What You Need to Know to Grow Your Own Cannabis
What’s the best part about the legalization of cannabis in Oregon? Obviously, that you can get it hand-delivered to your door! But what’s the second-best part about legalization? You can finally grow your own, without fear, in the comfort of your home, and then smoke the fruits of your labor! While the flower we carry is obviously top-notch and grown by some of the finest cultivars in the state, there’s nothing more satisfying than sprouting your own seeds, nurturing the plant as it grows, and harvesting your own flowers at the end of the season. And, if you grow indoors, you can plant and harvest year-round!
This won’t be a comprehensive guide to growing your own—there are enough books on the subject to fill a small library—but we do want to point you in the right direction by filling you in on the legality of growing in Oregon, the life-cycle of the cannabis plant, and some considerations for growing indoors versus outdoors. This guide will be chock-full of resources for further reading, so bookmark this page to act as a general reference throughout your grow.
Legal Guidelines for Growing Your Own Cannabis
The first question to answer is: is it legal for you to grow your own cannabis? With some minor caveats, the answer is yes! In Oregon, if you’re over 21, you can grow up to four plants per residence, so long as you own your own house. If you’re renting, you need to check with your landlord or housing authority to make sure they’re okay with you growing on their property. In either case, it’s important to keep your plants in a secured area where they can be kept away from public view, and federal law still prohibits cultivation within 1,000 feet of a “Drug Free” zone, like a school, although Oregon has some exemptions for home cultivation. As with any gray areas between local and federal laws, it’s better to play it safe and avoid doing anything that could land you in trouble with the police.
One more thing to note is that the four-plant limit applies to each residence, not to each adult living at that residence—so if you have three roommates, you can’t grow sixteen plants, your household is still limited to four. This is especially important to keep in mind when cloning (which is something we’ll get into later.)
The Life Cycle of the Cannabis Plant
Before you start to grow your own cannabis, it’s essential to know a bit about the cannabis plant life cycle. There are several stages of growth, each with their own necessary planning steps, and we’re going to cover all of them right now.
Seeds and Clones
If this is your first grow, you might want to buy clones directly from a cannabis retailer who carries a strain you already know you like. A “clone” is just a cutting from a mature cannabis plant, and it is genetically identical to its “mother,” making it easy to predict what you’re going to get. It’s the easiest way to get started with growing your own cannabis.
When it comes to seeds, you can buy “feminized” seeds that are bred to contain no male chromosomes (either by light stressing or with the addition of silver thiosulphate) or you can use your first grow to separate male from female plants, then grow cuttings from a mature female (also known as cloning) for the next crop. Only female plants produce the trichome-rich flowers we’re interested in as sophisticated cannabis connoisseurs.
While you might be able to just plant a seed in a pot of soil and hope for the best, not every seed is viable, and it’s better to germinate them first. “Germinating” a seed is just a fancy term for letting it sprout, and you can do this with a damp paper towel or a rooting cube. Seeds can take forty-eight hours to twelve days to germinate, depending on certain variables, but then you’ll be ready to transplant your new seedling into its more permanent growth medium.
Vegetative Growth Stage
Cannabis plants enter the vegetative growth stage after one to three weeks, at which point they’ll continue vegetating for about three to six more weeks. During vegetative growth, your plants will grow a thick center stem and little nodes that will turn into new branches and more leaves. Cannabis plants will continue to vegetate as long as they receive twelve to fifteen hours of sunlight or more each day, unless the plant is “auto-flowering.” Auto-flowering plants will transition to the flowering stage whether or not the light cycle changes.
If you’re planning an indoor grow, you can even keep a cannabis plant in the vegetative growth stage indefinitely by lighting it for eighteen or more hours per day. This is good to know if you’ve already got a healthy plant growing from a strain you really like because you can start new plants as clones from the mother.
Outdoor grows are limited by the amount of natural daylight they receive, so plan your planting accordingly to match the cannabis plant’s expected growth cycle.
On the other side of the summer solstice, when sunlight starts to diminish toward twelve hours per day or less, cannabis plants naturally enter their flowering stage. This is when it’s important to weed out any male plants that might have snuck into your grow, since they’ll kill your yield if they pollinate your females. The big sticky buds we love to smoke are only possible when female cannabis flowers go unfertilized—in fact, the psychoactive THC found in the sticky trichomes is a side effect of the plants trying their hardest to get fertilized. In nature, those trichomes help the female plants trap the male pollen for fertilization.
Plants will flower for eight to ten weeks once they’ve entered the flowering stage, and you can help them reach their maximum potential by trimming back some extraneous shoots and leaves.
Once the pistils start to turn orange, it’s time to harvest! This is where all your hard work finally pays off. First you cut down the plant at the root, then separate it into smaller branches, cutting off the rest of the extraneous leaves and stems. Hang the plant upside down for four to six days to ensure it’s had the chance to fully dry out.
After a week or so of drying, it’s time to separate the buds from the stems and pack them (loosely) into airtight containers (wide-mouth mason jars work great) to be stored in a cool, dark place for one to three weeks. It might not look like it, but there’s a lot of activity taking place in these jars, so you’ll want to “burp” the jars once a day to let out any gasses that may have accumulated and introduce fresh air.
Then you’re ready to smoke, or create your own extracts!
Growing Cannabis Outdoors
The simplest, easiest, most hassle-free way to grow your own cannabis is outside with natural sunlight. While you can certainly just plant them in the ground and hope for the best, we recommend growing in a pot (a three-gallon planter will suffice for a single plant) for better control of nutrients, water levels, and pH balance. If you use good, healthy, organic soil, you might not even have to feed your plants any supplemental nutrients at all!
You’ll still want to germinate your seeds indoors first, to protect them from the elements, then take them outside in April or May, after the last frost of the season. Young plants will then enter adulthood in June or July (auto-flowering varieties start a little earlier) and you’ll want to harvest them before mid-October to avoid any risk of freezing. You can check out this handy-dandy outdoor growth calendar for more specific timeframes depending on your region.
Water the plants with either distilled water or tap water that has been left open to the air for twenty-four hours (to evaporate any chlorine.) When they’re little, they may need to be watered twice a day, while more mature plants only need water every two to three days. In either case, you want to water in the morning to avoid mold and encourage nutrient absorption.
Growing Cannabis Indoors
Not everyone has the space for an outdoor grow, but the same principles apply if you want to grow your own cannabis indoors. You can grow your plants in three-gallon pots if you ensure they have proper drainage holes at the bottom, and you use organic potting soil. Indoor grows require some closer monitoring—you’ll want to make sure the soil has a pH between 6.0 and 6.8, and you may need to supplement your watering schedule with some nutrients the plants would otherwise receive from natural soil. When you water, make sure enough goes into the pot that there is visible runoff beneath it (and put your pot on a drip tray, so it doesn’t make a mess.)
Once a week, you want to supplement your soil with some key nutrients for plant growth: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, or NPK. Nitrogen promotes healthy stem and leaf development, phosphorus aids root and flower development, and potassium is vital for keeping roots healthy. Nutrient formula bottles display the ratio of these nutrients as a set of numbers like 20-20-20 to indicate N-P-K content, along with how much formula to add to a given quantity of water.
During the vegetative growth stage, you want to use a 20-20-20 ratio, then switch to 10-30-10 after two or three weeks of flowering.
As an alternative to soil, you could grow your plants hydroponically. Some people find this is a more precise method, since it suspends plants’ roots in a nutrient-enriched water solution that can easily be tested for things like pH and nutrient levels. The equipment is a little more involved—you need a container with a lid, a pump to circulate water, and a growth medium to support the roots as they grow—but it often takes less space to set up since it doesn’t require any soil.
Growing without soil requires some more regular attention, however, because you have to add all the nutrients your plants need directly to your hydroponic system. Fortunately, other people have worked out all the math and chemistry involved with keeping it balanced.
In either case, you’ll either need to place your plants by a window where it will receive more than fifteen hours of direct sunlight, or you’ll need to invest in an artificial lighting system. Conventional wisdom suggests that a 250-watt HID lamp is the only way to go, but those setups can be costly. Recent innovations in LED lighting make options like a Roleadro LED Panel more compelling since they produce less heat, use less electricity, and can be configured for multiple light spectrums.
Plants need blue spectrum light during their vegetative stages and benefit from red spectrum light when they transition to flowering (again, unless they’re an auto-flowering variety).
Another thing you’ll be responsible for with any indoor grow is maintaining proper temperature and humidity. Cannabis thrives in a low-humidity environment, and you’ll want to ensure the temperature stays between 68–78 °F. This can be especially challenging if using hot metal halide or high-pressure sodium lights.
On the plus side, you can get better lighting coverage by lowering your lights to just a foot above the canopy and then raising them as your plant grows higher.
Portland-Based Resources for Growing Cannabis
There are several excellent local gardening supply stores in the Portland metropolitan area to help you get set up with everything you need to grow your own cannabis. If you just want to try a basic soil grow with no hassles, check out A Pot for Pot. They sell all-in-one grow kits that contain everything you need (except sunlight, seeds, and water) to grow your first marijuana plant.
Garden Supply Stores
If you’re looking to really take the plunge, we can recommend three places to get you started. Roots Garden Supply on North Interstate Avenue in Portland is 100% locally owned and operated with a strong emphasis on organic growing. Bloom Garden Supply has two locations, on in Northeast Portland and one in Southeast, and they sell hydroponic systems for beginners and experts alike. Their staff is knowledgeable and ready to answer your questions. Then there’s Grow World, one of the largest hydroponics suppliers in the country. They’ve got their own glass shop and a unique partnership with the Oaksterdam University Home Grow Program.
Clones and Seeds
Last, but not least, you’re going to need either clones or seeds to have something to actually plant. We recommend starting with a clone if it’s your first time trying to grow your own cannabis, since you’ll be able to get familiar with the life cycle of the cannabis plant before having to deal with germinating seeds.
In our search, we found three reputable sources for clones: Archive Dispensary Portland on SE Henry Street, Kind Heart Collective on North Denver, and Maritime Café, which is celebrating their tenth anniversary. The only way to judge the quality of a clone is to see it in person, so check out all three—make a road trip out of it!
We hope whatever you decide to grow turns out great, and let us know what you come up with come harvest season!