When it comes to successfully growing indoors there are some key elements to focus on that will make a huge difference in the success of your garden. These elements include the environment, grow lighting, watering schedule, pruning, and harvesting process. With thousands of products and dozens of different gardening styles, focusing on these key elements will help ensure your garden remains healthy and produces a quality product no matter how you decide to grow. The main goal of this article is to give a solid foundation on what will be required to allow your plants to flourish.
The Growing Environment
Your growing environment is the most important part of your garden. Creating a stable and consistent environment should be the main focus when setting up a garden. This includes dialing in factors such as temperature, humidity, air movement, and CO2 saturation throughout the space. When growing in an indoor environment you have 100% control over all of these factors. Growing outdoors you have essentially no control over these factors. Outdoor gardening will limit the grower to the climate they are located in. Luckily, mother nature has your back, and as long as the variety you are growing is suitable to your climate, you shouldn’t have much to worry about. Now, back to indoor gardening.
The temperature of your environment will be the first thing you notice and so will your plants. Cannabis likes a mild climate the best. Temperatures during the day ranging from 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal, with nighttime temperatures ranging from 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It is important to try and mimic a natural day’s temperature cycle with consistent temperatures throughout the day. To achieve this, a temperature swing from day to night of about 15 degrees without any cold or hot spikes is best.
For example, the lights come on while the temperature is at its lowest point during the dark cycle (60 degrees), the heat in the environment slowly rises to the peak temperature (75 degrees), maintaining that optimal temperature until the lights switch off, and the temperature slowly decreases back to the night time lows. This is the ideal growing environment. What you don’t want to see is rapid temperature movement such as an air conditioner kicking on for 10 minutes dropping the temperature from 80 to 65 degrees in 15 minutes and shutting off once at 80 degrees again. This cycle repeating multiple times a day throughout the dark or light cycle will stress the plants and ultimately decrease yields and quality.
The best ways to control these temperatures can be done in 2 ways, with open-air circulation or air conditioning. Open-air circulation can be very effective but limits your control of the environment you are exchanging air with. Air conditioning requires investment in equipment and has an electrical expense that follows, but will give you 100% control over your temperatures in your grow environment. Using products like inline fans and wall thermostats can get you an effective and reliable air circulation system that will maintain your day and night temperatures and air exchange. Air conditioning equipment will create a closed environment, ideal for CO2 saturation and humidity control as well.
The humidity in your environment plays a major role in the plant’s nutrient uptake and can dramatically impact yields and quality. When humidity levels are too high, your plants can’t perspire which will reduce nutrient uptake and stunt growth. When humidity levels are too low, your plants will over-perspire causing them to burn and dehydrate. Optimal humidity will fluctuate between 40% and 50% between the day and night cycles.
Maintaining optimal humidity will not only help your plants thrive but will also reduce the chance of unwanted molds and bacteria taking hold of your crop. For this reason, we believe it is always better to lean on the dry side of the optimal humidity range and avoid powdery mildew or botrytis from having a chance to grow in your garden.
Humidity comes from the plant itself. As it takes in water and nutrients, it perspires water from the leaves. A 30-inch tall cannabis plant will perspire about one pint to a half-gallon of water a day. When shopping for the proper dehumidification equipment it is important to factor in the number of plants in the environment and make sure the equipment can manage the anticipated perspiration effectively. Humidity can be partially controlled with an air exchange similar to temperature, but again your control is limited to the environment you are exchanging air with.
The air movement is how the air in your garden travels through and around your plants. A general rule of thumb is that every leaf in the garden dances. This is a gentle shake, soft and unabrupt as if the plant is signaling to you, yes I am happy. It doesn’t have to be consistent, and too much wind can cause what is known as windburn. Not enough airflow can cause what is known as microclimates, where humidity levels rise in small patches of the canopy.
Regulating airflow is the use of circulation fans. One 16 inch wall mount fan is typically good for a 15’x15′ area, while a 12-inch wall mount fan would be more suited to a 10’x10′ area. They even make small 6-inch clip-on fans designed for tents and closets. Don’t forget about floor fans and standing oscillating fans. Keep the leaves dancing and your plants happy.
Co2 saturation is the most important part of the indoor environment. Temperature, humidity, and air movement will not be effective without proper CO2 levels in the air. CO2 is what the plant needs in order to fully photosynthesize and utilize all the other inputs placed in the grow space. Typical atmospheric CO2 levels range from 300 ppm to 450 ppm depending on where you are located geographically. Maintaining this CO2 range is a must at the very least, and increased CO2 saturation can give tremendous benefits to the indoor grow environment.
When controlling your temperature and humidity with a fresh air exchange (exchanging air from outside to inside) you are limited to atmospheric CO2 levels. A general rule of thumb for fresh air exchange is to completely replace all the air in the environment every 5 minutes or less. Doing so will allow enough air exchange to ensure you maintain the typical atmospheric CO2 levels.
Controlling your temperature and humidity with air conditioning equipment you will typically be working in a closed environment. In a closed environment, CO2 will have to be supplemented in order to maintain the minimal atmospheric CO2 levels required for regular growth. Supplementing CO2 also allows you the option of adding increased CO2 saturation helping push your garden to the maximum growth potential.
There are multiple ways to monitor and increase CO2 levels in the garden. Some equipment will simply monitor your garden environment, while other equipment will monitor and operate your CO2 equipment to maintain the levels you set it at. There are 3 main ways to generate CO2 for an indoor grow environment such as buying liquid CO2 with a tank regulator, using a gas burning CO2 generator, or a biological reaction such as CO2 bags or fermentation. The specific use procedures for these different pieces of equipment will have to be covered further in a different article.
With the large variety of grow lighting available today it can be difficult to know what the best light for your environment might be. Finding the optimal light for your garden will result in a much better gardening experience for you and your plants. The lighting is also one of the largest investments and operating costs of your grow space. Sizing the lighting properly will produce better yields with less energy consumed. Understanding the different types of lighting the most beneficial to your garden is where to start.
For the last several decades, there have been Metal Halide (MH) and High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) incandescent bulbs as the primary lighting source for indoor or greenhouse cultivation. The lights came in a variety of sizes, with the most popular sizes being 400w, 600w, and 1000w. Each wattage size would cover a different size area of the canopy. For example; 400w covers about 3’x3′ of the canopy, 600W covers about 4’x4′ of the canopy, and a 1000w can cover 5’x5′ or more depending on the ceiling height and the number of lights in the room.
Each bulb was also designed for specific stages of growth as well. The MH bulbs operate in the bright blue lighting spectrum for vegetative growth. The HPS bulbs operate in the bright red lighting spectrum for flowers. Using these lights with the right bulb and wattage for the canopy size and stage of growth was crucial for optimal results.
Over the last several years, LED lighting technology has improved by leaps and bounds. Energy efficiency increases by 40% over the traditional incandescent bulb grow lights. Plus, LED lights typically use a range of color spectrums, emitting light that is suitable for all phases of growth. They come in a variety of sizes and electrical wattages. You will want to pick the best size recommended for your canopy space. The larger the space, the more watts the light should be consuming. The idea is to create an even light saturation over the plant canopy without extreme intensity. There is such thing as too much light!
Buying a high-quality LED light is essential to having a successful, high-quality, indoor garden. Light is an investment, and it’s important that investment is going to pay off for you for the longest time possible. For that reason, it is always important to look at the product warranty. If the cheaper light only has a 12-month warranty and you have to buy two of them, is it really cheaper than the light with the 3-year warranty? Commercial grade LED lights should carry a 5-year warranty.
Other Lighting Types
There are other lighting options out there, such as Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH) and T5 fluorescent. The CMH lighting is a more efficient incandescent bulb fixture that emits more full-spectrum lighting. Only available in 315w bulbs it is common to see single and dual bulb fixtures. T5 lighting is an ideal light for cloning and can be used for vegetative growth or for the flowering stage. It does not have the intensity or efficiency of incandescent or LED fixtures resulting in lower overall yield. Fluorescent fixtures do have the highest output UV light rays with specific high-intensity UV grow bulbs designed for adding UV into a flower space along with the other lights to produce the intensity.
The right grow light for you is always a difficult decision to make. With over 13 years of horticulture experience, all my research is showing me that Horticulture Lighting Group has the best products. These lights are assembled in America, the company provides all the proper warranties for the commercial or home grower, and they have the most efficient lights available on the market. The results speak for themselves and the value the product provides for the consumer is unmatched.
The watering schedule, and the quality of the water, are essential for all gardens. For best results, waterings need to be consistent, without excess water. The water needs to be in the proper pH range as well. Too much water and improper pH will starve your garden of oxygen and nutrients. Creating a balanced watering schedule will help regulate the maintenance of the garden and create the routine necessary for proper care. The schedule should include your waterings, nutrient inputs, prunings, and expected harvest dates. An organic soil garden will have a much different schedule compared to a hydroponic garden. As the gardener, you have to build this tool specifically for your space and grow methods.
Before watering anything, you have to check your water. Water is gauged by its acidity on a scale from 1 to 14 called the pH. Most plants intake nutrients between a pH of 5.0 to about 8.5. Anything outside of that range would be considered extreme. Check your water straight out of the tap before you water. You can do this with a liquid test kit or a digital pH meter. If your water requires adjustments before every watering, I would highly recommend the Bluelab pH pen. Tap water can also have other contaminants such as Chlorine and Fluoride. You can pick up a copy of your water report from the utility company, this should have a detailed breakdown of what is in the water supply. The simplest way to mitigate most chemical contaminants is a simple carbon block filter. This is required for hydroponics with live bacteria or organic soils.
For organic soils, the amount of water needed is going to depend on your soil volume and plant size. The more soil volume the more water your soil can hold, resulting in less frequent watering. Vice versa for smaller soil volumes. It Is always safer to start with less water than needed. It is easier to add more water than try to remove it. A plant roughly 24 inches tall in a 10 gallon pot will require about 1 to 2 quarts of water a day.
For a plant that size, a watering schedule of 3 to 4 quarts watered every other day would be ideal. Plants in soil require a wet and a dry cycle to get the proper amount of oxygen to the roots. Watering every day does not allow for that cycle to complete. When building your watering schedule to measure the amount of water being consumed by a plant, multiply it by the numbers of days between waterings, and water that amounts every 2-3 days for best results. If your plant is too big for the pot it will begin to drain the pot daily. This is a sign to transplant or start feeding hydroponic nutrients to maintain healthy growth.
Nutrient inputs in organic soils can be hard to schedule. Dry organic nutrients take a couple of days, or up to a week to break down in the soil and be absorbed by the plant. Using products designed for certain phases of growth and feeding them before it’s too late is key. It’s about paying attention to the phases of growth your plant is in or going into, and being patient about seeing the results.
In hydroponics, the watering schedule is designed around the nutrients. The plant might require a consistent flow of water or a hand-watered soilless medium. Either way, your schedule will revolve around your nutrient line and its needs. The main reason for this is that the nutrient solution changes over the life cycle of the plant. Hydroponic systems are automated irrigation systems by design, but they are designed to deliver nutrients more-so than water in most cases. As the system circulates or feeds, the water will need to be refilled with the pH-balanced, fertilized water. Creating a hydroponic watering schedule will be based on the amount of water your reservoir holds and when it will need to be emptied for a different nutrient formula.
Pruning is not directly related to watering, but it needs to be in your schedule. It’s best to prune your plants multiple times throughout the plant’s life cycle. The idea is to never prune more than 50% of the plant’s outer canopy at one time. Doing so can stress the plant and stunt growth. The most crucial pruning is just as the flower begins to develop in weeks 2 or 3 of the flower. If waiting to prune all unwanted plant matter at this pruning from seed will result in a shocking plant with stunted growth. The best practice for pruning is week 2 of vegetative growth, when flipped into flower, and when buds begin to appear on the plant. Exact practices on how to prune will have to be for another article.
Same goes for your harvesting dates (not directly related to watering), but a must for the garden schedule. Planning your harvest is most essential before even starting your seed. You can schedule your entire crop for your perfect harvest date. This will give you time to prepare and know what to do at every stage of growth
Harvesting Process For Cannabis
At this point in the game, you have won! You’ve set up the environment using a dope ass light, and followed your watering schedule to a T. Now, it’s time to harvest and reap the fruits of your labor. When harvesting your buds, it is important to make sure the flowers don’t get exposed to direct sunlight or grow lights for extended periods of time. The UV rays can degrade the quality of the flower. It is also important not to have any fans blowing directly onto the drying buds. The increased airflow will strip the terpenes and scent profile leaving a poor tasting and smelling product.
The proper drying times will depend on the environmental factors of the room they are in. Fresh air exchange is important but must be subtle. Relative humidity of the drying space should not be greater than 60%. The average dry time for most flowers is about 7 days at 50% humidity, but this can vary by strain and flower density.
Knowing when to jar is the hardest part, and there is no direct formula that is perfect for every crop. As the environmental factors in the room change so do the drying times.
Hanging the whole plant to dry. Whole plant drying can take up to 2 weeks. When all the sweet leaves are crispy along with the majority of the smaller buds, yet the stem is still moist and will not snap is the best time to jar. The remaining moisture in the stems will dissipate into the flower, making the stems rigid, and the buds soft and sticky with full terpene levels.
Doing wet trim and drying racks. Drying your buds in drying racks fully trimmed, you can expect a dry flower in 3 to 7 days depending on environmental factors. The best practice is to check them every day, sometimes twice a day. When the smaller buds are dry and brittle but the large colas are still soft in the middle is the best time. All the moisture will even out through the flowers and help develop the full terpene profile of the bud.
Once the optimal remaining moisture of the plant is reached, it is time to cure. Curing begins as soon as you pull the flower off the rack or hanger and jar it up. The first few days in the jar there is some balancing to be done. A method called burping is to ensure the optimally dried flower is achieved. If a flower is over-dried it can be rehydrated using RH moisture packs. Once optimal moisture is achieved, it can be sealed and stored for as long as 8 weeks to continue the cure.
Smoke your weed!
After about one week of curing, your smoke should be ready. Roll a fat blunt because you deserve it! And if you followed this guide I know you have some outstanding flowers. Growing good cannabis isn’t just about the nutrient line or which grow tent it’s in. Quality inputs will help but without the proper environment, lighting, watering schedule, and harvesting techniques, it will be all for nothing.
Thanks for reading and happy growing everyone! Help support great content like this and shop at h2gsupply.com for all your horticulture needs.