Home cultivation of cannabis plant is still an illicit and largely frowned-upon activity in the UK, but the fact is that more and more Brits consider setting up a small weed garden — for either medical, or recreational purposes.
If you too think about growing your first crop of cannabis, don’t forget that you’ll break the law, and there’s no going around it. However, cultivating up to 9 plants for personal consumption will hardly raise a flag. And even if the police come knocking at your door, you may still walk away with a caution or a small fine.
So what would it take to reap your first cannabis harvest?
Cannabis seeds can be legally sold and bought in the UK as souvenirs. The seller may not advertise the fact, but these “souvenirs” are viable and have everything you need to get a product of the highest medical or recreational value.
On today’s market, the range of available options is staggering, and your choice depends on many considerations. However, we recommend buying autoflowering cannabis seeds as they are very beginner-friendly and suitable for any setup, medium, and growing method described below.
Choosing Between Outdoor/Indoor Cultivation
Growing cannabis in your garden isn’t all that different from raising a tomato bush: the same temperature requirements, the same watering needs. Give the plants’ roots plenty of space, and you’ll probably never have to feed them any extra nutrients. Or you can use—as mulch—such homemade organic products as compost, biochar, grass clippings, and even heaps of weeds. It’s really that simple.
Indoors, however, cannabis will have only you to depend on for all its numerous needs: light, temperature, humidity, water, nutrients etc. So, what follows has mostly to do with indoor cultivation.
Setup, Equipment, and Medium
Your first stop should be a hydro store where you can buy everything you’ll need. Most people buy a grow tent, although you can as easily set up a DIY grow box. A 3’x3’ or 4’x4’ space will be enough for 9 medium-sized plants and will produce more than enough product for your personal consumption.
Then you’ll need a grow light (a LED quantum board or high-intensity discharge bulb like MH or HPS) and an exhaust fan to remove the heat from your tent and provide cannabis with a constant supply of fresh air. A carbon filter is also a must for an odor-free grow-op.
Calculating the power and capacity for all this equipment can be bewildering to a novice grower, so you’ll have to rely on the advice of a shop assistant.
As a medium, you may choose soil, coco/perlite mixture, or some hydroponic system. The latter takes a lot of getting used to, so soil or coco is a better choice for a first go. A 3-5-gal pot filled with a good soil mix is all you really need to raise a healthy plant.
Nutrients are also sold in hydro shops. There are many lines of cannabis-specific nutrients on the market today, and each line offers a stupefying number of products: supplements, stimulants, enhancers, you name it.
Try to make it simple. You don’t really need all those fancy amendments to make your buds potent and flavorful — the plants can take care of this themselves. So, one bottle (or set of bottles) for the vegetative growth, one for the flowering stage, and you can successfully bring your first cannabis crop to harvest. And later you can experiment with the whole lineup.
Also go organic if you can. Organic nutrients are easier to dial in, eliminate the need to monitor pH, and produce buds with a better smell and taste.
Various gadgets make the life of a cannabis grower much easier. You’ll most probably need a timer to set your light schedule—18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness (18/6) is a standard for an autoflower—and a pH-meter to know whether your water isn’t too acidic or too alkaline.
A TDS-meter will tell you exactly how much dissolved salts are in your nutrient solution, and a digital thermometer/hygrometer will help maintain the perfect environmental conditions. (Hint: they are the same that are comfortable for humans — around 25°C (77°F) and 40-60% RH.) You might also need a humidifier or dehumidifier or even a small AC for environmental control.
You may also invest a few pounds into a kind of a jeweller’s microscope to determine if the buds are ready for harvest.
The First Weeks of Growth
Cannabis seeds are best germinated between wet paper towels and put into the medium when they show the tap root. Regulate the amount of light the seedlings receive so that they don’t stretch too much.
In soil, start giving them ‘veg’ nutrients only after a week or two and only at a quarter of what’s recommended on the bottle. You’ll work your way up as you go. Don’t water cannabis too much or too often — overwatering is the no. 1 newbie’s mistake.
A healthy young plant must be vibrant green and perky. If it droops, yellows or has other discolorations, you either overwater it (or—a very rare case—underwater), or hurt it with overfeeding, or pound it with too much light/heat.
After a few weeks, autoflowers enter the budding stage. For regular (photoperiodic) varieties, you’ll have to switch the timer to 12/12. Flowering requires a completely different set of nutrients — less nitrogen (N) and more phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).
Try to manage the canopy—by training the main stalk and side branches—so that every flowering top is at the same distance from the light. Remove some foliage and smaller secondary branches where they make the canopy too dense. Good air circulation is important to prevent mold in the fattening buds.
After some 10 weeks from sprouts, autoflowers are mostly ready for harvest. Photoperiodic strains require about 10 weeks from the 12/12 flip for the buds to fully mature.
Drying and Curing in a Dark Cool Place
Trim away the leaves and hang the branches upside down for a week or so. When the branches crack when you bend them, detach the buds and cure them in glass jars for another two weeks or more. ‘Burp’ the jars twice a day to remove excess moisture — mold is still a great risk. After 3 weeks of drying/curing, your medicine is ready!