Growing Cannabis Indoors 101: How to Get Started Growing Inside
So, you think you want to try your hand at growing cannabis indoors?
Good for you!
Growing indoors gives you total control over the entire process. From seed to harvest, you and you alone control all the variables.
Getting started is so often the hardest part. So hunker down and read on. We'll tell you everything you need to know to start to grow cannabis indoors.
Growing Cannabis Indoors
First off, let's talk perks. Why would anyone want to grow plants indoors, to begin with? Growing cannabis indoors comes with its own unique challenges but also a ton of benefits.
Consistent, high-quality weed: You are the master of the indoor universe, so you can set your grow area up exactly right without worrying about any extreme variances - resulting in some beautiful nugs.
Additional bonus, you don't have to worry about pesticides on your bud!
Adaptability: No matter where you live or how much space you have, you can grow weed just about anywhere.
Live in a small apartment? No problem! Even if you don't have much space, you can likely fit a few plants anywhere.
Harvest more than once: Growing indoors is a gift that keeps on giving. You aren't locked into harvesting by the sun and seasons like you are with outdoor growing.
You can let your plants grow enormously, flip them into flower, harvest, and then start another batch. Grow whenever you want, even in the coldest winter.
Privacy and security: Even though it's becoming more accepted, weed growing and use have a certain stigma.
Even in states where weed is legal, you may decide your hobby is no one's business. Growing indoors allows for more discretion and privacy than outdoor growing can.
Step 1: Setting up Your Indoor Grow Space
So you've weighed the pros and cons, you know the benefits and potential challenges - and you are still ready to roll.
Next stop, setting up your indoor grow space!
Think Big - Start Small
Spend some time thinking about where your plants will be. How many do you want to grow? How much space will you need?
As a general rule, you want at least 6 inches to 1 foot of room between branches. And the plants will double in size quickly, so make sure there is enough headroom!
You could grow in a closet, a basement, a spare room, or a corner. Whatever space you choose, you will change your gear accordingly to fit the space. As long as it's clean, well ventilated, and at the right temperature, you should have no problem.
Plan for Gear
Consider both spaces for your plants and space for other equipment. Things like lights, soil, ducting, and fans all take up room. You'll also need to be able to access and tend to the plants while they grow.
Each space will have its own learning curve. Because of this, we recommend starting small. Maybe just one or two plants to test the waters.
Most states have laws on how many you can grow for personal use anyway. If you start small, you cut the chance for costly mistakes.
The details of your space don't matter as much as these general considerations. If you can make sure you check these off in planning your grow space, you will be moving in the right direction.
1. The space is super clean
2. Space is or can be well ventilated
3. Space can be sealed off, so light cycles are uninterrupted
4. You can easily access and move around your plants
5. You can easily control environmental settings
Step 2: Choosing Lighting
Your lighting is super important. It replaces the sun and allows the plants to do their photosynthesis thing. If you are going to spend big, lights would be the place to do it.
Fortunately, the game has changed over the years. Grow lights today are more affordable and energy-efficient than their predecessors.
Here is a quick overview of the most popular options on the market.
HID Grow Lights
HID (high-intensity discharge) lights are the most common in the industry. They have a stellar combination of output, efficiency, and value.
They are more of an initial investment but produce far more light per unit of electricity used. Not as efficient as LED's, but they are a fraction of the cost.
There are two main types of HID's used in growing cannabis indoors:
Metal halide (MH) - produces light that is blue-ish white (generally used during vegetative growth)
High-pressure sodium (HPS) - produces red-orange light, often used during the flowering stage
These lights need unique ballasts and a hood/reflector for each light. Some ballasts are only able to be used with one type or the other. Newer ballasts tend to be universal.
If you can't afford good quality HID's opt for one of the other choices. Subpar gear will present extra challenges for you in the long run.
Fluorescent Grow Lights
These light fixtures are popular among hobby growers because:
They are usually cheaper to set up, as everything you need comes in a single package
They don't generate much heat, so they don't need a special cooling system
Growers have used them for years, so you know they work
The main drawback is efficiency. In general, fluorescents generate about 20-30% less light per watt of electricity used.
On the same note, you would need about 19 four-foot-long T5 high output bulbs to match the output of one 600 watt HPS bulb.
LED grow lights
Light-emitting diode (LED) technology is nothing new. What is new are highly-efficient fixtures specifically made for indoor cannabis grow operations.
LED lights have many benefits:
They outlast other bulbs
They use less electricity
They create less heat
They generate fuller spectrums of light
The main drawback is their cost. Some of the better fixtures can cost 10 times what other setups do.
Induction Grow Lights
Induction lamps are another old technology adapted to suit the needs of indoor cannabis growers.
Induction lamps are a more efficient, longer-lasting version of the fluorescent bulb. Price and availability are the main drawbacks.
Make sure to do your research before selecting lights. There is plenty of shoddy equipment out there that won't hurt your yields. But light fixtures are critical and should be looked at as such.
The timing of your plant's light/dark cycle is a critical step in growing cannabis indoors.
Typically, lights are on for 18 hours per 24 hour period during vegetative growth; when you want them to flower, switch to 12 hours of light per 24 hours.
This all needs to happen at the same times every day, or you will stress your plants out. Invest in a simple timer, and you're good to go.
Step 3: Climate Monitoring
For high-yields and happy plants, keep the temperature in your grow space consistent.
When lights are on, it should stay between 70-85ºF, when lights are off, 58-70ºF.
Depending on the strain, the plants may prefer it a bit hotter or cooler. Generally, Indica likes it colder, and Sativa likes it warmer.
Keeping temps at the following levels is best for optimal health:
Seedlings/clones: 75-85°F; ~70% relative humidity
Vegetative growth: 70-85°F; 40-60% relative humidity
Flowering: 65-80°F; 40-50% relative humidity
Fluctuations are bound to happen. As long as you are monitoring and able to make adjustments as needed, you should be fine.
Measuring Temperature and Humidity
To take accurate measurements get yourself the following:
Thermometer: Nothing fancy needed. Just something to measure the environment in your grow space.
Hygrometer: A handy tool to measure water vapor (humidity) in the air.
Infrared thermometer: This one you can get by without. It allows you to measure leaf temps. Giving you extra data on environmental conditions to better regulate them.
Control temperature by manipulating the following:
Lights: We talked about how the different lights give off different heat signatures. So keep that in mind. You can lift the lights higher or drop them lower to change the temp in your indoor canopy.
Airflow: Well-placed fans and ducting can help remove warm air and bring in cool air. Fans also help leaves stay cool by moving throughout the air through the canopy.
A/C: Depending on your setup, you may need the help of an AC unit to regulate temps. If you need to change the temp quickly, this is the best way.
Heaters: Some indoor grow spaces may need warm air. Most often, this happens when the lights are off.
Water vapor in the air is what we call humidity. Controlling it is essential to happy plants. Here's how to do it:
Dehumidifiers: These portable units pull excess moisture from the air. Many can be set at a certain humidity level and left alone. Keep in mind they may raise the temp slightly.
Airflow: Airflow is what it sounds like. Harnessing the flow of air through your space helps move moisture out and fresh air in. Regulating airflow also helps to manage temperatures and CO2 levels.
Humidifiers: The opposite of a dehumidifier, a humidifier adds moisture to the room. If you live in a more arid place, this is a necessity.
Water: If a humidifier is just one more expense, you can opt for a spray bottle instead—mist your plants to offer them a little moisture boost.
Many of the processes discussed in this section can, and should, be automated. You can employ timers; set desired temperature and humidity levels on the respective machines.
Anything you can do to keep things consistent, you should do.
Step 4: Growing Containers
The container(s) you use depends on two things: the medium you choose and your plants' size.
There are tons of options; plastic, fabric, clay, ceramic, buckets, plastic bags. There are even 'smart pots' that will regulate things for you.
The most important element is drainage. Whatever you use needs to drain water out, or circulate it, so the roots don't get soggy.
Most people start with plastic 1-gallon pots. They are easy, inexpensive, and they work just fine.
As the plants grow, you will need to transplant them to larger containers. Usually, a 5-gallon bucket will do the trick.
Step 5: Indoor Growing Medium and Nutrients
When you grow cannabis indoors, you have options when it comes to the growing medium. You can go with something simple, like soil in pots or you could go hydro. Let's look at both.
Soil is the most common medium for growing cannabis indoors. It's tried and true, affordable, and the most forgiving. So it's great for beginners.
Stay away from extended-release nutrients, like Miracle-Gro, as it's not so good for cannabis plants.
A better choice would be organic, pre-fertilized soil. These need no additional nutrients for the whole lifecycle if used properly.
If you opt for regular soil, you can find the nutrients you need in a liquid or powder form.
Mix with water and use them on your plants at least once a week. You will learn as you go. Getting to know your plants is half the fun.
Soilless (AKA Hydroponics)
Hydroponics, soilless growing, is more and more popular. You feed the plants concentrated nutrients absorbed directly through the roots.
Instead of soil, you would use rock wool, clay pebbles, or perlite. There are many mixes available that combine these things for optimal hydro growth.
Hydro growing gives you a quicker uptake, faster growth, and often - bigger yields. The drawback, you need a higher order of precision and more specialized - read costly - equipment.
Step 6: Choosing Seeds and/or Clones
How you start your grow is entirely up to you.
Seeds are great for beginners because they are pretty easy to come by, and you control the whole process. Sometimes the seeds don't germinate, but if you plant a few extras, that shouldn't be an issue.
Clones save you time and allow for a quicker harvest. However, they can be tricky to work with and aren't the best for total beginners.
Try both and see what works the best for you!
Step 7: Watering Your Plants
Some tap water contains high amounts of dissolved minerals that can build up in your root system. This will affect nutrient uptake and could introduce pathogens into the soil. Chlorine is also pretty common in tap water and can devastate soil microbes.
You can have your water tested to see what's what, or just plan to filter it as you would for yourself to drink.
Don't overwater. Set a schedule for when you water, when you add nutrients, etc.
Ready to Get Started?
We hope you found our growing cannabis indoors 101 guide helpful and informative! Make sure to check out the rest of our blog for other insights into all things weed culture.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out! Our online store is always open, and our friendly team will respond to your queries as fast as we can.