Tips and tricks for the home grower to produce plenty of pot for their personal use. The goal is to enjoy the process, to learn and to have fun!
Instead of topping, pruning or clipping shoots, which can slow growth and requires significant recovery time, try a technique called Low-Stress Training (LST for short), which involves using string, wire or weights to bend and pull down the top branches. As a result, the lower branches get more light and air circulation and, as a result, the plant fills out better.
Not only does LST result in bigger yields, but the technique allows you to control the height and shape of your plants. This is a godsend for those with small spaces doing micro-grows. Manipulating your branches into the desired shape can also help you maintain a level canopy, which results in a bigger harvest of nicely sized buds.
The key to LST is to minimize stress on the plants by bending the branches gently in order to avoid breaking them. New growth is easier to bend than old, so start the process when your plants are young. You’ll also need to factor in a couple extra weeks of vegetative time, but the increased yields will be well worth it. A few companies provide ready-to-use solutions: For example, LST Tops offers elastic bands designed to secure the branches by creating tension, exposing more of your plants’ surface area to light. Check them out at lsttops.com or follow them on Instagram @lsttops.
How to Measure Nutrient Solution
When it comes to measuring fertilizer for either soil or hydro grows, many novices will be tempted to simply use an eyedropper or one of those 1-milliliter pipettes that sometimes come with the solution. But eyedroppers and small pipettes only deliver 1 or 2 ml at a time, forcing you to take multiple measurements. And that’s problematic because each measurement you take has a small amount of error associated with it, and over multiple times this error rate compounds, creating big differences in your grow.
That’s why we recommend measuring liquid fertilizer in as few steps as possible. For most nutrients, the best tools for the job are either a 10 ml graduated cylinder or a 10 ml syringe. To use a 10 ml graduated cylinder, fill it until the bottom of the meniscus (do a search for “meniscus chemistry” to see what we mean) is level with the desired reading when looking at it straight on. Pour this solution into the reservoir and rinse the cylinder with clean water to remove the remaining drops.
Syringes measure volume only by difference. For example, in order to measure 3.5 ml, pull out roughly 5 ml, flip the syringe facing up and push the bubble out so that only liquid remains in the syringe. Next, adjust the volume to exactly 4.5 ml and squirt the contents of the syringe into a small cup with reservoir water until the syringe reads 1 ml, for a total delivery of 3.5 ml (4.5 – 3.5 = 1). Syringes can be very accurate, but always use them to measure by difference only, and be sure to get rid of the bubble so that all you measure is liquid.
Soil vs. Hydro
Traditionally, plants are grown in soil or soilless potting mixes that mimic natural earthy loam. Advances in hydroponics—i.e., growing plants with their roots immersed not in soil, but in a nutrient solution—allow cultivators to increase their plants’ growth rate as well as their final yield. Roots developing in a hydroponic system typically produce bigger plants much faster than the same roots in soil or a soilless mix.
However, hydroponic growing should be considered an advanced technique, because many more factors must be taken into account. Water temperatures, nutrient levels and pH (the acidity or alkalinity of the nutrient solution) must all be monitored several times a day for optimal growth. Growing in soil is much more forgiving, since problems can be solved over a matter of days instead of hours. That’s why beginners should almost always start with a soil-type potting mix to increase their chances of success.
We recommend that new growers use a soilless mix or coco coir (a renewable product made from the hulled shells of coconuts). These mediums allow plenty of oxygen to reach the roots without the typical hassles of hydroponic growing, such as water-temperature fluctuations or clogged drip emitters. Coco coir requires a slightly different nutrient and pH profile, and watering must happen more frequently than with soil, but we find it to be the best of both worlds, making it one of the easiest and most ecological ways to grow indoors.
[Updated, originally published 2.2. 2018]
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