Are you ready to become a grower? Worried about making avoidable growing mistakes? Luckily we live in the Information Age; most folks have some access to the internet. Online resources are nearly limitless. Guides are plentiful and grow forums are numerous.
But before you even get started I’ve assembled a list of some very common growing mistakes you can avoid. Some are common-sense rules while others are a little harder to figure right away.
1. Not Managing pH
Cannabis can be a survivor under the right conditions. After all, it does grow in the wild. But your dream of becoming a professional grower for your operation can be a colossal waste of time if the water you’re using is effectively poison to the plants you’re trying to cultivate.
Chances are your home’s water supply isn’t naturally perfect for your plants right out of the tap. Most every grow situation I’ve taken part in required some measure of pH balancing before watering. Ideal pH for plants growing in soil is between 6-7, slightly less for hydroponic cultivation at 5.5-6.5.
It’s essentially pointless to begin without the ability to measure your home’s tap water right away. I recommend a pH ‘wand’ from a reputable local grower store or online source. Dip your wand into your feed-water and take a reading. Raise or lower the pH accordingly to achieve optimum levels prior to feeding. I prefer a wand-tool because it allows me to stir the water after pH balancing liquid is added ensuring uniform distribution during each watering session.
Become familiar with the average pH of your tap water. (It can change slightly over time and from location to location.) You’ll get used to how much balancing fluid to add, but there’s no substitute for measuring before every watering. pH has been whittled down to a science, use the information to your advantage!
2. Nute Burn
Nutrient burn is on of the common new growing mistakes. This means you’ve added too many nutrients to your soil. This can ruin whole patches of soil or damage the plant’s already delicate root system; either of which can be catastrophic to your operation. Even one lost plant can mean the difference between profitability and a waste of your time.
Being a grower myself, I have heard many others complain that they’ve used the schedule associated with their nutrient system and still gotten nutrient burn. Solution: Use the same feeding schedule that comes with your nutrient system, *but only use one quarter (1/4) of the recommended dosage.*
Example: If the feeding schedule calls for 2 tsp of nutrient solution per gallon of water. Only use 1/2 tsp (2 * 1/4 = 1/2).
If your plant begins to exhibit signs of nutrient deficiency and the pH is in the correct range, slowly move up to 1/2 or more as needed.
It may seem that plants need daily watering, and some do. But most cannabis plants do not. Over-watered plants will droop and seem heavy. A good rule of thumb is to put your finger into the top one inch of soil. If the top one inch is still wet, don’t water. In fact refrain from watering until the top one inch is dry. Over time you’ll develop a sense for when your plants need water. They’ll let you know. Until then, don’t water just because you think maybe you should. Look for the indicators and act accordingly.
Never fear; most over-watered plants can be brought back to their former glory once you realize you’ve made growing mistakes such as this.
4. Inappropriate Lighting
Most new growers research and learn before they start however not always. Some folks just assume and experience disastrous consequences. One single incandescent bulb won’t work. Plants in a windowsill won’t work either. Used lighting can be insufficient as lights slowly lose their effectiveness over time and use.
Cannabis plants grow proportionally to the amount of light that they get. This doesn’t necessitate powerful High Pressure Sodium lights for every grow situation, but whichever light set you choose (MH, HPS, LED, what-have-you) try and figure for height and volume. A good set of rules of thumb for lighting can be found here.
5. Ignoring Security As A Grower
Even if you’re lucky enough to live in an area where growing is legal under whichever conditions, evil still lives in the hearts of men. Tell no one about your operation if possible. In my experience growing is a one-man job. Trying to juggle responsibility between several folks has never worked for me. Consider security from a plausible deniability viewpoint; the fewer folks who COULD cause a problem, the better. Let it be your little secret. You’ll be glad you did. Growing mistakes like this can cost you the whole operation and more.
Security shouldn’t end there. It seems obvious to most folks but the internet is a two-way street; the well of knowledge available to help you is vast but so are the dangers. Never post any images of any part of your grow space on social media. Most folks never would but I’ve seen more images online than I, as a grower, care to see posted by thoughtless (or stoned) growers.
Some folks feel the need to boast or brag suggestively about the future, telling friends or family about the weed that’s “coming soon” or “will be ready in a few months”. Resist with all your might the temptation to brag. Your ego is far easier to quell than a federal narcotics charge. Do your daily work quietly. The payoff is measured in grams, ounces and pounds.
Keep It Vague
If you’re lucky enough to have access to a local grow store make sure to respect the position its proprietor is in. Just as there’s no call for mentioning weed at head shops in still-illegal-states, same goes for your local supply store. As long as you mention “plants” it’s unnecessary to specify what kind. Chances are the grow-store guy probably knows more-or-less what you’re up to. If you do get asked specific questions about what you’re growing, mentioning tomatoes can work in a pinch as the needs of both plants are somewhat similar. Over the course of your first yield chances are you’ll establish a good working relationship with the grow-store you use (online or local). If you allow this relationship to be mutually respectful it will flourish just like your plants.
You’re about to spend hundreds of hours in your grow space. Don’t jeopardize your entire operation by careless, avoidable behavior. Being arrested or behind bars is common for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t learn these security lessons. I know personally several fellows who grew properly for months only to have their plants stolen mere days before cut-down.
6. Harvesting Too Early
Patience is key! Don’t jump the gun and cut down early. Outside concerns can force a grower to consider such action (usually because of monetary issues). Resist the temptation to cut down early.
Harvest when 60% – 70% of hairs (pistils) have darkened for maximum THC. It’s also been my experience that “flushing” your plants 5 or so days before cut-down day is beneficial. It forces your plants to suck every last bit of water and light up during that time.
Waiting for the proper time to cut-down is hands-down the hardest part of any of my grow cycles. In fact, this saves dry-time and curing. Do your homework and do yourself the good service of cutting down at the proper moment. You’ll be especially glad you did.
A great guide can be found here regarding what to look for.
7. Improper Expectations As A Grower
The bottom line is being a grower is hard work. I had to force myself to take breaks and leave the house from time to time; enjoy life. My first few yields had me so nervous and anxious I never left the house and spent easily 100 hours a week in my basement re-potting, measuring pH and obsessing over every little detail. This was unhealthy, but equally unhealthy can be some of the opposite behaviors.
I realized early on that I could spent 8 hours a day in my basement tending to my plants if I really wanted to. There were days when I spent far longer than that under those lights, sweating and learning my trade. Just remember that burnout is a real thing. Finding a work-life balance is important in any job and cultivating is no different. Spending too much or too little time on your plants can be unhealthy for you and for your plants.
Disavow any notion you may have of a hands-off approach. Even if you’ve got light-timers and auto-watering pumps or an ebb-and-flow hydro system and you’ve rigged to feed itself: problems will arise. It’s up to you and you alone to remedy such an outbreak of issues.
Trial and error works but educating yourself ahead of time is best. Cultivating cannabis will reward you with as much as you’ve put into it.
8. Growing Mistakes to Cure Properly
Now you’ve worked hard and maintained security and feeding discipline and your plants are nearing cut-down day. You’re ready and eager with anticipation of your first yield.
Biosynthesis, the process which converts nutrients into psychoactive elements, doesn’t stop the moment plants are cut down. By keeping freshly harvested cannabis in temperatures between 60 and 70°F and humidity level between 45-55%, the conversion of non-psychoactive cannabinoids to THC will continue and your buds will gain potency. However quick drying under warm, dry conditions halts this process much faster.
It would be a real shame to do everything right and commit on of the most common growing mistakes on the very last step.
Curing affects the quality and flavor of the smoke produced when burning. Many of the aromatic compounds (terpenes) that give cannabis its unique smell and flavor are quite volatile and can degrade and evaporate at temperatures as low as 70°F. A slow cure at low temperatures will preserve these terpenes better than a quick, hot cannabis drying process.
Avoid at all costs the temptation to “quick dry” or speed up the process in any way. It can take anywhere from 5-14 days to properly cure cannabis plants even in the perfect environment. You should have equipment suitable to measure the drying-room’s humidity AND temperature. If you can keep these two things within tolerances and perhaps add a small fan to gently circulate air the results will amaze you.
Flowers that feel a little crunchy on the outside mean you’re done with drying and ready to start curing.
Proper curing is an art, not a science, but there are several ways to accomplish this properly. Some strains can require 4-8 weeks of curing inside airtight containers, some even longer. A common problem with buds that have not been properly cured is a “cut hay” or “freshly cut grass” smell or taste. This is an indication of too much chlorophyll remaining in the buds. Curing is the process to solve this.
The most important rule is if you’re using heat to quickly dry your plants they will taste terrible and give a mediocre high at best. Patience and a cool space are key to avoid common growing mistakes.
A handy guide to every detail of proper curing can be found here.
Now you’ve got the great tips and common growing mistakes in your knowledge arsenal. Apply these to your grow operation (and look here for more general information) and watch your plants flourish before your very eyes.
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