VEG Phase Instructions
The VEG phase of growing cannabis starts when you plant a seed or clone. VEG stands for vegetative. During VEG phase, plants grow roots, branches and leaves, but not flowers. In VEG phase, cannabis plants are kept under consistent 18/6 lighting or 24 hours of lighting. 18/6 means 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness. You should use a light timer with your LED light to maintain a consistent 18/6 light cycle. (Analog light timers are simple and easy to use compared to digital ones, but if digital ones don’t intimidate you, feel free to use them instead.)
All in all, the VEG phase of cannabis cultivation is all about watering, temperature and humidity control, pest control, and a few plant maintenance tasks like “topping” and “defoliating” and “debranching.” Simple enough. But if you’ve heard that growing cannabis is hard to do, then pay close attention below, because actually it is not!
Growing cannabis indoors at home doesn’t have to be complicated for beginners. It’s only complicated when beginners don’t prepare or over-prepare. If you don’t prepare, then the “guess and check” method will leave you stressed out and always wondering if you’re doing the right thing. Plus you’ll end up killing many plants and wasting lot of time and money to do so. On the other hand, if you read 25 articles and watch 25 videos and then attempt to integrate several cultivation styles and techniques from them into your first home grow system, odds are you wind up killing many plants and wasting a lot of time and money. Not to mention, many online cannabis cultivation articles, videos and tutorials imply cannabis cultivation is complex and tedious. Yet it just doesn’t have to be that way!
Fortunately for you, you’ve come to the right place for a simple, easy to follow system and instructions to grow cannabis indoors at home. You don’t need to grow cannabis for years and years until you can harvest high quality cannabis yourself. You don’t need a big grow room, and you don’t even need a green thumb. You just need a little bit of time each week to spend with your plants, good guidance from the start, and some good old fashion patience.
The VEG timeline growing with clones and seeds is slightly different.
It does take longer to grow cannabis from seed than from clone. So if you’re looking for a head start and need to harvest ASAP, then grow clones.
To follow the Green Carpet Growing indoor growing system, stay in VEG phase for about 30 days when growing from clone, or about 60 days when growing from seed.
VEG timeline growing from CLONE –
Day 1: Plant cannabis clone into solo-cup (or a 1 gallon pot).
Around Day 10: Transplant clone (if roots are established) into a 2 or 3 gallon pot.
Around Day 15: “Top” your cannabis plant (after it has at least 5 nodes of growth.)
Around Day 30: Transplant into 5 or 7 gallon pot (optional) and switch to FLOWER phase light cycle (12 hours on / 12 hours off).
VEG timeline growing from SEED –
Day 1: Plant seed in a 5 gallon pot (or 2, 3, 4, 5 or 7 gallon pot.)
Around Day 30 – 40: “Top” your cannabis plant when it has at least 5 nodes of growth. A node is where new growth emerges from the main stem.
Day 60 – 70: Switch to FLOWER phase light cycle (12 / 12)
How do you know when you’re done with VEG phase and you’re ready to “flip to FLOWER”?
Flipping to FLOWER phase depends on your personal goals. You can follow the above mentioned VEG timeline and accomplish a complete grow cycle (VEG, FLOWER, & HARVEST) from start to finish in about 3 to 4 months. However, you can also stay in VEG longer and grow your plants out bigger. Some of you will want to maximize the amount of cannabis you grow your first grow, so feel free to hop to it. Be careful though: plants can easily grow too tall up into the LED lights and get negatively impacted. Others will follow the Green Carpet Growing timeline and stick to a harvest every 3 to 4 months.
However, you may deviate from the timeline to grow bigger plants (to achieve bigger yields), but don’t grow them so tall that they grow right up into the LED light. There should be about 12″ to 24″ of space between your LED light and the tops of your plants, depending on the strength of the LED light you’re growing with. This recommend space will always be defined on the light’s user manual. What this really boils down to is how strong the lights are and how sensitive the strain you’re growing is. There are some LED lights that are strong enough to burn the plants leaves (and stress the plant out) if they get too close to the light, but some less powerful LED lights won’t burn the plants at all. Strong commercial grade LED lights are simply better for grow rooms, not grow tents. Commercial grade LED lights create a lot heat in grow tents that is very hard to manage, plus plants can get burned if they grow too tall and close to them. A burned plant in ultra hot temperatures in a grow tent is not going to be happy, it’s going to suffer and likely get stunted instead.
Here’s what to do growing cannabis indoors in VEG –
1. Water properly. Both underwatering and overwatering should be avoided.
2. Ensure temperature and humidity are in the acceptable range. In VEG, 50 – 60% RH is the target humidity and 70 – 80 F is the target temperature. Check your hygrometer frequently.
3. Ensure good airflow 24/7. As long as you have a fan exhausting air out of the grow tent OR a fan pushing air inside the grow tent, with an additional fan to gently circulate air inside the grow tent, you’re all set.
4. Apply a pest control spray (like Organocide) 1x a week. Apply more often when you have pests or diseases.
5. “Top” 1x and “defoliate + debranch” for plant maintenance and better yields and bigger harvests.
These are the six things to focus on in VEG phase. They’ll keep you on track towards frosty, fragrant cannabis flowers in your home grow.
TIP: The larger the pot, the larger the roots, and the larger the roots, the bigger the fruits! Make no mistake about it, bigger pots produce bigger plants and thus, bigger yields. Compare the stalk and branch thickness of plants grown in 2 gallon pots vs. 5 gallon pots, and you will see a noticeable difference. Thicker, stronger branches are able to produce thicker, stronger flowers.
1. Water properly. Both underwatering and overwatering are tempting, but must be avoided.
First things first, don’t water or spray the cannabis plant’s leaves directly. You simply water the soil, slowly, as needed. Also, don’t just stick your watering pitcher or watering apparatus into the grow tent and try to water your cannabis plants all willy nilly like that. Instead pull each individual plant out and bring it somewhere to water like a bath tub, shower, sink, or get a portable bucket or tub that can contain the run-off water. Excess water will seep out the sides and bottom of the pot, so showers, bath tubs, and sinks make excellent watering stations.
Watering time is also the time you should closely inspect your plant for bugs or diseases like powdery mildew. It only takes 30 seconds to look on top of and underneath the leaves.
Back to watering. Most tap water and bottled water should be OK. Give water that has a ph of 6 – 6.8 ph ideally.
You’ll have to test the water to know what the ph is. Use a ph test solution kit. Just fill the cylinder up halfway with water and then drop 3 drops of ph test solution, place the cover on, and then shake. After 3 seconds of shaking the cylinder, then you can evaluate the color of the liquid. “Yellow” or “Yellow with a hint of green” are the target colors you want to see because they represent 6 to 6.8. If the color is green or blue or aqua, the ph level is going to be too high and you’ll need to bring it down. Use the “ph” down product or unsulfured plant molasses to lower it. If you go too low by mistake, just pour some out and add water to balance it out.
Water too much, your plant drowns; Water too little, your plant starves. If you water too much, then the roots will get suffocated, fungus gnats will breed in the soil, and the leaves will “claw,” droop, turn yellow, and eventually the plant will stop growing all together. Overwatering causes stunted growth and it can kill your plants. Nursing a stunted plant back to health takes a long time. It’s usually faster to start over with a new clone or seedling when you’re simply trying to harvest as soon as possible.
Although overwatering is worse than and more common than underwatering, underwatering can also kill your plants if you don’t water them for weeks. Here’s the deal. If the soil is very dry, the pot is light, and the plant is wilting, then the problem is easily diagnoseable. Verdict: underwatered! However, just because you see a severely wilted plant from underwatering, don’t assume it is dead. Not so fast! Water it slowly and it give it a day or two to see if it comes back to life on you. Some will. A few won’t.
How much water (ph’d 6 – 6.8) should I give to my cannabis plants?
With a 1 gallon pot, it is common to give around 2 – 3 cups of water.
With a 5 gallon pot, it is common to give around 1/2 gallon to 3/4 gallon (8 cups to 12 cups) of water.
NOTE: It depends on how well the soil retains the water you give it. If most of the water gushes out the bottom or sides of the pot, then you will need to water more!
As plants get bigger, they do require more frequent watering.
When should a home grower water cannabis?
The best time to water cannabis plants is in their morning, just after their lights first go on. Do not water cannabis plants right before lights out / lights OFF.
The golden rule of watering cannabis plants in soil is to water when the soil is “almost dry.” “Almost dry” is in between “dry” and “moist.” You should use a soil moisture meter to help you make your determination. You just stick the meter in the soil and get an immediate reading. Some soil moisture meters might need to be replaced if they break or are misused, but most of the time you can count on them to work well. They do tend to get misplaced, but they are inexpensive. Get a few of them just in case you lose one, or you want to compare readings to validate the meter’s accuracy.
If you don’t use a soil moisture reader, then you’ll need to use your best judgement to determine when it is time to water or not. You’ll accomplish this by assessing the weight of the pot, the feeling of the soil on your hands, and the appearance of the plant’s leaves. Leaves wilting, coupled with dry soil in the pot, are a clear indication a plant needs to be watered right away. On the other hand, if the leaves are pointing up and perky, and the soil still feels moist on the sides and at the bottom of the pot, it is an indication the plant does not necessarily need to be watered right away. In a hard plastic pot, it is not really possible to feel the sides and the bottom of the pot, so felt pots are the ideal pot.
To assess the weight, pick the pot up to see if it feels heavy, light, or in between. A light pot is a solid indicator it’s time to water, especially if the leaves of the plant are starting to wilt. After you pick up freshly watered pots over time, you’ll get a strong sense of what is heavy and what is light. The weight of a wet pot is much heavier than an “almost dry” or “dry” pot. If you don’t have a soil moisture meter, make sure you slide your hands down the sides of the pot to feel if the soil is dry, almost dry, moist, or wet.
There is a myth that says if the first two inches of soil are dry, then it is time to water. That is bad advice to home growers everywhere. The problem with that strategy is you can have the first two inches of soil be dry, and the bottom 12″ + be wet or very moist. You can’t rely on the top two inches to tell you what’s going on in the root ball in the soil. That’s why soil moisture meters are excellent tools to use. Also, if the top two inches of soil are dry but the rest of the soil is very moist and the pot is heavy, you can simply “lightly mist” the the dry topsoil with water.
Hands down, the best way to make a quick accurate decision regarding when to water indoor cannabis plants in soil is with the aid of a soil moisture reader. It takes the guess work out!
How to water cannabis plants growing in soil:
Water gently and slowly. Don’t just dump a bucket of water in the pot and call it a wrap. An important consideration of proper watering is to water slowly. Not only should you water slowly and gently, you should first water slowly around the edge of the pot (while patting the sides of it with your hands if it’s a felt pot or soft plastic pot.) This helps the soil retain the water. After you’ve watered the edges of the pot, then you can slowly water the center area of the pot. Then you can pick up the pot and gently rotate and roll it side to side to encourage the water to flow throughout the soil.
2. Ensure temperature and humidity are in the acceptable range. Check the hygrometer often.
Check the grow tent hygrometer daily, especially at the hottest parts of the day. If the temperature is above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, then you should take swift action like open the grow tent doors, put the lights on their lowest setting, or turn on an air conditioner. You could also blow cool from the outside in, or you can exhaust air outside from the room your grow tent is in.
Although plants in VEG may grow well in humidity around 70%, when humidity is over 60%, plants have a much higher likelihood of getting powdery mildew. In VEG, keep humidity between 50 and 55% if you want to avoid powdery mildew. Keeping humidity between 50 – 55 % is going to be a challenge. To manage the humidity, you can exhaust air outside from the room your grow tent is in, or you can run a humidifier or dehumidifier inside your grow tent. Sometimes people need a bigger, stronger humidifier and dehumidifier, and set them up in the room their grow tent is in, not in the actual grow tent.
Any home grower with central AC is going to have the biggest advantage. If you have a portable AC or AC/dehumidifier combo, you’re also going to be able to manage temperature and humidity well enough for a grow tent. People without AC are going to have a harder time, but hopefully the tips above will keep them growing without interruption. The worst case scenario is that you might have to take the hottest summer months off from indoor growing if you’re living in a remarkably hot area.
3. Ensure good airflow. Utilize one fan to exhaust air and one fan to circulate air inside the grow tent.
This element of maintaining your home grow is on auto-pilot once you set your fans up. Just be sure that both fans stay on 24/7.
4. Do pest control sprays 1x a week. Apply more often if necessary.
By applying pest control sprays to your cannabis plants each week, you are preventing pest problems. Home growers should avoid pest problems because pest problems can literally ruin gardens in a matter of a week or two. An ounce of prevention is certainly worth a pound in cure in cannabis cultivation.
Sometimes you may get pests in your garden. You could get pest issues even though you’re applying pest control spray 1x a week. If you get some pests like aphids, spider mites, thrips, white flies or scale, or diseases like powdery mildew, botrytis, or blight, then you should adjust your pest control spray efforts from “prevention” to “killing.” Look at the label of the product you’re using to see if there are instructions for prevention vs. killing.
5. Do cannabis plant maintenance. “Top” each plant once and “defoliate” & “debranch” as needed.
In VEG, it is important to “top” your plant to encourage it to grow strong side branches. To “top” your plant means to remove the highest, uppermost node of growth from the plant. The top node can be cut off with your clean trim scissors or pinched off with your fingers. You also can top your plant by simply cutting the top 1″, 2″, or 3″ (or more) of the plant right from the stalk. As a general rule, “top” after there are at least 4 established node of growth. After you make your cut, just discard the lopped off plant material.
When you “top” your plant however, then your cannabis plant will explode with growth! It might feel counterproductive to be cutting the top growth off, but it’s crucial to do it. If you’re growing from CLONE, topping is always necessary. If you’re growing from seed, it is not always necessary when the side branches are growing long and strong, not short and stubby.
While it is possible that you can continue to “top” the plant, it isn’t recommended if you want to stay on the quick Green Carpet Growing timeline. The plants do need time to recuperate from being topped although different strains will have different growth patterns.
After you “top” your plant the first time, you can watch the plant grow into a much wider, bushier plant. The newly formed growth will eventually become strong, thick, tall branches that can hold a tremendous amount of flower growth. That’s what we want!
Now that you know the term “top” as a verb, it’s time to introduce the phrase “tops” as a noun. Now that your plant has been topped, it will create many “tops.” The “tops” of your plant are the areas of plant growth where flowers will be blooming in the future.
In VEG, you can “defoliate” your plant a little bit. For all intents and purposes in VEG, you should remove LEAVES that are blocking new nodes of growth, as well as leaves that are dead or dying (or that have pests or powdery mildew, etc.) You’ll also cut off branches that are at the bottom of the plant. Branches at the bottom of the plant are not desirable since their flowers won’t develop well due to the lack of light reaching it. Your trim scissors or harvest clippers can be used to remove the branches depending on how thick the branch is. This practice of removing branches from the bottom of the plant is also known as “lollipopping.” It is specifically for indoor growing where lights are hung overhead. Outdoor growers, because the sun rotates and hits the plant at all angles, don’t remove the lower branches. But indoors under lights, branches down below don’t get enough light and wind up producing small, airy, fluffy flowers which growers refer to as “larf,” “popcorn buds” or “undergrowth.” Furthermore, the energy that would have been spent on those branches can now be redirected to the top canopy, the tops of the plants, of growth where the light penetrates.
If you choose not to remove any leaves or branches, your plants will still produce, so technically you can skip defoliating and debranching. However, if you want to maximize your yields, it is recommended to defoliate and debranch as explained.
6. Transplant your clones from a solo-cup to a 2 or 3 gallon pot, and optionally to a 5 or 7 gallon pot right before you flip to FLOWER phase.
The same technique used to plant your clone is used in further transplanting. Get the soil completely wet with no dry spots, then place the plant in, cover it and fill it in with soil and water slowly. Before you place the plant in, if they are all circled up at the bottom of the soil mass instead of dangling, you can gently tease the roots loose with your finger tips.
If the plant being transplanted was “almost dry,” then be sure to water it very well for the transplant. If it was quite moist, only water it a little amount for the transplant. After watering, put the plants up on plant risers so they can drain easily.
Around Day 30 in FLOWER, right before you switch the light cycle to 12 / 12 to flip to FLOWER phase, you can transplant to a larger pot like a 5 gallon or 7 gallon pot.
I’ve transplanted cannabis plants at all times of the day for many years without any negative results, so I wouldn’t worry about the time of day you transplant. As long as you transplant into soil that has been watered well, cannabis plants at this age are not prone to transplant shock.
VEG phase FAQ
How do you know if cannabis plants are happy and healthy in VEG?
Nothing shows that cannabis plants are happy and healthy in VEG, more than their leaves displaying vibrant green colors and praying (pointing) up to the light. On the other hand, if you see leaves wilting daily, yellow and brown leaves, leaves that are twisting or deformed or being eaten, then something is wrong. Periodic wilting is to be expected. Plants start to wilt before their dark period (6 hrs darkness on the 18/6 light cycle) for example. Also if they’ve wilted because they are thirsty and then get watered, they’ll perk right up within a couple hours. However, when cannabis plants wilt from being overwatered and then get watered again, they wilt even more. Eventually these wilting leaves will turn light green then yellow. If cannabis is overwatered, then it becomes unable to absorb nutrients. For this reason, “nutrient deficiencies” can appear on the leaves.
Overwatering is to be avoided. That’s why it is important to always use plant risers so the bottoms of your pots get as much airflow as possible, and so if you overwater, the pots can continue to drain and not sit in a pool of water. A soil moisture meter will also help you determine when to water which helps you not overwater your cannabis. If you have overwatered for a couple weeks straight, stop watering. But it is likely your cannabis plant will be stunted and take a very long time to recuperate back to vigorous growth. If you have overwatered for a week or less, you can more easily rescue them by STOPPING ALL WATERING, and then resuming proper watering practices after the soil dries out. In most cases of overwatering, it is better to throw the plant out and start over with a fresh new clone or seedling. That’s because once stunted growth kicks in and the plants are showing signs of nutrient deficiencies, it takes 2 – 4 weeks if you’re lucky, to rescue it and nurse it back to good health.
What is the best way to yield more cannabis?
One of the best ways to yield more cannabis is to set up two grow tents. Ideally the tents are next to each other, but they don’t have to be. While one tent is VEG phase (18 / 6) , your other tent is in FLOWER phase (12 / 12). So as soon as you harvest from your FLOWER phase tent, you can immediately flip your VEG phase tent to FLOWER phase, and begin a new VEG phase crop too. Two tents will greatly improve your yields!
Marc Eden’s DIY Cannabis Cultivation Book For Beginners
Published by Green Carpet Growing, Inc.
San Diego, CA 92103
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