Beginner’s Guide: How to Grow Medical Cannabis
Author: ETHAN HUNT 420
Ok- To grow good medical cannabis, you needn't be a genius, but there are things you must do and guidelines you must follow in order to grow really good medicine- and these, as with anything else, require patience, and basic common sense. Once again, i'm just starting out, but by following these principals, and guidlines, and listening to seasoned growers advice, i was able to grow some high quality medical grade cannabis.
*Things You Need to Grow*
These are listed in order of importance-
Genetics- First and foremost, you need to be using a seed or a clone from a good strain- mexican or other low grade strains are pointless for growing. There is a common myth that you can turn one of these low grade seeds into high quality cannabis. This is FLAT OUT WRONG!!! The level of THC and other cannabinoids, as well as overall quality of cannabis is controlled by it's genes. You can grow a 3% THC mexican strain out if you want- and you can make it LOOK like a million bucks (i.e. crystals, color, smell) but its STILL ONLY GOING TO BE 3% THC. This is a basic fact, and you will find this out anywhere on the net, or, for yourself if you happen to be wasting your time growing a low grade seed. If you can't get really good medical grade cannabis where you live, buy some seeds from a mail order seed catalog- search for 'cannabis seeds' at any search engine and you're bound to find some good seed distributors- emeryseeds is the best. If you start out w/ good quality, strong genetics, you're on your way to good quality cannabis.
Light- This is very important- you CAN NOT SCRIMP ON LIGHTS- I see posts here, of people using fucking aquarium lights for vegetation, and possibly for flowering!!! NO NO NO NO NO c'mon people! That light doesn't even put out anywhere near the right spectrum of light (blue) for vegetation, and forget for flowering (red/orange). Seriously Folks- you gotta have good light- Also, distance from the light must be optimal- for flourecents, 1-2 inches- for Metal Hallides (100 – 200 watt) 6-12 inches(assuming good cooling) for HPS (400watt) 8 – 12 inches minimum, though w/ some devices explained blow, closer distances can be obtained, allowing for greater light intensity, and more useable light– REMEMBER light intensity decreases greatly w/ just a few inches, so make sure you got them as close as they can be w/o burning the tops of the plants. Here are the types of lighting you will want to use for both cycles-
Vegetation- When a plant is in this stage (first 4-6 weeks for a seedling, first 2 – 6 for a clone) it is growing new leaves, and growing taller, bushier, and starting to develop tops, or, nodes, where flowers will begin to develop in later stages. In this stage, cannabis uses/requires a light rich predominately in the Blue Spectrum. Lights under this spectrum include Flourecents, Compact Flourecents (small curly phillips bulbs), and Metal Hallides. Metal Hallides are the best out of all three, but also the most costly to purchase/run. Plants grow faster under Metal Hallides than they will under flourecents- HANDS DOWN- HOWEVER- the growth is only advanced by about a week, and you can't put them as close to the plants as flourecents. I choose to use Compact Flourecents and tubes (home depot). Both put out a blue spectrum, very clean light. I mostly used compacts from "Lights of America" They will fit into any standard light socket. I chose the 200watt bulbs, which put out 200watts worth of light, but only consume 45watts of power. Very cost effective to run, and to grow with- You can place them 1 – 2 inches from the tops of your plants, ensuring close internodal growth, for tight thick buds. Also cuts the amount spent on electricity by more than half, and lessens the chance of detection.
Flowering- During this stage, the plant uses more orange/red light. Now if you're using metal hallides, or flourecents, to veg, neither will be good for flowering- using these to flower makes for loose, airy, whispy buds not worth smoking Here is where you will want an HPS system. I use the 400watt Pro ultra-lite from HydroFarm. Very good light, and great reflector- Currently i'm using it w/ a 19 dollar 400watt HPS Bulb from phillips, purchased at homedepot- there are MUCH better more expensive bulbs to get, which are aimed at growing, but many growers have used and reported great results with this in-expensive bulb- Myself included – You can't just go out and buy an HPS bulb, and stick it into a socket you got lying around.. Doesn't work that way. H.P.S (High Pressure Sodium) requires a ballast that supports this type of bulb. Better to just splurge 200 bucks for the entire system from Hydrofarm. Well worth it. 400watt HPS will flower out 3 – 5 plants beautifully, given the plants are within 12 inches of the light. 4 being optimal. Thats all I grow, so thats cool for me. some of you might have something bigger planned- for this , go w/ the 1000watt system- can't go wrong here you can grow about 8 plants comfortably packed together under the 1000watt lights, (given a good reflector) for anything more than 8 you'll obviously need a multi-lamp setup consisting of multiple Tubes for veg'ing and multiple 1000watt HPS lamps for flowering.
Soil/Medium( moisture, pH Levels ect)- The soil, or medium you use to grow your plant is a MUST- you cannot scrimp here either- the dirt from your mom's flowerbed just won't cut it You're going to want to get some good potting soil, preferabbly organic w/ added compost- You can find this ANYWHERE they sell soil. NOTE: For ease of use, make sure its NOT pH balanced (set to 7.0) – THis means you gotta lower the pH which takes longer than raising it, which you will need to do w/ soils that haven't been balanced. You can Raise your pH using organic limestone, and you can Lower your pH by using organic sulphur. pH Level for growing cannabis is a must- you won't ever get anywhere near the full yeild, or quality of the plant w/o keeping the pH and nutrient levels at peak for cannabis. Optimal pH level for growing cannabis in Soil is 6.2 – 6.5, depending on strain- Sativas will definately want closer to 6.2, while indicas will to nicely around 6.4, 6.5 for a hybrid? Just go 6.3, can't go wrong Now, you can also buy a pH test meter when you buy your soil, and sulphur/limestone, since the place will most likely carry it. Test the pH of your soil, use the appropriate additives to raise/lower it, depending on your needs… get it to around 6.2 to 6.5 on the meter, and you're ready to plant your seed, or clone. For Hydroponic applications using rockwool or growrox, 5.5 to 5.8. pH, once again, is VERY important- the pH level in your growing medium is controlled by the levels of nutrients in it. If one nutrient is outta whack, this leads to a compounding, or dominoe effect and will cause real problems if not total crop failure- so pay attention to the pH in your soil regularly, and your hydroponic solution/medium DAILY!!!!!!!!!!!
Environment-Another important aspect of growing is your overall growing environment- this pretains to Cleanliness, Basic Air Quality, air circulation, temperature, humidity. Always be clean- dirty conditions mean dirty end product, and perfect place for moulds, and insects- CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN Basic air quality is the most basic part of good a good environment- if you have stale, dusty air, you're gonna have problems, and this is where good cirulation comes in. Good air quality can be achieved by having a clean grow area, and using purifiers.
Circulation can be/is acheived by using fans, and intake/exhaust blowers. You will always want to have air blowing on your plants– you can use small uni-directional fans, or larger oscillating fans, depending on space- for closet applications, as w/ mine, i use the smaller type. mine have clips like a clipboard has for mounting to a curtain rod This is important to help your plant dispose of toxins that it prespires through the pores in it's leaves, by keeping air moving over their surfaces almost constantly- This ALSO keeps heat from the light/lights off your plants, and prevents against burning. Further cooling from lights can be achieved by purchasing and installing exhaust/intake blowers for the light hoods/reflectors. My system from HydroFarm has the option to buy a reflector w/ an exhaust port, which allows you to mount a fan and 3 inch ducting to the hood, to exhaust the air up and out of your area- this will let you move your plants some 6 inches closer- haveing a fan blowing cool fresh air onto the light, ducted from outside the area gives you another 4 inches- Which brings us to
Temperature Cannabis will grow in temps ranging from 45F to 105F- though this entire range is not ideal.. Cannabis grows OPTIMALY from 68F to 85F. Hotter conditions = faster growth, but also to lower Alkaloidal (THC) content and more humidity (discussed later). Colder conditions result in slower growth, and a drier climate- If you live where it is very cold, you could possibly need a heater and the opposite might be true if you live in a very hot area- just remember the temps it thrives in, and try and keep it within those barriers. to keep constant track of temp, I use a digital thermometer/humidity meter from Radio Shack- it uses 2 tripple 'a' batteries, and has a small probe w/ a 6 foot cable length to measure different areas (hot spots/pockets ect ect)
Temperature Cannabis will grow in temps ranging from 45F to 105F- though this entire range is not ideal.. Cannabis grows OPTIMALY from 68F to 85F. Hotter conditions = faster growth, but also to lower Alkaloidal (THC) content and more humidity (discussed later). Colder conditions result in slower growth, and a drier climate- If you live where it is very cold, you could possibly need a heater and the opposite might be true if you live in a very hot area- just remember the temps it thrives in, and try and keep it within those barriers. to keep constant track of temp, I use a digital thermometer/humidity meter from Radio Shack- it uses 2 tripple 'a' batteries, and has a small probe w/ a 6 foot cable length to measure different areas (hot spots/pockets ect ect) HumidityImportant important important- Another common myth is that the more humid the air, the better the quality of the end product- FALSE- absolutely false- Humidity level can be tested using an in-expensive humidity meter from Radio Shack or the like. Now, in very low humidity conditions, cannabis won't be assimilating moisture as much through it's leaves, and they'll be very skinny. In high humidity conditions, cannabis isn't as able to prespire toxins through the leaves, and will develop very broad leaves, in order to create more of an area w/ which to prespire these plant toxins ect ect. Optimal humidity is about 40%. We are speaking in terms of growing for QUALITY purposes – In a room w/ high humidity levels, the plant won't need to produce as much plant resins to keep the leaves from drying out- it's always moist, and so the plant won't produce those hearty juices we've all come to know and love. In a room w/ lower humidity levels, or drier conditions, the plant will produce more resins, to protect itself from drying out. When humidity is correct, plants have very shiney leaves because of the increase in production of these resins. More Resins = Better Cannabis.
Co2 (carbon dioxide)- Carbon dioxide levels can boost plant growth by 300%!!!!!!! Though not without cost!!! You will give your plant/plants enough Co2 by simply opening your space and being around them for a few minutes a day- However, you can Co2 Enrich your atmosphere by using Co2 generators or generation techniques- Co2 generators do the job for you, on the fly- they are however VERY expensive hehe. Generating Co2 yourself is much easier, cost effective, and down right FUN! Get yourself some Spring water, Brewer's Yeast (though plain yeast will do) and sugar- a 1 – 2 gallon container, some clear PVC hose, a large punching balloon, and a small hand clamp- following is for a 1 gallon container- 4 – 6 cups sugar, 2 – 5 cups yeast, fill 3/4 of way up w/ water- now, get a small 'T' connector that will fit your clear PVC hose- drill the lid to your gallon contaner and slip the Lip of the T connector in, leaving an L outside- seal the spaces if any, around where the connector fits into the lid- attatch your punching balloon to one of the free Connections on the T connector, and stick your PVC hose on the other-, now, clamp the tip of the hose w/ your clamp, and make sure everything is sealed- after about 7 days, the ballon will have filled up w/ Co2 that has been generated by the chemical reaction between the sugar/yeast/water- When the balloon is mostly full, take the clamp off the tip of the hose and let the Co2 flow for about 5 – 10 minutes, or until the balloon is 1/2 or 1/4 full. Let it sit a few more days until the baloon fills up again- then re-apply Co2 to the air- you'll have to re-make this mixture about every 5- 6 times, or, when it just won't produce any more and the balloon isn't filling up.
Germination Get good seeds from good seed distributors, and germinate in glasses of distilled water, until seeds crack and fall off and a small sprout is in bottom of glass. Plant them, and put under 12 hours of light, and 80% of them will be female- If you start them under 20 hours, 80% chance of male- but w/ 2 – weeks starting out on 12/12, they'll almost ALL be female!@!!!!!
Watering- Soil/Hydroponics- For soil- This is where basic common sense comes in- don't over water, don't underwater- both lead to nasty deficiencies- Water until it drains out the bottom of your pot- most pots come w/ runoff dishes- let the water fill up in them, then emtpy them.. NEVER LET YOUR PLANTS SIT IN DRAINAGE WATER. Do this every 7 days, or, do the finger test- If you can stick your finger 1 – 2 inches into the soil, and its wet, or moist you're good- if you do this and its noticably dry, its time to water- simple as that- For hydroponics, you'll definately need timers, and if you're growing w/ hydro, you already know this, as your system probably came w/ one. Good note for beginners as well- Just buy the fucking hydro system- build one when your more experienced and can custom build one to your needs. Till then, let the experts make one for you get good on that, then customize one exactly to your needs— Using the items from the one you bought hhehe. My hydro system runs on 1 hour on, 1 hour off time, 24 hours a day. It's a cheap drip bucket system from general hydroponics. ITs called the "Water Farm" and is very good for small spaces, and VERY effective- it comes w/ nutrients and pump; everything you need to get started and to produce some good quality cannabis.
Nutrient Levels- SOIL/HYDROPONICS Related to pH, these are important- remember to keep pH for soil at 6.2 – 6.5 and for hydroponic solutions/mediums use 5.5 to 5.8 When you are veg'ing your plant, you should be using something like, miracle grow plant food (blue crystaline powder). very nitrogen rich, or something organic, along the same lines. Follow the directions for watering w/ these fertilyzers- easy to get too much or too little by eye'ing the amounts- both aren't good, so pay close attention to your water container's capacity, and the amounts for that capacity. For flowering you'll want to buy some Alaska Mor Bloom, or Shcultz Bloom Plus, or ANYTHING that is for blooming/flowering plants— mor bloom and bloom plus are the best. Hydroponics require very accurate nutrient measurements- there's nothing to soak up the excess nutrients except your roots when using hydroponic solutions/growrox combo, so make sure you get thigns right… this is ESPECIALLY important w/ rockwool, since rockwool tends to be more troublesome in that respect- make sure you take the right measurements using the right tools (this doesn't mean your eyes). get the levels of your nutrients perfect for the amount of water you're using, and pH test the SHIT out of it- Hydro solutions are easier to pH correct, since most just require the adding of liquids that come w/ your setup. (pH up and pH down).
Pruning and "Topping" or "Pinching"- Here's the simple thing w/ pruning- It is a common myth that when the larger Fan/Water leaves, become very large, that you should cut them off. This is false- Just leave them alone- These leaves act as sweat glands for the plant, allowing it to rid itself of plant waste/toxins. You can cut off the smaller leaves left behind when the plant was first starting out, but other than that, just try and leave them alone. HOWEVER- when your plant is budding, or, if a large leaf is covering a good Tip (node) then you can take that leaf off, to allow the Tip to develop, and in the end, get more light to produce a larger flower. Topping, or Pinching, refers to the fine artform (as it has developed into) of cutting off, or pinching off nodes in strategic places to allow for more bud development- you cut one, and two grow, basically- HOWEVER, propper topping isn't basic, and you should take great care in doing it- THe problem w/ pruning larger leaves can however be, for the most part, eliminated if you pinch the tip of the plant off at an early age- 3rd or 4th set. This will allow Two more tips to grow where you pinched the tip off. These will develop into (in most cases) 10 – 14 inch colas. Doing this early on is a proven technique, and great for smaller spaces- you end up w/ four to six thick ass colas, ranging in length from 8 inches to 14 inches; (though i've definately seen longer in pictures and in movies). A definate increase in yeild has been noted by everyone in the medical cannabis community.
LIght Cycles/Flowering times- Light cycles- Vegetation- For vegging, you can go from 16hrs to 20hrs. Never do 24 hours of light – that alters the plants genetics and phucks up its natural cycles- cannaibs needs and wants a dark cycle- this is when it does the majority of its growing. FOr a seedling, the more light you give it per day, the longer it'll take b4 its ready to flower- the same applies to clones, but since clones are already mature in their genes when you take them, more so than a seed, this time is shorter. I do 18 on 6 off for 45 – 60 days. For flowering you'll want to cut the light to 12hrs on, 12hrs off- some indicas require you do cut that down again toward the end of flowering to 10 on 14 off, and it might be good for your plants to do that anyway, and follow more, the natrual cycle of light w/ seasonal change. Flowering time refers to the total time from bud initiation (long white hairs) to bud completion. THis is another thing genetics will almost totally control. Most Sativas will need 4-6 weeks, while indicas will need at least 6 – 8 weeks to mature, and sometimes as long as 10 for FULL maturation, and peak potency.
Flushing- about the last 2 – 3 weeks of your plants flowering cycle, you need to cut off all fertylizers and start flushing it w/ plain water. This rids the plant of all the excess nitrogen and other nutrients and fertilyzers, and in the end, makes for a better cannabis, that tastes better- cannabis that isn't flushed is sparkly, and has a darker more black ash, and doesn't taste as good- cannabis that hasn't been flushed at all tastes flat out like shit. cannabis thats had propper flushing tastes sweet and succulent, as it should.
Harvest Time!!!There are simple ways to identify whether or not your plant is ready for harvest, and more complex ways, and both are covered. The simplest of ways is to look closely at buds every day of the 4th week on- well, 4th week for sativas, 6th for indicas. As the plant is nearing maturation or mature, you will see that pistil production has slowed or stopped (pistils are the hairs), and that at least, or over 80% of the Pistils (hairs) have changed from white in color to brown/orange/red/purple, whatever the color may be– NOTE: Black isn't good Also, you will notice that w/ many strains, the color of the crystals has began to go, or has gone from a clear, or whiteish to a darker pasty white, or gold. This is another sure sign, that your medicine is ready to be harvested. A more complex way to judge readiness is to use a magnifying glass or the magnifying reticle lense from a pair of binoculoars to look at the buds, and at the crystals (trichomes) You'll see that they look like little pillars w/ a ball on top-. When the ratio of crysals that have balls on top, to ones that don't reaches 50% or more, its time to harvest. You can harvest by cutting the entire plant at the base, or by clipping off buds as they become ripe- Clipping them off as they become ripe ensures that all buds are quality and mature, but, it tends to drag out, and take more time – its mostly better to just harvest your shit at once- If you are smart, and use the pinching methods explained above, you won't have to worry about immature buds on the bottom anyway
Drying and CuringDrying and curing are two different processes, that are similar, but very different as well. Don't stick it in a paper bag, don't put it out in the sun- a paper bag will raise risk of mold contamination, and the sun will leech our prised THC. After you've harvested, hang your buds, anyway you like, upside-down in a closet or room, or any other STERYILZED and CLEAN place that had good ventilation and air circulation- you'll want the humidity at 50% to 60%. I use wire hangers and hang them in closet using the bottom branch as a hook. If you don't have good circulation or ventilation in the closet/room, simply use a small fan blowing near, not RIGHT on the buds- usually close the closetup, and blow a TINY bit of air through the cracks- this protects against mold and other pathogens (bacteria). Leave them hanging for 5 – 7 days. The buds will be dry and crispy on the outside, but still very fluffy and squeezable (very moist inside) This is the actual drying process- Now comes Curing- The plant has sugars, starches and chlorophyl inside it. If you simply dry , or quick-dry the buds, they'll taste crappy, smoke harshly, and smell like hay. Who the FUCK wants that?!?!? So now, that you've evaporated most of the water, you must cure it. Curing buds lets the sugars, starches and chlorphyls break down over more time, which softens the smoke, sweetens the taste and smell, and in the end, makes for a far more potent end product. So, you've had your harvest hanging in your drying area for 5 – 7 days- its become crispy on the outside, still squeezable. Stick it inside an airtight tupperware container and burp it once a day for 60 minutes a burp for 7 more days- Burping = Opening the lid and letting it sit for 60 minutes then sealing it again. It MAY take longer to cure your bud, depending on moisture level. generally it takes 7 days, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter- What this is doing, is allowing the moisture from the middle of the buds to re-disperse to the outside of the buds- you open the container (burp) for 60 minutes a day, and the moisture that went from the middle of the bud, to the outside of the bud, is evaporated. Then you seal the container again- the moisture from the middle of the bud goes to the outside of the bud and so on until all the moisture in the bud has been slowly evaporated. This makes for a nice potent smoke. Buds are finished curing either after 7 days, or when they are no longer spongey, and the stems are dry and snappable.
Ok hope that all helps everyone- i know it all helped me when i most needed it. Another took I used to identify the start of a deficiency, and used to help me fix it, as well as make my buds the best they could be, was the 'How To Grow Medical Marijuana CD' Made by Steve and Michelle Kubby- THe kubby's are 2 of the leaders in the fight against cannabis prohibition, and Steve kubby helped write Prop 215 in California. Both are medical cannabis patients. 2 cd set is the most VALUABLE took a beginner can have- from beginners all the way up to experienced users. TONS of info all in one CD. Everything from seed germination to cloning to harvest ect ect is covered, and w/ many good videos. I would definatly suggest you get this if you're serious about growing, and just starting out, w/ very minimal resources for howtos. This is all info on howto grow medical grade cannabis, and I guarantee you, it all works.