Since recreational cannabis use was legalized in Michigan for persons 21 years of age or older in 2018, there’s more opportunity than ever before to try your hand at growing. As outlined in the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, adults in the state are allowed to grow up to 12 plants in their home so long as they are not in view by the public, like near a window, and kept in a locked, enclosed area.
Still, the idea of starting your own garden is daunting to even well-seasoned cannabis lovers. There’s a lot that goes into an indoor grow – time, money, space. However, wins can also come easily compared to outdoor counterparts; you have total control over your grow’s environment. By making a solid plan and starting out small, you have the ability to develop a true green thumb.
What is cannabis, anyway?
Cannabis sativa L. is a flowering plant native to East Asia but now cultivated throughout the world. There’s one species (C. sativa), meaning that what we call “hemp” and “marijuana” only differ in cannabinoid production. Differences between cultivars, including the broader Indica and Sativa labels, has everything to do with the specific terpene and cannabinoid profile.
Even more important is how sexes differ. Females produce the beautiful buds we know and love, covered with trichomes and filled with psychoactive compounds. Male plants pollinate females, causing them to divert energy from flower production to seeds. You’ll want to ensure your clones or seeds are female – a single male could easily pollinate all 11 remaining plants and render your harvest much less fruitful if not ruined. Additionally, interruptions in light cycles can alter the sexual expression of your plants.
Cannabis grows annually and, traditionally, is harvested in autumn. But an indoor setup allows you to significantly manipulate the natural cycle of your plants by controlling light. This lets you elongate or shorten their life.
Choosing a cultivar
If you’re interested in growing, you probably know what strains (also known as cultivars) you prefer. However, you may not be able to purchase a seed or clone of your favorite cultivar due to them having to be available within the state, so be sure to shop around to find what you’re looking for. Ideal ones for beginners require less resources or fit in compact spaces, such as Blue Dream or GG4.
You also need to designate a space for your grow, whether that be a room/corner in an apartment or a locked outdoor shed on your property.
Tools, lights and other equipment
Light is extremely important for cannabis – especially due to the possibility of sexual altering. Temperature will go hand-in-hand with your choice of lights, as your designated grow area should be around room temperature during “day” cycles and around 10-15°F less during “night” cycles. Light options include HID (high-intensity discharge), LED, induction, and fluorescent. No matter what lights you choose, you’ll need a timer to control when they are on and off to signal “day” and “night” for your grow. Never allow light to touch your plants outside of these cycles; for first-time farmers or indoor growers with limited space, a grow tent will prevent this.
Other equipment you’ll need is an exhaust fan to regulate temperature and keep constant airflow, a digital thermometer, and (especially in Michigan) a dehumidifier to prevent mold growth.
Should I use soil or go soilless?
Depending on preference, skill, and even cultivar, a farmer may choose to grow their cannabis in soil or soilless, aka hydroponics. Both have pros and cons, so keep the differences in mind:
- Soil is more forgiving and simpler to manage, as you can create or purchase nutrient-rich soil without needing extra additives or upkeep. However, growth will take longer, and plants are more susceptible to pest infestation.
- Hydroponics systems come in a variety of styles, making them flexible for indoor setups and often produce a faster-growing yield. But they are complicated and require more equipment. RAIR flower is grown using one such system, called aeroponics, to ensure consistency and quality in effects.
If you choose a hydroponic system, be sure to research which is the best for you – DWC (deep water culture), ebb and flow, and drip are some of the most popular options.
Water and nutrients
With all plants, water is essential. To produce an abundant and quality yield, you’ll want to ensure that your water is “clean” – that is, free of heavy metals, fungus, or pathogens. Depending on the grow medium you’ve chosen (soil or hydroponics), water and nutrients will be treated differently. For hydroponic systems, not only is water nearly constant, but nutrients like nitrogen and calcium must be added to your liquid solution.
The most important lesson as a beginner? Do not overwater your plants.
Maintenance, cloning, and seeds
Growing your own cannabis is an enjoyable experience but requires discipline. Your grow will need to be monitored daily, so create a checklist of tasks (check water pH, inspect plants for molds and pests, adjust fans and equipment, prune, etc.). As plants follow their growth cycle, determine your future plans. Do you wish to start fresh next season with a purchase of clones or seeds, or create your own of the two? Or do you want to regenerate your harvest?
Many farmers choose to clone, meaning to take cuttings before the cannabis has flowered to produce identical copies. Cloning is less time consuming than producing and germinating seeds but can produce somewhat smaller yields. Cuttings are also highly susceptible to stress.
Flowering, harvesting, and drying
Once a plant begins to flower, it’s time to switch things up. Flowering cannabis requires different light cycles, nutrients, and temperature than it did before. Knowing when to harvest cannabis depends on the specific cultivar, but overall, you’ll want to look for when the bud’s trichomes have become cloudy but are not yet amber (using a magnifying lens, such as a jewelry loupe).
Aim to dry your buds for one to two weeks, depending on the heat and humidity levels of the area you’re using. When your harvest is ready for curing, the stems should nearly snap, and buds will feel fully dry to the touch. Remember to always use opaque containers when curing cannabis; after three to four weeks, it’s ready to trim and enjoy.
See here for more detailed information on how to have a successful indoor grow of your own.