Have you ever thought about growing cannabis and worried that you just don’t have enough advice? Are you growing now and feel like you could do with a little extra guidance from people that have been where you are before? When I started growing cannabis, I did!
1. Growing Cannabis Outdoors isn’t Hard
You can actually grow some decent weed outside in most places during the summer, providing you start at the right time of the year and you give it the proper care and attention. You don’t need to be living in the tropics or the Caribbean, California or India to grow the best quality outdoor cannabis. Outdoor-grown buds or even those grown in a greenhouse or polytunnel can be of some of the highest quality produce.
Genetics will play a factor in what strains are suitable to grow in the particular region and climate you live in, but the great thing about cannabis is that there are people breeding seeds all over the world. We have a fantastic selection you can search through to find something agreeable that will survive and thrive in your part of the world, northern or southern hemisphere. Some breeders like Ace Seeds have been making super hybrids of landrace strains and provide essential information on where these are best suited for outside growth.
Basically, don’t get hung up on the idea you have to grow indoors. Check out our blog on force flowering to get an outdoor harvest finished earlier than nature intended.
2. Keep a Grow Diary
Keeping a diary of each grow will speed up your learning process. So many friends and pupils of mine have made the same mistake, thinking they are doing the same as they did last grow, only to discover that they must have missed something. Our memories can be deceptive at times, and you may think you recall everything you did four months ago, but until you have honestly been doing it for a few years, it won’t be ingrained in your memory. If you didn’t take notes of all the variables, temperature, humidity, changes in feed, at what stage and when then the chances are that you will have a few hiccups as a novice.
It’s much easier to avoid these hiccups by keeping notes and a diary. Observe changes and reactions of the plant. Levels of pH in the runoff, how much feed you give them, and when. This data can help you reflect and improve on your work grow by grow. This is particularly handy if you are trying to dial in one specific strain.
3. Be Humble
You might not be as good as you think – you just haven’t seen the competition. Having been growing for a decade and having judged over a dozen cannabis cups worldwide, it’s safe to say some people think they are better than they are. I did at one point, and it wasn’t until I saw just what other growers were achieving in their space that I knew I needed to improve my methods and knowledge around growing.
Always be humble, you may know a lot, but you absolutely cannot know everything. The wonderful part about growing the cannabis plant is that there is so much to learn! New strains can create new challenges. Learning to grow one strain until you know it inside out and then try something new and different is a fun and honest way to hone your skills. Chopping and changing strain every grow cycle can leave you puzzled when something doesn’t work with one strain that worked on another. So much time, so many strains. So many growers to compare notes and techniques with.
4. Growing from Bag Seed can be Risky
It’s incredibly exciting. You break open some bud you’ve bought, and there is a seed sitting there. A free prize! Whilst this may be the next Cheese, Chemdog or Wedding Cake, it may also be a disaster of a ‘hermie‘ – a flower that produces both male and female sex organs. The result is often lots of seeds, which will also be hermaphroditic and not produce active ingredients very much to enjoy the fruits of your labour.
It is better to purchase some seeds that have purposefully been produced as feminised or regular seeds with stable mother and father plants to ensure good fertile seeds. When you find something you like, you can learn to take cuts from it and keep it around – or learn to make your own seeds from them. You may even be selling them here one day!? The danger of just trying that one bag seed in a room with your main crop in could lead you to accidentally pollinate everything if the bag seed is indeed a hermie or just a straight-up male. If you do this, keep your eyes on every bud site every day for little bananas – they’re going to release pollen.
5. Check your pH Daily
If your pH is off, your plants will stop feeding. It’s pretty simple. We want our plants constantly feeding during the ‘lights on’ phase to ensure maximum health, yield and potency. Cutting corners only cuts the quality of your results.
Making sure you spend the right money for your probes is worth it. It saves a whole lot of headache, heartache and wasted time. Learn to use them correctly, treat them with respect, and they will reward you with an improved bud that is noticeably higher quality in looks, smell and effect. Often when the pH is off throughout flowering, the bud never fully nature’s and doesn’t have the same level of medical impact that the strain can deliver.
6. Learn About Vapour Pressure Deficit
Learning about Vapour Pressure Deficit (VPD) will help you understand the relationship between humidity and temperature. For years I was told, “keep your temperature between this and that, and your humidity between here and there, and that’s good enough.” Yeah, it is good enough…but why do good enough when you can do dialled in?
A few quick searches will arrive at a bunch of charts with humidity along the bottom and temperature up the side. Along the middle is a sweet spot. Either side of this is acceptable and outside of that is pointless. Basically, it’s a great tool to help you make sure that no matter your temperature or humidity, you can adjust the other to arrive at the same goal to get the same results. Better to have two tools to play with than just one. You need to make sure your plant is not transpiring faster than it can feed, or you will get dehydration. If there is too much humidity, the plant will also shut down and become susceptible to pathogens and rot.
7. Feed Your Plants in the Morning
Feed your plants at the start of the day – never before the lights go out. If you waited until the end of the day to feed yourself, you might not get the energy you need to complete your biological functions to the best of your ability – or at all. Now, plants can’t feed themselves in a tent, so we need to do that for them in the artificial environment we have created.
Going in at the end of the day before their lights go off will leave them sitting soggy rooted overnight. Overnight the plants like to take up oxygen from the roots. They can’t do that if they’re drowning. Plants do actually sleep and wake up. When they wake up, they want breakfast. In veg, it’s nicer to feed them as soon as lights come on, but in flower, it’s nice to wait a couple of hours to help initiate the need to flower.
8. Don’t Neglect Your Plants – be Very Attentive!
One week in a plant’s life in flower is like a decade of your own. One day is, therefore, over a year. Thinking, “oh, it will be alright for one more night”, could cost you the greatness you’ve been striving for. Think of your plant as a pet. You cannot leave your pet to fend for itself. If you’re growing indoors and you’re paying for electricity and water, the last thing you want is to think you can just forget about it for a few more days. If the plant starts wilting, you’ve only got a matter of time before secondary wilting comes in and says goodbye to all that effort.
In a world that’s ever-increasing awareness of climate impact, let’s not burn through all that energy just to kill some plants. Yeah, you’re going to chop them down at the end – but get something out of it other than heartache! Don’t neglect them!
9. Invest in Dripper Systems
Dripper systems could save you a lot of time and worry. It’s not that hard to water once a day, but if you give the plant the same amount as that one drink in the morning, as little trickles through the day, you’ll finish the grow cycle with a larger yield and most likely bigger, fatter, fuller buds. Again, just like we don’t eat one meal in the morning and then forget about our energy needs until tomorrow, plants like to pace their feeds throughout the day.
This has most recently been termed “crop steering”, and consultants charge thousands of dollars to grow facilities to essentially teach cannabis growers how to feed plants like tomato farmers who learned this back in the 1990s. It can require some maintenance of the piping and dripper heads, but for the overall time, it gives back to you from hand watering to focus on the rest of the plant health and growth you’ll be happy you did.
10. Use Microbes
Using microbes is the way forward. Our increasing understanding of the symbiotic relationships between roots, growing medium and microbial additives, and inoculants have only aided to push the cannabis growers capabilities into the stratosphere. Stickier, more resinous produce with a greater terpene content is now available thanks to the introduction of organic microbes and fungi into the soil and soilless growing systems.
They allow the plant to take advantage of the breaking down of organic material in the growing medium as the plant grows through its different stages and not just rely on N, P and K to deliver the complete plant nutrient requirements. If you’re all about that terp life and like complex flowers and oils, check out our blog on microbe use here.
Extra tip: If you ask for Someone’s Advice and Don’t Take it – Don’t Blame Them!
The worst thing to hear when someone asks for your advice is, “but I just changed this one thing”, and then a month later, “I tried that thing you said, and it didn’t work”, when they actually changed what you told them on “novice logic”. It’s a guaranteed way to make sure the person doesn’t offer you advice again! If you are being guided by someone who you respect the work of – trust in their process.
If you do what they say and it doesn’t work out, then you have cause for complaint. Chances are, your lack of experience isn’t allowing you to see the full picture. Remember, you asked for help because you liked what they do/have. Patience is a virtue here. There’s plenty of time to improve and try new things. You don’t have to try it all at once. Some techniques conflict. Others are complimentary.
Don’t forget, we’ve got an active and helpful Discord community as well as a large Facebook group full of both experts and newbies. If you’re just getting started, or want to help others along their journey, please join us.