Four Expert Tips for Rookie Cannabis Growers
Every cannabis grower has to start somewhere. While trial and error is a good way to learn, it can be mitigated to help save time and money. Kent Gruetzmacher points out four variables to consider when growing for the first time.
Cannabis is a relatively easy plant to propagate. After all, the species has managed to thrive in most of the world’s continents without human intervention. However, there are several pitfalls experienced by many novice cultivators when attempting to create ideal growing conditions for cannabis. These issues usually relate to light, water, airflow, temperature, humidity, nutrients, and pH. Indoor and greenhouse growers run into a clear majority of potential problems with environmental controls, and variances in troubleshooting techniques arise between indoor, greenhouse, and outdoor cultivation operations. Obvious portions of this brief article, such as water and nutrients, apply to all forms of cannabis cultivation, while certain concepts are only applicable to indoor and greenhouse growing.
The cannabis plant finds its evolutionary origins in the steppes of Central Asia, so the climate of this geography is rather telling concerning ideal growing conditions for the species. After all, thousands of years of evolution can teach one far more than any grow book. This region of Asia reports 250 days of annual sunshine, as well as dry summer weather averaging around 80°F. Looking worldwide, other famous marijuana growing climates, like those seen in California, are akin to the species’ evolutionary home in Central Asia.
In other words, cannabis thrives in sunny and dry conditions. Growers attempt to recreate these ideal conditions in efforts to push their plants to their full genetic potential. For novice gardeners, it is important to understand that all cannabis cultivators, no matter how advanced, are after this same goal. The best way to work towards this goal is by developing environmental conditions and fertigation techniques to which cannabis plants respond favorably. Here are four areas newbies can focus on to help grow the best buds.
Light and Cannabis Plants
Cannabis plants love light. When planning a garden operation, be it be indoor, greenhouse, or outdoor, light is the most essential variable for success.
For indoor marijuana gardening, the design of a successful lighting schematic can be a challenge for the inexperienced grower. To illustrate, different types of lighting, such as high-pressure sodium (HPS), metal halide (MH), light emitting diode (LED), and fluorescents, all present unique variances in their applications. For example, an HPS light covers a different square footage of canopy and utilizes different levels of wattage than an LED light. One thing rookies need to be aware of is not positioning their chosen grow lights either too close or too far from the garden canopy. Hanging lights too close to foliage can easily burn leaves while placing them too far from the canopy will cause plants to stretch. Overly stretched cannabis plants wreak havoc on the small confines of indoor grows. A careful study of the proper use of a chosen grow light can help alleviate most of these issues. A majority of this information is available online and on product packaging.
Greenhouse and outdoor cannabis growers should always position their gardens in areas that maximize sunlight. An additional two hours of direct sunlight on a garden can have huge impacts on harvest totals. Of course, the world of legal cannabis growing is still in its infancy, and it’s important for cultivators to weigh privacy and security concerns with the utilization of available sunlight. Still, a common mistake made by novice greenhouse and outdoor growers is to hide their gardens under trees and out of the sun. While this is understandable from a security perspective, planting a garden in the shade will greatly diminish the size of the harvest.
(Read also: Try This Highly Recommended Cannabis Lighting Schedule)
Water For Cannabis
Water presents an extremely important yet difficult-to-master variable in cannabis cultivation practices. As such, proper watering technique is probably the most problematic factor for new cannabis growers.
While indoor, greenhouse, and outdoor gardens each have different environmental constraints that dictate how often cannabis plants should be watered, basic irrigation rules apply to all these cultivation practices. Novice gardeners are notorious for overwatering. While there are countless reasons as to why this happens, a primary one is simply that new growers like spending time with their plants. It is well and good to be excited about cannabis growing, but being a skilled horticulturist requires patience and attentiveness. Overwatering causes countless problems with essential plant functions, from nutrient uptake issues to root rot.
Cannabis plants like their root zones to dry out between watering sessions. Of course, proper irrigation requires a careful balancing act as it is harmful to let root zones dry out to the point that the leaves of the plant wilt. To make things more complicated, shifts in weather patterns and temperature affect when one should water. It takes some practice to understand when the best time to water might be.
There are a few ways that a rookie grower can ensure they are properly watering their cannabis plants. The most traditional and low-tech way is to simply pick up a pot and feel its weight. Over time, one gains an understanding of what the pot feels like when the plants require water. Also, many cannabis growers use moisture meters, which can be purchased at most garden centers. These devices give accurate readings of water retention levels within the root zone. Finally, for the tech-savvy grower, there are several options on the market for high-tech, individualized soil sensors that give real-time digital readings of water levels at the root zone.
Airflow, Temperature, and Humidity
Proper airflow is essential to a successful grow. When developed correctly, it can help alleviate most issues relating to temperature and humidity. Indoor and greenhouse cultivators have much larger concerns with airflow than their counterparts in outdoor horticulture. As full-sun gardens are at the mercy of Mother Nature, the best advice an outdoor cultivator can get regarding airflow is to not plant a garden in a cold, shady, and damp area.
It’s important to remember cannabis plants thrive in dry climates. A common mistake with newbie indoor and greenhouse growing is to not consider airflow at all. Without proper air exchange, gardens are plagued with countless problems that all stem from excesses of heat and humidity. For starters, the essential growth functions of cannabis plants are retarded when temperatures reach 90°F indoors. Also, excessively humid ambient conditions in a greenhouse or growroom cause plants to absorb water from the air and not utilize the nutrient-rich water at their root zone. Finally, heat and humidity open the door to the proliferation of a plethora of pathogens and bugs including botrytis, powdery mildew, and spider mites. To avoid these problems, controlled environment growers should strive to keep humidity levels below 50 percent.
There are several ways to ensure proper airflow and subsequent temperature and humidity controls in a greenhouse or growroom. For most hobbyist grows, a relatively simple and affordable intake and outtake air exchange system will do the trick. Expert gardeners recommend that the air in a growroom or greenhouse should be entirely exchanged every one to three minutes for optimum growth and vigor. While a simple air exchange system is generally suitable for most novice grows, certain locales and geographies also require the use of air conditioning units or dehumidifiers.
Nutrients and pH For Cannabis
Proper fertilization and water pH techniques are vital to pushing cannabis plants to their full genetic potential. However, new growers do not need to be overly concerned with the ins and outs of N-P-K ratios, micronutrients, and living soil. For novice gardeners, an obvious first step in understanding fertigation is simply following the directions and schedules of a chosen nutrient line.
Instead, the most common mistake made by rookie cultivators relating to nutrients and water has to do with pH. Different water sources, such as city water and well water, differ greatly in their mineral content and pH levels. These levels can fluctuate greatly with changing seasons and water tables, especially in locales like California that have drastic shifts in precipitation patterns. For new growers, pH issues generally boil down to complacency. They get used to certain pH readings and fail to understand the changing dynamics of water tables and different water sources. To rectify these issues, it is essential that cultivators check the pH of their water every time they irrigate with nutrient mixes or straight water.
Cannabis cultivation takes time to master. With this process comes the gradual development of an intuitive feel for garden essentials. To begin developing this knowledge base and feeling, it is recommended that newbies start with learning the basics of cannabis plant needs. For most new growers, this education is based on understanding the environmental constraints surrounding prime cultivation conditions as well as irrigation techniques. Other potential problem areas arise with such garden maintenance practices as pruning or spraying, which are worthwhile to investigate. With patience and attentiveness, new growers can attain a relatively strong grasp on cannabis horticulture.
(Read next: 10 Best Cannabis Strains to Grow Indoors and Outdoors)
Written by Kent Gruetzmacher | Writer, Owner of KCG Content
Kent Gruetzmacher MFA is a Colorado-based writer and owner of the writing and marketing firm KCG Content. Kent has been working in the cannabis and hydroponics space for over a decade. Beginning in California in 2009, he has held positions in cultivation, operations, marketing, and business development. Looking specifically to writing, Kent has worked with many of the leading publications and marketing agencies in the cannabis space. His writing has been recognized by such icons as Steve D’Angelo and Rick Simpson.