Woohoo! Time to grow your first crop of the gonzo ganja! But hang on just a minute, bub. It’s easy to mess this up, so you gotta invest in a few bits and bobs, plus some edgee-muckation.
This guide is designed to help you be successful in your first soil grow. It’s really very simple, but many (most) first time growers have problems because they are lazy about one or more of the basics. To avoid that, we will cover:
- Outdoor growing
- Advanced techniques
- Some common sense
Here are some quick guidelines to help insure success – I’ll explain in detail further down:
- *Use only brand-new, sterile potting soil (if using soil) – NO fertilizer added or included. Read the bag carefully.
- *Seeds must be buried 1/2″ deep and the soil over them compressed lightly or the shell won’t come off (bad)
- *Use only DISTILLED water to soak and germinate
- *Temperature must be between 75 and 85 degrees F
- *There must be air movement WHEN the sprouts emerge – not after
- *Fluorescent tubes (anything but T5s) must be no more than 1″ from the tops of the new sprouts as they come out of the soil or medium.
- *HID lights can be 18-24″ or about 20% higher than you would have them from mature plants, depending on wattage.
- *Compact Fluorescents (CFLs) and the new T5 tubes should be about 3″- 4″ inches away due to increased power
Some people like to soak seeds in water before planting and claim that it helps germination rates, but you have to be careful. If the taproot develops too much before getting it in the dirt, you could end up with a twisted stalk that never straightens out or a stuck seed pod that won’t come off the sprout. If you soak, use distilled water only and use a thermometer to insure that the water is between 75 and 85 deg. F. Soak only 24 hours and get them in the dirt before the taproot starts to peek out. 24 hours is enough to ‘wake them up’ and if they don’t sprout, they weren’t viable anyway.
Moisten the sterile dirt with distilled water only. Using old dirt, tap water or fertilized water can introduce harmful chemicals, fungus and bacteria that can kill young sprouts in the shell or anytime in the first 10 days of life. Distilled water is pure and has the correct PH. It costs $1 per gallon, so there is no reason to skimp. Cheap insurance on your investment.
If you come from an area where damping off (stem-killing fungus) is a problem, you can spray the surface of the soil with some garden vegetable fungicide after the seeds are in the dirt. Don’t use sulphur or copper for this, but rather the chemical stuff containing Captan. Use only a TINY amount. You only need the tiniest bit on the surface of the soil to prevent the fungus. If you want to be organic, there is some talk that strong chamomile tea (like 4 bags in a cup of water) can be sprayed on the surface just like the commercial fungicide.
In general, you won’t need this because sterile potting soil and distilled water prevent the problem. However, it is a serious (and expensive) issue in some areas – I have a friend in Colorado who can’t sprout a single tomato without fungicde. Just don’t kill your seeds with the cure by over-doing it.
Germinating in Rockwool
Rockwool is a good way to start seeds for hydro, but also for dirt because it keeps the seedling and roots in a clean, controlled environment until it’s old enough to fend of disease. Make sure to soak the cubes in distilled water for an hour, pour off the water and then re-fill the container with the cubes for another soak. This gets the PH as close to 6.0 as you can. It’s best not to pre-soak the seeds when using this method because you need to get it burried SNUGLY in the rockwool before the taproot emerges so the shell will be stripped off. This should be considered an advanced technique and not recomended for the first timer. Maybe try it on the secon run.
Moisture during germination and sprouting
Your seeds must be kept consistantly moist for 48-72 consecutive hours at 75-85 deg F in order to achieve the greatest success in germination. After 48 hours, there MUST be airflow over the surface and fluorescent lights must be no higher than 2″ from the surface. In general, when the sprout straigtens up, it will be 1/2″ to 1″ tall and the light (40w fl tubes) needs to be 1″ away. Once you turn on the fan and the lights, you’ll need to keep a close eye on things to make sure the soil doesn’t dry out.
When sprouts emerge, let some of the moisture evaporate so the new roots don’t drown. Consider filling a spray bottle with distilled water so you can spritz the soil without knocking down your babies in a torrent.
The first few hours of a sprout’s time above ground are absolutely critical in determining its physical characteristics. Some strains are worse/better than others, but in general, if the light is not strong enough to approximate a cloudy day outside (fluorescents at 1″) with some wind, the stem can stretch out in a matter of hours and become almost useless. Having a small fan blowing and sorting out your lights ahead of time will insure that sprouts form short, strong stalks and tight internodes from getgo. To this end, it’s ok to use 18 hours of light instead of 24. Some people claim that darkness helps the roots grow and no plant on earth evolved to get 24 hours of light, so it won’t “be tighter” using 24.
It’s best to use 100% cool white or daylight bulbs for this step, since they discourage stretching.
In order to save money, you can start your seeds in 1 pint cups of sterile potting soil with drainage holes and then transplant to 1/2 gallon or larger standard nursery pots with bulk soil. Transplanting can be divided into 2 categories: Protecting sparse, new roots from trauma and breaking up rootballs so they grow into new soil faster.
Assuming you weren’t lazy and the roots of your new plants are just starting to peak out (2 weeks in a pint cup), your task is to protect the new roots from trauma during transplanting. To accomplish this, wait a couple of days after watering so the soil is bound together a bit. Compress it gently by pressing on the top surface around the plant then go around the sides squooshing gently to compress the dirt away from them slightly. Using the cup (or seedling pot) as a guide, fill the new container with soil and leave a hole in the soil that matches the small container. Put your hand over the top of the seedling’s soil with the plant poking out between 2 fingers and turn it up-side-down – with your hand holding the dirt in – over the new pot.
Slowly slide the old pot/cup off as you guage how well the dirt is going to hold together. Go as slow as you need to so you can get the seedling upright in the hole without it’s old dirt falling apart and disturbing the young roots. Once in place, compress the soil GENTLY and add more soil as necessary, taking care not to bury any more of the stalk with soil than was underground before (or you can get stem rot). If you are past the 2-week mark, add a bit of fertilized water with a watering can to settle the seedling in it’s new home, but don’t flood it out. It’s easy to undermine it and have it fall over. It’s best to moisten the soil before you transplant, then wait another week to water.
For root-bound plants, if you don’t break up the root ball, sometimes they never grow into the new soil. Seems stupid, but it happens. For this, you fill the new pot with soil and leave a hole that’s slightly smaller than the old pot/cup. Dump the seedling and it’s roots/soil block and cradle it upside-down in one hand as described above. There will likely be a “ring” of roots at the corner/bottom of the old container and you can just peel thing ring right off the block of soil and roots. Then, pick apart the bottom 1/2″ of the root ball so it’s “fuzzy”. Finally, use a finger nail or sharp-ish tool to make some slices along the sides of the soil/roots so the entire thing is generally fuzzy, but not falling apart. No slowly turn it over and get it into it’s new pot, adding more soil underneath the root ball so it doesn’t sink to low in the pot. Compress gently and water a little bit to bed it in.
If you are root-bound in a pint cup, it’s high time you fertilized, so mix up a batch according to the instructions down below and get ready for some explosive growth.
Keeping Track of PH
PH is one that is most often neglected because it seems like “science” or “too hard”. You need to know about it, however, or you may as well set your plants on fire. There is a huge amount of posting on forums about “sick” plants as people try to attribute various leaf splotches to various nutrient defficiencies. The simple fact is that if you pay attention to PH, you’ll rarely have any mysterious “sick” plants. Take care of the PH and the nutrients will take care of themselves.
Monitoring PH is as simple as buying an $8 PH testing kit. This is the cheapest method and is worth its weight in space coke. Growing in soil, you are looking for 5.8-6.0 PH, which is YELLOW after adding the reagent (read the instructions in the kit). Slightly green is higher (alkaline) than you want and slightly orange is lower (acidic) than you want. You want YELLOW every time.
To accomplish this, you’ll need to buy some PH DOWN. It’s way overpriced for what’s in it, but you need it. No exceptions. You’ll only need PH UP if you start using bloom fertilizers, but I recommend avoiding that complication when first starting out. The complications don’t justify the benefits.
If you are a bit of a home chemist and get the bright ideas to use vinegar or baking soda to “cheaply” adjust PH, get ready for DEAD PLANTS. Baking soda will form a salt on the roots and kill your plants dead as doornails in 8 hours. You cannot rinse it out, either – It’s an instant deadth sentence.
Vinegar is almost as bad because there are soil bacteria that like to feast on it. Within a few hours of adding it acidify the soil, those little beasties will have eaten it all up and the soil will be dangerously alkaline.
Every few waterings, you should check the PH of your runnoff water. There can be bacteria or salt buildups at work and you’ll go nuts with plant trouble if they start to force the soil out of the acceptable range. If the PH of your runnoff water is NOT 6.0, you might have to mix up a special batch of water to get it back on track. I often see runnoff PH go down to 4.0 which is not good at all and your plants will be looking sick at that point – generally with splotchy leaves. If you see that, mix up a batch of 7.0 PH water and flush a gallon through the soil. Measure runnoff again and do another flush if it’s not back to 6.0. If it goes too green on you, wait 12 hours and then measure the runnoff from a fresh gallon of 6.0. Don’t get all jibbery by going to far off the other end of scale in a big hurry. As long as the runnoff is not red (deadly acidic – 4.0) or blue (deadly alkaline – 8.0) you can let it sit and drain and see what happens over night.
If you are going to grow more than a few plants, soil will start to get expensive – one reason to go hydro… But let’s talk about soil. On the forums, you will find many opinions about how to make soil and they are all overly complicated.
It’s very easy to make a huge amount of soil for about $30. Just go to Home Depot and get a large bale of sphagnum peat moss and then to a good nursery or hydro store and get a large (4-5 cubic feet) of perlite. WEAR A DUST MASK and mix them 60% peat to 40% perlite in a large plastic storage tub, moistening with 6.0 PH’d water as you go. Don’t use this for seedlings because the amount of water required makes distilled water expensive and there may be contaminants in the peat.
Fertilizer is the cornerstone of your endeavor, but most n00bs use too much of it – as can be seen by the brown-tipped leaves in most plant pictures. The fertilizer industry has also gone and made things FAR more complicated than they need to be by offering up to 4 different “required” types of fertilizers for different stages of growing. The first-time grower should avoid all of that jibber jabber like the plague.
For growing in soil, pick ONE that is labled for soil and says “grow” on it as opposed to “bloom” or something else. If the bottle says use 1-3 teaspoons per gallon, use 2 teaspoons per gallon, not 3, not 8. Just 2. The rule is to always use slightly less than they recommend. Also, soil retains a lot of fertilizer so you can alternate every other watering with PH’d, un-fertilized water. If leaves become paler green than what you’ve seen before and the tips are not brown, use a little more fertilizer. If the tips start to turn brown, use less.
Endorsing a product is not the aim of this guide but growing in soil and keeping track of PH can be simplified. A grower I know has tapwater that is usually around 7.8 – very alkaline. He finds that exactly 2 teaspoons (10ml) of Fox Farms Grow Big soil fertilzer added to 1 gallon of water comes out to 6.0 PH and is the perfect amount of fertilizer. No PH adjustment is needed, however, on alternate waterings, when he adds no fertilizer, he adds PH DOWN. It’s rare to have tap water below 6.0, but you’ll have to buy PH UP if you do.
Remember to stop using fertilizer altogether for the last two weeks of budding. If you’ve never grown before, it’s hard to know exactly when, but generally, when you see the first pistils turn brown, it’s high time you flushed. Or, you can just time it to 6-7 weeks after going 12/12.
Take the time to get this figured out and write down some notes if you have to. It will simplify your life and eliminate a lot of headaches.
Even before you do the last flush before harvest, plants can benefit from a chemical flush in the middle of the growth or bud cycle. Sometimes you get dead roots and salt buildup that can slow down absorbtion of nutrient and there are things like Canazyme that dissolve the dead roots and flushing solution that dissolve salts from the good roots. Ask about them at a hydro store.
Killing your plants with too much love is a bummer and just like fertilizer, water can be overdone. In general, it’s best to let soil dry out until the container is noticeably lighter, but soil still feels moist about 1″ down. You don’t want to wait until leaves droop, which can happen in a few hours or less if the air is dry and/or the temps are high.
It’s good to keep your growing pots sitting in tubs to collect run-off, but never let run-off water sit in the bottom of the tubs or you’ll invite root rot. Keep a 5 gallon bucket handy to collect the run-off after each watering and dump it on your garden or some place useful. You generally can’t keep it for the next watering because the PH of fertilized water inexplicably climbs over time when exposed to the air and nasty beasties will start to grow in it. Feel free to conduct a scientific study on this.
It’s very easy to run your temps up over 100 deg F – even with fluorescents in a small space. Heat stress manifests as leaves that first point straight up and then curl under as the heat starts to damage them. A great way to keep track of temps is a digital fish tank thermometer with a remote probe on a wire. These cost about $6 and are perfect because you can mount the probe at plant-top level under the lights and mount the display by the door or someplace convenient. They generaly switch from F to C at the flick of a swtich. More cheap insurance.
In general, you want to keep the lights-on temps between 75 and 90 deg F and the lights-off temps no lower than 55 deg F. If the temps get above 95, you’ll start to lose growth but plants can tolerate 100 deg F for short periods before they start to suffer.
Before you plant your seeds, it’s a good idea to evaluate and plan your general growing situation. The amount of ventilation you can provide to the grow space will determine your lighting choices to a large extent. If you cannot deliver at least a 4″ duct of fresh air to and from the space, you won’t be able to use an HID lamp greater than 250 watts – unless it’s winter in Manitoba and your house has no insulation. The good news is that the new 23 watt CFL bulbs work amazingly well for vegging and flowering and they generate very little heat for what you get. Plus, they are cheap. You still will need ventillation because heat builds up from any light and carbon dioxide gets used up by plants.
Up to 400 watts, you can get away with a 6″ booster fan if you can route cool air in and get the hot air out through an odor filter. It’s a good idea to test your light and grow space with a thermometer before planting. Just close it up and leave the light on for 18 hours and come back and check the temp. If it’s under 90 degrees, you’re good to go. Over 90 and it pays to increase the airflow somehow. When using a few CFLs on a couple of plants, a large computer fan will do the job as long as there is some head room above the plants for the hot air to rise into.
Over 600 watts, you have to get serious about the airflow and almost design the room entirely around that. The more invisible you want to be, the more robust and clever your ventilation has to be, so think of it as a major subject to ponder. Be prepared to spend $200 or more on a centrifugal fan that can push through a long duct with a filter at one end.
My freshman year in college, I had a computer science TA that began our first class with the statement: (in a HEAVY Indian accent) “Most of your time programming will be spent just finding out bugs!” He was right, and when growing plants, if you let any bugs take hold, the same will be true of your growing time. Spider mites and fungus gnats, in particular will NEVER go away if you let them get in. You can spray and spray and spray and 3 days later… More bugs.
There are also thrips, silverfish, leaf miners and Shiva knows what else to contend with, so plan ahead for prevention. Some good ways to prevent bugs are:
- Use only new, sterile potting soil or soil you made yourself as described above
- Never put plants outdoors if they are going to be mostly indoor plants
- Never mix your babies with other potted plants
- Consider using a furnace/A/C filter on your ventilation air intake
- Pay close attention to watering schedules to avoid over and under watering
- Keep temperatures below 90 deg F
- Put a few Hot Shot pest traps in your grow room right from day one – bugs or not
- Add diatomacious earth to the top 1/2″ of soil after plants are in large pots
- Once a week, just before the lights go out, spray the soil and leaves with an organic bug spray (Safer or similar)
- After building your grow space but before sprouting seeds, use a pyrethrum bomb on the space
It’s a good idea to do all or most of these things from day one because once you see bugs, it’s probably too late. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of you-know-what.
You CAN grow a small amount decent marijuana using a 4-tube fluorescent shop light. This is cheap, simple and generates very little heat. To optimize results, considering arranging your space so you can light the plants from the SIDE instead of the top. Besides eliminating the problem of blocking up plants to the same height, it insures that the flowers can mature all the way down the stalk. With those old 40w tubes, you want them practically touching the leaves. Also make sure to get 3000K or “warm white” bulbs to maximize the red spectrum used in flowering.
Using this method, you can get very good results from one tall plant in a closet with the light standing vertically along the stalk. Alternately, you can grow a row of a few plants with the light fixture on its side. It’s worth investing in a T5 fixture for this method because the heat, output and power use are all vastly improved over old style 40 watt tubes.
Second best after T5s are the CFLs that screw into a regular incandescent bulb socket. They come in 2700K versions for about $3.50 each (in multipacks) and are fantastic for flowering. A bunch of them with bell shaped reflectors from Home Depo can approach a gram per watt in yeild if you keep them close and light plants from the side. They are cool enough that you can put them 2″ away from the plants. 2 or 3 23 watt bulbs per plant is enough to rival a 400 watt HPS in growth. Consider planning to move the lights to shine on the sides of the plants once they are over 8″ tall. This will insure than you get strong flowering all down the stalk instead of a ball on top and pathetic undergrowth.
HID lights are best of all, but they generate heat and cost a lot. There is some evidence that the new Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH) 400w lights from Philips are outperforming 600w HPS, so consider this when choosing lights. Apparently, the spectrum is better and the heat output is lower than older style MH or HPS. If you have the room and airflow, consider a pair of 400w CMH instead of a single 1000w metal halide or HPS. The more even distribution of light and better spectrum will pay dividends. You can also wire them on seperate circuits for safety.
When planning on HID lights, see the section on ventilation. 400w lights can be placed 15″ away from tops, 600w lights at 18″ and 1000w at 24″. You can raise them a bit to get better light covererage or lower them a bit if you have very good ventilation/cooling. When playing around with light height, it’s best to make small changes and observe the results. It always helps to block up the pots of plants that are lower than the rest, otherwise, they’ll lag far behind as the bigger plants start to cover them up and block their light.
How much light do I need?
As far as how much light you “need” it’s entirely up to your space and number of plants. In general, the photosynthetic saturation point for HID lighting is around 6000 lumens per square foot, but you can go as low as 3500lm/ft2 and get a harvest. So, a 4′ by 4′ space with a 600w HPS putting out 95,000 lumens is about right. In terms of watts, it’s 37.5 watts per square foot. You CAN use more, but it won’t help your results unless you have adequate cooling and use supplimental CO2. The plants can only grow as fast as they can absorb carbon dioxide and extra light will require more of it to produce extra yeild. High heat reduces carbon uptake, so that will limit the benefits as well.
When growing in soil with excessive light, you might have to water so often that it becomes a nuissance, so think of using over saturated light as another advanced growing technique.
With CFL lights, you can get away with 46 watts per plant and be ok. With T5s, maybe 35-40 watts per plant. Ceramic Metal Halides will perform fine as low as 20 watts per plant – such as 20 plants in a 4’x4′ area with a single 400w CMH. If you have short plants that aren’t branchy, you can cram up to 32 in a 4’x4′ space and do fine on 400 or 600 watts.
LED grow lights are not ready for mass consumption yet. The lights that you can buy for less that $1000 don’t work and the ones that are $1000 and up are still not ideal for our purposes due to the bunched placement of the emitters. Consider that to equal a 400w CMH, an LED array must consume roughly 150 watts and emit 80% 660nm and 20% 450 nm light. Since LED light doesn’t penetrate very far, the emitters must be treated like a fluorescent light, which means you can’t put an LED light up in the middle of the room and expect plants on the edge of the room to yield much. However, if you arranged a few arrays of LEDs totalling 200 watts or so, HORIZONTALLY against a single row of say…8-10 plants, you might see something amazing. Never mind how I know this.
It is now possible to buy 660nm 3 watt emiters from China for very cheap, so you may expect this subject to bear fruit in the near future. Be ready to stop thinking in terms of LUMENS and instead think in terms of radiated watts (as opposed to consumed watts). PAR watts per square meter, to be more precise.
If you’re lucky enough to live in a place where you can do this, you’re in for the most enjoyable growing experience possible. Plants LOVE to be out in nature and will reward you with enormous growth if you get them in the ground early in the year. It best not to leave soil or water up to nature, however. Depending on how far from your house you grow, you’ll have to plan for water delivery, soil amendment, animal protection and concealement.
The full scope of out-door growing in beyond this article, but I’ll touch on the important subjects. Consider that slugs, bugs, rabbits, deer and other animals can eat your babies right down to the nub in one night (or one minute!). You’ll need at least a 4 ft high fence with a 4 foot diamter to be sure that even elk can’t reach it until it’s big enough not to matter. If it’s in your yard, just tailor it for slugs and rabbits.
Also, no matter how “remote” you think an area is, you can pretty much be sure that some people will walk through it during your grow. If they’re in high school, your plants will get stolen and smoked – ripe or not. Younger kids may walk right past and adults may tell the cops who will set up cameras or something else devious. SO, when considering an outdoor area that’s not in your yard, look for any sign of a trail or trash within a 100 yard radius. The more time you spend in looking for a place that NOBODY goes, the better. In Washington and Oregon, old clear cuts are good spots because they are impassible by humans and deer due to the layer of sharp snags of dead wood covering them.
Once you have a good spot, you need to consider your local weather and how often/far you want to be carrying water. You can stash a bucket or bladder (dark colors) in the area and walk to a nearby pond or stream or else pack in a few gallon jugs in a large backpack. If you live on the east coast, you are lucky enough to be able to count on regular rain. The rest of us aren’t so lucky.
Soil can be pretty awful for growing plants out in the bush, so think about how you can mix at least 5-10 gallons of premium soil ingredients into the wild stuff. You want to get a PH around 6.0 and good drainage but also good water retention – just like indoor growing. You can bring a handful of the wild soil into a nursery and ask them what they think should be added to grow tomatoes.
Last thing to consider is the climate and your method of starting. If you take a plant that’s been started indoors and put it in the sun, it will be sunburned to death by the end of the first day. Start by putting them out for an hour and then work them up to a full days sun over about a week. If you live in a cold spot, use a little plastic green house to get them used to the sun’s cycle while the temps warm up a bit. Some strains are bred just for growing outdoors in cool climates, so ask your breeder what sort of issues need to be considered.
In general, you can start your seeds indoors in February and get them out in the bush in late March or 2 weeks after the last average frost. If you live high up or in the North, make sure the strain you pick will be ripe before the average first frost. Check your local Farmer’s Almanac for this information.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you are growing on your back porch and it faces South, consider that it may get too hot for effective growth at the height of summer and plan to errect some kind of partial sun shade. The temps on my back porch get up to 120 deg F, which is pushing the limits of what a plant can tolerate. I also have to water every day, which gets tedious.
Once you’ve got a few crops under your belt, you might want to start thinking about hydroponic or aeroponic. There are a lot of different variations on the techniques, but basically what happens is the roots grow in air or a medium other than dirt (hydroton clay balls, for example) and get a regular dose of fertilized water, but only enough to keep them from drying out. You never want them under water for more than a few minutes at a time or they’ll suffocate and start to rot.
The advantages of hydro/aero are: much faster growth, ability to increase or decrease nutrient levels or PH in a matter of seconds and taylor them for optimum growth. You can also add a lot more light and use supplimental CO2 to increase growth further.
The most important thing to remember about these methods is that you MUST maintain strict and exact control of every parameter at all times or your plants can die in minutes – no joke! There is extra headache involved because pumps and valves can break, containers can leak, nozzles can clog up and power can fail. You can pop down to the shop for a carton of milk and come back to dead plants – NOOOOO! Therefore, it’s a good idea to research hydro and aero for several months before setting up your own test system. Don’t ever “bank” on your first hydro system to work. Trust me on this :
Some keywords you can search to learn more are: Deep water culture (DWC), Aeroponics, Hydroponics, Ebb and flow. Build and test something on tomatoes or lettuce before you turn it loose on ganja.
SOG and SCROG
Screen of green involves pinching a small number of plants and training the multiple shoots up through a net so you get many large colas with one plant Simply pinching a plant and not training will cause the outside branches to block light from the inside and reduce yields, so the net is the key.
Sea of green is usually cramming a large number of plants or clones in a small area. The key with this is to keep them low and prune off all of the side branches so they don’t crowd each other
12/12 from seed
This is an old method that people used to use with sativas so they wouldn’t grow 8 feet tall. The idea got lost for a while when people realized how easy cloning was, but it’s making a comeback. If you think about it, equitoral plants (Thai, Jamaican, Brazillian…) never get more than 12 hours of sunlight, so they’ve evolved to work best with it. There are also many indicas that work fine with this method because they come from cold, mountain areas where the growing season is short. There are a few that will stay too short to produce much, so it pays to ask around or test it on a few seeds of your favorite strain before committing.
For plants with any sativa in them, you can expect this method to produce nice tall colas with minimal side branching and yeild as much as if you vegged. Trimming is simplified due to the lack of light-starved poppcorn buds at the bottom. This is also a good way to prevent bugs because the shorter life cycle provides less time for them to get a foot-hold.
Clones can be taken from a plant in any stage of growth, but the further into budding it is, the lower the chance of success. Some strains are easier than others, but in general, you want to keep them very moist for 3 days and then let them dry out a little so they don’t rot. Most clone failures are due to too much moisture and using something other than distilled water.
To take a clone, select a stem that is close to the thickness of a pencil and has at least 5 leaf nodes. Use a new razor blade to cut it at a 45 deg angle and then cut off the two bottom leaves. Be careful to make a clean cut and not strip any bark fibers off the stem. Get the cutting some distilled water within 5 seconds and let it sit for 2 hours so it gets used to absorbing water into the cut parts. DO NOT leave it in water for more than 2 hours.
Now you can stick it in a rockwool cube or a small cup with 100% perlite, hydroton or similar hydropnic medium and place it in a low-light area that you can keep fairly humid. The less light, the better – just a single fluoro tube about 12″ away. 24 hours on is cool if you don’t know when you want your eventual 12/12 timing to be.
If you did it right, the cutting should never wilt – this will take some experience – and will root in 15 days or less. After 15 days, your chances fall to zero, so throw it out and try again. Many people claim that so called “rooting solutions” don’t make the slightest improvement, but some of them contain fungicides that might help. Distilled water is really the key, though.
Some plants will regenerate after budding just by putting them back under 18-24 hours of light. This varies from plant to plant and is not dependant on strain. Also, the general condition and health of the roots plays a large part. If you get one that’s really special and you didn’t clone it, go ahead and leave a few of the lower buds on the stalk after clipping the main cola. Flush the soil out with a flushing solution and then fertilize regular strength when you put it back under veg cycle. You might just get lucky and notice new growth within a week! If not, the leaves will all start to turn brown, signaling that this plant is not one that regenerates. Poop!
Some Common Sense
When learning to grow, it’s very easy to get confused by the massive amounts of conflicting information posted on internet forums. Before you go dashing off to implement the newest and greatest fad or “solution”, or spend money on “miracle” lights and supplements. Take a step back and think of yourself as a scientist. Has more than one reputable and long-time forum member vouched for this idea? Does it cost a lot and provide little documented gain? Will it totally mess up what you have going right now?
In general, when you post a question on forums, the thread will degenerate into an argument and any chance of getting help will evaporate. Before contributing to the melee, stop and ask youself these questions:
- Do I check PH every watering and have I checked the PH of the runnoff lately?
- Am I using slightly less than the recommended amount of fertilizer?
- Do I have a thermometer in the room?
- Do I practice good watering intervals and alternate with unfertilized water?
- Do I have a reasonable amount of wattage for my situation?
- Do I have adequate ventilation?
- Have I done something silly like dump half a bottle of Super Thrive (avoid this stuff) onto one plant?
If you pay attention to what you are doing and read the forums without getting involved in the fracass, you’ll become a grow expert in a very short time. It’s not rocket science and there are no magic bullets. Good growing is simply about keeping everything in balance and not being lazy. Don’t over-do any one area and don’t let another one slide.
Keep in mind that plants get their energy from light and structure from carbon dioxide. The fertilizers and water we use are basically catalysts for the photosynthetic process and any excess of one thing won’t speed it up. Balance is the key.
Above all, have fun and enjoy it! Patience and a level head will reward you with some top-shelf dank that you can be proud of. And maybe by the second or third grow, you’ll recoup your investment 🙂