Growing Cannabis With A Plan

Map out a plan for cultivation to improve your chances of a great crop.

Sharp pencils lift a nicely structured cannabis flower, the result of careful marijuana cultivation planning.

Behind the scenes of awesome and successful grow operations is a strategic, horticultural plan. The cannabis grower of any size, commercial or personal, needs to have some idea of what to expect and perform during a crop cycle far ahead of the actual event to grow a premium crop.

“The more detailed a cultivation plan, the easier it is to follow and to make changes all along the way.”

Creating a plan is not difficult; the hard part is keeping on track. Develop a cultivation plan that is realistic, combine it with execution and you are on the road to a great crop.

An Operational Guide

A cannabis grow-plan is a simple tool for any number of plants in cultivation. As many regulated markets require detailed examination and description of a proposed cultivation operation sometimes called a “Grow Plan,” the context here is a more generalized plan for operational oversight of the grower. 

Working with the variables that are in all types of agriculture is an easier task if you have some type of plan for each crop, including cannabis. While even the best plans of plotting a course to a bountiful crop of desirable quality offer no certain success, your chances improve significantly when mapping out your farming goals and objectives ahead of time. Good organization is the key, and it starts with a written plan.

The function of a good cultivation plan is to serve your farm or setup with some operational direction that is general to cannabis cultivation and tailored to your specific growing method, location, and time of year. Essentially, it considers each phase of plant development in structure and defines a course of action at each step of the way. A grow plan can be as detailed as you desire with flexibility for any time your objectives or needs should change.


Like a blueprint for a construction project, a useful plan for cultivating marijuana maps out not only your intended procedures, but also a material list of equipment and supplies for starting, growing, and harvesting. A strategic plan might even include anticipated expenses like utilities and labor. A plan accompanied by any financial information is very helpful for budgeting and expense planning on the business side of your cultivation project and another huge benefit of developing a grow plan.

As a cannabis plant develops from a clone or seedling to maturity, the nutritional and environmental ideals change also. Accommodating those changing requirements for a premium crop must be part of your grow plan if you are a serious farmer. Winging it or making changes on the fly are a bad course that will lead to a disappointing experience and a diminished crop. Experienced growers who are also successful have written and detailed farming plans to guide their operation. Executing effectively on those plans makes farming more enjoyable, and the resulting crop more likely to be worth the effort; in any manner, you want to measure it.

Elements of a Grow Plan

• Calendar of events; start date, expected vegetative and bloom phases by week, anticipated harvest date(s).

• Number of plants; include an expense analysis for each plant for components like clone cost, containers, substrates, staking, netting, etc. and a physical map of their intended location.

• Nutrient plan; products, formulas, and application dates. Purchase at least 30 (thirty) days in advance of actual need to avoid out-of-stock issues.

• Irrigation plan; forecast water needs, determine valve, or pump start times, set cycle durations, dates for reservoir change outs and system inspections.

• Optimal condition targets; identify changing needs by age of plants for temperature, humidity, light and attributes of water and nutrient solutions.

• Pest Management plan; include prevention tactics along with treatment and eradication for specific issues with identified pesticides.

• Work schedule; plan tasks like grooming, pruning, spraying, cutting, and trimming with labor needs forecasted.

• Material and supply list; make the purchases all at once for the project or group by date required for use.

At the first glance, it can look intimidating and much work, but the payoff is huge. If you do not have all the data required for your plan, reach out to other growers through trade groups or grower alliances, vendors, suppliers, etc. Once you have the information collected, it is a good idea to organize it in calendar form for easy access and reference. Information can appear collectively or separate by category or job. You might choose to make the plan non-date specific as a template and then plug in the actual dates and details for each cultivation project as needed. This standardization makes it practical as a reference tool for more than one season, multiple locations, and different personnel within your organization. 

A Barred Owl in a Northern California forest.
Barred Owls (in photo) and Spotted Owls are among the wildlife species harmed by the illegal and indiscriminate application of rat poison (rodenticide). Rodent repellants safe around marijuana cultivation sites (consistent with the label and directions for use): Capiscum Oleoresin, Putrescent Whole Egg Solids, and Garlic.

Making Conservation an Integral Part

The grow plan becomes solid and worthy if good practices of sustainable agriculture and ecological conservation are part of the planning process. Smart cannabis farming operates from the premise of protecting our wildlife and natural resources. Equally important, an emerging industry depends on it. 

The reasons are quite simple; it is good for the environment, easier to manage from a logistical standpoint and very good for our wallets. All growers, despite size, location, or cultivation method employed, have a responsibility to be stewards of the land, and that ultimately benefits the marketplace, the consumer, and our communities.

In development of a grow plan, stick to approved fertilizers and pesticides for cannabis cultivation, carefully follow label instructions, dispose containers properly, and always use best practices for safe and smart farming. In regulated markets, the laws define much of what will help protect natural resources, but it is up to every grower to remain compliant and even go beyond the rules to protect our natural resources while farming this amazing plant.

“Sustainable agricultural practices include an approach that benefits the community. That community can include your peers, local area, or society. Stewardship turns into worthy ambassador with a grow plan that incorporates ideas and efforts for the greater good of the industry, our fellow-citizens, and planet earth.”

Risk Management and “What If” Scenarios

A cultivation plan is typically based on expected results from established protocol. If you plant a clone on a certain date; for example, you likely know from the strain type how long it will be in the vegetative phase and how long in the bloom phase. Procedures to accommodate the changing requirements of that clone as it matures to produce a crop are the framework for a grow plan. But, what if things do not go as planned? A valuable plan considers the unpredictability of agriculture and strategizes; accordingly.


In your planning process, try to think of what might go wrong and then define a solution; way in advance and before you might even need it. This proactive method of planning is good insurance for a cannabis farmer who must work within the confines of nature. Often, responding quickly, and efficiently to a challenge resolves the problem and planning makes that possible.

For example, what if you lost your power source for an extended period? How would your plants receive water or nutrient solution without electricity during that time? What if there were a local shortage of a nutritional supplement, you rely on? What if adverse weather conditions arrived, affecting your outside crop? If you should discover a mite infestation a week before harvest, what are effective and safe pesticides? These are just a few of the situations you may encounter, but there are others. By identifying potential problems with defined solutions, before you need them is an integral part of good cultivation planning.

Today and Tomorrow

For a grow plan to be useful, it must be realistic based on the ways and means of your present operation. Simple planning does not make it so; you need the time and money to execute your cultivation strategies properly, so use other resources of information to get hard numbers and data like time and expenses. It is easy to get a general idea of costs you might expect by searching a few web sites, but the hard part is doing what you planned. So, for all practical purposes, plan what you can accomplish, right now.

The old saying “invest your time before your money” is good advice for a cannabis grower. To become successful and remain competitive, a methodical cultivation plan can serve as a task-mastering tool. To make it worthy of all the effort, take your planning to the next level. In every aspect of your operation, including planning, think of the future. How can your enterprise become more efficient and grow? Incorporate that concept in your planning process and your cultivation plan will serve you well, now, and in the very bright future.