Everything taught and sold by BudTrainer is to be used strictly for legal purposes. We absolutely condemn the production of illegal substances, and it is your duty to ensure that you are complying with the law. The words "hemp", "cannabis", "weed", and "marijuana" are used interchangeably to refer to the same plant (legal hemp with less than 0.3% THC) for the purposes of this lesson.
BudTrainer's Home-Growing Academy
Cannabis Home-Growing Basics - Setup for Success
Updated on Sep 8, 2023
In this lesson, you will learn:
“Simple: learn the basics, and grow healthy plants."
No more waiting. Let’s get right into it!
1. Growing Indoors vs Outdoors
- Do you have an outdoor space that gets lots of sun?
- Do you have space in the basement to set up an indoor tent?
- Do you have money to spend, or no money to spend?
- Do you care more about quality or quantity?
Growing marijuana outdoors is a lot cheaper than growing indoors for one main reason: the sun is free and provides a lot of energy to your plants, yielding large amounts of weed at the end of the year. You can easily grow plants that yield ½lb to over 1lb of weed with as little as $100 per plant (pots, soil, nutrients, etc).
If you can grow 1 plant in your backyard with $100 and have a yield of up 1lb, this is the same as paying $0.22 per gram. Not to mention that for most people, 1lb of weed is more than enough for the whole year!
Cannabis plants growing outdoors
Growing marijuana indoors, on the other hand, costs more before AND after you start growing. A decent indoor setup that grows 1lb of cannabis every 4 months costs around $1,000, the electricity bill will come to around $200 per year, and everything else (nutrients, water, etc) adds another $200.
This means that, in the first year alone you are spending $1,400 for 3lb of weed. If we were to add nutrients and water to the bill, this means you are paying an average of $1.03 per gram in the first year, and as little as $0.30 per gram every year thereafter (compared to $0.22 from outdoors).
Cannabis plants growing indoors
Growing cannabis outdoors is always dependent on the conditions of the environment around your plants. If it rains too much, your bud won’t be as good. If there are too many bugs or mold, your bud won’t be as good. If it is too dry, your bud won’t be as good. And so on. Basically, the quality (and thus the THC content) of your outdoor plants is directly proportional to the quality of your environment.
Since the environment outside is never consistent, this means that growing outdoors will always see a few bad days here and there, which inherently will compromise the quality and THC content of your bud.
In fact, most licensed commercial outdoor cannabis growers end up selling their cannabis for extraction since they don't pass the microbial tests required at the lab, and nor do they get the high-THC levels that indoors cannabis does.
Outdoors cannabis plants are at the mercy of the weather
Growing cannabis indoors, on the other hand, removes all of the problems that the outdoors environment creates. When growing marijuana indoors you can set a consistent temperature and humidity, you can adjust the height of your lights, and your plants are never at the mercy of the weather.
A controlled environment is always better for cannabis, which is why growing indoors yields the best and cleanest results, and as such more potent and higher quality bud.
TIP: never open your grow tent right after being outside during the Summer since you can have pests in your clothes.
Cannabis plants growing in an automated grow box
Growing schedule for outdoor cannabis in North America
Growing schedule for indoors plants with a 4-month growth cycle
Putting it all together
Growing indoors and outdoors clearly have their advantages and disadvantages. What we encourage every grower is to do to both: if you have the space and a lot of light exposure, don't let that sun go to waste. It's super fun to grow plants outdoors and to see how massive they get, and it's a very unique process in it's own. If you have the space indoors to set up a grow tent, this means you can not only start your outdoor plants early but also control every aspect of your environment. You can also continue growing indoors while growing outdoors during the Summer, and this allows you grow strains specific to each environment, getting the best of both worlds.
Learn to Grow Like The Pros
2. Growing Indicas vs Sativas
Wild sativa cannabis landraces
2.1 Leaf Shape
Indicas have much wider leaves, which means they need to be defoliated and pruned more often since their leaves block a lot of airflow and light absorption from below the canopy.
Sativas have thin-fingered leaves with much more space between each leaflet, which means they don't need to be defoliated nearly as much as indicas do.
2.2 Plant Size
Indicas grow to be much shorter plants, which is why they are so popular for growing indoors and are the most common form of illicit cannabis available.
Sativas, however, are much taller and lankier, and they need a lot more training in order to keep their branches tame. This is why they are a great choice for growing outdoors.
Leaf shape and plant size between indicas and sativas
2.3 Internodal Spacing
Since they are shorter, indicas have much shorter internodal spaces. This means they grow pairs of leaves and branches very close to each other.
Sativas, since they are much taller, have long spaces between their branches and leaves.
As a consequence, indicas need to be pruned more often while sativas need to be low-stress trained more often.
Internodal spacing on a cannabis seedling
2.4 Flower Size
Indicas have fewer but much denser buds, sometimes as thick as a fist. This means you need a lot of airflow while flowering and while drying, or mold can form in your bud.
Sativas have a lot of smaller buds spread throughout the branches. While this is not a concern for mold, sativas do take a lot longer to trim since their buds are smaller.
Internodal spacing on a cannabis seedling
2.5 Flowering time
Indicas have faster flowering cycles than sativas
3. Vegetative & Flowering Stages
Indoor cannabis plants in the vegetative stage
Indoor cannabis plants in the flowering stage
3.1 Growing Photoperiods Outdoors
When days are long and the nights are short, weed plants think that it’s Spring and Summer time, so they only grow branches and leaves in order to gain as much size as possible.
However, as Fall approaches and the days get shorter, cannabis plants realize Winter is coming to kill them, so they switch to the flowering stage (around August), when they only grow flowers in order to reproduce and make seeds before they die of cold. It’s a smart strategy for them: grow when there is light, reproduce when there isn’t.
Outdoor cannabis plants are usually ready for harvest in October every year - right before the frost.
Outdoor cannabis plants in the late flowering stage
3.2 Growing Photoperiods Indoors
What photoperiodism means for growing cannabis indoors is that if you leave your lights on for 18h and off for 6h, your plants will think it’s Spring and stay in the veg stage. You can stay in the vegetative stage for as long or as short as you would like, as long as the lights are in the 18h/6h schedule. In the BudTrainer method we recommend staying in the veg stage for 6 to 8 weeks, but if you want to grow massive plants or do a canna bonsai, you can leave your lights on for 18h/day for multiple months.
Indoor cannabis seedlings in red solo cups
Want to train your plants like the ones in this lesson?
4. Autoflowering Cannabis Plants
Most autoflowers have a veg cycle of 20 to 30 days until they automatically switch to the bloom cycle, which lasts 55 to 70 days. This means you can go from seed to harvest with autoflowers in as fast as 75 to 100 days (depending on the strain). While autoflowers still don’t have the same high-THC profiles as photoperiodic plants, they are very close and are a great choice for many growers.
Autoflowers ready for harvest 80 days after planting.
4.1 Growing Autoflowers Outdoors
If you are growing autoflowers outdoors, they won’t care about what time of the year it is in order to flower since they are not sensitive to light.
In fact, if you select a 75 to 90-day strain, you can plant one batch of autoflowers in early May, harvest them in late July, and plant another batch in July for a late October harvest.
Many outdoors commercial growers do this so that they can get two crops in one year, and so can you!
Commercially grown outdoor autoflowering marijuana plants
4.2 Growing Autoflowers Indoors
If you are growing autoflowers indoors, you can keep your lights on for 18h to 24h a day the entire time and your autoflowers will be ready to harvest in 75 to 100 days without your ever having to switch to 12h/12h.
TIP: For maximum yield, leave your lights on for 20h and off for 4h from seed to harvest. We do not recommend leaving your lights on for 24h a day because this impairs root development (roots like to grow at night).
Outdoor cannabis plants in the late flowering stage
“HINT: It's not based light availability"
How Autoflowers Start Flowering
The C:N Ratio
The Carbon to Nitrogen Ratio (C:N Ratio) is a phenomenon that triggers the flowering cycle on plants, just like changing light cycles does. More precisely, this happens after the amount of assimilated carbon (C) in the plant compared to nitrogen (N) surpasses a certain threshold.
When this ratio is high enough, it means your plant has stored enough sugars (Carbon = Carbohydrates) in relation to leaves (Nitrogen) to start the flower cycle and sustain those flowers until it dies.
It’s as if your plants said: my tanks are full of sugars and I can get all the way to the end of the flower stage with this much energy. And so they flower.
Cannabis plant that just started flowering
5. Cannabis Sex: Male vs Female Plants
When the pollen from the male flower lands on the pistils (the white hairs that stick out) of the female flower, a seed is born. While male plants don’t have any cannabinoids and can’t get you high, they will pollinate your female flowers and yield lots of seeds. This is why, whenever you identify a male plant in your garden, you should remove it as fast as possible (unless your intention is to breed).
The Difference Between Cannabis Males & Females
The difference between male and female cannabis plants is pretty easy to identify: male flowers don’t have any white pistils, and they show their round pollen sacks (which most people refer to as “balls”) before the female plants show their pistils, making them easier to pick out of the garden.
You can only identify males and females after you have switched your plants to the flower cycle. It takes 4 to 7 days for males to show their pollen sacks and 6 to 10 days for females to show their white pistils.
PRO TIP: after week 3 of the veg cycle, you can flip your light schedule to flower for one week in order to pick out the males, and then switch it back to the 18/6 schedule once you know you only have females. While this delays the growth cycle a little bit, it's much better than growing a male for 6 to 8 weeks.
Anatomy of male and female cannabis flowers
Male cannabis flower with pollen sacks
Female cannabis flower with white pistils
Learn to Grow Like The Pros
6. Feminized vs Non-Feminized Seeds
Feminized seeds, on the other hand, are seeds that always yield female plants. Instead of risking your plant being born a male, feminized seeds remove that risk altogether. While they are more expensive than regular seeds, feminized seeds are worth every penny because there is nothing worse than growing a male plant for weeks, finding out it is a male after it has flowered, and then having to throw it out in the garbage.
Feminized seeds look the same as regular seeds
“They actually don’t. Feminized seeds are born that way"
How Feminized Weed Seeds Are Made
Hermaphroditic weed plants are plants that have both male and female flowers. Hermaphroditism happens genetically to a very small percentage of cannabis plants that were just born that way, but it happens most often when cannabis plants get really stressed, such as being too close to the lights, high temperatures, lack of fertilizers, or dry media.
When stresses like these happen, the female flowers think they are under existential threats and as a result they put out a few male flowers (also known as bananas or nanners) in an attempt to auto-pollinate, and at least generate a few seeds before it dies.
Male pollen sacks on a dried female flower
The thing is, the male flowers that are created in a female plant due to stress have 100% female DNA since they were born out of a female plant. When these male flowers pollinate the female flowers from the same plant, they end up producing seeds that also contain 100% female DNA (50% from the male and 50% from the female) - which is why seeds born this way always end up growing female plants - AKA feminized seeds.
Cannabis flower full of seeds
Cannabis hermaphrodite induced with silver thiosulfate