Medpot Minstrel: Hydroponics Medical Marijuana

Friday, November 24, 2006

Contactor Relay Timers, Vitamins and Wet Betty

Hopefully, we all learn by our mistakes! (Could someone please tell George W. Bush this homespun bit of wisdom?) In my case, this involved my first cheap timer that I bought at Home Hardware.

It was around the time that I set up my basement grow room. I was about to embark on an adventure to start growing medicine for my wife, Claire and I. She suffers from regular major migraines. At that time, I was puking my way through chemo therapy.

In growing pot, timing is everything. So you’re told to put your light on a timer, your hydroponic system on a timer, you CO2 burner on a timer. So you research the web and find that timers vary greatly in price.

You set out to your hardware chain store and find some neat looking timers for a fraction of the cost of the web ones. So you think you’re smart and buy three of them, figuring that they’ll free you up from having to constantly supervise your pot plants.

Wrong! No timer is a substitute for supervision. Anyone who has a computer should know by now that electronics can malfunction—frequently! So if your fifteen hundred dollar laptop can screw up, what makes you think that a $19.95 timer won’t end up jeopardizing your entire harvest?

Anyone putting more than a 400W light on a timer is taking a big chance. I found this out the hard way. I put my 600W High Pressure Sodium light, with a conversion bulb in it, on my newly bought timer. It worked fine during the eight weeks of the veg stage, then I programmed it to turn the light on and off at twelve hour intervals.

As you know, in order to flower, cannabis plants need 12 hours of light, followed by 12 hours of total darkness. I don’t like to go into my grow room during the dark period, even with a green bulb. So I did all my work in there during the “daylight” hours.

What I didn’t know is that my cheap timer fused in the “on” position, due to the high wattage current running through it, and my light was staying on 24 hours.

My pot plants refused to start flowering. At first I thought my feeding schedule was off, or I was giving my plants the wrong supplements. They got bushier and bushier, but hardly any buds. I started to panic.

Now even though a grow room is supposed to be totally light proof, what saved my harvest was that crack under the door that revealed to me one night that in fact complete darkness had not descended on my six pot plants.

I caught it in time, bought a decent, contactor relay timer, and gave my plants some more Bud Blood to induce flowering.

But my cheap timer had worked for eight weeks, without any trouble? That’s the dangerous part of trying to save money on an essential piece of equipment. The internal fusing can happen at any time, and without adequate supervision, the results could have been catastrophic.

The smallest contactor relay is a 2k unit, featuring two plugs. You insert these into your regular wall socket. One circuit goes through the timer, the other goes directly to the light. Actually, this unit can handle two 600W HID lights. It takes the load off the timer, thus eliminating the danger of fusing.

I’ve been using decent timers ever since that mishap, and they have proven to be reliable.
A 3k relay with a four plug output can handle up to three 600W HID’s, or four 400W lights. A 4k one can run up to four 600W lights, or three 1000W ones. And they also have larger relays with a bigger capacity.

My ladies are into week seven of their vegetative stage, so it’s time to test out my timers to make sure they work properly. It’s also time to feed the plants some essential B vitamins. I give them B-52, which not only has all the B’s they need, but also a whole bunch of biostimulants that promote plant health.

B-52 has B-complex plus folic acid, suspended in a high concentration of quality humates. It also contains a seaweed extract rich in phytohormones and osmoprotectants.

These phytohormones come from a natural source, more specifically from the algae Ascophyllum nodosum, commonly known as Norwegian kelp or Rockweed.

I find that my cannabis plants become more vigorous and grow faster, whenever I apply B-52 with its biologically active ingredients. The application rate is 2 mL/L.

Another supplement that I add at this time is Sensi Cal Mg Mix Grow, with its essential supply of calcium and magnesium. It also has Iron, Manganese, Zinc, Copper, Boron, Molybdenum, and Cobalt. These micronutrients are equally essential, albeit in minute amounts.

The application rate for this product is 1.25 mL/L and its has an NPK of 2-0-0. The calcium is chelated, and the micronutrients are in easily absorbed compound forms, such as sulphates, nitrates, and proteinates.

Soon, I’ll have to switch over to Sensi Cal Mg Mix Bloom, which is a product engineered and best suited for the flowering stage of my marijuana plants.

Growers who have experienced the devastating symptoms of calcium deficiency, will understand the importance of regularly administering these vital supplements.

My ladies are still on a basic diet of Sensi Grow, A & B, which is a superb fertilizer specifically developed for cannabis. After next week, I’m changing the regimen to Sensi Bloom, A & B. flushing the system in between.

In order to offset the synthetic nature of this basic diet, I use a number of organic supplements. Not the least of these is Wet Betty Organic, which is a surfactant that facilitates the transport and absorption of nutrients.

Wet Betty is a new, 100% organic product, that contains natural steroidal-triterpenoid saponins derived from Yucca and Quillaja. Saponins not only help plants resist stress, but they also manufacture phytohormones.

Given these properties, plus its unique ability to aid water absorption, Wet Betty helps deliver larger harvests. Since I’m hoping for a unique Mother Plant from my selection of six ladies, a large harvest is exactly what I need.

posted by Wes @ 1:09 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, November 17, 2006

A blasted Ballast, and Vital Organic Enhancement

Metal Halide lamps have an ignitor built into them, so the ballast for metal halide doesn’t have an ignitor. However, High Pressure Sodium lamps do not self-ignite, so the HPS ballast has to have an ignitor built into it.

Traditionally, HID ballasts have used magnetic coils to regulate current and voltage. A ballast is necessary for high output lamps in order to kick start them, and also to ensure an even, uniform lumens output. Magnetic ballasts tend to be hot, bulky, and heavy.

One of the grow-your-own books suggests to hold a match to your ballast. If the match ignites, your ballast is too hot.

My ballast is definitely too hot. It nearly burned a hole in the protective pad that I put under it to reduce its noise and vibrations.

The gist of it is, I’m in the market for a new ballast for my lighting fixture. The reflective housing for the lamp is sturdy and doesn’t need to be replaced. It was made by Bell Lighting Technologies up in Canada and they used a secret formula to literally bake a protective coating onto the surface of the fixture, that is not only heat resistant but also super reflective. It’s white.

But the ballast, which I also bought second hand, has seen better days. So I researched the topic of ballasts on the web and found that new, super efficient electronic ballasts have been announced by several companies, aimed specifically at HID lighting.

Unfortunately, the cost of these new generation of ballasts is quite high, but since my old one is becoming a fire hazard, I have no choice. I could buy another magnetic one, I suppose, but I wouldn’t be happy with it, knowing that a better alternative exists, for a few dollars more. Quite a few dollars more, as it turns out.

I have to consult Claire and our family budget and place my ballast needs on the same list as Squirrel’s rubber boots, Claire’s waterproof coat, and a new briefcase for the breadwinner in the family, i.e. me.

Until recently, electronic ballasts were only available for a limited range of lighting products, mostly in the low-wattage category. However, reliable electronic ballasts are now coming on the market for use with higher wattages of Metal Halide and High Pressure Sodium HID lighting systems.

So I just have to find a reliable supplier and make sure the household budget can accommodate the price.

Until then, I put a metal plate under the old ballast. It makes a hell of a racket, but at least its fireproof!

Week six of the vegetative stage, so it’s time to feed my six ladies some Mother Earth Super Tea Grow, Grandma Enggy’s Seaweed Extract, and SensiZym.

I use Mother Earth Super Tea Grow to give natural supplements, nutrients, and vitamins missing from my ladies’ chemical fertilizer regimen. The alfalfa extract, canola meal, citric acid, crab meal, earthworm castings, fish meal, sea kelp, and shrimp meal provide an organic smorgasbord for my plants, that not only fills them up, but enhances their floral potential. Apply generously, at 11.25 mL/L.

Granma Enggy’s Seaweed Extract is like a shot of multi-vitamins, laced with natural antibiotics and growth stimulants, plus other nutrients, auxins, and gibberlins. This miracle product imparts resistance to spider mites, aphids, scab, mildew, and assorted fungi. The application rate is 5 mL/L.

Enzymes are the natural building blocks of life energy. SensiZym contains over 80 different enzymes that benefit various functions of my plants. For instance, these enzymes help break down root zone debris, making it easier for the plants to absorb vital nutrients. It helps with water uptake, thus increasing drought resistance. Plant maturation and cell replication are enhanced by SensiZym. I could go on…

Don’t get me wrong, my ladies love their regular diet of Sensi Grow A & B. All the essential macro and micro nutrients that have been scientifically researched and found to be necessary not just for the well being, but also the thriving of cannabis plants, are contained in this species specific fertilizer.

In two weeks time, it’s time to change the lighting regimen, from 18 hours of bright light to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of total darkness. This, along with the administering of Bud Blood, will induce flowering. Then we’ll see which one of my ladies will bless us with the most and biggest buds, and she’ll become our Mother Plant for cloning. What an adventure!

Speaking of adventures, Squirrel and her mother have taken off on their annual trip to a nearby big city, where they’ll stay in a hotel and go shopping for three days. They’ll also visit the super modern, eco-friendly zoo, and spend some time in art museums, playland arcades, and at a hairdressers. It’s a tough life, but someone’s gotta do it!

posted by Wes @ 5:57 PM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Root Rot--Panic, Solution--Water Less!

Just when you think you’re doing everything right, things fall apart so quickly that your head starts spinning. My six ladies are safely ensconced in their hydro buckets filled with baked clay pellets, all the Advanced Nutrients products are being mixed and poured into the reservoir as instructed, and yet I have a feeling that something is not quite right.

I discover root rot on one of my ladies. Just the beginning of it, but if left to fester, this could kill the whole plant. I have to act quickly. I run to the phone and phone the Advanced Nutrients technical guy. His first question is—“how often do I flood the buckets? What intervals have I set on my timer?”

He explained that most growers tend to overwater their pot plants. It’s as simple as that. The roots of cannabis are roughly divided into three sections. The upper third need oxygen to thrive. The middle third need both oxygen and water. Only the bottom third are totally satisfied with a liquid diet.

Mike the Tech Guy told me that he has three rules. #1—Don’t apply, until they’re dry. #2—When in doubt, flush them out. #3—Uptake should be determined by leaf surface.

He said that your reservoir is a good bio-feedback loop. Make notches on the side, to see how much of the solution your plants gobble up. And all this attention paid to maintaining a level ppm is based on human arrogance. Mother Nature never maintains a level. She fluctuates.

Once the plants have had their fill from the correctly mixed solution, toward the end of the week you should add just water and the concentration should be about 50-70% of the original level.

Then you can remix the next week’s batch according to correct ratios. The Nutrient Calculator on the Advanced website will give you an idea of what to aim for in terms of weekly ppm. But remember, it will always fluctuate!

He told me to cut back on the number of times I’m flooding my buckets and leave a longer period in between for the clay pebbles and the roots to get oxygenated and to dry. Sure enough, within a few days the root rot problem cleared up.

I guess it’s not enough to pamper your roots with the beneficial fungi colonization of Piranha. I use a lower application rate than the one they recommend, since I also use Carbo Load Liquid. So instead of 3g/L I use 1.5g/L, starting during the first two weeks of growth, and at three week intervals after that.

As far asTarantula is concerned, again, I use 1.5g/L instead of the 3g/L recommended, right at the first two weeks. Once the beneficial bacteria have colonized the root system, you may want to top them up at three week intervals.

The same holds true for Voodoo Juice, the microbial rhizosphere colonizer. I mix this at half the recommended rate of 30mL per 4 L, or 15 mL per 4 L, which is roughly a gallon of water. The label says that this can also be applied every three weeks.

Mike the Tech Guy added that what I presumed to be root rot might have been some very energetic colonization by the root enhancers, due to their intake of extra carbohydrates. He said I should flush the system with a weak solution of HyOx to be on the safe side. Then cut back on my watering.

Normally, the use of HyOx is not recommended when you’re using Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice, as well as SensiZym, since it kills off the beneficial microorganisms, thus de facto neutralizing their benefits.

I use SensiZym since its 88 enzymes are very much alive and they help clean my clay pebbles by munching on all the plant debris left behind by crop after crop going through my ebb and flow hydro system. I also flush the system frequently, as recommended, but it is nice to be able to use a product that helps in the clean up.

SensiZym helps my plants absorb water--as well as the dissolved nutrients in the water--better which makes for bigger plants and a larger yield. It also accelerates the growth of the microorganisms contained in Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice, which in turn guarantee a heavier harvest.

It is recommended that you mix SensiZym according to the ratio of 5 mL/L and add to your nutrient reservoir, if you’re using hydroponics. However, during the eight-week vegetative cycle you might 6.27 fl. oz. during the first two weeks, then increase that to 7.61 fl. oz. during weeks three and four, culminating in 9.39 fl. oz. during weeks five, six, seven, and eight. These calculations are based on a 19.82 Gallon reservoir, with an acid-alkaline balance of 5.6 pH.

Remember, if you want to get things right, pre-mix your nutrient solution in a large bucket (adding hard to dissolve products like Barricade the night before) and take pH readings every half-hour until your mixture’s acid-alkaline balance stabilizes. Then you can add the solution to your reservoir!

posted by Wes @ 10:06 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, November 03, 2006

Goodbye Pouches, Hello Two-Part Fert

I had hardly started my EPN SensiPro regimen, when I had a heart to heart talk with my Advanced Nutrients Medical technical guy. He told me that EPN SensiPro was developed for therapeutic cannabis patients who had difficulty with handling large containers of liquid fertilizer. So the ease of operation was built into the system, where all you need is a pair of scissors to cut open the pouch, pre-measured for you and your plants needs, week by week.

He also told me that since I was an able-bodied cancer patient, I should be using the two-part Sensi fertilizer, that was cannabis specific. “We did a lot of genetic specific testing, and came up with Sensi Grow A&B and Sensi Bloom A&B as a superior system for growing cannabis hydroponically.”

So I called my friend Nigel, the MS patient, and gave him the EPN Sensi Pro, along with instructions on how to use it. It’s the simplest system ever devised for feeding your cannabis plants. He was most grateful, and offered me some more mandarin oranges, but I declined. We still had plenty of them from last week’s gift.

“What about the two pounds per light?” I asked on the phone. “You should still be able to maximize your yield, provided you use a heavy feeding regimen, and supplement your basic nutrient with bloom boosters, such as Bud Blood, Big Bud, and Overdrive,” said the technical guy.

He also said that I might want to try Hammerhead PK 9/18, which is the product they developed in response to growers’ inquiries about P-K 13/14, made by competitors. Advanced Nutrients tested the latter and found that it might lead to phosphorus toxicity. They pinpointed the correct ratio required by cannabis plants as a bloom booster supplement, which can be used in addition to your other bloom booster regimen.

If you’re using Bud Blood during week one of flowering, as I often do, you should not start adding Hammerhead until weeks three to five. Using Bud Blood and Hammerhead together would be redundant. However, Hammerhead can be used together with Bid Bud, provided the latter is confined to recommended rates.

You can also use Hammerhead in conjunction with Overdrive during weeks five and six, provided you only use half the recommended rate for Hammerhead. The basic application rate for Hammerhead PK 9/18 full strength is 0.5 ml per Liter of water.

During the flowering stage, cannabis starts using many additional mineral nutrients at increased rates. The plant’s stored up potassium and phosphorus supplies are called upon with increased frequency. Hammerhead satisfies this additional need for these two basic nutrients, in the correct proportion required by flowering cannabis plants.

Some growers who have used their competitors’ products with a 13/14 PK, have experienced phosphate accumulation in leaves that have a toxic effect. This can lead to chlorosis—a yellowing or whitening of green leaves. These leaves start dropping prematurely.

In more severe cases of phosphorus toxicity, gray-green lesions on the surface of the leaves turn brown and tip burning is evident after the application of these incorrectly balanced PK fertilizers.

Hammerhead PK 9/18 is not only correctly balanced for your cannabis plants, but it also contains sulphur and magnesium. These are used to maintain enzyme structure and increase the plant cells’ ability to extract energy for the growth of the reproductive organs, which result in larger and more potent buds.

Sensi Grow A&B is a high-yield fertilizer specifically designed for cannabis. Its special components are not found in other two-part ferts. Its NPK is 5-2-6, while the NPK of Sensi Bloom A&B is 5-4-8. Their precise macronutrient ratio and micronutrient profiles are tailor made for the vegetative and the flowering stages, respectively.

Based on standalone light feeding, the correct application rate is 2.6 mL/L for both of these products. I prefer a medium to heavy feeding, so I will adjust the mL rate accordingly.

I checked in the Advancedepedia for these nutrients, and under Sensi Bloom Part A&B it says: “If you want large, deliciously-scented flowers, use Sensi Bloom.” I look forward to trying out these recommended products, starting immediately.

What about pouring and spilling the liquid onto my jeans? The tech guy said that as long as I am careful, that should not be a problem. Be sure to do your measuring, pouring and mixing after a good night’s sleep. If you’re hung over from a night on the town, postpone it until you’re refreshed.

He also mentioned that they’re having labelling problems with Protector, Genius Oil, and Bug Away, so these products are temporarily unavailable. It seems that the government agencies are asking that Protector be registered as a fungicide, while Bug Away should be labelled an insecticide.

Bug Away is a natural product that repels insects, it is NOT and insecticide. Neither is Protector a fungicide per se, even though it protects from and fights powdery mildew. Genius Oil is a concentrated form of neem oil, which is an excellent protective agent against pests and pathogens.

If only the government were so concerned with labelling all the junk that is sold as food to humans, as they are with what we put on our plants.

posted by Wes @ 12:09 PM 0 comments links to this post