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Friday April 29, 2022

By Erin Hiatt

Image of an small indoor grow room with 12 white lights turned on above a green canopy of cannabis below. Growing

Thanks to the legalization of adult-use and medicinal cannabis across the country, consumers not only have access to products in state-legal dispensaries, but many states also allow for consumers to grow their own cannabis in the safety and privacy of their own home. This has many benefits, including the ability to perform quality control on your plants and to grow the strains that work best for you, especially important for medical cannabis patients.

Additionally, the supply can be controlled, so you’ll never run out or have to go from one dispensary to another hunting for your preferred strain. After some initial up-front costs, it may be more cost-effective to grow your own in the long run. Once properly set up, growing cannabis at home can be easy, fun, and rewarding, but there are some common mistakes novice growers make. Let’s take a look at some top mistakes to avoid when growing marijuana.

Be Aware of the Seeds You’re Planting

Say a friend offers you a handful of marijuana seeds to get your cannabis grow started, and you think to yourself, “weed is weed, what could go wrong?” The answer, as it turns out, is a lot. But first things first. To grow cannabis that is both potentially therapeutic and euphoric, you’ll have to first hunt down seeds.

Feminized seeds are great for beginner growers. Do your research on the cannabis breeder. Do they have any raving reviews? You can buy seeds that are mixed with males and females, but it takes some practice to identify the males and unfortunately, if you miss one, they could pop pollen later on and ruin all your hard work and harvest.

Hand that is holding a plastic clear, seed vial while dropping a cannabis seed into it with tweezers
Finding good seeds from a reliable breeder will set you up for success. photo credit

If you grab a knock off seed bag, it’s quite likely that there are males, hermaphrodites, or runts, and there’s no way to know by simply looking at a seed whether it’s feminine or otherwise. It’s also important to know whether those seeds are indica, sativa, autoflowering, etc.

Just as a mushroom is unlikely to grow in the dry ground of a desert, not every type of cannabis is acclimated to your particular climate. Some may need warmer temperatures like Triangle Kush while others may thrive in cooler weather like Northern Lights. Other aspects that are not one-size-fits-all propositions are how much nutrients or water to give your plants. Knowing what you’re planting can help you provide the proper environment for a successful grow.

How to Avoid: Make sure to purchase feminized seeds from a reliable source.

Not All Soil is Created Equal

Brown soil dumped onto a wooden background from a white bag with a white shovel lying next to it.
Picking the soil to grow your cannabis from is greatly important for the health of your plants. photo credit

You may be tempted to either reuse soil from another plant or to dig up dirt from your garden, but neither one of those mediums will contribute to a thriving harvest. Soil for cannabis should be light and not packed too tightly, which allows for proper water drainage and root growth.

Cannabis can be finicky when it comes to the kind of soil it's grown in because it needs the proper balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for robust buds. It’s also important to make sure that the soil for your plant is free from fungi, pests, and contaminants, something you can’t guarantee when you use any old soil.

A great beginner tip is to start out mixing 50% soil, particularly from your local cannabis grow shop, with perlite and 50% coco coir. The coco coir helps with distributing the water throughout the pot evenly by absorbing it and helps prevent overwatering that could lead to root rot. The perlite helps with drainage and airflow.

Be Careful Not to Overwater

Water is the elixir of both plant and human life. Nonetheless, water for your marijuana plants can still be too much of a good thing. If your cannabis plant begins to sag and has a droopy appearance, chances are they’ve been overwatered. This waterlogging will prevent your plant from getting another all-important compound it needs to live, oxygen. Over time, too much water can kill your plants.

Green cannabis leaves that are covered in water droplets and are drooping.
Overwatering can cause marijuana to droop. photo credit

How to Avoid: Try not to water your plant unless it’s thirsty. To figure out if it’s time for a watering, push your finger about an inch into the soil. If your finger comes out with damp soil on your skin, hold off on watering. If it comes out dry, then it’s time to water your plant.

Nutrients are Great in Proper Moderation

It’s been said that the offering of food is the sixth love language, and of course, we want our cannabis plants to be happy and healthy. But feeding them too much is not the answer. Overfeeding your plant can cause nutrient burn or even nutrient lockout - the accumulation of minerals in the soil and potential bud killer.

Overfeeding is a very common mistake especially if you’ve been following a feeding schedule included with a nutrient system, the doses of which tend to be too high for an indoor grow.

Image of an outdoor garden with different plant pots in different containers with a blue water pitcher watering a small marijuana plant with nutrients.
Be mindful of the nutrients and fertilizers you are using because a little goes a long way. photo credit

How to Avoid: Start by giving your plants about one-quarter of the nutrient dose the feeding schedule calls for. If you’re winging it, follow cannabis’ cardinal rule; start low and go slow. Either way, check your plants daily to see how they’re responding and adjust accordingly. If you’re just not sure and need a more seasoned hand, check in with your local grow store or ask a friend in the know.

Grow Lighting is Incredibly Important

View from below of a green cannabis plant with white hairs popping off at the top with LED grow lights hung above with an array of colorful lights shining down.
LED lights are great for beginner grows as they save money on electricity verses other grow lights on the market. photo credit

As easy as it would be to just put your plant on the sunniest windowsill and cross your fingers, chances are your plant will grow - but probably without great results. Cannabis plants that get too little light have a tendency to make buds that are small, light, and airy. Creating the right light environment for your plant is key to both density and yield.

How to Avoid: Invest in some quality lights like a small intense or mid-size LED light that can deliver higher light levels without overheating your grow space, burning the leaves, or breaking the bank.

Patience is Key for a Perfect Harvest

It is oh-so-tempting to pluck those buds right off the stem when they start to look ripe and ready. However, this is precisely the time to practice patience, since harvesting cannabis too early will greatly reduce the plant's potency and medicinal benefits.

Macro shot of marijuana trichomes that have a bulbous head that are milky white and look very resinous.
Keep an eye on your trichomes throughout the end of your harvest to know when to take them down. photo credit

How to Avoid: Get out the magnifying glass and take a look at the trichomes, those tiny, sticky, and hair-like parts of the plant that have a frosty appearance. The best time to harvest is when the trichomes are a cloudy white color, with about 10-20 percent of them changing to an amber hue.

Whether you’re a newbie who wants to grow weed indoors or grow weed outdoors, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Growing Marijuana and you’ll be off on the right foot.

Share any growing tips you have for beginners in the comments below!


Erin Hiatt Erin Hiatt

Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work - which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor - covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.

Erin's work and industry insights have been featured on the podcasts The Let's Go Eat Show, In the Know 420, and she has appeared as a featured panelist on the topic of hemp media. Erin has interviewed top industry experts such as Dr. Carl Hart, Ethan Nadelmann, Amanda Feilding, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Dr. James Fadiman, and culture icons Governor Jesse Ventura, and author Tom Robbins. You can follow her work on LinkedInWordpress, @erinhiatt on Twitter, and @erinisred on Instagram.

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