How to grow medical cannabis from autoflowering seeds

Cannabis cultivation may have quite a steep learning curve, and this is where autoflowering cannabis seeds come to the rescue

Though legal since 2018, medical cannabis is still largely unavailable to patients in Malta. It’s difficult to imagine a practical way for them to get hold of the medicine without facing bureaucratic hurdles or breaking the law. The situation may change soon if the government goes ahead with its plan to decriminalize the recreational use of the substance and the growing of a few plants for personal needs.

Cannabis cultivation at home may have quite a steep learning curve though, and this is where autoflowering cannabis seeds come to the rescue.

Autoflowers are small, fast-maturing plants that are ready for harvest in 60-80 days from sprouts. In contrast to “normal”, photoperiod varieties, whose flowering cycle depends on the length of night and day, autoflowering strains can be sown and harvested any time of the year. And the Mediterranean climate allows gardeners to cultivate autoflowers even in winter, preferably in a greenhouse.

This ability to grow just a few small plants at a time in a perpetual cycle is a great way to comply with legal limits or keep your cannabis garden inconspicuous to the neighbors. It also ensures that you will always have a fresh batch of flowers in your medical cabinet.

Autoflowers are also versatile enough to successfully grow them indoors. You don’t need much equipment for that. A barebones setup would be just a LED grow light installed in a corner of your room or a closet. However, if you don’t want any issues with heat, humidity, and smell, you’ll need to set up a grow tent.

Even a 60x60cm tent will be enough to grow a couple of small but high-yielding Gorilla Glue seeds, to name just one example. But keep in mind that the smaller the space, the harder it is to maintain the comfortable temperature and humidity inside it. Especially during the summer months. So our advice is to install a bigger tent — about 1m2. Even if you don’t need those 450-600 grams per cycle that this setup is capable of.

The grow light is the single most important piece of equipment an indoor garden needs. You may opt for the reliable old-school HPS bulbs, but they produce too much heat. It is probably safer to choose a cooler-running LED quantum board. They are compact, thin, and energy-efficient — mostly because they produce only those parts of the spectrum that plants need for photosynthesis. The manufacturers of good grow lights always give guidelines as to what model you’ll need for a specific grow area.

Even with LED lights, you’ll need an extractor fan to remove all that extra heat from your grow tent and to supply fresh CO2 to the plants. The fan capacity, measured in CFM or m3/hour, should be enough to replace the whole volume of air in your grow space every minute. This will take care of both the temperature and humidity which is important for the Mediterranean type of climate.

By the way, a good idea would be to use genetics like Girl Scout Cookies seeds which produce plants with an open bush structure and long internodes — spaces between individual buds. This ensures great airflow inside the canopy and prevents possible issues with mold.

Cannabis is also a notoriously smelly plant, so we recommend buying a carbon filter and attaching it to your extractor fan.

As you may have already guessed, with autoflowers, the success largely depends on the right conditions and equipment. The cultivation itself isn’t hard to master. We recommend that novice growers use soil as their medium of choice. It’s much simpler than hydroponics. Thanks to their short life cycle, autos only need about 10-20 liters of soil to realize their full potential.

Any potting mix sold in a garden center will do just fine for cannabis growing, although specially formulated mixes are available in grow shops. You can also use coco coir instead of soil although this type of medium requires some getting used to. With soil, you can give your plants only dechlorinated tap water during the first couple of weeks and then start to add liquid nutrients. For coco, nutrients are necessary from week 1.

You may get away with using generic organic fertilizers and still achieve good results. But it’s safer to buy nutrients specifically formulated for cannabis cultivation. Again, you can find them in grow shops. They come with instructions on how to feed your cannabis week by week.

Apart from watering and feeding your plants and making sure that they get just enough light and that the temp and humidity are at a comfortable level, you won’t have to do much. Maybe a good idea, even for a first-time grower, would be to train your plants, bending and tying down the tallest of the branches. Keeping all the tops at an equal distance from the lights produces buds of consistent quality and increases the yields.

And this is how easy it all is. There’s nothing really that stands in the way of your getting better-quality medicine than anything you can buy on the streets.