You are hereGrow Weed Basics: How to Grow Marijuana Tutorial
Grow Weed Basics: How to Grow Marijuana Tutorial
Wanna learn how to grow weed?
Looking for an easy-to-understand "how to grow marijuana" tutorial that teaches you exactly what you need to do, in under 20 minutes?
If the answer is yes, you've found the right place.
Growing weed can seem so complicated, but it's probably just because you don't have the right information.
Growing weed is actually pretty easy and anyone with a few extra minutes a day and a spare closet can grow weed.
You see, even for those who can legally grow marijuana, there aren't many simple resources that explain from start to finish what you need to do to grow cannabis successfully, especially if you're on a budget or only have a small space to work with.
Cannabis is a weed in the wild and can actually be really easy to grow, but it can seem impossible to get started if you don't know what to do.
This grow weed guide attempts to answer all your questions in a clear and concise way so that you can skip the reading and get straight to growing.
Start with the How to Grow Weed Basics, then check out the Frequently Asked Question about growing cannabis or one of the How-To Cannabis Growing Guides which will show you how to grow your marijuana plants from beginning to end. If you feel like you already know how to grow weed, I'd love to hear any suggestions, comments, and even criticism about the site. I've included a suggestion box on the side of every page as well as a contact us page to make it easy for readers to communicate directly with GrowWeedEasy.com!
Introduction to Growing Cannabis: How to Grow Weed
- Light (this has the biggest effect on yields)
- Air (well-ventilated with a slight breeze is best)
- a Grow Medium (place to grow, soil isn't your only choice)
- the right Temperature (room temperature or a little warmer is perfect during the day, cannot stand freezing at night)
- Nutrients (usually half as much as what's recommended on the package)
- Water (maintain pH for best results, 6.0-7.0 for soil and 5.5-6.5 for hydroponics)
When growing marijuana plants indoors or outdoors, you will need to ensure that it gets the proper amount of all six of these resources.
One of the most common mistakes made by new weed growers is to conduct spur-of-the-moment experiments and kill their plants.
You should always at least do a quick google search before you try any new technique.
Why make your plants be the guinea pig of an experiment that someone else has already tried before?
For example, it may seem like a good idea to feed your growing cannabis with Miracle-Gro, but Miracle-Gro does not contain the right formulation of nutrients for cannabis and using it can actually hurt your plants if you don't know what you're doing.
You don't want to lose your entire crop to something that has already been tried before and proven not to work, so make sure you do a little research and experiment with caution and moderation.
Another common problem new growers have is the tendency to skip crucial steps like maintaining a proper pH or getting the right kind of nutrients. While you can get lucky and succeed at growing weed without taking these steps, you are a lot more likely to end up plants that die or just never produce any buds.
It can actually be really easy to grow marijuana, so start by reading this simple grow guide and you will have all the knowledge you need to start producing your own potent buds today!
Growing Indoors vs Outdoors
There are many considerations to take into account when deciding whether to grow your plant indoors or outdoors.
As someone who lives in the suburbs of a city, far away from any wilderness, I can only safely grow weed indoors.
See a list of the pros and cons of growing marijuana indoors vs. outdoors
Choose Your Growing Medium
Your growing medium is what you will grow your plants in.
You can successfully grow marijuana plants in soil and other sorts of non-soil (soil-less) mediums, or you could grow your plants directly in water or even in moist air!
Each growing medium that you use will have different care and watering requirements. You may want to research the different options and choose something that's right for your grow area and experience level.
If it's your first grow, I personally recommend learning how to grow weed with something easy like coco coir, and then feeding your plants according to a regular hydroponic feeding schedule (at half-strength to start). You will get great results without having to invest much money or time.
Marijuana Light Needs: Should I Use the Sun or Indoor Grow Lights?
If growing outdoors, the sun is generally all the light you need. Younger plants only need gentle lights. As they get older, you will need to make sure that the plants are in a sunny spot where they get plenty of sunlight throughout the whole day (8+ hours of sunlight a day for best results).
If growing indoors you will need to provide your plant with the light it needs to grow.
The most common types of lights used indoor with marijuana are:
- High Intensity Discharge (HID) lights such as High Pressure Sodium (HPS) and Metal Halide (MH) lights. These lights are powerful and proven to provide great yields , though they use quite a bit of energy and produce a lot of heat.
- Florescent lighting use a low amount of electricity and work great for younger plants. In most cases, you'll need to supplement with more light during the flowering stage to get good yields.
- Compact Florescent Lights (CFLs) use a low amount of electricity and can be bought at the supermarket. In most cases, you'll need quite a few of these or to supplement with other types of light during the flowering stage to get good yields. I personally use CFLs extensively with very short marijuana plants and get 6-12 ounces per plant, using low electricity and producing little to no heat, which works great for me.
- LED lights use less electricty and produce less heat than almost any other type of light. A relatively new technology, some work well and some are totally junk. Read my review of LED grow lights that are proven to work with growing marijuana(with pictures).
Each type of light system has their pros and cons, but you will need to find the one that fits your budget, grow area, and grow style.
Your Marijuana Plants Need Air!
In general, cannabis plants enjoy temperatures in the same general range that humans like, perhaps a little warmer.
If a temperature is too hot or cold for a human to comfortable hang out in, it probably is too hot or too cold for your weed.
Depending on the type of grow lights used, the lights will probably raise the temperature of your grow space, which is something you should consider when creating your grow area.
Cannabis likes temperatures from about 70-85 degrees F (20-30 degrees C). Bigger and more powerful lights will raise the temperature more, and smaller grow areas will be more prone to temperature fluctuations due to the lights.
Some types of lights, such as CFLs and LEDs do not dramatically raise the temperature of the grow area.
If the temperature of the grow area cannot be maintained in the comfortable range, then an exhaust system with air-cooled grow lights is generally utilized. If even that isn’t enough, then either heaters or coolers will have to be purchased to bring the temperature to the proper levels.
Regarding humidity, grow areas should not be particularly damp or dry.
Optimum humidity levels are from 40-60% though cannabis can stand a higher or lower humidity.
Cannabis kept in lower humidity conditions will drink more water, while cannabis in high humidity conditions will collect water through the leaves and drink less through the roots.
Cannabis tends to prefer a more humid environment - about 60% relative humidity - in the seedling, vegetative, and early flowering stages. However, towards the end of the florwering stage, cannabis will do better in a drier environment.
Excessive humidity at any stage can cause problems with mildew and mold (like the common, dreaded "white powdery mold." Too-high humidity is anything above 60-70%. Some strains are especially prone to mold at high humidity.
On the flip side, extra dry air is often associated with finicky plants that get easily stressed for no reason, especially for younger marijuana plants.
Therefore if you have unexplainable problems with your plants, and you know your grow area is very dry or humid, try investing in a humidifier or dehumidifier.
You may be surprised how often fixing the humidity fixes mysterious marijuana plant problems.
Towards the last few weeks before harvest, it becomes essential to keep humidity lower in order to prevent mold, especially when there are huge, dense buds.
Many pro growers dramatically drop humidity with a dehumidifier during the last two weeks before harvest. This increases resin (THC) production and prepares the buds for drying/curing while preventing mold.
During the last two weeks before harvest, you can basically drop the humidity as low as possible.
A thermometer with a humidity sensor can be extremely useful in monitoring a grow area.
If you're growing in soil, you will want to get nutrients made for soil.
If you are growing in any medium besides soil, like coco coir, or a soilless mix, you will need to get hydroponic nutrients (nutrients specially formulated for hydroponic growing).
But even if you're using soil, you will notice far better growth if you add additional nutrients (ones made for soil).
Generally, if a set of nutrients will work for a tomato plant, they'll work for your weed.
This page has even more information about choosing the right nutrients for your marijuana grow.
Keep in mind that you should treat the nutrient feeding chart that comes with your nutrients as the maximum, and should always start with a fraction (I usually start with half) of the recommended nutrients and work your way up only if you see signs of nutrient deficiencies.
Some cannabis strains love high amounts of nutrients, while others are actually very sensitive and will do best with half the amount of nutrients as other strains.
Because of this natural variation between plants, there's no one universal nutrient schedule that works for all strains.
Every nutrient schedule is considered a place to start, and to get the absolute best results, you may have to adjust the intensity (add more or less water) depending on what your plants tell you.
Nutrients, continued: The Importance of pH
In order for your plants to be able to actually absorb the nutrients through their roots, you need to make sure the pH of the root environment is correct.
The easiest way to do that is to test the pH of your water before you water your plants.
Some people may get lucky and successfully grow cannabis without testing the pH of their water, but most people who don't test for pH will start seeing signs of nutrient deficiencies and other nutrient problems.
This is because, even if the right amounts of nutrients are present, if the pH is not right, then your plants just can't absorb them.
It's actually really easy, quick, and cheap to learn how to check and adjust the pH of your water, and will take you less than 5 minutes each time you water your plants. But the results (monster yields with huge buds and healthy plants) speak for themselves.
Soil: Maintain 6.0 - 7.0 pH
Hydroponics: Maintain 5.5 - 6.5 pH
A general rule of thumb is to keep around a pH that ranges from 6.0-7.0 for soil (with the pH kept mostly between 6.5 - 7.0), and a pH between 5.5 - 6.5 for hydroponics).
A little bit of range is actually healthy, since different nutrients are absorbed better at different pHs.
Starting Out: Getting your marijuana plants or finding weed seeds
The way that your plant turns out will have a lot to do with the genetics it started with.
Even if you treat your plant perfectly during its whole grow cycle, you will not get good weed if the genetics aren't good.
Because genetics have such a huge impact on your results, it is important to know a little bit about the genetics of the plant you're working with.
There are three main strains or types of cannabis: indica, sativa, and hybrid strains (hybrid strains are a mix of indica and sativa).
Indicas tend to cause more of a body high and tend to grow shorter and bushier.
Sativas tend to cause more of a cerebral or mental high. Sativas grow larger, have higher light requirements, and take longer to mature than indica plants so a sativa strain of pot may not be as suited for growing indoors.
Sativas often have thin, finger-like leaves while indicas have fatter, rounder leaves.
It is often simplest to grow marijuana plants that are a hybrid strain because they have often been bred to carry the best traits of both sativa and indica.
If you researching what strain of cannabis to grow, pay close attention to the light requirements, grow times, etc. to make sure that it is a good match for your grow area.
There is also a totally separate strain of marijuana called the Ruderalis which is an auto-flowering marijuana plant. Auto-flowering means these strains will start flowering regardless of its light schedule.
When growing with Ruderalis-based cannabis strains such as the Lowryder, you will want to give the plant 18 hours of light a day for the whole grow instead of changing the light schedule to induce flowering.
Unlike many other types of marijuana strains, Lowryders do not seem to do as well when given 24 hours of light a day and need at least a 4-6 hour dark period every day for optimal growth.
Regardless of its light schedule, the a Ruderalis plant will go through its entire life cycle and be ready to harvest in 2-3 months. Because of their short lifecycle, Ruderalis cannabis stains generally do not grow taller than 1-2 feet.
I personally never grow Ruderalis strains, because growing regular cannabis strains is seriously just as easy, but the buds are WAY STRONGER and more potent.
(Pure Ruderalis strains have 0% THC, but the ones you buy have been crossed with full-strength strains to gain THC. The result is the strength of the buds from any auto-flowering plant is diluted and less potent)
There are two main ways to start growing a plant, either by using seeds or clones.
I have included a short comparison below, but if you're having a hard time deciding, take a look at this page for a more detailed comparison between using seeds and clones.
I tend to get lots of new strains by buying seeds. I clone occasionally because it's cheap and easy.
I also like being a mad scientist, so I usually get my two most powerful girls to make feminized seeds together (tutorial on how to make your own feminized seeds from two female weed plants).
Starting with Marijuana Seeds (hint: get the perfect strain for best results)
Seeds are a good way for many people to start growing because they can be easily purchased off the internet and delivered discretely almost anywhere in the world.
It is actually very reliable and safe to buy your marijuana seeds online from a reputable seed bank.
Getting seeds online will allow you to purchase feminized (all-female) seeds and will also let you pick the exact strain to match your size and time requirements.
I personally recommend Nirvana Seeds for weed seeds if you're not sure which online seed bank to use. GrowWeedEasy.com has always had great customer service from Nirvana Seeds, and have received our orders quickly and discretely. Additionally, they always include some free seeds in every order which can be a fun way to try out new strains for free.
Nirvana Seedbank also have a very wide selection of Feminized (All-Female) Seeds for those growers who don't want to deal with male plant. Once you actually have at least two female plants, you can also make your own feminized cannabis seeds at home by crossing two female marijuana plants with each other. Nirvana Seeds ship everywhere in the world (except Australia, I'm searching for a good seed bank that ships down under for you guys).
Sometimes you will find good seeds in marijuana that you have purchased (these seeds are called bagseed) which can definitely be used to start growing.
The downside of using seeds that you find in the bud you got from your local weed dealer is that about half of the seeds will end up being male, while only half will end being female.
Male cannabis plants only produce pollen sacs, and do not produce buds or useful amount of THC.
That's worth repeating. Male weed plants do not produce buds with THC. Most growers throw them away on sight.
There is no way to determine the gender of a plant initially, just by looking at the seeds, or even by looking at young plants.
Both female and male plants look exactly the same until they start flowering.
For most growers, you will need to identify the gender of your plants as soon as possible and remove any males promptly, before they contaminate your females.
Healthy seeds should be hard and dark brown or light grey. They cannot be easily crushed with your fingers.
If you find seeds which are small and white, than they are immature and won't germinate properly.
Healthy seeds can be stored in your fridge until you're ready to use them.
It is not recommended that you freeze your seeds.
Seeds which are kept in a cool, dry place away from light will remain viable for five years or even longer!
Get started with germinating your cannabis seeds
or Get Started with Marijuana Clones
In order to get clones, you will need to know someone who already has marijuana plants...
...or you may be able to buy some from your local medical marijuana dispensary if you're in a suitable location and have a recommendation for marijuana from your doctor.
Starting with a clone can save you a couple of weeks to a month compared to starting with seeds because they have a head start on growth.
Using clones also guarantees the gender of your weed plant because the clones have the exact same genetics as their parent plant including gender.
If you have all-female plants, you can just clone them to make more plants without ever having to worry about sexing your plants or creating seeds.
If you're starting out with a clone, you want to treat it gently for the first day or two that you have it. If your clone hasn't established roots yet, then you want to make sure that it stays moist and gets gentle light (like from florescent tubes) until it develops some roots.
Only give your clone just a little bit of water at first with either no nutrients or a highly diluted nutrient solution. It's tempting to want to put your lights close to the new baby and give it nutrients because you want to do everything you can to make sure it does okay.
However, in the very beginning, less is more for your clone. Your clone is more sensitive to heat and light than an established plant, and you're putting it in a completely new environment. It's important to check on your clone frequently during it's first 24 hours to make sure there isn't any unforeseen problems such as it tipping over.
Once the clone has started really growing (usually after a couple of days) then you can put your lights closer and start feeding it with full-strength nutrients.
Get started with creating and caring for your cannabis clones.
Seedling & Vegetative Stage: How to Care for Young Marijuana Plants
When your weed first sprouts, it's a frail little seedling, but this marks the beginning of the vegetative stage.
The vegetative stage is a period of growth where your weed plant just focuses on getting strong and big.
You can keep your plant in the vegetative stage by providing at least 18 of light a day.
Having a day that lasts 18+ hours will make the plants think that it's summer/grow time.
Some people will keep their lights on 24 hours during this stage while others will keep the lights on a schedule where they're 18 hours on and 6 hours off every day.
I personally keep my lights on for 24 hours/day during the vegetative stage. It's easy and my weed grows fast and healthy, though some delicate strains can be stressed by a 24-hour light period.
There are people who feel that cannabis plants need some time with the light off (a dark period) in order to have optimal growth, while others feel that the extra hours of light will give your plants additional growth.
I personally feel that it really depends from plant to plant. Most weed strains are fine, and will flourish when given 24 hours of light a day in the vegetative stage.
If electricity costs are a big concern, you may want to consider a 18/6 light schedule in order to help keep electricity costs down, but according to the Marijuana Horticulture Bible (pg 38), research has shown that most strains of marijuana do grow faster when given 24 hours of light during the vegetative stage.
A notable exception is the Ruderalis, or auto-flowering strains of marijuana, which seem to do best when given just 18 hours of light a day.
If growing indoors, the length of time to keep your plant in the vegetative stage will vary with how big you want your final plant to be.
Many indoor growers believe that it's better to make many smaller plants and harvest often as opposed to having large plants and harvesting infrequently.
If you are trying to keep your plants smaller, you will want to keep them in the vegetative stage for a shorter amount of time since the time spent in the vegetative stage will set the final height of the plant.
A good rule of thumb is to change your plant over to the flowering stage once it reaches a height of 8-18 inches, or half it's final height.
Your plant may double its height during the flowering stage so keep that in mind when deciding when to turn plant over to the flowering stage.
Some people will turn their plants over to flowering when they're barely more than a seedling while others will wait until the plant is much larger.
A weed plant can stay in the vegetative stage for virtually forever, but some say that the final THC potency will end up being lower for very old plants when they finally do make their buds.
Outdoors, the amount of time spent by the plant in the vegetative stage is determined by the sun and how long the days are.
It's important to keep a close eye on your personal garden during your first couple of grows.
It is inevitable that you will make some sort of mistake or have some sort of problem with your plants, but if you keep a close eye on your plants, you can catch and correct any issues before your plant dies.
Marijuana plants are very resilient, and as long as you fix the issue that was hurting them, they will usually bounce back quickly and go on to produce perfectly fine buds.
Some things to look out for during your first grow:
- Strange coloring or spotting in your leaves. It is normal a few older leaves to turn yellow or brown and die as the plant matures. It is also normal for all the leaves to start turning yellow in the last week or two before harvest time as your plant pulls nitrogen from the leaves into the mature buds. Other than those exceptions, your leaves (optimally) should always look green and healthy during the whole grow.
- Keep an eye out for leaves that are falling off, curling up or dying at a rate of more than a couple of leaves every few days. If your plant is losing more leaves than it's growing, you know there's a problem.
- Any sort of rotten or bad smell often indicates bacteria, mold, or rotting. Investigate your system to see if you can find the source of the bad smell. If your plants are starting to smell pretty skunky towards the end of your flowering stage, that's totally normal.
- Keep an eye out for signs of mold on your buds or leaves. If you see something on your leaves or buds that's does not look like trichomes, you may be seeing the first signs of mold. A common mold looks like white powder on your leaves and is known as "Powdery White Mildew".
- Very slow growth means that something is wrong.
- Keep an eye out for "stretching" or when your plant grows very tall with a lot of space between nodes, as opposed to getting bushy and growing lots of leaves. This usually indicates that the plant needs more light and is trying to "reach" for the sun.
- Look out for any signs of bugs including mucus trails, eggs, spots, etc.
- Watch out for any other signs your plant isn't growing vibrant and healthy.
Don't worry about every little thing, but if you feel like your plant may be having some sort of problem, try to identify what it is and fix it as soon as possible! Many times a problem can be fixed if it's caught in the early stages, and won't have an effect on yields.
Click here for a list of marijuana problems, symptoms and cures
Marijuana Flowering Stage (when buds start growing!)
The "flowering stage" is when your female weed plants start to grow flowers (buds) and your male plants reveal themselves by growing balls.
Your plants will start flowering in response to the amount of light they get each day. After that, your weed will stay in the flowering stage until harvest.
If you're growing outdoors, your cannabis will naturally start flowering when the days start getting shorter.
For indoor growers, you need to change your light schedule to to 12 hours on and 12 hours off to get your marijuana plants to start the flowering stage.
Changing the light schedule causes your plants think that winter is approaching.
Make sure that plants don't get any light during their 12 hours of "off" time. Light leaks can be a big problem during the flowering stage.
If you must work on your plants during their night period, it's best to get a green light either from a garden or hardware store in order to not disturb your plants during their 'slumber.'
The reason a green light works is because plants reflect back green light instead of absorbing it (hence their green color). Therefore a green light is pretty much 'invisible' to your plants.
When changing from the vegetative stage to the flowering stage, what's most important is to make sure your plants get 12 hours of completely uninterupted darkness each day.
If you do not maintain consistent night periods, your plants may have trouble growing buds and are much more likely to become hermaphrodites (start growing the sex organs of the opposite gender, so female plants start growing male pollen sacs).
If your plants were on a 24 hour light schedule before you can pretty much pick any time to be their new 'morning.' If you're concerned about your electricity usage, you may be able to get cheaper electricity rates at night so it may be beneficial to have your plant's 'day' time be at night. If you have trouble with heat from your lights, it may also be easier to keep your grow room cool if the lights only turn on at night.
During the Flowering stage your plant is much more likely to suffer from nutrient problems.
If there's a nutrition problem in the vegetative stage, the plant will just keep growing new leaves to replace any that are lost, but towards the end of the flowering stage, the plant stops making new leaves altogether while it's focusing on make huge buds.
Therefore, if your leaves get burnt or discolored towards the end of the Flowering stage, your plant won't be able to grow any replacements and you'll be stuck with your burnt or discolored leaves until the end.
Leaves that are not green and healthy will absorb much less light so it's important to try to maintain a lot of green, healthy leaves in order to get the most amount of buds.
However, if you do experience some problems, don't worry too much. As long as your buds remain intact, and you have enough leaves to get you to harvest, you will still produce amazing quality buds.
And it's TOTALLY normal to start getting yellow, beat up leaves during the last few weeks of the Flowering Stage.
Because your plant is at its tallest/biggest during the Flowering stage, it can be difficult to provide enough light to the whole plant during this stage.
This is a shame because the amount of buds you get in the end is directly proportional to the amount of light the plant receives during the Flowering stage.
Many growers will find out that their lights only cover the top parts of the plant and don't reach to the bottom half.
If this happens to you, it is a good idea to purchase some sort of side lights to supplement your plant's light from the sides.
This page has more information about the different type of marijuana grow lights available, though I personally recommend buying CFLs for supplemental lighting since they're cheap, easy to find, and don't produce a lot of heat.
Buds that don't get light do not grow much at all.
Therefore, another thing that will help you get full coverage is to remove leaves that are covering buds sites.
Try to get the buds as much light exposure as possible, whether by pulling leaves or adding side lights, and your buds will swell up huge.
It is tough for many new growers to be patient and wait until their plant is ready to harvest.
Many new growers cut their cannabis down too early in excitement, which is a huge waste after spending so long caring for the plant. I completely understand, I've been there.
You see your plant is growing buds and it can be tempting to want to harvest your buds as soon as possible. However, it's important to be patient during this stage. An additional two weeks of growing could be the difference between getting a half-strength bud or getting a bud that is at full potency, so it is important to try to wait until just the right time to harvest.
Quick and Dirty Method: When To Harvest Your Weed
- Wait until your buds stop growing new, white hairs. By this point your buds should be fragrent (the whole grow room will likely smell like marijuana), plump and 'filled out'
- After new white hairs stop growing, wait until at least 40% of the white hairs have changed color (darkened) and are curling in. This marks the beginning of the harvest window. Buds harvested now are not yet at full potency, and will tend to have more of a speedy effect.
- Harvest when 50-70% of the hairs have darkened for highest THC levels
- Harvest when 80-90% of the hairs have darkened for more a couchlock, anti-anxiety effect (some of the THC has turned into the more relaxing CBN)
Want a bit more background and information?
If you ask people what the main ingredient in marijuana is, everyone says THC.
However, marijuana actually contains several different substances which produce the desired effects including something known as CBD.
When people talk about different effects from using different types of marijuana, they're actually talking about variations in the plant chemistry and the ratio of these different substances to each other.
Harvesting a bit later will give your bud more of that stony, relaxed sort of feeling that makes your eyelids feel heavy.
If you harvest your plant after it's already past the peak point of ripeness, than your bud will not be strong and will cause you to feel extra sleepy.
Thankfully, there is a relatively long window of time where cannabis can be harvested, depending on the strain.
Some growers harvest after only 2 months of flowering, while others wait as long as 4 months. It is heavily dependent on strain and personal preference.
It's important to pay attention to the cannabis while it's growing, and also figure out what works for you. However, there are some general rules to follow.
Quick note before you harvest: For better tasting buds, some people recommend changing how you feed your cannabis during the last two weeks before harvest, as follows...
Some people stop feeding nutrients to their cannabis for the last two weeks before harvest in order to let the plant flush out any chemical nutrient taste.
It is also helpful to feed your marijuana plant one teaspoon of blackstrap molasses per gallon of water during the last two weeks to help produce bigger and tastier buds.
The molasses contains many nutrients, and contains sugars to help bulk up your buds. Even if you stop adding nutrients to your water for the last two weeks, you still want to pH your water so the plant can access any leftover nutrients that are still available in your growing medium.
Full Explanation: When to Harvest Your Weed
There are several techniques (as described below) to be able to look at your plant and tell if it's ready to harvest.
If this is your first grow and you're still completely unsure of when to harvest your plant, you can try this 5-minute quick drying technique to test buds off of a live plant. Buds from this method definitely won't taste or smell good (for that you need to use a proper drying and curing technique, described below) but you will be able to gauge how the bud will affect you. You can also use a vaporizer with just-picked buds to get an idea of the potency.
However, while testing your bud may be the most direct way to know if your plants are ready for harvest, there are several other methods which only require that you look at the plant, and won't waste any bud in the process.
These little hairs are actually the pistols for the bud flowers (marijuana bud is actually just a bunch of little flowers called calyxes all clustered together).
When the hairs first appear, they are all white.
As time goes on, with most cannabis strains the pistols start to curn in and darken.
These hairs turn yellow, red, or brown, or even purple (like this beautiful girl to the right) depending partially on the strain, and partially on growing conditions..
A general rule of thumb is to harvest when 50-75% of the hairs have changed color, though each strain is different, and that's just a rough guideline. Some strains (for example White Widow) tend to stay mostly white even as they approach harvest.
When you're not familiar with your particular strain, and don't want to risk guessing, you will want to get a magnifier to look closely at the trichomes (resin glands / glitter on your buds) to pick the perfect harvest time. More on that below.
No matter what, if it's your first grow, you probably want to wait a few weeks longer than you expect. There will be lots of times where it seems like the cannabis buds are getting close to being done, then they will suddenly grow a whole bunch of new white pistils.
It's hard to be patient and wait for the pistils to turn, but doing so will also result in much bigger yields since the buds have extra time to fatten up. And remember, if you harvest too early, your buds won't be as potent.
While I like waiting until all the pistols have turned, many others prefer to harvest sooner than that and they get great results too! You need to figure out what is optimal for you and your body.
Just remember that there is a 2-week range where marijuana can be harvested, so you do have a little wiggle room.
These pictures will help guide you to choose the perfect harvest time
Not Ready for Harvest
Most "hairs" are still white and sticking out straight
(click each picture for closeup and explanation)
Still Not Quite Ready for Harvest
Still waiting for at least 40% of the white hairs to darken and curl in
(click each picture for closeup and explanation)
Beginning of Harvest Window
Harvest after at least 40% of the white hairs have darkened and curled in
(click each picture for closeup and explanation)
Ready for Harvest
Harvest when 50-70% of hairs have darkened for highest levels of THC
Harvest when 70-90% of hairs have darkened for a more calming,
anti-anxiety effect as some THC turns to CBN
(click each picture for closeup and explanation)
And you actually have a second, even better way that you can identify when plants are at their peak...
Just looking at the plants is not always precise enough especially when a plant is growing in an unexpected ways as you approach harvest time.
Which is why another method has been developed...
In Europe these trichomes are called resin glands. These trichromes are the 'crystals' you see accumulating on your bud/leaves.
A bit of random trivia for you: These trichomes are supposed to taste bad to animals and deter them from eating the marijuana plant but many cats love the taste of these trichomes! You will notice that many cats will trick to lick or chew the leaves and buds of your flowering marijuana plant after they get a taste. Therefore if you have cats, make sure you keep them far away from your plants after they've started flowering!
The trichomes look like little mushrooms under a 30x-60x power, illuminated microscope ($10 from amazon.com).
You'll also see tiny, clear hair-like trichomes without the mushroom head, these aren't important to potency so just ignore these ones.
You want to pay attention to the trichomes that look like little mushrooms.
Here's a simple picture guide which breaks down
when to harvest your weed based on the color of the trichomes.
(some strains trichomes turn purple or pink instead of amber/gold/yellow)
Click to open "When to Harvest Your Marijuana" guide
Many of the chemicals we enjoy are produced within these trichomes.
Here's some general rules about trichomes, hairs, and harvesting.
- If white "hairs" are almost all sticking straight out and trichomes are all still translucent (clear) then your plant is too young and not ready for harvest. Harvesting now will result in low yield and non-potent harvests.
- The beginning of the harvest window opens when your plant has stopped growing new white "hairs" or pistols and at least 40% of the white hairs have darkened and curled in.
- Highest level of THC is when many/most of the trichomes have turned milky white / cloudy (when viewed under a magnifier). Trichomes that are milky have the highest levels of THC and contribute to a more euphoric 'head high.'
- The end of the harvest window is when the trichomes have become a darker color (usually amber/gold). The amber/yellow trichomes contribute to a 'body high' because some of the THC has converted into less psychoactive CBN, which has calming and anti-anxiety effects. With some strains the trichomes will even turn red or purple!
- When trichomes start looking grey or withered, the harvest window has passed.
Due to this general principles, some people who want more of a 'head high' tend to harvest their buds earlier, such as when the trichomes are part clear/ part milky or mostly cloudy/milky.
For the "strongest" buds with the most psychoactive effects, harvest when nearly all trichomes are cloudy/milky.
For relaxing, anti-anxiety buds, wait until some of the cloudy trichomes have darkened to amber.
When growing your own, you should try to sample buds off your plant at different stages to get an idea for what your preferences are.
There is a strong tendency to harvest the plant early due to excitement.
If you are feeling excited about harvesting your plant, then takes branches off the lower part of the plant that look the most done and dry them and check the potency for yourself.
Harvesting the buds in stages (starting off slowly with small batches) can really help abate the excitement.
Remember, 2 monthes is the minimum length of the flowering stage while your cannabis is growing buds. Some strains of cannabis need to be flowered for a solid 3-4 months before they're ready for harvest.
Advice on using illuminated hand-held microscope: When using an illuminated microscope for the first time, my advice is to actually cut a piece of bud off the plant. You can try to look at the trichomes on the live plant but it can be a bit difficult.
If possible, put the piece of bud down on something stable such as a table. At that point, you want to take the microscope and push down relatively hard in a place where there are trichomes (leaves near the bud or on the bud). Once the microscope is firmly pressed on the the plant, you can adjust the microscope focus to be able to see the trichomes.
As long as you keep the plant still and the microscope pressing down hard on the plant, you should be able to just twist the focus until all the trichomes just 'pop' into your vision. After a while, you get used to using the microscope and it gets easier.
While only 20x magnification, you may also enjoy looking at your plants under an Illuminated Jeweler's Loupe.
Drying and Curing Your Buds
You will want to cut down your plant and prepare it for the drying and curing processes.
"Curing" is the act of drying your buds slowly to preserve and enhance their taste and smell. Curing technically starts when the plant stops getting water; when you chop the plants in hydroponics, or with the last watering before harvest if growing in soil.
From that moment on, your plant is drying and beginning the curing process.
A proper dry/cure will get rid of the green/grassy smell of newly harvested buds, which can make them harsh, and allows the marijuana smell and taste to re-emerge.
You can hang the entire plant but the drying process will go much faster if you cut off branches or individual buds from the plant and then hang up your pieces of bud to dry.
You will need to trim the leaves near the bud but remember that you can make hash oil from your trimmings of the small trimmed leaves which grow close to the bud so you don't necessarily want to throw them away.
Some growers choose to trim their buds before drying, and some trim their buds after they've already been dried. It is less convenient to trim buds after they're dried, but it will slow down the drying speed if the leaves are left on during the drying process. Optimally want to dry your buds slow, so this may be a good technique for your situation, especially if you live in a very dry climate.
After you have cut off your buds, you will want to hang them upside down in a cool. dark place with plenty of ventilation so that they can dry out.
Make sure to space your buds evenly without touching each other so they can dry out properly without molding.
Very humid air or too much moisture during the drying process is your enemy because it can cause mold.
55% humidity is optimal when buds are spread out and not touching each other, though most of us are at the mercy of our drying environments.
It's better to have too-low humidity than too-high humidity. Buds that are dried to fast may not taste as good, but moldy buds have to be thrown away, so I generally encourage new growers to err on the side of drying too fast.
You can use a humidifier or dehumidifier to adjust the humidity if you're serious about drying your buds right. With a 55% level of humidity in the air, it will take several (3-7+) days for your buds to finish drying all the way. At lower humidities, your drying will go much faster.
Drying as slowly as possible without mold will give you the highest quality buds, as this enhances the curing process.
An easy way to hang your buds to dry is pin them to coat hangers using clothes pins and simply hand the coat hangers in a closet. You can also place them on mesh drying racks.
If you're not sure where to hang your pot, you can get a big box, cut two holes in the sides towards the tops, and put a string through the two holes.
Now you can just hang your pot from the string inside the box (clothes pins work great). Cut some holes in the sides of the box in order to increase the amount of airflow and maybe point a fan at the general area of the box.
Your marijuana buds are ready for the next stage of the drying/curing process once you can use your thumb to gently bend a bud, and you get a dry, crackley snapping from the bud.
When the buds still have moisture in the center, their stems will bend without breaking when you apply pressure to the stem. Once the plants are ready, their stems should be snapping.
You want to be careful of over-drying or your weed will crumble when you try to break it up. If this happens, you can mist the bud with water and hang them to dry again, but, bud seems to cure best if you dry it out slowly one time, and re-misting also means there is a greater opportunity for mold to grow.
Many people ruin their cure by drying their buds too fast. When the buds are dried past a certain moisture level, they can no longer be "cured" anymore. Learn more in the next section...
After the marijuana buds have dried, it's time to cure the bud. Buds that have not fully dried all the way are placed in mason jars to begin the curing process.
The Curing process is a delicate dance of trying to maintain enough moisure to continue curing the buds, but not enough moisture to promote mold. You try to keep things just right.
You're looking to keep the humidity around 60% in your jars during the curing process. A hygrometer will help.
Why Do We Need to Cure Marijuana Buds?
The purpose of curing is to improve the quality and taste of your buds when you smoke it.
Almost all marijuana enthusiasts agree that the best smell and flavor is obtained after the marijuana has been cured for some length of time.
Many growers, including me, also believe that curing your buds for at least 2-4 weeks actually improves the apparent potency.
Yes, that's right, curing buds actually seems to make buds more potent. This may be due to changes that happen to the cannabinoids during the curing process.
However, curing for more than 6 months does not continue to add potency. I personally cure buds for 1-3 months.
How to Cure Your Dried Buds:
To cure your freshly dried buds, just put them in a tightly-closed jar in a cool dark place.
A mason jar works great.
The best cure will happen if you can keep a very close eye on your buds throughout the cure and allow them to finish drying as slowly as possible.
Using a Hygrometer To Track Moisture
The easiest way to track the relative moisture content and ensure a perfect cure every time is to keep your curing buds in mason jars with a hygrometer inside.
After the first 24 hours of curing, you'll know the bud is too dry if the humidity in the jars is still less than 55%. That means those buds are too dry to be cured any longer.
If buds are still too wet after 24 hours (over 65% relative humidity in jar), that means you pulled them from the drying room too early, but it's okay - you can just put your slightly-too-wet buds in a paper bag like this, This will allow your buds to continue drying slower than they could on a counter-top. Every few hours, you can put the buds back in the mason jar and see what the new humidity level is. Keep trading back and forth until your jar reaches the cure zone (about 60% humidity).
Open your jars every day for a few seconds for the first 2 weeks, then once/week after that. I encourage you to keep your buds in their curing jars until you use them. Buds continue curing for up to 6 months. At that point, they will not gain any more benefits from further curing.
Curing Without a Hygrometer
It's definitely possible to cure your buds without any special meters. In fact, that's what I did for years. You will just have to keep extra close eyes on your buds.
Drying buds slowly in the last step will make things easier for you during curing, because a slow dry will help prevent major fluctuations in humidity during the curing process.
During the first few weeks of curing, you will want to open the jars once a day for a couple of seconds to get fresh air in your jars and release any moisture that's built up.
Some moisture is still stored in the stems of your buds, even after buds seem mostly dry, and once you start curing the buds, any remaining moisture will spread out evenly through the plant and come to the surface. You know this has happened when you check on curing buds, and they seem like they're moist again.
This is why it's so important to regularly check on your buds as they're curing and drying, especially if you're not monitoring the humidity, and this is part of why it's essential you're "burping" the jars regularly.
Many growers don't check, and buds which get moist will end up growing mold and ruining your crop just before it's ready. Yuck.
If you are burping your plants and notice they're moist, then leave the jar completely open for about 12 hours to allow them to dry out a bit more.
When you check back, once they feel dry again, then close the jar again and continue the curing process as normal. Continue checking regularly to make sure that you always release any extra moisture that accumulates.
When you dry plants slowly like this, you get the absolute best results.
After you buds have been curing for 1-2 weeks, you can start opening the lid once a week instead of once a day.
If you open the jar and it smells really funky (not a good funky), there may be hidden moisture in some of your buds which may not have dried completely and could be in the beginning stages of growing mold due to the moisture.
This especially tends to happen with big fat buds that were cut off the main cola. I generally recommend trashing any buds you suspect may have mold. Your health just isn't worth it.
Some people only cure their bud for 1-2 weeks total while other cure their bud for 1-2 months or more. Because you need to open the jar regularly, you can always sample some as it's curing to get a feel for whether it's done or not.
Buds continue curing for up to 6 months. At that point, they will not gain any more benefits from further curing.
Different people have different preferences, but luckily you can 'test out' your buds at any stage of curing, to figure out what works best for you.
You will generally want to keep your buds in your curing jars up until the day you use it.
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Nebula & Sirius