Selecting A Cultivation Space
Establishing an area for indoor Cultivation. This could be an attic, basement, storage area, spare room, closet, etc. hidden and away from all structural Elements.(hvac, furnace, water heater, appliances, etc.) Safety First. We don’t want anyone getting hurt. Factors to keep in mind: access to electricity, ventilation, lighting, temperature, and above all security. Someone finding or taking the crop is not an option.
Stealth is key, use the surroundings to camouflage your cultivation space in. False walls, shelving, peg board, and boxes/tote containers work really well. Be creative, think outside the box. The right place may not look like it at first glance. A little imagination and some work will prove a wonderful Cultivation space.
If a safe place cannot be found for cultivation, Grow Tents are an excellent choice. These come in all sizes from x-small to x-large, most with several ventilation and wiring port options. Tents are easy to set up and have durable hardware for hanging plenty of equipment. Which is a lot easier than trying to build or operate around obstacles. There are even Complete Setups with tents, lights, fans, and everything else needed.
Preparing For Cultivation
Once a perfect place has been found for cultivation, it’s time to clean. Use a sterile cleaning solution (bleach) to clean the area and everything surrounding thoroughly. Conduct a very helpful trial run to test everything out. Plug in and turn on all cultivation equipment possible. Then go turn on washer, dryer, or any appliance that is usually on or gets used that runs on electricity. Stress the system a little to test it out to see if there is going to be any problems with circuit breakers and such, that way changes can be made before going to far.
To get maximum results from the lighting system, use a reflective material-Mylar- for the inside. Flat white paint works just as good. Setup and make all adjustments and preparations needed for cultivation equipment electricity, lighting, ventilation, CO2, etc. Be sure the space is properly sealed. Check for light leaks. Turn light on, look for any light getting out. With light off, step inside and look for light coming in. If any light is coming in/out be sure to seal it up.
Now that the space is ready and setup for cultivation, give it another good cleaning. Clean all equipment and cultivation area to highest standards. This is an important step, we don’t want any bugs or mold getting to the crop. With an exceptionally clean, sealed, and setup space, it is time to cultivate.
Different types of lighting are used for the different stages of the plant’s growth cycle. Fluorescent’s with there cool light are good for starting seedlings and clones. This lighting isn’t very warm so the spectrum is most powerful up close. Fluorescent’s lighting should be held only two to three inches away from top of plant. Never touching the leaves, to prevent burning them. Finding fluorescent lighting for cultivation is fairly easy. They come in many sizes and models, and can be bought at almost any hardware or home improvement store.
HID Lighting (High Intensity Discharge) lamp’s spectrum is most powerful farther away. HID lamps produce a great amount of heat, so proper ventilation will be required. HID lamps are great lighting to use and come in two varieties. (MH) Metal Halide is an ultra-violet/blue lighting spectrum that is ideal for the vegetative/growth stage. The infra-red/orange lighting spectrum of the (HPS) High Pressure Sodium lamp is like the late summer/fall sun, great for the fruiting/flowering period.
Complete Lighting Kits come in a few different styles. Complete lighting systems are available in 400w, 600w, and 1000w kits, just plug and play. There are e-ballasts that run both MH and HPS lamps, with a simple bulb swap, or use one of each to get all spectrums. Not a bad idea. Product finished under metal halides tend to have more color. HPS lighting can be used as a stand alone source through all phases of cultivation. Let’s not forget the Dual Spectrum bulbs that have both MH and HPS lighting lamps in one bulb, plus they work in the e-ballast. That means no changing bulbs and no accidents to be made while doing so. These are the best for all stages of cultivation, start to finish. Note Check all Ballast ratings and warning labels before putting any bulb into socket.
Full spectrum LED’s are very interesting lighting. Available in all color spectrums for plant’s growth stages. Not only are these lighting systems very energy efficient, most have their own fans on the light itself. So, heating won’t be an issue with these puppies. Keeping cool while supplying ample amount of rays, definitely an option worth looking into. It’s your decision, but please use what lighting system best suites your cultivation space. Big light, small place = to much Heat. Safety First .
Air Circulation is vital for plant health and growth during cultivation indoors. An intake and exhaust fan, vent holes, some ducting vent, and a few clamps will be needed for this task. An Intake fan is used to draw fresh air in from outside and distribute it in cultivation space, via a vent hole. An Oscillating/Orbital Oscillating fan is perfect for this. The fan moves both side to side and up/down in a circular motion. Distributing fresh air all around the area, to achieve maximum circulation. It is powerful, yet quite. Keeping noise down is a factor here, this fan will run all the time.
An Exhaust fan will pull heat from the light source and out the garden. This will keep the temperature down considerably and pull stagnant air out. In-line fans work the best for this. These fans can be mounted inside or out of the cultivation area. Use the clamps to connect the duct vent from Air Filter to light hood, then from light hood to fan and from fan out to designated area.
A Fan Speed Controller can be used to lower/raise the speed, or quite the exhaust fan down. This controller is simple, plug the fan’s power cord in outlet and adjust dial. There are also Duct Fans that connect to the ducting vent to help push or pull air through vent. Note Cap all ducting vent ends with a mesh cover.(Duct Defender) Knee high pantyhose work just as well. (This will keep unwanted pests and mold out of cultivation area).
Temperature and Humidity
Temperature and humidity levels are very important and need to be kept just right to promote healthy growth and successful cultivation. The perfect Temperature is 70-80 degrees F. At the very most cannabis can take 90-95 degrees F, but not for to long and not at the roots. Roots the most important part of any plant, should be kept at a cooler temperature between 70-75 degrees F. Never above or the plant will burn up.
Place Thermo/Hygrometers at different levels and places in the cultivation space to see what the temperature and humidity levels are running. One should be at the plant’s root base, one at the plant’s canopy, one under the light, and one above the light near the ceiling. These are vital areas that need to be kept track of. Portable Wireless Weather Stations that run a few different sensors make it easy to keep track of temperature and humidity levels without being in the room. Very handy.
Humidity is good, but to much is not good. Humidity needs to be kept between 40-60%, above 60% is not recommended. High humidity levels allow mildew, mold, and fungus to thrive easier. A couple ways to prevent high humidity levels are not over watering plants and keeping the cultivation area clean. Over watering brings more moisture that will convert to more humidity. Clean up any spills or excess when watering.
Mold and mildew spores get in and grow on materials lying around. Such as dirt, nutrients, dead leaves, or any type of debris. So, keeping it cleaned up will avoid many conditions. If getting humidity down becomes an issue that ventilation and lighting don’t help a Dehumidifier will solve the problem. Note Atmosphere Controllers will control separate environmental devices; Temperature, Humidity, CO2
All plants intake Carbon Dioxide CO2 daily, during the day. Carbon Dioxide is absorbed by plants and used as an ingredient to enhance Photosynthesis. As we know, photosynthesis is a process in which plants use sun or light energy and convert it to chemical energy. This is how we get oxygen. Plants breath in carbon dioxide with the light energy and convert it into Oxygen. A daily intake of Co2 is essential for promoting growth and mineral intake. Plants will be bigger, healthier, and more luscious green when given there daily intake of carbon dioxide. Note Carbon Dioxide is not used by the roots or during night hours. Here are a few options for generating carbon dioxide in cultivation area.
Co2 tanks can be used, these systems are quite simple and easy to use. They are not flammable either, making them a safe way to introduce carbon dioxide. Some Hydroponic garden supply stores sale and refill CO2 tanks. Use a timer, a meter, and a valve to set the perfect PPM of carbon dioxide released.
CO2 Propane Generators generate carbon dioxide by burning either natural gas or liquid propane inside an enclosed box. Burning gas inside is probably not the safest thing to do. Another downside in burning to generate carbon dioxide, it creates more heat and humidity. Not to mention the extra tools and equipment needed to use the system.
CO2 Generating Pads and Bags are very easy to use and require no filling, exchanging, hardware, timers, or hassles. The pads or bags hang up or sit in the cultivation space and get changed when recommended. That’s it, there is nothing else to do. These do exceptionally well in all cultivation spaces small to large and some will last for months at a time.
Choosing a cultivation medium, either an Organic Soil or Hydroponic medium? It just depends on one’s preference and goals. Hydroponics will grow big plants fast, but require more attention and equipment. Organics give best results in taste, smell, and cleanness of medicine. Sure there are organic fertilizers that can be use in hydroponics systems. Over the past few years fertilizer companies have been making better organic nutrients for hydroponic systems. Before there was no such thing as Hydro-organic. It’s just that a living soil medium really brings out the flavors, aromas, and effect of the medicine.
The ideal medium should hold but at the same time drain water. Elements such as Peat Moss, Perlite, Washed Sand, and Coco Coir make this possible. There are several organic potting soils and mediums to choose from. Sunshine has a nice line of quality mediums. Some with just peat moss and perlite and a few with added nutrients. Fox Farm’s Ocean Forest and Happy Frog potting soils are good mediums to use, both have organic elements and nutrients such as composted humus, peat moss, perlite, bat guano, Worm Castings, crab, and kelp meal. For a good healthy start, not to mention a stabilized PH. Add some coco, perlite, or sand for extra drainage and retention. Bio-Bizz’ Light Mix as well as Pro Mix have no added nutrients only peat moss, perlite, and lime. This gives you more control of adding and mixing preferred nutrients and conditioners. The Pro Mix also have beneficial Mycorrhizae and Biofungicides that help protect and feed root systems. These are great, especially for adding organic nutrients and mixing up your own custom medium. You can find more on mixing organic mediums here in our Soil Recipes page. Be sure to use an airy loose medium. Loose medium = more Roots: More roots = Better Yield For hydroponics, the medium is used a little different. A hydroponics medium holds the plant in place and lets the nutrient solution drain down the root system. While not changing the PH or chemical makeup in the nutrient solution. A few different materials can be used as the medium here. Rockwool, Hydroton, Perlite / Vermiculite, and Coco. These mediums provide adequate drainage while holding plants in place. More on Hydroponics.
A fertilizer or nutrient regimen will be needed to feed plants. Nutrients are measured in their ratio of N-P-K, Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium. Different nutrients are needed during the different phases of the plant’s growth cycle. For example, More nitrogen than phosphorus and potassium is needed for the veg/growth stage of cannabis cultivation to ensure healthy structure and foliage growth. More phosphorus and potassium than nitrogen will promote more bud/flowers during the fruit/flower period.
Most nutrient brands have there own packs with all the nutrients needed for the plant’s different growth cycles. The Sunleaves Bat Guano kit is great to have. Bio–Bizz is another good example. Fox Farm has a pack as well as General Organics with a their line. There are lot’s more, do some research and test a couple out to find the right nutrients for your garden. It is a good ideal to use a hormone supplement like Super-Thrive with each feeding. Super-Thrive contains B-vitamins and hormones that help plants break down and absorb the essential vitamins and nutrients they need. For an extra punch in flowering use some sort of Bloom Booster. This will be a high phosphorus and potassium nutrient used to increase production of heavier blooms and flowers. Like Earth Juice Bloom Master or Hawaiian Bud. Cannabis will also need Carbohydrates from all the work they are doing. Give them some form of sugar, Molasses or sweetener Bud Candy, Sweet. This will help the plant make big fat sugar coated flowers. Note Organic nutrients provide a higher quality product; fish, bats, worms, birds, and plants. Make an Organic Tea by brewing desired nutrients in water with an air pump, or letting the mix steep for a day or two.
A lot of the same nutrients can be used in hydroponics as well as organic soil mediums. Let’s take a look at hydroponic Nutrients regimens. Advance Nutrients has a very effective line of products. Fox Farm, Bio Bizz, Cyco, and Botanicare are all trusted names in the nutrients business.
Germinating Cannabis Seeds
There are several methods for germinating Cannabis seeds, but only two will provide the best results for successful cultivation. Let’s take a look: there is Soaking them in a cup of water or wet paper towels, Humidity Dome, Rockwool/CoCo, and Planting in Soil. Soaking seeds in water is not recommended due to lack of oxygen and risk of fungal disease. Never put planted seeds in a humidity dome, for the same reason. High humidity and lack of oxygen will result in mold and fungus killing the seedling. All plants need fresh air to thrive. Seeds germinated in rockwool will grow up healthy, as look as the rockwool isn’t saturated in water. Rockwool only needs to stay moist, to prevent mold and fungus. The most natural and successful way to germinate Cannabis seeds is right in the soil. Think about it, have you ever planted anything in water or a ziplock bag. Highly doubtful. Recommendation; for Hydroponics use Rockwool, for organics use Soil.
Germinating Cannabis Seeds in Soil the natural way. Fill 4″ pots or plastic drinking cups with holes in bottom with the soil. Use seedling soil or a high quality soil with no added nutrients. Saturate the soil with the nutrient water. The seeds only need little nutrients as this time. A weak nutrient solution of about 15-20% will work good. Then make a hole in the soil about a half inch deep. Place seed horizontally in hole and cover up. Keep moist and in a warm dark place between 75-80°F. In a few days plants will sprout up. Be patient though, some strains can take a week or more. When the seedlings have sprouted put under light. When they have their first set of real leaves they can be Transplanted. See Transplanting
Using Rockwool for Germinating Cannabis Seeds. These can be used in hydroponic and soil mediums. The Rockwool is processed with limestone, so the PH in the plug/cube will be high. Presoak the cubes in a low PH’d water 5.5 for an hour or so. Squeeze any excess water out of the rockwool cube. Place the seeds horizontally in the hole and cover. Put cubes in a grow flat and keep in a warm dark place between 75-80°F. Check often to make sure the cubes are moist. When the seedlings have sprouted put under light. When they have their first set of real leaves they can be Transplanted. See Transplanting
Note In edition to Rockwool other soilless mediums can also be used. CoCo Coir and Silica seem to Germinate Cannabis seeds just as well. Just remember to get the PH in medium and water neutral.
Watering and Feeding
Watering cannabis can be a little tricky at first. Knowing what to look for and learning when watering is necessary will depend on a few factors. The medium being used, size of plant/container, light, air circulation, humidity, and of course temperature in the cannabis cultivation area. Keep hands on contact and pay close attention to the plants, education will find it’s way.
The principle here is to let the plant suck almost all the moisture out before watering again. Not watering until the medium is dry and light. Pick the container up when dry, then when saturated. Learn the container’s weight, this will help tremendously. Another excellent way of learning watering is using your hands. Carefully dig around in the first couple inches of the container to aerate the soil. While doing this you will be able to feel the moisture in the medium. If the medium is moist do not water, if the medium is dry give it water. Note if using city water use a filtering system, or fill watering containers and let sit for a day or two to remove chlorine and other impurities.
When Feeding the golden rule is ‘Less is More’ Use only two-thirds what the regimen calls for at first. To see how the plant responds to the nutrients. Watering with less nutrients wont hurt plants, but to much can ruin them. A weaker nutrient mix can be used every watering session. When properly fed plants will thrive looking healthy, shiny, and vibrant green. The leaves will be stretching up and out to receive the light, and new growth will be obvious daily.
Burned and blotchy leaves are a sign of over watering/feeding, tone it down. Use only water to flush the nutrients out. If any color change occurs or the plant is patchy, droopy, or sickly looking. Diagnose problem and fix immediately. See Nutrient Deficiencies. Never spray or pour nutrients on the plant’s leaves or flowers during flower period, they will not be consumable.
Above all, the most important thing to do is Flush the plant every week or so and at the end of flowering phase before harvest. Watering with only pure water the last two to three weeks before harvest. This allows the plant to get rid of any toxins it may have. Plan ahead and be sure not to skip this step. The end results speak for themselves. A much Cleaner, Tastier medicine. For more details see Flushing.
A neutral PH is crucial for plants intake of nutrients and minerals. Both in the soil and water. The PH needs to be around 6.5. Below 6.0 will cause root burn and spotty leaves, due to a trigger in calcium deficiency. Above 7.0 will trigger an iron deficiency that turns leaves yellow. Unbalanced PH can effect the plant, it’s nutrient uptake, and overall plant health. Grab a PH Control Kit or Tester (Pen)and test the PH of the soil and water. Make sure to have a neutral PH level before giving any water or nutrients to plants. See PH and Nutrient Availability Chart.
There are two stages of light cycles in the cannabis life. The Vegetative stage and Flower period. During the vegetative stage the plant builds stem structure and grow foliage (leaves). More light is needed than dark at this time. Some use 24 hour light, but 18/6 time schedule is preferred. This gives the plants a little break. That is eighteen hours light and six hours dark. Plug the light into a timer to ensure the same lighting period at all times. The vegetation stage can take anywhere from two weeks to two months. Depending on preference and health of the plant. A general rule of thumb here is to start the flowering period when plants have reached almost half of their desired size. As the plant will double in size during flower period of cultivation. More on The Vegetative Stage.
Now that the plants are healthy and ready to start the flower period, it is time to switch the lights. Less light is needed during this period. Adjust the timer to 12/12, twelve hours of light and twelve hours of dark. During the dark time absolutely no light should be getting to the plants. During this time of cultivation the plant will start changing it’s energy from producing leaf and stem to producing flowers. Plants will declare their sex soon. If there are any males pull them away from the females immediately. A desired male can be kept, but completely away from the females until he is needed. Note the females have white pistils (hairs) on the top of the calyx (node) above the leaf or branch. Males do not have hairs on top of their calyx(balls). See Plant Sexing for more details. In seven to twelve weeks depending on strain, the plant will be done flowering and ready to harvest. More on The Flowering Period.
Harvesting Cannabis can seem weird at first. Knowing what to look for is key. There are a few ways of being able to tell when cannabis is ready to harvest. By looking at the pistils, trichomes, and calyxes. All will help aide this procedure, but one is the real teller of ripeness.(Trichomes) In the third or fourth week of flowering trichomes start growing on the leaves and flowers. These will be clear at this time. Use a 30x microscope to see this.
As the flower grows so do the trichomes, from the bottom to the top of the flowers. The pistils(hairs) will start to turn from white to reddish brown from the bottom up and the calyxes will start to swell, filling with resin. Use the microscope to keep an eye on these indicators. Harvest at peak maturity for best results and most THC content. When about 75-90% of the hairs have turned color and about 90% of the calyxes are so full of resin they look like seeds. Most importantly, when half of the trichomes are a milky white and half are an amber color. See Harvesting for THC.
Cut the plant at the base. If needed cut the side branches for better handling. Remove the bigger (Sucker) leaves. Just the big ones though, leave the smaller ones around the flowers for now. Soon they will drape down around the flower shading and protecting it. We’ll get them later for now let them do their job, protect the flower. Hang branches upside down by the stem or set in Drying Screens in a cool, dry, Dark place.
A Quality Cure
Now that the plants have been harvested and are hanging out, let’s talk about drying and curing. Cannabis doesn’t just hang dry, well it does. But, there is more to it than that. To get exceptional flavors and aromas the flower needs to Cure. Cannabis doesn’t start the curing process until after it is dry and put into it’s permanent container. Curing Cannabis takes a little time and patients. After coming this far there is no since getting in a hurry now. A good quality cure can take up six or eight weeks. Settle down, you will be able to Sample and see first hand how this method makes the difference.
While the plants hang check them regularly. When the leaves and the flower tops feel semi crisp on the outside, but still moist inside. It’s time trim all leaves away from the flower (Manicure). Be sure to keep these leaves, they have many uses. Cooking or making Canna Butter, Bubble Hash, and there are a few ways of Extracting ???? the goods from them. As for the flowers, they should be dry on outside yet damp inside and still smell green. Maybe a few smaller ones are dyer, if so get a Sample.
After manicuring, separate the flowers from the stems and place in a paper bag. Don’t fill it up, only a couple inches of flower in the bottom. Fold the bag down to seal it, loosely only a couple folds. Gently shake the bag everyday to turn flowers. Maybe lay them out and give an inspection, check the dryness and density. As the flower dries it will shrink and feel more compact. In about a week or so the flowers will be dry enough for the next step. Some will be ready to smoke, so get a Sample.
They need to go in some type of sealable glass container, Mason Jars are best and usually easy to obtain. Fill jars with fresh flower about two thirds of the way full. Seal and store back in dark. Like the paper bags, gently shake and open daily for a week. Have a Sample the flower is probably ready to be consumed. Open jars daily for another week, noticed how she just becomes her own. As the depth of the aroma changes and the flower turns white preserving it’s self. Sample now.
Cannabis will get better and better as she cures in the glass jar. Be patient, let her cure, and it will be rewarded in the end. Note Cured Cannabis sealed in glass will keep indefinitely.