The Different Ways to Grow Cannabis
What a time to be alive, especially if you are a cannabis consumer! With so many ways to grow cannabis, the variety of medicated selections continues to expand.
From old school flowers and pre-rolls, to an endless array of delectable cannabis-infused edibles, to highly potent concentrates, extracts, and vape pens, to wellness-focused products like tinctures, salves, balms, and lotions, there are so many different ways these days to consume cannabis.
As it turns out, there are several ways to grow cannabis as well, but it all starts somewhere with a farmer and a seed.
An Introduction to the Different Ways to Grow Cannabis
When we talk about the various methods of growing cannabis, it is important to make the distinction between growing a personal amount of cannabis versus growing enough to fuel a commercial enterprise.
Many of the basic principles will apply to both, but as a cannabis grow-op scales up in size, the ideal balance between Quality and Quantity begins to slip, and usually in the wrong direction.
For the purposes of this article, we will be envisioning a personal grow in California, which allows six mature plants per adult aged 21 or up. It is important to mention that cannabis cultivation laws vary by municipality here in Cali, with some cities or counties banning outdoor grows, requiring added security measures, etc. so be sure to check your local laws before you get too far along.
It’s Cannabis Grow Time – So, How Do You Grow Cannabis?
We mentioned above that every bag of weed starts with a farmer and a seed, and technically that is true, but as a grower yourself you do not necessarily need a seed to get started.
As with most plants, cannabis plants that express favorable genetics can be propagated by way of ‘cloning’ or snipping healthy branches from a plant and replanting them in a nutrient-rich growing substrate. Soon, new roots form and another cannabis plant begins to grow.
While this is an easy, fast, and cost-effective way to spread a line of genetics, there is such a thing as spreading too thin and the repetition of taking clones from plants grown from a clone can eventually water down the flavor and effects that made the cultivar desirable in the first place.
When you start with a seed, you lose some time as you wait for it to ‘pop’, then take root, then express its gender, and eventually its traits. You can buy ten seeds of the same strain from the same breeder and wind up with ten different phenotypes expressing slightly different variations of that target strain.
That process of “pheno-hunting” can be incredibly time consuming and frustrating or can be rewarding beyond belief when you find “the one”.
Seed or clone? Once you have decided on that, where do you plan to plant it?
Ways to Grow Cannabis: Indoors
Ok, so you’re going to grow indoors. Using high powered lights and timers, you can simulate the rising and setting of the sun on the same schedule year-round, tricking your plants into accelerated growth and flowering cycles and allowing for multiple harvests each year. Now it’s time to decide how to feed your plants.
- Hydroponic – When you strip away the soil, plant roots seek nutrients and a properly set up hydroponic system can deliver a precise serving of what plants crave. That might sound like the punchline from a movie but it’s true! Instead of messy, heavy, and hard to dispose of soil, hydroponic systems suspend the plants above a tray of growing medium like coco pellets or rockwool. Using a pre-mixed solution of water and store-bought nutrients, a timer system floods the tray on a set feeding schedule freeing the farmer from hand watering or digging in the dirt.
- Soil – Most traditional and some would say a simpler method of growing is to use water and nutrient-rich soil and to feed the root system of your plants. “Wet it and forget it” might get you to harvest, but to truly optimize your results consider a deep dive into the science of soil.
Whichever method you choose, you can be confident that if you do it right, and don’t cut corners, you’ll wind up with truly top-shelf cannabis. You can also be confident that you’ll have a friendly rivalry with the farmers who choose the alternate method!
PROS: Multiple harvests each year, easier to hide from nosy neighbors, potential to produce top-shelf cannabis
CONS: High startup costs, high monthly utility bills (electricity!), aroma can be overwhelming if not contained, canopy height limited by ceiling/lights
Ways to Grow Cannabis: Outdoors
When growing outdoors, the sky is quite literally the limit. For cultivating cannabis outdoors, you will be growing in soil, but you still have the choice whether you want to grow in a pre-mixed potting soil, or if you want to grow right in the ground, in the local soil.
If you grow six plants indoors properly, you should have plenty of cannabis for yourself after each harvest. If you grow six plants outdoors, and if you have seen some of the pictures of the tree-sized outdoor cannabis plants grown here in California, you will have an endless supply of sungrown buds.
That brings up another decision. Do you want a boutique cannabis garden, or a behemoth one? Those massive plants look cool and will certainly yield a lot of bud, but the flowers at the core will be vastly different in quality to the ones that caught the sun. By limiting the size of the plants through selective pruning, a farmer can more easily tend to more minute aspects of each plant and, in theory, produce a higher quality at the expense of some lost quantity.
PROS: Plants grow larger and yield more flowers at harvest, plants are grown in a more natural environment absorbing and expressing aspects of their particular terroir (click here to read more about sun-grown cannabis), low overhead costs (just hard work!)
CONS: Hard to hide, unwanted weather and/or pests can spell disaster, one harvest per year
Ways to Grow Cannabis: Greenhouse
While greenhouses have been used to grow cannabis for decades, added technologies have popularized them for growers who appreciate the larger canopies that outdoor cultivation provides but who strive for a higher grade product at harvest, and for more than one harvest per year.
Fans and humidity controls are nothing new in your average greenhouse, but now the introduction of supplemental lights and, more commonly, light deprivation apparatuses have changed the game for greenhouse growers.
By implementing a clever combination of supplemental electric lighting, as well as light-blocking tarps that can quickly cover an entire crop, these farmers – like their indoor counterparts – are simulating the sun’s cycle…on their terms.
Even the most experienced cannabis connoisseurs can have a hard time deciphering between a perfectly grown greenhouse nug and the same strain grown indoors.
PROS: Low utility bills when operated traditionally, contained space easier to control climate/pests, more secure than plants in your yard
CONS: High startup and maintenance costs, requires large flat outdoor space, failure of fans/humidity control can doom a crop quickly
Obviously, there is a lot to talk about when it comes to any of the cultivation methods outlined above but we hope that this basic guide on different ways to grow cannabis will at least sprout some motivation to learn more.