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Growing Marijuana For Beginners: Top Mistakes to Avoid

Thanks to the legalization of adult-use and medicinal cannabis across the country, consumers not only have access to products in state-legal dispensaries, but many states also allow for consumers to grow their own cannabis in the safety and privacy of …

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Thanks to the legalization of adult-use and medicinal cannabis across the country, consumers not only have access to products in state-legal dispensaries, but many states also allow for consumers to grow their own cannabis in the safety and privacy of their own home. This has many benefits, including the ability to perform quality control on your plants and to grow the strains that work best for you, especially important for medical cannabis patients. 

Additionally, the supply can be controlled, so you’ll never run out or have to go from one dispensary to another hunting for your preferred strain. And after some initial up-front costs, it may be more cost-effective to grow your own in the long run. Once properly set up, growing cannabis at home can be easy, fun, and rewarding, but there are some common mistakes novice growers make. Let’s take a look at some top mistakes to avoid when growing marijuana. 

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Be Aware of the Seeds You’re Planting

Say a friend offers you a handful of marijuana seeds to get your cannabis grow started, and you think to yourself, “weed is weed, what could go wrong?” The answer, as it turns out, is a lot. But first things first. To grow cannabis that is both healing and euphoric, you need feminized seeds. If you are not exactly sure what’s in that seed bag, it’s quite likely that there are males, hermaphrodites, or runts, and there’s no way to know by simply looking at a seed whether it’s feminine or otherwise. It’s also important to know whether those seeds are indica, sativa, autoflowering, etc.

Marijuana seeds

It’s important to know what type of seed you are dealing with before beginning to grow. photo credit

Just as a mushroom is unlikely to grow in the dry ground of a desert, not every type of cannabis is acclimated to your particular climate. Some may need warmer temperatures, while others may thrive in cooler weather. Other aspects that are not one-size-fits-all propositions are how much nutrients or water to give your plants. Knowing what you’re planting can help you provide the proper environment for a successful grow.

Not All Soil is Created Equal

You may be tempted to either reuse soil from another plant or to dig up dirt from your garden, but neither one of those mediums will contribute to healthy grows. Soil for cannabis should be light and not packed too tightly, which allows for proper water drainage and root growth. Cannabis can be finicky when it comes to the kind of soil it’s grown in because it needs the proper balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for robust buds. It’s also important to make sure that the soil for your plant is free from fungi, pests, and contaminants, something you can’t guarantee when you use any old soil. 

How to Avoid: Find a nursery near you that sells pre-fertilized soil.

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Be Careful Not to Overwater

Water is the elixir of both plant and human life. Nonetheless, water for your marijuana plants can still be too much of a good thing. If your cannabis plant begins to sag and has a droopy appearance, chances are they’ve been overwatered. This waterlogging will prevent your plant from getting another all-important compound we need to live, oxygen. Over time, too much water can kill your plants.

How to Avoid: Try not to water your plant unless it’s thirsty. To figure out if it’s time for a watering, push your finger about an inch into the soil. If your finger comes out with damp soil on your skin, hold off on watering. If it comes out dry, then it’s time to water your plant.

Nutrients are Great in Proper Moderation

It’s been said that the offering of food is the sixth love language, and of course, we want our cannabis plants to be happy and healthy. But feeding them too much is not the answer. Overfeeding your plant can cause nutrient burn or even nutrient lockout – the accumulation of minerals in the soil and potential bud killer.

Nutrient Burn in a cannabis plant

To avoid nutrient burn, monitor how much nutrients you are feeding your plant. photo credit

Overfeeding is a very common mistake especially if you’ve been following a feeding schedule included with a nutrient system, the doses of which tend to be too high for an indoor grow. 

How to Avoid: Start by giving your plants about one-quarter of the nutrient dose the feeding schedule calls for. If you’re winging it, follow cannabis’ cardinal rule; start low and go slow. Either way, check your plants daily to see how they’re responding and adjust accordingly. If you’re just not sure and need a more seasoned hand, check in with your local grow store or ask a friend in the know.

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Grow Lighting is Incredibly Important

As tempting as it is to just put your plant on the sunniest windowsill and cross your fingers, chances are your plant will grow – but probably without great results. Cannabis plants that get too little light have a tendency to make buds that are small, light, and airy. Creating the right light environment for your plant is key to both density and yield. 

How to Avoid: Invest in some quality lights like a small intense or mid-size LED light that can deliver higher light levels without overheating your grow space, burning the leaves, or breaking the bank.

Patience is Key for a Perfect Harvest

It is oh-so-tempting to pluck those buds right off the stem when they start to look ripe and ready. However, this is precisely the time to practice patience, since harvesting cannabis too early will greatly reduce the plant’s potency and medicinal benefits. 

How to Avoid: Get out the magnifying glass and take a look at the trichomes, those tiny, sticky, and hair-like parts of the plant that have a frosty appearance. The best time to harvest is when the trichomes are a cloudy white color, with about 10-20 percent of them changing to an amber hue.


To get started on growing your own plants, check out our beginner’s guide to growing marijuana and you’ll be off on the right foot. Also, be sure to share any beginner growing tips we missed by commenting below!

Photo Credit: Pijarn Jangsawang (license)

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How to Identify Pests in Your Cannabis Grow

Experienced and novice cannabis growers alike understand that pests can ruin a crop, no matter how well watered, fed, or tended. One of the keys to making sure that your plants grow into healthy, robust, and consumable cannabis is to keep a close eye o…

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Experienced and novice cannabis growers alike understand that pests can ruin a crop, no matter how well watered, fed, or tended. One of the keys to making sure that your plants grow into healthy, robust, and consumable cannabis is to keep a close eye on any pests that might infiltrate your grow, then take the appropriate steps to eradicate them without ruining your garden. Not only will it help keep the plants alive, thriving plants have more energy to produce trichomes and terpenes, making for better bud

Let’s take a look at some common pests found on cannabis plants, how to identify them, and lastly, get rid of them for good. With just a little maintenance and vigilance, your cannabis garden can be pest-free.

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Common Pests Found on Cannabis Plants

According to the Smithsonian Institution, there are likely more unclassified insects in the world than classified, and the running guess is somewhere between 2 million and 30 million. Thus, this is by no means a definitive list of bugs that feed on cannabis but should serve as a good starting point for most pest problems. 

Caterpillars

Before a caterpillar turns into a beautiful butterfly and flits away, it can be very hazardous to your cannabis plants. You know that book The Very Hungry Caterpillar? Turns out it’s a true story about how caterpillars eat everything in sight, including that tasty cannabis. Caterpillars can be very dangerous because they tend to go unnoticed, especially if they are a borer caterpillar, meaning they burrow into the plant and eat it from the inside out. But even caterpillars on the exterior will nosh away, potentially causing great damage to your plants. 

To figure out if caterpillars are ruining your plants, inspect the leaves weekly for holes from feeding, droppings on the leaves that look like tiny black specks, holes, and damage to the stems, and yellowing on upper leaves.

Natural enemies of caterpillars are wasps and praying mantises, and introducing those to the environment could make a difference. These options are typically easier for outdoor grows, but can also work indoors with some preparation. Other interventions include using a product like Bug Blaster spray or neem oil (which you can make at home).

Neem oil use has been controversial in some cannabis circles, as there is a belief among some that it may play a role in CHS (Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome), however, no definitive statements can be made without more research. The connection between neem oil and cannabis hyperemesis syndrome has yet to be fully explored or verified, but it’s still good to be aware and to be sure to closely follow usage directions.

Aphids

Even house plants have the occasional plague of aphids. Tiny and red, yellow, black, pale, green, or brown, these bugs can be easy to miss because they cling to the underside of leaves, reproduce quickly, and drain your plant of nutrients. Outdoor grows tend to fare a little better in the battle against aphids since natural predators are present, but indoor plants can be decimated quickly by these teensy pests. Not only do they siphon nutrients away from the plant, they leave a sweet substance called “honeydew” that attracts other insects and turns the leaves black and moldy

Aphids and their honeydew on a plant

The honeydew left behind from aphids leads to further damages to the plant by attracting even more pests. photo credit

Because that honeydew attracts other pests, if you begin to notice a lot of ants or ladybugs coming around your plants, it’s a pretty good sign that you’re well into an aphid problem. Aphids can be hard to shake, but wasps and ladybugs are natural predators. Nonetheless, you should visually inspect the underside of plant leaves at least once a week. If introducing predators doesn’t ameliorate the problem, there are a couple of natural solutions to get rid of cannabis pests to try, like garlic or tomato leaf water. 

Spider Mites

Spider mites are like the supervillains of cannabis pests: uber reproductive, zombie-like in their ability to come back from what you thought was death, capable of spinning webs while eating everything in sight then completely disappearing before turning up again – they’re nearly impossible to spot and even harder to eradicate. Spotting spider mites is difficult because they are minuscule, but doing a daily inspection of both sides of your plant leaves could help to prevent a massive infestation.

Signs of spider mites begins with speckles, then a browning or yellowing of leaves, and premature leaf death.

If any parts of your plant are covered in fine webbing, that’s a sure sign you’re in a bad spot. The best way to avoid mites is to stay vigilant with your leaf inspections. If you do notice signs of mites, try introducing a fan into the environment. Strong air currents make it difficult for mites to breed. Spider mites also prefer temperatures of 60-80 degrees, so experimenting with temperature might also slow an infestation down. Since mites are likely to come back, consider a spray like Azamax or Spinosad to get rid of them for good (again, be sure to follow use directions carefully).

Fungus Gnats

Fungus gnats are just as hungry as caterpillars, but their gourmet meal is from the stem and roots of your plants and not the leaves. Beginning at the topsoil level, both larvae and adults will munch their way down into the root system, badly impact plant drainage, and compromise the structural stability of your plants. However, they’re nearly impossible to spot because they are dark in color, as is soil.

Fungus Gnats

Although fungus gnats are small, the damage they leave behind is mighty. photo credit

Seeing swarms of gnats near the base of your plant is one sign you’ve got a fungus gnat problem. Other symptoms are stems that weaken and simply fall over, adult plants that start to droop, wilt, spot, or yellow, or plants that stop growing altogether. 

Fungus gnats love moist conditions, so keeping the top layer of soil dry is a smart preventative measure. Some other hacks to try include placing a cloth on top of the soil to prevent female gnats from laying eggs or laying a sticky pad near the plant’s base to stick larvae. You could also mix some peroxide and water and spray it around the area of gnat infestation. A common-sense tactic for an indoor grow is to put screens on the windows and the doors closed to keep gnats out. 

Why Pests and Bugs Are Attracted to Cannabis

Something to keep in mind about pests, in general, is that they love a monoculture or a space dedicated to growing only one crop. Researchers from the University of California Davis theorize that if an insect makes itself at home in that one crop, it has a large food supply, creating an all-you-can-eat kind of scenario for the pest, making it that much harder to eradicate. As you likely don’t want to introduce other plants into a cannabis garden (for a number of reasons), this issue will always exist to some degree when dealing with weed. 

This is why, as mentioned, another option is to introduce other beneficial insects. Not only do they prey on harmful pests, but they are also an excellent chemical-free pest control option. The bugs already want to be there, you’re just bringing them to the dinner table. 

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The Wrap Up

Identifying pests should be a regular ritual, just like watering and delivering nutrients to your plants. When you keep them pest-free, all that hard growing work will hopefully pay off in healthy and efficacious plants. Once you’ve harvested, you can move on to other fun challenges like doing a proper cure for your cannabis harvest, and how to store your cannabis stash


How do you deal with pests in your cannabis grow? Share your techniques in the comments!

Photo Credit: ilovegrowingmarijuana (license)

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Sticky Weed vs. Poorly Cured Marijuana Flower

If you’re anything like Snoop Dogg in the song “Forgot About Dre,” when it comes to weed you’re looking for “No stress, no seeds, no stems, no sticks!/Some of that real sticky-icky-icky/Ooh wee!” And if you are Snoop Dogg, you can probably have a joint…

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If you’re anything like Snoop Dogg in the song “Forgot About Dre,” when it comes to weed you’re looking for “No stress, no seeds, no stems, no sticks!/Some of that real sticky-icky-icky/Ooh wee!” And if you are Snoop Dogg, you can probably have a joint filled with the best sticky weed on the planet placed into your palm with the snap of a finger (if it takes even that much effort.) For the 99.99% of pot smokers that aren’t Snoop Dogg, it’s still possible to smoke sticky cannabis flower on the regular. New growing techniques, increasing depths of generational wisdom, and specialized education are producing better flower in greater amounts than ever before in recorded pot-growing history.

But how do you know if the sticky weed you’re laying your money down on is the good stuff? While many cannabis consumers believe that all sticky marijuana is top-quality, it’s harder to elaborate about the fact that there are two reasons that a nug can end up sticky: either it’s dank, or it’s rushed. The fact is, a nug’s “stickiness” can be accredited to high resin and trichome content (AKA good flower), OR a bud can be overly sticky due to a rushed cure and high water content (AKA bad flower). How can you tell the difference and find the best flower at your local dispensary? Keep reading to find out.

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The Difference between Good Sticky Weed and Improperly Cured Flower

A nice sticky nug can mean that the grower took the time and care to properly cure it. The stickiness comes from the nug being covered with resinous, gooey trichomes that are bursting with rich terpenes and cannabinoids. With a little care, this weed should stay good throughout its time with you.

Weed in a grinder

Stickiness can be a very good thing, as long as it was cultivated in the proper way.

However, a sticky nug can also mean that the weed was rushed out while still wet and contains a high level of water or moisture content. In this case, the stickiness only means a weaker, less potent nug that will lose water as it dries, leaving you with less to smoke overall and a hay-like flavoring to your cannabis once it’s fully dried.

The Importance of Properly Curing Marijuana Flower

Proper curing starts with snipping bud-covered branches off the plant at just the right time when their trichome production is at its sugary peak. Once removed from the plant, the nugs have to be dried, which further increases their potency. As long as the buds are kept at around 60-70 ℉ and at around 45-55% humidity while they’re hanging to dry, non-psychoactive cannabinoids within the plant will continue to transform into molecules of THCA (which will become THC once heated). This is what gives properly cured weed its extra punch. Keeping cannabis below 70 ℉ while it dries also prevents terpenes from drying up or degrading, locking them into the nug until it reaches your bowl, bong, or joint.

Once the nugs have dried enough for the flowers to feel a little crunchy and for their branches to snap instead of bend (anywhere from five to fifteen days,) it’s time to cure them.

For the final step in the curing process, the nugs are snipped off their branches and packed loosely into airtight jars. As they sit in a cool, dry place, moisture from deep inside the flower starts to spread back into the outer leaves. The jars are aired out, or “burped,” a couple of times a day to release moisture and allow oxygen in. After anywhere from two to eight weeks (or more, depending on the strain), the nugs are properly cured and ready to be consumed.   

Harvesting the bud when its trichomes have reached their maximum potency – as well as carefully adjusting the humidity as it cures over weeks or months – can lock in cannabis’ freshness and potency for months. The trichomes and terps are at their gooiest and most potent. That’s what makes that good sticky-icky that you’re looking for. As long as you keep your bud air tight and out of the light after buying it, it should maintain its potency until the end. Although tossing a humidity pack into your nug jar never hurts.

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Spotting Poorly Cured Flower with High Water Content

As mentioned above, there’s another reason that weed can be sticky. Cannabis that was harvested too soon or packaged before a proper cure will feel sticky and moist, however, it will have underdeveloped terpenes and a lackluster “hay-like” flavor profile. Some shadier dispensaries will stock this sub-par, rushed weed on the shelves to cater to less informed cannabis consumers.

low quality weed

Poorly cured flower can lead to undesired stickiness and low potency. photo credit

Because this weed wasn’t dried and cured properly, the terpenes and cannabinoids haven’t had as much time to preserve in the plant. This makes for a weaker and less potent effect from the bud. Wet weed is also harder to grind up or break apart, which makes poor quality joints and blunts that don’t burn evenly. Because of the extra moisture, wet weed can also be a breeding ground for mildews, bacteria, and mold. Finally, wet weed is a waste of money. Wet weed loses water as it dries, leaving its owner with less and less to smoke every day.

How to Tell if Your Sticky Weed is Good or Bad

Luckily, there are a number of ways to tell whether that weed you’re purchasing is that sticky-icky, or just full of extra water and moisture content:

The Squeeze Test

Properly cured bud should be springy with a little give. This tells you that the moisture has spread evenly throughout the flower without saturating it. Wet weed will feel spongy between your fingers, with more squish than bounce. 

The Snap Test

Properly dried, sticky bud breaks up easily, without having to tear the leaves apart with your fingers. Similarly, if you rub them between your fingers, they should break apart.

Someone with weed between their fingers

By rubbing your bud between your fingers you should be able to determine if it has the correct texture. photo credit

If they ball up, they’re still wet. The stems of sticky weed should also snap like dry twigs. If you’ve got wet weed, those stems are so soaked that they’ll bend like a live branch.

The Smell Test

You know your bud is good if there’s an enticing aroma of fresh terpenes wafting out of that bag or jar. This is your signal that those terpenes have been allowed to develop and locked into the plant. Wet weed on the other hand will smell musty, damp, or have a faint hay scent that tells you the terpenes weren’t allowed to cure. Instead, bacteria or mildew have been maturing in their place. 

The Sticky Test

When you touch good weed, it should be like touching fresh sap or syrup. That sticky, sugary feeling is all the resin from those ripe trichomes melting onto your finger from the heat. Wet weed may feel sticky to the touch, but it won’t stick to your fingers. If your fingers feel more like you’ve touched a recently wiped tabletop than honey, your weed’s been rushed out.

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Final Thoughts

Most dispensaries are committed to stocking only the best flower for their customers, so please don’t throw a suspicious eye at your noble and hardworking budtender as you sidle up to the counter. However, it is always worth knowing a little bit more about how to find the best weed. Besides helping you appreciate the craft of the grower, it’s just good practice. You may not be Snoop Dog, but you always want to be sure that when you’re buying sticky weed, it’s that sticky-icky-icky that makes you say “Ooh wee!”


How do you tell the difference between improperly cured weed and top-quality cannabis? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Jamaica Faces Marijuana Shortage As Farmers Struggle

Jamaica is running low on ganja. Heavy rains followed by an extended drought, an increase in local consumption and a drop in the number of marijuana farmers have caused a shortage in the island’s famed but largely illegal market that experts say is the…

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Jamaica is running low on ganja. Heavy rains followed by an extended drought, an increase in local consumption and a drop in the number of marijuana farmers have caused a shortage in the island’s famed but largely illegal market that experts say is the worst they’ve seen. “It’s a cultural embarrassment,” said Triston Thompson, chief opportunity explorer for Tacaya, a consulting and brokerage firm for the country’s nascent legal cannabis industry. Jamaica, which foreigners have…

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