two weeks before harvest.
Night temperatures should be kept around 68-75°F (20°-24°C) for most strains. Too-cool temps increase the chances of bud rot, which thrives in the 60°F (15°C) range, and freezing temperatures can actually damage or even kill your plants.
However, if you’re growing a strain that turns color, keep in mind that some of these strains will only show their color when night temperatures are at least a few degrees cooler than during the day in the flowering stage.
Some strains need slightly cooler night temperatures before their buds will turn colors. For example the buds of this Auto Frisian Dew turned bright purple after it started getting below 70°F (21°C) temperatures at night.
Humidity stumps a lot of new growers and causes several unexpected problems.
Maintaining higher humidity during the vegetative stage will reduce salt levels within the plant while encouraging healthy and lush growth.
During the vegetative stage, if humidity drops below 40%, especially anywhere below 25%, it can cause problems that look like nutrient deficiencies or light/heat stress!
But in these cases, just adding a little moisture to the air does wonders, even if you don’t change anything else.
During the flowering stage, your cannabis plants actually prefers less humidity!
Decreasing moisture in the air (lowering the humidity) during the flowering stage helps prevent mold and actually may increase trichome production in your buds! For best results, keep humidity 40%-50% during the flowering stage.
Lower humidity levels in the flowering stage helps promote trichome production, which increases the amount of “glitter” you see on buds
“But I’ve never worried about humidity and my plants are fine…”
The truth is, you can successfully grow your marijuana plants in high or low humidity, even if growth isn’t perfect. This is the primary reason why many growers – especially new ones – forget about humidity altogether.
New growers also tend to hastily spend money on CO2, supplements or expensive nutrients when controlling the humidity in their setup could make a much bigger difference in their final product.
So if you’ve realized that your humidity is far higher or lower than what’s recommended, you may be able to make a simple, relatively cheap change to dramatically improve the vibrancy of your plants.
For growers in really dry or humid areas, it can make a big difference to buy a humidifier/dehumidifier and make sure they’re always providing the optimum humidity levels.
And there’s one more insider trick you need to know about humidity: So you know you need to keep humidity in 40-50%RH range for the flowering stage, but there is one extra trick… Use a dehumidifier to drop the humidity down as low as you possibly can for the last 2-3 weeks of flowering (I’ve gotten the humidity as low as 25%).
This extreme dryness will encourage the buds to seal and protect themselves with additional resin (in other words, a sparkling outer layer of THC-heavy trichomes).
As an added bonus, this trick also gets your buds prepped for a successful, mold-free drying process because your buds have already given up some of their moisture.
6.) Make Sure Grow Room has Strong Air Flow & Good Ventilation
This is yet another factor having to do with air quality (we already listed temperature and humidity).
Over time, any grower (especially indoor growers) will see that great air quality is a big contributor to star-quality buds. Air flow and ventilation are essential if you want to create perfect air quality.
For 1-3 plants smaller to mid-sized plants, you’ll probably be fine with an oscillating fan or two. With a big grow and hot lights, you’ll need a better exhaust system to ensure proper airflow, but it can be easy to set up!
7.) Master the Basics – Especially Drying & Curing
You probably know that in order to get the best results, your plants need to make it through the majority of their lifecycle without major problems.
But although your growing methods are incredibly important, one of the most important things to focus on is when you harvest, as well as the process of drying/curing your buds after harvest.
In fact, the things you do during and after harvest, including drying/curing, makes up almost 50% of your final bud appearance!
Drying/curing the right way will make buds smell better, look better, be more dense, and buds will actually feel more potent!
If you haven’t really been paying attention during the drying/curing part of your grow, you should focus here for the greatest gains in quality!
Drying buds slowly and then curing them in glass mason jars for 2-4+ weeks helps “tighten up” buds so they are more dense. Curing also intensifies smell and increases potency!
What else to pay attention to during the grow?
A lot of mistakes that won’t kill your plant (like nutrient burn, nutrient deficiencies, and heat stress) can often still damage the overall appearance of your buds, especially big problems that happen after the beginning of the flowering stage while buds are in the process of forming.
More importantly, too many problems during the flowering stage can reduce the maximum potency your plant can achieve!
So in order to get the best yields along with beautiful buds that sparkle in the light, you need to gain a complete understanding of the basics of growing. It’s also important to provide your plants with a good growing environment.
But if you were to focus on just ONE thing to improve with your grow, the factor that makes the biggest difference to your quality (besides the strain) is the drying and curing process.
To Sum it Up:
Learn everything you can, start with good genetics and create the perfect growing environment to produce the best buds!
Ever wondered how to grow your own "top-shelf" buds like the ones you get from a dispensary? Learn 7 insider tips to producing your own frosty, medical-quality buds!