Growing Tips from the 101
Part IV – Diet and Nutrition
With both great successes and dismal failures, we have been cultivating cannabis for a long time now. Most of the lessons we have learned we learned by making mistakes… and 99% of those were mistakes we made with nutrients. Nutrition and diet are as important to your plants as it is to us humans. Whether you are an organic freak that seeks only nutrients from earth and nature or a chemical freak that seeks performance only science and synthetics can provide… that’s OK, fly that freak flag proud and high. All are welcome, the principles of diet and nutrition are all to achieve a balance for a living organism to thrive, so whether you use shit or synthetics for your diet there are certain necessities that diet must provide. So let’s get freaky…
Steer manure and bat guano are food for the plant and soil, feces for fertilizer is a time-honored growing technique and shit from many sources will provide a little juice for your plants. Even Mountain Girl (Carolyn Garcia former Merry Prankster and wife of Jerry Garcia) spoke and wrote of growers urinating on the soil of their pot plants, defecating in the soil and ejaculating on the plants. Like I said, fly your freak flag high because there are some pretty high flyin’ freak flags when it comes to cannabis cultivation. I always related nutrient choices to the movie Rocky IV…East vs West…the Russian vs the Italian Stallion. Sadly, I know I’m old and many are saying “Rocky who?” But it’s a flick worth mentioning when discussing the difference between natural training and nutrition versus synthetic nutrients and advanced training. Rocky trained naturally in the mountains while the Russian-trained in a lab and took steroids. Spoiler alert….Rocky won.
If you have an outdoor grow, an airy garden or a room breathing outdoor air you can get away with natural nutrition and train like Rocky. However, if you’re going to seal up your environment and “go big” you’re going to have to train like the Russian. In any indoor environment, you will have to manage the diet of your plants carefully. There are a gazillion organic nutrient product lines that will allow you to stay away from synthetic nutrients and still have a successful grow of beautiful buds. As for our little project, we are going to use House and Garden products. We are going to train like the Russian without the steroids. After all, Rocky won with heart…not training, that’s the moral of the movie.
Let’s get started….12 necessities of nutrition
- Light —With an outdoor grow the need to provide light is obviously filled by nature. The outdoor growing season is based on the summer solstice. Plants will “veg” or focus on constant growth until the summer solstice. After the longest day of the year, the fruits of the plant will appear as it knows the days are shortened and winter is coming so it shifts its energy towards flower (bud) production…the flower phase. In an indoor environment, you can dictate this change from veg to flower phase with light. Leaving your lights on 24 hours a day will keep your plants growing continuously focused only on size and strength. Switching the lights to 12 hours on and 12 hours off will trigger the flower phase and your buds will begin to appear within a couple weeks. Growers use every combination of transition from 12on/12off imaginable trying to mock natures sunrises and sunsets. For our project we will go directly from veg to flower with no “transition” period, we set the timer to 12on/12off and move on. We believe indoor growing should enhance performance by pushing the boundaries of nature….not pretending we are confined to them in an artificial environment.
- Water — Ahhhh water….cool clear water. Although we’re going to make that water a murky brown color with nutrients we want to start with a good water source free of toxins. The most important factor next to water cleanliness or quality is PH balance. Have you ever seen your health club gym closed or a hotel pool so green and stagnant you wouldn’t dare jump into it? Most of the time these closures and discolorations are due to a chemical imbalance in the water because of neglect or mismanagement of the chemicals used. If you don’t PH balance your water you will be forcing your plant to bath in and drink that nasty water. Managing and checking the PH balance is vital for stored water. PH testers are inexpensive and available at any garden center. They can even be found by the pond equipment in decorative landscape sections of big box stores…PH balance of stored water is that important. An imbalance will even screw up a decorative pond so don’t think PH imbalance is not bad for your plants. Check the balance of your water before each nutrient mix and feeding 5.5-6.2 is the magic “goldie locks” zone you want to stay in. Additives called PH UP and PH DOWN (simple enough names to remember) are inexpensive and last forever as only sprinkles of each product are needed for adjustment. The difference between PH balanced and imbalanced water for your plants’ diet is the same as the difference between a diet of water and soda pop for a human.Another issue that is a too often seen problem for a consultant is the erasure of trace elements with filters and R/O (reverse osmosis) systems. I encourage the use of high tech filters and reverse osmosis water systems. A reverse osmosis system or effective filter will erase all the harmful toxins from any water before your ladies take a drink of it. However, it will erase the valuable and needed trace elements like phosphorus and magnesium that the water carries. An R/O or effective filter will attack elements in water much like chemotherapy will attack the cells of a cancer patient. Neither the chemo nor the R/O pick and choose what they eliminate, they both go after it all. This is why an additive to replace trace elements is a must if a serious filter is added. We are using well water for our project. However, it is an untested well feeding a filtered system so we are using the product Cal-mag to replace our trace elements. As for our PH management in this project? There is a tester and PH Up/ Down in every grow room we work and in each of our vehicles and garden tool kits…it’s that important.
- Soil — Once again if you are growing organically outdoors with your plants in the ground as opposed to synthetic soil then your soil nutrient needs are already met. It gets trickier when growing indoors. The trick is maximizing nutrient dosage without overwatering. Even the thicker nutrient rich and stable soils used for outdoor growing will require much less water in an indoor setting and often promote overwatering or drowning the plants. For this reason, a coco/perlite mix has become popular and effective for indoor cannabis cultivation. You have a choice to mix your own by buying a bag of coco and a bag of perlite. The ratio should range between 70/30-55/45 coco over perlite. You will also find premixed bags of coco-perlite in several different ratios at the grow store or online. These aerating soil media allow water to flow through the container and will not trap or store water to help drown the plant. We use a couple sources for our soilless grow media. We mix our own at 65/45 coco over perlite for clones and juniors. When we transplant to big pots we use prepackaged 70/30 coco over perlite. We are not brand particular and have never had any soil related issues using this formula. We use no additives in our soils/pots and rely largely on water/nutrients for nourishment. This method of “soilless” growing is very close to hydroponic growing which is “water only” growing…not even grow media is involved. For this project, we will not deviate from our usual practices.
- Sulphur — Sulphur Dioxide is a gas produced by burning Sulphur. It sounds like something you need a permit for but it’s actually a pretty simple process. Soil Sulphur or westernized to “sulfur” can be purchased in any garden center and a mac-daddy fancy burner or vaporizer is about a 130 bucks….or there are many “DIY” versions. We even have a method using a potpourri or essential oil burner that we think is more effective than the vaporizers. Diet and nutrition are a broad spectrum including many areas focused on nourishment and body care. Although bug sprays, citronella candles, incense and lotions are not dietary consumables they are essential to body care, comfort and usually found in any warm environment. Your plants need this same comfort, care and protection from the pathogens and insects trying to get in. Sulfur is to a grow room what sage is to spiritual home….it keeps the bad mojo away.
- Leaf Polish — If sulfur is the plants’ sage then leaf polishes like Safer 3 in 1 or organic neem are the plants’ aloe Vera after a long day in the sun. Essentially that is exactly what you are asking your plants to do every day… spend a long day tanning in the sun. So don’t leave them under those bright lights without a good leaf polish. Just like lotion and aloe promote good human skin a leaf polish will promote healthy stems and leaves. There are a few different alternatives, whichever method or product you use it will need to be applied to the entire plant so a sprayer or spray bottle will be needed. Be sure to soak the plant weekly until the 3rd week of flowering. Do this when the lights are turned off and early enough in their sleep time that they will be completely dry before the lights come back on. For our project we are using our tried and true method of spraying the plants with organic neem oil. In a 1qt sprayer per 5 plants we mix 1 &1/2 tablespoon of neem plasma (available in any garden center) with 1 drop organic dish soap and fill with warm water. As soon as the lights turn off we spray each of the plant, tops and bottoms of the leaves…everywhere. We repeat this from junior age through the 3rd week of flowering every 7-10 days.
- Base Foods — A base food is the meat and potatoes of your plant’s diet. I truly recommend sticking to a “product line” for your nutrient supplies. We are going to use House and Garden’s line of nutrients for our project. There is no intention or need to tout our choice of product line or belittle someone else’s different choice of products. The typical Ford vs Chevy battle does not need to exist between Canna and House & Garden. But what does remain the same is the fact that crossing brands of nutrients will give the same amount of challenges (some impossible) and frustration that trying to fit Chevy parts on a Ford would provoke. So when it comes to nutrients choose your brand with availability in mind because you will use that complete line through the growth cycle often following a feeding chart that the nutrient maker provides. As in this project we will use House and Garden nutrients and we will be following their feeding chart. —–Link to it here—- These base foods like A/B Flakes may be used throughout the grow cycle. While some of the additives and performance enhancers in this list are optional a base food is a must for your indoor ladies. They are often mixed in with a 15-30 minute gap between the two parts so read the instructions on the bottle carefully and don’t shorten your mixing tasks by adding nutrients to each other before adding them to the water.
- Root Builders — For our project we will be using House and Garden’s Roots Excelurator. Canna calls their root builder Rhizotonic and both products are pretty much the same thing. Again, stick with whatever the brand of your base food is. A solid foundation is a must for a strong building and a must for a strong person. Don’t think it’s not a must for a strong plant. The large pot size we always recommend is to allow a large root system to hold up a large strong plant. Root building nutrients encourage cannabis roots to venture out further. To accommodate this growth the roots get thicker close to the plant allowing massive growth to be supported. In our video series I mention a client that could not lift or bend easily so I delivered her plants in 5 gallon pots. I did not include a root builder on her nutrient shopping list as the bucket will accommodate natural growth. If you do not use the large pots a root building nutrient will cause your plant to fill its pot and become root bound. Much like reverse osmosis water seems like a good idea but can be harming without replacing trace elements…adding a root builder without pot space or a large pot without a root builder can slow growth instead of enhancing it.
- Aminos and proteins — The roots, stems, and branches are like the skeleton and muscles of a human. We need to be protected from decay and our muscles need proteins to grow. Protein is an important part of any living organisms growth and your pot plants are definitely alive. Aminos not only help form those proteins for strength they also strengthen the plant’s immunity to molds and disease. A plant will use amino aids like a bodybuilder uses whey protein. For our project, we are using House and Garden’s Amino Treatment. Macro and Micro nutrient compounds like Algen Extract allow roots to absorb more and at a greater rate. Our plants will use the Algen Extract much like a human would use DMSO…as a carrier for the good stuff or to open up the pores and pipes to get things flowing.
- Mycorrhiza (pronounced ˌmīkəˈrīzə) — Besides Cal-mag and the PH Up/Down… Great White is the only other nutrient outside the House and Garden product line that we will use. However, Great White or a similar product is needed if you want big plants. Big plants need big roots and mycorrhiza is a big part of big root development. Great White and similar products deliver. Mycorrhiza is more of a relationship than it is a fungi. The way the fungus attaches to the root allows the roots to absorb more and grow stronger, as the plant grows its roots provide carbohydrates to the fungus. The fungus knows it’s got a good home so it defends the plant against nematodes and other fungi.
- Additives — Although not necessary additives like Nitrogen Boost during veg or Top Booster during the flower cycle greatly help in yield and quality. Whatever product brand you choose there will be many additives to choose from. By no means do you need all of them and trying the addition of different ones to different grows is healthy experimentation. We have used a nitrogen booster during the veg cycle for years but recently eliminated it for 3 grow cycles. Not only did we not lose quality or yield but we also saw improvement in one strain. Sometimes although you are not harming the plants, you might be wasting money. We saw no improvement when we used Top Booster. In fact, we saw such little difference we felt we wasted our money. Instead of switching brands or plans we did the next run with Shooting Powder (both H&G products) and had huge success. We backed that success up with 3 more runs equally better….now we won’t grow without it. So if you like to tweak and mess with things additives is a good place to start with little risk of harming your ladies. For our project we are using the following additives along with our base food; Multi Zyme and Bud XL which complement each other. Multi Zyme is used during the veg cycle and Bud XL is used during the flower cycle.
- Finishing nutrients — Finishing nutrients are not necessary but wow, they sure make weed look pretty. Right about the time weed was becoming legal I was struggling with the strand Blueberry Headband. I could get pretty good size, smell and flavor but I could not get the pretty colors or crystals that made me hunt down the strain in the first place (and hunting was waaaayyyy tougher pre-medical and dispensary days). As grow stores started popping up I became familiar with finishing nutrients. I’ve graduated through 2 or 3 different finishers since then but even with finishers 2 decades ago great leaps were taken in quality….what today’s finishing aids like H&Gs’s Shooting Powder accomplish is amazing.
- The Fine China and doing the dishes — Well, that completes our list of nutritional needs for your ladies and some meal ideas to get their diet started. At this point you have built a nice home for the ladies complete with a kitchen to feed them in and now you have a meal plan for their entire time they will be with you. All that’s left is picking out the dinnerware. Are you going to give them fine china like a timed automatic water feed? This is accomplished easily by plugging a pond pump into a timer and routing plastic tubing from the pump over the top of your plant pots, punch a hole where you want the water to squirt into your pot. Are you going to give them department store dishes like a nutrient hose? This is also easily accomplished with another pond pump plugged into a surge protector or switch. The hose from the pump goes to a nozzle with valve. Turn on the switch then use the nozzle to water each plant with a hose from the nutrients. Are you going to be their Momma, nurse or maid and hand-water them? We are, the latter of the choices is our choice. One of the best growers I knew (man, his shit was good…every time) was not from the pot triangle of Northern Cali or the lush weed rooms of the Pacific NW…he was from Nebraska. He stopped auto watering and committed to his crops about ten years ago and urged me to do the same. Best tip I ever got and neither of us have auto watered since. However, hand watering every other day is a commitment to your ladies for 2 months at least so auto watering does allow freedom that hand watering does not.
Finally, it’s time to do the dishes after mealtime. If you hand water keep your bucket/water can clean and store it with nutrients. Wipe your can so it does not drip and clean up spills as water drippings add to the humidity of your room and encourage mold. If you choose to use the manual hose method be sure to keep your hose stored clean and dry, drain the hose back into the nutrient barrel before storing the hose. And if you serve your ladies on fine china with an auto watering system include a salt/lime fighting agent like H&Gs Drip Clean. This prevents nasties from forming in your pipes between feedings waiting to hitch a ride when the next feeding washes them into the plants. Agents like Drip Clean keep the tubes clear so your ladies get nothing but lunch when the pump turns on.
Below we will include the feeding chart we will use for our plants in this project. The same feed chart and many more can be found here at House and Garden. Our diet choices define our health and your diet choices for your plants define theirs. Check out our article on marijuana diet woes called “Feed Me Seymour” to find out how to avoid sharing our bad diet habits with our plants.
Here is a PDF file of the House and Garden Feeding Chart that we use. You can print it out and place in your grow room.
Welcome to the Green Rush!