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Home Grow 101: The Basics of Cannabis Cultivation

Matt Weeks
indoor grow

Cannabis home grow is like the local food movement combined with a home pharmacy.

For plant enthusiasts, DIY-ers, and gardeners, there’s nothing more rewarding than producing your own cannabis. But a successful home grow operation isn’t for the faint of heart. While the rewards of a home grow are vast — it’s medicine that springs to life directly from your garden! — cannabis care is a delicate process that involves careful planning and attention in order to bear (figurative) fruit.

Just like home-brewing beer had a resurgence as craft brews took the spotlight, the increasing legalization of cannabis has sprouted its own devoted do-it-yourself fanbase. It’s one-part hobby, one-part professional appreciation, and one-part simple economics. It’s the local food movement combined with a home pharmacy. The appeal for home growing is broad, and it’s easy to see why.

A successful home grow operation can yield vast amounts of usable cannabis. But as with vegetable patches, home growing is a hobby that can take practice, even with a hardy plant like cannabis that can bud in a variety of climates. While practice makes perfect, the basics of cannabis cultivation aren’t hard to master.

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Hints for Your Home Harvest

Home growing is a cost-effective way to ensure you have clean cannabis at the ready, whether it’s for medical purposes or recreational enjoyment. But no matter why you’re growing, you nearly always begin with a seed.

Make sure you buy the right seeds (or starter plants) for your needs. Consider both the strain and the terpene profile. If you don’t know, terpenes provide much of the aroma of cannabis, and can mean the difference between filling a home with a skunky scent or a more pleasant piney aroma. Autoflowering strains and indicas can grow effectively in small indoor spaces, while big plots and outdoor spaces are required if you want a larger grow or taller plants. Remember, cannabis can get mighty big – tree height, actually. So if your space is limited, keep size in mind when picking a strain.

Second, choose your method wisely. Cannabis can be grown in water, in soil, outdoors, indoors, and in greenhouses. Each method has its benefits and drawbacks (including some legal challenges — more on that later). But while there is no best way to home grow, some ways are easier than others.

In or Out?

Growing outside is a great option if it’s legal and you have the space. But, outdoor home growers need to consider pesticides and natural predators, and should watch out for over-waters. But the drawbacks are relatively minor. A failed outdoor grow won’t affect your home — only your wallet.

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Indoor growing operations give cultivators more control over every aspect of the process, but also comes with significant drawbacks, like water damage and mold. Whether you’re potting plants or using a hydroponic method, growing cannabis at home involves a lot of water inside the house, often just sitting around stagnant. This water can seep its way into your walls, leading to damage and causing mold to spread. Proper ventilation is therefore essential for an effective home grow facility. The better indoor air circulation you have, the less likely mold will sprouting. To be extra cautious, pick up a hygrometer and keep an eye on your moisture levels.

Indoor growers may also need more equipment, like programmable grow lights and specialized fertilizers. After all, cannabis plants need 16-20 hours of sunlight in their early vegetative stage and about 12 hours per day during the flowering stage.

No matter which method you choose, be sure to check on your plant’s water levels every day, chart its growth, and monitor its soil or water bed.

Before You Grow, You Gotta Know the Law

Most states that allow Americans to home grow cannabis have very specific laws that govern the cultivation process. Colorado, for example, allows residents above the age of 21 to grow up to six plants per person with a maximum of 12 plants per household (though local and city ordinances can be stricter, and the rules are slightly different for residents who are official medical cannabis users).

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And most growers can only cultivate cannabis for their own uses. After all, most governments prohibit selling. Even legal jurisdictions have laws that cover how and where you can grow cannabis. Especially in residences where minors live. Typically, when a home grower shares a residence with a minor, the cannabis plants must be enclosed and locked in an inaccessible location.

Home grow operations are a great way to make your cannabis experience personal. It’s also the best way to ensure that your cannabis is free of harmful pesticides. And, despite the legal regulations, it’s not that hard to do. Give it a try — you may be surprised with how well you do. Share your pictures in the comments when your plants thrive!

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Matt Weeks

A writer living and working in Athens, GA, Matt's work has appeared in various newspapers, books, magazines and online publications over the last 15 years. When he's not writing, he hosts bar trivia, plays in local bands, and makes a mean guacamole. He holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master's degree in organizational theory. His favorite movie is "Fletch."

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