Getting started with your first ever grow room is a life changing experience. Growing Cannabis outdoors can be as easy as planting a seed in the ground and literally just watering in some cases. Growing indoors however requires much more time, effort and trying to imitate outside in a tent and mimic the seasons. Below is a guide to explain all you need to know before getting your first ever harvest under your belt.
The Indoor set up
You will need deep pockets in order to kit out your indoor garden to a high standard. If you are ordering from your local grow shop, or online then make sure you have the following checklist covered:
- Grow Tent: This is a reflective mylar tent where the lights and extraction will go.
- Lighting Kit: Lights range from H.P.S, M.H, L.E.D and C.F.L.
- Extraction Fan: This is the larger sized fan that removes air out of the ducting.
- Intake Fan: Blowing cold fresh air in from the lowest point of the fan.
- Oscillating Fans: Required to keep air movement flowing strong.
- Carbon Filter: This will scrub the air of any unwanted smells and replace with carbon air.
- Aluminium / Acoustic Ducting: Connected to the carbon filter and exhaust fans.
- Plastic Pots / Felt Pots / Hydro System: Used to fill up with a growing medium.
- Growing Medium: This is where your seed or clone will grow into and root.
- Liquid Nutrients / Hard Foods - Nutrients will be needed to feed the plants as they grow.
- pH Pen: To check the acid and alkalinity of your nutrient solution before feeding.
- E.C Pen: Used to check the strength of the nutrient solution before feeding.
- Measuring Syringe: For making sure you feed the correct ml per litre conversion.
After you have set your equipment up, check that the air from the exhaust fan is blowing out of the tent. It is very important that there is a negative drag and fresh air is being pulled in from the lowest parts and air is being recycled back out of the top end.
Organic Growing VS Hydroponic Systems
Most growers end up starting off organically because of the low maintenance and easability. Also because they may not know anyone who is growing hydroponically to tell them otherwise. Cost wise it is a far better option for a financially restricted bedroom grower and the skill level is also far less dependant than with hydroponics. Examples of organic growing mediums are:
- Compost: Organic matter that has broken down over time such as garden waste.
- Worm Castings: Produced by worms and extremely high in beneficial microorganisms.
- Diatomaceous Earth: High in Silica and a great repellent for insects and pests
- Soil: A mix of organic matter that is super charged with bacteria and fungi
Organic growing embraces beneficial bacteria and fungi, that co-exist with the roots of a Cannabis plant in a symbiotic relationship. The greater the microbial groups, then the more efficient the plants will become at obtaining available nutrients and minerals when they are required. Organically grown Cannabis will generally be praised for the long lasting flavour, smooth sensation when smoking and soft grey quality to the ash when burning a joint.
Hydroponics on the other hand uses no organic growing mediums, so abandons the idea of beneficial organisms, although some hydro growers have used them before with great success. Chemical feeds are used in hydroponics and designed to be absorbed faster by plants due to their size and also the fact the plants are fed more frequently. Some examples of hydroponic systems are:
- Deep Water Culture: When roots are submerged into an aerated nutrient solution 24/7.
- Flood and Drain: Nutrient solution is flooded for short intervals before draining away.
- Low Pressure Aeroponics: Sprays plants inside a chamber and provides lots of air.
- High Pressure Aeroponics: Using a fine mist to spray the plants every minute.
- Nutrient Film Technique: A pump drip nutrient solution on a table 24/7.
- Aquaponics: When fish waste is actively used as a food source in a live system.
- Top Drip: Nutrient solution drips down and is often recirculated back later.
- Recirculating D.W.C: When all the DWC buckets are connected as one system.
Big yields are synonymous with hydroponics and the reason why you often see tomatoes being grown in greenhouses, that can exceed over 10 feet tall. The growing medium used in this case can be an inert substrate that contains no nutritional value. The principal behind hydroponics is to deliver small sized chelates to the roots to enhance growth.
It is debatable if Cannabis grown with hydro is less appealing than organics when it comes to taste and aroma, however if the person is a good grower, there should not really be an immediate difference especially if growing the same clone.
Seeds or Clones?
There are advantages to growing both seeds and clones, but before deciding on one it is best to learn about the pros and cons, to see which is better suited for your particular requirements.
Cannabis seeds are where it all starts and when growing with feminised seed, meaning the plants will be only female and produce buds it is easy to grow without needing to separate males and females later on.
Nine times out of the choice of female seed compared to the availability of clones to a beginner grower will always be logistically easier and more practical. The choice now days to pick from regular, femenised, automatic and CBD is better than ever before and having seeds discreetly arrive in the post is no issue at all.
The advantages of working with clones is that they have already been alive and have an established root ball. They certainly save time incomparrison to growing from seed and when filling up a hydro system with mature clones, the growing period under 18/6 can be much shorter and to commence flowering quickly. This is one of the main reasons commercial growers who are dependent on large yields grow with clones, and always keep a mother plant alive to obtain genetic replicas when they need.
What Food Do Cannabis Plants Need?
During different stages of a Cannabis plant life cycle, they will depend on some nutrients more than others. No matter at what stage, a plant will use Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium and trace amounts of Boron, Chloride, Copper, Cobalt, Magnesium, Manganese, Molybdenum, Calcium and Zinc.
The best way to make sure that Cannabis plants are well sustained during their time growing, is to use a nutrient line that covers all of the above. Organics will be much easier and as there is a 72 hour buffering one before plants digests what they need, making a fatal mistake is easier said than done.
Hydroponic nutrients will usually come as a multipart series, as the nutrients cannot be mixed together directly, unless mixed in water first. The primary N.P.K nutrients and trace elements will all be provided in the bottles accompanied by a feeding chart.
The Growing and Flowering Period
During this time is when Cannabis plants will enjoy long days of lighting (18 hours) and short darkness periods (6 hours). Plants will focus on growing a prolific root mas, developing woody branches that will later produce large sized buds, grow as much leaf tissue as possible to aid in photosynthesis and improve responsiveness.
The humidity levels inside the tent should remain high and around 70%-75% over the entire 18/6 stage. This can be monitored with a hydrometer that will tell you the reading of the relative humidity and the highest and lowest points throughout a 24 hour period.
After your plants have become large sized and bushy, it is now time to switch the amount of lighting they receive to 12 hours on and 12 hours off. This shift in darkness to 12 hours will trigger a hormonal change that dictates when Cannabis plants stretch. Over the next 7-12 weeks depending on what cultivar you are growing, flowers will appear at every internode and begin to fill the plants.
Humidity levels need to be controlled and dropped to 30%, and a grower can do this using a dehumidifier to extract water out of the air. In the same way a humidifier should be used to produce consistently high humidity in the vegetative stage, during the flowering cycle dehumidifiers works wonders, especially when growing during the colder months.
Harvesting, Trimming and Curing
The day every grower marks on their calendars and will dedicate the entire day to sitting down and secretly trimming their buds. There are two ways to harvest and trim. The first is wet trimming and basically means to trim the plants freshly harvested. The leaves that contain resin will be used for making live resin hash and the buds are placed on a drying net and left to dry for 10-14 days at 15 degrees celsius and 50% humidity.
Another way is to dry trim, so allowing the plants the 10-14 day drying period before removing the valuable sugar leaf and unwanted lower buds for hash making or extracts. As the entire plant is already dry, once the grower cleans them up, they do not need to be placed on a drying net and left in a dark room, but can be placed inside a curing jar.
The curing process is where you will reduce the moisture content of the buds from 50% down to 30%. This will be the ideal amount of dryness to the flower, while the aroma and effect is superb. The longer buds are cured for, the most the cannabinoid THC will break down to CBD and CBN, giving a more physical effect.