How to build an indoor cannabis garden on a budget
Setting up an indoor weed grow in your home is a lot easier than you may think. You will need to invest some time and money into an indoor grow, but acquiring materials and building it out doesn’t require a lot of skill and can be done cheaply.
This guide will show you how to build three different garden setups at three different price points. Each build below contains all necessary components needed to create a simple, climate-controlled grow for your plants.
All of the hardware used for each project can be ordered online or bought at a local hardware store or grow shop.
Note: Product prices below may fluctuate slightly over time.
The nano grow: $115 to $150
Who should use this build?
First-time growers, budget growers, and those who wish to keep their garden as inconspicuous as possible are a good fit for the Nano Grow. At 24”x 24”, this tent is small enough to fit in most closets.
- TopoLight 24”x24”x48” Indoor Grow Room ($50)
- Lorell 6” Clip On Fan ($14)
- Century 24 Hour Mechanical Timer ($10)
- Growstar 150w Cree LED Full Spectrum UFO Light ($43)
- (Optional) iPower 4” 100CFM Inline Duct Fan ($18)
- (Optional) AcuRite Hydrometer and Thermometer ($12)
Total cost: $117-147
The Nano Grow is designed to be the most budget friendly and least technical design. This build focuses on trimming down the necessary components to eliminate any superfluous items. While the essentials will cost you just under $120, you can add an optional inline fan and thermometer/hydrometer for just bit more.
LED lights work well in this environment because they produce very little heat. Although filtration for a grow of this size is not necessary, those who wish to grow in a more confined space should consider opting for the intake fan and thermometer/hydrometer. This will help to both increase air circulation and provide some fundamental metrics for maintaining a healthy environment for the plants.
With the tent height maxing out at 48”, plants grown in this space should not exceed 24” in height and we recommend using dwarf, indica, and auto-flowering varieties for best results.
- Tent: The Topolight grow tent is perfect for a small space or closet and features highly reflective mylar coating on the inside to help provide your plants with optimal lighting.
- Light: The Growstar LED Full Spectrum UFO Light is an inexpensive and efficient fixture designed to provide a spectrum suitable for both vegetative and flowering plants. This light features 30w of Cree LED and emits a blue/purple hue. You also receive the necessary components to hang the light at variable heights in order to follow a canopy as it grows. LED lights do not add any additional heat to the tent and require less filtration to maintain proper temperatures.
- Filtration: A 6” Lorell clip-on fan provides airflow within the tent. Additionally, you may add a 4” 100CFM inline duct fan to provide an intake mechanism to cycle clean air throughout the tent. If you decide to buy the intake duct fan, install it on the bottom of the tent using duct tape and zip ties. The clip-on fan will help move air around inside of the tent. By keeping the top duct port open, air may exhaust passively. If you decide to opt out of the intake duct fan, leave both the bottom and the top port open for air movement.
- Automation: This build comes with a 24-hour mechanical timer designed to keep the light on an automated cycle. Mechanical timers are slightly more affordable than their digital counterparts.
- Climate metering: The basic version of this build does not feature any climate monitoring hardware. However, there is an option to purchase an Acurite thermometer/hydrometer which will allow you to monitor essential metrics within the tent.
The micro grow: $500
Who should use this build?
The Micro Grow is a value-driven package designed to provide all of the essentials for a single tent grow. More advanced than the Nano Grow, it’s a complete system that can handle just about any grow style.
This build is a perfect fit for a small room or garage space. At 64” tall, the tent affords enough room to propagate most smaller, bushier cultivars. There is a canopy height limit of between 35” and 42”.
In this setup, 2 to 4 plants are recommended. You can squeeze in 6 plants if you grow small auto-flowering varieties and/or vegetate the plants for less time.
- Casolly 32”x32”x64” Indoor Grow Room ($65)
- Century 7 Day Heavy Duty Programmable Digital Timer, Dual Outlet ($13)
- AcuRite Hydrometer and Thermometer ($12)
- Lorell 6” Clip-On Fan ($17)
- Growsun 4” Indoor Grow Exhaust Kit, Carbon Filter, Fan, Ducting ($120)
- VivoSun 6” 240CFM Inline Duct Booster Fan ($21)
- Growneer Variable Speed Vent Fan Controller ($12)
- TopoGrow 315W CMH Grow Light Kit, 120v fixture w/ 3100k Bulb ($177)
- 15 amp GFCI Grounded 5-Outlet Adapter ($29)
Total cost: $466
Unlike the Nano Grow, this build contains a complete ventilation system designed to filter and exhaust hot air while simultaneously bringing in clean, cool air. Additionally, the timer has been upgraded to the dual-outlet digital model for controlling both the light and carbon filter exhaust system. A variable speed vent fan controller is also added for maximum climate control.
With the 315w CMH (ceramic metal halide) lights, enough heat is generated to recommend this build for an open space to allow for the best possible air circulation through the tent. The included 3100k bulb allows you to use the tent for both vegetative and flowering cycles.
- Tent: The Casolly 32”x32”x64” Indoor Grow Room provides adequate space for a much more powerful fixture, allowing you to cultivate more plants than the Nano Grow. This tent also features multiple ducting ports for proper air ventilation systems to be installed and comes with a front-sided concealable window for easy monitoring.
- Light: This build features a 120v 315w CMH light fixture from TopoGrow. CMH lights give off far less heat than HID fixtures such as high-pressure sodium (HPS) and metal halide (MH). Complete with a 3100k bulb, this fixture produces a light spectrum conducive to both vegetative and flowering plants, eliminating the need to switch lights between cycles. Even better, this CMH fixture comes with a built-in ballast.
- Filtration: Although CMH fixtures produce less heat than their competitors, there’s still a need for proper ducting and ventilation to remove hot air from the tent. For this build, we chose to pair a Growsun 4” indoor exhaust kit with a 6” Vivosun 240CFM inline duct booster fan. To maintain proper ventilation, a fan speed adjuster has been added. Additionally, a 6” Lorell clip-on-fan is used for airflow over the plant canopy.
- Automation: A dual outlet digital timer is included for tandem use with the carbon filter exhaust and light fixture.
- Climate metering: The Acuright Digital thermometer/hydrometer will help monitor temperature and humidity levels within the tent, making climate control adjustments easier.
- Filtration setup: The 315w CMH generates enough heat to require filtration from the top of the tent. Airflow should be directed upward by installing the 6” duct booster fan at the bottom of the tent using duct tape and zip ties with the 4” carbon filter exhaust system at the top. Use heavy-duty zip ties to fasten the carbon filter at the back of the tent. Duct tape may be used to attach the fan to the filter as well as the filter to the aluminum ducting. Guide the ducting through the top port and fasten it with zip ties and duct tape.
With this system, cool air will enter through the bottom of the tent, and warm air will be scrubbed as it leaves the top of the tent. The 6” clip-on fan should be placed just above canopy level on the back-left pole to help circulate air evenly as the plants mature.
Standard grow: $1,000
Who should use this build?
The Standard Grow offers a complete package for growers who wish to maintain a perpetual cultivation operation year-round. It covers all of the essentials in housing, lighting, automation, and filtration for a standard home grow.
No matter what your legal plant limit is, this tent should be able to handle it. At 80” for the main grow chamber, height is not a problem, and just about any cultivar can be propagated successfully under this build. With a 630w 3100k CMH fixture, this room can be used for both vegetative and flowering stages.
For growers who want a full system capable of germinating seedlings, taking and keeping clones, maintaining mother plants, and have multiple chambers for various projects, this is the build for you.
However, this system tends to run hot and will need the open air of a large room or garage to function optimally.
- 4 Bulb t5 Grow Light Fixture (x2 at $75)
- GrowSun 6” 400 CFM Indoor Grow Exhaust Kit, Carbon Filter, Fan, Time, Ducting ($120)
- TopoGrow 630W CMH Grow Light Kit, 120v Fixture w/ 2 3100k Bulbs ($320)
- AcuRite Hydrometer and Thermometer (x2 at $12)
- VivoSun 6” 240CFM Inline Duct Booster Fan (x2 at $21)
- Lorell 6” Clip-On Fan (x4 at $17)
- Century 7 Day Heavy Duty Programmable Digital Timer, Dual Outlet (x2 at $13)
- TopoGrow 2-in-1 60”X48”X80” Dual Room Indoor Grow Tent ($188)
Total cost: $938
The “Standard Grow” is designed to be a fully comprehensive cannabis cultivation and propagation system, offering an all-inclusive perpetual grow space packed into a 4×5’ build. For just under $1,000, you get a 3-chambered, 3-light tent with a full air filtration system, automation and metering included.
This build allows growers to cultivate at multiple stages in the plant’s life cycle as well as provide housing for multiple propagation projects.
The 4×4’ main tent is powered by a 630w CMH light and the 1×4’ two-tiered tent extension is built out with two 4-bulb t5 fluorescent light fixtures. Complete with four fans, two dual outlet timers, and adjustable intake/exhaust components, this 80” tent supports even the most ambitious of grows.
- Tent: The shining star of this build is the TopoGrow 2-in-1 60”x48”x80” dual-room indoor grow tent. The main chamber is 4’x4’x6.6” with an attached 1’x4’x6.6” two-tiered chamber. A wire frame separates the two chambers, allowing for two separate propagation rooms. The main and second chambers of the tent are divided by a velcro applied detachable, double-ended mylar fabric barrier.
- Light: This system contains three separate light fixtures. The main room is outfitted with a 120v 630w CMH fixture with double 3100k bulbs, while the two-tiered chamber contains a pair of 12”x48” t5 fluorescent light bulb fixtures (4-bulb) stacked vertically. With this build, the main chamber may be used for both late vegetative and flowering cycles while the side chambers make for fantastic germination and cloning areas for young vegetative plants.
- Filtration: The main chamber of the tent comes with a complete air filtration system. The intake is one 6” inline duct booster fan fastened at the bottom of the tent. A second 6” booster fan removes hot air from the top of the tent and sits just left of the CMH fixture. For exhaust, a 400CFM kit from GrowSun is used. The kit contains a 6” carbon filter, heavy-duty duct exhaust fan (with a speed controller), as well as 6” aluminum ducting. This system may either be fastened to the top back end of the tent via heavy-duty zip ties and duct tape or placed on the ground in the back right corner of the tent. Each set-up allows for exhaust ducting to leave the same top port. The main room receives two 6” clip-on fans, one set up to canopy height and the second fastened to a top support beam directing air towards the light fixture and 6” exhaust fan. The two-tiered side chamber gets a 6” clip-on fan for each room.
- Automation: Two Dual Outlet Century 7 digital timers are used in this build. One controls the light and exhaust fan in the main chamber and the other controls the two fluorescent lights on the side.
- Climate metering: Each chamber receives one Acurite hydrometer/thermometer for climate metering.
- Filtration setup: For the main room, fasten the first 6” booster fan to the bottom-left port of the tent with zip ties and duct tape, directing air inward. The second booster fan should be fastened in the same way on the top-left side of the tent above the first. This fan will direct air out of the tent.
The 6” exhaust kit may either be fastened on the top of the left tent or on the bottom-right, each option directing air through the carbon filter and out of the top port. This room receives two 6” clip-on fans—the first will be fastened to the top-right support beam of the tent to help move warm air towards the exhaust. The second fan can be placed on the back-left corner to follow the canopy as it rises.
For the second room, a 6” clip-on fan is fastened to the back-left support beam of each tier to direct airflow throughout each small chamber.
- All prices are factored in pre-tax/pre-shipping fees.
- Pricing and availability are subject to change.
- Although not included in the inventory list, it is highly recommended that you purchase both 4” and 6” protective screens for each booster fan. Though not available on Amazon currently, these can be purchased at most hardware stores.
Patrick Bennett contributed to this article.
Check out Leafly's guide to learn some tips and tricks on how to set up an indoor weed grow inexpensively.
How to Start Growing World-Class Weed for $135
You want to try growing weed but refuse to spend a fortune. You don’t need the biggest harvest ever, but your time or effort must be rewarded with a good amount of high-quality buds the very first time.
The method in this tutorial will give you…
- 1+ ounces per harvest (2-4 ounces is average)
- Potent high-grade buds of your chosen strain
- Seed to harvest in under 90 days
- As little as $135 to get started (supplies list with links below)
- Electricity: $10/month (for USA average electricity cost of $0.12/kWh)
Total Cost of 1st Grow: $135 plus $10/month electricity (as little as $20/grow for supplies after that)
This is the basic setup (total estimated cost includes seeds, grow light, grow medium, plant containers, and nutrients)
Example of buds produced (strain is Auto Amnesia by MSNL)
Here’s an overview of all the supplies you need to start growing cannabis via this method:
Grow light – Starting at $70
The average cost of electricity in the USA is $0.12/kWh. At 18 hours/day, that’s an electricity cost of about $10/month for the 150W HPS, and $7/month for the HLG 100.
- Cheapest: 150W HPS grow light ($10/month for electricity) – $70
- Premium Alternative: HLG 100 v2 3000k Quantum Board ($7/month for electricity, yields the same or more, less heat, no need to replace a bulb every 3-4 grows ) – $150
This $70 grow light can produce up to 5 oz (average of 2-4 oz)
Plant pots or containers – Starting at $4 for one
- 2-gallon pots with saucers
- Recommended 1-2 plants
- Usually $3-4 for a 2-gallon pot with a saucer at a garden store or plant nursery
- Buying pots online is cheaper if you get multiple pots at once
- Free alternative: you can use almost any container or bucket to hold your plants as long as you drill holes out the bottom to let extra water drain through. You also want some sort of tray to catch runoff water and make sure it doesn’t spill on your floor.
Plant pots are usually sold as a set online, but garden stores sell individual pots. Or DIY your own pot for free!
Grow medium (soil, coco, hydro, etc) – Starting at $18
Your plants need a place to put their roots. You have lots of different grow medium options for growing weed, and the most common is good old-fashioned soil.
- Just about any organic potting mix will work. Avoid any soil with “slow-release” nutrients unless they’re organic and have been composted into the soil.
- Example: Black Gold Organic Potting Mix (one bag will fill 4 gallons worth of pots, or two 2-gallon pots) – $18
- Premium Alternative: Coco Loco – This is my favorite soil potting mix. My cannabis plants absolutely love this stuff and it’s actually pretty economical. One bag fills 12 gallons, so even though it costs double the cheap option, each bag lasts 3 times as long – $35
- Often cheaper to buy soil in person than online (especially with shipping costs)
Learn more about growing in soil or coco. Adventurous alternative: Hydroponics
Nutrients – Starting at $10
If you’re starting with soil, you may be able to avoid using nutrients at all. Yet if plants use up the nutrients in the soil you’ll start seeing nutrient deficiencies and slow growth. To help ensure the best yields and bud quality, I recommend you get at least a Bloom nutrient (low in Nitrogen and high in Phosphorus/Potassium) for plants that are actively growing buds.
- Recommended: Dyna-Gro Grow & Bloom – $21 (great for cannabis in any setup, any grow style) – although originally developed for orchids, this simple nutrient duo excels at growing cannabis and is now marketed directly to pot growers.
- If you can’t afford both bottles, get just Bloom. The smallest bottle usually costs $10-12.
- If growing in coco or hydro, you need to use nutrients from beginning to end, and Dyna-Gro Grow + Bloom excels at that.
- Follow the included instructions at 1/2 strength (same with almost any nutrient system for cannabis plants). Only increase the amount if you notice the plant is getting lime green or pale all over, which is the main symptom when a plant needs overall higher levels of nutrients.
If you can’t get both bottles, at least get a bottle of Bloom so you don’t run into deficiencies during the crucial bud-building phase
In an absolute pinch, you can use cactus/succulent nutrients in the budding stage since they typically have similar nutrient ratios. However, they don’t usually contain many micronutrients, which means they may not perform as well as something more complete like Dyna-Gro.
A place to grow weed
You can put your plants almost anywhere as long as you have access to water, fresh air, and a way to hang the light. Some common examples:
- closet (common)
- spare bathroom (easy access to water and a drain)
- spare room
- garage, basement, or attic
- Read more about choosing the right spot
This is one of my first grows (circa 2008). I put the plants right on the floor in a walk-in closet and hung the light from the bar you hang clothes from. This setup produced great weed, though I highly recommend putting something down to protect your carpet!
I’ve seen some growers DIY some pretty amazing grow spaces
Possible upgrades for your grow environment (all are optional but nice)
- Grow tent – super convenient way to set up a “pop-up” grow area, costs $50-100 on average
- Clip-on fan(s) or small table fan – if you need extra air movement
- A carbon filter and exhaust fan for smell control (the more weed you grow, the bigger the smell)
- Reflective walls – use sheets of mylar, paint walls white, etc.
- Rope ratchets – helpful for raising/lowering your grow light, carbon filter, or anything else you’d like to hang in the grow area. Much more convenient than using rope.
- Thermometer/Hygrometer to measure the temperature and humidity. I like models that let you hang a probe in the grow area so you’re measuring the exact spot you want.
It’s hard to beat the convenience of a grow tent. While not necessary to success, grow tents can be put anywhere for an instant “pop-up” waterproof grow space that helps contain heat, light, and smells. Also great for keeping multiple grow spaces at the same time.
Seeds or clones – Starting at $30 for 3 seeds
My recommended strains start at
$30 for 3 seeds. There are cheaper strains, but these are ones I know and recommend.
3 Main Ways to Get Plants
- Buy seeds online
- Get seeds or clones in person
- Use seeds you find in buds (bagseed)
Did you know you can buy cannabis seeds online and get them shipped to you?
For the best results with this tutorial…
- Order from a reputable breeder to ensure you get the results you expect.
- Choose auto-flowering seeds to harvest in under 90 days. I like auto-flowering strains for first-time growers because plants are ready to harvest quickly, tend to stay on the smaller side, and automatically make buds without you doing anything special. They are simple: give water, nutrients, and light, then wait for harvest. However, you probably won’t run into any auto-flowering seeds unless you get them from a breeder.
- Choose feminized seeds to ensure all plants are female and grow buds. Save yourself the trouble of dealing with male plants or the possibility of seedy buds. Learn more about feminized seeds. Just about all auto-flowering seeds are feminized unless they specifically are listed as “regular”.
Choose autoflowering feminized seeds from a trustworthy breeder to ensure every plant grows buds and is ready to harvest in under 90 days. This Cinderella Jack Auto by Dutch Passion produced many dense potent buds and was harvested 79 days from germination
Looking for auto-flowering seed recommendations?
- Zkittlez Auto by Seedsman – Seedsman is both a breeder and a seed bank. They carry pricey high-end strains from many breeders but also use their connections to offer new and celebrated genetics at reasonable prices. A few years ago, Seedsman started focusing on their in-house auto-flowering breeding program, and have built an impressive autoflowering strain library. Their easy-to-grow Zkittlez autoflowering strain is popular because buds are potent, smell surprisingly sweet, and taste fruity. Great for someone who wants high potency combined with the taste and smell of new genetics – $30 for 3 seeds
- Gelat.OG Auto by Seedsman – This may be the best autoflowering version of the trendy and euphoric Gelato strain. Plants tend to stay on the shorter side and buds occasionally turn purple. For someone who wants STRONG mental and physical effects above all else – $30 for 3 seeds
- Auto Amnesia by MSNL – Forgiving and easy to grow, buds always come out glittery and potent. I’ve grown this strain multiple times and it responds remarkably well to every light I’ve tried including cheap “blurple” LEDs that stressed out many of the other plants. In fact, Auto Amnesia almost seems to perform best in extreme conditions as some of the best buds came from a plant that grew too close to the light. The one downside is that plants tend to grow a bit stretchy/tall compared to the others on this list (though they respond well to bending/LST to keep them short and are resistant to light stress) – $40 for 5 seeds
- Auto Grand Daddy Purple by MSNL – I’ve had really good experiences with all of the MSNL autoflowering strains. This particular strain often turns purple and buds come out dense with stellar effects and a spicy-sweet smell. You can help promote purple coloring by giving plants warm days and cool nights in the last 2-3 weeks before harvest – $52 for 5 seeds
- THC Bomb Auto by Bomb Seeds – I’m super impressed by this strain every time I grow it. It thrives under many different types of lights and plants grow fast and bushy. Good-to-great yields and the buds get encrusted in trichomes/glitter. I actually got two of these plants lab-tested (as part of a different project) and buds measured between 18-20% THC, exactly as advertised – $50 for 5 seeds
- Cinderella Jack Auto by Dutch Passion – I first grew this strain after a representative from the company told me it was Dutch Passion’s most potent autoflowering strain. I was beyond pleased with the results I got every time I grew it. Dense and glittery buds, high-yielding, ultra-high potency (couchlock) and plants are overall forgiving to growing mistakes – $42 for 3 seeds
- Ultimate Auto by Dutch Passion – easy to grow, very high yielding (usually yields more than any other plant in the tent), and has responded well to multiple different grow lights. The smooth-smoking buds promote relaxation and good vibes. The perfect daytime strain (not too heavy) and well-loved by those looking for more classic mental effects. The potency has been described as reminiscent of California weed from the 1990s and early 2000s – $35 for 3 seeds
- I hope that list helps you get started!
This Zkittlez Auto plant was harvested 85 days from germination
Glossary of Most Important Terms When Shopping for Seeds or Clones
- Auto-flowering Strains – Auto-flowering plants grow buds automatically and are usually ready to harvest in under 90 days from germination. Can be a good choice for a first grow, but auto-flowering seeds are only available from specialized breeders.
- Photoperiod Strains – Most cannabis seeds are photoperiod. If you find seeds, they are likely photoperiod seeds. Photoperiod plants need daily 12-hour dark periods to grow buds (usually done by putting grow lights on a timer). Photoperiod plants typically take between 3-5 months to grow from seed to harvest. Read more on how long it takes to grow weed. Don’t worry if you’ve got photoperiod seeds. This tutorial recommends auto-flowering strains, but I’ve also included instructions for photoperiod plants in the step-by-step directions.
- Feminized seeds – All resulting plants are female, which means they grow buds. I highly recommend starting with feminized seeds for your first grow so every plant produces buds for you.
- Regular seeds (non-feminized) – Half the plants will be male, which grow pollen sacs instead of buds. Male plants are non-potent and make nearby buds seedy. If growing with regular seeds, you should identify and remove male plants as soon as possible.
- Clones are basically small plants and don’t need any special treatment. A clone is usually known to be male or female (ask to be sure it’s female if you want to grow buds!). You can also take clones of your plants and use them as free plants in future grows.
- Bag seeds (seeds you randomly find in buds) can be hit or miss. Some growers get lucky with bagseed, but unknown genetics can be a confidence killer if buds turn out poorly even though you did everything right. Start with trustworthy genetics to help ensure plants are predictable and produce the results you want. Learn more about starting with “found” seeds.
Now that you’ve got everything, it’s time to start growing!
Here’s an HPS-grown bud from a THC Bomb Auto plant. This strain always makes beautiful buds but for some reason they got especially glittery under the small HPS. One of my favorite smokes from that grow!
Quick Step-By-Step Grow Guide
The hardest part of growing is choosing a good setup. Once you create a nice growing environment, nature will do a lot of the work for you.
1.) Set up your grow space
- Get the items listed above
- Set up your grow tent if using one
- Hang your grow light. Both the HLG 100 and 150W HPS recommended for this tutorial should be kept about 12″ away from the tops of plants.
- Fill your plant pots with potting mix
- Assemble your area and turn the grow light on for 24 hours before germinating seeds (make sure everything works before you actually start your grow)
- Temperature should stay be between 70-85F (20-30C) day and night. If it feels comfortable to you, it’s probably comfortable for your plants.
Whether you’re using a grow tent or a closet, the main idea is to first hang your grow light
Then get your plant pots ready (or set up your hydroponic reservoir). If you plan on setting up an exhaust to remove heat and/or get rid of smells, now is the time. A venting system can be as simple as adding a fan pointing out.
If you want to ensure you never smell your plants when the tent is closed, you’ll also have to connect the exhaust fan to a carbon filter with ducting.
Don’t forget to turn everything on for at least 24 hours before you start germinating! You want to know what to expect from the environment before you have live plants on your hands.
2.) Germinate Your Seeds
I like this germination method, but there are many ways to germinate seeds (including planting them directly in the soil). If starting with rooted clones, you can skip directly to the next step.
It’s always a good idea to germinate at least one extra seed in case you happen to have a dud. I recommend growing 1-2 plants for your first grow to keep things small and simple, so start by germinating 2-3 seeds.
There are tons of ways to germinate seeds and they all work. The most important thing with any germination method is to make sure seeds stay moist and warm.
3.) Vegetative Stage – Plants Grow Only Stems and Leaves
At first, your cannabis plants will only grow new stems and leaves (no buds yet).
Your main tasks in this stage are:
- Water your plants regularly (or tend to the hydroponic reservoir)
- Give nutrients at half the listed strength (if using nutrients)
- Watch for plant problems and react quickly if you see anything odd
- (Optional) Get familiar with plant training to increase yields
Your plants will only grow stems and leaves at first. In the vegetative stage, plants keep getting bigger but don’t grow any buds
Most cannabis plants naturally grow in a “Christmas tree” shape in the vegetative stage unless you take action to change it
For example, these autoflowering plants are bushy and short because I trained them to grow in that shape (starting when they were just 3 weeks old). This bushy shape forces cannabis plants to grow many bud sites as opposed to just one main bud site at the top of the “Christmas tree”.
There’s nothing wrong with letting plants grow naturally, especially for your first few grows. But if you plan to keep growing inside under grow lights, plant training is important to achieving the best yields.
4.) Flowering Stage – Buds Start Growing!
This is the stage where plants start growing buds. It’s exciting! You’re getting closer to harvest every day.
If you started with auto-flowering seeds…
- Auto-flowering plants will automatically start growing buds around 3-4 weeks from germination
- Besides switching to using flowering nutrients, plant care doesn’t really change from the vegetative stage.
- Buds are typically ready to harvest 2-3 months after germination
Auto-flowering plants start making buds when they’re 3-4 weeks old from germination. You don’t need to do anything special. This autoflowering plant is 4.5 weeks old.
If you started with photoperiod seeds…
- Photoperiod plants require you to put grow lights on a timer and give them 12-hour dark periods every day in order to grow buds. The term “photoperiod” actually refers to the fact they respond to light periods (“photo” can mean light + “period”). Photoperiod plants won’t make buds until you initiate the flowering stage with a 12/12 light schedule.
- Since you “tell” the plant when to start flowering, the vegetative stage can be as long as you want.
- While auto-flowering plants naturally tend to stay relatively short, photoperiod plants can easily get huge and out of control if you wait too long to initiate the flowering stage. On average, plants about double in size after the switch to 12/12, so you should initiate the flowering stage when plants are about half the final desired size.
- Be careful to not let any light get to the grow space during the “night” period or plants may revert to the vegetative stage (which takes time to fix) or herm (causing seedy buds).
- Photoperiod plants typically have an 8-14 week flowering stage (length of the flowering stage depends on strain)
- Example photoperiod timeline: 6-week vegetative stage + 8-14 week flowering stage gives a total grow period of 3-5 months from seed to harvest.
Photoperiod plants typically take 1-3 weeks after switching to 12/12 before they start making buds. At first, the buds look like bunches of leaves in a star shape, then white hairs start growing from the middle
After plants start flowering, double-check to make sure all your plants are only growing white hairs at the joints. This ensures your plants are female and forming buds.
If you see what looks like little bunches of spade-shaped balls with no hairs, that means the plant is male and should be removed from the grow room so it doesn’t pollinate your female plants.
If you see pollen sacs (look like bunches of pointy grapes), remove the plant immediately from the grow area. Why?
Nutrients – Switch to flowering nutrients
- Once you see buds forming, it’s time to start using the Dyna-Gro “Bloom” bottle for nutrients (or whatever Bloom nutrients you’re using)
- Start at half strength compared to the suggested dosage. Supplementing your plant with extra nutrients can help produce the biggest and most potent buds possible, but it’s easy to overdo it.
- Note: Suitable flowering nutrients are low in Nitrogen, and rich in Phosphorus/Potassium.
- Learn more about cannabis nutrients
An example of untrained autoflowering plants (notice how they have a “Christmas tree” shape)
These autoflowering plants were trained to grow short and bushy
5.) Harvest Time
If you have followed the instructions so far, you’re now approaching harvest! I’ve created a complete guide to harvesting your weed but here’s a quick summary of when to harvest:
- Wait until the buds on your plants stop growing new white “hairs” (pistils). At this point, you probably still have a few weeks left.
- When 90% of the pistils have darkened and started curling in, your buds should be fat and ready for harvest.
- You can get even more accurate results by looking at the glittery “trichomes” on the buds under a magnifier, as these turn cloudy white when the buds have reached their highest potency.
This bud is ready to harvest. All the white hairs have darkened and curled in. If you click the picture and zoom in, you can see that nearly all the sparkly trichomes are milky white, indicating that this bud has reached the highest level of THC.
Another bud that’s ready to harvest. Notice how most of the hairs have darkened and curled in
Different strains may have a different bud appearance at harvest, but the general idea is the same (hairs darken and curl in, buds are fat)
At that point, buds only need to be dried and cured before they are ready to be enjoyed.
Example yield from 150W HPS – 2 Autoflowering Plants – 3.5 oz
Each plant produced just under 2 ounces and height was about 1 foot (30 cm) at harvest. Left plant was Critical Jack Auto by Dinafem (unique smell and thoroughly enjoyable effects) and the right was Sour Diesel Auto by Humboldt Seed Organization (classic sativa effect in auto-flowering form). I grew these in my bedroom (didn’t have an available closet) so I kept them in a 2x4x5 grow tent to contain the heat/light. Other than the tent, there weren’t really any upgrades compared to the base supplies list. I didn’t use an exhaust fan and it stayed about 80F (27C) in the tent.
This is a good harvest but does show what’s possible for growers who follow all the steps in this article including the optional plant training to create multiple main buds instead of just one.
This is the final yield of the 2 plants pictured above (about 3.5 oz)
Closeup of the Critical Jack buds
Example yield from HLG 100 LED Grow Light – 4 Autoflowering Plants – 5.5 oz
Here’s an example harvest from the HLG 100 Quantum Board Grow Light (the premium $150 alternative to the HPS). Instead of Dyna-Gro nutrients, this grow used the General Hydroponics Flora trio + Calimagic as nutrients. Grow medium was Mother Earth Coco + Perlite mix (my favorite pre-made coco mix).
The total yield under the HLG 100 was 156.12 grams or about 5.5 ounces.
These 4 autoflowering plants were kept in a 2x2x3 grow tent with a carbon filter/exhaust fan (lower right) to remove smells. I later upgraded the fan to an Infinity Cloudline so it would run silent (this was also kept in my bedroom so I want zero light and sound when I’m sleeping). These plants could have been grown in a closet or spare room as long as the smell didn’t bother you.
Main upgrades: A grow tent, carbon filter, and exhaust fan to contain light and smell.
I first harvested the Auto Amnesia (absolutely love this strain every time I grow it)
Closeup of the Auto Amnesia buds. Pretty thick for growing under a 100W light with 3 other plants!
A bud from the Auto Amnesia after being dried and cured
Next was the Gorilla Glue Auto plant. I’ve never been happy with this strain and I wouldn’t recommend it. Bud effects and smell are good, but plants grow weird and buds are ugly and airy. Two other examples of Gorilla Glue Auto plants I grew for comparison.
The THC Bomb Auto plant made fat sticky buds, as usual
This is the Ultimate Auto plant. This strain also yields well no matter how you grow it
Those last 2 plants at harvest (THC Bomb Auto and Ultimate Auto)
You got this! Even if you follow just 80% of the directions in this tutorial, if you can keep your plant alive you should easily be able to yield at least 1 ounce!
6.) Prepare for next grow
You’ve already got some of your growing supplies, so your second grow will be cheaper than the first one.
Possible ongoing costs:
$5/grow to replace HPS bulb – The 150W HPS bulb needs to be replaced every 3-4 grows as they begin to lose brightness over time (not applicable if using an LED grow light) – $15 for a new bulb every 3 grows, or
Future grows: As little as $48/harvest (for electricity, nutrients, mixing your own coco/perlite mix, and a new HPS bulb every few grows) – only $34/harvest if using the suggested LED grow light (it uses less electricity and you don’t have to replace any bulbs).
What about buying seeds?
If you’re buying new seeds every grow, it becomes an ongoing cost. Buying seeds can get expensive! If you stick to auto-flowering strains, you’ll probably have to buy seeds every new grow. However, after your first grow, you’ll have experience under your belt and be prepared to grow photoperiod strains. Initiating the flowering stage can be a little trickier but overall care is basically the same. Photoperiod plants give you the ability to take clones, which is the easiest source of basically free plants. Another way to get basically free plants is to breed your own seeds or even make your own feminized seeds at home.
As time goes on, your costs go down while your yields go up
Other differences after first grow
- Better yields and bud quality – It’s common for growers to get higher yields and better buds on their 2nd and 3rd grows, even if the setup stays exactly the same. That’s because a little time and experience help you dial in your personal grow style. It’s also common for indoor growers to learn about plant training, which is a free technique to dramatically increase yields under grow lights.
- More confidence – If you decide to upgrade your grow (get a grow tent, bigger light, better strains, etc.) you’ll actually have the experience to know what’s needed to accomplish your goals.
IMPORTANT: Always keep learning!
After a few grows, many growers become convinced there’s nothing left to learn about growing. Believe me, there is always more to learn. I learn something new almost every day. A lot of “common” grow knowledge that’s been passed down for generations is being proven wrong. People are learning about better cultivation practices, developing new strains, and creating new techniques to get better yields and bud quality. Never mind all the new growing equipment aimed at home growers. Keep your mind open and remember to question everything. That’s the only way to ensure each harvest is better than the last!
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