How did you get into the indoor gardening industry?

I have always been intrigued by growing indoors, replicating nature and year-round production. I started my first indoor garden in my closet when I was a sophomore in high school. It consisted of a 60-W incandescent light bulb and some tinfoil taped to the walls. I really started to get my hands dirty when my brother and two of his good friends started a medical marijuana dispensary in Colorado back when the industry was in its infancy. They asked me to come and work in their garden. At the time, I was a sous chef at a Jamaican restaurant. That was the start for me and I have been working in commercial grow facilities ever since.

Tell us a bit about your experience in the industry.

I have had the pleasure of working at multiple commercial grows in Colorado. In these grows, I have learned that things can go from bad to worse quickly and on a big scale. My experiences also taught me the discipline and patience it takes to run a successful grow. I’ve worked with many different growing systems and styles, from automated irrigation, flood tables and hand watering to trellising, staking and tomato cages. Growing in different types of systems also gave me experience with using different media, including hydro rocks, stonewool, peat and coco blends, and hand-mixed, organic soils. I have spent a lot of time on the battlefield with insects, molds and mildews, learning what works and what doesn’t, all while developing a healthy and safe IPM treatment schedule.

What are you growing?

We grow about 50 different varieties of cannabis. Some are well-known strains like Sour Diesel, OG and Girl Scout Cookies, but we also have house specialties like Jet Fuel and Grape Cola. Among our varieties are some high-CBD strains like Charlotte’s Web and Lucy. We have two flower rooms, approximately 900 sq. ft. each, and a 600-sq.-ft. veg room. All rooms are equipped with AC, dehumidifiers, high-powered fans and CO2. At this stage of the game, you have to be determined, constantly trying to outdo yourself, harvest after harvest.

What products do you use?

For nutrients, we use Rx Green Solutions. I love this line: it is simple, effective and efficient. I think it makes the perfect commercial nutrient because it is just two parts for veg and two parts for bloom. The RxGS nutrient line has everything cannabis needs to thrive, and it works well with any type of growing system. You can run with additives if you choose, but they are not necessary. It’s a bio-mineral line that packs quite a punch quality-wise, and it’s a fraction of the price I’m used to paying for multi-bottle systems. Also, the Axiom is unlike anything I have ever used. It boosts the plants’ immune systems, helps mobilize macro- and micronutrients, and increases photosynthesis and CO2 uptake. I use it on all plants, from clone to harvest.

What’s in Your Growroom? Behind the Scenes with Jonathan Nielson

For media, I grow in a coco/perlite mix. I’ve found 75/25 is the perfect mix to grow vigorous, strong, healthy plants. Some people may use more or less perlite depending on their style. A couple products I like are Batch 64 Golden Ratio and Royal Gold Tupur.

As far as lights go, we use Solis Tek DE lights. They have a separate hood and ballast, which is ideal for us, as we have limited head room. The DE lights give us the ability to make our canopy a bit bigger because they have a larger footprint at the same power consumption compared to a standard SE grow light, giving us a bigger bang for our buck. We also filter our water with a Tall Boy KDF Carbon Filter from Hydro Logic.

What technologies make the most difference in the garden?

New lighting technologies are really making indoor growing exceptional. Double-ended lights not only increase canopy space under one light; they also offer higher intensity. The only drawback of the higher-powered lights is that you have to have lots of overhead space or else you will have burnt-up buds. This could be an issue for closet or basement growers. I think LEDs will start to make a big splash soon, but I haven’t used many of them yet. I’m excited that companies like Rx Green Solutions are doing R&D. I feel like the cannabis industry is starting to get the professionalism and credibility it needs and deserves. With that, I think better products and technologies will emerge in the years to come.

Can you share a couple tried-and-tested gardening tips sure to help our less-advanced readers in their gardens?

Keep things clean. I can’t say this enough. Not only will you feel better about your grow room, but you won’t mind showing your plants off. Along with being clean, it’s important to keep your tools and utensils sanitized. We use denatured alcohol. By staying clean and sanitized, you can cut your chances of getting bug and disease problems by at least 60%. Airflow is also important. Good airflow can lower your plants’ chances of getting botrytis and powdery mildew, and it will eliminate microclimates and pockets of stale air in your grow room.

Another good practice is to always take notes. There can be a lot going on in an indoor grow and keeping notes helps you to stay organized and remember small details. Lastly, triple-check everything. You won’t be able to forgive yourself for ruining a whole room because you forgot to plug in a small pump after changing a nutrient tank.