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Avoid these 5 common cannabis growing mistakes

February 28, 2017
Cannabis plants are known to be resilient. The plant grows successfully all over the globe in an array of climates, leading many to believe that the plant with the nickname “weed” should be a simple crop to grow. Keep in mind, however, that the cannabis consumed today is not like that which grows wild in the mountainous valleys of Nepal.

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The sought-after cannabis of today’s market is cured, seedless, and potent with thick, flavorful buds. But achieving great cannabis is no easy feat, and many mistakes can be made along the way. Here are five of the most common pitfalls you can avoid with some preparation and careful monitoring.

1. Overfeeding cannabis plants

Overfeeding your plants is a classic mistake made by novice gardeners; you see your plants growing every day, but you’re concerned that the buds might not be developing fast enough. As animals, we intuitively think food equals growth, but overeating doesn’t do you or your plant any good. Food does not always promote growth. In fact, it can mean the exact opposite: overfeeding your plants can kill your garden.

Nutrients come in two forms: non-organic and organic. Organic nutrients come from compost, manure, and other refined minerals in the ground. They release slowly into the soil when applied and are not readily available for the plant to take up in excess, which means organic nutrients are your safest bet to try and avoid overfeeding.

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Organic vs. Chemical Cannabis Fertilizers for Your Grow

However, you might not get the immediate boost you want from organics, so you might use non-organic nutrients. Or, if growing hydroponically, you may be using liquid non-organics. These products pack a lot of food into a small bottle, requiring precise measurements. Additionally, non-organics are readily available for the plant to uptake. For this reason, using too much will cause the plant to overfeed and “burn” itself, resulting in death or loss of yields.

When it comes to feeding, start low and slow. Follow the instructions and start below what is recommended. Observe your plants daily and communicate with your local grow store when looking for recommendations. Nutrients allow you to grow quality cannabis, but you must pay close attention.

2. Overwatering cannabis plants

When caring for a cannabis garden, cultivators are quick to fret over whether or not their plants are getting all the water they need. But like overfeeding, giving your plants too much water can harm or even kill them.

Overwatering will cause your roots to suffocate and die. Once root rot sets in, it’s nearly impossible to remove and you will have to start over. To avoid this setback, make sure the top inch of the soil is bone dry, or even lift your pots to get a feel for their weight. If you’re truly unsure, you can wait to see a little wilting in your plants to be sure they are ready for water.

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Measure how much water your plants receive and develop a schedule. As they get bigger, you can increase the water quantity – but do so with caution.

3. Unsuitable climate control

Whether you’re gardening inside, outside, or in a greenhouse, you need to be fully aware of your climate. Temperature and humidity are crucial to the development of quality cannabis.

Let’s start with temperature. If your garden is too cold or too hot, you will see side effects. Cold temperatures can stunt your plants’ growth, and even colder temperatures will kill them. On the contrary, if your plants are too hot they will develop heat stress. The leaves curl in as if hiding from the light or sun, and the plants become weak and tired. If the hot climate continues, you will constantly battle this heat stress and the plant will eventually die or produce very unhealthy buds.

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Cannabis plants can take extreme climates, but not routinely. You want to keep your plants happy at around 75°F when possible. If you’re lucky enough to garden outdoors where nights stay in the upper 50s, you will find a plant that grows faster than you ever imagined possible.

Make sure you also keep the humidity level of your garden low. Humidity provides a breeding ground for ever-present mold, which is constantly looking to decompose anything around it given the right climate. Seedlings like a higher humidity content, but as the plant develops, humidity should decrease. Starting around 60% and reducing to around 40% is generally considered good practice. To control humidity, use intake and outtake fans, open walls in greenhouses to burp the humid air out, and utilize dehumidifiers.

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4. Using the wrong water pH for cannabis

If the water you’re using for your cannabis garden is too acidic or basic, you can run into some real problems. Ideally, you want to use water that is between a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. This pH level allows your plants to absorb the full range of nutrients it desires. Fall outside of this range and you will start to see nutrient deficiencies because the water is lacking in acidity or is too acidic for that nutrient to become available.

Check the pH level of your water source routinely. You can buy filters to maintain a specific pH level and/or put additives in your water to raise or lower the acidity.

5. Poorly installed electrical systems

Whatever electrical system you’re installing for your garden, make sure it is done properly. Because of security and legality, many growers have done their own electrical work, but it’s important to find someone with a background as a licensed electrician to help you.

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Though costly up front, a dependable system will save you time and a headache. Electrical fires or malfunctioning systems will ruin your garden and put your life and property at risk.

Are there mistakes you’ve made in your garden that led to important learnings? Share your expertise below!

Trevor Hennings's Bio Image

Trevor Hennings

Trevor is a freelance writer and photographer. He has spent years in California working in the cannabis industry.

View Trevor Hennings's articles

  • Stuart Fox

    Thank you trevor for this info.I am a less that beginner like 1st plant ever and the ph was useful as was the full write up.Thanks again from the UK

  • dcard88

    I tried to replace a main breaker. I wasn’t even high. Almost blinded or worse when it flashed because I touched wires with the pliers. Not my finest moment.

    • Robert Smith

      Turn off the main breaker first, save yourself for your future.

      • dcard88

        How would one ‘turn off’ a main breaker? lol Was that an attempt to be funny?

        • Matthew Johnson

          No…. There is a main breaker for every house. The main breaker shuts down power to the entire breaker panel.

          • dcard88

            Read the original post. The spark was created when the screwdriver touched BOTH conductors at the same time. I could have been attempting to install a banana and the same thing would have happened.

          • Bob Berger

            You’re lucky you didn’t kill yourself.

          • Cedrick BlaiZz

            Ive done the same. Your not sopposed to go into the main breaker area. Only for licensed electrician. Your not allowed as a consumer. 🤓

          • Two Bears

            Absolutely correct. There is always a main breaker to cut off all power coming into the house.

            Then you can SAFELY work on the wiring in the house.

          • dcard88

            ? The average iq on this thread is not very high. Why are you talking about houses having main breakers when the whole thread is about ATTEMPTING TO INSTALL A MAIN breaker.

          • Eat Me

            Lol, right over their heads. The solution was to take the meter out 😉

          • dcard88

            Good grief. Read my post and then read yours and explain how you turn off a breaker you are attempting to install. lol

          • Jordan

            The main breaker only cuts power to the panel – not the incoming power. In order to have a safe an unenergized panel you need to pull the meter head. Once that is done your panel is not energized and you won’t electrocute yourself. Unfortunately, the electric company has big problems with doing this.

        • John Gnuse

          Former union electrician Local 1 St Louis, Missouri. If you are going to change your main breaker, you have to consider that presumably it was installed to accommodate the size wire that comes in from your electrical feed. It may not be as simple as simply switching a main breaker. If you over amp your main line and then draw too much current this will cause excessive heat which could lead to a fire! I would need to know specifically what you are trying to do, but you quite simply answer your question, you can turn off a main breaker by pulling your meter. This is done by removing the electrical companies security tag with a pair of side cutters. Next, there should be a bezel ring that goes around the glass meter. Simply spread it open a little bit to remove it without damaging it. After that you simply remove the meter like you would remove a plug from the wall. Important, if you are not an electrician, it is a good idea to turn off your main breaker before pulling the meter. This will allow you to pull the meter and reinstall the meter with no sparking or arcing, and will also protect anyting you have plugged in from receiving a surge or a spike.

    • Louie Lipps

      I hope your growing experience is better than your electrical one dcard88 ! That just sounded funny although it probably wasn’t for you.

      • dcard88

        What! You wouldn’t risk your life to save your babies? lol
        The sad part is that I neglected to take a picture of my face afterwards. Exploding cigar kind of thing. That was definitely the funny part. Thinking I might have lost an eye for the first couple minutes was not. My tip of my nose was blood red for a week. But I did get the electrician to come back out at 1030 that night and get me back on. Catastrophe avoided. (sarcasm)
        I was not surprised that I almost killed myself. That is the part I should feel stupid about.

        • sunsetair

          Oh my god it is funny

    • Jason Griffin

      there’s a main breaker and flash lights for a reason

      • dcard88

        What reason? Why suggest there is a reason without telling me what that reason is? Why mention flash lights? Strange post

        • TWalker

          Main breaker cuts all power, therefore one uses a flashlight to see what they are doing. Sounds like you don’t need to be messing with electrical, this is a very simple concept. Just hire someone who understands.

  • Kenneth Aaron

    Not bad for an internet growing info article. Most are bunk..

  • cannaman106
  • Paul Sorensen

    Don’t cheap-out on soil. For my first grow tent effort, I used Home Depot bags of soil. The pots held too much water. This contributed to a spider mite infestation. I got it under control, but the harvest wasn’t great. It’s worth it to use quality soil. I’ll be using Happy Frog this time around.

    • Zebulon

      Try Ocean Forest by Fox Farm .
      That is a nice well mixed potting soil . I’ve always gotten great results using it .

      • Paul Sorensen

        Thanks for the advice. I’ll look into it. This is my year to grow big and grow potent.

        • E.L. Bl/Du

          For indoors it’s really important whatever soil you use that it has been sterilized. Adding extra pearlite is a must. The guy above mixture seems about right, I add one big bag of pearlite to a bag of soil, (keeping in mind the bags of peralite are smaller) If you DO use soil that hatches fungus gnats, or they come in on a new plant, use pearlite over the top layer of the dirt, it prevents the eggs from hatching. TO test for moisture I broke down and got a meter, difficult to tell thru the layer of perallite by eyeballing it, but also tells you how deep they are dry, and adjust watering accordingly. (around $15) Also lifting the pot, unless they’re too big. I use an old turkey baster when they’re little to avoid soil disruption around the stem. Haven’t had issues with PH, but will be transferring to well water and time to start. Do NOT waste your money on B vitamins etc. to reduce transplant shock, it’s a ruse to get your money. If you do things right they won’t go into shock. Can’t wait, mine will be going in next week, and I can shut the grow room down, transform it to my drying room. Hope you all have a GREAT grow season this year.

      • Robert Smith

        Ocean Forest is a great growing medium, but be careful it contains lots more nutes than Happy Frog or others. I mix Ocean Forest, Happy Frog with Lucky Dog (Fox Farms Peat moss and Pearlite mix) on a 50% 25% 25% basis by volume. I think my next one I am going to 33% across the board.

        • Zebulon

          I’ve been adding 1 pot pearlite to 4 pots Ocean Forest . The roots seem to like that but I’m going to look into Lucky Dog now that you have mentioned it . Thanks for the tip .
          May all of your harvests be bountiful .

        • Two Bears

          Thats why i am going to put potting soil in the bottom half and use coco in the top half.

          • Gabapentin

            I’m growing in a greenhouse, and I mixed up a Subcool recipe I put in the bottom half of the pots (smartpots) and straight bag soil on top (PP is amended so you don’t need to heat it up, externally and once the plants fond the hot soil, they take off like the space shuttle. Waiting for flowering to happen (supplemental light is finished for this year) and hoping it klicks in real soon. Doon’t want to buy another trp to use as a light-dep cloth.

    • Gabapentin

      I use Kellogg’s Patio Plus. Wonderful base soil and six bucks a bag. You can keep the Happy Frog, though I do use their 0-5-0 bat guano during flowering.

    • contel

      Hydro is the only way to grow!

  • Excellent article for people who are interested in pursuing growing legal medical Cannabis in the ACMPR.

  • Jason Shimberg

    people who grow are nice people indeed

  • potmaster

    As far as heat or temperature is concerned, the only alway it becomes an issue is when there are temperature swings. (Normally cool days and nights then a sudden peak in temperature). The plant normally adjusts to its environment. If this was not true, one could not grow undamaged plants in the West. I have had temps well above one hundred degrees throughout the summer without any affect on my plants.
    As far as organic is concerned, if the bag does not have the OMRI listing, it ain’t organic. This is because the product may use yard trimmings from unknown sources and may add inorganic chemicals to the mix. The reason this is important is that the unknown chemicals that are in yard trimmings can act as a poison to the biosphere. Without the OMRI designation, one simply has material that contains carbon. True organic farming consists of introducing untreated plant material to the soil along with minerals and the most important: Calcium. Once this material is introduced, the food web starts to eat. Once they die the minerals are available to the plant’s exudite. So develop your grow site early in the year or late in the previous season. Plants feed on atoms and molecules which means it takes time for the biosphere to make these nutrients available for consumption. All of the nutrients and minerals are food and catalyst for the plant. The plant will determine which nutrients are needed at that point in it’s life cycle.

  • Been growing at home for about a year now and have noticed what you’re talking about over watering and over feeding. Killed a couple plants in flower but learned a valuable lesson. With spring coming I’ll be moving some plants outside to my patio to test that out. Got any tips on strains that grow well in shady areas? My patio doesn’t get direct sun. Thanks

    • Zebulon

      Try looking at some auto flowering genetics .

  • Homer Simpson

    Try and avoid going into an indoor garden directly from the outdoors. You can introduce unwanted pests. I had to deal with spider mites which was no fun. 20 to 30 minute wait never failed me. Also, for potted plants use garden rocks or perlite at the bottom of the pot. It will aid in drainage especially if you’ve overwatered.

  • Michael K Creel

    I’m a new grower, and I depended upon someone who called themselves an “expert grower” to help me with my first grow. My so-called “expert” was full of shit! He told me not to worry about checking the pH, he never tested and didn’t have any issues. So when my plants didn’t respond and grow normally, I’ve had a crash course in growing the past 2 months. Don’t skip testing the water/nutrient solution pH. I looked online to see a water quality report for my water company, and it reported an avg ph of 6.x, which was ok with me. A few weeks later and numerous sick plants, I decided to check the pH. My tap water ph mixed with Hawaiian Bud and Bloom was just below 5, so I corrected, retested and flushed and fed all my plants according to the stage they were in, veg vs bloom. I’m happy to report that most of my issues have disappeared and my plants are thriving! Happy grower here! And my expert is fired!

  • One of the biggest mistakes with Grass Growing is to over water and over fertilize as written on https://www.facebook.com/GrassGrowing/

  • Sonny Cole

    i have a friend who says she gets termites in her plants,any way of getting rid of them or stopping them

  • KitKatBar

    My leaves are turning under! Not on all my starts are doing this, but a couple of them. Too much water? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6590ab5614dde62d5971fc6c25f432a7cd5053d8798230977b5f848e8d5fc7d1.jpg

  • Wade Olsen

    Don’t get into growing thinking it is a ticket to easy street. It is hard work, and is something that takes time to figure out. No one is going to care about your plants time or money invested as much as you. So it is important to plan your grow based on how much work you want to do. Small grow could be a part time job, but you start going big and next thing you know your crop is suffering because it is too much to keep up with. Especially for a newer grower that may not know how to solve a problem, or even figure out what is happening before it has already spun out of control.

  • E.L. Bl/Du

    I have found that organic fertilizers are the way to go. The chemical fertilizers may seem to absorb more because the numbers on the bottle are higher than Organic b/c it is NOT as available to the plant, contrary to the authors opinion from watching others grow. With chemicals, There is allot of fertilizer run off, into the ground water, and eventually into streams. The excess nitrogen and phosphorus leaves a HUGE footprint by sucking all the oxygen from the waterways causing toxic algae blooms, which is deadly to fish, wildlife and toxic to humans. I disagree with the author on this fact, I have been a master gardener (from the U of O) for 20 years, and this IS a WeLL KNOWN FACT about chemical fertilizers in the educated gardening world. Look what the commercial farms did in Florida last 4th July. Everything had to close (lakes, rivers, reservoirs) due to poor farming practices using chemical fertilizers on commercial farms. Businesses lost millions over some idiot who doesnt know any better. You can add additional nutrients to organic, (not chemical) like kelp, fish and seaweed, and micro nutrients, mychrozzae and worm castings that speed nutrient uptake. No need to destroy our planet to grow our lovely ladies. Yea, its cheaper, and all the big places are making this claim the author did to justify using chemical fertilizers that are bad for US and our PLANET. Plants do NOT uptake the chemical nutrients any faster than organic, FACT! they just used the wrong kind of organic fertilizer to make their determination. I have seen the damage chemical fertilizers do. Tried to upload a photo, but this site wont take it. Organic gardening is an art, and cheaper in the long run, you dont need to replace new soil every year. (outdoor) Our plants were 17 ft tall last year using Organic all the way. (got another pic of that too, but it wont take it) Best wishes to all you new growers. Just remember ONE thing. You are NEVER too smart to learn something new every year you grow. Keep an open mind, don;t get set in your ways. (Those ppl usually dont know what they’re doing anyway and will argue with you about it) lol

    • Tory Klementsen

      I used organic on my first grow and was very happy, even though I know I made a lot of mistakes and had lower yields than I hoped for. However knowing my grow was good for me and for the environment made me feel confident in medicating and in sharing with friends I care about. I still came out like a bandit, even if it was only a single grow, which it is not. I learned a lot and am doing a second grow right now and already have two plants (only two on this one, I over shot in the first and have decided to just do two on this one since I have a lot of pot for myself right now) doing twice as well on my second grow.

      I can tell you that my own pot is light years better than anything I was buying at the dispensaries. I was able to control the time I harvested to manage my own pain condition (chronic daily 24/7 migraines due to a brain hemorrhage almost six years ago…not nearly as much fun as you’d think). This stuff is the bomb. I also was smart and didn’t kill off my ladies so they are hanging in my greenhouse and will be clones on my next grow.

      Learning to grow is so gratifying and I am so very thankful for the state of Wa for making it legal because I was not a user previously and this is the ONLY thing that helps my pain (plus, it’s better than a stiff drink for unwinding at the end of the day, by far…and I don’t have to worry about my family history of severe alcoholism). I am also so VERY thankful to the people online who have helped with my grow and other people’s grows. I have been absorbing information like a sponge. I are a teechur, so it’s in my personal venue to do that.

      • E.L. Bl/Du

        Tory, I am your neighbor to the south, and when I was turned on to Age Old Organics and their advanced feeding sched, my yeilds tripled. I got 3-5 lb per plant lasat yr, and a little better this yr.. I’ve tried to send a photo of this years grow, but my photos must be too large b/c it wont let me. In Wa, you are going to have a smaller all round plant due to your shorter growing season. you can maximize your crop by getting your soil right too, which takes years of building. You will find each year gets a little better, as long as you don’t get too anxious and put them out too early and they go into bloom. (not enough light yet early in the season-sets them back a month) Sorry about your ailments, we all have them, but so glad you are finding relief. (me too) You’re lucky to have a greenhouse, esp with a sativa. Not sure how you’re gonna get clones from ones that are already hanging, but good luck with that too. You may want to try from seed, they do get larger, and a better root system for absorbing nutrients. Best of luck with this yrs harvest.. You will be so happy with the Age Old products, they back up their stuff too, so if theres ANY problem, they take care of it. He (Kyle from A O,) just put out a grow book geared for outdoor, and its WONDERFUL! Leafly will be carrying it soon, so look for it there, just came off the press and had to go back for spelling edits. I learned a LOT from that book. Not like others that are filled with indoor, not interested. Its called “Outdoor Performance Cannabis” by Dustin Fraser (with help from Kyle at A.O.) Ive been frowing for 17 yrs and learned things this book has to offer. its the best one I’ve seen, including Ed Rosenthal’s (Oaksterdam University) You will thank me for that later on (proly next grow) Good luck, teechur, absorb away like a sponge, this is GOOD info.

    • Darren Adell

      Hey, If you grew a 17′ Tall Plant ? I think I will take to heart what you have been saying. Thank you.

  • Gabapentin

    One common mistake is letting a magnesium deficiency take hold. Lower leaves till yellow and get a very rough feel to the touch. The leaves that have yellowed will not turn green, again, but they are viable. If you have a magnesium deficiency, a good way to deal with it is to dissolve about a half-cup of epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) in five gallons of water and just water it in. PH is a subject with a lot of misunderstanding, but when you’re dealing with magnesium deficiency, you want your water at exactly 6.8PH. I had to do this a couple days ago, and so far it looks like no more leaves are yellowing. My sister, the master gardener, said one application should be sufficient.

  • bobkat

    hey i overfeed my plant for first time.. how fast will damage my plant? tomorrow i will start flashing it.

  • Larry

    I would avoid city water that has been chlorinated.. good stream water or well water should be ok.

  • Dave

    What type of lights should I use to grow seedlings to 30 days?

    • Keisha Lutz

      Use T5 Grow lights

  • George Mazur

    Can anyone please help me to determine sex of a plant?