One of the most frequently asked questions I get is “how much will your cabinets grow”? My answer always is, “It depends on the experience of the grower”. Growing cannabis well takes time and patience. There are no shortcuts and you will have to put in your time. It is a process of life-long learning, trial and error, and reward. Play the long game and start accumulating knowledge and experience. It will pay off.
The satisfaction you can derive from growing your own supply is unmatched. The financial savings can also be significant. And as an added bonus, you are in total control of what goes into your grow so you can feel good about what you are putting into your body. You can also easily grow organically with great results. Our grow cabinets take the guess work out of creating a growing environment and are ready to get you growing right out of the box. Not to mention, they look really great in living spaces.
This guide is specific to organic soil-based cultivation methods. I explain the approach that I use in my grow cabinet, developed over the course of several years. I adhere to simple practices that closely replicate the cannabis plant’s optimal growing conditions in nature. Whether you are just starting out on your home marijuana growing adventure or looking for a couple of new ideas, I encourage you to read on. Make sure you check out some of the great resources you can find online through a Google search. Remember to continue experimenting and most importantly, have fun with it!
In this guide, we will be talking about growing using clones. Clones are a clipping from another plant that provides you with a genetic copy. Growing from seed will be covered in a later blog post. Let’s get going!
What you will need to start:
- Clones (Check out Leafly and Weedmaps to find dispensaries close to you that have clones on their menus)
- Airpots or Smart Pots (Three gallon pots for our larger cabinets and two gallon for the Manzanita)
- Pot Saucers
- Soil (Get an organic, nutrient-rich soil for clones) My favorite is Rogue Soils and Sensi Soil)
- Soil Microbes (My favorite is Root Zone by Down to Earth Fertilizers)
- Vegetation Fertilizer (My favorite fertilizers branded under Roots Organics by Aurora Innovations. I like their Buddha Grow formula)
- Flower Boosting Fertilizers (I like Roots Organics Buddha Bloom)
- Carb-based micro-organism fertilizer (Roots Organic Trinity does the trick nicely
- Calcium/Magnesium Supplement (Cal-Mag by Emerald Harvest is my go to)
- Handheld Microscope (Here’s a quality yet inexpensive handheld microscope)
- pH Meter (Here’s one that I recommend)
- pH Balancer (General Hydroponics makes a great product called pH Up & pH Down)
- Micro Shears (Fiskers makes a nice pair with non-stick blades)
Choosing a good soil and proper preparation is paramount to a successful grow. Air, nutrients and beneficial microbes in the soil all contribute to healthy plants. To ensure good aeration and to help prevent root rot, I use cloth pots and add a 1/2-cup of extra perlite per gallon of soil mix and mix it up.
Good premixed organic soil is already pH adjusted out of the bag. Optimal soil pH for cannabis should be between 6.0 – 6.5. pH of local water supplies vary and you should check the pH of the soil during your first few grows and adjust it up or down as needed. For this, just follow the directions on the bottle of the pH adjuster. Maintaining a good soil pH will make or break your grow. Cannabis quickly looses its ability to uptake nutrients outside of its comfort zone. It’s finicky in this way and can be a source of frustration especially for new growers. Remember too, that any time you add nutrients to your watering can this will change the pH so don’t forget to check!
Vegetation Phase (4-6ish weeks long)
When transplanting clones to a larger pot, make sure to dust the roots with a blend of microbes and mycorrhizae. When starting by seed, sprinkle the mix into your soil a few inches below your seed. By adding these microbes, you will create a “living” soil. This greatly aids the plant in the uptake of nutrients.
Three gallon pots seem to be the perfect size for general home growing in our larger cabinets; a single two gallon pot is perfect for our smaller model, the Manzanita. Providing ample room for the root system will yield larger, healthier plants. Water immediately after transplanting and then water your plants at 2-3 day intervals. make sure the soil dries completely and is left for a full day before re-watering or you might start experiencing root-rot. Add Cal-Mag at half strength to your watering can and continue adding up until a couple weeks before harvest. This is a very common nutrient deficiency and I feel that prevention is way better than having to cure.
Optimal growing temperature ranges during the vegetation phase are between 65-70 degrees F. A temperature drop at “night” should be applied to mimic natural growing conditions. The decrease should not be more than 10 degrees. Our larger grow cabinets have thermostatically controlled radiant heating, allowing you to grow effectively in unheated spaces and well as heated spaces such as garages and shops down to 45-50 degrees ambient air temp. Our smaller model is designed to be operated only inside your climate controlled home.
Now that you have your plants transplanted, you will facilitate growth to fill out your available space. Continually pinch off a few leaves here and there in the center of your plant to allow light to reach growth sites down lower. Also, tuck fan leaves underneath growth sites to a position that allows light to reach thm. I do this almost daily.
You will also want to “top” your plant a couple times along the way. This involves strategically pinching off the tops of grow sites so that multiple nodes below can begin to grow. It’s like getting a two-fer! Keep doing this while leaving a week or so in between to allow the plant to heal up. Once you have about 15-20 growth branches you are good to stop topping. Also pinch away any rogue grow sites that might be shooting up above the pack as they will shade the other down lower. You will want to maintain an even canopy so all growth sites can receive ample light.
Run your lights at a 20 hour on, 4 hours off cycle. A built in light timer is used to control your lighting schedules. Our micro-grow cabinet, the Manzanita’s lighting schedules are controlled via smartphone app. You will probably not want to use the side led light panels on the Manzanita at this time, because you will want to train growth upwards. Save them for blasting your bud-sites later.
If you take vegetation past four weeks, I would start adding in Buddha Grow or other similar fertilizer at half strength. You want to keep your plants going strong right into flowering. Adding growth fertilizer at full strength risks “nutrient burning” your plants. This is caused when there is more uptake than is needed. Since you transplanted your clones in a highly composted, nutrient rich soil it will still have nutrients to provide, they just might be slightly depleted by this point.
Once your plants occupy about 50% of the space remaining from the top of your pot to the light, it’s time to switch over to the flowering phase. There is still growth that occurs during the transition over to flowering so you will want to keep this space open and available.
Flowering Phase (8-10ish weeks long)
It’s exciting to watch your buds forming during flowering. The total time to take your plants from the onset of flowering to
harvest is anywhere from about eight to ten weeks, depending on the strain you’re growing and a number of other factors. Make sure you are patient and grow your buds to maturity.
Cannabis is particularly photosensitive. By changing the timing of “night” and “day” you are inducing the plant to go into flowering mode. Change your light schedule to 12 hours on 12 hours off. At this time, I like to pinch off growth sites down lower on the plant aren’t getting much light. The idea here is the plant will direct all of its energy upwards towards your dominate sites.
After about five days of 12/12, you will begin to see buds forming. Your plants will continue to grow in size for the first two weeks or so. After a couple of weeks on a 12/12 schedule, I like to switch to 14/10. Giving them that extra two hours of light will increase bud size. Avoid providing 16 hours of light or more, as this can trigger a flowering plant to switch back to vegetation. Crazy, right?
At the two week mark, if you are growing using our Manzanita grow cabinet, begin running your side LED lights at 25% brightness on the same 14/10 schedule as your top light.
Continue adding Buddha Grow but at a much weaker strength as per the bottle instructions. Begin adding in Buddha Bloom fertilizer at half strength when switching to flowering. After two weeks or so, begin full strength applications. Remember to continue using grow fertilizer at a reduced strength and continue adding Ca/Mg at half strength right up until two weeks before harvest.
You will notice that some pistils on your growing flowers will begin turning brown after about four weeks of development. After seven to eight weeks or so, they should be about 50% brown. You are very close to harvest time. The only tried and true method to determine completion is by looking closely at the trichomes.
Using you pocket microscope, zoom in on the small green leaves close to a bud site. When the buds are young, trichomes will appear clear in color. Once they mature, the trichomes will become cloudy. This is the THC forming inside. Once some turn amber, other cannabinoids such as CBD and CBC are beginning to form. If harvested too early, your buds might make you feel anxious and edgy when consumed. This is usually not a desired effect, so be patient and wait until at least some trichomes turn over.
After seven to nine weeks after switching to 12/12, harvest time has arrived! Put on a pair of disposable gloves to avoid sticky fingers. Using your shears, carefully take a full stem into your hands and cut the stalk towards the base. Trim off all leaves except for the sugar leaves growing from the bud. Next, hang them upside down along a string or in a drying basket until they are just slightly squishy. You should hear a little crunch, but only a soft one. Now you will cut the buds themselves off the stems and put them into a glass jar and seal with a lid. Open the jar daily for ten minutes or so and slightly agitate to get them bouncing around. After two weeks of curing in the jar, your buds will be cured and ready to smoke or vape.
Enjoy growing and good luck!