Tips and Tricks

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Learn more about things like temperature, humidity or air circulation. What to do about smell and how to stealth grow? What to do when your marijuana plant is too tall. And all about how to schedule your nutrient feeding process.

The strain you choose to grow will ultimately be up to you and what you desire. And this guide will help show you what to expect from different strains. But I know that the first time I grew, I really appreciated being pushed in the right direction, so here are the qualities that make a great beginner strain.

1. Short Stature
2. Low Odor
3. Fast Seed to Harvest
4. Easy and Forgiving to Abuse
5. Feminized

Indica, indica-dominant hybrids, and autoflowering strains will be the best for new growers. Autos are usually the best for short stature and have the fast growing time while providing a strong yield all things considering. Since they are on a set schedule. They aren’t as forgiving as photoperiods, but they require less work and growing time which means you’ll make fewer errors.  

An indica-dominant photoperiod will stay rather short, though LST is still advised, and you can leave it in veg for however long you want in case you need time to repair the damage. But with a longer growing time comes more time for mistakes.  

Indoor growers will most likely want to avoid sativa strains if they have any concern about height, and sativa strains also take longer on average to grow compared to any other strain, meaning more time for mistakes.

Blue Mystic is a great auto that is short, hardy, high yielding, and fairly low odor before she is cured after harvest. You could call her the perfect stealth plant.

Northern Lights is brilliant as well because she’s one of the few classic strains that great for beginners. She’s low odor in flowering, super hardy and can bounce back from immense stress, and a quick grower. Great stealth growth for newcomers as well.  

We all know that marijuana stinks to high-heaven and we love it for that, but that causes issues when it comes to stealth. You have two methods: “scrubbing” the smell or covering it up. Carbon scrubbers are typically used in grow tents and do the best job.

Before I used a carbon scrubber I used a product called ona gel that neutralizes the smell. These gels have a strong cleaning fragrance and were originally made to control smells inside sewage facilities. Ona gel and blocks don’t smell bad, but they remind me of a freshly clean bathroom or restroom. I’d like using these when growing 1-2 plants. Keep ona gels outside of your grow tent because they can reduce and even alter the smell of the cannabis buds. This is why you DO NOT want to use sprays ever as your plant can potentially absorb them!

Even if you don’t have to worry about the smell, I recommend it as one plant will make your whole house smell. What’s nice is marijuana is fat soluble so the smell rarely last long once removed, unlike tobacco which is water soluble.That’s why the smell of tobacco lingers forever and gets into everything like furniture, etc.

Repeat after me “no smell, no sell, no tell!”

Stick to this and you will almost undoubtedly stay safe and sound. You are going to want to talk about you growing and it’s really difficult trying to keep your mouth shut. If you’re a blabber when drunk then don’t get too drunk around people.

You shouldn’t tell anyone, but you’re going to because it’s so ridiculously difficult. Find at most 1-2 people that you can tell. Those people should either live with you or are fellow growers.

You don’t want to sell because the laws are so much worse if caught selling than growing. Even if you live in a place where it’s legal to smoke and grow, it may not be to sell. Many states where it’s illegal have the same severity of laws for growing and possession, but selling has way worst consequences.

I can’t say whether this next part is true or not, but I have heard that when weighing marijuana, law enforcement will weigh whatever is attached to the flowers. So, you might think it’s safe to grow under 2 oz because you are only fined. But that 2 oz on your plant weighs a whole lot more when the buds are wet and attracted to everything including the soil still on the roots after the plant has been pulled.

If you’re worried about getting caught, grow one plant at a time. You can grow enough for multiple people and it’s much easier to claim that you were growing for personal use with no intention to sell.

Read that over again and again, because today the law doesn’t really care about people growing for personal use. But if you give them a reason to think you sell, then in their eyes you’re potential selling to kids.

Also, no one has ever been arrested in the United States for buying seeds. Customs could potentially find them, but they just send a warning that will unsettle you for a bit, but you will be fine.

There are four things that factor into a plant’s height: genetics, improper lighting, nutrient deficiencies, and lack of or improper plant training.

It’s really easy to get excited when you see a seedling climbing absurd height, but that probably means it’s not close enough to the light. Honestly, don’t get excited when you see a plant growing really tall unless it’s pre-flowering. Keep that seedling as short as possible, because most growers fight to keep height down.

Also, remember the blue/white light is preferred for veg as it promotes shorter, bushier leaves which is what you want.

I believe most new growers should start LSTing with either their first or second grow if you plan to grow inside. I can’t think of an experience indoor grower that doesn’t use some sort of plant training and despite the name LSTing probably doesn't even cause any stress.

Typically, cannabis plants like the same temperatures that we do, they don’t handle extremes, especially colder temps as well as us though. But what is uncomfortable to you, is probably uncomfortable to your plants. While you don’t have to, keeping your temps colder when the lights are off simulates a more natural environment, which may give you a better/stronger plant, and develop purple hues if they have the genetics for that.

Seedlings: Temperatures should be spring-like. Around 21° C (70° Fahrenheit) is the best range.
Vegetation: Temperatures should be summer-like.   21° - 30° C   (70° - 85° Fahrenheit) is the best range.
Flowering: Temperatures should be fall-like. 18° - 26° C   (65° - 80° Fahrenheit) is the best range.
Drying and Curing: Temperatures should be in the 21° - 26° C  (70°-80° Fahrenheit) range.

Nutrients are often the scary subject for new growers as there can be a lot of science involved and gauging the plant’s health is still new to them. It definitely becomes easier to gauge a plant’s health on vision alone with each additional grow, but I still always make sure I’m checking the science behind each aspect to confirm my assumptions. Growing cannabis is both science and an art.

Most likely you’re going to have to use nutrients in a plant’s growth phrase unless you’re using cannabis super soil. Your grow medium will decide a few factors for you.The first is what nutrients do you use. Before buying any cannabis-friendly nutrients make sure it’s recommended for your growing medium. Sometimes they overlap like the nutrients Dyna-Gro sells, but sometimes they don’t.

The companies will include feeding charts for your cannabis plants both on the back of the bottle and online (these are usually more detailed). Use them as a guideline and consider it to be the max amounts of nutrients you should give for now. Different cannabis strains and even phenotypes from the same strain require different levels of nutrients. Some are notorious for being heavy-feeder, others not so much.

I like starting with half the recommendation as it gives me more time to check and stop nute burn or a deficiency.

While, I use the term feeding, nutrients are not food for the plants (plants make their own), they are more like multivitamins. You will most likely have to buy two types of nutrients for the entire grow: one for the vegetative stage and one for flowering. There are other nutrients types that growers use like cal-mag, but for now, worry about the two nutrients for the different life stages.

My tip for healthier plants. I like using Pro-TeKt by Dyna Gro for a little extra boost of potassium, which creates hardier stems that can help stand against insects/diseases and help hold up the heavy colas during flowering. There are three types of potassium naturally found in soil, but only one type is absorbable by plants and that type only makes up about 1-2% of all potassium in soil. So even when growing in soil I recommend extra potassium, and definitely recommend it for soilless and hydro.

If you’re using cannabis-friendly nutrients, using the correct pH, and watching ppm of both the water going in and coming out, you shouldn’t have too many problems with deficiencies.

Personally, I find that I run into deficiencies when I’m too careful and don’t give enough nutrients. That’s why I really recommend testing your drainage ppm and keeping a grow journal. Please keep a grow journal for your first several grows as I found it helped me a lot.

Let’s look at a feeding schedule that resembles something from my early days. Let’s use tap water (oh no!), but we’ll let it sit out for two days to evaporate off the chlorine. It usually tests around 170 - 220 ppm, which is a comfortable ppm amount for even seedlings (I don’t recommend more than 300 ppm for seedlings). For seedings, we’ll simply keep the top of the soil slightly wet and give no nutes.

Starting with veg until harvest, we’ll water every other day, alternating clean water and nutrients.

At some point in veg we’re feeding a nute solution that is 700 ppm with around 600 ppm of that coming from nutes we put into the water. If we feed that on Monday, we will then give clean water on Wednesday and test the drainage. Say that comes out to 400 ppm, so now we know our plant is eating around 150 ppm a day. So on Thursday, we can assume there is only going to be 250 ppm left in the medium, then on Friday that will be 100 ppm, so we feed again.

If we start seeing deficiencies, then we can assume that the medium having only 500 ppm is too low (it probably is) and we want that number to go higher until the deficiencies stop. We can either feed earlier on Thursday when the ppm is down to 250 ppm or just feed heavier on Monday. Do want makes you comfortable.

It’s probably better to just feed heavier if you want to keep it on a set schedule, but if you’re worried about nute burn then feeding less more frequently is fine. When I first started using coco coir, I feed nutes every time I watered. Most growers alternate with clean water so salt doesn’t build up, but a good flush when moving from veg to flower fixes that. Find what works for you. Soil users will want to watch watering as often as coco coir users.

Growing cannabis is an art and science and here is where you can really see why.

Feeding schedules will usually be written in two ways. The first will be a measurement like ¼ teaspoon of nutrients to 1 gallon of water. The second will be based on PPM (parts per million). By using a meter you can get a reading that will tell you much “stuff” is in the water.

Pure water is 0 ppm, but don’t expect that from tap water. If you’ve heard the phrase heavy water before, PPM is what they are talking about. Personally, I like the accuracy of using a ppm meter because I know exactly how much nutrients I’m giving and it’s easier to create the right dose. But I didn’t get one until my second or third grow even though it would have really helped.

A PPM meter will also allow you to check your runoff and you can use that number to tell if your plants need more nutrients or not. Plants vary in their feeding habits during all times of their growth period.

Cannabis plants can only uptake nutrients in a set pH range. Recommended pH range for soil is 6.0-7.0 pH and soilless and hydro is 5.5-6.5 pH.

Understanding and knowing what pH your nutrients need to be is the second factor your grow medium will decide. Your plant’s roots can only absorb nutrients within a pH range. The nutrient itself will decide that range and your plant has unique ranges for each nute. This means you shoot for a general pH instead of a set one.

A neutral pH is 7.0. and if you collect rainwater and test its pH, it will come out to that or just under.

For soil growers anywhere between 6.0 - 7.0 pH when watering your plants is great. You’ll want to always pH your water and make sure it's within that range regardless if you’re feeding nutrients or not. You won’t always water with nutrients.

Soilless and hydro users will aim for a range of 5.5 - 6.5 pH.  

If I had to pick a favorite nutrient deficiency, it’s probably nitrogen simply because it seems the easiest to diagnose. That’s a lie; I love the way nitrogen affects the plant’s overall color because I find it gives great insight into how the plant is handling her overall nutrient amount.

It’s one of those ways experience growers can judge a plant’s health just by looking.

If you have a plant that is dark green, especially in veg, you’re most likely giving it too much veg nutrients which are highest in nitrogen and burn tips will shortly follow if continued. An overall pale green color is most likely a lack of nitrogen, but you’ll want to confirm by looking at your bottom leaves to see if they are yellowing or dying. Nitrogen is mobile and when your plant doesn’t have enough of it, she prioritizes the nutrient for the top leaves that are getting light.

This was a common deficiency for my early plants because I started with a strain (Blue Mystic) whose genetics could express purple/red stems and leaves naturally. Unfortunately, purple and red stems are the easiest way to spot a phosphorus deficiency.

My advice is this: the Blue Mysticstrain in particular is wonderful for beginners, so don’t be scared of them. If you see purple/red stems look for other deficiencies and test ppm and pH.

Calcium is a nutrient deficiency you’ll see often, and a lot of nutrient makers sell a calcium-magnesium solution because of this. You’ll see a bunch of tiny black dots scattered on top of the leaves. Make sure to look underneath, because if you see them there, then you might have a bug problem. Usually, when you look at the underside of leaves with a calcium def, you’ll see the black dots are translucent through the top of the leaf and not directly on the bottom.

It’s a semi-mobile nutrient, so expect to see deficiencies on leaves that are near the top of the plant or the ones getting direct light. Deficiencies may also look more like brown spot or rust instead of black dots.

Magnesium deficiency is also a common issue you’ll see, and it’s a bit of a pain to diagnose in my experience. This is because a magnesium deficiency can give your plant’s yellow or brown tips making it look nute burn. Do the opposite when confirming damaged tips from magnesium and look for an overall bright green color, which may be only on the overall color of the damaged leaf itself or the entire plant.

The most common way that magnesium deficiency presents itself is yellowing or browning in between the veins on the leaf margins. Magnesium is mobile so it can present anywhere on your plant.

These two are fairly simple to diagnose and they both result in the plant leaves drooping. And you can tell the difference because overwatering makes the plant leaves look . . . overwatered and heavy. While with underwatering, the plant looks dry and the leaves fall flatter against the stem. It reminds me of corn right before harvest if that helps.

You can confirm it one by either pushing your finger two inches into the soil to see if it’s dry or lift your growing container/pot. A plant will weight a lot more after just being watered compared to it bone dry, so I always like lifting.

Tips for correct watering:
Perlite, perlite, perlite. Great drainage is key.
Fabric pots, grow bags, smart pots.
Bigger pots can hold more water, so you can water less.
The higher your humidity the less your plants take in from the roots.
Try to capture around 20% runoff with each watering.

Rootbound is a pain, well root issues in general are, because root issues can look like any of the nutrient issues listed above, and most likely will make your plant look like it’s suffering from more than one. Soil users will need to watch for rootbound more than they would with other growing mediums, and remember the guideline of 2 gallons of soil for every 12 inches of plant height.

You can also only confirm root bound by pulling out the plant from the grow medium. Yes, I said that right, because almost all of the soil will stay attached to the roots as a big soil root ball when you pull the plant out.

When growing with coco coir in a fabric pot, I can feel the outside fabric container and top of the coco coir and tell when the roots have gotten to the edges heavily.

There are four things that factor into a plant’s height: genetics, improper lighting, nutrient deficiencies, and lack of or improper plant training.

It’s really easy to get excited when you see a seedling climbing absurd height, but that probably means it’s not close enough to the light. Honestly, don’t get excited when you see a plant growing really tall unless it’s pre-flowering. Keep that seedling as short as possible, because most growers fight to keep height down.

Also, remember the blue/white light is preferred for veg as it promotes shorter, bushier leaves which is what you want.

I believe most new growers should start LSTing with either their first or second grow if you plan to grow inside. I can’t think of an experience indoor grower that doesn’t use some sort of plant training and despite the name LSTing probably doesn't even cause any stress.

When you see the terms “light burn” and “hotspot” they are not referring to temperature, but the actual light amount. Plants, like people, can only process so much light and like people, plants can get sunburned even when it’s cold.

Light burn is easy to tell because the finger of the leaves will curl in and the tips will start dying and are easy to break and crumble off. The leaves will also start looking like they have been bleached pale yellow and even white.

You can confirm your assumption of light burn with two ways: placing your hand over the leaves and feeling how hot (too hot for you = too hot for plants) and you will also only see this issue at the top of the plant.

LED growers cannot use the hand test, however, as LED are too efficient at producing and removing heat. LEDs are also the most notorious for these issues because their lights are so powerful while staying cool deceiving growers into thinking they can keep these lights close.

There are a lot of pests that can wreak havoc on your plants, so I’m only focusing on a few major ones. Pests will be the most common for soil growers, though hydro users should always be on the lookout as well.

Fungus Gnats - One or two is fine, and when growing in soil, especially, you’ll see them. Try and keep your soil and coco coir as dry as possible because they are drawn to plant mediums that are watered too often. This is why it’s good to let plants dry out before watering them again. Good airflow will help, as well as throwing up some yellow sticky pads to catch them.

Aphids - These are a type of fly that can appear a multitude of colors though mostly: White, green, or black. Plants become infected whenever a colonizer aphid stumbles on the plant and decides to lay its eggs. They can be difficult to spot, though if you have an infection you’ll know as you’ll see translucent nymphs all over the leaves, with the adults buzzing around. They like eating your plants and then excreting the liquid waste which can cause a type of fungus called sooty mold.

Spider Mites - They are the Emperor Palpatine's of the cannabis growing world. Infamous and dangerous, spider mites will kill your plants. They are the perfect storm of bs because they procreate fast, are terribly tiny but eat/drink a lot, and won’t stay dead.

You’ll probably see their destruction first, which will appear as tiny yellow, white, brown specks on the leaves. If you see those immediately grab a magnifier (preferred) and look for black dots on the underside of leaves where they are hiding. You may also see webbing as well. You need to kill them as soon as possible because they will spread across the plant and to others around fast. This may mean that you need to make a quick decision whether you need to remove one of your plants if it’s majorly infected.

Also, if you have spider mites you can track them to another grower’s room, so be careful and watch when you introduce foreign cannabis plant matter into your grow space. It’s fine if your friend wants to give you a clone to grow, but make sure to ask if they have had any outbreaks, and carefully inspect the plant before you get them close to your space.

Don’t worry because you will almost definitely see this in your first few grows, if not the majority of all your grows.

Go look at any picture of cannabis plants that are flowering, and you’ll probably see yellow, orange, or brown leaf tips. This is most likely stemming from too many nutrients at some point in the plant’s life. Remember, most cosmetic damage remains after the issue is gone.

Nutrient burn

I was talking with a fellow grower one day about how we both were commonly having the same plants issue in veg with multiple plants. Our plants would develop yellow tips, so we would hold off from a day of feeding only to see our plants quickly developing spots and other signs of deficiencies. This was at a time when neither of us was testing runoff, just following a nutrient schedule.

His advice was to continue feeding as normal and wait for more symptoms to follow. And he turned out to be right! The next time I had the same issues, I feed as normal and when I saw deficiencies present themselves they weren’t as bad. Ultimately, this led me to use two qualifiers for diagnosing nute burn, especially in veg: burn tips and a dark green color that’s usually a result of too much nitrogen.

It has been a pure joy writing this guide. Growing cannabis can often be more fun than actually smoking it. I’m not BSing you at all and when I say I’m excited to see you grow, I mean it, because I know how happy it makes me. There just so many things you can learn, but you can get started right away so there isn’t much of a learning curve. It’s more of a perfecting curve and it’s addicting learning all you can.

So, I want to leave you with one of my favorite growing stories and it will act as a good lesson that safety is always import.

In my early days, I used a plastic container as a grow medium, before switching to a fabric pot. I was LSTing my plant and I needed holes in the side of the container to hold the ties in place. I was incredibly high off my previous grow and just poking holes in my container with a super sharp knife. That container was, how best to put it, slippery. Yeah, that’s a good word!

The knife slipped and into my hand, it went. Since it was a super sharp knife I didn’t immediately feel much pain. I knew it happened, and well, since I was super high I thought it was just the funniest thing. My girlfriend walks into the bathroom to see me bleeding and laughing, and that’s when the pain hit and I became the complexion of an apparition.

Moments later I was on the floor, soaked in sweat and without a color to my face. I was probably down on the floor for a good couple minutes. I was OK after a few more minutes, and really If I wasn’t high, I probably wouldn’t have basically passed out.

I don’t say this to freak you out, but it’s always a good idea to use safety. Shit happens and then you learn, and I haven’t had a serious injury since. Honestly, I will probably always remember this story and hold it as a fond memory for the rest of my life.

So here is to your future fond memories. I hope it’s filled with just the dankest and most delicious marijuana.