Ah, the Internet. There’s no denying it: it’s pretty handy. Back in more primitive times, when a lesson needed learning, we might all have had to rely on the sage advice of our village elders to guide us. These days – 2 seconds’ googling and Bob's your uncle. And you don’t even need him as an uncle any more, because you have Google. Sorry, Uncle Bob. Move along, please.
When it comes to growing your own marijuana, Uncle Google really is a marvel. But whilst the basics of setting up a home-grow are relatively easy to find online, the tricks and techniques needed to take your weed-growing to the next level are still something of a mystery.
The fact of the matter is, growing weed is easy. It’s a weed. Weeds like to grow. All you really need to start growing your own plants is a few spare minutes a day and an empty cupboard and before you know it you’ll be knee-deep in perfectly smokeable greenery.
What you really need to ask yourself is: Is that enough? Are you content to spend a small amount of effort growing a few reasonable plants, and harvest a handful of buds that just about do the trick? Or would you prefer to be the proud creator of something truly monumental, something top-of-the-range, the kind of stuff that can stun a bull elephant at 200 paces and cause even Cheech Marin to blearily look up and mutter “Cor blimey guv, that’s got a bit of a kick to it”?
With a bit of extra planning, preparation and investment, you too could soon be on your way to producing weed so fantastically, mind-buggeringly excellent that your name will go down in infamy amongst all who sample its delights for years to come. And so, for all you discerning horticulturalists out there, allow me to unveil my 5 top tips for producing truly legendary marijuana.
1. The Need for Seeds
As much truth as there is the old adage ‘A bad workman always blames his tools’, there is also much to learn from one of my favourite phrases: ‘A rubbish hammer… isn’t very good.’ Which, in this instance, is to say: If you don’t invest in top-quality seeds, you’re not likely to end up with top-quality plants.
First-time growers will often start out experimenting with any seeds they can get their hands on, and more often than not they will grow – but the results from using just any old seeds can vary wildly and rarely produce quality buds. The same goes for clones. Cuttings taken from adult plants can produce a reasonable harvest, but their output is often very different to that of the parent plant, despite the cuttings being genetically identical.
The best option for the grower seeking perfection is to buy your seeds from a reputable seed bank. Searching out seeds with good genetics is absolutely essential if you want to start growing high quality plants. That quality may not come cheap, but in this case you most definitely get what you pay for, and a good investment in top-notch seeds will give you a much better chance of a top-notch harvest in the end. And that, in turn, will lead you to the desired result of getting top-notch hammered.
Humidity is one of those things that amateur growers tend to forget about, but it’s a vital ingredient in the production of top quality buds and can greatly effect the outcome of your crop. Many growers will fork out for better lights or CO2, when simply buying a humidifier/dehumidifier will make far more difference.
By maintaining a humidity of 50-60% throughout, you’ll reduce salt levels in your plants whilst really allowing them to blossom and grow. The real secret here, however, is to drop the humidity as low as it’ll go right towards the end of your plants’ lifecycle, for around the last fortnight of flowering. This sudden decrease in air moisture encourages the buds to seal up by producing an extra layer of THC crystals – in other words, the good stuff. It will also help remove moisture from the buds which is a pretty handy way of speeding up the drying and curing process.
So my second tip: get yourself a humidifier/dehumidifier. It’s a cheap and effective change to make to your growing environment and you’ll be guaranteed to notice the improvements.
3. Increasing your yield: Lights vs CO2
There’s a lot of debate when it comes to the supposed effect that the introduction of extra carbon dioxidecan have on the quality of your crop. Some growers swear by it, while others find themselves throwing their money away on a technique that seems to have no effect at all. The truth is that CO2 will not effect the quality of your buds, but it can effect the yield. And when it comes to yield, the use of CO2 has to be considered as part of a balancing act with that one other key factor: lighting.
Using bright and powerful lights should be your first step when it comes to increasing the yield of your plants. A lighting rig of around 1000W HPS is the optimum, although this will generate excess heat which needs to be controlled (more of which later). However, adding lights will only get you so far, simply because your plants are only capable of processing so much light.
This is the point when the addition of CO2 becomes effective. Where there is an excess of light in your growing area, adding CO2 to the air causes a chemical change in your plants that allows them to make use of more light. This in turn can increase the yield of your crop.
The key here is to consider the size of your crop. CO2 will only really be an effective investment for larger-scale growers with very powerful lighting set-ups. For those growing on a smaller scale, the main things to worry about are lighting, and temperature.
When growing marijuana indoors, it’s easy to forget that plants rely heavily on the seasons as part of their lifecycle. This is something that can best be simulated by controlling the temperature of your growing area.
The ideal daytime temperature for your plants is around 70-80 degrees F (approx. 21-26 C). If you’re using CO2 you can up this to 80-90 F (26-32 C), but it is highly recommended to lower the temperature back down to 70-80 F for the last two weeks before harvesting your buds.
Reducing temperature to about 60 F (15 C) during the night is recommended, and many growers have suggested dropping it lower to 50 F (10 C) towards the end of the flowering stage, in order to simulate typical Autumn conditions as the harvest approaches. This additional drop in temperature can be particularly effective in bringing out the colour of many purple strains.
5. Ventilation and air flow
Tip 5 is another frequently overlooked factor, and it’s a very easy one to fix. Air quality, as we’ve seen above, is crucial to producing great quality buds. In this instance, all you need to do is provide a bit of a breeze.
Adding a couple of simple oscillating desk-fans to your growing area can provide your plants with all the airflow they need. The more plants you have, the more fans you’ll need, but a general rule of thumb is one fan for every 2-3 plants. The key is to get the air moving just enough: not so strong as to sway the branches themselves and risk damage, but just enough to keep the leaves gently rustling. This not only provides fresh CO2 to your hungry plants but also stimulates stronger stem growth which in turn will mean your plants can bear a greater yield. Make sure you have an exhaust vent at the top of your grow area to create a flow of air right through your plants' growing space.
So there you have it: Secrets of the Weedfarmers revealed. Of course, there’s no such thing as too much learning and the smartest growers will always be the ones looking out for new tips and tricks to improve their growing technique. Doing your research and keeping abreast of new methods of cultivation might be a bit of extra work, but in the long run it’s a cheaper and easier approach to learn from other growers’ mistakes than to make them all yourself.
So just remember: keep an eye on the sky, a finger on the pulse, an ear to the ground and your nose on the grindstone. And if all that sounds a bit too painful… just ask Uncle Google (or your cousin YouTube).