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As marijuana becomes legal in more states across the country, more people are thinking of growing it themselves – and, why not? Home growing gives you control over what goes into the plants, thereby ensuring purity. Not to mention, it is also extremely cost-effective. As a beginner, you may find the entire process of growing marijuana daunting. You could start small to keep it simple. As you will later find out, even a single plant can provide you with a generous harvest of flavorful, potent buds.
Why Grow Just One Marijuana Plant?
The adage – more is better – is not necessarily true when growing marijuana. For a hobbyist, one plant can provide enough buds to supply you throughout the year. You just have to nurture it properly to ensure success. Here are some advantages to caring for a single plant instead of having a sizeable full-scale operation:
- More plants mean you have to work more. And if you cannot do that, the lack of time or attention may cause problems such as failing to notice signs of illness. On the other hand, concentrating your efforts lets you provide for the sole plant’s needs, ensuring its healthy growth.
- It is cheap. You do not have to spend too much money on equipment and supplies. The bare minimum in terms of water, nutrients, and lighting will do. If this is your first time to grow, then it makes more sense. Any mistakes made would not be too costly, and can be corrected quickly. Starting small is a great way to experiment and gain more experience without stressing out.
- Finally, security is less likely to be an issue with a solitary plant. Even in areas where cannabis is legal, you might want to avoid your neighbors’ or the authorities’ attention. At any rate, hiding your one plant is easier should the need arise.
How Do You Prepare to Grow a Single Plant?
Before growing, you have to prepare your equipment and supplies, such as the growing containers, soil, and lights. You will not need a lot since it is just one plant. Still, advanced planning helps you save time. You can reduce your stress by not having to rush back and forth to purchase everything. Get yourself organized by following this checklist:
1. Choose Your Strain
There are many easy-to-grow strains available online, but each has its effects on the user. You can choose Indica strains for their relaxing properties, or Sativa strains to feel energized. If you prefer a combination of the two, get a hybrid. It depends on your medical or recreational requirements. Obviously, your goal is a final product that you will enjoy smoking. However, that is not the only consideration.
Some varietals grow better in specific climates and environments. Others, like auto-flowering marijuana strains, need less upkeep than most. The plant’s eventual size is also determined by its strain to a certain extent, although there are ways to control this. Whichever you decide to buy, research first so that you know what to expect.
2. Get Your Growing Container Ready
The best type of container is a breathable pot, such as a fabric pot. It is durable, machine-washable, reusable, and can enhance the root structure by providing sufficient aeration. Healthy roots result in more foliage and flowers. Furthermore, they increase the plant’s resistance to diseases and improve nutrient uptake.
Other pots like ceramic or plastic would also work, as long as they have enough drainage holes. Closed containers could cause root rot by overwatering. Also, make sure that the excess water drains off to avoid runoff accumulation, which attracts mold and insects.
The ideal pot size is three gallons (11 to 12 liters), but it is better to use a small container in the beginning. Most growers use a cheap plastic solo cup for the germination and seedling stages. You can easily control the soil’s water content and deter pests that way. Before it outgrows the cup, however, you should transplant to its permanent home. Autoflowering plants are the exception. They should be grown directly in their final containers, no transplanting required.
3. Prepare the Soil
There are plenty of growing mediums to choose from. Look for one that is porous to let air circulate around the root system. The roots need access to oxygen for respiration, which is an essential life process of the plant. For this reason, the soil must not be too dense or packed tightly. If you feel that your soil is too heavy, add some perlite for proper aeration.
You can buy high-quality organic soil at any garden supply store or even at the supermarket. Avoid heavily-fertilized brands, especially in the seedling phase. Too many nutrients in the soil could cause a nutrient burn, turning the leaf tips yellow or brown. You can always add a nutrient mix yourself. That way, you can give your plant precisely what it needs at the right time.
Some people use compost because they deem it more ‘natural’. You can make your compost or buy a ready-to-use formulation at the store or online. ‘Super soils’ are a type of composted soil that is rising in popularity. It contains all the nutrients your plant will need during its life cycle. You will not have to add any fertilizer.
In any case, your soil should have a slightly acidic pH; aim for 6.5 to 7.5 pH. Lower or higher than that can hinder the roots’ ability to absorb nutrients. Moreover, it should be clean and free from pathogens that could cause problems later. Commercial soil mixes are sanitized and have the proper pH level, so just buy some. Digging up soil from a random garden to save a few dollars is not worth the trouble.
4. Purchase the Nutrient Mix
If you start with low-nutrient soil, you should add some fertilizer to boost growth. You need a mix of mostly nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. You can customize by feeding your plant a different blend of nutrients for each stage of development.
Nitrogen is the most vital nutrient for the vegetative stage. It encourages plants to grow more foliage, which will increase budding. Phosphorus and potassium, on the other hand, help to ripen and harden those buds. Additionally, you also need micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, copper, and zinc.
Just take care to follow the dilution ratios indicated on the fertilizer packaging. Do not be tempted to overfeed your plant. As mentioned earlier, you want to avoid nutrient burn. A “burned” plant’s leaves will die, reducing its ability to make food via photosynthesis. Insufficient food will stunt its growth, leading to a smaller yield.
5. Provide the Proper Lighting
Since you only have a single plant in a pot, you might think that putting it on a windowsill is fine. Although house plants can survive this way without any problems, you want to enhance your marijuana’s growth to maximize your crop. Using a grow light will help you do so.
Lighting is usually the biggest expense for growers, but having just one plant will cut the cost considerably. Furthermore, there are many inexpensive options nowadays. You could start with a compact fluorescent (CFL) bulb that sprouting plants will surely appreciate. For better results, though, you should go a step higher.
Use a 250-watt high-intensity discharge (HID) lamp – metal halide (MH) and high-pressure sodium (HPS) vapor bulbs. This combination will provide the bluish light that vegetative plants need and the pink-orange glow suitable for flowering.
Invest in a timer so that you do not have to think about when to turn the lamp on and off. Marijuana requires 12, 18, or 24 hours of light, depending on its growing phase. The dark period, or nighttime, is equally important. Your plant will need 12 hours of complete, uninterrupted darkness in the budding stage. You might have to put it in a closet or your basement. More about this shortly.
How Do You Grow Just One Plant at Home?
The marijuana plant goes through different stages of growth. For every stage, you have to provide the correct amounts of light, water, and nutrients. Temperature and humidity play key roles, too. By giving it what it needs, your plant will achieve its full potential and reward you with potent, aromatic buds. For more information on growing marijuana at home, make sure you watch our Grow Your Own with Kyle Kushman series of videos.
Cannabis starts as a seed and dies after it flowers. In the wild, it will sprout from the ground in spring. Throughout the summer, it vegetates, growing taller and broader. As the days get shorter, it will produce flowers to reproduce itself before winter sets in. That is its life cycle. It takes around eight months before you see a harvest.
However, the beauty of indoor growing is that you can shorten that life cycle. By simulating the change in seasons at a faster pace, you can enjoy your crop in three to five months. But before your plant reaches that point, you should follow these steps to take care of it at every stage:
The Seedling Stage
First, you have to germinate the seed. One seed equals one plant. For your single pot, you do not have to germinate the entire seed packet. Place the seed (or two, if you want a backup) on a damp paper towel or sponge. It will pop in as little as a day or sometimes as long as a week. Afterward, you can put it in soil.
Alternatively, you could bury it directly in a quarter-inch (0.6 cm) to a half-inch (1.25 cm) of soil. Either way, keep the medium moist but not drenched. The temperature should be consistently warm at around 75°F (24°C). Give the germinated seed 24 hours of light using a CFL bulb placed two inches (5 cm) away from the top of the soil to promote faster sprouting.
A green shoot will emerge from the soil in three to seven days. You will see two rounded cotyledon leaves unfold from the tiny stem. These baby leaves are not the familiar serrated marijuana leaves you expect, but they have the same function. They gather light so that the plant can manufacture food and grow.
The plant’s roots are also busy growing underneath the soil. As they develop, the first “true leaves” will appear, and the cotyledons will wither and fall off. When your plant grows four to eight sets of fan-shaped leaves, it is officially a seedling.
Maintain the temperature between 70 to 85°F (21 to 30°C). Leave the grow light on for 24 hours if you wish, or at the very least for 18 hours. If you are using a CFL, it does not emit plenty of heat, but other types of light might. Check the lamp’s temperature by holding your hand under it. Move it farther away if it feels uncomfortably hot. You do not want your seedling to get a light burn.
At this stage, your young plant can tolerate a relatively high moisture level, so just make sure that the soil does not completely dry out. You could use a sprayer for better control. Plain water will do. You do not have to add any nutrients yet because there is enough present in the soil to support the seedling.
Be aware that tap water contains chlorine, which is harmful to plants. Let the water sit in a container for 24 hours before using, to allow the chlorine to dissipate. If your city’s water has more additives than usual, you could buy anti-chlorine drops from a pet store. (They usually are used for aquariums because fish can’t live in chlorinated water.)
The Vegetative Stage
This is the ‘middle’ stage when the plant grows its leaves and branches. The main stem gets thicker and stronger, while the root system is expanding. Your seedling will need a bigger container now, so it is time to transplant it to the large pot. Otherwise, it will become root-bound and stop growing.
Transplanting can get tricky, so you should be extra careful. Get the growing pot ready, fill it with soil, and make a hole big enough to accommodate the plant’s root ball. Turn your plant upside down onto your hand’s palm, with the stem in between your fingers. Tap the sides of the seedling container gently until it comes out, then place it immediately in its new home. Do everything quickly to reduce the effects of transplant shock.
Note: Do your best not to damage the roots when you transplant. Torn roots are the primary cause of shock and increase recovery time. In addition, ensure your hands and surroundings are very clean to avoid contact with invisible pathogens.
If the thought of transplanting makes you nervous, you can start your seedling off in a compressed peat moss container like a Jiffy Pot. It decomposes once you place it in new soil, protecting the roots by minimizing their exposure. Why not plant in the permanent pot from the beginning? Because overly large containers are prone to under- or over-watering, which may cause a myriad of problems such as root rot.
Now that your plant is in the vegetative stage, you should water it every other day with a high-nitrogen nutrient mix. Pour the diluted solution in a wide area around the stem. This encourages the roots to expand outward, making the uptake of nutrients more efficient.
The ideal temperature range is the same as before, but do not let it go higher than 80°F (26°C) in the daytime (light on). When the light is off or “nighttime”, do not go below 70°F (21°C). The humidity level should be lowered by 5% every week until it reaches 45 to 55%.
In an enclosed space like a closet, the humidity could get quite high. If you have a dehumidifier, it is a good idea to make use of it. For just one plant, however, proper ventilation can adequately dry out the air. This is important because too much humidity causes mold to proliferate. On top of that, the leaves may clog up and lose their ability to function.
As previously stated, your plant will grow plenty during the veg stage. The best kind of light at this time is an MH lamp. Keep it on for 18 consecutive hours a day, then off for 6 hours for maximum growth. In general, the bigger the plant, the higher the yield.
Nevertheless, you want to control it to a manageable size. You could choose a marijuana strain that does not need pruning, or you could try your hand at it anyway. Use a sharp, sterilized razor to cut straight across the top of the plant. This method is called topping and increases the amount of terpene-rich resin. Topping also stimulates the growth of branches sideways from the main stem, creating more areas for buds to develop.
The Flowering Stage
Your plant can stay in the vegging phase indefinitely, but you should prompt it to go into budding/flowering after 30 days. That is enough time to strengthen its stems and branches to support the buds’ weight.
Marijuana only starts to flower when it “feels” the daylight hours shortening. Switch to your HPS lamp and change the light cycle to 12 hours on/12 hours off. As a matter of fact, it is the absence of light that triggers this stage, so make sure that the darkness is absolute. Check that your grow space does not let even a sliver of light in. Otherwise, your plant will revert to vegging again. Or worse, it could become a hermaphrodite, producing fewer buds.
Put your plant in a closet or your basement to better control its light exposure. This raises the problem of temperature and humidity, though. The ideal temperature is between 65 and 80°F (18 to 26°C), while the humidity is as low as 30 to 45%. Specialized equipment like an air-conditioner, heater, or humidifier might not be necessary for a single plant. An electric fan, however, will work wonders. It will help the air circulate and level out hot/cold, dry/damp areas in your grow space.
The plant will keep growing in the first two weeks of the flowering stage. Sometimes, it could even double in height. Keep that in mind if your grow space has a low ceiling. You can continue feeding it nitrogen but switch to more phosphorus and potassium at the start of the third week.
The flowering stage usually lasts from eight to ten weeks. One week before harvest, stop giving nutrients and flush the plant with plain water, preferably with a 6.5 pH level. This prevents the buds from picking up an off taste from the chemicals.
Harvesting and Curing
You will know that harvesting is imminent when trichomes appear around the plant’s nodes and leaves. Trichomes are fuzzy fibers that are the source of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. They start as transparent, later turning a milky color before ending with an amber tone. The best time to harvest is when most of them are milky, with a small proportion of amber-colored ones. That is the peak of marijuana’s aroma, flavor, and physiological effect.
When your plant is ready, cut off the branches with buds and hang them upside down on a clothesline in a well-ventilated room. The environment must have low humidity (50 to 60%) to stop mold from invading the buds. Nonetheless, do not attempt to speed up the process by raising the temperature and lowering the humidity. Doing so will affect the taste. Just let the buds dry on their own for three to seven days.
You can start trimming the buds when the branches feel dry and smaller stems snap easily. Remove excess leaves and stems to leave a clean nugget. You can now cure them. Curing preserves weed, prolonging its shelf life. There are many methods employed by advanced growers, but the simplest way is just as effective.
Get some wide-mouth mason jars and fill each one three-quarter full with the trimmed nuggets. Do not cram them in; the buds should move freely when you shake the jars. Simply open and close the jars every day to let fresh air in and stale air out. In the first couple of weeks, you should do this twice a day. Once a day is fine thereafter.
When the buds’ texture seems right – moist but not too sticky – you can check on them once a week instead of daily. After three weeks, you can open the jars only once a month. Your product is now ready to smoke. Check out Kyle Kushman’s guide to Drying and Curing your Buds for further information on this part of the process.
Are You Ready to Grow Your Plant?
Now that you are armed with all the information you need, it’s time to jump right into it. Just remember to procure your supplies and equipment in advance for smooth sailing. Understand the needs of your cannabis plant during its different growth stages. Provide the right quantities of light, water, and nutrients. Maintain the temperature and humidity within the ideal ranges, and ensure good air circulation.
Follow the proper procedures, and your solitary plant will flourish. At the end of the growing period, it will give you all the weed you want.