Growing Marijuana For Beginners: Top Mistakes to Avoid
Thanks to the legalization of adult-use and medicinal cannabis across the country, consumers not only have access to products in state-legal dispensaries, but many states also allow for consumers to grow their own cannabis in the safety and privacy of their own home. This has many benefits, including the ability to perform quality control on your plants and to grow the strains that work best for you, especially important for medical cannabis patients.
Additionally, the supply can be controlled, so you’ll never run out or have to go from one dispensary to another hunting for your preferred strain. And after some initial up-front costs, it may be more cost-effective to grow your own in the long run. Once properly set up, growing cannabis at home can be easy, fun, and rewarding, but there are some common mistakes novice growers make. Let’s take a look at some top mistakes to avoid when growing marijuana.
Be Aware of the Seeds You’re Planting
Say a friend offers you a handful of marijuana seeds to get your cannabis grow started, and you think to yourself, “weed is weed, what could go wrong?” The answer, as it turns out, is a lot. But first things first. To grow cannabis that is both healing and euphoric, you need feminized seeds. If you are not exactly sure what’s in that seed bag, it’s quite likely that there are males, hermaphrodites, or runts, and there’s no way to know by simply looking at a seed whether it’s feminine or otherwise. It’s also important to know whether those seeds are indica, sativa, autoflowering, etc.
It's important to know what type of seed you are dealing with before beginning to grow. photo credit
Just as a mushroom is unlikely to grow in the dry ground of a desert, not every type of cannabis is acclimated to your particular climate. Some may need warmer temperatures, while others may thrive in cooler weather. Other aspects that are not one-size-fits-all propositions are how much nutrients or water to give your plants. Knowing what you’re planting can help you provide the proper environment for a successful grow.
How to Avoid: Make sure to purchase feminized seeds from a reliable source.
Not All Soil is Created Equal
You may be tempted to either reuse soil from another plant or to dig up dirt from your garden, but neither one of those mediums will contribute to healthy grows. Soil for cannabis should be light and not packed too tightly, which allows for proper water drainage and root growth. Cannabis can be finicky when it comes to the kind of soil it's grown in because it needs the proper balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for robust buds. It’s also important to make sure that the soil for your plant is free from fungi, pests, and contaminants, something you can’t guarantee when you use any old soil.
How to Avoid: Find a nursery near you that sells pre-fertilized soil.
Be Careful Not to Overwater
Water is the elixir of both plant and human life. Nonetheless, water for your marijuana plants can still be too much of a good thing. If your cannabis plant begins to sag and has a droopy appearance, chances are they’ve been overwatered. This waterlogging will prevent your plant from getting another all-important compound we need to live, oxygen. Over time, too much water can kill your plants.
How to Avoid: Try not to water your plant unless it’s thirsty. To figure out if it’s time for a watering, push your finger about an inch into the soil. If your finger comes out with damp soil on your skin, hold off on watering. If it comes out dry, then it’s time to water your plant.
Nutrients are Great in Proper Moderation
It’s been said that the offering of food is the sixth love language, and of course, we want our cannabis plants to be happy and healthy. But feeding them too much is not the answer. Overfeeding your plant can cause nutrient burn or even nutrient lockout - the accumulation of minerals in the soil and potential bud killer.
To avoid nutrient burn, monitor how much nutrients you are feeding your plant. photo credit
Overfeeding is a very common mistake especially if you’ve been following a feeding schedule included with a nutrient system, the doses of which tend to be too high for an indoor grow.
How to Avoid: Start by giving your plants about one-quarter of the nutrient dose the feeding schedule calls for. If you’re winging it, follow cannabis’ cardinal rule; start low and go slow. Either way, check your plants daily to see how they’re responding and adjust accordingly. If you’re just not sure and need a more seasoned hand, check in with your local grow store or ask a friend in the know.
Grow Lighting is Incredibly Important
As tempting as it is to just put your plant on the sunniest windowsill and cross your fingers, chances are your plant will grow - but probably without great results. Cannabis plants that get too little light have a tendency to make buds that are small, light, and airy. Creating the right light environment for your plant is key to both density and yield.
How to Avoid: Invest in some quality lights like a small intense or mid-size LED light that can deliver higher light levels without overheating your grow space, burning the leaves, or breaking the bank.
Patience is Key for a Perfect Harvest
It is oh-so-tempting to pluck those buds right off the stem when they start to look ripe and ready. However, this is precisely the time to practice patience, since harvesting cannabis too early will greatly reduce the plant's potency and medicinal benefits.
How to Avoid: Get out the magnifying glass and take a look at the trichomes, those tiny, sticky, and hair-like parts of the plant that have a frosty appearance. The best time to harvest is when the trichomes are a cloudy white color, with about 10-20 percent of them changing to an amber hue.
To get started on growing your own plants, check out our beginner’s guide to growing marijuana and you’ll be off on the right foot. Also, be sure to share any beginner growing tips we missed by commenting below!
Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work - which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor - covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.
Erin's work and industry insights have been featured on the podcasts The Let's Go Eat Show, In the Know 420, and she has appeared as a featured panelist on the topic of hemp media. Erin has interviewed top industry experts such as Dr. Carl Hart, Ethan Nadelmann, Amanda Feilding, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Dr. James Fadiman, and culture icons Governor Jesse Ventura, and author Tom Robbins. You can follow her work on LinkedIn, Wordpress, @erinhiatt on Twitter, and @erinisred on Instagram.