How to Grow Cannabis at Home

The Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) allows Canadian medical marijuana patients to grow their own cannabis or select an independent grower to grow it for them, rather than by purchasing through large scale Licensed Producers. This is the federal government’s response to the Supreme Court ruling that made affordable access to cannabis medicine a human right.

To learn more about the ACMPR, applying for your medical cannabis prescription, and a dozen other related topics, please click here.

There are many different ways to grow medical cannabis. Which method is right for you depends upon your circumstances and what you want to invest in time, money, and overall commitment. This guide will outline the various methods and give you a short summary of their various advantages and disadvantages. Not all methods are created equal!

The first step, of course, is to get some seeds or clones to get you started. Once you obtain these, you have to select a growing method:

Plain Dirt

Growing plants in soil seems to be what many people try first when it comes to growing in cannabis. If you’ve grown other plants in soil and/or have maintained a soil garden, this might be the best choice for you, because you will already be familiar with a lot of what you need to understand to grow cannabis in soil. Essential, you’ll grow cannabis just as you would any other plant. Use good soil and make sure that you keep it watered and properly fertilized.

Advantages:
  • Many already have soil experience. Growing cannabis in soil is similar to growing plants like tomatoes or corn – soil growing may be the most intuitive option for you, especially if you already have gardening experience
  • It’s simple! Hand-water your plants in containers
  • It allows for outdoor growing. Most outdoor growers choose to grow with soil. In the wild, cannabis grows in soil, so growing outdoors in soil is most like a cannabis plant’s natural environment. Many people find that when growing cannabis outdoors, soil is the simplest and most intuitive way to grow. Growing with composted “super soil” gives the grower the ability to grow outside without needing to add synthetic bottled nutrients or manage the pH of the soil
Disadvantages:
  • Pests. Soil is organic material, and there are many types of bugs that can live in soil. Often, soil-growers seem to suffer more often from pests attacking their plants than hydroponic growers.
  • Slower Growth. Growing in soil is not as fast as growing in a soilless or hydroponic setup – hydroponic plants tend to get better growth rates, especially in the vegetative stage.
  • Quality and Yield. Unless you get commercial growing soil, the soil can be of uncertain quality. You could lose a crop or have poor results because the minerals and nutrients in the soil are out of balance. Also, yields will probably not be as great as you will get with other methods.

Coco Fiber

Coco or coir is the outside layer of coconut husks (or mesocarp) which consists mainly of coarse fibres but also finer material known as `coir dust’. Harvested coconuts are first soaked in water, a process termed `retting’ which makes the fibre easier to remove. Usually the longer coarser fibres are removed for other uses while the coir pith then undergoes further processing and decomposition; this makes it more suitable as a plant growth medium. Coir pith consists of a mixture of shorter fibres and corklike particles ranging in size from granules to fine dust.Instead of using soil as a medium to hold the roots, you can use an inert medium — something that does not have the quality problems found with ordinary soil.

Advantages:
  • Ease. Almost as easy as growing cannabis in plain soil.
  • Yield. Better yields than soil.
  • Purity. The process is generally cleaner with fewer bugs and mess.
Disadvantages:
  • Cost. Requires special fertilizers which are more expensive
  • Rarity. Requires the purchase of coco fiber. This is not very expensive, but you may have to find a local store that stocks it.

Hydroponics

The common nickname for cannabis — “weed” — comes from its ability to grow almost anywhere, under varying conditions, and in different climates. “Hydroponic cannabis” simply refers to plants grown using a nutrient-water solution and an inert growing medium rather than nutrient-rich soil. This method could be something as basic as hand-watering pots of inert medium with a nutrient solution. Sophisticated systems with multiple pumps, timers, and reservoirs can take some of the daily labor out of growing, but they require more maintenance and setup time as well as a greater initial investment.

If you view roots grown in hydroponics versus those grown in plain soil, you will see an immediate difference. While roots grown in soil have a big tap root, the roots grown in hydroponics will have no major tap root, but will consist of a huge bunch of small, clean white hairs.
Advantages:
  • Large Yield. Much bigger yields than the previous methods.
  • Purity. Cleaner because no soil is used.
Disadvantages:
  • Expense. Costs a lot more because it requires troughs, pumps, and reservoirs to hold the water/fertilizer mixture.
  • Laborious. Requires a lot more labor. You will need to monitor pH and nutrient levels to make sure they stay within proper limits.
  • Spatial constraints. It takes more equipment and, therefore, it may take more room.

Aeroponics

Aeroponics is a method of growing cannabis plants that uses no medium for the roots. It’s a style of hydroponic gardening where the roots are suspended in the air as the nutrients and water are delivered via a system that continually mists the roots. This grow method was first discovered as a way to study plants’ root systems in the first half of the 20th century. Initially there was no thought to utilizing aeroponics beyond root-based research, but this changed over the years and aeroponics has since become a respectable and beneficial way to cultivate plants.
Advantages:
  • Speed & Yield. Fastest growth and biggest yields of all. Results can be spectacular.
Disadvantages:
  • Expensive. Costs more than growing in soil because it requires equipment similar to that used in hydroponics.
  • Laborious. Requires more labor. In order to get good results, it must be monitored on a daily basis.
  • Requires Expertise. You must keep the nutrients and pH in a specific range for optimum results. If the measures of nutrients and pH in your water gets out of limits, you can have really bad results in a big hurry.

Aquaponics

Aquaponics is a growing technique that takes two efficient systems and combines them to work symbiotically with each other: Aquaculture is the process of farming fish (such as tilapia, koi, or bluegill) or shellfish, while hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil. When the two are combined, you can create a nearly closed loop system that produces both plants and fish for consumption.
The key component to a thriving aquaponics system is the beneficial bacteria responsible for converting fish waste, decaying plant matter, and uneaten food into ammonia and other compounds that are consumed by the plants. This naturally occurring, nitrifying bacteria, inhabit every and all surfaces of your aquaponics system, especially the grow medium in the hydroponics system.

Fluorescent

For the many growers who are unable to cultivate cannabis outside in the free abundant sunshine, grow lights are necessary to successfully grow cannabis indoors. Grow lights take the place of the sun, and power the growth of your plants and their buds. Light is like “food” for your plants, so without a lot of bright light, even a healthy cannabis plant won’t produce much bud at all.
Fluorescent grow lights are popular for propagation, early vegetative growth and over-wintering semi-hardy and tender plants. T5 fluorescents are the most modern type. They are available as single, daisy-chainable strips or in panel arrays. Lamps need to be matched to the fixture (high output “HO” or very high output “VHO”). Different spectral distribution lamps are available-most common are “daylight” and “bloom.” Daylight lamps are used for propagation, vegetative growth and over-wintering. Bloom lamps are commonly used as side-lighting for larger plants flowering indoors.

High Intensity Discharge (HID)

HID lights are some of the cheapest you can find on the market. They are also easy to use, and do not require major set-ups that swell your crop’s costs. Their effectiveness with indoor crops is proven, as long as you follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Their main drawback is that they cannot be directly connected to standard light sockets. Rather, it is necessary to use an electrical ballast (a device that serves to stabilise and limit the intensity of the current) and a special cover to plug it in, which entails an increase in power consumption too. They also have a rather short life span: around 10,000 hours of light on average.
Metal Halide “MH” lamps give off a bluish spectrum, perfect for vegetative growth. They also contain some ultraviolet radiation “UV” which is useful for combating pests, molds and promoting the production of essential oils in aromatic crops. High Pressure Sodium “HPS” emit a yellow / orange light that simulates the fall sun-perfect for flowering and fruiting. Many growers combine HPS and MH lamps to provide a better overall light spectrum for their plants.

Plasma

Plasma grow lights also use induction technology, so you know the bulbs will last a long time. However, most Plasma lights on the market today are are obscenely expensive!
Instead of mimicking fluorescents, this type of induction light uses microwave radiation and excited sulfur plasma to generate light. This produces a greenish white light that looks beautiful to people, but unfortunately doesn’t work that great for growing cannabis.
Even worse, Plasma grow lights cause RFI interference which can alert someone to your grow! For security reasons alone, we highly recommend avoiding Plasma Induction grow lights. Basically any other type of grow light is better.

Light Emitting Diode (LED)

Over the last decade, LED lighting has gained quite a bit of popularity among indoor cannabis growers. Though LEDs (light emitting diodes) have been around since the early 1960s, they were not able to produce the wide spectrum of color they’re now known for until later on. LEDs were also very expensive, making them an unreasonable option for grow lights compared to HID (high intensity discharge).
With today’s demand for energy-efficient lighting, however, LEDs have dropped in price and increased in quality. Now you might be wondering if LEDs are right for your indoor grow; here are some of the benefits to consider.
Firstly, they are energy efficient. Up until even a few years ago, most LEDs were found to be using nearly the same amount of energy to generate light as HID lighting systems. Since then, LEDs have become extremely energy efficient, using about half the energy of HID systems. .
Secondly, they promote high coverage. Like HID lighting, LED lighting systems used to produce hot spots. A hot spot is where the light is strongest on your canopy, causing rapid growth or stretching to occur to one part of the canopy while the outer edges received significantly less light. A good LED system can direct an even light source over the canopy, helping to avoid hot spots and dead zones and giving you an even canopy.
Finally, while LEDs can offer a full spectrum of light, it’s not necessary to properly cultivate cannabis. Today’s LED systems now target the portions of the light spectrum that have proved most beneficial to cultivation, which saves energy and increases the quality of the cannabis in your garden.

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