Category Archives: Cultivation

Maintaining Stealth in the Grow Room

It’s always a pleasure for me to show close friends and others also in the cannabis industry the beautiful results of the garden.  There’s nothing like impressing others with high quality medicine that took hours of tedious work every day to create from a simple seed.  The process of growing is expensive and time consuming and the worst nightmare of any cultivator would be the discovery of the garden by unwanted visitors.  Whether it’s the police or someone looking for the five finger discount, there is far too much at stake if the garden were to be detected.  There are several precautionary steps that can be done to maximize the chances that the flowers are safely harvested and consumed.

The first thing that growers are conscious of when it comes to being compromised, is the strong pungent odor the plants emit while flowering and/or drying.  The most popular solution to this problem is the use of carbon filters.  Regardless of your lighting setup, the filter would be hooked up to a ducting fan, pumping the now clean air out of the tent/room.  The high pressure sodium setup is going to require more equipment then LED’s to effectively clean the air.  In a high pressure sodium grow room there must also be fans used to remove hot air from the hoods of the lighting system before it reaches your plants.  So there needs to be a ducting connector used to combine the hot air from the lights with the clean air coming from the filter.  This is going to use more fans and incur more overhead than LED grows.  LED lighting does not emit anywhere as much heat as a HPS, so there is no need to have a separate ducting fan.  I’s also important that all the air exiting your tent will need to be vented outside to ensure an optimal growing climate is maintained.

Equally important as masking the identifiable smell of cannabis, is avoiding suspicions from the neighborhood.  It’s human nature to get a little to nosy, and there’s plenty of people with too much times on their hands.  The home being used to cultivate needs to look as inhabited as possible.  Many times people transform a properties bedrooms and living rooms into a full blown growing operation, containing plants in various stages of growth.  It’s going to have a much higher chance of drawing attention if someone is going to the house for a few hours a day and leaves, instead of appearing to spend a reasonable amount of time inside the home.  There’s numerous ways to do this so get creative.  It would also be smart to leave designated spaces near the front door and windows full of furniture and other decor.  For those with smaller less organized operations, it’s much easier because they often live where they cultivate.  These types of grows have a far different risk than not looking inhabited.  Other types of activity like having lots of traffic that doesn’t seem to hang out long, is a quick way to receive complaints from neighbors and put you on the radar of the local task force.  The sounds of high output fans combined with bright lighting systems can also give you away if not properly contained.  In a small apartment or condo with neighbors close by, the more centered the grow is in the unit, the better off you’ll be.  Walls aren’t going to block the sound of multiple fans if they’re just feet away from the source.  Both high pressure sodium and LED lights will completely illuminate a room and all windows in that room.  This is one reason why I prefer using tents then an open room.  If you don’t utilize tents, it will be tricky to both ventilate air and block light from the same window.  This is why many people choose use the basement as an open growing space.

Taking steps like these and consistently investing money back into the security of the grow will help your odds and reduce the chance of becoming the target of a violent robbery or a drug investigation.  While cannabis is legal in more and more places each year, it remains illegal federally and attention from law enforcement in this industry is yet to prove beneficial.  Never get to comfortable and cut corners when it comes to operation security.

 

 

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Side by Side Grow LED vs HPS

This past year I have had the opportunity to complete several harvests using an LED grow light for the first time, alongside the usual high pressure sodium set up. It was a great learning experience to see how the same strains responded to alternate lighting environments. The first and more obvious trait that differed among the two, was the final yield. Using feminized white widow seeds for both growing environments, I saw a difference of 4.5 ounces of dried flower. Not only was there more weight overall, but there was also a much higher weight per bud. My LED simply could not compare when it came to the main colas produced via the high pressure sodium. While both crops used the same growing medium and nutrients, the wattage on the lights used were not equal. The HPS uses 1000 watts, while the LED puts out 600. There is no doubt that a 1000w LED would have increased my yield to a noticeable degree. However, I know the buds would remain smaller and it still wouldn’t reach those monstrous HPS yields.

Getting a bigger harvest is always an attractive sales pitch to us cultivators, but it certainly isn’t everything. The quality was comparable in both environments and
it would be hard to judge a winner when it comes to potency, flavor, and duration of effects. They would also be hard to distinguish visually had the buds been of a comparable size. Controlling the temperature and minimizing electricity are where the LED lighting systems shine. They don’t generate much heat and are easy to cool a tent or grow area without a bunch of ducting and high powered fans. Your electric bill will hardly notice a difference ( definitely not the case for HPS).

The last difference I would like to mention was noticed while harvesting one day with a friend. We had knocked out the high pressure sodium grow in as few as 3 hours just between the two of us. Yes, there were only 2 plants, but there was a lot of buds. The leaf to bud ratio was low and after pulling the fan leaves the fine trimming was minor. It was great and we both couldn’t believe how fast we had finished in comparison to past grows with high pressure sodiums. A few months later, it was time to cut down the ladies under the purple lights. We had also left an entire afternoon/evening to complete the job. Unbelievably, after 9 hours we still hadn’t finished. There were so many leaves to manicure, and it simply was an extremely tedious process. We finished it the next morning, but in all it took us over 3 times as long as the previous crop! So if you plan on using LED’s to begin or to experiment with I highly suggest consistent manicuring and trimming during the vegetative stage to keep things under relative control before harvest day.
The final decision comes down to performance and budget but either route can lead to beautiful medicine.

Cannabis Drying Technique

In order to grow the best quality medicine, you need to have an understanding of the techniques growers have been using for decades to dry their harvests.  Nobody wants to put 3 plus months of effort and investment into a beautiful crop that will not burn or taste right due to poor drying technique.  There is far too much at stake to rush the process or not research what methods work best for your precious flowers.  Just like the cultivation process, there are many different ways to accomplish positive results.  Whether you decide to whole plant dry, trim when you harvest, or some sort of combination, with the right technique the drying stage will go smoothly and you’ll be left with some top shelf buds that are ready to cure.

The method that has brought the most pleasing results to my harvests, is to trim each branch as you go before placing them on hangers.  This is my favorite method because not only has it brought great results, but it makes the trimming process easier as leaves and stems are easier to remove when the plant is fresh.   Once all the small leaves harden and dry up into the buds, it becomes very difficult to get stems without removing parts of the flowers as well.  When you are dealing with large yields, trimming is enough work on its own so there is no reason to make the process more tedious then it has to be.

In the drying area your nipples should be hard because you’ll need a cool dark and well ventilated space.  It is definitely important to have a fan circulating the air around the buds but you do not want to have the fan blowing directly on them.  The buds will dry up much faster and have the potential of being too crispy and breaking up into dust when you grind it.   In these environmental conditions the drying stage should take around 4-5 days.  Another good way to verify that they are actually ready to begin curing is to break one of the branches.  If it snaps clean then it’s already too dry and you left them hanging too long but if you break it and it fractures slightly without much resistance that’s the sweet spot.  Getting it down inside the correct time frame is so key because curing too early leaves the possibility of molding out your due to trapped moisture.  Taking them down too late will also make buds lose the sticky feel connoisseurs are looking for.

Timing and using your best judgement on buds appearance/feel is essential to maximizing your product’s potential.  I don’t think people weigh the importance of the drying stage and treat it as a minimal stage in the cultivation process instead of a determining one.  While the method of drying can change, the drying environment can not so don’t settle for using drying racks or not properly controlling/ventilating the designated drying space.  I truly wonder how much of the lower shelf medicine available was actually grown professionally but ended up how it did due to poor processing techniques.

 

Using Tents vs. an Open Grow Room

One of the many decisions that you will have to make as a cannabis cultivator is how exactly you want to use the available space at your disposal.  If you have a bedroom or basement that can be transformed into a cultivation facility, should you purchase and put up a bunch of separate tents or just use the space as it is?  I would like to say that it’s a straightforward answer and everyone should be using tents but like most things in life each option has it’s benefits.

To start off, lets go over why I have used grow tents in all of my medical marijuana grows.  In my situation space has always been a constraint when it comes to producing the amount of plants that I would like to.  If you only have one room that you can dedicate to your garden there is no reason why you shouldn’t be using tents unless you’re really short on cash for equipment.  By adding tents you can have multiple stages of growth going on all contained and controlled separately.  This is a huge advantage because if you have grown cannabis in the past you know it takes a minimum of 3 months for the entire process from plant to harvest.  If you didn’t buy any tents and didn’t go through all the work of separating your room into a bunch of individual sections, your entire garden will be in the same growth stage.  To trigger flowering requires that there is only 12 hours of light per day, so if you want to have different growth stages you have to block the light from entering the flowering area.  In this business it’s all about the turnaround and if you can have another tent right behind your flowering one, there will be many more harvests in the same amount of time.

Tents are great for more then just separating the light cycles from the different areas of growth.  They also make containing the scent of your buds much more manageable than an open room full of skunky scents.  Adding a carbon filter to the air that is trapped inside will make it near impossible for uncleaned air to exit the tent.  In addition, all tents that I have installed also have hanging poles on the top making it easy to hang fans, lights, and carbon filters without any extra equipment.

If tents are so great then why do so many people still opt to go with the open grow room?  The most likely scenario where you would see rooms with no tents is in warehouses full of 5,000-10,000 plants.  If you are going to be producing on a large scale then using tents is going to be a waste of resources and just more unnecessary costs that you don’t need.  People that have multiple rooms can do the same separation I spoke of before, but on a much larger scale and without tents.  Rooms can be climate controlled just as easy as a tent so that is not an issue either.  When it comes to smell, the warehouse cultivation centers in recreational states don’t have to worry as much as most home growers with neighbors.  Hanging all your equipment and keeping plants of different heights at the appropriate distance from lighting will just take some extra creative designing on your part but still makes much more sense than installing a bunch of separate tents.

For those that grow on a small to medium sized scale at home,  I would highly suggest using tents to get the most money out of the same amount of time.  There is no doubt in my mind that it’s possible to grow high quality buds without containing your grow inside tents, but at the end of the day you might just have less bud and a stinky house.

 

 

 

Growing with High Pressure Sodium Lights

If high pressure sodium lights aren’t the most popular lighting systems used in cannabis grows, they are most definitely among the top 3 with florescent and metal halide.  These lights in the flowering stage, will provide the required energy for a bigger yield per wat in comparison to any type of grow light out there.  That’s a perk most growers can’t ignore, despite their higher electrical usage than alternatives like LED or CFL’s.

I like to start off the seedlings and the first few weeks of vegetative growth under a compact florescent set up.  After i feel the plant is strong enough to take the intensity from the high pressure sodium(it has several sets of leaves), I will replace the CFL”s with a 1000 watt High pressure sodium light.  I think this light works great for both the vegetative and flowering cycle of the plants life.  You most definitely can get away with using a different lighting system for the entire vegetative cycle.  I would highly recommend using these type of lights for flowering though because that’s where these bulbs really separate themselves from the rest.  Plants respond better to the red spectrum of lighting for flowering, as it promotes the plant to stretch and bud more efficiently.  Plants may also have a faster transition to flower under a light that is closer to the red spectrum.

One of the most important things to consider when choosing to go with a HPS, is cooling the growing environment.  There has to be a fan attached to the reflector at all times or it will emit too much heat for your medicine to be grown optimally.  As long as the area is well ventilated and you have hot air going out with fresh air coming in, there is no issue with using these lights.  Remember that growing temperatures should be between 73-85 during the vegetative stage and you’ll have to compensate for this added heat.  A couple feet is a good maximum distance to separate the plants from the glass.

These lights are very powerful and they produce powerful medicine.  I remember my very first grow when I wasn’t too sure what I was doing outside of reading, and I purchased a high quality HPS bulb.  My first harvest turned out to be surprisingly good quality and I was quick to give credit to the expensive light.  My yield was low, but that was because I was still trying to figure out the correct nutrient mix and wasn’t using proper pruning techniques.  Now that I have a few years of growing experience I can say for sure that these lights will produce wonderful buds if you know what you are doing.  Start growing now and as young as you can, I can only imagine the quality of medicine you and I could be producing 20 years down the road.

Seeds or Clones?

One of the first decisions that you will have to make when starting a garden of your own is whether to go the route of purchasing either a clone from another gardener or start the delicate process from the very start.  There are different advantages for each method depending on how much experience you have growing, the size of your garden, and simply personal preferences.

I will start with my preferred method which is starting from the beginning with feminized seeds.  One of the main reasons people choose to go the other route is because seeds can either be male or female.  Seeds that turn out to be male plants will produce no flowers and will pollinate all of your’e existing female plants(If you don’t remove them prior to flowering) making their medicine also unusable.  Buying feminized seeds is one way to ensure you can start from the beginning and not be wasting your time.  The key reason that I choose to start from the seed is because that means you have complete control over the entire cycle and are not mixing your techniques with the previous grower.  This could mean for example that the clone that you purchased is in a different grow medium/mix then what you will be using for the rest of the process.  Outside of this problem, most growers agree that establishing good health in the seedling stage and early vegetation stage are key to having your plant run this marathon of a growing process.  So to have no control over this time frame is not something that interests me much as a grower.

Even though I made it sound like seeds are the superior way to go, clones most definitely have perks to them that many growers find attractive to their operation.  If you are operating a large scale grow operation or are trying to maximize the number of harvest you can get in a given period of time clones will definitely be ideal.  When you purchase a clone they are priced based on how far along they are in the growing period as well as the quality of the genetics you are taking a copy of.  Regardless, even if it is in the first few weeks of vegetative growth you saved yourself nearly a month in time.  It takes almost a week for germination and another week of growth as a seedling before it reaches a foot or so in height.  So you most definitely are cutting time out of the harvest cycle.  Large operations could benefit because they can simply take cuttings off their other plants and plant them in the ground and get the exact same genetic copy.  No money is spent on seeds, time is saved, and you know exactly what to expect out of that plant months in the future.  This eliminates the problems of purchasing them from another grower and having different growing techniques.  If you currently have a lot of plants growing, it would be foolish to not take advantage of cloning.

Happy Growing!

Northern Lights Strain Review

The northern lights when grown correctly will have you staring up at the night sky as if you really were in Alaska enjoying the northern lights.  Besides an amazing hybrid high that you can feel throughout the entire body, the most notable trait is the flavor.  It’s best described as very piney and organic and has a sweet aroma to it, especially when burned.  I’ve done two separate runs of this strain now and have been impressed by the yield that these plants give.  Even though she won’t reach very tall heights because of their indica dominant nature, it will branch out and still produce tons of budding sites if pruned correctly.

The flowering time for this phenotype is in the 8-9 week range although I have harvested after week 8 both times because the trichomes are really milky already at that point.  If you read my previous article you’d know I’m using coco coir as my preferred grow medium and this plant responded great to it.  I would definitely classify this strain as a good beginners strain for those starting out in growing because it really doesn’t pose many problems and is quick to recover from errors with nutrients, ph, etc.  It definitely needs to be up kept as it will grow extremely bushy and may take up too much of your grow area if you don’t trim it up regularly during veg.  Out of the 3 different strains that I have grown it is my favorite so far across all important categories.  As long as you flush the plant properly at the end, the flavor should be hard to match, it’s very unique.  If you’re a medical cannabis grower I would definitely add this to your garden if you have patients that are dealing with severe pain.  This one works very well for those that need relief in different parts of the body.  It relaxes the muscles much more then your typical hybrid or sativa strain and you can find yourself asleep before you know it with higher doses.

This strain is extremely popular and most likely would not be hard to find at your local compassion club.  I have come across this strain a number of times outside of my own stash of seeds and I’m sure many of you readers have had the pleasure of trying it as well. What other medical uses have you guys found this particular phenotype to help deal with?  Share your experiences with growing/sampling this strain.