Growing for Dummies Part 1
Soft Secrets begins a new series, aimed at beginner level marijuana growers with absolutely no previous experience. As you start out, we’ll be there with a step by to explain not just the terms and sayings of the growing world, but to lend a hand as you strive towards constructing a simple growing space in your home. A series ‘for Dummies’ then, who after they have read all of it and have successfully trimmed their first harvest, will be able to call themselves Soft Secrets-certified growers!
So you want to grow at home, but don’t know where you should begin? Begin by reading! If you’re starting out for the first time you are already way down the path by having discovered Soft Secrets, even if at the moment you don’t quite ‘get’ everything that’s being talked about here – especially some of the technical terms that are used. As with all other forms of business you have first to get yourself a theoretical foundation.
So go find yourself some books on indoor growing, check out all the cannabis media, videos and talk to other growers in the many cannabis forums available on the Net. The Net forums especially are a perfect place to get your knowledge up to scratch. You’ll find all levels of grower willing to share their experience, from rookies to pros and commercial growers. They’ll do this with pleasure, and answer your questions really fast. This is the great advantage of a forum over reading a book, which can often leave you with unanswered questions. These can be asked straight away online, and this speeds up the whole learning process.
But you do still need to have read a basic book on the indoor growing process. This will answer 80% of your questions about growing your own cannabis in this way. You must read this book as much as possible, at least three times all the way from back to front and front to back. Everything you don’t understand you can keep in mind and then ask in a forum.
You can also come here for additional information. After several months cruising the forum, looking at lovely pictures of buds, reading others’ experiences of growing, and answerin g that remaining 20% of your many questions, you’ll be qualified to call yourself – in theory – a fully fledged grower. But as you all well know, putting theory into practice is rarely as smooth as you anticipate.
The next step is to gather your growing things. What do we all need if we’re going to grow cannabis? Pots to put soil in, which should not pose any major problems. By soil I mean an earth mix, of course, and in this you have a huge range to choose from. Cheap bags of earth as sold in many gardening centres will work, but can pose many problems for the beginner. The earth contains little nutrient and is not airy enough. Well aerated soil is important for good development of the roots of our cannabis plant. By ensuring you have a well aerated soil the plant will grow more vigorously, be stronger, more healthy – just better all round. You can achieve this by adding small, white, light stones called perlite to your earth, which make it airier.
But why make things hard for yourself when they can be easy? Thanks to the many grow shops in the UK you can simply buy earth that was designed for growing cannabis in from the outset. These high-quality soil mixes contain enough of the right n utrients for the whole grow cycle once you have done a two week pre-grow. The soil is airy too, since many have perlite mixed in. It will cost you a bit more but the added value these soils offer makes them worthwhile. Earth is very important. Your plant sinks its roots into it after all, so why skimp on it? If you want to save money, do that everywhere else but on your soil. Better you buy cheaper seeds than to try and raise plants from expensive seeds sown in cheap soil. One more disadvantage of using cheap soil is that it soon gets hard and dries out. If you really, absolutely do not have room in your budget to get the good stuff, then it’s best you buy cutting compost. This is the best quality of the cheaper soil mixes and at once the most expensive too.
Above all do not buy compost used for raising flowers or suchlike. These composts are made for growing specific sorts of flowers and plants and are usually more acidic because that is how these plants like it. Our cannabis plants, however, really do not like this.
Now it has to be said that cannabis plants will pretty much grow on anything; after all it is and remains a weed. But try and indulge the plant as much as possible and she will indulge you in return come harvest time with a large yield. So make your way over to the local grow shop if you can. The biggest advantage of using good quality earth such as that from Plagron is that you have nothing or very little to do. So you do not need to add extra nutrients, for example.
We have filled out pots with earth, so what do we need now? Well obviously, raising marihuana without the cannabis plants themselves can be a little difficult. The easiest way to get hold of some is from seeds. These can be sold in most countries and you can order them without any problems. Where can you order cannabis seeds, I hear you ask?
For a start we can go back to the Net. Many sites offer cannabis seeds but not all of them are, shall we say, sincere. Buy a few from several well-known seed merchants is my advice. My personal favourite is Gypsy Nirvana in the UK, which you can visit physically or order from the Net at www.seedsdirect.to. You will find a large selection of seeds from nearly all the seed breeders from around the world for good prices. Above all the speed with which orders are processed is outstanding, not to mention that their delivery is secure and safe.
I can hear the next question on your lips: what sort should I raise? And why are some seeds so expensive and others cheap? The simplest way to explain this is that it is similar to the difference between branded clothes and unbranded. Branded clothing costs much more but is not necessarily better. The major part of the price you pay is going on the brand itself, and the same goes in the seed world, where the well-known names command the highest prices. It also has to do with the image; ‘expensive’ is associated with being ‘better’. One company sells its seeds for more expensive prices but sells fewer than the seed company which sells its wares for cheaper prices. Also, the amount of work put into a seed’s development, and that of new varieties (basically, R&D), adds to the price. Through many years’ experience the quality of the seed is kept high, as with big companies such as Sensi Seeds, and the asking price is high as a consequence.
But the eventual price depends on many, many factors and my own experience is that price is not necessarily an indicator of quality. You can have good and bad experiences with expensive and cheap seeds. Even seeds picked out of your weed can be raised into decent plants.
But we still haven’t got our seed, so which will we plump for? There is way too much choice, I must say. Each variety has its own qualities and foibles in growing. So the good news is you can’t really make a wrong choice. So don’t work yourself up into a lather choosing. But to make it easier for you: go for an Indica variety. Why an Indica? You have two basic sorts of cannabis plant: Indicas and Sativas. Indicas don’t grow too large and have a short bloom period, with strong, broad stems and wide leaves.
The Sativas are the opposite, with a strong growth leading to large plants with thin leaves, and especially during flowering, are much bigger than the Indicas. You also have hybrids of the two that are primarily Indica with a little Sativa, or they can be mostly Sativa with a dash of Indica in them. Both sorts are outstanding but for a beginner there is a greater chance of success with an Indica. Sativas can be unpredictable and during flowering can triple in size. Indica varieties will double their size at most during flowering, which is way less (especially when space is limited). Indicas are therefore easier to deal with and do not hold as many surprises in store, as well as having greater resistance to stress (with less for the grower in turn).
Definitely for the grower with just a few plants in a cupboard I recommend the Indicas. Now I don’t want to give the impression that a Sativa is hard to raise, but if you want to maximise you chances of a successful harvest you have got to go for an Indica. You will notice that there are a lot of these to choose from. Everyone has a personal opinion as to what variety you should go for, so choose for yourself, as it is ultimately down to personal preference. So finally, after much um-ing and ah-ing, you’ve made a choice. Nice one!
Our plants will not grow without light and so we have to get a grow-bloom lamp (a lamp that can be used for both stages of the bud-raising process). The lamp will determine your eventual harvest: the more light, the more weight. So more light means more weed and a larger yield. Even with a light bulb you can grow cannabis, but you’re better off growing with what are known in the trade as ‘TL-lamps’ – you probably know them as fluorescent lights. In order to get a reasonable yield of very good quality, then a 400w-600w sodium lamp is needed. These lamps are of average strength as there are also 1000w and 2000w types, as well as 150w and 250w.
The 400w-600w lamp is perfect for us as it uses relatively little energy for the amount of cannabis it can produce. It is certainly in a different league than just switching on a regular light bulb. There are many types of light and don’t let yourself get fobbed-off with anything other than a sodium light. Take the cheapest and simplest design to begin with. Air-cooled or water-cooled varieties can better be left for trying on future crops. A 400w bulb can deliver 200 grams of bud and a 600w one up to 300 grams. This is an estimated yield you might hope for as a beginner. If you get more, then count yourself lucky. If you’re good, usually after a several crops, then you might hope for 300 grams from a 400w and 400 grams from a 600w light. Both these power lamps can illuminate one square meter very well and give off a reasonable amount of heat. Bear this in mind.
Via this insight we arrive at our next purchase: a suction pump with an active carbon filter. Cannabis plants need carbon dioxide (CO2) in order to grow, which they take out of the air around them. If you do not allow fresh supplies of air to the room they are growing in, then sooner or later they are going to use it all up. Once that happens the plant growth is retarded and it will be less healthy. To prevent this happening we make sure that fresh air enters the grow room by putting in an air extractor. This sucks the CO2-depleted air and expels it outside, causing fresh, CO2-laden air to automatically flow into the space. In other words, you do not necessarily need a pump to blow fresh air back into you grow space. You can if you wish, but it is not essential.
The added advantage of having an air extractor is that we can also remove the typical smell of the cannabis plants during blooming, and to make sure that this does not attract attention outside we use a carbon filter on the extractor to remove the smell. Every extractor has a carbon filter that fits it precisely. A carbon filter is a great big tube filled with carbon. So-called active carbon has the quality of absorbing the chemicals that cause odours and neutralising them. That a carbon filter will not last an age should be obvious. Once full, they allow the odours to roam free once more. A carbon filter generally does about five harvests, so lasts about a year before needing replacement.
A good extractor with decent carbon filters is something you really cannot afford to be without if you want to grow cannabis. It will be one of the more expensive purchases if you’re just starting out, but just try without one and see what kind of problems you get. If you survive being found out by the smell from your plantation, your yield from the plants will still remain low thanks to the low CO2 in the air.
To ensure the fresh air that is sucked in is evenly dispersed through your growing space we will also need one or more ventilators to provide good air circulation. By keeping the air in circulation and constantly mixing with itself, the ventilator ensures that temperature and air moisture as well as CO2 are evenly spread throughout the space. Without a ventilator, one side of your space may be 25 degrees, and the other side 20 degrees. The heat that comes from the lamps, thanks to the ventilator, is spread throughout the space creating an even temperature. An additional benefit of a ventilator that’s left to blow across your plants is that they will develop thicker and stronger stems, which will in turn produce a better crop later on.
That our plants do not grow themselves is a fact, which means we also have to give them food. Liquid organic nutrient gets my seal approval just as Plagron did. As I said earlier, a good soil will have enough nutrients in it to last the whole grow. Only in the last weeks is it an idea to give some supplemental feeding, and we do this with liquid foodstuffs.
For growing indoors we only need bloom feed. Because even the cheapest soil has enough nutrient in it to complete the growth stage, as long as we do not spend too long on the pre-growth. Every plant food is different, but all are based on nitrogen, phosphorous and potash (potassium). Nitrogen and potash are the most useful for growth, and a phosphorous and potash mix is the most useful during blooming. A good bloom feed therefore contains plenty of phosphorus and potash, and a small amount of nitrogen.
Once again, choose the special cannabis feeds since every plant food is different and it is best in the beginning to stick to using only one feed supplement. By working straight away with cannabis plant food you will get a better feel for plant nutrition – and better future crops – than by starting out with domestic plant food or suchlike, and then switching to cannabis plant food later.
So now we have covered the most important issues: good soil, light, seed, ventilation and air circulation. This is all we need, or all that we have to worry about, to grow good cannabis. It is not so much and not very hard. The only drawback is the capital outlay for your equipment – an investment of about 500 euros. Not so expensive, but not exactly cheap either The lamp in particular and the vacuum extractor account for the main part of it.
Still want to grow your own cannabis? Stay tuned.
written by Bart B.