How to Start Your Own Grow Operation – A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Weed

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Getting started growing weed can be intimidating. There’s a lot to learn and it can be hard to figure out what you actually need to grow good weed.

So here’s your guide.

I’ll cover the equipment you need to buy to get a grow operation up and running then give a short overview of how you’ll care for your plant over the next 3 months.

What Equipment Do You Need to Grow Weed?

Cannabis plants can yield anywhere from 1-8oz depending on how long you let the plant grow and how much space you have, but for your first grow you should assume you’ll get about 2 ounces of weed per plant.

This setup will allow you to grow 2 plants and harvest about 4-6oz of weed 90 days after you start your seedlings.

Here’s a list of the gear you’ll need, then I’ll cover each one in a little more detail.

  • Essentials
    • Grow tent
    • Grow light & timer
    • Smart pots
    • Soil & Perlite
    • Seeds
  • Recommended
    • Carbon filter
    • 5 gallon bucket & watering cup
    • Fan
    • Harvesting gear

The Essentials

This is the gear you definitely need to buy. This is the bare minimum needed to grow weed indoors.

I’d highly recommend buying a carbon filter as well. It’s not technically necessary but if you don’t get one your house will reek like weed. If you live with other people or want to keep your grow operation discreet, get a carbon filter.

Grow Tent

This is where your plants will grow. A grow tent has a couple key functions.

The first is keeping all the light contained inside your tent and blocking light from entering from the outside.

Marijuana plants depend on the light cycle to know when they should grow (vegetative stage) or produce buds (flowering stage).

Leaking light out of your grow area isn’t a big deal, but letting light in could ruin your grow.

If plants get light when they aren’t supposed to, they can change their sex. This is especially bad because male plants produce no bud! If you want your plants to produce buds you can smoke, they need to be females which means you need to control the light they get.

There are a lot of options for grow tents. You’ll want to go with the biggest tent you can practically fit in your grow space.

You’ll be choosing your tent based on 3 dimensions; length, width, and height.

The length and the width determine how many plants you can fit inside of your tent.

The height determines how tall the plant can grow before harvest which directly correlates to how much weed you can grow.

A bigger tent = higher yields.

Cannabis plants typically need about 4 sq ft per plant, so for beginners I’d recommend a tent that is at least 2′ x 4′. This will let you comfortably fit 2 plants in your tent without having them touch each other which can cause other issues like mold/mildew which you really want to avoid.

For the height of your grow tent, go as big as possible.

Most people should buy a 6′ tall tent to start. This will give you plenty of room to grow big plants with high yields without being too expensive or difficult to set up.

I’d also recommend to avoid any tent shorter than 5′ tall. This will be a serious pain in the ass later, here’s why.

Your lights will hang down at least 12″ from the top of the tent and your plants will be in a bucket of soil that’s about 12″ from the bottom of your tent so you’re already losing 2 feet of space.

Additionally, you want to keep your lights at least 1′ away from your plants so you don’t accidentally burn them with light that is too intense.

So there’s 3 feet of space as an absolute minimum, plus the space you’d need for your plant to grow. If you have a 5′ tall tent and you have 3′ feet used up for lights/plant space, that only allows your plant to grow 2′ tall in the best case scenario.

The problem is once your plant starts growing, you don’t have much say in how tall it gets.

You’ll control your plants growth cycle by adjusting how much light it gets, but the estimates for how tall your plant gets are just that, estimates.

We’ll cover this more in the light cycle section later on but for now just know that you want to give yourself some wiggle room in your plant height and the best way to do that is by getting a bigger tent.

This is the tent I use and would recommend. It’s cheap and works well. Vivosun is a pretty high quality brand but most grow tents are pretty similar.

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Grow Light & Timer

Choosing grow lights can be overwhelming. There are a billion choices and for some reason manufacturers are allowed to lie about how much power their lights use.

If you’ve ever gone to Home Depot and seen an LED bulb that says it’s the same as a 40 watt bulb but only uses 6 watts, the same idea applies to grow lights.

Many lights will claim to be 500 watts or 1,000 watts but they actually consume about 15-20% of that amount.

The most important thing to know is you want to buy LED lights and you want at least 100 actual watts per plant.

If you want to go for the cheapest option, get a “blurple” LED. These are a mix of blue/red/purple lights that are more affordable than white light LEDs but not as efficient.

They have loud fans on them and won’t give you insanely high yields but they’ll get the job done and let you hit at least 2 ounces per plant.

Here’s the one I’d recommend if you’re on a budget and looking to grow 2 plants. It’s advertised at 450 W but actually uses 200 W which is perfect for a 2’x4′ tent with 2 plants in it.

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If you want to buy a higher quality light that doesn’t need active cooling (which means it will be quieter), you can get white light LEDs like the HLG quantum LED boards.

I have 2 of these in my tent and they’re insanely bright. You can get away with just 1 in a 2’x4′ tent with 2 plants but if you can afford to get 2 of them you’ll increase your yields and you won’t have to go back later to buy another one.

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You’ll also need a timer to control your light cycles. If you have one left over from your Christmas lights you can probably use that. If not, here’s the one I use and recommend. It lets you plug 2 lights into the timer so they’re turned on and off at the same time.

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Smart Pots

Obviously you need somewhere to actually grow your plants. You can use a cheap 5 gallon bucket from the store but they don’t have any drainage.

One of the biggest issues for new growers is over-watering their plants.

If you get water logged roots in your bucket you can get nasty stuff growing in the dirt and damage the roots or even kill your plant. Trust me, I’ve done it.

So get smart pots instead. They’re cheap, reusable and the fabric means they easily drain excess water so you never have to worry about how much to water your plants.

If you want to grow larger plants, get larger smart pots. 5 gallons is probably the biggest you’d want to go. I’ve used both 5 gallon and 3 gallon smart pots and have settled on using 3 gallon pots going forward.

They’re cheaper, don’t need as much soil, and still give my plants plenty of room to grow their roots.

Here’s the exact set I use:

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Soil & Perlite

Soil is super important and you CANNOT USE MIRACLE-GRO. If you walk in to Home Depot and buy a bag of soil for growing weed, you’ll be sincerely disappointed.

Miracle-gro and other soil mixes you can buy at home improvement stores have fertilizer mixed in with the soil and it doesn’t work for cannabis plants.

Marijuana plants need different fertilizer mixes at different times and the consistent fertilizer mix you find in Miracle-gro is not right for weed plants.

The best brand of soil to use is Fox Farms. Their 2 most popular formulations are called Ocean Forest and Happy Frog.

I’ve tried both and prefer Happy Frog so that’s what I’d recommend.

I’d also highly recommend buying this from your local grow store. This is a bulky, heavy item which means it’s expensive to buy online. If you can buy this locally, do it.

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In addition to soil, you need to buy something called perlite. It’s basically glorified plastic like packing peanuts. You’ll mix this in to your soil at a 1 to 2 ratio (so 1 scoop of perlite for every 2 scoops of soil).

This creates empty space in the soil that lets the water drain. If you use a 100% soil mixture you’ll have problems when you water your plant because the water will just pool up on the top layer of soil.

Perlite is another one I’d recommend buying locally but if you need to get it online, here’s the one I’ve used before.

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Obviously if you’re growing weed you need to buy seeds. If you have some old seeds laying around you can use those, but just realize that about 50% of them will be males and you’ll need to throw the plants away when they’re about 4-6 weeks old.

This means you’ll waste soil, light, time, energy, etc into growing plants only to throw them away.

Male plants are completely useless and they can actually spread pollen into your entire grow room and ruin your female plants as well.

It’s better to not risk it and just buy seeds online.

I’d recommend Seedsman. They have a huge selection, decent prices, and the seeds are high quality meaning they have a high germination rate.

Based on my experience if you buy 10 seeds, you can expect at least 7 or 8 of them to germinate and sprout as a beginner.

If you’re using old seeds (they can last for years and still germinate), you’ll probably have to germinate 10 of them to get 3-4 that actually sprout and can grow.

If you’re not sure what seeds to buy, I’d recommend most people buy a hybrid seed that’s 50% indica and 50% sativa. Stay away from anything that’s 100% indica or 100% sativa unless you’re positive you enjoy that type of bud. You don’t want to spend 3 months growing amazing weed only to find out you don’t like the feeling when you smoke it.

Recommended Gear (but not essential)

This is a list of gear that I’d recommend you get, but if you’re just starting out you can get away without buying these right away.

Carbon Filter

Growing weed stinks. The smell of growing marijuana is very strong and very distinct.

If you’re OK with people knowing you grow weed, you don’t need a filter.

If you don’t want your entire house to smell like weed, you should get a carbon filter.

They’re fairly inexpensive and they can completely eliminate the smell from your grow operation.

Here’s the one I use and recommend. Be aware these filters are kind of noisy. It’s basically a fan that runs 24/7 so you’ll probably want to build some type of soundproof box.

I used an old subwoofer and some foam installation to dampen the sound.

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Bucket & Watering Cup

My watering setup is a 5 gallon bucket and a plastic watering jug I bought at my local grow store.

Nothing special here but you’ll want some type of watering jug/container to water your plants. It should be able to hold at least half a gallon of water.

Grow shops usually have these for $5 but if you need to buy it online, here’s one in glass you can use.

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One of the easiest things you can do to increase your yields is to provide more airflow to your plants.

Plants use carbon dioxide to grow so the more air you can get to flow over your plant, the more CO2 it will absorb and the larger your yields will be.

You don’t need anything fancy here. A standing oscillating tower is the best choice but if you want to go cheap, just get any fan and you can hang it from the metal supports of your grow tent.

Here’s a cheap oscillating fan I’d recommend.

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Harvesting Gear

When it comes time to harvest, you’ll need a pair of clippers for cutting the buds off your plant and some mason jars to store the bud in.

You could probably do this with scissors but it’s going to suck and clippers are cheap.

These are the ones I use. Get your mason jars from any local big box store.

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Basic Info Needed to Grow

Now that you know what equipment to buy, I’m going to briefly cover some of the most critical info you need to start growing marijuana.

Keep in mind that growing plants is complex and there are a LOT of different problems that can come up.

The best thing to do is Google everything as you come across issues and learn as you go.

There’s no guide on the planet that could teach you everything you need to know up front and if it did, you’d probably forget 90% of it by the time you actually got started growing 🙂

Setting Your Equipment Up

This diagram shows the basic setup for your grow room.

You want the LED hanging from the top along with your carbon filter (if you’re using one).

Run the ductwork for the carbon filter out of the grow tent and have your filter outside of the tent.

Turning Seeds Into Plants (Germination)

To get your seeds to sprout, you’ll need to germinate them.

The easiest way to do this is to get a small tupperware container and put some soaking wet paper towels in the container.

Put the seeds inside the paper towel, put that inside the container, and put a lid on it so it doesn’t dry out.

Put this somewhere warm like the top of your refrigerator or on top of your heating ductwork and come back in 2-3 days.

Once you see the white taproot shooting out from the seed, you’re ready to plant your seedling into dirt.

When you first transfer the seedling to dirt, you’ll want to very lightly water it, just 1-2 ounces of water at a time (use a shot glass if you need to measure).

You’ll want to lightly water your plant in the area right around the stem for the first 2 weeks until it’s about 6″ tall and looks more sturdy.

Light Cycles

Marijuana plants have 2 states: vegetative and flowering.

The vegetative state (called veg from here on out) happens when your plant is exposed to a light cycle of 16 hours of light and 8 hours of darkness, commonly called 16/8.

As long as your plant is in this state, it will just grow taller and taller without producing any buds.

The flowering state happens when your plant is getting 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness.

Once the plant is in flowering mode it will usually double in height and produce buds.

My typical grow plan looks like this:

  • Days 0-7: Germinate and sprout seedling, transfer to dirt
  • Days 7-30: Veg state, 16/8 light cycle, let plant get about 2′ tall
  • Day 30: Flip to flowering state by changing to 12/12 light cycle
  • Days 30-90: Plant will continue to grow and produce buds
  • Day 91: Harvest
  • Day 91-105: Dry/cure bud
  • Day 106: Smoke it


Watering your plant is something that really only comes with experience and is hard to give precise directions on.

The best rule of thumb is to not overwater your plant. For the first 7 days you should be giving your plant 1-2oz of water every single day.

After that you can switch to watering every other day.

If you stick your finger in the soil, you want it to be completely dry up to your 2nd knuckle before you water it again.

If you feel moisture on your finger below your 2nd knuckle, then your plant still has water the roots can absorb and it doesn’t need any more.

If you’re using a Smart Pot you don’t have to worry about over watering your plant but take it easy and lean towards under watering.

The roots of your plant only extend out as far as the leaves can reach. So when your plant is young and small, the roots are only reaching out a few inches on each side.

There’s no point in dumping 3 gallons of water in your soil if your plant’s roots are only going to absorb a 3″ radius around the plant.

If your plant’s leaves are droopy and curling downward, that means you’re over watering.

If your plant’s leaves feel dry and are curling up, that means you’re under watering.

You want your plant’s leaves to grow straight out and feel soft to the touch. If you want more details on watering I’d recommend watching some Youtube videos like this one.

When to Harvest

One of the hardest things about growing weed is to harvest at the right time. If you harvest too early you’ll get weak weed and low yields. Harvest too late and the THC will degrade and you’ll lose potency as well.

The optimal time to harvest your weed is when the trichomes (the little crystals on your weed) are 50% cloudy and 50% amber. The only way to tell this is to get a loupe like this one.

Here’s a nice visual guide from 420 magazine.

How to Harvest & Cure

Once your weed is ready to harvest, you just clip the buds off and remove any large leaves (fan leaves) and small leaves that don’t have trichomes on them.

Put all of the harvested buds in an open tupperware container or a plastic bag and let them sit for 2 weeks.

You’ll want to shake the container around every day to jostle the buds around so they can air out evenly and dry out slowly.

Avoid packing buds in too tightly when you cut them or they can grow mold which means you have to throw away your entire harvest.

Another beginner friendly option is to use clothespins and a string in your grow tent to hang the buds individually. This prevents them from touching each other and guarantees you won’t get any mold.

The downside to this method is that you can dry your buds out too quickly which makes the weed crumble apart when you go to break it down and smoke it.

Final Thoughts

Growing weed is a fun and rewarding hobby. It’s satisfying to see your small seedling turn into several ounces of weed.

You’ll also be 100% confident that your marijuana doesn’t contain any contaminants or nasty chemicals since you oversaw the grow process from start to finish.

While the initial cost of getting your grow operation up and running can be pretty expensive, you’ll be able to drastically reduce how much you spend on marijuana.

Growing it yourself is about 90% cheaper than buying from a dispensary and much more rewarding too.

Just remember to follow all local/state laws so you don’t get in trouble. Even in legal states there are very specific limits to how many plants you can have and how many ounces of final product you can keep in your house.

Professor Cannabis

Yo, my name is Chad. I grow dope weed (haha) and want to help you do it too. I started growing a few years ago when it was legalized in my state and now I can help you avoid all of the mistakes I made!