Friday, March 16, 2018

4 Elements of Growing Bomb Weed (Beginner's Edition)

     Fire.  Water.  Earth.  Air.  The 4 elements upon which everything is based: the Zodiac signs, the Tarot deck, the four seasons.  They're also the 4 major elements needed to grow bomb cannabis. 
     Cannabis is a weed that is incredibly easy to grow compared to finicky flowers like poppies & the like.  It needs comparatively little to thrive.  Once you have quality genetics in your hand, these four elements applied properly will provide a booming harvest every time. 
     This article is written BY a beginner, FOR beginners (BBFB).  It's by no means a definitive guide to cannabis cultivation (ha!) so don't take it as such or you'll be sorely disappointed.  For a more comprehensive guide, check out Grow Weed Easy.  The internet is overflowing with grow advice...some good, some not.  My intention here is to drown out all the static & bring it back to basics so beginners can get a solid foundation. I've linked to some more detailed explanations throughout the piece, so check 'em out if you need more info.  Since autoflowers are smaller & generally easier for beginners, we'll focus on those for now.  

F I R E

     FIRE = light.  Light is the energy & power source that fuels all life, including ganja.  Lighting setups can get overly complicated if you let them, but they don't have to.  Got access to direct sunlight during the daytime?  If you have a South-facing window in your home, you can set your autoflower plant in the windowsill & get 6-8 hours of sunlight per day during the Spring & Summer months (depending on where you live).  Ditto for patios, balconies & porches.  This is sufficient to sustain your plant all the way through flowering if necessary, but you can also supplement with LEDs, CFLs or other indoor lighting after the sun goes down.  Autoflowers tend to like 18/6 or 20/4 lighting schedules (18 hours on, 6 off).
     Be sure to place your lights far enough from your plants so they don't burn, but not so far they stretch & become lanky.  This will vary depending on your setup & stage of growth.  One benefit of autos is that they flower automatically (get it?), so you don't have to worry about strict dark periods or light leaks.  Score!     

W A T E R
     WATER is the yin to FIRE's yang.  It hydrates, cools & restores.  Watering is tricky for some folks.  It's tempting to water your plant often because it feels like a loving thing to do.  But this can easily kill it by causing "damping off," root rot, fungus & other issues.
     To combat these problems, make sure to put a lot of drainage holes in your container.  Better yet, use a Smart Pot that allows all-over drainage.  A good breathable soil with lots of perlite also helps keep water from pooling.
      Only water when the top inch of soil feels dry, though it's okay to mist seedlings with a spray bottle more often if you live in a dry climate.  Seedlings like humidity.  The goal is to strike a balance between letting the roots grow & search for water & giving them enough moisture to prevent drying out.  How often you water will change throughout the plant's life:  germination requires near-constant wetness; the seedling stage can get by with 2 good waterings per week & some cool mist on the leaves.  Once in flowering, plants will be quite thirsty attempting to meet their growing needs.  3 good waterings per week is usually adequate in flowering depending on your setup.
     Optional:  About 5 days before harvest, flush your soil with lots of water, allowing it to run out the bottom of your container.  This will be your last watering ever.  Let the plant dry out for the next 4-5 days before cutting it down for harvest.  Some say this increases potency by stressing the plant.  If you're using chemical fertilizers, this step is NOT optional & is a must for safety reasons.

A I R

     AIR refers to the flow of oxygen through your growspace, and it has a lot of important functions.  First, wind helps strengthen the stems of your plants by training them to withstand pressure.  Secondly, it plays a vital role in germination.  If you put a seed in a cup of water or soaked paper towels for days on end, it will drown.  It needs to "breathe" every now and then to keep germinating.  Just lifting the paper towels for a few seconds each day to expose the seed to the air will serve this purpose well.  Most importantly though, roots need oxygen because it's not as readily available beneath the soil.  They obtain it from water, and it's more abundant in cool water (72 degrees F or less) than warm, so use the cool stuff when watering.
     After harvest, air will play a very important role in helping your buds reach optimal dryness before curing.  You can manicure your plants wet (before drying) or dry, but I prefer doing it wet because its easier to shape the buds & remove all the leaf particles.  You can dry them by hanging them upside down on clothes hangers or putting the individual buds on a drying rack.  10 days is generally a good amount of time to dry your buds--they should feel crispy on the outside & cushy on the inside with stems that snap when bent.  That's when you'll know it's time to cure.  Curing can be done in a mason jar or baby food jar with a lid.  Just 'burp' the jar by opening the lid for a few minutes every day or so, and in 2-3 weeks your buds will be ready to consume.   

E A R T H

     Finally, we come to humble old EARTH.  This includes both the soil your plants live in & any nutrients or fertilizers fed to them.  EARTH is all about nourishment & abundance.  Choosing a rich, well-draining soil is one of the most important steps to growing bomb buds.  I use Black Gold organic, but Fox Farms Happy Frog & Roots Organics brands are also popular.  You can also make your own soil by combining ingredients like earthworm castings, vermiculite, peat moss & others.  But since this is a beginner's guide, we'll stick to the pre-mixed soils.  One thing to AVOID are soils with slow-release nutrients, such as Miracle Grow--largely because it contains too much nitrogen & drains poorly.  But there are other cheap brands to watch out for that do the same thing.  Autos do not like to be transplanted, so start them in biodegradable seed pods or their forever home at germination.
     Since autoflowering plants have such a short lifespan & don't grow to the towering size of their photoperiod sistren, added nutrients are not quite as important*.  If your soil is rich, you shouldn't need to add much else until at least the 3rd or 4th week of growth.  Doing so before then could burn your seedling so be careful.  There are a lot of pre-made fertilizers for vegetative growth & flowering, but I haven't tested any of them.  I'm more interested in the cheap homemade ones like diluted urine, used aquarium water or banana peelsChicken poop tea(!) is another winner.
     Just be sure to research the proper dilution ratios before adding these things to your soil.  In fact, if your plant looks healthy & happy without them, don't add them at all.  If it ain't broke don't fix it.  Nutrient deficiencies will often make themselves known in the form of yellow or purpling leaves, drooping, curling or white spots.  Make sure to research your particular symptoms before adding a specific fertilizer or you could end up making it worse. 

*Note:  I'm referring only to soil grows in this article, not hydroponic.  

Any questions?  Share your tips & tricks in the comments!  😏

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