Hemp gardener in the cannabis field

Growing hemp and cannabis - you need to know that!

Published: 18.04.2023 (Updated: 21.07.2023)
Reading time: Min.
Dr. Harald Stephan
Dr. rer. medic. Harald Stephan
Health expert

Growing hemp or cannabis is an exciting project. You need few utensils and no expensive equipment for it. The most important thing is that you familiarise yourself with the basic information on cannabis varieties and cultivation methods. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know for successful cannabis cultivation.

Growing hemp and cannabis - not every cannabis plant is the same

Very important when growing cannabis plants is the gender. For cultivation, you usually use female plants because they produce resinous flowers. If you obtain seeds for cultivation, make sure that they are feminised. Feminised seeds are developed in such a way that only female plants are produced from them. Seeds that are not feminised have a 50% chance of developing into either male or female plants. It is annoying if you cannot use half of your harvest.

You should also note that there are very many different varieties of cannabis. Before growing the seeds, you should find out about the characteristics and qualities of the cannabis variety. There are sometimes serious differences between cannabis varieties in the following characteristics:

  • Odour
  • Size
  • Yield
  • Growth rate
  • THC and CBD content

Another important aspect of growing is the difference between autoflowering strains and photoperiod strains. Autoflowering strains are auto-flowering plants. After 2-4 weeks, the germs start to flower. Autoflowering varieties are less dependent on external conditions.

Photoperiodic varieties, on the other hand, need 12 hours of darkness per day to switch to flowering. There are also no fixed growing seasons, which is why they generally need longer.

Hanf/ Cannabis Stecklinge

What cannabis plants need to grow

When you grow cannabis, you are accompanying a plant's life. Cannabis plants, like all other plants, need your care and attention. For the plant to stay healthy and thrive, it needs care and the right nutrients.

Important For Growing Cannabis and Hemp Plants - Fresh Air

For plants to grow and thrive, they need carbon dioxide and oxygen. Plants can make sugar and food respectively from these two elements.

If you are growing outdoors, you do not need to worry about fresh air. However, if you want to grow indoors, you need to provide sufficient ventilation. This will allow the plants to breathe naturally, even indoors.

Even if you do not have a large budget, you can set up a ventilation system. In some cases, a few fans are already sufficient. However, if you have a higher budget, you should invest in a professional ventilation system.

Important for growing cannabis and hemp plants - water

Healthy growth of your plants is based on photosynthesis. Photosynthesis, in turn, is only possible if the plant gets enough light. The higher the light supply of your cannabis plants, the more flowers they will develop.

If you grow hemp and cannabis outdoors, you can assume that the light supply is sufficient. Indoors, you should at least ensure a light supply of 350 to 650 watts per square metre.

Important for indoor light supply is the temperature, which should not be too hot under any circumstances. HPS lamps in particular get so hot during operation that they damage your plants. So make sure that the lamps are not too powerful and not too close to the plants.

Water is essential for every living organism. Hemp is very hardy and can often survive even if they don't get enough water. There is a greater risk that you will overwater your cannabis plants, causing them to die.

To make sure you are giving your plants the right amount of water, it is best to check the soil or ground. Shortly after the soil has dried out, you should water the plant. The top 2-6 cm of soil should be dry before you water the plant.

Cannabis Pflanze; Cannabis Blatt mit Wassertropfen

Important for growing cannabis and hemp plants - nutrients and fertiliser

Providing hemp with nutrients means that you fertilise the plant. As a rule, you work the basic nutrients into the soil at the beginning of cultivation or you mix the nutrients into a solution and administer it to the plants. It is most convenient if you use a comprehensive fertiliser solution. You can buy solutions on the market that will feed your plants for 12 weeks.

Growing cannabis and hemp - this is how long it takes

Most cannabis strains take a little over three months to reach harvest maturity. For a deeper understanding of cultivation time and growth processes, the main phases of cannabis plant life cycles are important. The two main phases are the growing season and flowering.

The vegetative period begins when the stem and leaves of the plant's stalk appear and ends when male or female sexual characteristics become visible on the plant. With the formation of sexual characteristics, the second phase, flowering, begins. Female plants form white hairs and male plants develop pollen sacs.

Hanf Pflanze in den Händen gehalten

What you need to grow cannabis and hemp

The equipment you need to grow cannabis and hemp depends on whether you want to grow indoors or outdoors. Basically, growing hemp and cannabis indoors is more complex and expensive. This is because you need more equipment, gear and utensils indoors. You need artificial lighting, a grow tent, fertiliser, soil, gardening tools and in some cases hydroponic equipment when growing indoors. Outdoor cultivation is therefore usually cheaper.

Growing cannabis and hemp - what you need for indoor cultivation

If you decide to grow indoors, you will need a grow tent. A grow tent is an enclosed space that houses all your plants. You should make sure that it is the right size so that the necessary lighting and other important utensils fit inside.

Zuchtzelt für Cannabis-Pflanzen

When it comes to lighting, two options have become established. You can choose between HDI lamps and LED lamps. Both options have advantages and disadvantages. HDI lamps lead to high yields because of their power, but they also develop a lot of heat that damages your plants. LED lamps are gentler on your plants, but reduce yield. It is up to you which you give higher priority to.

The soil and containers are also important. These form the nutritional basis and support system for your plants. You can use plastic or fabric pots as containers. It is recommended that you use pre-fertilised soil. Pre-fertilised soil already contains nutrients and makes your work easier.

When growing indoors, you can also do without soil by growing your plants hydroponically. To do this, you will need to purchase the appropriate equipment. You can use concerted mineral fertiliser solutions when growing hydroponically, which are absorbed directly by the roots and promote the health and growth of your plants.

When it comes to the water supply, you need to pay attention to the chlorine content. Typically, tap water is unsuitable for growing because it contains too much chlorine and lime, which can damage your plants. For your cannabis plants, you should use filtered water with a low chlorine content.

Indoor Cannabis-Zucht

For your cannabis and hemp plants to grow and thrive indoors, you need an adequate supply of carbon dioxide. This means you need to circulate the air. The best way to do this is with a ventilator.

It is advantageous and recommended to use climate monitors and controllers. These allow you to regulate and control the light, humidity, temperature and CO₂. Optimal growth is guaranteed if you keep all these factors constant.

What you need for outdoor cultivation of hemp and cannabis

Outdoor cultivation can become harsh due to weather conditions. Therefore, you should plan additional protection for your plants. So-called hot caps and cold frames are ideal for this. With hot caps you can protect individual plants and with cold frames you can protect cold frames.

Cold Frames, Beete, Cannabis anbauen

Important for outdoor growing is a drainage system, otherwise your plants will be flooded with excess water. The simplest option is to create a gravel bed.

If you want to grow your cannabis and hemp plants in pots, you should use air-pots. Air-pots provide a natural pruning of the roots, allowing your plants to grow better.

Also, if you are growing outdoors, make sure that you use a nutrient-rich soil. In addition to this, you should fertilise the plants regularly so that they are supplied with all the important nutrients.

How to recognise the ideal harvest time for your cannabis and hemp plants

You should know the date when your plants have initiated flowering as precisely as possible in order to be able to harvest them successfully. The more precise you know the date when flowering started, the better. From this information you can conclude how much time your hemp needs to flower and from this you can in turn deduce the ideal harvest time.

Cannabis Pflanzen braune Härchen überprüfen

The flowering times of hemp and cannabis depend on the variety and vary greatly. A basic distinction is made between indicadominant and sativadominant varieties. Sativa-dominant strains need in some cases 24 weeks of flowering time before you can harvest them. However, a flowering time of 24 weeks is an exception. Indicadominant varieties mature in a flowering period of 7-8 weeks. Besides the indica-dominant and sativa-dominant varieties, there are also hybrid varieties. As a rule of thumb, you can state that hemp and cannabis usually need between 10-12 weeks until harvest maturity.

If you want to judge more precisely and accurately when your cannabis and hemp plants are ready for harvest, you can examine the hairs on the cannabis plants. You will need to determine the percentage of white hairs that have changed colour. Most strains change the colour of their white hairs to brownish-orange. However, there are also some varieties that produce pink or purple hairs. Once at least 40 percent of the hairs have changed colour, you can harvest the cannabis plants.

Cannabis and hemp plants - the harvest

You should not water your cannabis and hemp plants for 2-3 days before harvesting. 2-3 days before harvesting, it is best to remove all large leaves, whether they are yellow or not. The large leaves interfere with harvesting and processing. However, do not remove the small leaves because they protect the flowers.

Cannabis Ernte; Pflanze ohne die großen Blätter

It is especially recommended that you leave your hemp completely in the dark for the last 2-3 days before harvesting and stop the light supply completely. This stimulates resin production, which increases the amount of cannabinoids.

For the harvest itself, you should use a larger pair of scissors, which should be well sharpened so that you can cut through thicker branches with them. In addition to this, you will also need a smaller pair of scissors with which you can do finer cutting work.

Hanf Ernte; CBD; kleine Schere für den Feinschnitt

Cultivation of CBD - these are the differences

The cultivation of CBD is basically no different from other hemp and cannabis strains. One important difference, however, is that the cultivation of CBD is legal. The cultivation of plants containing THC is absolutely illegal in most countries. We explicitly point out that you should refrain from this endeavour under all circumstances. CBD plants differ in genetics and in their THC and CBD content.

CBD and THC both act on the body's own receptors in humans, on the so-called endocannabinoid system, but in different ways. THC, because of its chemical composition, causes intoxication when consumed because it is psychoactive. CBD is not psychoactive and does not cause intoxication when consumed. A high feeling will therefore not occur when CBD is consumed.

CBD is rather administered in medical contexts and used for relaxation. Many consumers appreciate the increase in general well-being and it is associated with pleasant warm feelings. The effect of CBD is often compared to the feeling of taking a warm bath. CBD can be consumed in many different forms.

Cannabis Blüten an denen die braune Härchen deutlich zu erkennen sind

Growing CBD - these are the differences

A simple option is to buy seeds and seeds whose THC content is very low, while the CBD content is very high. Before purchasing, you need to keep in mind that seeds and seeds are natural products. This means that the THC and CBD content is subject to strong fluctuations. It is not uncommon for CBD flowers to have a THC content of over 1%. Weigh carefully and thoroughly inform yourself about the legal situation in your home country before purchasing seeds.

It is more advisable to buy cuttings instead of seeds. The big advantage over seeds is that with cuttings, the sex, quality and CBD and THC content can be accurately estimated in advance.

Whatever you decide - watching the process of plants growing and thriving is absolutely satisfying and a suitable hobby for anyone with a green thumb.

Junge erntet ein Cannabis Feld

Dr. Harald Stephan
Dr. rer. medic. Harald Stephan
Graduate Biologist, Medical Information Processing Officer and Doctor of Health Sciences
About the author

After studying in Saarbrücken, Dr Harald Stephan worked in research and teaching at the Universities of Marburg and Bochum as well as at the University Hospital in Essen before becoming a self-employed publicist in 2016. He sees acquiring and passing on knowledge as his life's work.

In addition to his publications on cell biology and tumour research in renowned specialist journals, hundreds of his articles on health topics can be found on the internet. In them, he explains the causes of diseases, laboratory values, diagnoses as well as traditional and novel therapy options.