by Nebula Haze
This tutorial is Part 2 of our “how to grow weed for beginners” series:
Part 1: Get Your Cannabis Garden Set Up > Part 2: Seed-to-Harvest Grow Guide
This second 10-minute tutorial teaches you how to grow cannabis indoors once you’re set up. Follow all 6 steps and you will harvest superior weed on your very first grow. Growing at home lets you keep yourself safe, save money, and get better quality weed than most people can buy!
Other helpful resources:
- Complete Guide to Growing Cannabis: https://www.growweedeasy.com/basics
- Marijuana Grow Timeline: https://www.growweedeasy.com/timeline
- Plant Doctor (get help for sick plants!): https://www.growweedeasy.com/plant-doctor
Table of Contents
Step 1: Get Set Up
Step 2: Germinate Your Seeds
Step 5: Harvest
Step 6: Dry & Cure Buds
10-Minute Cannabis Grow Tutorial
Once you have these items, you’re ready to start growing weed indoors!
- A Place to Grow (closet, grow tent, spare room, bathroom, etc.)
- Grow Light (LEDs or HPS recommended for beginners)
- Grow Medium (soil, coco, hydro, etc)
- Cannabis-Friendly Nutrients (if using nutrients)
- Seeds or Clones
Want a quick crash course? Read the 10-minute guide to setting up to grow indoors: https://www.growweedeasy.com/indoor-setup
- Where to get seeds: https://www.growweedeasy.com/seeds
- Recommended beginner setups (with cost and yield estimates): https://www.growweedeasy.com/setup
The easiest and most simple way to germinate is to plant your seed directly in the grow medium. Just like in nature. Another common option is to germinate seeds in a seedling plug, then plant the whole plug after germination (if growing in hydro, you should always use a seedling plug).
Cannabis seeds often appear dark brown with tiger stripes. However, that outer coating can rub off and seeds are tan underneath. Seed color is not a sign of quality.
Cannabis Germination Tips
- Plant seed about a half knuckle deep (1/2″ or 1.5 cm)
- Seeds usually take 1-7 days to germinate (2-4 days average)
- Keep moist but not soaking
- Germination goes faster when seeds are kept warm
- Never let seeds dry out!
Note: Older seeds germinate slower and often have lower germination rates. Even with fresh seeds, some strains germinate better/faster than others.
Place seed about a half-knuckle deep, then keep moist and warm until seedling appears
Many beginners accidentally overwater their seedlings, causing slow growth, droopiness, and nutrient deficiencies. Here’s how to water seedlings properly.
- Give 2 cups (500ml) water per seedling at first
- Pour water slowly in a small circle around the base of the seedling. I first pour my water into a cup so it’s easier to pour water around each seedling.
- The water circle should be ~2 inches (5 cm) in every direction from the base of your seedling
- Don’t give water again until the top part of the soil is mostly dry
- As your seedling grows, slowly ramp up the water amount so the circle around the base is always about the width of the leaves
- Each grow medium and environment is different, which changes how much water your seedlings drink. On average, seedlings need to be watered every 2-3 days
Note: If growing in coco or hydroponics, you need to give nutrients in the water from the beginning (coco and water don’t contain nutrients). With potting soil, you don’t need to give nutrients for several weeks while the plant uses up the nutrients in the soil. With a super soil setup, you don’t ever provide extra nutrients because it’s been designed to slow release organic nutrients over the course of the grow.
Water seedlings slowly in a circle around the base of the plant. Give 2 cups (500ml) water per seedling at this stage.
Slowly increase the amount of water as the seedling grows. Try to get the water circle around the width of the leaves
- More ways to germinate seeds: https://www.growweedeasy.com/germinate
- Common seedling problems and mistakes: https://www.growweedeasy.com/seedling-problems
Now that you’ve got a growing plant, you’re officially in the “vegetative stage” of a cannabis plant’s life. During this first stage of life, your plants will grow new stems and leaves, but no buds yet. Plant care is almost like a regular houseplant in this stage.
How to care for vegetative cannabis plants:
- Water plants regularly (or maintain the water reservoir if in hydro)
- If using nutrients, add nutrients according to directions for the vegetative stage
- Periodically adjust grow light to keep it the recommended distance from plants as they grow
- Watch out for problems like discolored leaves or droopiness
- Enjoy their beauty
In the vegetative stage, a cannabis plant can recover from a lot even if you mess up. It’s kind of like the “training wheels” stage of growing. Your main job is simply to water your plants and make sure they’re getting the right amount of nutrients and light. If using high levels of nutrients and supplements, try to give plain water sometimes to prevent nutrient build-up.
Plants in the vegetative stage only grow stems and leaves, no buds!
How to water plants
By the time your seedling is a few weeks old (5+ sets of leaves), it should have an established, healthy root system that can handle more water at a time. At this point, switch to normal watering practices:
- Give enough water that you get a little bit of runoff out the bottom
- Remove any runoff (never let plants sit in water)
- Wait until the top inch (up to your first knuckle) feels dry to the touch
If plants dry out in less than 2 days, it means you should give more water at a time. If they take more than 3 days to dry between waterings, give less water at a time until they’re drinking more.
Nutrients (if you’re using them)
- Follow the nutrient schedule or recommended dosage for “vegetative” growth
- It’s a good idea to start at half-strength at first since most nutrient recommendations are too strong for marijuana plants
- Only raise the nutrient dosage if you notice plants are looking pale or lime green, which are signs the plant needs higher levels of nutrients overall
Once your plant has reached half the final desired size, it’s time to move on to the next step. Otherwise, your plants keep getting bigger and bigger!
Plants typically double in size during the next stage of life. That means you should move on to the next step once plants have reached half the final desired height
- Complete guide to the vegetative stage: https://www.growweedeasy.com/vegetative
- How often to water plants? https://www.growweedeasy.com/how-often-water
- Nutrient problems? Check the pH of your water: https://www.growweedeasy.com/ph
- Diagnose a sick plant: https://www.growweedeasy.com/plant-doctor
When your plant has reached half the final desired size, it’s time to start making buds. This stage of life is known as the “flowering stage”.
- The flowering stage should be initiated when your plant has reached half the final desired height. Plants often double in size after they start flowering, so don’t wait too long!
- Initiate the flowering stage by putting grow lights on a timer with a 12/12 light schedule (12 hours off, 12 hours on)
- Make sure the plant gets total darkness during the dark period or it won’t make buds. Ensure the grow space is totally light-proof without any light leaks
- The first few weeks after the switch to 12/12, your plant will be growing fast. This extra fast growth period is known as the “flowering stretch”.
This daily dark period is like a message that tells your plant winter is coming. Plants will typically start growing buds within 2-3 weeks after the switch to a 12/12 light schedule.
Flowering stage care:
- If using nutrients, now is the time to switch to “bloom” nutrients
- Other than the 12/12 light schedule and using flowering nutrients, plant care is basically the same as it was in the vegetative stage
- When your plant starts flowering, you need to double-check that it’s making female flowers (buds) and not male flowers (pollen sacs). You can skip this step if you started with feminized seeds since all plants will be female.
Male vs Female Identification
- Female flowers look like wispy white hairs at first. These eventually fatten into the buds we know and love
- Male plants grow pollen sacs that look like bunches of grapes
- Pollen sacs aren’t good to smoke and if the pollen is released it will cause all the buds to get seeded
- Unless you want seeds, it’s recommended to remove male plants on sight
Identify male plants as soon as possible and separate them to prevent seedy buds.
Flowering Stage Tips
- Watch plants closely and react quickly to any problems so you cruise to the finish line
- Most plants stop getting bigger around Week 6, but buds still need time to fatten and reach peak potency
- It’s hard to be patient while buds fatten and mature. It might seem like buds are ready to harvest once plants stop growing vegetatively. But even though you might not see it, buds are getting bigger and more potent each day.
- Most plants are ready to harvest about 8-12 weeks after the switch to 12/12 though some strains take more or less time.
- In the next step, you’ll learn how to determine when your plant is ready to harvest
The wispy white hairs of a female plant…
…Slowly fatten into buds
- What to expect in the flowering stage week-by-week): https://www.growweedeasy.com/flowering
- More about Male vs Female Plants: https://www.growweedeasy.com/plant-sex
When plants are ready to harvest, the white hairs on the buds will have darkened and will have mostly curled in.
Examples of marijuana buds that are ready to harvest. Every strain looks a little different.
You can choose when to harvest your buds based purely on how they look, but you need to look at buds under a magnifier to most accurately determine when they’ve reached peak potency. This is done by looking at the “trichomes” or glitter that grows on buds at high magnification. When buds have reached the highest levels of THC the heads of trichomes turn milky white. Waiting until a few trichomes turn amber/yellow can give buds more of a body or relaxation effect.
When trichome heads look milky white under magnification, the buds have reached the highest level of THC and other cannabinoids
- Complete Harvest Guide: https://www.growweedeasy.com/harvest
What’s the “magic ingredient” that makes buds burn smoothly, get white ash, smell dank, and feel as potent as possible? A proper dry & cure! Drying and curing buds can increase their quality by up to 50% or more compared to improperly drying or not curing.
Drying (This is the Most Popular Method)
- Cut off branches and remove all the big fan leaves
- Hang buds upside down in an enclosed space like a grow tent or a closet
- Monitor temperature and humidity for best results
- Ideal humidity: 60% RH
- Ideal temperature: 60-70°F (16-21°C)
- If humidity is too low, dry buds by hanging them from inside a large cardboard box. This creates a humid pocket around the buds.
- If humidity is too high, mold is a concern. Consider using a dehumidifier or possibly a drying aid like the HerbsNow.
- Gentle air circulation
- Buds should have a little bit of space between them. They are more likely to grow mold if they’re touching
- Buds are done drying when small stems snap instead of bend, and buds pop off cleanly without strings
- Drying usually takes about 4-10 days depending on the environment and thickness of buds
- Once buds are dry, trim away extra leaves
- Then put the newly-trimmed buds in quart-sized glass mason jars filled about 80% full
- Open jars once a day to let in fresh air and make sure the buds don’t feel wet or stick together
- Use a mini hygrometer to monitor humidity. Ideal humidity is 55-62% RH
- Add a “Boveda” or “Boost” humidipak to jars if desired. These automatically maintain the proper humidity for curing.
- After the first 2 weeks, you can open jars once every few days, and slowly taper off to less often
- Curing is considered done after 2 weeks, but the quality (and perceived potency) of buds may continue to improve for up to a few months.
- Some strains benefit more from a long cure than others.
Use a mini hygrometer to monitor humidity
Use a “Boveda” or “Boost” humidipak to automatically maintain humidity in the 55-62% range
Now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor!
- Complete Drying & Curing Tutorial: https://www.growweedeasy.com/drying-curing
The Life of a Marijuana Plant (timeline)