Starting Your Own Mini Grow Operation (At Home)

Items you will need

  • Seeds or start with some from your last sack (but you never know what you’re going to get with those). Here is a discussion on Autoflower vs Photoperiod.
  • Growing medium- Soil (Fox Farms Ocean Forest is popular), Rockwool, Coco, Perlite, and Clay Pellets. Avoid anything that advertises “extended” or “slow” release nutrients in the soil or claims of multiple-months of nutrients.
  • Lights & a Light Timer
  • Ventilation
  • Nutrients – Fox Farms Trio, FloraNova, General Organics, Advanced Nutrients, and many others. Anything that claims “extended” or “slow” release is a bad idea for cannabis.
  • Pots with good drainage – Anything with holes in the bottom of it. Many people use black 5gal buckets, Smart Pots, or others.
  • pH Tester and/or PPM Tester for testing your water and nutrient mix.
  • Jeweler’s loupe or microscope for looking at trichomes

We also have several starter-kits put together here that can help you pick a light & tent appropriate for your grow area & # of plants.

Grow Area

Next, you need to determine where your grow will take place. Will it be your closet, attic, basement, custom grow box, etc.? The ideal place needs to be well ventilated and large enough to grow plants to your desired height and width whilst having lighting, fans, and other equipment in there as well. Also, keep in mind that you don’t want any light leaks, this is important for stealth and flowering reasons.

Once you have chosen your designated grow area, make sure you have thoroughly cleaned it, painted the walls white or hang reflective material. You do not want a dirty grow room.

Once you have prepared the room, you can now begin to install your lights and ventilation. Be sure that everything is sturdy and done properly. If you half ass this, it’s possible that later on in your grow something could fall and destroy your crop. Take your time and do it right.

Keep your lights close as you can. A simple test to see if they are too close is to place your hand at the top of your plant and hold it there for 30 seconds. If your hand does not burn from the heat, neither will the plant

Types of lighting to be used and how much to use:

  • HID(High Intensity Discharge) Lamps – 50-80w per sq ft needed
  • LED(Light-emitting Diode) Lighting – 50-80w per sq ft needed (actual watts not LED watts)
  • CFL(Compact Fluorescent) Bulbs – 80-100w+ per sq ft needed
  • T5 Fluorescent Lighting – 80-100W+ per sq ft needed
  • Lights not to use – Incandescent and anything not listed here as something to use.

Planting your first seeds

This is usually where a lot of mistakes take place, so please read this carefully.

There are several ways to germinate your seeds. Placing them inside a damp paper towel in a dark place), drop them in a shot glass. Or just simply planting them in dirt.

To germinate in dirt you want to start off in a small growing container. Wet the soil first, stick your pinky about half way down then drop 1 seed in. Cover the hole lightly, don’t compact the dirt too much. Now, place it under your lighting for 24 hours a day. It may take up to 10 days before it sprouts, so be patient. Seeds don’t always sprout, if it’s been 15 days and still no show you can probably call it quits and plant a new seed.

Once you have a sprouted seed, water as needed.

Vegetation Period

Soon, your plant will out root the small container it’s in You will need to transplant it into a much larger container. Prepare your new, large, drain-able pot. Take the container your plant is in, and gently bend the sides. What this does is break off any dirt or roots that are touching the inside walls. Now that you have done this, you can carefully and slowly turn the cup upside down and the contents of the cup will slide right out. You can break off some of the dirt, but do not let any of the roots be exposed to light. They will dry out and die. Quickly, place your plant into the new pot. Give it a nice watering and place it back into the grow room under 24-on/0-off hours of lighting (or 18/6). Your plant will probably not grow for a day or so, this is normal after transplanting.

It is important that you keep your plants under a strict 24/0 or 18/6 lighting schedule during the vegetation period. If they get too long a dark period they will begin to flower.

Watering and Nutrients and pH, oh my

Water your plant when the soil is dry. This is the #1 mistake new growers make – they water too often. Overwatering is not “giving the plant too much water” it is “giving the plant water too often.” There are two simple steps to watering cannabis:

  1. Wait until the soil is dry a knuckle or so deep (use your finger, poke a hole, feel the dirt).
  2. Add water until you see some drain out the bottom of your pot. Go to step 1.

Nutrients should be used carefully and correctly. Follow the dosing schedule provided by your nutrient line, but ramp up the amount slowly. It is not suggested you start with the full dosage right away, but something like 1/4, then 1/2, and so on. Furthermore, it is also not recommended to use nutrients with every watering. Most alternate or put two plain-water feedings in between a nutrient-water feeding.

pH testing is important as all the nutrients you are feeding your plant will only be absorbed by the roots under the proper conditions, and those proper conditions are dictated by the pH of the nutrient mix and the soil. Test your water before adding nutrients, test your nutrient mix, and test your run-off. You want the nutrient+soil mixture to be in the 6.3-6.8 range for soil. You want the nutrient mix to be in the 5.5-6.1 range for a hydroponic set up. Consult these charts for more information. You may need to obtain pH up or pH down products to regulate the water and/or nutrient mix to achieve the correct pH balance.

Training

There are many ways to train your plant to increase the yield. Use one or multiple of these techniques to create more tops/colas (budsites) or to promote stronger stalks and more vigorous nutrient uptake.

  • Low Stress Training aka LST – tying your plant down to expose more of the undergrowth to direct light, and thus promote more yield
  • SCReen Of Green aka SCROG – train your plant into a screen/net to provide an even canopy of buds
  • Topping or Fimming – cutting the top off of a stalk to split it into two stalks
  • Super Cropping – bending/breaking/snapping the stalks to promote a more vigorous nutrient uptake after the plant heals itself

It is very important that you do this during vegetation and not in flowering. Abuse them in veg, treat them like princesses in flowering.

You can keep your plant in vegetation as long as you wish. However, most people have space limitations. The key is, grow your plants to about half of your space limits (remember to add space for your light and space for cool air beneath the light). The plants tend to double (or sometimes triple) in height in the early flowering stage. After 2-3weeks of flowering most will have hit their maximum height.

Cloning

Cloning is a rather easy and faster alternative compared to planting seeds every cycle. Typically, you should cut your clones a couple weeks prior to flowering to give the mother plant a chance to heal and regrow. Here is a thorough guide on cloning.

Flowering Period

In order to activate flowering, you will need to switch your lighting schedule to a strict 12/12 schedule. This means 12 hours of light and 12 hours of pure darkness Any light leaks can cause damage, please be sure it’s dark.

You will also want to start adding your blooming/flowering nutrients of your choice. Again, it might be a safe idea to start off small and work your way up to the suggested amount.

After about a week or two, you will also be able to determines its sex. It is a very easy thing to do. If you are not sure on the sex, post pictures and ask the community.

If you get any males, you will need to chop them down and get rid of it. The reason for this is, if those pollen sacks pop, the pollen will spread and the females will become covered with his pollen. To simplify this, she will then produce seeds within her bud and the bud will be less potent. Ideally, you want a non pollinated female, she will produce the strongest and best weed.

As flowering proceeds, you will notice translucent trichomes appear. This is how you will judge when your grow is ready to be harvested. This is ultimately up you depending on what type of high you are looking for. You can expect these to appear around 6-8 weeks or even 10-12 weeks on some strains. Patience is virtue.