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Marijuana Growing: Seven Tips on Keeping It Simple and Avoid Frustration

Contrary to what one might instinctively think, this guide is not exclusively focused to beginner growers. Some of the tips and tricks in this article refer to “universal” mistakes that all growers make, regardless of experience. Online tutorials are not always helpful either; too much information on the internet can be helpful and confusing at the same time. For example, googling “how to grow marijuana” can yield (pun intended) so many results that can easily get you lost, especially if you are new to this game and do not understand a lot of the lingo involved. marijuana-growing-expert It is true growing marijuana involves a significant time and money investment. This article will discuss growing marijuana based on the K.I.S.S. (Keeping It Simple, Stupid) principle. We hope that the following chapters will actually help you set your priorities straight, spend your money where it is actually worth it and be a more efficient grower. Whether you are a tenderfoot or a seasoned veteran, it might be worth checking it out.

Set realistic expectations

marijuana-extreme-yieldBeing proactive is important in marijuana growing. So, the first thing you need to do is to define how big of a yield you want to achieve and how much you can actually achieve. You cannot expect to harvest yields of mythical proportions in a 3x3 area. Knowing the size of your grow room is key; it will be the decisive factor when choosing for the equipment like lights, grow systems, containers, etc. Measure your room and carefully check the dimensions of each product you plan on buying. measure-grow-room What you’ll need to pay attention to when doing your homework
  • Light requirements;
  • Nutrient requirements;
  • Possible risk of infections and diseases.

The K.I.S.S. principle

Even if you have a large area available at your disposal, start small, with maybe two to four plants. There is no point in investing thousands of dollars in commercial-grade equipment if you are unsure about your abilities. The smaller the room, the safer the initial investment. If you have a small grow room with only two plants, you don’t need all the fancy gear you might come across on google searches. While you can always opt for a quality grow box (the people at Dealzer or Supercloset offer some great deals), you can construct a basic grow room (2-4 plants) for as little as $100-200. grow-boxmeasure-grow-tentYou will only need
  • 1x 125W (or 250W) LED or CFL light;
  • 3x2 gallon containers;
  • One regular fan;
  • Great quality seeds.
As you can see, there are several expensive components missing from the shopping list. Items like carbon filters, reflectors, and exhaust fans are not needed at this stage. These parts are not only pricey, but they take quite a lot of work setting up. It is generally not advised to dive in deep waters yet. Limiting the amount of your expenditure at this stage is practically a double failsafe device; not only you are making things easier for yourself by softening the learning curve, but you are seriously reducing the risk of “buyer’s remorse” in case you decide growing is not for you. You don’t need to learn this lesson the hard way; just keep it simple! simple-grow-room

Choose High-Quality Genetics

This is one of the most important factors for a successful grow, no matter the experience and the equipment of the grower. There is a reason why cannabis breeders dedicate years of research to create the perfect strain. Your plants’ DNA is the most important factor in determining its growth. Think of your strain’s genetics as the factory mode of your plant. All the information that will determine its growth are stored there and there is not much you can do to change that. Many newbies think that investing in good seeds is a luxury and settle for freebies and bag seeds from obscure sources. Although not spending a penny for seeds might sound tempting, bad genetics can easily ruin your fun.

The K.I.S.S. principle

Great quality seeds are one of the areas that you should not be prudent in. If you are going to invest in a reliable lighting system, you don’t want it to go to waste with seeds of inferior genes or –god forbid- male plants. You can check out our list of trusted vendors. Most of these guys are in the business for years and their seeds have been tried and tested by the community. Plus, some of them offer a money-back guarantee on defective seeds. In case you are undecided about what you want to grow, we can help you by pointing out our favorites!

Top 5 High THC Seeds & Vendors

Strain THC Count

OG Kush


LSD Feminized


Sour Diesel


Pineapple Chunk


Big Buddha

Marijuana strains with higher THC counts are usually the ones that offer a more “buzzing” and cerebral high. If you want to read more on THC and THC-rich strains, click here.

Top 5 High CBD Seeds & Vendors

High levels of CBD in marijuana produce a more stoned and relaxing feeling. This attribute, makes strains with high CBD counts ideal for medicinal use. CBD is the second highest concentrated compound on marijuana and it is known to reduce the psychoactive effects of THC. If you are looking for that “couch-lock” feeling in your smoke, you might want to read some more about cannabinoids! cannabinoids There are inexpensive workarounds for almost every other component of your grow setup. Quality seeds are an investment you should always be ready to make. If you are undecided about what you want to grow, visit our forum and website. This way, you will definitely find something to “float your boat”.

Keep a Grow Calendar

marijuana-grow-calendar Based on the genetics of the strain, a plant may take up to five months to reach the flowering stage indoors. During this time, a plant will go through six growth phases before reaching flowering (plants which are grown from a clone will reach adulthood faster). The growing method and the conditions you provide also play a role in this, but genetics are the decisive factor. These phases are
  • Seed – Germination Stage;
  • Seedling Stage;
  • Vegetative Stage;
  • Pre-Flowering Stage;
  • Flowering;
  • Harvesting.

The K.I.S.S. principle

Although your seed bank will provide you with some information, the actual periods between the different stages can be quite arbitrary. Your crop’s needs change according to its growth phase. In order to keep in sync, you must keep a calendar and track down plant growth at weekly intervals. This may seem difficult and a tad nerdy, but will help you in the long run. Especially in later stages of your plants’ life, the differences between stages are not discernable to the untrained eye. If you don’t know what you are doing, you run a serious risk of harvesting prematurely. The right time to do so is as soon as half of the pistils have turned brown. You can experiment with the timing within the flowering period, but always within the appropriate window. Harvesting in the pre-flowering stage can be detrimental to the development of your plant. marijuana-pre-floweringmarijuana-flowering Although an old pinup calendar can do the trick, there is also an option for the more tech-savvy growers. Grow Buddy is an app developed by growers, for growers and enables you to track and organize your progress in a smart way. Choose whichever option you think suits you better!

Don’t Fall for the Marketing Hype

marketing-hype Let’s not be naïve: in this corporate day and age marijuana growing is, above all, a business. Many companies promise you double or triple yields if you buy their nutrient, product, light or even CO2 infused container. There are many half-truths and outright lies that people will say to separate you from your money. Marijuana growers who bought a faulty product with misleading ads can’t usually file complaints with the Chamber of Commerce without getting in trouble. So, are all the supplements and nutrients a scam? Quite the contrary. Nutrients are essential, especially in hydroponic grows. What we mean is that contrary to what many companies might claim, they won't make a huge difference. Whether you are using super-expensive nutrients or a basic nutrient line, you will see no discernable effects in your plants. That’s actually because the important factors that determine the quality and quantity of your yields are always LIGHT, GENES and PROPER HARVESTING. You’ll be far better off investing in a quality pH testing kit and a sturdy humidifier. I hate to burst any bubbles, but the brand of your nutrients does not really matter. Just use a basic line and you are golden. Just try to avoid over-feeding your plants by keeping the dosages at about half the recommended amount.

The K.I.S.S. principle

This is a tip that perhaps should be followed not only in growing but life in general: if something sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. That’s not to say that there are not products and supplements that can indeed help you achieve something extra. The important lesson here is to keep in mind that different vendors are trying to sell you stuff. So, before you go splurging on the next SuperMonsterYielder, read up on it. Your fellow growers and the community are your best friends in such cases. We have repeatedly stated on this website that growing marijuana is a significant money investment that will pay for itself in time. By minimizing expenses, you can ensure that this will happen much faster.

Invest in Lighting

marijuana-growing-light Here we are. The most common answer to every growing-related problem. Your plants photosynthesize their food and their lives are synced with the presence and absence of light. This is why proper lighting and management are of the utmost importance in an indoor grow. Good light is perhaps the single most important factor when growing marijuana in a grow room. There are true stories of expert growers reaching yields along the lines of 1 gram (0.035oz) per Watt of light. For now, let’s just focus on keeping things simple: just remember that a successful grow consists of ample lighting, just enough nutrients, and a great environment. Under normal circumstances, the yields will look more like this
Yield Light Type Area
42 to 50 g. (1.5- 2.0oz) 200W CFL 3.5 x 1.5 x 6.5 ft.;
85 to 100g (3.0-5.0oz) 250W HPS 3.5 x 1.5 x 6.5 ft.;
130 to 260g (4.5-9.0oz) 400W HPS 3.5 x 3.5 x 7 ft.;
140 to 280g (5-10oz) 600W HPS 4 x 4 x 8 ft.;
270 to 510g (9.0-18oz) 1000W HPS 5 x 5 x 8 ft.;
LED lights have also proven themselves to be great money and time savers and the big plus is that the best models, do not require air conditioning. If you invest on a LED grow light with a built in heat sink, you can save further money on air conditioning units and extra fans. Read more about the best models here. led-grow-lights

Measuring Light Intensity

Of course, the light intensity can be measured, just like mass, length or volume. The universal unit for light intensity is the "lux" (lx. - lumens x sq.ft). For example, for some of the sturdiest cannabis plants, the lowest level is around 15.000 lux and the highest is about 85.000 (for sativas in the flowering stages for example). Generally, you’ll want to keep your lux levels at around 65.000. These amounts are suitable for 99% of the plants and anything more is overkill (some strains are exceptions to the rule). In order to measure these levels, you will need a lux meter. This device is designed to measure luminance, luminous remittance and flux in an area. It is not 100% foolproof, but it is a great way to determine whether your plants receive the light they need in all the necessary spots. Investing in a lux meter is a great tip to make the most out of your grow lights, by adjusting the reflective materials and the plants accordingly.
At this point, you might think that all of the above might not seem so simple. Scientifically speaking, they are not. However, you don’t need to know everything in order to grow marijuana. Besides, you can find an in-depth article that answers most of the questions that you might have about lighting here.

“What is a lumen?”

A unit that measures the flow of light which is emitted from a source, non-stop (the sun, grow lights). A tiny wax candle emits a flow of light that is equal to a lumen. A common 50W incandescent bulb emits around 500 lm (lumen). Thus, the efficacy of said bulb is around 500lm/50W=10lm/W

“What is a LUX?”

Lux is the amount of lumen per square meter (or foot). If we direct all light from the above 50W lamp an area of 1sq.m., the intensity of light in that area will be 500lx (500 lumens distributed over 1 square meter, 500/1 lm/m2 = 500lx). This intensity is just above the levels of moonlight. Marijuana plants need much higher levels than that in order to grow. Remember, the goal of artificial lighting is to simulate natural sunlight, which marijuana plants were designed to use in order to photosynthesize. “Come on, man, I just want to grow weed, not do math…” In case you don’t care in the least about the science behind lighting, here is a handy table that will help you decipher your meter’s readings
Light Intensity What it means
1000 - 5000lx Necessary to sustain life on earth;
< 15,000lx Consistent but hindered growth;
15,000 - 50,000lx Necessary for a strong growth in the vegetative stage;
45,000 - 70,000lx Great for the flowering stage;
70,000 - 85,000lx Best used for sativas and tropical strains;
> 85,000lx At this point you might need to consider a CO2 supplement.

The K.I.S.S. principle

It is advisable to new growers to begin their first crop by using a manageable lighting setup, regardless of the type. There is no need to complicate things yet, so a 1000W behemoth would not be necessary for 2-4 plants. A regular 400W HPS lighting setup emits roughly 50.000 lumens, which is plenty for your first grows. With basic math knowledge and proper research, you can determine which kind of light suits you best. Metal halide lights have a broader spectrum but they are more expensive, while CFLs are weaker and less energy consuming. In any case, you should choose according to your needs. In howtogrowmarijuana.com, we have extensively covered grow lights, so you can read more here. growing-light-types

Quick Tips

  • Marijuana plants need a lot of light in the first couple of months of their development. Grow under continuous light in the vegetative stage (see here for more information);
  • According to the type of lamp and the heat they emit, they should be kept as close to the plant as possible, but never touch them;
  • The best lights for growing are the ones that emit high intensities of the blue and red bands of the light spectrum;
  • If your grow lights feel too hot to you, they are most likely too hot for the plants’ leaves. In such cases, it is important to re-adjust the canopy of the lights further away from the plants;
  • Aim for at least 20W per sq., regardless of your crop’s size;
  • Lower branches naturally get less light. You can rectify this by using reflectors and vertical CFL tubes;
  • Metal Halide lamps are generally a more effective light source for your plants. However, they are more expensive and use up a lot more electricity;
  • Plants can grow quite tall in a short period of time during flowering. Be prepared for that eventuality and don’t congest your grow room with more plants than it can fit;
  • DO NOT USE INCANDESCENT BULBS. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES. They are not suitable for marijuana growing in any way and they will kill your plants;
  • Later, you can start experimenting with different light types for different growth stages. For your first few tries, it is OK to experiment with just one type.
Light is the most important component of (plant) life. The more it receives, the more likely it is to reach its genetic potential in terms of strength, yield, and potency. Realistically speaking, you can't hope for a decent yield without having sorted this out first. Of course, we are not undermining the importance of proper pH management, nutrition, and watering. But, light is, hands down, where you should invest the most of your time and budget.

Be Patient (or at least try!)

growing-patience If you’ve ever done a little bit of research, you probably already know that growing indoors will take at least three months, from seed to harvest. In case you decided to grow it just to get rid of the shady bloke that supplied you with marijuana, you might want to think it over. Enthusiasm is one of the two most essential attributes every aspiring grower should possess. Patience is the other! Caring for your plants requires dedication and a significant time investment. You have to check their environment at regular intervals, supply them with water and nutrients and tend to their every need. The process of their development might seem incremental but nature knows its way around. The only thing you have to do is guide them to the right direction. Do not try to go over the top to speed things up, do not give extra nutrients in the hopes that the plants will grow faster and most important of all, don’t harvest early! The latest part is perhaps the hardest. Especially in the early flowering period, you can see, smell and feel your buds. A plant in the pre-flowering stage will definitely try your patience! It is perfectly normal to feel the urge to harvest your buds immediately and light them up.

This is a bad idea.

full-flowering-marijuana-plant First of all, the pre-flowering period of your plant is crucial to the production of quality buds. Tampering with your crop during that time will ruin your bud, as it is still premature and all the cannabinoids have yet to form inside the trichomes. The harvesting process of marijuana happens inside a two-three week in the flowering stage. You will know that the time has come because when the resin glands (or trichomes) of the flower are about one-half turning a milky white or amber in color (not transparent) and the small hairs have begun to turn brown/orange. As time goes by, more and more pistils will start to turn brown. full-flowering-marijuana-brown-pistils When you are absolutely, unequivocally sure that you have reached the harvesting window, you may harvest, depending on the quality you want your high to have. As time goes by, the THC breaks down in the trichomes, which build up in CBD. In order to notice the color changes in those tiny trichomes, you need a 30x magnifier or a jeweler’s loupe. Below, you will find an interesting chart that sums up the effects of all cannabinoids, separately and in conjunction. simple-chart-cannabinoid-effects

Did you know…

… cannabis plants use THC too? Turns out that marijuana plants produce THC and other cannabinoids to safeguard their health against disease. Cannabinoids have antioxidant properties that protect the plant from UV radiation. They are also known to neutralize free radicals generated by UV rays and protect the plant’s cellular structure. Free radicals are the reactive molecules that cause aging, cancer, and impaired healing to humans. Every day, new research contributes to the legalization cause, coming up with new evidence that suggest cannabis can become an effective ally of the medical community.

Drying and curing

drying-and-curing-marijuana After a testy three to five-month period, if everything is done simply, you should have been through all the stages of plant development. Immediately after harvest, your plants will require a “manicuring” process before being left to dry. Letting your buds dry out evenly is crucial for their final quality. Don't try to rush it. In fact, the secret to a proper drying out of the buds is to dry them out as slowly as possible. If you to rush the drying process, they will become frail and develop a rather repulsive grassy taste. For optimal results, keep the buds on the cut stems and hang them upside down. This will make them harder to dry out, but will also retain the juices inside the bud. This means that your plant will taste better, smell better and burn better. Which should be your aim anyway! After all, you managed to wait for four months. An extra 10 days should pose no challenge to the patient grower, right…? drying-marijuana

The curing process

The final part of producing your own marijuana involves the curing process. A lengthy –but necessary- part of making your bud tasty and smoke-able. Essentially, curing equalizes the moisture levels within the bud with the outside. For the curing process, you’ll want to transfer your buds in an airtight jar. Search for one-quart mason jars. They can be found anywhere and they are the best container for the curing process. They are small enough to prevent mold from developing and they seal in just the right way. The correct humidity level in which you should cure your buds is around 60% in a room temperature around 70ºF(20ºC). Essentially, you want the buds to feel dry to touch, but not crumbly. Do not cram the jar full of buds, because you still need some of the air on top. curing-marijuanaOnce you notice moisture on the jar, open the container and let the air flow. Keep in mind that you have to perform these air exchanges daily. This is done to stabilize the humidity levels inside the jar with fresh air. You should repeat this several times per day to ensure proper airflow. In about 10 days or so, the moisture levels in the herb will be stabilized and your buds will be ready to be smoked. Remember that you should only store buds that feel dry on the outside. If by any chance your buds feel humid to touch after you put them in the jar, take the lid off until they become dry again. A hygrometer should come in handy for the process of curing, so be sure to equip yourself with one before. For more information on drying and curing, visit our in-depth guide here. We know that waiting is hard, especially in the later stages. However, every grower and growing guide out there can vouch for the value of patience. It might seem unbearable at first, but it is well worth the wait. Good things take time and growing marijuana will help you “train your brain” in many ways.

Manage the pH of Your Growing Medium

ph-management Whether you are growing in soil, soilless or hydro, pH can make a significant difference in the nutrient intake and final yield of your crop. Controlling it is simple, not time-consuming and free (except for the part you have to buy a pH testing kit). Making sure that the pH levels in your grow medium are correct will improve the efficacy of your nutrients. It will also eliminate (for the most part) the possibility of a deficiency. Proper pH is important for the plants because it determines which nutrients it can metabolize and which are locked out. If the pH is too acidic (1.0 – 5.0) or too alkaline (7.5 -14.0), there is a good chance your plant is not absorbing essential nutrients. Since simplicity is the theme of this article, we can safely ignore much of the growing marijuana jargon and acronyms (for now). However, this one is simply too important to ignore. Marijuana plants (and most plants for that matter) prefer slightly acidic environment at their root system. When you are trying to manipulate the pH levels of your plants, you should target a sweet spot (=range) in which all of the nutrients can be absorbed.

The “Sweet Spots”

  • 6.0 – 6.8 for soil
  • 5.5 – 6.5 for hydro or soil-less
marijuana-growing-ph-chart-soilmarijuana-growing-ph-chart-hydroNutrient deficiencies are closely connected to extreme fluctuations in the pH levels of the plants. Although there is a chance that you may get lucky and get away with not checking the levels of acidity or alkalinity in your grow, it pays to be proactive.

Why should I check my pH levels?

  • You radically minimize the chances of a nutrient deficiency and that in turn leads to faster and higher quality yields;
  • You have the luxury of acting proactively rather than retroactively. If you notice that the pH levels are not what they should, you can rectify the situation before a deficiency spirals out of control.

Why are the pH levels fluctuating?

marijuana-growing-fertilizer There are many reasons why pH levels change. The most common reason for soil-based mediums is the decomposition of fertilizer. As the fertilizer you apply to your plants breaks down, it leaves salts behind, that lower the pH of the soil, making it too acidic. Also, the problem can appear if you mix your own soil unevenly. In such cases, the problem might appear if you have failed to mix it thoroughly, so pockets of uneven pH still remain. In hydroponic grows, pH levels are more volatile and you should be careful with the nutrient solution you are using. Remember: keep it simple, and apply less nutrient than the manufacturer suggests. Then, if needed, try increasing the dose until you find the right amount!

The K.I.S.S. Principle

All deficiencies are reversible (up to a point). However, there is no reason to go there when preventing them is far easier. A pH testing kit is not too expensive (around $20 for a run-of-the-mill model) and can potentially save you a lot of money in the process. Simple, effective and cheap! For more information on measuring and adjusting the pH of your soil or soilless medium, take a look at our comprehensive guide.

Cheap, simple and effective marijuana growing

marijuana-simple-cannabis-growing The goal of this article was to pinpoint the crucial topics of marijuana growing and give you a shortcut to proper growing without spending a fortune on specialized equipment. You are always welcome to contribute to the discussion by sharing your experience and tips in the comment sections. The philosophy of this article was all about saving you time and energy by fleshing out the core of marijuana growing.
  • Spending more on equipment and nutrients is not a guarantee for success. Spending more in the appropriate areas can make a world of difference;
  • Keeping it simple works 99% of the time. Nature knows best. You are merely facilitating a process that has been going on for millions of years. Cherish these moments;
  • There are no magical recipes or one-size-fits-all solutions in marijuana growing;
  • There is no substitute for dedication and patience.
This article is merely an index to other sections of this website that cover each topic in depth. We have mentioned countless times in the past that educating yourself is one of the most crucial parts of becoming a great grower. However, some of us just aren’t cut out for reading. So, below you’ll find a TL;DR version of this article, with a short description. To keep marijuana growing simple and effective you need to pay attention to the following
  • Invest on some great quality seeds. Our massive strain review database can help you select some of the best seeds in the world, from hand-picked vendors;
  • Do not spare the investment in great quality lighting, according to your needs. Remember that light is everything for your plants and will aid them immensely in their development;
  • Do not trust the marketing hype. If you are thinking about buying the “next growing miracle”, conduct an exhaustive research first. Chances are, you’ll save yourself hundreds of dollars;
  • Try not to feed your plant too many nutrients (especially in hydro grows). Start at about 50% of the suggested dose and work your way up, if needed;
  • The result of your efforts will take some time to show and even more time to be properly dried and cured. Remember that slowly dried and properly cured buds make up for a wonderful smoke. Proper drying and curing will take roughly three more weeks after harvest, but I assure you, it is time well spent. Patience is key.
Of course, this is just a bare-bones guide to show how simple marijuana growing can be. By following the above instructions and the appropriate links, you will be ready to start growing a small-scale crop (four plants max) in an absolutely minimal (hydro/soil, no exhaust vents) setup. After you complete your first venture into the growing world you are guaranteed to come back for more. Our website features a wealth of carefully crafted articles and how-to's, that will aid you to your path towards expert status! Happy (Simple) Growing