Many cannabis consumers have found an occasional seed in their bag of marijuana. But can you actually use them to grow your own weed? Learn more about germinating bag seeds and turning them into flourishing cannabis plants. Bag Seed vs Hype Seed: Is it worth it to buy cannabis seeds? You found some cannabis seeds! Yay! Should you grow them? Or should you buy cannabis seeds online at an online seed bank like Seedsman Come learn how to easily grow organic cannabis at home! This article discusses soil options, seed selection, containers, and tips for ongoing care.
How to Germinate a Bag Seed
F inding a seed in your bag of weed used to be regarded as an insult, an indication you scored some inferior product. But it’s a new millennium, and growing cannabis is perfectly legal in some states and territories. While buying seeds online is still recommended for reasons we will detail further, finding a healthy seed can be as valuable as an ounce of gold. Or at least the cost of the bag.
- Can You Tell if a Cannabis Seed is Male or Female?
- How to Store Marijuana Seeds Properly
- Feminized Cannabis Seeds Explained
- How to Start Seeds
In this article we review the steps to germinate cannabis seeds, tips and tricks in the process, and how to keep your seedling healthy.
Germinating a seed is the first step in the growing process, and a cannabis seed will sprout with a voracious hunger, so if you are about to germinate seeds, start thinking ahead about where the seedling will eventually be moved to. This includes lighting, ventilation, and something to feed the lady. Those things don’t need to be decided before you begin, but try to have a plan in place by the time the second set of leaves emerges — as soon as two weeks.
The Germination Process
Begin by soaking the seed overnight. Soaking the seed saturates it with moisture, and moving it shortly after to a warm home tells the seed that it’s someplace comfortable, and it’s time to grow. Tap water is fine for this, but a micronutrient solution like liquid seaweed may be included.
Once your seed has soaked, the most common method for germination is the “paper towel method.” Wet a piece of paper towel and wring dry, then fold in half. Place the seeds between the halves of the damp paper towel, and slide the whole thing into a ziplock bag. Seal with some air inside. Leave this bag someplace comfortably warm for about a week, checking frequently for spots of mold. After about a week, a taproot should emerge.
Then it is time to transfer the seed into a proper growing medium. Be careful plucking your seed from the paper towel!
A grow medium is the “stuff” the seed will sit in. The easiest option is soil, healthy black earthy scooped up from your yard, or potting soil purchased from any garden center. Rock wool cubes are a common option for hydroponic growers, but can later be transplanted into soil as well. Compost and worm castings are great for a seedling, but it will need to be transplanted into a more diverse mixture later.
It is far too early to begin any nutrient cycle, or to introduce any fertilizers to the soil. Now that the seed is confirmed as alive, and placed into a more comfortable medium, simply make sure that the seed is watered and warm.
The first set of leaves to emerge are called “sucker leaves,” and their sole purpose is to drink in as much light as possible to fuel the growth of the more recognizable serrated leaves, which will begin to grow over the next week. After that you’ve got a proper seedling, and in a few weeks it will be ready for a bigger home!
For further guidance and resources about growing cannabis, see our Beginner’s Guide to Growing Marijuana, or our guide to growing for personal use.
Cultivating a Healthy Cannabis Seedling
The seedling that emerges will be as tender as an infant, and susceptible to diseases and cross-contaminations, so keep your germination station as sanitary as possible, and wash your hands before handling them. Avoid rubber or latex gloves at this stage as they have too much grip, and one wrong movement of your finger could accidentally grab and tear the soft plant material.
A seed’s health may be fortified by soaking it with a solution rich in micronutrients, like liquid seaweed. Be advised, however, that these will be very diluted solutions. Carefully read the mixing instructions of any product you purchase.
Seedlings can be protected against certain diseases by including worm castings in the medium. Research out of Cornell University has shown the microbial life in worm castings colonizes the seed’s surface, making it more difficult for pathogenic microbes to establish themselves.
Disclaimers and Downsides Regarding Found Seeds
It’s worth pausing to remember that seeds shouldn’t wind up in your bag of cured, smokable cannabis. So before planting anything, let’s assess what this seed is, and how it got there.
Only female cannabis plants produce flowers, and if they are pollinated by male plants, then they produce seeds instead. So all the cannabis we smoke is from unpollinated female plants — or nearly all of it.
When female plants are stressed — for instance, by drought conditions or nutrient problems — an evolutionary alarm can induce them to produce seeds with only their DNA. The problem with these “hermaphrodite seeds” is that the offspring, having benefited from this process, will be more prone to repeat it. If this is how a seed got in your bag, it can result in seedy weed, even under the closest care.
A seed is not guaranteed to sprout at all. Examine the seed for any obvious health issues. Immature seeds are lighter greys-to-green, while mature seeds are darker tan, brown, or even black. A healthy shape is a teardrop or nearly round, while bunk seeds will appear shrivelled or irregular. Finally, healthy seeds have a hard, whole shell, while cracked or brittle shells will likely not sprout, or produce a less healthy seedling.
A found seed is also not a guarantee to produce a replica of the strain you smoked, and may present latent traits from the strains it was bred from. Cultivating a complete copy of a phenotype is called “cloning,” and the cloning process must begin with a living plant, not a seed.
Remember, it could also just result in a male plant, which won’t grow any buds. None of this is guaranteed to happen with a bag seed, it’s just more likely than with a stabilized seed from a producer.
If you want to germinate a seed you’ve found, begin by soaking it overnight in water to saturate it, and soften the shell. Micronutrient solutions can be mixed in at this stage to fortify the health of the seedling (if you do, be sure to read the mixing instructions on the label).
The “paper towel method” is the most accessible way of germinating almost any seed. Once a taproot has emerged (after about a week) plant the seed into a small container with your chosen grow medium, like soil. Do not fertilize at this stage, as the seed and resulting seedling are very tender, and concentrated fertilizers are abrasive chemicals. Within another week, “sucker leaves” will sprout, synthesizing light to produce further growth.
Remember, found seeds are not always healthy or even viable. A healthy seed has a hard, unbroken shell and a dark color, while brittle or misshapen seeds may not produce a healthy plant, if anything at all. A found seed is also not guaranteed to replicate the precise phenotype of that cannabis you found it in.
That said, it’s almost always worth trying, and experimenting with whatever results. Growing cannabis can be an enriching experience, and perhaps even save you some riches. As long as you know what to look for from a seed, and how to handle them, finding one in your bag could be a golden ticket.
Bag Seed vs Hype Seed: Is it worth it to buy cannabis seeds?
You found some cannabis seeds! Yay! Should you grow them? Or should you buy cannabis seeds online at an online seed bank like Seedsman or Seed Supreme? What about on social media or even at a dispensary? How important are the marijuana seeds you start with?
Sometimes you get lucky with plants grown from found seeds. This bag seed produce excellent quality buds (though weirdly, the starting weed was not purple at all)
Unpredictability is the biggest downside to seeds you find in your weed. I have seen incredible grow results with “bag seed” or seeds growers find in their weed, like the plant pictured above. The higher the quality of the starting weed, the greater the chance the seeds will produce good buds, too. That being said, bag seed can have problems including bud quality, poor germination rates, the potential for hermies, and unpredictable growth patterns.
Poor Quality Seeds = Confidence Killer!
Using random cannabis seeds (even from dank bud) can produce unpredictable results. Plants may grow wild or produce small airy buds with low potency, even if the original weed was dense and potent.
Pros of Using “Bag Seed” (seeds you find in your weed)
- Seeds are free (buying cannabis seeds can get expensive!)
- Easy (you already have seeds in hand)
- May produce good bud if it came from good buds
Cons of Using Bag Seed
- Bud quality may not be as good as the weed it came in
- Potential for poor germination rates since seeds likely weren’t stored properly
- Unpredictable growth patterns – for example, plants may get tall or take a long time for buds to mature before harvest
- Potential for male plants (male plants don’t produce buds while feminized seeds produce all-female, all bud-producing plants)
- Hermies are common (hermie plants produce seedy buds, which is often how seeds got in your bud in the first place)
Today we’ll investigate those potential issues so you can make an informed decision. Let’s do a quick deep dive!
1.) Bud Quality
Genetics makes an enormous difference to your results. For example, the following two strains were grown in the same space with the same grow medium, nutrients, and grow light, yet the results were completely different.
These strains were grown in identical conditions. The green plant produced almost double the yields. The purple plant produced far less yields but the buds were denser, smoother to smoke, and almost twice as potent (14% THC vs 26% THC). When you buy seeds, you can choose what you like instead of the results being left to luck.
2.) Germination Rates
Germination is the process of getting your cannabis seeds to sprout and turn into seedlings. Typically, seeds are removed from buds and stored in a cool dry place to keep them fresh and viable. However, if the seeds have been sitting in your buds and the buds, it’s possible they weren’t stored in optimal conditions. That can cause you to have low or poor germination rates, even if you’re using a proven germination method.
“Found” seeds may have poor germination rates, for example, they may start germinating and “stall out” like this one did. It seemed healthy but never grew past this point.
3.) Growth Patterns
Using random seeds (even from dank bud) can produce unpredictable results. Plants may grow wild or produce small airy buds with low potency, even if the original weed was dense and potent. This is because the genetics weren’t stabilized to produce consistent results.
Bag seeds may grow in unexpected ways!
4.) Male Plants
Cannabis plants can be male or female, and with regular seeds, about half of plants are male. Female plants produce buds, but male plants only produce non-smokable pollen sacs. That means most growers want to throw away male plants so they don’t take up room in the grow space. On top of that, if the pollen sacs open up and release pollen on any nearby buds, those buds will get pollinated and end up with seeds in them. If you found seeds in your buds, there’s a strong chance that pollen got on the buds while they were forming.
Why am I explaining this in an article about bag seeds? Because when you’re growing from bag seed, there’s a strong chance that about half of your seeds will end up being male plants. This is important because male plants don’t produce buds and male flowers make your buds seedy. You need to be on the lookout for them.
Unless growing with feminized seeds, typically about half of all seeds will grow into male plants like this one. Male flowers are pollen sacs, which look like bunches of grapes.
After a few weeks, male flowers open up and pollen gets everywhere.
If any pollen gets on your buds, it will cause seeds to grow. This is one way that seeds can get in your buds.
Whenever using found seeds, you should determine the sex of young plants as soon as possible. This lets you toss all the male plants before they start making pollen and seeding your buds.
5.) Hermies (Hermaphrodite Plants)
The other main way seeds end up in your buds is from a hermaphrodite plant, or “hermie”. A hermaphrodite is a plant that produces both male and female flowers (both buds and pollen). The pollen from the male flowers pollinate buds and cause seeds to grow just like if a male plant released pollen.
Why is this important? Hermie seeds often produce hermaphrodite plants, which means your buds will likely have seeds in them.
Notice how these plants are producing both female flowers (buds) and male flowers (the pollen sacs are circled). Remove this plant immediately because once the pollen sacs open up they will seed all your buds.
Another type of hermie produces small yellow growths often called bananas (the “banana” would normally be found inside a pollen sac but on some plants it will grow exposed on the bud). Bananas start releasing pollen immediately and also cause seedy buds.
The best way to ensure all your plants end up being female is to start with feminized cannabis seeds from a trustworthy breeder. (Do feminized seeds make hermies?)
If you plan to use bag seed, just remember that there is a chance the resulting plants will be hermies. Keep an eye out for pollen sacs and bananas.
Should I buy seeds on social media like Instagram or Facebook?
Many growers get seeds from other people on social media sites like Instagram or Facebook. Can these seeds be trusted?
You need to be wary of any informal source of seeds, especially from people you don’t know and trust. There are many scammers taking advantage of growers by sending poor quality cannabis seeds or even no seeds. Try to find at least two legitimate people who have ordered successfully from the same source before you send any money. It sounds like a pain but it can save you a lot of time and money.
Additionally, there are many scammers that pretend to be legitimate companies. For example, several people on Instagram have copied our account (profile and posts) then messaged people to sell seeds as if they were us. Then they seed seeds of unknown quality or don’t send anything at all. If you’ve been following our actual Instagram account, you may not notice the seller is @growweedeasy_ instead of @growweedeasy.
Double and triple-check your source before ordering seeds through social media. Don’t throw money down the drain.
Or even better, just order seeds from a proven seed source that offers high-quality seeds and a plethora of excellent strains. If you’re lucky enough to live need a cannabis dispensary, you can sometimes find quality seeds there.
Be on the lookout for scams when buying seeds on social media. Consider a proven source of seeds.
Conclusion: Get Hype Seed if you Can!
Use found cannabis seeds at your own risk. You may get decent or even great results, but you may be disappointed, which can be a real confidence killer especially for new growers. There’s nothing more frustrating than doing everything right only to get bad results after 4 months of growing. I highly recommend buying at least a few seeds from a trustworthy breeder to ensure you are happy with the weed you grow at the end.
Not sure where to get seeds? Learn where to safely buy seeds online. Learn about American genetics.
One awesome strain that won’t break the bank (3 seeds for $30) is Critical Purple Kush. I’ve grown it in different setups and buds produce smooth and relaxing effects. A crowd favorite.
Critical Purple Kush buds are sparkly with great yields, plant growth, and bud quality.
Looking for reaaaally potent buds and don’t mind paying a little extra? Check out Platinum Cookies (4 seeds for $55)
How To Grow Cannabis Organically: Seeds, Soil, Containers & Care
The topic of “how to grow cannabis” has such a funny vibe about it. If you browse around online, you’ll see there are many cannabis growers with extremely strong opinions about “the right way” to grow cannabis, though all of their methods vary… Esoteric language, expensive supplies, and complicated recipes or instructions are often used, making it a very intimidating and confusing subject for new home growers.
I am here to hopefully take some of the mystery out of it for you! The methods we choose to use for growing cannabis here at home are pretty dang simple! Sure, there are some steps to follow and supplies to gather, but growing cannabis is not all that more complicated than growing high-quality organic food at home. Or at least that is how we approach it. All you need is rich healthy soil, a large container, and either cannabis seeds or started seedlings – called “clones”.
Read along to learn about our preferences for soil, containers, seeds, and how to get started growing cannabis at home, organically!
This article will get you started with your growing season, then check out the follow-up posts for ongoing care – with tips on routine fertilizing, organic pest control, and how to harvest, dry, and cure your cannabis too. Keep in mind that our goals are not all about high yields. The goal is to grow safe, high-quality, organic cannabis that we can utilize and enjoy with peace of mind – knowing how it was treated from “bean to bowl”. It is about quality over quantity, though we end up with more than enough anyways!
This post is intended for people living in states who are legally allowed to grow cannabis at home, either medicinally or recreationally. If you have any questions about this, please refer to your local cannabis regulations. Note that today’s post is also geared around growing cannabis naturally outdoors, so I will not touch on light deprivation or indoor grow set-ups. I do plan to write an indoor grow guide in the near future, but most of the tips in this article can easily be applied to an indoor grow too!
Where to get cannabis seeds or clones
Keep in mind that cannabis has not been legalized at the federal level – with the exception of low-THC, high-CBD hemp. Therefore, even if you live in a state that has legalized marijuana, shipping cannabis seeds and products across state lines is technically still illegal. But it is commonly done nonetheless. To my knowledge, people buy cannabis seeds online fairly easily and without issues. However, if cannabis is legal in your state, the most safe and “by the book” way to procure seed or started plants (clones) is from a licensed cannabis store.
Here are a few reputable places that discreetly sell cannabis seeds online:
– A popular ‘seed bank’ with a huge selection, including CBD! (money order only) (autoflower seeds only) (based out of the Netherlands, ships to US) (UK, ships to US)
Keep reading to the “Cannabis Growing Conditions” section below for information on exactly when and how to start cannabis seeds (or plant clones).
Feminized, Regular, or Autoflower Seeds
Cannabis comes in many shapes and sizes! Obtaining feminized seeds or plants guarantees that they will flower. Aka – they’ll grow buds. “Regular” seeds could grow up to be males. They’re pretty useless unless you want to breed plants. Any males in vicinity will pollinate your female plants, make them produce seeds in the buds, and reduce their THC development. Most people cull the males before they produce pollen to avoid this. We grow with feminized and sometimes regular seeds too.
If you do grow regular seeds, see this article to learn how to determine the sex of your cannabis plants in the early pre-flower stages. You may also want to start regular seeds a few weeks earlier than you would feminized seeds, which allows for ample time to ID the ladies (or gentlemen).
For a super-quick growing season and small, manageable plants, you could try autoflower cannabis types. Autoflowers are available in feminized, sativa, and indica options too.
Young cannabis seedlings we started from seed. If the seeds are ‘regular’ (not feminized) we usually pot them up into larger nursery pots (shown in the background on the right) until we can identify if they’re male or female. Once we identify the ladies, then they are transplanted into their final grow bags, shown on the left. If this sounds too involved, stick with feminized seeds to start!
Strains: Sativa vs Indica
Sativa-dominant plants are typically more uplifting and energizing. Sativa plants also get taller, lankier, and take longer from seed to harvest. Indica-dominant strains finish a little faster, pack on fatter buds, and are generally shorter and wider plants. These make them a preferable variety for northern climates with shorter growing seasons. Indica is also known for more of a mellow, sleepy, heavy, couch-lock kind of vibe.
We generally prefer uplifting, happy, energetic sativa-dominant hybrids – ones that are balanced with enough indica to keep things smooth, relaxing, and still make for a great night of sleep. “Maui Wowie” is a long-standing favorite here, and “Rosetta Stone” is our new go-to lately.
Beyond all of these broad categories, each strain will also have unique attributes that may make it more or less desirable to you. Find what suits your needs! What works for us may not be what works for you. To read more in-depth on the differences between sativa, indica, and autoflowers (including their health benefits) check out this post.
Autoflower cannabis plants in the greenhouse, in smaller 5 gallon smart pots. They take up far less space, and time!
THE PERFECT CANNABIS SOIL
If you checked out our post about how to build the perfect organic soil for raised beds, our methods for building the perfect cannabis soil isn’t all that different. We’re shooting for something that is rich, biologically active, full of micronutrients, and has an excellent balance between moisture retention and drainage. Reference that raised bed soil post if you want to dive deep into detail, but otherwise here is a quick-and-dirty for cannabis soil:
I’m going to give you all two options below. One is a little more involved, which is crafting your own soil from scratch. This is what we do. The second option uses pre-made soil, and requires less ingredients and steps upfront.
Either way you choose to go, please note that we follow a no-till method. That means the soil is a one-time upfront cost, aside from some amendments you’ll need on an ongoing basis. Those last a long time before needing replenishing too! At the end of a growing season, the mature cannabis plant is cut down at the soil line, and the roots left in place to decompose over the winter with the aid of worms and light moisture. The soil is used year after year in the same container, improving with age. This is also called ROLS – recycled organic living soil.
Here are two of our 25-gallon cannabis grow bags, full of recycled organic living soil. These are kept in a shed over winter (and some outside too), and kept alive with an occasional light watering. The soil is reused the following season.
Option 1: Our Organic Cannabis Soil Recipe
Combine the following ingredients. If you plan to fill several large containers (like grow bags – discussed below) then it may be easiest to mix all of these in a very large tote or even spread out on a tarp, and then add some to each bag. Note that it is best to pre-moisten the peat moss before mixing it with everything else. Peat tends to be hydrophobic when dry, and can make your soil less likely to absorb water well if it is mixed without wetting first.
- 1 part Canadian sphagnum peat moss (We often use Roots Organics or Premier – both found at our local ‘grow shop’.)
- 1 part high quality compost (We love Malibu’s Biodynamic Compost, but it’s only available on the West Coast. There is a similar East Coast option by Coast of Maine. You could use aged homemade compost, or shop around to see what is available. Maybe there is a local worm farm in your area?)
- 1 part aeration additive (We prefer 3/8-inch Lava rock, aka lava cinders. You could use pumice or perlite instead.)
Evenly mix in the following amendments:
, ½ cup per cubic foot of soil* , ½ cup per cubic foot of soil , ½ cup per cubic foot of soil , 2 cups per cubic foot of soil , 1 cup per cubic foot of soil , 1 cup per cubic foot of soil
- A handful of worm castings and a few compost worms, if possible
- Optional: Biochar, 2-4 cups per cubic foot of soil
*In the recipe above, when I mention the amendment amounts “per cubic foot of soil”, I mean the total combined volume including peat moss, compost, and aeration. Also note that all of these amendments are things we also use in the garden, and last many seasons!
Curious about what all these things are for?
Kelp meal contains over 70 different vitamins and minerals. It helps promote overall plant health, vigor, and tolerance to stress, pests ,and disease. It is also a renewable, sustainable resource – so that’s a huge plus.
Neem meal enhances microbial activity, making your soil even more alive! It also strengthens root systems, and can help control unwanted nematode populations, fungus, and soil pathogens.
Crab or Crustacean meal is high in chitin, which stimulates the soil food web and beneficial microbe activity. It may also help combat root knot nematodes. This meal contains both macro and micronutrients as fuel for the plants.
Rock Dust contains micronutrients and trace minerals that are essential for a plant’s core biological processes to work at their strongest, such as nutrient uptake and photosynthesis.
Gypsum contains calcium and sulfur, and helps the plant better utilize and uptake potassium, which is one of the key macronutrients that all plants depend on for life. In the “NPK” ratio for all fertilizers, the K stands for potassium. Adequate potassium availability and uptake enables plants to photosynthesize, produce energy and important enzymes during growth, and also assists with water uptake and drought resistance.
Oyster shell flour is an excellent source of calcium for the plants, as well as phosphorus. Adequate calcium carbonate protects plants from heat stress, makes them more resistant to disease and pests, strengthens plant cell walls, and increases nutrient uptake and overall vigor. Oyster shell flour also acts as a pH buffer.
Here is a little video of our organic living soil in action:
A note about peat moss:
Peat moss gets some flack for being not very sustainable. However, it also gets some of the best reviews and results for growing cannabis. Cannabis likes very slightly acidic soil, which peat moss naturally is. It is also an incredibly common ingredient in almost all bagged soil, so it’s hard to avoid in the gardening world. Aaron put together our soil before we were fully aware of the environmental concerns. Because we are reusing and recycling it each year, the best thing for us is to continue utilizing it!
Some people who grow cannabis choose to replace the peat moss portion of this recipe with coco coir, which is a more renewable, sustainable material. I can’t speak to its effectiveness because we haven’t used it for cannabis, though we do add a little coco coir to our raised beds sometimes, and also use it as bedding in our worm bin. Honestly, we have heard not-so-great results and read numerous studies that show coco coir has inferior performance to peat moss.
Option 2: Use Pre-amended Bagged Soil
If mixing up all those amendments sounds a little too “extra” for you, you could do the following instead:
Use mostly pre-made, high-quality, bagged organic soil. If you have access to it, try to add in a little rich aged compost, worms, worm castings, and/or aeration too! Experiment with building your own soil, with a premade base. Check out this post on how to start a super simple worm bin, if you’re in need of worm castings! They can also be purchased.
For this method, you could skip a lot of the additional amendments upfront, though you’ll still want to add some as the growing season progresses. Cannabis is a hungry plant! The choices and availability of bagged organic soil options will vary depending on where you live. If you can, get top-of-the-line stuff – it is going to be more pre-amended for you.
Examples of popular cannabis soil brands to keep an eye out for are Roots Organics products, Fox Farm’s Ocean Forest/Happy Frog, or Recipe 420 by E.B. Stone. Even some of the Kellogg or G&B Organics could work well, especially when premium compost is added. Check to see if there are any hydroponic stores or “grow shops” in your area. Those stores cater to cannabis growers, and are more likely to carry premium bagged soils over the stuff at big box nursery centers.
Now that you have a soil choice in mind, what are you going to put it in?
CONTAINERS FOR GROWING CANNABIS
We prefer to grow our cannabis in grow bags, and I’ll explain why below. If you want to stick your plants in garden beds or right in the ground, be my guest! This is just what works for us. Check out how to build a durable and deep raised garden bed here.
Benefits of Grow Bags
The preferred container for growing cannabis for many people, ourselves included, is in large fabric grow bags. As opposed to a hard-sided container, they promote better aeration, drainage, and even moisture. Solid containers like 5-gallon buckets could be used, but have the tendency to be drier on top and soggy on the bottom. Grow bags also accomplish something called air-pruning. When the cannabis plant’s roots near the edge of the bag, the exposure to air naturally prunes them back. This is a way to keep the plant happy and healthy in its given container, naturally limiting itself and keeping the roots healthier. In contrast, a solid container allows the plants roots to continue to grow in circles around the container and themselves – becoming root bound. This is not a good thing.
Grow bags are great because they allow people to grow cannabis in a variety of living situations, be it on a patio, indoors, or in a greenhouse. By using a container, you have ultimate control over the soil you choose to fill it with.
Additionally, you can make them mobile! We make rolling dollies to sit all of our cannabis grow bags on, out of 2×6’s and heavy-duty casters. See the photos below. That way, we can easily roll or rotate the large (and heavy!) plants out of our way or into better sun as needed. If you do the same, make sure you get casters that are rated for at least 50 to 80 pounds of weight per wheel, minimum. Ours are 2″ and okay for the flat patio, but 3-inch wheels probably would have made it even easier to move.
Our DIY dollies with casters. Three redwood 2×6 boards are held together by a supporting 2×4″ in the opposite direction, screwed into each board. To catch runoff, we use large plant saucers. This one is 25-inches (top rim to rim) and can hold the 25-gallon grow bags that are 21″ at the bottom. Lava rock is sitting in the bottom of the saucer to keep the grow bag from sitting in standing water.
Grow Bag Brands and Sizes
The bags we prefer to use are the Smart Pot brand, or GeoPot. These are extremely durable and long-lasting. You get what you pay for. We have used cheaper grow bags in the past and they rip and degrade within a season or two of use. Smart Pots will last for years and years. We have bags that are three years old and still as good as new. Call me silly, but I also love being able to choose tan or brown colored bags. I like a pretty garden space and prefer the look of those to the stark black choices.
The size of your grow bag will dictate the size of your cannabis plant, and its health. Obviously, the size of your space will determine how big of bags you can use too. The smallest I would suggest for a traditional photoperiod plant is about 15 gallons. We generally use 20-gallon or 25-gallon bags for those big girls.
If you have a lot of room and want really large plants, you could go even larger! On the other hand, if you are growing autoflower cannabis plants, a 5-gallon or 7-gallon bag would work just fine. Not sure what the difference between a photoperiod and autoflower cannabis plant is? Check out this post that explains it all.
Okay, we have our soil and our bags… now on to the most important part of this post: the cannabis itself.
See how big they can get? Those are our Maui Wowie girls. Also note the DIY dolly below the grow bags. We can easily roll them aside when we want to enjoy our patio space, and put them more in the middle when we’re not outside.
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CANNABIS GROWING CONDITIONS
In most places, cannabis seeds are started indoors in March or April, and transplanted outside in April or May once the risk of frost has passed. Basically, cannabis seedlings need to be protected from freezing or other harsh conditions – just as any other seedling does! If you aren’t sure about your area’s frost dates, stop by this article. In it, I share veggie seed-starting calendars for every USDA hardiness zone. For cannabis, you can essentially follow the timing recommendations for tomatoes (but on the later end of the given windows).
Depending on the strains you are growing and your summer daylight hours, the average cannabis plant will continue to grow larger in size (in its vegetative state) until the days begin to shorten and it receives less than 12 hours of sunlight per day (e.g. after summer solstice). Then, it switches into its flowering stage and begins to develop buds. Most outdoor cannabis plants will be ready to harvest in September to October. The exception to this would be for autoflowers, which can start and finish their entire life cycle in as short as 3 months.
Starting cannabis from seed
We prefer to grow from seed. Once we obtain seeds, we treat them pretty much like any other garden seed! They’re germinated in 4” pots full of seedling start mix, inside on a heat mat. Keep the containers covered and moist until they sprout. Ideal germination temperature is around 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
After sprouting indoors, cannabis seedlings need strong bright light – such as that provided by a supplemental grow light. Unfortunately, a sunny window will not provide enough light, and the plants will get extra tall, weak, and leggy. Once our seeds pop indoors, we move the cannabis seedlings to our greenhouse for a few weeks before going fully outside. We also use lights for growing autoflowers in the off-season in the greenhouse. (See this article for more information about choosing and using grow lights.)
To read more in-depth information about how we start seeds, check out our seed starting 101 post!
Cannabis seedlings in our greenhouse, being treated just like the peppers, eggplants, and other garden plants!
Note that you do not need a greenhouse or fancy supplies to start cannabis! If you don’t have a heat mat, I suggest pre-soaking the seeds in non-chlorinated water overnight before planting. This will aid in germination. In lieu of seedling start mix and little pots, another option is to germinate the seed inside a moist root riot cube, then plant the whole cube in its final grow bag after it sprouts. If you aren’t equipped to raise seedlings indoors for several weeks, plan to start in late April to early May. Most locations will be adequately warm enough by then for the seedlings to go right outside after germination (or to sow seeds directly outside, if you wish).
Once they’re a few weeks old and the weather is right, we transplant our seedlings outside to their final large grow bag. When they are transplanted, we sprinkle some mycorrhizae in the planting hole and on any exposed roots. Mycorrhizae enhances nutrient uptake, and disease and drought resistance. If you did have your seedlings indoors under lights for a few weeks, don’t forget to properly harden them off before moving them outside! This helps to strengthen them and prevent transplant shock.
If you are growing from clones instead (such as those you purchase at a local dispensary, or obtain from a friend), you can skip straight to potting them into grow bags outside.
Some young cannabis plants, recently transplanted into their final large grow bags. The small support stakes will be replaced with larger ones as they grow.
Sun and Support
Full sun is best! If you have a wide open location that receives full sun all summer and into fall, you’re in luck. We have changing sun patterns, with some shade from our house and trees to contend with. That is the beauty of putting the grow bags on dollies – we can move them around to receive the most sun possible as the seasons change.
Provide support for the main stalk with a sturdy stake. As the plant gets larger and starts to put on bud weight, you may find the need to further support individual branches. This will depend on the strain. Some growers get crazy with their support and training systems! We start with a small stake for seedlings (shown above) and then swap it to a 5 or 6-foot tall stake as the plant matures.
In regards to water, the goal is to provide consistent, even moisture. Do not let the soil completely dry out between watering, but don’t drown it out either. As with many things, this will vary a lot depending on your climate. If you’re in a very hot and arid place, you will need to water more frequently than someone in a cooler coastal climate like ourselves.
As the plant grows and the root ball gets larger, it will drink water faster and therefore need more, and more often. I will write a follow up post about watering and fertilizing (which often go hand-in-hand) throughout the growing season soon.
If possible, use dechlorinated water. It isn’t a deal-breaker, but the plant and soil microbes will definitely appreciate it. If you are on city tap water, allowing a bucket of water to sit out overnight can help the chlorine dissipate. We mostly use our captured rainwater. Another option is to use a simple hose carbon filter to remove chlorine.
Mulch the top of your grow bag to maintain a healthy soil. We love using biodynamic accumulators that not only provide moisture retention, but will later break down into more nutrients and energy for the cannabis. Some examples of biodynamic accumulators are borage, comfrey, yarrow, and dandelion greens. Fava bean greens are also excellent for green mulching, since they’re nitrogen fixers! If you don’t have access to these types of plants, straw or hay will work.
I don’t know about you… but to me, that mulch is looking super sexy! Yarrow, comfrey, borage, lavender, dandelion greens, and straw.
Another popular mulch option is to use an organic cover crop seed mix, and lightly working it into the top inch of soil when you first plant your cannabis seedling. As it gets watered, cover crop will grow under the canopy of your plant. It becomes a living mulch, and also enhances your living soil food web. As it grows tall, you can “chop and drop” mulch with it. That is when you trim it and leave it in place to decompose as green mulch.
And just like that, you’ve given your cannabis a stellar start! You’ll be enjoying your own homegrown organic bud in no time.
Once you have your cannabis off to a strong start, come learn about the ways we routinely fertilize our plants! Also, how to keep the pests at bay:
- “How to Feed Cannabis, Organically: Top-Dressings, Teas & More”
- “Organic Cannabis Pest Control: How to Keep the Bugs Off Your Nugs”
Last by not least, when the time comes, here an article all about processing your cannabis: “How to Harvest, Dry, Trim, Cure, & Store Homegrown Cannabis: The Ultimate Guide”. When IS the time right to harvest? You’ll learn that here too. This guide is basically everything you need to know, from the best timing, temperature, humidity, methods, and more.
Once you have your homegrown goodies properly dried and cured, it is all ready to use: whether you like to smoke or vaporize your cannabis (read this important article on the subject), make cannabis-infused oil for edibles, homemade cannabis tinctures, or create healing topical salves. The options are endless!
I hope this all took some of the mystery out of growing cannabis for you. Please feel free to ask questions and pass this post along. To the left, of course. Wishing you the bet of luck with your growing adventure!