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"How to Grow",  Cannabis

How To Grow Cannabis, Organically: Soil, Seeds, Containers & Care

The topic of “how to grow cannabis” has such a funny vibe about it. If you browse around online, you’ll see there are many cannabis growers with extremely strong opinions about “the right way” to grow cannabis, though all of their methods vary… Esoteric language, expensive supplies, and complicated recipes or instructions are often used, making it a very intimidating and confusing subject for new home growers.

I am here to hopefully take some of the mystery out of it for you! The methods we choose to use for growing cannabis here at home are pretty dang simple! Sure, there are some steps to follow and supplies to gather, but growing cannabis is not all that more complicated than growing high-quality organic food at home. Or at least that is how we approach it. All you need is rich healthy soil, a large container, and either cannabis seeds or started seedlings – called “clones”.

Read along to learn about our preferences for soil, containers, seeds, and how to get started growing cannabis at home, organically!

Keep in mind that our goals are not all about high yields. The goal is to grow safe, high-quality, organic cannabis that we can utilize and enjoy with peace of mind – knowing how it was treated from “bean to bowl”. It is about quality over quantity, though we end up with more than enough anyways! There are follow-up posts listed at the end of this article regarding ongoing care – such as routine fertilizing, organic pest control, and how to harvest, dry, and cure your cannabis too.

A giant top of a cannabis plant, also called the COLA. It is in full bud, and a hand is behind it, showing just how large it is. There are resinous sticky crystals and brown-red hairs.


This post is intended for people living in states who are legally allowed to grow cannabis at home, either medicinally or recreationally. If you have any questions about this, please refer to your local cannabis regulations. You may also enjoy reading my post, “Introductory Words on Cannabis: Legality, Uses, Stigma & Quality Control”.  Today’s post is also geared around growing cannabis naturally outdoors, as I will not touch on light deprivation or indoor grow set-ups.

Let’s dig in.


If you checked out our post about how to build the perfect organic soil for raised beds, our methods for building the perfect cannabis soil isn’t all that different.  We’re shooting for something that is rich, biologically active, full of micronutrients, and has an excellent balance between moisture retention and drainage. Reference that raised bed soil post if you want to dive deep into detail, but otherwise here is a quick-and-dirty for cannabis soil:

I’m going to give you all two options below. One is a little more involved, which is crafting your own soil from scratch. This is what we do. The second option uses pre-made soil, and requires less ingredients and steps upfront.

Either way you choose to go, please note that we follow a no-till method. That means the soil is a one-time upfront cost, aside from some amendments you’ll need on an ongoing basis. Those last a long time before needing replenishing too! At the end of a growing season, the mature cannabis plant is cut down at the soil line, and the roots left in place to decompose over the winter with the aid of worms and light moisture. The soil is used year after year in the same container, improving with age. This is also called ROLSrecycled organic living soil.

Two large 25-gallon fabric bags full of soil are sitting inside a plastic shed.
Here are two of our 25-gallon cannabis grow bags, full of recycled organic living soil. These are kept in a shed over winter (and some outside too), and kept alive with an occasional light watering. The soil is reused the following season.

Option 1: Our Organic Cannabis Soil Recipe

Combine the following ingredients. If you plan to fill several large containers (like grow bags – discussed below) then it may be easiest to mix all of these in a very large tote or even spread out on a tarp, and then add some to each bag. Note that it is best to pre-moisten the peat moss before mixing it with everything else. Peat tends to be hydrophobic when dry, and can make your soil less likely to absorb water well if it is mixed without wetting first.

Soil Base:

  • 1 part Canadian sphagnum peat moss (We often use Aurora Innovations or Premier.)
  • 1 part high quality compost  (We love Malibu’s Biodynamic Compost, but it’s only available on the West Coast. There is a similar East Coast option by Coast of Maine. You could use aged homemade compost, or shop around to see what is available. Maybe there is a local worm farm in your area?)
  • 1 part aeration additive (We prefer 3/8-inch Lava rock, aka lava cinders. You could use pumice or perlite instead.)

Evenly mix in the following amendments:

*In the recipe above, when I mention the amendment amounts “per cubic foot of soil”, I mean the total combined volume including peat moss, compost, and aeration. Also note that all of these amendments are things we also use in the garden, and last many seasons!

Curious about what all these things are for?

Kelp meal contains over 70 different vitamins and minerals. It helps promote overall plant health, vigor, and tolerance to stress, pests ,and disease. It is also a renewable, sustainable resource – so that’s a huge plus.

Neem meal enhances microbial activity, making your soil even more alive! It also strengthens root systems, and can help control unwanted nematode populations, fungus, and soil pathogens.

Crab or Crustacean meal is high in chitin, which stimulates the soil food web and beneficial microbe activity. It may also help combat root knot nematodes. This meal contains both macro and micronutrients as fuel for the plants.

Rock Dust contains micronutrients and trace minerals that are essential for a plant’s core biological processes to work at their strongest, such as nutrient uptake and photosynthesis.

Gypsum contains calcium and sulfur, and helps the plant better utilize and uptake potassium, which is one of the key macronutrients that all plants depend on for life. In the “NPK” ratio for all fertilizers, the K stands for potassium. Adequate potassium availability and uptake enables plants to photosynthesize, produce energy and important enzymes during growth, and also assists with water uptake and drought resistance.

Oyster shell flour is an excellent source of calcium for the plants, as well as phosphorus. Adequate calcium carbonate protects plants from heat stress, makes them more resistant to disease and pests, strengthens plant cell walls, and increases nutrient uptake and overall vigor. Oyster shell flour also acts as a pH buffer.

Here is a little video of our organic living soil in action:

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Now that is organic LIVING soil! 🙌🏼🌿❤🐛 This one is for all the fellow soil and worm nerds out there ✌🏼🤓 . Curious about what you're seeing? Here's an excerpt from a past #deannascanna post ~ "Here's the skinny on soil: We make our own using 1/3 high quality compost (our vermicompost and some Bu's @malibucompost), 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 aeration additive like pumice or 3/8" volcanic rock. The soil is amended with: neem, crustacean, and kelp meals (all at about 1/2 cup per cubic ft of soil), gypsum and oyster shell flour (1 cup per cubic ft), basalt rock dust (2 cups per cubic ft), and biochar, about 5-10% of the total volume of soil. Aaron made and mixed the original soil in a huge pile on a tarp to fill the grow bags. After the season, we recycle and store the organic living soil either in the grow bags themselves (no till practice) or empty the smaller grow bags into a large tote to keep alive and moist over winter. The soil is writhing with worms who continually aerate, fertilize, and improve the soil. . We use smaller 5-7 gallon grow bags for the autoflower plants (separate post on autos later) and 25 gal bags for the big girls. They're top-dressed with a couple inches of vermicompost, and mulched with barley straw, yarrow, borage, and comfrey from the garden." . They're top-dressed malted barley powder once a week (which the worms love!) and watered with neem meal and kelp meal teas w/ aloe vera. Separate detailed post about feeding specifics under #deannascanna too . For info on our compost systems, including vermicompost, check out #deannacompost 💩🤘🏼

A post shared by Deanna ~ Homestead and Chill © (@deannacat3) on

A note about peat moss:

Peat moss gets some flack for being not very sustainable. However, it also gets some of the best reviews and results for growing cannabis. Cannabis likes very slightly acidic soil, which peat moss naturally is. It is also an incredibly common ingredient in almost all bagged soil, so it’s hard to avoid in the gardening world. Aaron put together our soil before we were fully aware of the environmental concerns. Because we are reusing and recycling it each year, the best thing for us is to continue utilizing it!

Some people who grow cannabis choose to replace the peat moss portion of this recipe with coco coir, which is a more renewable, sustainable material. I can’t speak to its effectiveness because we haven’t used it for cannabis, though we do add a little coco coir to our raised beds sometimes, and also use it as bedding in our worm bin. Honestly, we have heard not-so-great results and read numerous studies that show coco coir has inferior performance to peat moss.

Option 2: Use Pre-amended Bagged Soil

If mixing up all those amendments sounds a little too “extra” for you, you could do the following instead:

Use mostly pre-made, high-quality, bagged organic soil. If you have access to it, try to add in a little rich aged compost, worms, worm castings, and/or aeration too! Experiment with building your own soil, with a premade base. Check out this post on how to start a super simple worm bin, if you’re in need of worm castings! They can also be purchased.

For this method, you could skip a lot of the additional amendments upfront, though you’ll still want to add some as the growing season progresses. Cannabis is a hungry plant! The choices and availability of bagged organic soil options will vary depending on where you live. If you can, get top-of-the-line stuff – it is going to be more pre-amended for you.

Examples of popular cannabis soil brands to keep an eye out for are Roots Organics products, Fox Farm’s Ocean Forest/Happy Frog, or Recipe 420 by E.B. Stone. Even some of the Kellogg or G&B Organics could work well, especially when premium compost is added. Check to see if there are any hydroponic stores or “grow shops” in your area. Those stores cater to cannabis growers, and are more likely to carry premium bagged soils over the stuff at big box nursery centers.

Now that you have a soil choice in mind, what are you going to put it in?


We prefer to grow our cannabis in grow bags, and I’ll explain why below. If you want to stick your plants in garden beds or right in the ground, be my guest! This is just what works for us. Check out how to build a durable and deep raised garden bed here.

Benefits of Grow Bags

The preferred container for growing cannabis for many people, ourselves included, is in large fabric grow bags. As opposed to a hard-sided container, they promote better aeration, drainage, and even moisture. Solid containers like 5-gallon buckets could be used, but have the tendency to be drier on top and soggy on the bottom. Grow bags also accomplish something called air-pruning. When the cannabis plant’s roots near the edge of the bag, the exposure to air naturally prunes them back. This is a way to keep the plant happy and healthy in its given container, naturally limiting itself and keeping the roots healthier. In contrast, a solid container allows the plants roots to continue to grow in circles around the container and themselves – becoming root bound. This is not a good thing.

Grow bags are great because they allow people to grow cannabis in a variety of living situations, be it on a patio, indoors, or in a greenhouse. By using a container, you have ultimate control over the soil you choose to fill it with.

Additionally, you can make them mobile!  We make rolling dollies to sit all of our cannabis grow bags on, out of 2×6’s and heavy-duty casters. See the photos below. That way, we can easily roll or rotate the large (and heavy!) plants out of our way or into better sun as needed. If you do the same, make sure you get casters that are rated for at least 50 to 80 pounds of weight per wheel, minimum. Ours are 2″ and okay for the flat patio, but 3-inch wheels probably would have made it even easier to move.

Three images in one. One shows a homemade wood dolly - a square set of boards with two inch casters  or wheels attached to the bottom. Then it shows a large black plant saucer that sits on top of it, from several angles. The grow bag sits on top of all of it.
Our DIY dollies with casters. Three redwood 2×6 boards are held together by a supporting 2×4″ in the opposite direction, screwed into each board. To catch runoff, we use large plant saucers. This one is 25-inches (top rim to rim) and can hold the 25-gallon grow bags that are 21″ at the bottom. Lava rock is sitting in the bottom of the saucer to keep the grow bag from sitting in standing water.

Grow Bag Brands and Sizes

The bags we prefer to use are the Smart Pot brand, or GeoPot. These are extremely durable and long-lasting. You get what you pay for.  We have used cheaper grow bags in the past and they rip and degrade within a season or two of use. Smart Pots will last for years and years. We have bags that are three years old and still as good as new. Call me silly, but I also love being able to choose tan or brown colored bags. I like a pretty garden space and prefer the look of those to the stark black choices.

The size of your grow bag will dictate the size of your cannabis plant, and its health. Obviously, the size of your space will determine how big of bags you can use too. The smallest I would suggest for a traditional photoperiod plant is about 15 gallons. We generally use 20-gallon or 25-gallon bags for those big girls.

If you have a lot of room and want really large plants, you could go even larger!  On the other hand, if you are growing autoflower cannabis plants, a 5-gallon or 7-gallon bag would work just fine. Not sure what the difference between a photoperiod and autoflower cannabis plant is? Check out this post that explains it all!

Okay, we have our soil and our bags… now on to the most important part of this post: the cannabis itself.

Aaron sits at the back patio table with a beer. Many plants are around the patio, including three large cannabis plants. They're all on wood dollies and moved aside while we're enjoying the patio.
See how big they can get? Those are our Maui Wowie girls. Also note the DIY dolly below the grow bags. We can easily roll them aside when we want to enjoy our patio space, and put them more in the middle when we’re not outside.


Where to get cannabis seeds or clones

I have to start this section with a disclaimer. Cannabis is still federally illegal. Therefore, even if you live in a state that has legalized marijuana, shipping cannabis seeds and products across state lines is technically still illegal. But it is commonly done nonetheless. To my knowledge, people buy cannabis seeds online fairly easily and without issues. However, if cannabis is legal in your state, the most safe and “by the book” way to procure seed or started plants (clones) is from a licensed cannabis store.

Here are a few reputable places that discreetly sell cannabis seeds online:

*Again, for the record, I am not intending to support illegal activity. I am simply sharing information.

What kind of variety or type of cannabis should I get?  

Cannabis comes in many shapes and sizes! Obtaining feminized seeds or plants guarantees that they will flower. Aka – they’ll grow buds. “Regular” seeds could grow up to be males. They’re pretty useless unless you want to breed plants – the males will pollinate your females, make them produce seeds in the buds, and reduce their THC development. Most people cull the males before they produce pollen to avoid this. We grow with feminized and sometimes regular seeds too. If you do grow regular seeds, see this article to learn how to determine the sex of your cannabis plants in the early pre-flower stages.

Sativa-dominant plants are typically more uplifting and energizing. Sativa plants also get taller, lankier, and take longer from seed to harvest. Indica-dominant strains finish a little faster, pack on fatter buds, and are generally shorter and wider plants. These make them a preferable variety for northern climates with shorter growing seasons. Indica is also known for more of a mellow, sleepy, couch-lock kind of vibe. We generally prefer uplifting, happy, energetic sativa-dominant hybrids – ones that are balanced with enough indica to keep things smooth, relaxing, and still make for a great night of sleep. “Maui Wowie” is a long-standing favorite here, and “Rosetta Stone” is our new go-to lately.

For a super-quick growing season and small, manageable plants, you could try autoflower cannabis types. Autoflowers are available in feminized, sativa, and indica options too.

Beyond all of these broad categories, each strain will also have unique attributes that may make it more or less desirable to you. Find what suits your needs! What works for us may not be what works for you. To read all about the difference between sativa, indica, and autoflowers, check out this post.

A short bushy autoflower cannabis plant, just starting to produce buds. It is inside a greenhouse with other small plants around it. Only a couple feet tall.
Autoflower cannabis plants in the greenhouse, in smaller 5 gallon smart pots. They take up far less space, and time!



In most places, cannabis seeds are started in mid to late April, and transplanted outside in May. Basically, they need to be protected from frost and harsh conditions – just as any other seedling does! Depending on the strains you are growing and your summer daylight hours, the average cannabis plants will go into flower once the days begin to shorten and it receives less than 12 hours of sunlight per day.

Most outdoor cannabis plants will be ready to harvest in September to October. The exception to this would be for autoflowers, which can start and finish their entire life cycle in as short as 3 months.

Starting cannabis from seed

We prefer to grow from seed. Once we obtain seeds, we treat them pretty much like any other garden seed!  They’re germinated in 4” pots full of seedling start mix, inside on a heat mat. Keep the containers covered and moist until they sprout. Ideal germination temperature is around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. After sprouting indoors, the cannabis seedlings move into the greenhouse to live under grow lights for a few weeks before going outside.

To read more in-depth information about how we start seeds, check out our seed starting 101 post!

Four small cannabis seedlings are in 4" round pots, in a greenhouse among many other pepper and eggplants. There is a grow light above them.
Cannabis seedlings in our greenhouse, being treated just like the peppers, eggplants, and other garden plants!

Note that you do not need a greenhouse or fancy supplies to start cannabis! If you don’t have a heat mat, I suggest pre-soaking the seeds in non-chlorinated water overnight before planting. This will aid in germination. In lieu of seedling start mix and little pots, another option is to germinate the seed inside a moist root riot cube, then plant the whole cube in a grow bag after it sprouts. By starting them in late April to early May, most locations will be adequately warm enough to go right outside after germination.

Once they’re a few weeks old and the weather is right, we transplant our seedlings outside to their final large grow bag. When they are transplanted, we sprinkle some mycorrhizae in the planting hole and on any exposed roots. Mycorrhizae enhances nutrient uptake, and disease and drought resistance. If you did have your seedlings indoors under lights for a few weeks, don’t forget to properly harden them off before moving them outside! This helps to strengthen them and prevent transplant shock.

If you are growing from clones instead, you can skip straight to potting them into grow bags outside.

Two large fabric grow bags on a patio garden, with small cannabis plants inside. There are raised beds in the background. There are flowers, colorful swiss chard, and mustard greens.
Some young cannabis plants, recently transplanted into their final large grow bags. The small support stakes will be replaced with larger ones as they grow.

Sun and Support

Full sun is best! If you have a wide open location that receives full sun all summer and into fall, you’re in luck. We have changing sun patterns, with some shade from our house and trees to contend with. That is the beauty of putting the grow bags on dollies – we can move them around to receive the most sun possible as the seasons change.

Provide support for the main stalk with a sturdy stake. As the plant gets larger and starts to put on bud weight, you may find the need to further support individual branches. This will depend on the strain. Some growers get crazy with their support systems!


In regards to water, the goal is to provide consistent, even moisture. Do not let the soil completely dry out between watering, but don’t drown it out either. As with many things, this will vary a lot depending on your climate. If you’re in a very hot and arid place, you will need to water more frequently than someone in a cooler coastal climate like ourselves.

As the plant grows and the root ball gets larger, it will drink water faster and therefore need more, and more often. I will write a follow up post about watering and fertilizing (which often go hand-in-hand) throughout the growing season soon.

If possible, use dechlorinated water. It isn’t a deal-breaker, but the plant and soil microbes will definitely appreciate it. If you are on city tap water, allowing a bucket of water to sit out overnight can help the chlorine dissipate. We mostly use our captured rainwater. Another option is to use a simple hose carbon filter to remove chlorine.


Mulch the top of your grow bag to maintain a healthy soil. We love using biodynamic accumulators that not only provide moisture retention, but will later break down into more nutrients and energy for the cannabis. Some examples of biodynamic accumulators are borage, comfrey, yarrow, and dandelion greens. Fava bean greens are also excellent for green mulching, since they’re nitrogen fixers! If you don’t have access to these types of plants, straw or hay will work.

A close up of a cannabis plant leaf, with the container of soil and mulch in the background. The mulch is very colorful, with yarrow, comfrey, borage, lavender, dandelion greens, and straw.
I don’t know about you… but to me, that mulch is looking super sexy! Yarrow, comfrey, borage, lavender, dandelion greens, and straw.

Another popular mulch option is to use an organic cover crop seed mix, and lightly working it into the top inch of soil when you first plant your cannabis seedling. As it gets watered, cover crop will grow under the canopy of your plant. It becomes a living mulch, and also enhances your living soil food web. As it grows tall, you can “chop and drop” mulch with it. That is when you trim it and leave it in place to decompose as green mulch.

And just like that, you’ve given your cannabis a stellar start! You’ll be enjoying your own homegrown organic bud in no time.

Once you have your cannabis off to a strong start, come learn about the ways we fertilize our plants! Also, how to keep the pests at bay:

Last by not least, when the time comes, here an article all about processing your cannabis: “How to Harvest, Dry, Trim, Cure, & Store Homegrown Cannabis: The Ultimate Guide”. When IS the time right to harvest? You’ll learn that here too. This guide is basically everything you need to know, from the best timing, temperature, humidity, methods, and more!

Once you have your homegrown goodies properly dried and cured, it is all ready to use: whether you like to smoke or vaporize your cannabis (read this important article on the subject!), make cannabis-infused oil for edibles, or create healing topical salves. The options are endless!

I hope this all took some of the mystery out of growing cannabis for you. Please feel free to ask questions and pass this post along. To the left, of course. Wishing you the bet of luck with your growing adventure!

DeannaCats signature, keep on growing


  • Kimberly

    I wasn’t able to get rock dust, because it was on back order. So I went ahead and mixed the soil without it. Do you think I can add it now? My plants have been growing for over a month. Is there a product that can be top dressed or watered in? Do you have a preference over powdered or granulated azomite?
    I am growing in a greenhouse. Do you think the 100 gallon bags will overwinter okay? I live in the north and temperatures drop well below freezing during the winter months.
    For the next growing season, how do you know what inputs are needed. Do you have your soil analyzed?
    Thank you!

    • DeannaCat

      You could always top dress the plants with the rock dust and slowly water it in, some may leach down into the soil below. However, I would just wait until the end of the season and work it into the soil before your first frost. We use basalt rock dust and don’t have much experience with Azomite so I won’t be much help for you there.

      When it comes to overwintering your soil, it should be fine, even in extreme cold. I would try and accumulate a bit of plant material such as hay, fava bean plants, comfrey, or borage and top dress a large amount over the tops of your pots to help insulate your soil. Some people even place hay bales in and around their pots for insulation.

      In regards to soil testing, it could be useful but we never do it. We usually just top dress the amendments that we used to make the soil a month or two before we plant into the containers. Usually about 1/4 cup of each amendment for 25 gallon pots, hope that helps!

  • John M

    Hi, thanks for the great guide. Inspired me to start a garden like yours. I have some questions specific to Cannabis:

    1) when storing the soil for the winter, how often/how much do you water it, and do you have to mulch it or just water? also, we get frost in winter where I come from, will it still be ok stored in a shed?

    2) do you put holes in the saucer or does the lava rock absorb the water

    3) do you recommend against putting the seed directly in the soil, sticking the pot outside (maybe with a humidity dome?) and germinating that way? I am not sure I can use grow lights with my current housing situation so am looking for best way to germinate.

    4) I saw you mention a cannabis watering guide, is that around somewhere? 🙂

    5) I know I should top-dress once a month, but how often should I add more mulch? just when it is gone?

    6) When it comes to water… our tap water is pH 8. Should I just use that and not worry about adjusting it? Or maybe I could buy some de-chlorinated water in bulk.

    Thank you for any help!

    • DeannaCat

      Hey there! Thanks for reading, and I’m happy you’ve jumped in to grow along! 1) We only water the soil in the winter if it becomes exceedingly dry. Aaron checks on it maybe once a month, but it usually stays pretty moist on it’s own – especially being tucked in a cool shed away from light and open air. You don’t want it to totally dry out since it has living organisms, though you wouldn’t want it soggy and gross either. If you get a bit of frost I’m sure it will be fine if it is protected. 2) No holes in the saucers. We set it up that way because I didn’t want watering running all over the patio all summer… He is careful slowly and carefully water just to the point it begins to drip, so it doesn’t have a huge amount pouring out. The lava rock absorbs and also prevents the grow bags from sitting in standing water. It will usually drink up the excess from the rock on hot days too. 3) If it is quite warm where you live, you could direct sow your seeds outside, though they’ll germinate much better and faster with constant warmth. We pop the seeds indoors in 4″ pots on a heat mat with a humidity dome, but then move them into the greenhouse as soon as they germinate (or you could move them outside then, if there is no risk of frost). No light needed for germination. Just warmth and moisture. 4) I’m not sure about the mention of cannabis watering guide. We don’t have one. It will vary with climate, size of plant, container, etc – but the overall goal is consistently moist soil, not soggy. 5) Aaron adds more mulch if the mulch compacts/decomposes and there is space in the bag. He slowly adds stuff, mostly because we have a constant supply of random trimmings around the garden, but you don’t HAVE to continually add it once you have a good initial layer developed. 6) We avoid using tap water for our cannabis, and rely on stored rainwater – mostly for the concern of chloramine/chlorine. We are less so concerned about pH, though it is something to consider. Some growers are very into pH adjustments and we’ve never fussed with it. Our soil recipe uses peat moss, which is slightly acidic to start with, so that it in your favor. If you are willing to buy other lower Ph/de-chlor water in bulk, your plants may appreciate it. I hope that helps!

      • John M

        That more than helps. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to me in such detail. Gives me a lot of confidence for my first grow and answers a lot I had running around in my mind. I’ve never done any gardening and I am starting with Cannabis and trying to do it as natural as possible, so your page has been an amazing resource. As far as watering guide… I mean this quote here “I will write a follow up post about watering and fertilizing (which often go hand-in-hand) throughout the growing season soon.” – but I think that is the “how to feed cannabis organically” guide that I just found and am about to read through 🙂 Thank you once more so much for taking the time, I know you must get a lot of questions and I appreciate your help.

      • John M

        One follow up curiosity… I am almost done writing up my plan and ‘to buy’ list, just a little stuck when it comes to the soil. I’m buying pre-made because that’s far easier in my situation, and I found only two options where I live, with the following ingredients:

        Option 1) sphagnum peat moss, organic compost, worm castings, kelp, neem, gypsum, biochar, malted barley grain, basalt dust, scoria, basalt dust, Glencoe soft ag lime, fish meal, colloidal soft rock phosphate

        Option 2) sphagnum peat moss, organic compost, worm castings, kelp, neem, gypsum, biochar, malted barley grain, basalt dust, oyster shell flour, bokashi, alfalfa meal, palagonite, langbeinite, diatomaceous earth, rice hulls, pumice, zeolite

        Would you consider one of those better than the other? OR are they both close enough to not really matter.

        They both seem relatively the same, but I noticed both have malted barley included. I had in my plan to top dress with malted barley every week or two, should I still do that? Or does the inclusion in the soil eliminate the need to top dress with it.

        And one final thing. I am trying to do this as naturally as possible. When it comes to mulch, if I use a cover crop seed mix, is that all I have to do? Just plant that at the beginning and chop it whenever it gets tall? I don’t need to put ‘extra’ mulch? I imagine it is one or the other.

        Sorry for being a gardening newbie. I greatly appreciate your wisdom 🙂

        Also is there somewhere I can donate to you guys!?

      • John M

        on that last part, ignore, I’m dumb… I kept clicking on ‘about’ and it wasn’t working… until my slow self thought to hover on it

      • Gia

        Hi Deanna!! I am a big fan of your page an am so inspired by you and your garden! It is beautiful! I have started my own garden. My boyfriend built me a raised bed because we live with a concrete yard, I am growing several types of tomatoes and squash. And have successfully grown a few cannabis seeds and clones. I just started a new batch of cannabis seeds using your recommendations. And I’ve already run into some trouble. My seedlings are very leggy. And three of the six appear to wither over. I’m worried about the others. Is there anyway to save them from the same fate? 😩 I wish you gave classes!!!

        Thank you so much for your guidance!! 🌱💖

        • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

          Hello Gia, congratulations on starting a garden! As far as your seedlings are concerned, are they started indoors or outdoors? The seedlings are leggy because they are not getting enough light. If they are indoors, you should mover your light closer to the seedlings. Also, if your seedlings have withered at the stem and toppled over, that is called “damping off”. They are likely being overwatered, seedlings don’t have a lot of root mass so they do not need much water at this stage, they need more oxygen so keep them on the dry side. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Chris

    Hi Deanna – Great post as always. I grew plants in soil last year in the garden and it worked really well. This year I’m going to try the smart pots and cannabis mix you suggested for me and some friends. My question relates to potting up to the 25 gallon bags. I’m going from hydro clones in root cubes to 4inch pots first. Is the next transition to the 25 gallon grow bags? I’m worried that I should pot up in between. I will be hardening off of course. Thanks!!!!

    • DeannaCat

      Hey Chris! Great question, and thanks for the feedback! We usually pot up to 8″ pots from the 4″, let them fill out, harden off (and sex them, if needed – new article coming on that this week), and then put the keepers/females into the 25 gallon bags a couple weeks later. I hope that helps!

      • Chris Dardarian

        Hi – As a follow up to my first question, would it make sense to use the cannabis mix when I go from the 4″ to the 8″ pot or should I use a more simple planting mix at this stage? Also is it a good idea to bury some of the stem like you would for a tomato plant to encourage roots to grow from the hurried stem? Thanks!!!

        • DeannaCat

          Hi Chris, when we pot up from 4″ to 8″, we put them in some of the more advanced cannabis mix/soil at that stage. I would wait to bury the stem until you move it into the final pot. You could do it earlier, but you’d want to ensure the stem is nice and firm/hardened off and don’t bury it too deep. Aaron doesn’t like the lower leaves being right against the soil since (like when its really buried) as it makes it more difficult to water around them – especially in a smaller pot. Good luck!

      • Audrey

        Hi there! A friend recommended your i.g. to me and then I found your blog and binge read everything lol. Your garden is beautiful and I am so glad you share your knowledge! I live in northern CA and you’ve inspired me to grow our own bud. I will be starting with CBD plants (only .3 thc). I imagine those would grow the same as your plants in this article? I am very excited to go from “seed to bowl” knowing there is nothing in my plants that I don’t put there myself! Thank you for everything!

        • DeannaCat

          Hi Audrey. We have never grown true “hemp” before, but yes from what I understand you’d treat it very much like any other cannabis plant. Best of luck, and enjoy the process!

          • Ryan

            Do you have any recommendations for lowering soil pH? My pH is at 7.4. I followed your soil recipe, but the compost I used has a pH of 8.5. The girls are looking deficient. The water I am using has a pH of 7.8, so I am now acidifying the water. Thank you!

          • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

            Hey Ryan, most plants grow best with a soil pH of 6 to 7.5 which seems to be the range you are in. You could acidify your soil even more by adding more sphagnum peat moss. We don’t keep track of our pH much at all, we usually just keep a diverse mulch layer, amend on occasion and let the worms do the work.

    • DeannaCat

      Hi Karl – We don’t always top. I personally love when they look like Christmas trees, haha! But on the other than, sometimes we do top then to encourage branching and a bushier/shorter plant – such as if they’re risking being in the view of neighbors if we didn’t otherwise. When we do top, I believe Aaron only does it one time, and once the plant has about 4-6 levels of branches/nodes established, only taking off the top one or two. Essentially, not so young that you’re getting rid of a majority of their foliage (they need those to photosynthesize and grow, especially as babies) but not so late that they’re even close to flowering. He has also played around with low stress training and some interesting shapes, lol. I hope that helps!

  • Sasha

    Excellent article; informative, concise, and better written than almost every article I’ve ever read elsewhere on cannabis-specific forums. Signed up for your newsletter, and looking forward to more reading of your website here.

    Thank you, from eastern Canada.

  • Melissa

    I love your articles/blog and followed your instructions. This past spring I enjoyed my first ever harvest – thank you! My question is, now that my smart pots are plant-less, though I still occasionally water it to keep the soil alive, what should I do this coming spring? I originally started with EB STONE Recipe 420. What amendments should I add? And should I just top dress or mix it all up? I’m afraid I’ll hurt any soil structure I might have going. I’m a newbie to all this. TIA.

  • rob

    Hey Deanna, great website! I have a question regarding autoflowers. In your experience, are the buds just as potent as photoperiod plants? I’ve heard conflicting info.


    • DeannaCat

      I don’t think so, no! Not that I have noticed anyways! Especially if they’re treated virtually the same as our big girls, in regards to soil, feeding, drying, curing, storage, etc. Those end steps are the most important when it comes to the final results!

        • EarthKat

          I absolutely love your content. Thank you for taking the time to share!

          I am using your recipe to make my own soil and am wondering how long I should wait after mixing, to plant my Girls?

          • DeannaCat

            Hi there! It’s pretty much good-to-go right after it is mixed. We intentionally leave alfalfa meal out of the soil mix because it is the one organic amendment we use that can sometimes burn a little when applied too strongly to young plants. Thus, we wait and add that later in teas and top dressings, if you’ve seen our feeding cannabis article? Everything in the bulk soil is mild and low-risk. Happy planting!

  • Adrian

    I grew 2 Autoflowers in grow bags using your soil recipe! They did great and are now curing, can’t wait for the curing article!

  • MJ Blanchette

    hi there. i’ve been referring to these pot posts repeatedly — so, many thanks for all the hand-holding 🙂

    two part question:
    1. a friend told me that i should bemoving some of the lower leaves for airflow, do you agree?
    2. i never staked my plants when they were babies, and they still seem sturdy, but am i going to regret not staking them at some point? and if i try to stake them now, won’t i be damaging the root system?

    as always, THANK YOU!!

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