Hello growers, tokers, enthusiasts and the like!
Welcome to my grow journal. I’m just beginning my growing adventure, but I’ve already learned a ton. I learned everything I know online and from experience, and from chatting up a few tight lipped growers from the area. If you don’t have someone to introduce you to growing, you can make a lot of mistakes. A lot of people just starting out never make it through their first grow, or they drop thousands of dollars in equipment but don’t have the knowledge to turn that money into a different kind of green.
Take a recent acquaintance of mine as example. This guy is a California Prop. 215 Medical Cannabis patient, and when he got his card and was told that he can grow up to 30 plants for personal use in a 10×10 ft space in this county, he immediately went and purchased several thousand dollars in equipment and the full 30 clones, with little knowledge of how to set it up. He didn’t do adequate research and he didn’t really talk to people who knew what they were doing, because when I saw his grow a couple of days ago – TWO MONTHS IN – it was a tragic sight.
The $1500 red/blue LED light that he was expecting to cover 30 plants (20 or so in an ebb&flow hydro system, the other 10 in dirt) is hanging 3-4 feet above the top of the plants, which have grown maybe 4 inches in two months. He had only the General Hydroponics Grow formula, the bag not the liquid, to use in his 10 gallon reservoir. In addition, his entire grow space had been hit HARD by spider mites. He decided to treat it with a fogger which choked and burned his plants even more, meaning that the few leaves they did had were at least half dead. So, after two months of 24 hour on light cycle he has plants less developed than most freshly clipped clones, all because he missed GROWING 101 and jumped straight into complex systems. If you don’t understand the fundamentals of how to care for a plant in an indoor setting, your plants will die, you’ll get frustrated and quit, and you will have wasted thousands of dollars.
It’s a sad story, and terribly common.
Now, I’m not claiming to be an expert – not by any stretch. But, I do a LOT of reading, and I learn very quickly. My first baby is a young adult that I’ve started on blooming today. It’s been a rollercoaster ride, and if I could go back I’d change a lot of things. But, the plant is alive, thriving, and I anticipate is going to deliver her mommy with some big, beautiful, crystalized sticky nugs.
What I Learned from My Mistakes
It all started when I was given an OG Kush clone, unsolicited. I had no intention of growing – I had a florescent grow light that I had purchased for $50 because I thought it was a good deal. Let me add that I’ve never been a gardener. I’ve killed every plant I’ve ever owned, so it seemed silly that now I had to care for this little, sensitive plant in a manner I had not even begun to understand.
When I started raising my first plant, all I know about hydroponics and indoor growing was that you needed a light source, you needed water, and you needed to add some kind of nutrition to that water. Now, some will overcomplicate it and try to lay temperature, humidity, air flow, etc on you all at the start. But, beginners aren’t ready for that. Let’s try keeping one plant alive for a couple of weeks first, then you can get into tweeking the fine details. (I guess it needs to be said you should neither bake nor freeze your plants, comfortable to slightly warm indoor room temperatures are just about right for the plants, too.)
My clone came in a 3inx3in square of rockwool, stuffed inside a dixie cup. Despite my complete lack of affinity for growing things, I was struck by the urge to do right by this plant. It was so cute and perky, how could I let it die. And if I nurtured it properly, it would give back to me in my favorite way.
So, my six inch OG Kush clone went under the light. I did a little research online and found an easy-mode nutrient mix that would only cost around $20 to start, so I hit the hydro store and picked up a liter of GH Flora Micro and 1 liter of GH Flora Bloom. The Lucas Formula is a mixing strategy for hydroponic growing that uses a blend of Micro and Bloom for the entire cycle, eliminating the need for Flora Grow.
I made the mix in a gallon of reverse-osmosis purified water, which I read was the most PH neutral. I watered my plant with the nutrient mix, and within a day it was not looking good. The tips of the leaves had started to wrinkle and dry out, they looked mottled in color and were dying from the tip down.
I went back to the computer and found out that this was mostly likely nutrient burn. Nutrient burn occurs when your nutrient mix is too strong for your plant. Whether a mix is too strong or not is a function of many factors, including the size and strain of the plant.
Now, all of those nutrients accumulate and crystalize in the rockwool. When you water it again they can break up and over saturate your water, causing recurring nutrient burn, which can kill your plant. You have to completely rinse your grow medium after nutrient burn whether you’re using soil, soiless mix, rockwool, straight perlite, whatever. You also need to give your plant some time to clean out as well. Only use water for at least three days.
You could think of your nutrient water like alcohol. A little is great, a lot can kill you, and too much leaves you sick, no pun intended.
I learned a lot through this first week of growth, like one of the other absolute fundamentals – your light source needs to be CLOSE to your plants. Like my neighbor, 3-4 ft away is too far. In fact, two feet is too far (omg, the puns again!). 1 foot away is like, maximum. But really, if you have precise control of the height of your light, you should only have it a few inches away. Not close enough to burn, but close.
For example, with my florescent light it will only harm the plant if the plant touches it. Otherwise, at 1 inch or so away my plant loves it.
My plant grew slowly for the first few weeks. It could have been that it needed the time to recover from nutrient burn, or from changing habitats, but honestly I think it was due to the shoddy nutrients. I had watered the mix down to half strength and was feeding every day, but growth was very slow, and there was little branching. It reached around 15 inches in height – not much at all. A week or so in I placed the small rockwool block in a larger block and continued as normal.
Oops, Plants Need Water Huh
Then, tragedy struck. You see, with only one plant I really felt no need for a drip system, ebb & flow, or any other auto-watering contraption you can think of. I simply mixed my nutrients as needed, and gave it a little water each day.
Well, I missed a day. And it was a hot day. I grow in a closet, with a fan for ventilation but no cooling. Normally this isn’t a problem, cannabis is very adaptable and if your room gets a little hot for short periods of time it’s not a huge deal – as long as they have water.
My plant didn’t. The rockwool completely dried out, and the plant withered. I watered it for a couple days, but it didn’t recover. The drooping leaves got drier, and began to fall off. I thought the plant was dead. I cut the dead leaves off, I snipped the stock down to the green part, as the top and several little branches had died.
I watered it for a couple more days. Nothing happened. I noticed that pretty much all the water I was giving it was staying. The plant wasn’t drinking any of it. You see, when a root is damaged, or dries out, its dead for good. Roots don’t repair themselves, the plant cuts them off and grows new roots. It became obvious that the plant wasn’t dying any further, so could be recoverable, but that the core of it wasn’t receiving enough water.
Let There Be Life!
And it was this discovery that led me to ditching rockwool as a hydro medium alltogether. I started pulling off the outside of the rockwool block, removing dead roots along with it. When I got the the center, I discovered that it was completely dry. Even though I’d been pouring water directly at the base of the stock it was absorbing into other areas before the center, and never reaching the core of the plant.
I stripped away as much of the rockwool as possible, and soaked the rest in purified water. I replanted it in a 1 gallon plastic pot with two inches of hydroton topped with 5-6 inches of Roots Organic Soiless Grow Medium, which is a mix of perlite, cocoa coir, and other non-soil ingredients. It holds water similarly to soil (and looks just like it at a glance) but doesn’t contain any nutrients of its own, and won’t support the development of bug larvae. For small crops I think its one of the best grow media solutions.
It was at this time I also changed nutrient lines. I received a sample pack of nutrients from Hydropnix, which has now changed names to Xnutrients. I used these nutrients at full strength from day one, and my plant loved it. Almost immediately it sprouted new leaves. It exploded into vegetative growth, gaining inches per day. It went from a 4 inch bare stock to a young adult bush, with four primary stocks with at least six branches each.
Today my baby had her first day of real sunshine. She’s about two feet tall, what is generally considered the minimum height for beginning a flowering cycle. I realize she won’t produce as much as a taller plant, but she’s bushy and if I don’t do it now I’ll have to wait until I can afford a flowering light to bud her, as the outdoors will no longer be suitable.
I guess I should explain that, too. I found it several weeks into growing that I wouldn’t actually be able to flower my plant under my florescent light. Well, I could, but it wouldn’t come out very well. Plants use a mix of blue and red spectrum lighting, both of which they get from the sun normally. Florescent only really provide blue light. During vegetative growth they mainly use blue, but during flowering they mainly use red. Note that you shouldn’t really use either exclusively because that impacts the product. For example if you switch entirely to red light during flowering your plant will do very little growth. This means the buds will be tight and hard, but very small. The quality may be there but the yield will be low. Introducing a bit of blue light allows the plant to do a little growth, creating larger flowers.
On the other hand if you do not provide enough red light during flowering you will come out with extremely loose, whispy flowers. What most would consider to be low quality, mainly used as shake. The sun works great if its the right season. To flower we have to introduce a 12 hour light cycle (12 on, 12 off) which is roughly what it is in northern California in August. The change in day length prompts the flowering cycle, which lasts around two months.
Now I just settle in for 8-10 weeks and nurture my girl with Diamonds from Hydropot Grow Juice.
Life is Good =)
Oh, and here’s a picture of my girl outside.