One of the most important aspects of growing up is becoming comfortable making mistakes. Mistakes will always happen, but if you approach them from the right mindset and capitalize on them, they truly are happy little accidents. For example, I made a lot of mistakes with my first few grows. From freaking out over nothing to having my plants outgrow their housing, growing cannabis wasn’t always easy.
But if I didn’t make those mistakes, I wouldn’t be able to help others. Plus, I’m getting paid to write about my %@#! ups, so I’m a big fan of mistakes. But we must learn from our mistakes if we are to learn to love them. So here are things I wish I did differently the first few times around, along with things I’m happy to say I did right.
Growing Cannabis Isn’t Difficult
I know cannabis is special to a lot of people, and I’m not knocking that at all. However, please don’t treat growing cannabis as if it’s special compared to other plants because it will only make things worse for you. In fact, cannabis isn’t even a difficult plant to grow, especially when it comes to growing crops like celery, wasabi, and melons.
A lot of cannabis growers will throw a lot of abuse at their plants, yet are still able to harvest more than enough to last them with just a plant or two. You couldn’t say that about a lot of common crops that throw out only a few fruits and flowers per plant.
You’re Feeding Too Much
I’m ashamed to admit that for way too long, I gave my weed way more nutrients than they needed. I can’t tell you how happy I was having nutrient issues one time, so I drove my feedings up high — an EC of 2.0+ mS/cm — because it matched feeding levels that I saw other growers recommend. That was a mistake, though I recovered by driving nutes to non-existent levels the last few weeks. Some would say that is what’s suppose to happen, but for me and the research I’ve pored over through, this is not (I drive into the flushing controversy in part 2).
In a pure hydro setup like DWC, I suggest never letting the EC in your reservoir exceed 1.4 mS/cm during the vegetative phase and 1.6 mS/cm in the flowering phase. One area cannabis really differs from other crops is its sensitivity to higher ECs normal for them — potentially due to cannabis’ high water consumption.
Fertilizing cannabis plants in containers is a little more complicated. A substrate like coco coir dries out very quickly and usually requires daily watering. Peat moss, which often makes its way into potting soil, retains water quite well and often only requires water every other day. At the height of flowering, I typically feed an EC solution between 1-1.3 mS/cm. If I’m using a substrate that’s excellent at retaining water — like potting soil or peat — I’ll stay near the higher end of my range when watering every other day. Bigger plants get water every day or are placed in bigger containers. In coco coir, I’ll water once a day regardless of plant/container size and typically stay on the lower end of my EC advice.
The above numbers include up to 0.4 mS/cm from tap water — be careful with tap water that goes over this number. These ranges are for cannabis plants that are not given supplemental CO2.
Aim to keep nutrient levels low and don’t immediately jump to increase them when you see a problem. Only raise nutrient levels after you’ve ensured there isn’t an issue with one of the other nine cardinal principles: light, wind, water, humidity, room temperature, root-zone temperature, root-zone oxygen, and room-level carbon dioxide. If you don’t know what VPD is, school yourself on it before raising nutrients or adding additives like a calcium/magnesium solution.
Do be on the lookout for a thing called “hidden hunger”. This is where you’re fertilizing just enough to keep your plants healthy, but not enough for them to pack on the bud weight. This is much more of a concern for non-cannabis growers who have the opposite issue we do.
While many new cannabis growers abuse their plants with too many nutrients, they’re scared to actually do the abusing they should be doing. Gosh, that sounds bad.
Whether it’s low or high stress, I love all forms of plant training and employ them, and you should too. I hate the terms low and high-stress training because they can freak a new gardener out.
Low-stress training like tying down a stem isn’t honestly causing any real stress at all. And techniques like topping, don’t really warrant the name “high” stress for me. I’ve seen a number of different strains bounce back and continue growing within a day after multiple toppings.
On my second grow, I almost accidentally beheaded my main shoot and freaked! First, I shouldn’t have freaked out because I should have had multiple main shoots from topping. Second, the plant healed and bounced right back after taping the stem up.
A couple of notes. Please don’t defoliate healthy fan leaves in flowering. Next, a sea of green method with several small plants that fill out, say, a 3×3 tent will probably lead to larger yields faster than training one cannabis plant to take up the same space.
Growing Multiple Plants
It may seem daunting growing multiple plants the first few times around, but if you do it right (not hard), you’ll be better off. Plants love throwing out “random” blemishes, and it doesn’t necessarily indicate that your nutrient levels are off. Maybe you watered too fast, temps got too high for a second, etc., and the plant’s genetics weren’t up for the task.
This is why I like at least one or two other plants in my tent. It allows me to see if the issue pops up on the others — indicating that it’s more than just genetics at play. Second, it lets me compare and contrast the overall greenness of the plants. This makes it much easier to see if one is getting too light green and wants nutes, or that one is getting too dark, which probably means it’s getting too many nutrients.
One warning, it’s really fun growing different strains at the same time. However, stick with growing a couple of plants of the same strain the first time or so. After, feel free to mix different Indica and even hybrid strains. Stay away from mixing hardcore Indicas with tried-and-true Sativas until you have a lot of growing under your belt. It’s a lot of fun, but the discrepancy between height and flowering times are very tricky.
As well, if you’ve never had the opportunity to grow plants other than cannabis, find it, because growing other plants was the key for me to master growing cannabis.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my blunders. More importantly, I hope you have found some things that can help unlock the gardener I know you can be. Making lots of mistakes is natural in gardening, but don’t let them get you down. The best have all made those mistakes and worse, but we’ve learned from them. If you’re looking to read more of my failures, you’re in luck, as there’s a part two, and boy, do we get spicy in it.
Looking to sound off about my advice or felt I missed a common mistake other growers could benefit from? Let me know in the comment section.