For many of us, the mere mention of homegrown cannabis takes us back to high school (lol – “high” school) and sneaking out on Friday nights with our allowances or our hard-earned paychecks to grab a bag of weed and be off with our friends to light up the weekend.
It wasn’t all about Indica/Sativa/Hybrid then or what strain we wanted – I’m not sure I even knew what any of that was then, personally. Literally, we got whatever we could get from Crazy Eddie on the corner without getting caught, and we were off. Sometimes it was awesome. Sometimes…. meh, not so much.
Today’s homegrown cannabis is not at all what it used to be – a seedy mystery bag that could, in fact, be parsley or lawn trimmings. Who knew? With many states legalizing home cultivation and the ready availability of feminized seeds from reputable seed banks, the home cultivator has a lot more options now… and crazy Eddie on the corner can suck it.
The Legal Stuff
Let’s get the legal stuff out of the way first. Virginia legalized home cultivation of cannabis for personal use effective July 1, 2021. Any adult over 21 years of age can legally cultivate and harvest up to four (4) plants per household (not per person). There are rules, of course, because how would we ever live our lives without the nanny state telling us exactly how to do it?
Each plant must be out of sight from public view, which doesn’t really apply if you’re growing indoors, have restricted access to prevent persons under the age of 21 from accessing the plants, and must be tagged with the grower’s name, ID or driver’s license number, and a notice that the plant is being cultivated for personal use in accordance with law.
Most likely, you’ll be the only person to ever read that tag, but… you’ll still want to be cautious about keeping your grow to yourself and following your state and local laws. You can’t be too careful.
That being said, I need to tell you the most important rule of homegrown cannabis: Don’t smell it, don’t sell it and don’t tell it. Seriously. I won’t get into the astronomical amount of BS and governmental interference of the things we do inside of our own homes (that’s a whole separate soapbox), but at the end of the day, cannabis cultivation and consumption remain illegal at the federal level.
That means you can still get arrested for homegrown cannabis, even if you’re following all of your local and state laws. So… if you don’t have a growing partner, nobody else needs to know about your growing or smoking activities. The fewer people who know about your operation, the less likely you are to get into legal complications or get ripped off.
You can (and should) check the homegrown cannabis laws in your state before you begin growing cannabis at home.
Now, let’s get into your grow space.
To have a successful grow, you’re going to need a dedicated space where you can control the environment. You don’t need a lot of space, though. Just a private area where you can control the temperature, humidity, and light. I did my first grow in a spare upstairs bedroom, wide open space, and it was a ton of work to try to control all the variables that can help or hurt your plant growth and yields.
Larger, open spaces make the environment harder to control, so keep that in mind. If you have space for a grow tent, that’s obviously the ideal set up, but you don’t have to have it. I sure didn’t have one when I started and, while I wouldn’t call my first grow a success, it wasn’t a disaster, either.
Equipment & Expenses
You MUST start with the right SEEDS! We have a selection here at Virginia Cultivars, naturally. It’s important that you purchase seeds from a reputable source. You’ll want feminized seeds that are photoperiod seeds or autoflower seeds.
Only female seeds produce the flower we all know and love, and males can contaminate your entire grow and produce seedy weed (which brings us right back to Crazy Eddie on the corner). Seeds generally cost about $15 – $20/seed (less when you buy in bulk) but more specialized or designer strains will be more expensive.
We’ll be creating a list of our favorite and most trusted seed banks shortly. I’ll link it up here when it’s published.
Your seed quality has a significant impact on the outcome of your grow. If you’re a beginner, definitely choose a strain that’s easier to grow and manage so you set yourself up for success from the start. You can do some strain research and decide exactly what you want to try first, then add new strains as you gain more experience.
Your first homegrown cannabis is nothing more than an experiment, so don’t be hard on yourself if your first results aren’t what you expect or hope for. You’ll produce some usable product, no doubt, and you’ll learn a lot of valuable info and insight along the way to take into your next grow. It gets better every time.
So let’s talk about the difference between autoflowering seeds and photoperiod seeds real quick. Autoflowering cannabis seeds pretty much do their own thing. Because of their genetics, autoflowers have a much shorter grow time (typically 60 days from seed to harvest) but also tend to produce smaller plants and lower yields. This says nothing at all about the quality of the yield, though.
No controlled or manipulated change in light cycle is needed to initiate the flowering stage in an autoflower- it’s genetically programmed to just do the damn thing. Autoflowers are easier to grow and maintain because they just do the work and voila… weed. If you select an autoflowering strain, you won’t necessarily need the lights if you have great natural light where your autoflowering homegrown cannabis can thrive.
I can absolutely recommend Barney’s Farm Blue Cheese Auto Feminized Seeds if this is an option you want to try for your first grow. The seeds are guaranteed to germinate and produce a fantastic quality of product in a very short amount of time. You’ll be ready to harvest in about 9 weeks and you’ll be enjoying the fruits of this plant’s labor for a long time. Three seeds cost $50 at Seed Supreme, and it’s worth every penny.
Photoperiod seeds require the grower to control the amount of light and darkness the plant receives in a given day. In nature, cannabis is an annual plant that lives out its entire lifecycle in a single season. Photoperiod actually means “the period of time each day during which an organism receives illumination.”
For each stage of the plant’s growth, it needs a different amount of light and it depends exclusively on you to provide it in an indoor homegrown cannabis situation.
Photoperiod plants can be a little more difficult to grow and maintain, but the end result is totally worth the extra attention these ladies need. Photoperiod plants are larger and produce much higher yields than their autoflowering counterparts, and they grow a lot taller, too. They’ll require some pruning and training along the way to produce the best yields, but you get to decide when they flower.
If the plants are getting more than 18 hours of light each day (I recommend 18 hours for the vegetative or veg stage), they can remain in veg indefinitely. When you’re ready, switch the light cycle to 12 hours on, 12 hours off and your photoperiod plants will enter the flowering stage provided they never get more than 12 hours of light per day.
Choosing your seed type and strain is one of the first decisions you should make about your homegrown cannabis. This will determine the extent of equipment you’ll need to get started. You can expect to spend about $60 for 4 seeds at most reputable seed banks.
For photoperiod plants, lighting is the next critical decision to make. It can also be one of the most expensive parts of starting up with homegrown cannabis. We have a selection of lights in stock in our grow facility at Virginia Cultivars storefront location. Personally, I prefer LED lights because of the low amperage draw without sacrificing the wattage output, and because it’s relatively easy on the power bill.
As a general rule, you’ll need at least a 2×2 light for each plant to get adequate coverage. I’ve had great luck with the Mars Hydro TS1000 3×3 Full Spectrum LED light. They aren’t crazy expensive and they work gangbusters. It’s on sale at the time of writing this article for $109. Regular price is about $140.
I’m trying out an amazing 4×4 Agrify grow light from Virginia Cultivars right now. I’ll let you know how it goes, probably in my Alien Gorilla Glue grow journal. I’ll link it up here when it’s published.
The Growing Environment
Climate Control & Soil Testing
Each strain of cannabis has different needs, but all homegrown cannabis will require that you can provide the right climate, the right relative humidity, and the right amount and quality of lighting. You’ll want a hygrometer to keep a check on the temperature and humidity. You can pick a couple of these up for under $10 on Amazon and they’ll work just fine for you.
You’ll want to place one of these at the same level as the base of your plants to get a truly accurate measurement of what your plant is experiencing in terms of temperature and humidity. We’ll get more into what the numbers should look like in other articles.
You’ll also want a handheld tester that will let you measure the moisture, PH and light quality of your plants. I use and recommend the Kincrea Soil Tester 3 in 1 and you can grab that for about $17.
Soil, Pots & Nutrients
Outside of your seeds, the soil you’ll use for your homegrown cannabis is the most important decision you’ll make about your grow. I create a custom mix for my growing medium, but it took me some time to figure that out. The important thing is to use a nutrient-neutral soil free from any fertilizers or “feeds for 6 months” notices on the bag. I did my first grow with Fox Farms Ocean Forest potting soil, and it was okay but there was definitely room for improvement.
The Fox Farms soil costs about $20/bag. A solid organic raised bed soil without added fertilizers is going to be your best bet, and you can pick that up at Lowe’s for about $10/bag. You don’t want your homegrown cannabis in a soil that feeds automatically, as it’s critical to control the quality, quantity and type of nutrients your plants get in each phase of their growth.
I use and recommend fabric pots for your grow. Right now, I’m using 15-gallon fabric pots but I have the space for that type of growth capacity. You’ll want to select the pots for your pot based on your grow space and the number of plants you plan to cultivate.
For a 4×4 grow tent, you can fit in 4-15 gallon pots comfortably (at first – it gets a little cramped in there for watering and defoliating as your plants grow, especially if you’re using a screen). I really like the VivoSun products for this. They’re not too tall and super sturdy, so leakage is minimal. They have strong handles, too, so you don’t risk tearing the handles off if you need to move your plants.
Anytime you’re working with homegrown cannabis, you need to be prepared that you may have to move your little garden or rearrange your plants at some point, so the strength of the handles on your grow bags is important information to know. This particular product has served me well.
If you have less space or for your first grow, you may want to consider 7 gallon pots. If you’re going for the gold and have the room, bump up to 30 gallon bags and aim for the sky! Keep in mind, the bigger your pots, the bigger your plants, so plan accordingly (NOTE: larger plants don’t always mean bigger yields… when you’re just getting started, manageable means more than size).
Your homegrown cannabis will need different nutrients at different stages of growth. During my first couple of grows, I skipped nutrients and didn’t feed my plants at all. I was getting a feel for the biology and life cycle of the plants in those early grows. The #1 mistake new cannabis growers make is overfeeding their plants, and I was concerned about that, so I skipped it altogether and just let nature do her thing. I had great soil and clean water, and those are important… but once I started feeding my plants, it transformed my grow cycles, my product potency and my yields.
I am currently using Fox Farms nutrients that come in a trip package, so one purchase lets me feed my homegrown cannabis throughout the grow cycle. It costs just under $30 and will let you feed several growth cycles if you’re growing 4 plants or less.
If we wrap all this up in a bow, here’s what you need for your homegrown cannabis (for autoflowering seeds, you can omit the lighting):
Seeds ~ $60
Soil Tester ~ $17
Hygrometer ~ $10
Fabric Pots ~$25
Lighting ~$140/plant grown
TOTAL COST approx $302 to start your homegrown cannabis with photoperiod seeds. If you choose an autoflowering plant, you can eliminate $140 or that expense and start for around $162.
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I can’t wait to know how you do with your homegrown cannabis!!!