As both drug cannabis and hemp cultivation proliferate, agronomic challenges lurk on the horizon. But there are solutions. Want to reduce the costs of growing cannabis? In this article, we share our top money-saving tips for growing cannabis both indoors and outdoors. Growing weed indoors without grow lights is a lot easier than you might think.
The Challenges of Seeded vs. Seedless Cannabis
As both drug cannabis and hemp cultivation proliferate, agronomic challenges lurk on the horizon. But there are solutions.
Temperate regions of Australia produce low-THC cannabis crops grown for their edible seeds and seed oil. Hemp seed crops release clouds of male pollen grains, each with the potential to fertilize a female flower and form a seed. The male pollen plants then wither and die.
Today, a multitude of cannabis seed companies are producing more seeds than ever, and now that laws are changing, more and more cannabis crops are being grown outdoors from seed.
Broadacre (farms that produce crops on a large scale) CBD producers are leading the return to growing crops from seed. Auto-flowering THC and CBD varieties are gaining popularity (especially in regions exceeding 40° latitude north or south) where summer days are too long to induce flowering in most cultivars.
But the growing of seed crops can cause problems. Put simply, the airborne pollen from seed crops poses a serious threat to the much more lucrative business of growing seedless drug cannabis flowers.
Morocco: En Route to All-Female (Seedless) Crop Production
Morocco, where crops destined for hashish production are seeded, is on a steady path toward all-female seedless crop production. The popularity of feminized seeds, which produce only female plants, has grown exponentially, yet nearly all modern Moroccan drug crops still do not start from these because many growers continue to sow seeds that they harvest (rather than purchasing new seeds), and crops grown from these seeds are half male and half female. Pollen fills the air in mid-summer, and by autumn every female plant is full of seeds. (When females are pollinated, their flower growth is reduced, and the seeds produced are undesirable for end consumers.) Morocco’s future of not harvesting seeds is clearly on the horizon as awareness amongst farmers and widespread availability of less expensive female seed are slowly becoming reality.
Left: Modern-day seedless drug cannabis crops are grown from genetically identical female cuttings so that no pollen and no seeds are produced (photo by Mel Frank). Right: East Asian farmers harvest their highest-quality hemp fiber crops before they flower, so no pollen or seeds are produced.
Biology Meets Agronomics
Most plants produce flowers bearing both male and female sexual organs, and the majority of these are pollinated by various animals ranging from insects to bats. In natural settings, Cannabis plants present an exception to the norm, with millions of pollen grains borne on male plants that release their genetic potential into the breezes. Those pollen grains that complete their reproductive journey land on the receptive ovule-containing flowers borne on female plants and fertilize them, the seeds maturing a few weeks later. Individual male plants die within a few weeks, leaving the remaining pollinated female plants to mature their precious seeds (the next generation) without competition for water, nutrients and sunlight.
In another exception to the norm, separation of the sexes is the key to horticultural cannabis flower production. Both THC and CBD drug cannabis crops are grown without seeds. The sinsemilla (seedless) method is commonly used to enhance the production of secondary metabolite target compounds such as THC, CBD and aromatic terpenes. When seedless Cannabis is grown for drug production, any seeds are undesirable and drastically lower the value of the dried flowers. Early sinsemilla growers realized that they could simply remove all male plants so no seeds formed, and their precious females would develop much larger and more potent flowers. Female plants with desirable traits were vegetatively reproduced to multiply the clones in common production today, and there are no longer troublesome male plants in most modern drug crops.
We believe seeds producing all-female crops will be widely used for broadacre THC and CBD production in the near future. Why grow any males when you can grow only females, and why keep mothers and make cuttings when you can more easily, efficiently and cheaply sow seeds that are essentially a female cutting in seed form?
This sounds like a perfect scenario. What could possibly go wrong?
What Is Industrial Hemp?
Today’s common concept of “industrial hemp” crosses regulatory boundaries between traditional hemp (grown for its fiber and/or seeds) and drug cannabis. According to the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (commonly referred to as the U.S. Farm Bill), any Cannabis plant (or cannabis product) containing less than 0.3 percent THC (with no limits on CBD content) is legally classified as “industrial hemp” no matter whether its end use is for fiber, seed and/or drugs. A more accurate term for high-CBD cannabis is “medicinal hemp” as it reflects both its end use and its low THC content.
Significant CBD levels (commonly 2 percent to 5 percent dry weight) are extracted from the flowers of hemp fiber and seed cultivars grown in many regions of Europe and China. Much of this CBD yield comes from multi-product hemp crops also yielding fiber and seed commodities. Across North America, CBD is largely extracted from modern, high-CBD drug cultivars that are much more closely related genetically to modern sinsemilla hybrid drug varieties than they are to hemp fiber and seed cultivars.
Enter Traditional ‘Industrial’ Hemp
In Europe and North America, hemp fiber crops have traditionally been harvested upon reaching technical maturity when the male plants begin to shed pollen. In eastern Asia, hemp fiber crops destined for fine textile production are harvested before they flower, and therefore no pollen or seed is produced. No flowers, no pollen and no problems. The timing of a fiber crop harvest—either before or after it releases pollen—determines whether it poses a threat to neighboring sinsemilla cannabis growers. Depending on cropping techniques, fiber hemp production can be compatible anywhere. The real issue is not about fiber hemp production, but seedless drug cultivation. However, the situation differs with hemp seed crops.
Hemp-seed crops are grown specifically for seeds sold primarily to the food and body-care industries. Hemp seed and seed oil are more in demand than at any other time in recent history, and the profitable growing of hemp seed is increasing at suitable temperate latitudes worldwide. Based on their common environmental needs, seedless drug cannabis thrives in the same agricultural niches as hemp seed crops, and this can lead to competition between these agronomically incompatible crops.
Long-distance Cannabis pollen transport is well-documented. A single male Cannabis plant can produce millions of pollen grains that are easily carried on the wind. Each summer, allergenic pollen traps installed along the Mediterranean coast of southern Spain collect Cannabis pollen that drifts across 100 miles of open sea from hashish fields in the Rif Mountains of Morocco.
Field-grown hemp seed crops are agronomically and economically incompatible with drug cannabis crops, and growing them within the range of pollen travel will likely result in conflicts. Even cannabis plants grown in greenhouses and grow rooms can become fertilized by pollen that enters through the ventilation system. It is of note that during the early days of industrial hemp cultivation in the Netherlands several indoor and glasshouse sinsemilla growers reported finding seeds in their normally seedless crops. (Tip: High efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters effectively remove pollen from air intakes in sealed grow rooms.)
In the sinsemilla setting of zero tolerance for seeds, long-range pollen drift, especially outdoors, sounds frightening. Reactionary voices within the cannabis community have raised the alarm, but is there a real threat? How are the cropping strategies of growing seeded hemp cultivars for their CBD content versus growing seedless drug varieties for THC and/or CBD content playing out across North America and worldwide?
HempFlax BV farmers in Romania harvest hemp fiber, hemp seed and CBD from the same standing crop. Multi-cropping strategies are the most economically viable for broadacre cannabis commodity farming.
International Precedents and Lessons
In response to increased market demand for both hemp seeds and CBD, traditional hemp cultivars’ flowers are now commonly grown to produce both CBD and seed. Hemp stalks are harvested for their economically valuable fiber from both the male and female plants, while female flowers produce economically valuable compounds such as CBD, THC and aromatic terpenes as well as seed. Broken flowers remain after threshing hemp seeds. Until recently, this CBD-rich waste was burned in the fields. Now, CBD is extracted from the flower biomass. Several hemp cultivars contain sufficient amounts of CBD to make extraction profitable.
We perceive the most lucrative agronomic model to be triple cropping an existing approved (low THC) industrial hemp cultivar for fiber, seed and CBD. HempFlax BV, a hemp cultivation and processing company with cultivation sites in the Netherlands, Germany and Romania, harvests all three products from the same standing crop. This lucrative cropping strategy allows a farmer to make agronomic decisions based on three commodity markets—fiber, food and drug—and we predict will prevail in the near future among progressive farmers worldwide.
China and Romania are traditional hemp farming regions without commercial seedless drug cannabis production. Manitoba farmers have dominated North American hemp grain seed production for 20 years and have established Manitoba as a hemp seed producing region. Few outdoor sinsemilla growers would attempt to establish production there. Rather, drug cannabis is more often grown indoors in urban areas, and in glasshouses and outdoors in regions without hemp seed crops. To that end, conflicts are rare, but could still arise.
In most drug cannabis producing regions (e.g., Colombia and Mexico, as well as the Caribbean, Africa and Southeast Asia) crops are grown seedless to increase the flowers’ potency. It would be unwise to attempt growing seeded crops in these regions. In all these examples a pairing of local traditions with economic factors determines whether Cannabis crops are grown with or without seeds.
Several of the aforementioned agricultural business models could prove economically viable in any given region, but many are not mutually compatible. The agricultural differences among broadacre, greenhouse and indoor production create an economically segregated terrain where few conflicts have yet to arise. However, conflicts will undoubtedly arise unless specific cannabis growing regions become set aside for female-only growing of seedless drug crops.
North American Constraints
In the face of steadily expanding seedless drug crop acreage bolstered by supportive legislation across America, will there remain anywhere for hemp grain seed crops to make their long-awaited comeback? Will the U.S. always rely on Canada and China for healthy hemp seed products?
The expanding range of Farm Bill hemp (high-CBD seedless flower) production in 2018 reached 23 states. Colorado and Montana, leaders in U.S. hemp production, each grew more than 20,000 acres, followed by Kentucky and Oregon with around 7,000 acres each, and Tennessee, North Carolina, North Dakota, New York, Nevada, Wisconsin and Vermont had from 1,000 to more than 3,000 acres under licensed cultivation. More than 78,000 acres of Farm Bill “hemp” were grown in 2018 nearly, tripling the less than 26,000 acres grown in 2017.
Now, private citizens as well as agricultural entities across North America are increasingly allowed to grow both industrial hemp (including hemp grain seed crops) as well as seedless drug cannabis for medical and adult use. In some areas this situation sets the stage for potential conflicts until industry self-regulation and enlightened agricultural policies take effect. In the meantime, most regions appear to offer opportunities for everyone.
However, the situation is becoming increasingly convoluted. The U.S. landscape is a complex puzzle of differing jurisdictions, each with its own evolving cannabis scenarios and range of regulatory solutions. Until the advent of the CBD industry, industrial hemp cultivation held little attraction in most regions of the U.S., and largely due to prohibition, most seedless drug cannabis was grown either in remote rural or insular urban settings isolated from any hemp pollen. Many newly cannabis-tolerant jurisdictions may allow Cannabis plants to be grown for whatever end use someone might choose—be it fiber, seed and/or drug.
In many regions across North America, sinsemilla growers arrived decades earlier than the recently arrived “hemp” growers. North American sinsemilla growers pioneered drug cannabis cultivation and established their turfs long ago, largely in agriculturally marginal rural areas not well-suited to broadacre hemp fiber and seed production. California presents several cases in point.
Sparsely populated rural regions of Northern California have been the primary producers of sinsemilla since the 1960s, and since the 1980s indoor, artificial-light growing has become increasingly popular in more urban regions with access to the electrical grid. The established agricultural precedent in both scenarios is drug cannabis production. So far, industrial hemp and hemp seed crops have had little, if any, effect. It is really up to the growers of seedless high-THC and high-CBD drug crops to defend their turf (especially outdoor cultivation, which is common in California and expanding elsewhere) from the potential pollen threat of seeded crops.
Seeds or Seedless: What’s the (End) Use?
Seed-grown cultivars will always remain popular for broadacre farming of hemp seed and fiber crops as well as cannabinoid and terpenoid crops. We predict that consistently improving newly developed clones will feed the connoisseur cannabis (drug) dry flower market, while broadacre cultivation from seed will supply the majority of future market demand for extract-based products worldwide.
On the West Coast, state cannabis grower associations are striving to establish sinsemilla production regions based on climate and terroir similar to the appellation system used in wine branding. These groups have grown organically from illicit rural grower communities and provide good examples of self-regulation of our industry from within by a group of peers. Appellation membership will likely require qualified farmers to grow only female plants from cuttings, and the sowing of seeds (a possible source of male plants and contaminating pollen) will be strictly controlled.
Both industrial and medical hemp crops are most profitably produced under broadacre agriculture, while sinsemilla flower crops are most profitably produced under glass. California’s Sacramento, San Joaquin, Imperial and Salinas valleys present examples of regions where potentially conflicting business models may clash. Many growers in these traditionally broadacre farm and orchard regions have switched to glasshouse production of vegetables, bedding and house plants, and cut flowers. Sinsemilla flower growers will move into regions where glasshouses are readily available, and local regulations usually stipulate that existing glasshouse infrastructure must be utilized. This places seedless growers near neighboring broadacre farms where it is also economically feasible to grow fiber and seed hemp.
Southern California provides an even more dynamic terrain. As urban areas grow, cultivators occupy former farmlands that still border active agricultural zones. And, traditional broadacre farming regions that previously grew few if any sinsemilla or hemp crops are now open to the growing of either one or both.
These scenarios exemplify the need for agricultural authorities to take responsibility for local regulation of their cannabis industries before conflicts between growers arise. There are few established historical and agricultural precedents for either sinsemilla or hemp growing in prime agricultural regions. These areas produce many crops profitably, and as with other crops, are where the future of commercial cannabis production for many different products will be focused.
Given that sinsemilla (seedless) growers have zero tolerance for seeds in their flowers, buffer zones around pollen-producing crops should start with at least a 10-mile radius. Safe distances should be increased to up to 30 miles or more if the pollen source is a broadacre grain seed field or if seedless crops are established down wind of seeded crops. Agriculture officials can make “pollen risk” assessments and generate pollen maps for mixed cropping regions where both seedless and seeded crops may be grown. Local cannabis appellations can enforce their own in-house rules to ensure that members remain compliant by growing only female cuttings.
In addition to industry self-regulation, agricultural policies concerning cannabis cultivation will become agriculture department initiatives, influencing state and eventually federal legislation to delineate which regions are reserved for broadacre hemp seed, hemp fiber and/or drug production from seeded plants. We expect that farming regions where broadacre agriculture is already the norm and where fewer sinsemilla growers operate than many other regions will be where hemp seed and fiber crops will be grown. Sinsemilla growers simply won’t settle in these regions, and the few who live there already will likely move.
Regulatory allowances must also be made for certain branches of our industry. Drug cannabis breeders rely on sowing seeds in their search for novel traits, and cannabis seed companies rely on carefully controlled pollinations to produce consistent offspring. The threat of stray pollen is minimal, and seed companies should be allowed to responsibly produce small amounts of pollen for research purposes.
Many suffered and lives were lost in disputes between frontier cattle and sheep grazers over the best use of Midwestern grazing pastures. Let’s hope our cannabis community will have the foresight to avoid predictable calamities. There are many economic factors in the mix, and guidelines for establishing enlightened agricultural policies in each region should be established soon before push comes to shove. In the end, it is really about growers gaining deeper awareness of their local situation and doing their best to be good neighbors.
How will various jurisdictions with differing constituencies and priorities create equitable policies for the control of stray cannabis pollen in sinsemilla-only areas?
People are quirky, and there will always be a few individuals who will grow fiber or seed hemp in regions where drug crops are commonly grown, and there will be others who try to grow seedless cannabis flowers where seed hemp is well established, but these will be exceptions to the local norms. Across North America, effective and fair regulation of our burgeoning cannabis industry will largely rely on understanding which branch of our industry was established in each region first, and whether a precedent exists for its continuation; ultimately, policy decisions will be based on which end use offers the most income (including compliance costs, local trade, employment and taxes) to local and state jurisdictions.
Local, state and federal agriculture organizations should ultimately control cannabis licensing and permitting, first in local jurisdictions and eventually nationwide. Agricultural officials must take stock of regional conditions and become sensitive to the unfolding cannabis industry and determine the traditional basis for cannabis economics in their region. If sinsemilla growers have contributed to the economic viability of their local economy, albeit illegally, then they should be invited to have a strong voice in determining future cannabis policies and regulations.
Mojave Richmond is the developer of many award-winning varieties such as S.A.G.E., which served as a springboard for creating many notable cultivars. Richmond is a founding member of the international consulting company BioAgronomics Group. [email protected]
Robert C. Clarke is a freelance writer, photographer, ethnobotanist, plant breeder, textile collector and co-founder of BioAgronomics Group Consultants, specializing in smoothing the transition to a wholly legal and normalized cannabis market. [email protected]
How to Grow Weed on a Budget: Indoors and Outdoors
Growing cannabis doesn’t have to be a huge investment. With the right tips, you can reduce the cost of your cannabis grow room/garden and grow top-shelf weed on a budget.
Cannabis cultivation, cannabis history, cannabis culture
Explore our in-depth guide to growing weed on a budget.
- General money-saving tips for cannabis growing
- How to grow cannabis indoors on a budget
- A cheap indoor grow setup at a glance
- How to grow outdoor cannabis on a budget
- Growing cannabis: cost versus results
Growing cannabis on a budget can seem outright impossible to the uninformed. The cost of setting up and running a grow room, plus feeding and caring for your plants, can easily seem out of reach for the hobby grower. However, there are, in fact, many ways you can reduce the cost of your next grow-op to suit your financial constraints. In this article, we share our top tips for growing cannabis on a budget, both indoors and outdoors.
General Money-Saving Tips for Cannabis Growing
Cutting the costs for your next grow can be a lot easier than it might seem. Below are a few simple tips to help you save money when growing weed, indoors or out.
Choose Your Seeds Wisely
While it might seem counterintuitive to buy seeds when you’ve got the chance to grow bagseed for free, investing in quality cannabis seeds from the get-go has the potential to save you money (and stress) in the long-run.
When you buy seeds from a respected seed bank, you’re paying for guaranteed quality. Established seed banks have teams of dedicated breeders and growers constantly working to improve their genetics. That means, after germinating your seeds, you can rest assured the plants in your garden will grow strong and healthy (given the right care, of course) and reward you with good yields of top-shelf bud.
Buying autoflowering seeds is another great way to save money. Today’s auto strains have the potential to produce great yields and excellent buds, with the potency and flavours to stand up to any photoperiod strain. If you’re a budget grower, make sure to go auto for your next grow.
Grow From Clones
The cost of buying new seeds after every harvest can add up, especially if you’ve got a big garden and grow several plants at a time. Cloning can offset some of those costs, giving you the opportunity to reproduce your favourite strains without having to invest in new seeds every time.
Keep in mind, however, that cloning also comes at a cost. In order to get good results, you’ll want to take your clones from a robust, healthy mother plant, which you’ll need to keep in constant vegetation. Keeping a mother requires space, a constant 18/6 light cycle, and plenty of fertiliser. But, in return, you’ll get the opportunity to take numerous clones from your mother every few weeks, potentially for years to come.
Note that, over time, the yield potential of mother plants tends to go down. To deal with this, most growers renew their mother plants every 6–12 months. In general, we recommend buying seeds, keeping the healthiest plant from your seeds as a mother, and cloning it for 6 months before repeating the process. This will help ensure you’re always working with healthy plants.
Use All Parts of the Cannabis Plant
Cannabis is an amazing plant with tons of uses. Unfortunately, many growers forget that at harvest time. The stems and leaves many growers misprize post-harvest can be used to make tea, cannabutter, infused cooking oils, lotions and topicals, and much more. Make sure you hold onto these parts of the plant next time you harvest to reduce the waste of your grow-op.
Reuse and Recycle
Let’s be honest; chances are you’re going to conduct more than one cannabis grow in your lifetime. Hence, make the effort to reuse and recycle as many of the products/tools you use in your grow room as possible. Some obvious grow tools you can reuse include:
- Pots: Unless they are broken, there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to reuse your cannabis pots for multiple grows. Just make sure you fully sanitise each container before planting a new specimen.
- Soil: Quality soil is one of the biggest costs of a cannabis grow room/garden. Luckily, you can reuse old soil pretty easily. Just know that you’ll need to supplement some new material into your old soil to boost its nutritional value and structure.
- Hoses, pruning shears, gardening gloves: If you’ve got gardening equipment you use for other plants, don’t go out and spend more money on extra tools for your cannabis garden. Simply sterilise your tools before each use (where necessary) to avoid spreading pests and disease from your cannabis plants to the rest of your garden, and vice versa.
- Try composting: If you want to take things a step further and save even more, consider composting the organic waste from your house (such as vegetable scraps, paper, and cardboard). Composting is very simple and, while it takes some time, produces an excellent, nutrient-rich growing medium for your plants. Best of all, composting is virtually free. All you need is a compost bin (any old bucket, bag, or pot can work), time, and some composting worms (technically optional; composting without worms just takes a little longer).
How to Grow Cannabis Indoors on a Budget
Growing cannabis indoors is generally more expensive than growing outdoors. In order to achieve healthy plants in a room or tent, you’ll need grow lights and fans to recreate the conditions cannabis naturally flourishes in outdoors. Below, you’ll find a list of ways to cut the cost of setting up/running an indoor grow room.
Build a Grow Room Out of an Old Cupboard or Closet
Rather than forking out top dollar for a grow tent, consider transforming a spare cupboard or closet in your house into a grow room. Just remember that you’ll want to cover the walls of whatever space you use with a reflective material (white plastic or Mylar film work best). This will reflect more light onto your plants, making for a more efficient grow room.
If you’re really short on space, consider building a micro grow room using an old computer tower.
Build Your Own Grow Tent
If you haven’t got a cupboard, closet, or old computer tower to refurbish into a grow room, consider building your own grow tent using basic materials like PVC pipe and panda film.
If you’re not the DIY type, try shopping around for a budget tent online. There are many grow tents on the market for as little as €50; just don’t expect them to be packed with features or have the best build quality, but they should last you at least a couple of harvests.
Utilise the Right Lighting
There are a ton of lighting options on the market, and finding the right solution for your grow room can be quite a task. If you’re growing on a budget, however, we generally recommend investing in a quality LED lighting panel.
While LED lights come at a higher outright cost than HID lights, they are much more efficient and cheaper to run, making them more cost-effective in the long-term. Not only that, but LEDs tend to run much cooler than HIDs, which is an important factor given the spatial limitations of most indoor budget growers.
Ventilate Your Grow Room
Ventilation is something growers shouldn’t skimp on, regardless of their budget. Extractor fans help pull old, stale air out of your room/tent so it can be replaced with fresh, oxygen-rich air from outside, while oscillating fans help keep air moving throughout your grow room. Both are super important for supporting the growth of your plants and keeping your room/tent free of pests and pathogens.
To reduce the cost of your ventilation system, make sure you buy an extractor fan with a m³/h rating that will ensure the correct air circulation. m³/h (cubic metre per hour) is an indicator of how much air an extractor can pull out of a space every hour. For proper ventilation, you’ll want to invest in a fan with a m³/h 70 times higher than the volume of your room/tent. This is because the average number of air exchanges required in a grow room is around 70 per hour.
For example, if you’re growing in a tent that measures 1m × 1m × 2m (with a total volume of 2m³), invest in an extractor fan with at least 140m³/h. You’ll want the smallest possible extractor that can effectively maintain an optimal, consistent temperature in your indoor garden. The smaller the extractor, the less power it’ll use, and the more money you’ll save.
Properly ventilating a small indoor grow space isn’t rocket science, but it’s essential nonetheless. If you can avoid the occurrence of pests, plagues, and inferior results for little money and effort, why not make your life easier?
Pro tip: We also recommend outfitting your extractor fan with a carbon filter to help reduce the smell of your grow-op.
Can you grow cannabis indoors without lights?
Many hobbyist growers elect to use grow tents, closets, or other enclosed spaces when growing cannabis indoors, often outfitting these spaces with lights and even humidity and temperature control systems. Depending on your level of interest and enthusiasm, these systems can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
But can you simply stick a cannabis plant in a nice sunny window and let it do its thing? Read on to understand what to expect if you choose to grow cannabis indoors au naturel, along with a few tips and tricks from experts to help your indoor plant thrive in a minimal setup.
The environment inside your home is perfectly safe for your cannabis plant. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Is my home a suitable environment for cannabis?
The environment inside your home is perfectly safe for your cannabis plant. It offers all the same basic benefits you enjoy, like warmth, oxygen, protection from the elements, and light.
“I make zero effort to control the climate of my grow spot. If you’re growing without a light, that plant will be just fine in regular household conditions that are suitable to us humans,” explains Jimmy B Harvests, a YouTube creator that documents his adventures in growing cannabis, along with other fruits and vegetables, at home.
What to expect when growing weed indoors without lights
Will growing a plant indoors without grow lights leave you with wonky plants? Lower yields? Less potent flower?
Not necessarily. “The more effort and energy you put into a plant, the bigger and better your harvest will be,” said Jimmy. “I think that’s a pretty universal truth in the gardening game, but I’ve definitely been surprised by how well plants can do without the elaborate tents, fans, filters, feeding systems, and so on.”
Successfully growing a cannabis plant indoors is all about covering the plant’s basic needs: air, light, temperature, water, and nutrients. So, if you get those things right, your homegrown cannabis plant could provide much more than a fun experiment. And considering that indoor cannabis plants can grow a few feet tall and equally wide, you should anticipate young plants to take up more space by the time they reach maturity.
Cannabis plants need plenty of bright light or direct sunlight. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Make sure your cannabis plant gets enough light
Cannabis plants need plenty of bright light or direct sunlight. Southeastern and southwestern exposures provide the most direct sunlight per day, followed by southern, eastern, and western. If you’re dealing with a northern exposure, your cannabis plants won’t have enough direct light to thrive. You’ll need to supplement with artificial light.
To maximize the amount of daily sunlight your plant receives, work with the seasons. The total number of daylight hours vary depending on where you are, but in the Northern Hemisphere a good rule of thumb is to germinate your seeds around the Spring Equinox.
Bottom line: Sunrooms, rooms with lots of southern-facing windows, and bay windows are all great spots for indoor cannabis plants. Aim for at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.
There are two types of plants a grower might consider: autoflowering varieties or photoperiod varieties. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Autoflower vs photoperiod plants: what’s the difference?
There are two types of plants a grower might consider: autoflowering varieties or photoperiod varieties.
Photoperiod plants need to follow a specific light schedule, particularly during the flowering period. These plants need 12 hours of complete darkness to induce flowering and throughout the flowering phase until harvest. “If you can’t get the environment dark enough, that plant is just going to keep on growing and might get too big for the space you have,” added Jimmy. Our homes are full of light, so to assure the darkness needed to induce flowering, put the plants in a closet each sundown and back out in their window each morning.
Autoflowering plants begin flowering automatically based on their maturation. When they reach a particular age, they flower, regardless of how much sunlight/darkness they are getting. These plants do not require the complete darkness that photoperiod plants do, meaning you could leave them out and about overnight and they will be fine. Another reason you might want to choose an autoflower variety is if you’re short on time since their growth cycle is shorter than it is for photoperiod plants.
Bottom line: Photoperiod plants will require several months of your time and attention, whereas some autoflowering plants complete their life cycles in as little as 49 to 56 days. This is something folks might not consider when getting started with cannabis — you have to tend to it often and be present through the plant’s life cycle. So if you’re planning a vacation or work might take you away from home, an autoflower strain might make more sense for you.
When growing in your home’s natural environment, choose a strain that will best match up with the general temperature and humidity of your mango-colored home. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Consider your indoor climate when choosing a strain
One reason indoor growers work so hard to manipulate the growing climate with light-, temperature-, and humidity-control systems is that different cultivars have different needs and preferences.
When growing in your home’s natural environment, choose a strain that will best match up with the general temperature and humidity of your home. If you use air conditioning in the summer, then you might want to select an indica-dominant cultivar that can thrive in milder temperatures. If your home is hot and humid during the summer, then a sativa-dominant strain might be a better choice.
Experience is the best teacher when it comes to growing cannabis. Photo by: Dimitri Newman/Weedmaps
Tips and tricks for your indoor grow
Experience is the best teacher when it comes to growing cannabis — or any plant for that matter. Consider these tips before embarking on growing weed indoors without lights.
Keep it simple to start. When it comes to your setup, “I would challenge people to try doing as little as possible on their first plant and adding in effort or equipment only to solve issues as they arise or to better future plants,” shared Jimmy.
Be a good plant parent. Keep an eye on its growth and development. Trim yellowing or dying leaves that often present at the bottom of the plant when they get shaded by the top canopy. Keep an eye out for insects and act quickly when you see them, then continue monitoring closely because pests and disease can be persistent and difficult to get rid of.
Rotate your plant. “Growing with just a window, your plant is going to bend itself towards the light constantly and will benefit from regular rotating. I was rotating my cannabis plant twice a day to keep it growing relatively upright,” said Jimmy.
Pro tip: don’t set your cannabis plant on fire. Photo by: Dimitri Newman/Weedmaps
Flush your plant before harvesting. If you’ve been feeding your plant with synthetic nutrients or fertilizers, you’ll need to give it a good flush before harvesting. By flushing the growing medium of nutrients and fertilizers, you’ll leave the plant to use up its reserves before harvesting. It’s an important step that, if skipped, can negatively impact the final quality of your flower. Timing is important here because you don’t want to strip your plant of nutrients too early. One to two weeks before harvest is a good rule of thumb.
Keep a grow journal. There are many ready-made journals tailored specifically for growing cannabis. You can also grab a pad or notebook and jot down daily details on watering, feeding nutrients, the days or weeks in a particular growth phase (vegetation, flowering), any insects or mold issues, and so on. Having a record of a plant’s full life-cycle will help improve future plants.
Managing your expectations is important, especially if this is your first attempt at home growing. Caring for and mastering the art of growing cannabis is something that takes years of experience. With time, attention, and a keen eye for detail, you can improve your outcomes with each new plant you grow, even with no lights and a minimal setup.