Growing Indoors For Beginners

the basics: light, water and nutrients.

Growing indoors is much like growing outdoors. Give your plants nutrients, water and light and they will grow. The differences lie in the methods you use to give your plants the nutrients and light they need. High quality of light plus unlimited access to nutrients and water equal faster growth and better yields of higher quality plants.


Light is incredibly important. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as turning on a regular light bulb and watching your plants grow. A healthy plant needs the full spectrum of light to grow properly. Normal bulbs just don't provide enough intensity or the correct spectrum of light for plants to flourish.

Additionally, plants react differently to different colors of the spectrum at different times in their growth cycle. During vegetative growth, they grow fastest and healthiest with a predominantly blue spectrum of light. During flowering or fruit setting, they need a the red spectrum of light ramped up.

The schedule you use to light your plant will influence when it moves to the different phases of its life cycle. You are basically artificially creating the seasons in a perfect growing condition and can trick the plants to grow faster and bud quicker. Interesting fact: your plants actually react based on how much uninterrupted dark they get, not how much light.

The good news is that from basic soil growing to advanced techniques like aeroponics, the light needs of your plants remain the same. 

Click here to learn more about grow lights

Water & Nutrients

There are many ways to get water and nutrients to your plants. Some promote faster growth than others, some are easier than others, and some are riskier than others. In the end, it's more about choosing a method that you feel comfortable with and works best for your lifestyle. 

  • Start with good, clean Reverse Osmosis filtered water. You only want stuff in your water if you put it there.

  • Check the pH daily and adjust to keep it in the ideal 5.5-6.5 range (slightly acidic).

  • Use the best nutrients available, preferably tailored to your style and strain of plant. Advanced Nutrients and General Hydroponics are two of the best for growing cannabis. Follow the manufacturers instructions. More on Nutrients here.

  • If you are using hydroponics, check the system regularly. While hydroponics systems are quite simple to use once set up, they are never set-it-and-forget-it systems. Choose the style of hydroponic system based on how much time you can devote to it.

  • Change your water and nutrients weekly to keep your plants healthy and prevent problems. This is required maintenance.

  • Learn to read your plants. They will tell you how they are doing and if they are getting too much/little water or nutrients. This takes time and experience, but is incredibly rewarding once it clicks. 

Click here to learn more about Nutrients 

Soil vs. Hydroponics

Growing in Soil
The oldest and easiest way to grow plants. This is just like normal a houseplant, but with more science. You will want a light source, good quality dirt, and the best nutrient mix. Plants grown in dirt tend to be the most resilient. If you are just starting out, or don't want to spending time every day to babysitting your plants, this is probably the right option for you.

While you don't see quite the same growth rate or yields as hydroponics, you usually achieve 80-90% of what a hydroponic system will do with the same light and nutrients. That small loss of productivity is a small price to pay for crops that don't die when a pump does. Plants grown in dirt tend to bounce back from drought better than any other method. Some people feel that plants grown in soil often have a better, more well-rounded flavor as well.

Soil may be the easiest to use, but it isn't foolproof. It is the most likely to attract and harbor pests, fungus and root disease. Choose a good dirt that has never been left outdoors or exposed to extremes in temperature or humidity. Soil that isn't properly cared for will often suffer from increased fungi, bacteria, and pests that will hamper your harvest, if not destroy your roots and kill your plants. It's worth the money to avoid the headaches that come with lower grade soil that hasn't been cared for from big box stores. If you live near the shop, Russ always has high quality soil that has been properly cared for on hand.

Russ' Tip:
Make sure your soil has never sat outside and gotten wet. Good soil is a breeding ground. That goes for healthy plants as well as bugs, fungus and disease. If you grow outside, you have natural conditions and predators that help counteract these threats. But when grown inside, they can grow just as fast as your plants. Avoid dirt from hardware or big-box stores. Use top quality dirt that you know has been cared for all the way to your door.

Russ always stocks the best dirt in his shop. It is always sourced from reliable suppliers that know the importance of good soil. Stop by and pick up a bag to see the difference!

Hydroponics is a general term for any method of growing plants outside of soil. By taking soil out of the equation, you get better access to the roots, which means you can give your plants better nutrition than any other method of growing. This results in amazing growth rates, huge yields, and more harvests per year.

Hydroponics systems are actually fairly inexpensive to set up and are perfect for the do-it-yourselfer. Even the most advanced systems like aeroponics are mostly made of plastic buckets, basic PVC pipes and some vinyl hoses from a hardware store. If you don't want to worry about building one yourself, Russ has a good selection of tried-and-true systems that you can have up and running in a few minutes.

That doesn't mean that hydroponics systems are foolproof. Far from it. Even the most automated systems do pose increased risks of failure. Dirt acts as the buffer that holds water and nutrients for your plant. Plants grown in dirt are much more drought-resistant and tend to be less susceptible to nutrient deficiencies or burn. When there are issues (and every grower will run into them), plants grown in dirt tend to bounce back better and faster than those grown hydroponically.

However, there is no match for the results you can achieve from a well-tended hydroponic system. 

Click here to learn more about different hydroponics systems

Sooo...What is the best system for beginners?

For the most part, Russ recommends beginners start growing in soil and eventually move up to Deep Water Culture (DWC) hydroponic system. The reason is simple. When you grow in dirt, you are almost guaranteed some sort of crop at the end. Bad things can happen with any of these systems, but soil is the most forgiving. Hydroponics is cool, but dirt just works. Russ has done it all, but still chooses to grow in soil most often due to its forgiving nature and better flavor profiles. 

Once you've mastered all the variables with soil, it's time to move to a DWC or RDWC hydroponic system and master the variables associated with hydroponics. DWC has the least risk because when you have an issue, at least your roots stay wet and you have about 24 hours to get it resolved before the real problems begin. A couple hours without power won't kill your plants. 

Russ' Tip:
Keep it simple. Set yourself up for success by starting with a basic system and then building from there. Soil can give you very close yields to hydroponics, but it gives you a huge buffer when you start having problems.