Grow report

Critical from Royal Queen Seeds

By Steve & Dawn

Sometimes, life gives you a huge, insane grin, and good stuff happens much more often than usual. Like, you lose a fiver but immediately find a twenty. Or out of the blue, your partner insists there and then on acting out your lifelong and most horny fantasy (then hands over the fiver you lost earlier, which they found). Sometimes, all this happens, and when it does, it’s a sweet thing if you’ve got some good genetics in your “grow zone”. Because as many growers know, there's now't sweeter than when luck smiles down on us, especially in our “closeted” endeavours.

Recently, whilst cruising through such a piece of life 'n' luck, I embarked on another grow report, this time with Critical (feminized) from the constantly brilliant Royal Queen Seeds.

And so it was that six of these amazing little seeds were popped into some “Root Riot” clone and seed blocks and placed in a bottom-heated propagator under a 400w M/Halide lamp set at 18/6 hours (about 24 inches away from the lamp). Two 6-inch fans, and an 18-inch tall ionising tower fan kept the whole 1m x 1m x 2.1/2m (h) enclosure cool.

The base mix I used for the entire grow (including clones) was B'Cuzz Kilomix, from Atami, with extra perlite (about 10-15% more) for an “ultra airy” mix for the roots. Critical is quite vigorous from seed, and very vigorous from clone, so an “ultra airy” mix is a good move!

After three days, all six seeds were up, so I opened the vents on the propagator box and the next day I turned the bottom heater off. On day 5, I potted all the seedlings into 3.1/2 inch pots with the prepared mix and sat them a little closer to the lamp (about 18 inches). Over the next few days, I moved them progressively closer, until day 8 when I sat them directly under the lamp (at about 9-10 inches).

Things moved along nicely, and on day 15 I potted them up to 6-inch pots (growing in a limited space with many plants requires the use of limited sized pots, upsizing only when necessary).

Having decided earlier to let the plants grow according to their normal pattern (so no pinching out), they were not hindered in any way and grew, at this stage, very quickly. It was soon necessary to pot “up” again, and so on day 25 I re-potted them into their blooming pots. I selected four of the six plants and moved them to 10-inch pots, three of which were (2-3 inches) deeper than standard pots.

So far I had fed the plants twice with Canna Terra Vega (day 8 half-strength, day 20 full-strength, or 10 ml per litre). Their vigour was such that (carefully) re-potting a couple of times made little or no difference to their rate of growth, and by day 28 it was time to move them to the “bloom room”. Here they were sat in a good position under 2 x 400 watt Son t plus lamps in a 2m x 1m x 2m (h) enclosure with other budding babes and two 18-inch fans.

Just six days into their 12/12 cycle, all four started to flower, (two of the four started stretching), and it was at that moment that I started to feed them a full dose of Canna Terra Flores at every watering. Also at this stage, I took four cuttings off the two best looking plants (more about that later.)

By day 22 of 12/12 they were flowering like mad and resin was already flowing. At this stage, I upped the feed to double doses every watering (20 ml per litre), and flushing with pure water every 5th watering. As they were flowering so profusely, it was at this early stage I gave them four doses (over four days) of a PK 13/14 supplement. By day 31, it was evident that two of the four were going to be good yielders, and luckily two of the cuttings I took earlier were from one of these.

For the next ten days or so, all the plants put on weight, two notably more than the others. By day 38, I had cut the feed back to normal doses, and on day 42, I stopped feeding them all together and continued by just flushing with water. On day 47 I saw some of the flowers’ “pistils” turning brown, and by day 51 of their 12/12 regime, an inspection with an 8x magnifier showed the resin glands on two of them (the shortest two) starting to turn “milky”. I suspected the two taller ones weren't far behind.

That evening they were harvested, trimmed and hung to dry.  There was some variation in the growth structure of the plants and their buds; the tallest two plants had quite “nugget”, hard buds, which were spaced out on the plant with big internodal length, whilst the two shorter plants had a “softer” bud structure, but they were also “denser” and the internode spacing on the buds was nice and tight.

The smell didn't really vary from plant to plant, all being pretty “earthy”/spicy whilst budding (although on stoned reflection, the taller ones were perhaps a little more hashy/skunky), and even though quite strong, it wasn't really a problem.

The buds spent about ten days hanging in a dark cupboard to dry and would benefit from a little curing time (20 or 30 days in a glass jar) to reach their potential. As for the yield and the smoke, well, I'll get to that after a digression into the art of Critical cloning.

How many people do you know who are good at cloning? I know seasoned growers who can squeeze every gram out of their plants every time, blindfolded! But ask them to take cuttings, and half of 'em wilt, just like the cuttings they attempt to take. Of course there is the other half, who have great success every time. But the “wilters” fall into two categories: those who think cloning is like a weird “Harry Potter” sort of “Wizards only” affair, and those “would-be” cloners who make such a big deal of things that you would think their life was depending on it!

Why some people have more success with cloning than others is, I think, down to the type of person you are, not how “green-fingered” you are.  Someone who is a happy-go-lucky sort, with a “glass half full” attitude, is probably going to have more success than someone whose outlook on life is a bit serious, a bit “stiff” - the sort of person who really doesn't care if the glass is half full or half empty; in their eyes it’s not full and that’s all there is to it. All the successful cloners I know are quite chilled, happy people and most of the unsuccessful cloners I know are stubborn if not downright grumpy fuckers!

Anyway, here is my take on how to successfully clone Critical (or indeed anything else). First and most importantly, make sure your outlook on the whole cloning experience is nothing more than:  “if it works, it works, but if it doesn't then, what the hell!”  If you treat it like it's some mysterious weird science, then you'll probably fail.  Make sure you have a new, sharp blade such as a Stanley knife, some cloning solution, some “Root Riot” clone and seed blocks (from Growth Technology) or something similar, some Nitrozyme organic growth stimulator (not essential) and a small heated propagator (essential).

When taking cuttings from the Critical I was testing, I had waited until the plants had just started to flower before I selected the ones to clone from.  But, if you are new to cloning (or just don’t have much success with clones), I would recommend taking your cuttings in the veg (18/6) cycle, as the plant is in a 'vigorous' growth stage, and rooting will be much quicker.

Once I had decided which plants to clone from, I set up an area on a kitchen work surface with prepared clone blocks which had been thoroughly soaked in lukewarm water. You’ll need a skewer or something similar to re-make the holes in the blocks (never just presume the hole in the block is 'good', as pushing a tender cutting into a blocked hole is not the way to go!). You’ll also need a pint glass of lukewarm water in which the freshly-cut plant material will be placed, clone solution and a knife.

Make sure everything is clean (and that doesn't mean just sluiced under a tap, it means a minimum of boiling water and detergent). It is also very important to pre-heat the propagator unit a few hours before you take your cuttings.

So with the two selected Critical plants ready and waiting on the work surface, I looked at the top third of the plants for one or two viable cutting sites.  Ideally, you want a good healthy branch in the top third of the plant (with a well veg'd Critical, you get plenty to choose from). Take the hobby knife and from the growing tip of the branch come down four inches (or at least the growing tip and three or four nodes down), remove all leaves in the area, except the growing tip and the next set of leaves down. Cut leaves off close to the stem, taking care not to damage the stem.

Now at four inches (or at least three or four nodes) down, cut sharply about one or (better) two inches below your chosen node, and immediately put the whole thing, cut end down, into the glass of lukewarm water. Now with your knife under water, make a clean 45 degree cut under the lowest node (at no time bringing the new cut out of the water). You’re safe for a while now as cuttings like this can be left for days and still be rooted. Either way, leave it in the glass for at least two minutes. This allows the cutting to draw water and not air up its stem after the shock of being cut, which would usually prove fatal to the cutting.

Now, with cloning solution ready and a rooting block with a nice small hole in it waiting, the cutting is swiftly taken from the glass of water and dipped in the cloning solution. I normally dip at least two thirds of the cutting for about 20 seconds. The cutting is then carefully pushed into the rooting block, which is given a very gentle squeeze all round to secure the cutting.  It should be noted that all the time you are handling the cutting (even when it's still on the plant), you should do so with the most delicate touch possible. Any heavy-handedness or squeezing the cutting will reduce the chances of it rooting.

Now the block is placed in its tray and put straight into the propagator with the vents closed. When all the cuttings are taken and in the propagator, a mist of Nitrozyme growth enhancer sprayed all over the cuttings is a real bonus, as the cuttings get a head start with a boosted enzyme foliar feed. The propagator needs good light but – this is important – doesn’t need too much extra heat. In the case of the Critical, I had the propagator at about 18 inches from the 400w M/Halide, and had a fan blowing over the top of the unit at all times.  After four days I misted the cuttings with Nitrozyme again.

At seven days, I started to open the vents on the propagator. After nine days, all four cuttings had good roots showing from the blocks, so I potted them into 3.1/2 inch pots (of the same mix I was using for the seed Critical) and stood them about 18 inches from the lamp. Over the next 24 hours, I kept a close eye on the cuttings, and on their first “exposed” night cycle, I sprayed with Nitrozyme again.  The next day I pinched out all sprouting tips, and moved them closer to the lamp (12-14 inches).

By day 14 of sitting in small pots (day 23 from cutting), I potted them into 10-inch pots and immediately fed them a half dose of Canna Terra Vega, and that night gave them another spray of growth enhancer and a 2 ml dose of enhancer in a litre of feed water.

For the next seven days the cuttings went mad, growing very fast.  By day 21 from potting, I took two of the plants to the bloom room, I gave them the best position, and fed them a full dose of Canna, Terra Flores.  By day 7 (12/12) both had started to flower.  By day 15, flower and resin production was in full flow. In addition to their double dose feed (of Terra Flores) every watering, I decided (because of their vigour) to give them a full PK13/14 mix (5 ml per litre) from day 17-20, (12/12).

By day 30, the two plants were looking really good. One was shorter than the other and doing exactly what its mum did: budding with short internodes pretty much all the way up its four stems, in a dense, fine (ish) flowering structure. Its taller sister was also doing what its mum did: creating spaced out, solid, nuggety, bulging resinous buds.

Day 31, and I gave them another three days of a PK 13/14 boost, at 3 ml per litre. By day 35 (12/12), due to early pinching out and use of growth enhancers, both plants had now far exceeded their mums in bud production. The taller of the two had such solid, heavy buds that support canes were now needed. I also cut back on the feed to a single dose every watering.

Day 42, and the buds had finished their floral “rush”, and are now filling out and plumping up. The resin production on both plants was at its peak. From this moment, both plants would only be getting pure water for dinner until harvest.  Day 46, and both plants were heavy with resinous, bulging buds. The shorter one actually had some pistils turning brown already. It has to be said that in this instance, when the plants were potted up to 10-inch pots, it would have been better to go for 14- or 16-inch pots, as Critical under good conditions is a greedy bitch, and it produces a root system to accommodate its lust for food.

Day 48, and both plants were starting to “brown off”, but the resin glands were still clear. Two days later both plants were showing about 1/8 of their flower pistils “browning off” and the shortest one showed a slight “clouding” of some of its resin glands viewed under 8x magnification. Time to harvest!

After cutting, trimming and hanging the buds to dry, one thing was very apparent: these two ladies had yielded more, in a shorter time, (71 days from rooted) than all four of their predecessors put together.  In fact, the four seed Criticals gave a dry trimmed weight of 13 g, 18 g, 21 g, 24 g for a total = 76 g, in 79 days. Whereas just two clones gave a dry trimmed weight of 32 g (tall one) and 49 g (short one) for a total = 81g, in 71 days from rooting (80 days from cutting). The two clones had more than double the yield of the four seed plants!

It must be noted that this strain (especially the short pheno',) shows a bud growth structure that could be susceptible to mould! So flushing plenty of good, moving (non humid) air through the buds in their last half of budding would probably be a good idea. Either way, keep an eye on them, just in case!

What I think about  Critical is, if you selected well, pinched out a couple of times early on, maybe veg'd for a little longer, gave plenty of feeds and boosters, in big pots, on a very light base, with 2 x 600w Son's (instead of 2 x 400w), this strain has big potential.
 
When Critical is dry and not touched, it doesn't smell much. But when you break it open, it has a distinct quality smell to it; very “earthy” - almost burnt almond and spice - with a strange undertone of  “lighter fuel” to it. This smell fades as it cures, but doesn't completely go away, and in no way does it affect the lovely tasting smoke. It would seem the difficulty you’re going to have with Critical is not in the growing, cloning, or drying stages, but in the skinin' up stages! It is so deeply set with resin that once you've touched it, you end up with fag papers and bits of tobacco (if you use it) stuck to your fingers, and everything else on the floor!

As for the smoke, both variants of Critical smoke very similarly. The taste is surprisingly “hashy” and “meat”, with perhaps the solid nuggety buds tasting a bit more skunky. The stone is very pleasant, a good strong (but not “killa”, strong) body stone, accompanied by a nice uplifting feeling. After a few pipes you get the feeling you’re going to be “couch locked”, but you’re not. Instead, you find in fact that you can do quite a lot, albeit in a grinning, wobbly mashed sort of fashion. We found the stone to be a little bit of a creeper, and you can easily do two or three pipes before the first one has truly hit home. It's not the longest lasting stone, but that’s good, because you can spend the evening getting totally wasted, and still get up the next morning with a clear head!

So, Critical appears to tick all the right boxes; it’s a doddle to grow and clone, it yields very well, very quickly, and the smoke is first class.  It appears that yet again, Royal Queen Seeds can deliver top quality (feminized) genetics at a price we can all smile at!   If you’re the sort of person who (for whatever reason) has trouble with cloning, then I strongly recommend Critical as a good strain to hone your skills with.

Be cool y'all!

Steve & Dawn