Part 1 - Intro
Before we can switch our attention to the flowering or bloom phase, we have to make sure that we have raised large, healthy ladies during as short a growth or 'veg' period as possible. Their size and health will determine the larger part of our eventual yield. The idea is that we raise the germinated seedlings during their growth period as quickly as possible into sturdy, vigorous green bushes.
To make sure they develop a sturdy stem it is advisable to have a fan running in the grow space. This will ensure an even climate by mixing cool and warmer air, and keep a soft breeze blowing over your plants. It is this that will stimulate the plants to strengthen their stems, and a fatter stem can hold more and heavier buds.You will see the result of using a fan really soon.
The plant adapts itself incredibly quickly. Just set up the fan and turn it towards your plants; you will see that they move as they are blown hither and thither. After just a couple of days, they will not be moving any more; the little plants will be set firmly where they stand, unaffected by the breeze.Positive proof that the plant has quickly taken the steps needed to stiffen up her stem.
If you like, you can turn up the intensity of the fan, if it has higher settings. Make the breeze strong enough to once again make the plants sway back and forth. After a while the plants will have reinforced their stems enough to stop the stress from the 'wind' again.The end result is that you get strong, muscle-bound, bushlike plants rather than thin, spindly ones.
Making sure you have a good breeze in the veg phase is a very cheap technique of raising your yields. By growing under lights you can get really massive buds; heavy enough, in fact, that your plants' side branches risk being not strong enough to support them - and you risk losing some yield.As you will no doubt have sussed by now if you have already had a harvest from your garden, it is usually the plants with the sturdiest stems that produce the most bud, though of course there are always exceptions to this rule.
Part 2 - Feeding Time
After a little while you will have to begin giving your plants feeds in order to support their rapid growth under lights. The better the quality of earth you are growing in (i. e. the more nutrients it contains), the longer you can wait before having to give them their first supplement. But it is still advisable to give a little nutrient now and again even to plants growing in a heavily pre- fertilised mix.
By giving food regularly you ensure that the medium is not suddenly depleted. You are constantly topping up the mix. In normal circumstances, a good soil mix will need supplementing after about three weeks of growth in it, but with regular addition of nutrients it will take five or six weeks before it is exhausted. This will create fewer problems, since if you just leave your soil mix then you will suddenly have to start adding considerable amounts of liquid nutrient.
This is not necessarily a problem, but it can be for beginner growers who are not yet sure how much feeding the plant can handle, and in no time at all you can end up with yellowing plants. Nutrition is something that you have to gradually build up, as the plant goes through various phases. The small seedling needs little to no extra feeding and you are best off waiting a week and a half before giving them their very first meal.
Then you should use half the strength stated on the bottle. The EC of the nutrient mix will then be around 1.4 depending on which brand of nutrient you use. Once the plants have grown bigger you can begin giving them a higher dose. In this way you go on adding a little bit more nutrient to your water. What often happens if you keep adding the same amount of feed is that your plants will develop a deficiency. You are giving the same amount of nutrients but your plant is getting bigger and bigger and so can use - or needs - more, and this is something every grower needs to keep an eye on.
This is why I am no big fan of offthepeg growing plans, because every growing space and every plant is different. You have to look at your plants themselves and then decide what is best for them.
Part 3 - Common deficiencies
The most common deficiencies you might experience are nitrogen, potassium or phosphorus. It is especially during the growth phase that your plants are susceptible to deficiencies in nitrogen and potassium. In my experience it's usually a potassium deficiency. A nitrogen deficiency is easy to spot as the tips of the leaves start to turn yellow and the leaf gets yellower towards the leaf stem. The plant sucks all the nitrogen out of these leaves because it does not have enough elsewhere.
So old leaves are drained and all their nutrients taken to where new foliage is being produced. A potassium deficiency is the most common deficiency I come across, and it is recognisable by the fact that the leaves yellow from the outermost edge inwards, towards the main vein in the middle of the leaf. It is easy to distinguish from a nitrogen deficiency. Sometimes you might have both at the same time, and then the leaf will turn yellow from the leaf tips and the outer edge simultaneously.
During blooming is when you have most chance of getting a phosphorus deficiency, and/or in potassium too. A phosphorus deficiency is harder to recognise, but the plants develop a dark purplish appearance all over. Their bloom is interrupted too, so they end up smaller. But the most important thing to know is that is that these deficiencies in the short term are not damaging to the plants. Deficiencies are therefore actually simple to learn about and easy to remedy.
By giving extra feed to your plants you can watch the yellow leaves turn a lovely green again They gorge themselves until full with a fresh load of nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium. That is why as a beginning grower it is better to under-feed than over-fertilise. In this way you can learn the boundaries of the plant while letting them experience shortages. You always begin with a few plants and after a little while, start giving them a bit more, since it's now going well. And if you then encounter problems, ones you do not know the cause of, then you know things are a bit more serious.
If you know how to recognise a certain deficiency then you can rule this out straight away and look for other causes of the problem. That is why it's a good idea when starting out with growing to take a single plant with which to experiment with by giving it absolutely no extra feeding and waiting to observe its deficiencies. When doing so try and find out which deficiencies you are experiencing by chatting about the symptoms in online forums and asking advice, or talk to friends or whoever. Once you have this knowledge soundly under your belt then things will go much more smoothly with future crops.
Part 4 - Recognising colours
Every beginner grower is a top grower as long as he is not colour blind. To really have your feeding sussed you need to spend time with your plants and observe them. It is that simple. When your plants have sufficient of everything then they will have a brilliant green colour and a healthy sheen over all their leaves. This is the optimum growth and bloom that we have been striving for in action. If within a short while after this observation you do not start to raise your nutrient levels then certain deficiencies will start to creep in.
Just look at your plants' leaves, and you will observe that they soon become a lighter green. When your plants turn a lighter shade of green this is an indication that they could use some extra food, and if you don't pay attention and wait too long before you give it to them, the leaves will turn yellow. So it is really easy to notice when things go sub-optimal. Some older leaves that get little to no light will automatically turn yellow. The plant has no further use for these old leaves and removes all the useful nutrients from them.
So don't go leaping to the assumption that you have a nutrient deficiency just because a few leaves turn yellow. Over-fertilizing will soon occur from the build up of salts that accumulate in the soil mix, or by giving much too heavy a dose of nutrient to your plants. Salts can be flushed away using an enzyme preparation. This product makes sure that dead root matter is removed, a good thing since that the plant is constantly making new roots and letting old ones die off, as well as salts from the substances you have been applying. This does not eliminate all chances of over- fertilization, but lessens the chances of it and makes your medium healthier, which your plants will also appreciate by growing and blooming better.
Part 5 - Over feeding
When you do manage to get tip-top, lovely, dark, supergreen plants it is time to watch out. Now giving too much nutrient might lead to over- fertilization. After all, the plants have more than enough food on their plates. So you are best off waiting to give them any more food until you see that the plants have started to develop a paler colour once again.
Make a note of how many days it takes before they do this. If takes a couple of days, for example, make a mental note, go back to feeding them again and they will get their dark green colour back. Once you've established this period, you can safely give them food every two days, After all, you have now tested how long they can go before they start to need another feed.
If you're not sure whether your plants need feeding or not, then it's best leave them a while longer. To make things easier for growers there are such things as pH and EC meters. The pH is the level of acidity of your medium, which determines how easily the plant can take up certain substances and so in what quantities these can be given. With an EC meter you can measure the precise level of nutrients you are about to give the plants. With it you can slowly build up the dosage more easily while you raise them.
These devices are handy if you want to get everything just perfect, but they are not a real 'must have'. That is also why it is always recommended that a beginner grower starts out growing in soil, because these instruments are not necessary. The soil acts as a buffer. Once you've got your basic growing technique off, then it's worth getting EC and pH meters just to make things easier for yourself to raise even better plants.
Part 6 - Grow style
The two most common methods of growing plants are the so-called sog and scrog. Sog (which I believe is short for 'Sea of Green') means that we have many plants per square meter and then give them just a few days or even none at all before sticking them straight into bloom. The result of this is that the plants produce few or no side branches and limit their upwards growth. Then you will end up with a pole of buds from top to bottom.
This method is especially liked by commercial growers.By giving a little longer growth to your plants they are given the time to develop side branches, then you get bushy plants and this method is used by the majority of growers. If you only have a few plants in a square meter then you can choose to employ the scrog technique. By 'scrogging' I mean that we are going to remove the main top shoot from the plant. It's a form of 'topping', basically.
The main shoot is to be found in the centre of the plant, on the main stem.It makes new leaves and side branches. When we snip off this head then the plant will stop increasing in height. What happens then is that the plant spreads her energy across the remaining side branches. All side branches will therefore become stronger in their growth. In this way you get a broad plant with side branches that are roughly the same height. The majority of buds in turn will be found on the uppermost side, which is where most of the light falls. The plant will end up shorter but fatter.It's best to do any topping fairly early, after two weeks growth, at least a week before the bloom is scheduled to start if you want to enjoy its advantages. You must give the plant some time to get used to the process. In this way with just a few you can achieve as big a harvest as possible.
Part 7 - The net effect
An expert scrogger will fix a net over his plants and this then trains the side branches to be nice and evenly spread apart, so maximising the amount of light each branch receives. Once in bloom, you get a gorgeous layer of buds. With the sog method you end up with just one huge bud with only a few medium to smaller buds on the plant. With thae scrog method you get lots of medium-sized buds.
An advantage of this is that you also have a lower chance of developing a mould infection, because you have lots of little buds in place of one big one. So if you live in a damp environment or have trouble with too high an air humidity inside your grow space, then scrogging is a good method of keeping your chances of bud rot down. The yield from both growing methods is pretty much the same if you do them right. A lot depends on what variety of plant you are using. One sort of plant is better for a particular growing style than an other.
If you use the sog method you are better off with a plant that is known for producing an enormous head bud and which forms elongated buds and few side branches.
With scrogging you more want a variety that does makes loads of side branches and above all, that produces plenty of buds on these and grows a sturdy stem. If you decide to scrog, then it is advisable to remove the lowermost branches of the plant. We want to make sure that as much energy as possible is directed to the uppermost branches, where the light from the lamps is going to be falling.
The lowest side branches get little to no light and so will make fluffy buds. By getting rid of these you will get good air circulation under the plants and all available energy will be sent up to the higher buds. You can also do this with the sog method if you notice that the leaf coverage is getting too dense. By removing the lowest side branches of the plants in a sog crop, the higher situated branches will develop better, stretch themselves out and thereby grow closer to the light source, getting heavier as a result.
There are many variations of these which you can experiment with of course. Some growers snip all the side branches off during the growth phase and let only the best developed 4-6 side branches behind on the plant. To make our own plants feel as welcome as possible I would advise you to always give them lukewarm water - around 23 degrees.
To us this actually still feels rather cool. But cold water makes the roots of our plants recoil in shock and it will retard the growth and blooming of the plant as a result. To finish off, I'd like to add that the growth period is as important as the bloom period, if not more so. The serves as a basis for a healthy bloom period. The better you get at growing, the faster you be able to get your plants to their optimum size in pre-growth, thereby saving the time they would have had to spend in the growth period, thus saving not just time but electricity too.