Cannabis Grow Basics For The First Time Grower: Everything You Need To Know To Get You Started

As you may know, the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana across several states has enabled many consumers to become accustomed to purchasing cannabis from a dispensary. Even more intriguing though is the opportunity that legalization has created for adults and medical patients to cultivate cannabis in their own homes.

While the laws, limitations and regulations are different for each state, almost every state with some form of legalized marijuana does allow home cultivation to some extent. Even though it’s completely legal, some people do not take advantage of their right to grow cannabis due to the perception that it is too difficult, expensive or time-consuming.

Don’t let the lack of ambition from others discourage you though. If done correctly, growing cannabis at home can be fun, simple and cost-effective! We believe everyone should have access to their own clean cannabis.

Still, it is more important now than ever before that we keep this essential right with the masses, keeping the movement firmly in the hands of the people before Big Pharm, Big Tobacco or Wall Street capitalists get their greedy hands on our new burgeoning industry.That’s why Zenpype continues to proliferate and disseminate the necessary information so that people like you are able to grow your own cannabis at home, whether it is for medical or recreational use. The plant belongs to all of us—and we remain The Movement.But for all these beautiful notions, there still come a lot of questions. Many casual smokers are now asking how exactly one might go about setting up a home garden in a quick and easy fashion. And because marijuana smokers tend to like a year-round supply which is not readily available at the grocery store, the questions on how to get growing at home often tend towards the indoor garden variety.


Luckily, growing cannabis is not any more difficult than growing tomatoes. In fact, growing cannabis can be quite easy, and the answer to nearly all concerns about home growing can be summed up in three little words: Keep it simple.

Keeping It Simple

The first question on every would-be indoor grower’s mind is what type of system to utilize. System type incorporates many aspects of horticulture, from medium type, to container sizes, to feeding and irrigation programs. Let’s start with the most basic of aspect of cultivation: Grow medium.

To keep things simple, we need to look no further than Mother Nature herself. In nature, plants most often grow naturally out of soil. Growing plants indoors does not mean we must deviate from nature’s plan. In fact, the horticultural industry has excellent peat- and sphagnum-based soils tailored specifically for indoor gardens and these “soil-less” mediums act and feel just like earth soils found outdoors—and are extremely easy to use.


These mediums, which come from popular brand names, such as Pro-Mix or Sunshine Mix, often feature soil textures created by the peat or sphagnum base, but also have additional ingredients mixed in to aid in moisture retention and air permeation. Additional items in these mixes may include wood chips, perlite and vermiculate, as well as trace amounts of basic nutrients to get young plants started off right.

The primary benefit of using these types of soil-less mixes as a grow medium is that they are very forgiving for new growers, offering excellent buffering for root systems to help prevent nutrient shock from over-feeding. They also retain water very well and are perfect for smaller gardens where watering plants by hand is usually preferred. Additionally, soil-less mix mediums can be used easily in conjunction with quite a few different automated water systems as well.

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Irrigation & Feeding

The simplest way to water small gardens is to do so manually. Hand-watering plants is also a good way to get to know your plants, garden and environment. Spending time watering plants can also help new growers begin to identify and learn about mineral deficiencies and pest problems.

Still, some growers prefer to automate their irrigation. Primary reasons may be that the garden is too tight to get into or navigate around, or the garden is too large to do by hand, or because they are not near the garden regularly enough to provide consistent water by hand. In these instances, the hydroponic industry offers many solutions, but not all of them are easy to use.


Perhaps the most popular, and one of the easiest, automated watering systems is a simple top-feed irrigation system that utilizes basic stake emitters to water individual plant containers. These systems generally take water (or nutrient-enriched solution) from the reservoir to the garden site via ½” or 1” flexible hosing. Once the main line reaches the garden, the hose is siphoned off using thin spaghetti lines to deliver water to each plant site. These spaghetti lines easily attach to either drip or spray emitters that sit on top of plastic stakes stuck into the grow medium.

Many growers prefer to use the spray emitters over the drip emitters because they offer more even saturation of the grow medium and thus provide for better absorption rates without creating puddles and sink holes in the medium. It is also worth noting that these systems are excellent for low-impact feeding regiments, where growers use the minimum required nutrients when feeding gardens. This is because when using spaghetti lines and spray emitters, excess mineral deposits can build up and clog line and emitters when too much fertilizer is dissolved in the reservoir.

Instead, most new growers—and even master growers—prefer to take a minimalistic approach to feeding, only watering gardens once a day for a few minutes only and rotating the feeding regiment. With a simple three-day rotation, growers can feed gardens with a nutrient solution on Day 1, then empty the reservoir and refill with fresh, distilled water for a clean watering on Day 2, and then give the plants a day off on Day 3. This basic watering and feeding system ensures plants get their essential minerals on Day 1, then a good clean flush to prevent build ups on Day 2 and then a good drying out period on Day 3 to allow air and oxygen to permeate the medium and get to the roots, which rely heavily on oxygen to help transport nutrients up into the plant.

Notes on Nutrients

Plants respond to inadequate supplies of essential minerals by displaying characteristic deficiency symptoms. These symptoms can be far ranging, from discoloration of leaves to physical deformities to an altogether wilting of the plant.

Conversely, plants will also respond to an overabundance of nutrients in similar ways. However, these conditions may take longer to notice and be misleading, as overfeeding plants can result in an unseen nutrient “lock-up” at the root level. When this occurs, salts from excess nutrients build up and block the mineral uptake of the roots, thereby starving the plant. The result is a plant that looks malnourished—which is true—but the cause is not a lack of nutrients. It is actually caused by over feeding.

So what is the lesson to be learned? Well first, it is obvious that feeding programs require careful attention, as it is a delicate balance between too much and too little. Second, it is clearly better to underfeed than to overfeed gardens, remembering that you can always increase nutrient dosages when a deficiency of minerals occurs, but it is much harder to alleviate the problems caused by excess feeding.

With this in mind, many new nutrient lines used in the grow rooms, are turning toward a more minimalistic approach when it comes to nutrient programs. This not only caters to those new to growing, as it has less potential for disastrous problems in overfeeding, but it also creates a simple feeding regiment that is easy to understand and implement.

Growers that use nutrient programs containing more than two or three parts are generally experienced growers who are well versed in mixing multiple parts and taking careful readings from their reservoirs to ensure their nutrient solutions have the proper pH and EC (electrical conductivity) levels. Still, whether you are a beginner or a more seasoned veteran, keeping low N-P-K (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) ratios is always the best bet for superior quality; it’s the commercial, large-format growers that generally like to pump up nutrient values in order to increase yields. But this slight increase in weight usually equals a bigger decrease in quality.

Lighting Basics

The last major component to a quick start grow is determining what type of horticultural lighting is needed for your garden. These days, there are so many choices that it can be discouraging and a big turn-off for would-be growers. Do not let this be the case for you! Lighting can be done on the cheap and quite easily.


While plants will grow under almost any light, there are still some choices that are better than others. While inexpensive lights like fluorescent bulbs offer excellent spectrum, run cool and use little electricity, these lamps are best used for young seedlings or clones, or for plants that are just hanging out in a vegetative state.

For quality results and happy, healthy gardens, the best choice for both new and expert growers alike is to use HID (high intensity discharge) lamps. HID bulbs come in a variety of types, but for indoor horticultural there are two predominant types: MH (metal-halide) bulbs, which are generally used during the vegetative grow stage, and HPS (high-pressure sodium) bulbs, generally used during the flowering stage.

If you are a small grower doing only a few plants or a closet-type grow and prefer to choose only one type of bulb, the choice is HPS, as it emits a much heavier amount of light on the red/orange wavelengths of spectrum. These color frequencies carry the highest amount of light energy (in the form of photons) and thereby supply your plants with more energy for photosynthesis.

Still, keep in mind it is not hard to buy both an MH and HPS bulb and simply swap one bulb out for the other when your garden flips from its vegetative stage to the flowering cycle. The only real considerations here is that it will obviously cost a little more for two bulbs, and you will need to make sure the ballast for the lamp is equipped to handle both types of bulbs (usually dual-bulb ballasts just have a switch you flip when you change from MH to HPS or vice-versa).

Smaller closet grows will only need a 125-watt or 250-watt bulb to get the job done and keep heat and expenses down. A large garden in a small bedroom-sized space may need two to four lamps to get ample garden coverage, and these bulbs will likely range from 400- to 600-watts. Larger, 1,000-watt bulbs are actually the least efficient in terms of power consumption and are generally reserved for large-format commercial operations.

Remember, whatever you situation, growing your own cannabis should never be stressful. Stay cool, keep it simple and affordable, and most importantly—enjoy your time in the garden—and your time outside of it with your own homegrown highness!

[Updated, originally published 25.11.2016]

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