There are few easy short cuts for the average grower that has embraced the call to high quality harvests. Some of the required improvements involve the deepening of grower experience.
The most common errors seen by less experienced growers tend to be over-feeding and over-watering, it can take some growers a long time to kick those particular habits. But what about the tips and tricks adopted by the most successful home growers? After decades in the business, watching home growers work tirelessly to improve the quality of their harvests we thought it would be useful to share some of the most useful advice to allow the average home grower produce superior quality cannabis.
Choice of growlight.
The vast majority of hobby growers use HPS lights for their crop. These certainly do a good enough job. HPS is cheap. You can buy an entry level HPS light for not much more than the cost of a family meal in a mid-range pizza restaurant. But HPS lighting may well be a quality bottleneck in your grow room. The HPS spectrum was never optimised for cannabis growing, it contains plenty of less useful orange and yellow light. The high levels of ambient heat produced by HPS can cause heat stress, especially for summer grows.
Anyone that has tried to grow cannabis during high summer temperatures with HPS lighting will be painfully aware of the difficulties that temperature management can bring. Using air conditioning may be an option for professional growers but is rarely easy for hobby growers to implement. Many hobby growers have upgraded from HPS to the new ceramic metal halide grow lights. Yes, there is a price premium to pay. But cooler grow room temperatures are a welcome bonus for summer growers.
Many CMH growers veg their plants under blue dominant CMH lighting, and switch to red rich light during bloom. Many pro growers switch back to a blue dominant CMH light source for the last week of bloom. The theory is that the terpene profile benefits tremendously from ‘blue light treatment’.
LED. A price worth paying?
LED is now regarded as one of the best ways to take THC levels and cannabis quality to the next level by pro growers. The only down side is the serious price premium which you need to chew on. You can usually expect to pay the best part of €/£/$700-1000 to replace a 600W HPS for a typical 1.2m x 1.2m grow area. That’s many times the cost of a budget 600W HPS light and for many hobby growers LED simply isn’t a realistic option. Ceramic metal halide lights do a better job than HPS and are generally cheaper than LED. For many they are a good option.
However, many of the professional licensed cannabis producers have bitten the bullet and made the substantial investment to convert their grow operations to LED. The main reason for the upgrade is simply the need to stand out from the crowd when it comes to bud quality. With so many legal producers offering mid-range quality buds from HPS grow rooms there is often an opportunity to sell premium quality buds for the top shelf of the dispensary. These are the buds that have the highest 20%+ THC levels. LED is expensive, but people are prepared to pay the price for good reasons.
Auto pots, air pots, fabric pots and overfeeding/over-watering.
Less experienced growers can be tempted to over-feed and overwater their cannabis plants. Both bad habits, if left uncorrected, will reduce plant growth rates and damage the plant. Good tips include investing in a tensiometer. These are small battery operated devices which measure the moisture content of your soil. They are accurate and highly recommended. The main benefit is that you eliminate the risk of over-watering. Cannabis roots require some level of aeration, or access to oxygen, to thrive. Sitting in a muddy mass of soil will stunt a cannabis plant and leave it with a sub-optimised root ball and a poor quality harvest.
The only reason that cannabis roots don’t rot in a deep water culture hydro systems is that they are bathed in oxygen thanks to the air-stone/bubbler under the roots.Many soil and coco-fibre growers have switched from standard plastic grow containers to air-pots or fabric grow sacks. These allow much higher levels of root aeration and prevent the tendency for cannabis roots to circle and become entangled around the sides of traditional grow containers.Combining a more aerated growing container, such as an airpot or fabric grow-sack with a tensiometer is a good way to enhance root health and push your growing to the next level.Some growers love the autopot-style grow systems which automatically add feed solution only after the plants have fully consumed the previous feed.
This allows the roots chance to absorb oxygen, the automated feeding is a bonus especially for commercial growers with large numbers of plants. Auto-pot type grow systems use a central feed tank to auto gravity feed the plants when their pot has run out of nutrient solution. Because the plants are all fed from the same reservoir it is ideal for those growing identical clones with the same nutrient requirements but may be less well suited to those growing several different varieties in a small grow operation.
Marginal gains. Temperature swings and extremes
In the quest for improved quality cannabis there are few easy ways to gain a quick advantage. Getting a quality LED grow light is one of the few quick ways to take your growing up a level, but it’s also an expensive upgrade. Many of the other ways to improve your crop quality are small marginal gains. However, as any experienced grower will tell you, an accumulation of marginal gains in all aspects of your grow adds up to new quality levels in your final harvest.
Avoiding extremes of temperatures is one of the key ways an average grower can step up their production quality. Anyone who has ever had the misfortune to be blooming a tent of plants in a heatwave, with HPS lighting will know what a massive effect heat stress can have on cannabis. In the worst cases the final buds are barely worth smoking with modest potency and even worse taste. Avoiding temperature extremes requires careful planning/timing of your grow cycles, for example to avoid peak summer temperatures. Alternatively, you will need to invest in climate control, which could involve potentially expensive air conditioning. No-one said it would be cheap, but with summers getting ever hotter, air-con could be necessary to optimise your quality levels.
Likewise, ensure that your minimum grow room temperatures ideally don’t drop too low at night or you will stunt growth. Many indoor growers like to ensure that lights-off temperatures don’t dip much below 20ºC and like to avoid exceeding 25ºC. For professional growers it is a big no-no to exceed 30ºC. Just like LED, air con is expensive, but for the best growers it is a price worth paying.
Continuous improvement and learning.
Even growers with decades of experience find they can learn something new or improve things a little here and there. The best growers usually pay close attention to details about cleanliness and optimisation of their grow room. Vacuuming your grow room after use and cleaning the surfaces with a mild disinfectant is a good way to ensure the next crop doesn’t suffer and avoidable pests and diseases. The progressive home grower will often read books about their preferred grow technique and aim to become a genuine
expert in their preferred cultivation method, always keen to learn and improve. Those lucky enough to have a genuinely knowledgeable grower/owner of their local hydro shop will feel like they have an expert on their side.
Safety first & housekeeping.
The experienced hobby grower has a back-up carbon filter and a good idea of when it will be needed. Many growers are still caught out by lack of effective odour control, don’t be one of them. Those that are worried about leaving their grow room unattended while they are away may wish to buy an auto fire extinguisher. These release their contents automatically when a fire is detected. Of course, if you are using high quality equipment you will never need it. But it’s peace of mind knowing that it’s there anyway.
Avoiding the temptation to over-complicate.
Growers with an optimised grow environment know it isn’t necessary to constantly meddle with the plants and grow room. Soil growers, especially those growing in large containers may only need to visit their grow room a couple of times a week. If you can avoid temperature swings, avoid over feeding & over watering, restrict relative humidity from getting too high in late bloom and optimise lighting spectrum (LED) and intensity levels then you are avoiding many of the pitfalls and are on the road to superior quality. With each grow you will learn more about plant responses to the environment and will improve your nutrient management skills. Avoiding the temptation to over complicate and continually change things is good advice for the less experienced grower. Gain skill and experience as you go along and remember a grow room can be relatively simple and still produce excellent results.
Proven genetics are better than bag seed.
It goes without saying that even a master grower with a stable, optimised grow room wouldn’t be able to grow potent buds from poor genetics. Whether you grow from seeds or have a clone fairy, remember to stick to the highest quality genetic sources possible.
Continuous improvement. A natural process.
Most growers tend to accumulate skill and knowledge as they progress from one grow to the next. Learning from avoidable mistakes is a painful experience for cannabis growers, sometimes resulting in harvests which are complete write-offs. On the other hand there are few things as satisfying for the cannabis grower as achieving a really special harvest.
That’s why so many people that had little original interest in gardening transition to become good cannabis growers. Cannabis growing is a hobby which rewards like no other. If you are prepared to work hard and learn, your growing will only improve and so will the quality of your harvests.