Reading guides published by cultivation experts can often seem like a real challenge, especially for those new to growing cannabis.
Reading over detailed or misguided information can often set a beginner back a number of steps before they have even begun.
For this reason, we have created a simple 10 step guide to growing cannabis for beginners.
Here, you can follow simple instructions to ensure that you achieve the best result no matter how much experience you have.
Step 1 – Germinating Seeds
Your first step in your cultivation journey is to decide which strain of cannabis you want to grow.
This choice should be based on several factors including the size of the grow room, growing time and how difficult the strain is to cultivate.
In this instance as a beginner, we strongly recommend searching the Seedsman website, where you will see which strains are better suited for starters, all of which include descriptions of what to expect in terms of sex, plant height, yields, aroma, effect and the overall characteristics.
Once you have your seeds, there are two methods of germinating which are both very straight forward.
You need to understand that for a seed to begin to open, it requires darkness and moisture. The first method involves using two saucers and a base of wet tissue paper inside.
The tissue paper should be wet but not waterlogged. Place the seeds on top of the first layer of wet tissue and then cover the seeds with a second layer of wet tissue.
All you need to do now is cover the saucers to merge the seeds in total darkness and leave in a cupboard or in a room that is of an ambient temperature. This is one method to get you on the road to growing cannabis.
The other method of germinating seeds is also just as straight forward and requires nothing more than a cup of water.
Simply take your seeds and place them into the cup of water. The seeds will likely float temporarily before sinking to the bottom of the glass. Feel free to encourage the seeds to sink with a gentle swirl of the glass.
If you find that your seeds do not sink at all, they are unlikely to germinate.
With either method, you will see a white tail emerge from the seedling after 24-72 hours and this white tail will become the primary root of the cannabis plant.
Step 2 – Transplanting to your Medium
Now you have successfully germinated your seeds, you will have your grow medium selected and decided on the number of plants that you feel comfortable growing.
As a beginner new to growing cannabis, you will not want too many plants at first as you may become overwhelmed.
It is a good idea to start with four or less plants in a grow tent, rather than a sea of green set up for example.
Once you have selected your growing medium and are totally satisfied with the levels of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium as well as the trace elements of Calcium, Magnesium, Sulphur, Boron, Manganese, Zinc and Copper, you can now transplant the seeds.
Create a small opening in the surface of the grow medium, wide enough to plant the seed with a depth of around 2cm. A good tip here is to use a toothpick to make the openings.
The golden rule here is to make sure that the white tail of the seed is facing directly downwards when you are inserting it into the space you have just made.
If you let the seed slant to one side, this can cause what “J Rooting”. As its name suggests, the tap root will curl upwards on itself in a “J” shape and will not grow downwards as intended.
Once the seeds are in the grow medium with the white tails firmly in place, you can lightly water the pots and wait around 48 hours for the seed to break through to the surface.
Step 3 – The Growing Stage
You will need your grow room to meet the following requirements when growing cannabis:
- The temperature needs to be around 24 degrees celsius with lights and fans on.
- When the lights are turned off, there should be a temperature drop of around 5-7 degrees celsius.
- The humidity of the grow room needs to be around 70-75% for optimum conditions and this should remain the same when the lights are out and whilst your carbon filters and oscillating fans are still on.
- You will never want to totally shut down your fans, as this only encourages spores of powdery mildew and mould to form in the garden.
You now need to buy a reliable timer that can be plugged into the wall. The only thing that you should keep on a timer is your grow light.
Everything else should be kept on permanently to ensure there is no excess moisture building up and that no stagnant air is inside the grow room.
You will need the plants to enjoy long days of 16-18 hours of lighting, which will reduce to 12 hours when the flowering period commences.
Now you have your lights, fans and filters, you can now focus on growing and training the cannabis plants.
This is a great way to get hands on with your crop and to also learn about how the plant grows.
Step 4 – Plant Training
As a beginner, it is essential that you control your plant height and width, as this can make a massive difference to the finished product.
It is much easier than it sounds as you will find that nature does most of the work for you.
There are multiple techniques when it comes to plant training; topping or pinching out the shoots, fimming (removing 75% of the top shoot and allowing it to grow back) and super cropping which is a high stress technique.
This involves snapping a stem until it can recover and become stronger with a knuckle formed where the break occurred.
The most common technique used involves tying the different plant shoots down, so there is no longer a dominant part of the canopy.
Utilising all of the above techniques will allow a beginner grower to become much more confident in the growing stage, as well as avoiding oversized cannabis plants.
Step 5 – The Pre-Flowering Stage
This stage is when cannabis plants will detect they are closer to flowering as the amount of light given is reduced from 18-12 hours.
Naturally, the plants will make a surge to the sky in order to receive as much light as possible.
As indoor growers, we are able to modify the height of the lights in accordance with the growth of the plants.
This stage, which will last around 2 weeks is the stage that can often cause beginner growers to lose control and end up with plants that are tall, lanky and malnourished,
Pre-flowering occurs once you have adjusted your timer to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness.
As the plant enters a hormonal state, it will release what is known as pre-flowers. This is the time you would notice if your cannabis plants are male or female, so is a very important time if you are working with regular seeds.
As a beginner, it is strongly recommend that you grow feminised seeds as this will allow you to utilise all of the space in the grow tent without removing male plants.
Step 6 – Transition Feeding
In order to avoid any major deficiency issues when growing cannabis, you will want to “transition feed” your plants, so there is not a dramatic reduction in one nutrient over another.
As a beginner, you will have seen how nutrient companies provide guides to feeding your plants. However, many will encourage beginners to jump from a nutrient high in Nitrogen and lower in Phosphorus and Potassium, to the opposite. This can cause deficiency and nutrient lock out.
A great tip is to use a nutrient created for the growing stage during the first two weeks of the flowering stage.
Step 7 – The Flowering Stage
As a newbie to growing cannabis, the most exciting part of cultivation is undoubtedly the flowering stage.
As the plant recognises longer periods of darkness, it will enter a hormonal stage that will focus on producing cannabis buds.
These buds will be rich with trichomes and should have distinct terpenes that seriously impact the flavour and overall experience.
This is where you will have switched the timer to 12/12.
Depending on the flowering time of your strain, you should allow the plant to develop buds which swell with biomass and form weight.
At this stage, humidity needs to be low and remain at 30% during the lights on and lights off periods.
It is very important to keep humidity levels to a low as anything above 30% can cause mould and fungus to grow on the buds.
You should now be feeding your plants nutrients that are heavy in Phosphorus and Potassium.
Step 8 – Flushing
Flushing cannabis plants can make or break your entire grow.
Your buds may be picture perfect and the aromas may be through the roof.
However, incorrectly flushed cannabis will reflect badly in the appearance, taste and aroma of the final dried flower or extract. This is evident flowers burn unevenly and are harsh to taste.
If you are new to growing cannabis and have become overzealous or have been too impatient, then the final product will only be a waste of all the time and effort you had spent previously.
As a beginner, you will want to leave at least 7-10 days when flushing, as this will give the grow medium plenty of time to absorb any leftover salts that are still undissolved.
Even organic substrates require time for a buffering zone to occur, so using plain water and enzymes is the best way to cleanse the medium for the last 10-14 days.
You will know the plant has totally utilised all of the undissolved salts when the colours of the plant begin to turn yellow, purple, bronze and a display of metallic washed colours.
This is not a genetic trait but the plant simply displaying a number of deficiencies.
Step 9 – Harvesting and Drying
Knowing the exact point of harvest when growing cannabis, is not always a case of trichome development but more down to how swollen the calyxes of the plant are.
This stage is crucial to the final density of your plant; picking your plants too early will not only compromise the final weight, flavour, potency and aroma of the buds, it will also reduce aesthetic quality.
Harvesting your plants at the very last stage possible is best, as this ensure quality.
As the cannabis plants produce cannabinoids and terpenes, these can degrade from THC into CBD creating a more enhanced physical effect.
As a beginner, ignore the finer points. Not all the hairs on the plant must be red, trichomes don’t have to be a certain colour and it is not a disaster if your plant is not ready at its suggested flowering time.
Wait until the cannabis plant is as mature as possible before chopping and hanging.
Your drying room is a place where your flowers will now require 10-14 days to fully dry out.
They should dry in a dark room that has a temperature of around 15 degrees Celsius.
They will gradually lose the chlorophyll smell that is deeply associated with immature and speed dried flowers and begin to smell more like cannabis than they ever did.
You will want to have a very gentle air flow in the drying room. Do not blow any currents directly onto the hanging buds as this will only speed dry them. Instead, face a small fan away from the buds simply to circulate the air in the room.
Step 10 – Curing the Dried Buds
Like with good wine, age preserves flavour and potency like no other factor. This is why labelling and curing your flowers in jars is well advised.
Your sticky buds are now almost ready to smoke. The final step is to acquire a glass mason jar, which you will want to fill with thumb sized nugs until about three quarters full.
Every day, you will want to open the air tight jars for 10 minutes and allow the cannabis to breathe.
When you subsequently closer the jars, the flowers inside will be curing and improving their flavour, and degrading THC to CBD and then to CBN.
This is why a flower that has been jar cured for 3 months is far more superior in all areas than a flower that has been dried for 2 weeks.
This is also a good way to increase the medicinal effects of your buds when growing cannabis.