Growing your own cannabis gives you total control of what goes into your marijuana, better knowledge of the process, and a deeper appreciation of the plant. Though lots of people claim to grow for the cheaper bud, most of them really enjoy exploring different growing methods, curing strategies, and harvest times. Today, thanks to recent laws and a budding industry that supports every-level practitioners, growing cannabis in Canada has never been easier and more accessible. The community is expanding too, both across the internet and the country at large.
The Legality of Growing Cannabis at Home in Canada
Recreational—Federal Cannabis Act
Sadly, for enthusiasts in Quebec and Manitoba, any home cultivation of recreational cannabis remains a provincial offence. However, all other provinces and territories allow individual adults to legally grow up to four cannabis plants at home. Of course, the definition of “adult” depends on the province in question. Therefore, a legal grower must be 19 years of age or older, except in Alberta where you can enjoy the pleasures of cannabis cultivation at the age of 18.
Medical—Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR)
Be sure to apply for a Health Canada registration certificate if you want to grow medical marijuana. Though there are plenty of conditions, the registration grants you a reasonable personal allotment of plants and dried marijuana. Just be mindful of restrictions that come with medical growing, such as bans near public places due to the presence of minors.
Feel free to grow for both as well. Just separate the plants and marijuana produced, as each category possesses its own limits.
Growing Cannabis Indoors: What to Consider
Growing indoors means taking total control over the growing process, though it also means a bit more work. For smaller homes, the smell factor, as well as the space that the plants occupy, require serious consideration.
Plants, equipment, and supplies can quickly take up a large area. Remember to plan a spot for drying your bud as well, as it can take even more room than the live plants. It’s also worth making use of vertical space, reserving a corner (floor to ceiling) where you can stack most of your paraphernalia. Pests, mold, and disease can also pose problems, so be sure to give your indoor plants more attention than your outdoor ones.
It may seem costly to start growing cannabis indoors, but don’t let the sticker price dampen your enthusiasm. Considering all the equipment necessary for an indoor operation, it’s no surprise that basic cannabis growing kits start at $500 and quickly rise from there. A lot of these costs are only to start growing marijuana though. They won’t recur with every new crop.
Hydroponics vs Soil
Deciding on hydro or soil really comes down to personal preference. Both are great options and offer clear pros and cons, so we’ll let you choose what’s best.
Soil provides a better flavour, is cheaper and less work than hydroponics, as well as being more forgiving for inattentive growers. The problem is that it takes up more space and produces less volume than hydroponics.
On the other hand, Hydroponics trumps soil on most fronts. It offers larger yields, takes less space, produces a better-looking product, grows faster, and can be automated. However, the process requires a lot more attention than classic soil, demands a lot more maintenance (i.e. cleaning the equipment), and doesn’t taste nearly as good.
A great idea for first-time growers, fluorescents are cheap and don’t heat up unless they’re tightly packed together, making them ideal for small growing spaces. They offer a great light spectrum for growing cannabis plants and won’t risk burning your seedlings. However, they offer the lowest yield ratio of any lightbulb and are only effective at very close range.
Strictly in terms of plant growth, High-Intensity Discharge (HID) lights are the best. They deliver the highest yield-per-watt ratio and are ideal for flowering. Also, there’s no worry of light burning. Lots of growers avoid them though because HIDs get really, really hot and usually require their own venting system.
LEDs probably represent the least work for the highest reward. They’re self-cooling and easy to use—just screw them in to start growing! However, you do need to keep LEDs far from your plants to avoid light burning your bud. It’s also worth noting that LED’s, on average, produce slightly smaller yields than HIDs.
Choosing a Growing Medium
Good grow media is crucial for cultivating weed. Proper drainage, balanced pH levels, water retention, and nutrients all have a direct impact on the quality of your cannabis home grow.
Due to their availability, soil or compost are common choices and usually carry enough nutrients to support plants for the first weeks of their life cycle. Make sure it’s a loose mix though, ideally with lots of perlite.
Growing cannabis in coco coir, peat moss, or other soilless media can be a great choice as well. More oxygenation around the roots and a more direct transfer of nutrients (delivered through the water, not hidden in the soil) means that plants will grow faster and produce higher yields.
Hydroponics also counts as a growing medium and can be quite diverse depending on the system you choose. It is generally held to provide the fastest growth possible but is also the most expensive and complicated.
Temperature and Humidity
In general, cannabis plants enjoy the same temperatures and humidity as humans: between 20 C and 30 C during the day, with slightly cooler temperatures at night. Ideal flowering conditions mirror their night preferences, ranging between 18 C and 26 C. Humidity follows the same rules as temperature—temperate and pleasant.
Growing Cannabis Outdoors: What to Consider
An easy way to fill up on cheap bud, outdoor planting requires less effort and equipment than indoor home grows. However, there are two major considerations before you start: thieves and police.
Unfortunately, it’s still fairly common to hear how somebody’s outdoor stash was ripped up in the night, so consider not telling anyone about your plants and keeping them out of the neighbour’s view. Missing bud is never fun.
Also, remember to check that your plants aren’t visible from surrounding public areas. The government is strict on what shouldn’t be visible to children and cannabis plants are high on the list.
Growing Cannabis from Seeds vs Clones
Since male plants don’t offer the same euphoric benefits as females, a clear advantage to cloning is the lack of guesswork—you’ll already know your plants are female. Additionally, cloning means you’ll have a decent projection for the results (the same as last time). On the whole, clones are a lot easier than seeds; the plant is already alive and well.
However, seeds grow a much sturdier root system than clones, they don’t carry any pests or diseases from the previous plant, and you can plant them whenever you want (clones have a limited shelf life). Not to mention, clones offer no variety in your strains, whereas seed variety is unlimited.
Climate and Seasons
Because of the variety of climates across Canada, it’s highly recommended to start germinating and growing your juvenile plants indoors. As was mentioned, plants enjoy weather above 20 C, which means most of the country will have a short window of a few summer months.
Germinate your seedlings in mid-March and keep them indoors until the beginning of June. The summer sun will take good care of them until the fall and you’ll be able to harvest around mid-September once the nights become cool again. If you’re in B.C., enjoy an extra month on either end.
Sunlight and Watering
Cannabis plants can take up to 16 hours of sunlight every day, so make sure to place your plants in a spot that gets the most sun exposure. Note where the shadows are falling in your garden throughout the day and plant accordingly.
To increase water retention, try to mulch your soil before planting. Also, it’s a good idea to mix in perlite or peat for drainage.
Soils and Fertilizers
You may want to consider growing cannabis outdoors in planted pots. This way, you can control the soil conditions perfectly and be assured that added nutrients don’t seep away into surrounding plants and soil (i.e. a proper pH balance is important for all cannabis growing stages; a limited area makes said balance easier to maintain).
Additionally, cannabis fertilizer should have strong nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium values. You should be able to find them on the bag, listed as N-P-K, respectively.
Surprisingly, it’s much easier to deal with pests outdoors than inside. In a grow room, your plants represent the only food source available. In a garden, they’re of minimal interest. Not only that, but there’s an entire ecosystem keeping pests in check. Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, beetles, and caterpillars when you can, but don’t worry about any small damage they might have caused. Cannabis is a fast-growing plant and minor damage will be naturally repaired.
General Maintenance Tips
There are all kinds of new and innovative cannabis growing techniques that can help maintain your plants and improve your crop:
- Pruning is a basic and very popular approach to growing more bud on a single plant. It’s a relaxing evening activity adored by many growers.
- Tools such as the Screen of Green (known as ScrOG) can maximize the yield on a small number of indoor plants. By spreading out the foliage, this tool ensures not a single ray of light is wasted. However, you can also achieve the same results through low-stress training with wires, as you would with a bonsai plant.
- There are also more advanced techniques to explore down the road, like super cropping, where you can stress the plant shortly before the flowering stage and push it to produce higher yields.
- Topping is also a popular practice for similar reasons, as it encourages your seedlings to develop into a bushier, more productive plant.
Once you’ve covered the basics of growing, you can experiment to find out which techniques work best for you. This can mean different grow media to limit pests and disease, placing reflectors around your plants so they receive more light, and testing different fertilizers or fertilizing schedules.
What Types of Strains Should You Grow?
If you’re a novice in cannabis horticulture, you may want to consider an easy-to-manage strain like Blue Dream (a sativa-dominant that combats root rot) as well as Pink or Purple Kush.
If you’re not in B.C., Super Skunk is an equally good choice for outdoor planting. The indica-dominant strain flowers incredibly quickly and can withstand cooler climates. It’s perfect for anywhere east of the Rockies.
For indoor planting, Northern Lights is a definite favorite. This indica strain offers big yields and a powerful high—all from a remarkably small plant. Other indoor favourites are Hash Plant and Twilight, both known for their stress resistance (in case you need to improve on your gardening skills). Hash Plant delivers great flavour and high trichome production while Twilight guarantees high resin production and a very therapeutic high.
Harvesting Your Cannabis
Once your plant has started flowering, there will be various signs indicating the time to harvest. When the pistils and leaves change colour, the stem broadens, and the resin darkens, it’s your cue to grab the shears! Cut the plant at the base and then hang it upside down in a dark room, with a fan pointing up at it. You may want to consider an extractor fan; the odour that’s wicked off the plant can be quite powerful. After 10-14 days, bring it down and clip off the dried bud.
Once you become skilled at cannabis horticulture, you can start experimenting with perpetual harvesting—harvesting a little bud every couple of weeks—which can be much more rewarding in the long run.
While growing cannabis at home may seem complicated or laborious at first, the work that goes into it often fuels a lifelong passion. Once you start growing, you’ll discover a whole new side of cannabis that extends far beyond its consumption.