The Grow Mentor (TGM) is me; just a regular citizen who has a family a career and all the trappings of an average middle-class American citizen. I'm also an avid marijuana cultivation and preparation enthusiast in my spare time. I'm not a professional horticulturist, nor am I an authority on plant biology or any related sciences. However, I've been successfully growing marijuana indoors since it became legal for medical use (about 6 years ago) where I live. It has since become legal for recreational use in my region as well.
My very first -and perhaps the single most important- piece of advice to the aspiring weed farmer is to acquire and read a copy of Ed Rosenthal's excellent "Marijuana Grower's Handbook."
If you are truly interested in growing marijuana and doing it correctly from seed to harvest, then you should invest the time and money and get a copy of this invaluable guide on all things marijuana. Ed Rosenthal is the authority on the science of cannabis cultivation. And the great thing about his book is that while it is certainly filled with plenty of technical, scientific information and terminology, the book is not overly technical. Most of the information is presented in layperson's terms and very easy to follow and understand.
Getting and reading this book was the first piece of advice about growing weed that I was ever given. I didn't think much of the advice at the time and went ahead and attempted to grow a marijuana plant in my backyard. I will spare you the details but 3 months later -and long before the plant reached maturity- I chopped it down and "hung it upside-down" because that's what I had "heard" you're supposed to do. Where had I "heard" that? Who knows? What I can tell you today is I learned all about how to grow cannabis to maturity and how to properly harvest and cure it from Ed Rosenthal's book.
I have nothing to gain by suggesting this book, other than hopefully working towards achieving the ultimate goal of this web site, which is to help people who are new to growing marijuana avoid making all the same costly and time-consuming mistakes I made in the beginning. If you want a copy of the book, here's a link to it on Amazon.com (link opens in a new window). Again, I am in now way affiliated with Mr. Rosenthal or his publisher, I just adamantly believe in the value of science and data and the harvests I've had in the last few years suggest that science and data are the best path forward for anyone interested in succeeding with marijuana cultivation.
Back In The Day
In the beginning -the year 2012 when marijuana was legalized for medical use where I live- I purchased a "SuperStar Smart Grow Box" by a company called Super Closet. In hindsight, this was a colossal waste of money. But at the time I still needed to be as stealthy as possible with my growing since not everyone in our life at the time would have accepted it. And unfortunately, to this day, despite widespread legalization for recreational use, marijuana users are still stigmatized in some corners of society. So, it was with an eye towards avoiding this stigma that I purchased the SuperCloset.
There are many different shapes and sizes of these kinds of grow enclosures. The version I purchased is 5' tall and 2' x 2' wide with an upper chamber for growing seedlings and a lower chamber for growing and flowering marijuana plants. At the time, I knew very little about how to grow marijuana and so having read about hydroponics on the internet I had learned that growing marijuana hydroponically results in a shorter grow cycle meaning that a conscientious gardener could potentially manage to conduct up to 4 harvests per year (one every three months).
This was said to be faster than gowning in dirt and since I'm very much a science geek, the idea of mixing nutrients into the water for something called a "Deep Water Culture" hydroponic grow system was intriguing and in practically no time at all, I had the cabinet delivered to my home, along with all of the accessories necessary to grow marijuana in a deep water culture hydroponic configuration.
To make a long story short, I had a moderate level of success on my very first hydroponic grow, yielding well over 1/4 pound of quality flowers (i.e. "buds") of a variety of strains that I'd purchased from an overseas seed source known as "Herbies Seeds." That was over 6 years ago and while Herbies is still in business selling seeds, you will need a credit card capable of "international" transactions if you want to buy seeds from most overseas distributors. Most standard credit cards do NOT have this feature enabled, however, you can easily get it turned on by calling your credit card company and requesting an international card.
I continued growing in the SuperCloset 2' x 2' cabinet and despite having only 200 watts of LED power in the cabinet's lighting system, I managed to bring his average yields up into the neighborhood of 1/2 a pound per harvest, but it was becoming apparent that if I wanted to increase my yields (which, of course I did!) it would be necessary to increase the size of the growing area as well as the intensity and output of the lighting system. It was at this point that I purchased a 3' x 3' Gorilla Grow Tent and a brand new 600-watt BloomBossTM LED grow light with "vegetative" and "flowering" growth settings to optimize output based on the grow cycle.
The difference in the plants was substantial and obvious from the very first grow in the 3' x 3' tent. But growing in a larger area with hydroponics was becoming more and more challenging because for a hydroponics system to function properly it requires constant maintenance and tweaking to ensure that it's functioning as expected.
For example, in a Deep Water Culture (DWC) hydroponics system, the roots of the plant are in a reservoir filled with a solution of water mixed with nutrients. That water must be monitored and maintained. Each reservoir needs to be completely drained and refilled with feeding solution weekly - there is no "watering" in a hydroponics system, which leads many to the mistaken assumption that it's less work. I'm here to tell you that the opposite is true. Hydroponics systems are great if you have the time and skill to maintain them, but I found DWC hydroponics to be far too time-consuming.
Another aspect of growing in a DWC hydro configuration is that if you put multiple plants in the same reservoir all it takes is one small mistake when preparing your liquid solution for the reservoirs and every plant in the reservoir in which you made the mistake suffers the same fate because they're all sharing the same root space and food source (i.e. the "water" in the DWC reservoir).
But overall, just generally speaking, I found managing the DWC hydro system to be tedious and time consuming, especially after my best friend, who is also a marijuana grower, convinced me that growing in soil is easier than hydro, just not as fast. Turns out, he was 100% correct. It's much easier. My most recent 3 harvests, which occurred over a period of 12 months, produced 52 ounces of quality flowers. (i.e. "buds") and another 6 ounces of "popcorn buds" or immature growth from the lower parts of the plant - these are great for making cannabutter, which is used to make pot cookies, brownies, fudge, etc.