Medpot Minstrel: Hydroponics Medical Marijuana

Friday, February 23, 2007

Brownies, Deep Buckets, and Colonized Roots

My buds from the last harvest have dried beautifully and we have sampled them, Claire and I. However, Claire has lost her voice and she is feeling terrible. She’s been attacked by the flu bug and with all the hacking and coughing, to inhale smoke has become impossible for her.

Enter Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein. That very famous Lesbian couple did as much for the art of baking hash brownies, as they ever did for literature. Claire sat in a chair in the kitchen, covered with a blanket, and gave me step by step instructions on how to mix the brownie mix, lace it with dried cannabis, and pour the mix into a pan for baking.

Whether you ingest the cannabinoids through smoking the dried buds or you eat your therapeutic cannabis, the same medicinal effects can be had, except that inhaling the smoke gets the THC and other beneficial ingredients into your bloodstream that much faster.

Once the blood carries the cannabinoid molecules from the lungs to the brain, an incredible feeling of relief permeates our bodies and minds, and Claire is able to manage the pain of her excruciating migraines, while I can cope with the fact that I’m a recovering cancer patient.

We just have to make sure that our daughter Squirrel doesn’t find the brownies and eats one or two. Children’s developing brains are not yet ready to handle the changes brought on by cannabis so we’ve had long talks with our daughter about mom and dad using marijuana for medicinal purposes. She agrees that she’s too young to try it, although in a few years peer pressure will no doubt put temptation in her way.

I’ve recently visited an online marijuana forum and was once again surprised how young some of the people are who are experimenting with the drug. It is a drug in the sense that it is a healing agent that’s been used that way for centuries. But my advice to youngsters is let your brain develop naturally until your mature enough to handle the consciousness expansion that takes place when you ingest THC.

The Advanced Nutrients Medical website has a great article on using cannabis with caution. If you have a history of mental illness, or if there is mental illness in your family, you should definitely read these words of wisdom.

The other thing that I observed on this online forum is how paranoid some people are about buying hydroponic supplies. They urge you to build your own system with components purchased at a hardware store, rather than a garden shop. Even if you pay cash, one posting warned, the shop owner could take down your license number as you drive away from the store and you could be tracked down.

I purchased my six bucket ebb and flow hydroponic system second hand from a grower who was leaving the country. It works like this: a reservoir containing my nutrient solution is located under the buckets. A pump sucks up this solution and a system of rubber tubes distributes it to each bucket at periodic intervals.

The buckets are filled with baked clay pebbles, my grow medium of choice. After the grow medium is totally flooded with nutrient solution there is a pause the length of which is controlled by an automatic timer. Then drain openings on the bottom of the buckets automatically open and the solution flows back into the reservoir underneath.

The size of my reservoir is 72 Liters, 12 Liters for each bucket. I’ve recently upgraded from 12-inch buckets to 16-inch diameter buckets, in order to allow my six select ladies to grow as big as they want. My buckets are deep to accommodate a sizable root system for each plant.

I switched from rockwool to baked clay pebbles as my grow medium of choice, since rockwool tends to retain water too long and doesn’t allow the roots to breathe. Baked clay pebbles, on the other hand, are porous and allow for aeration of my roots which need oxygen to thrive.

I use Sensi Grow A&B and Sensi Bloom A&B as my base fertilizers. This Advanced Nutrients two-part was specifically designed to feed cannabis plants and my plants have been getting bigger and bigger as a result. I also use the other Advanced Nutrients Medical products suggested in their Nutrient Calculator.

It wasn’t always so. The first few times I only used the basic fert and perhaps one or two supplements. At that time I was growing organically, using Iguana Juice Grow and Bloom, and I was so pleased with the progress my plants were making, that I figured they didn’t need too much else.

Since then I’ve been talking to the tech guys at Advanced Nutrients Medical and spend a lot of time reading about the technical details of how each of their products works on cannabis. I’ve learned so much in the past year doing this, that I highly recommend it to anyone growing or thinking about growing medicinal marijuana.

The importance of using the root colonizers—Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice—I cannot overemphasize. They’ve made a world of difference in the size, health, and vigor of my plants, as well as in the abundance of my harvests. I would be willing to bet that if you grew two cannabis plants side by side, one with these root colonizers, and one without, the first one would end up being twice the size of the second.

Using beneficial fungi, bacteria, and selected microbes, these three products cause your roots to grow faster and they also facilitate the absorption of the essential macro- and micro-nutrients that your plants need to thrive.

I’ve switched from growing organically, not because I wasn’t pleased with the Iguana Juice products, but because my free-lance income all of a sudden shrunk in size and after a feverish session with our household budget and pricing various grow solutions, I found that using synthetics was more economical.

Also, synthetics work better in a hydro situation, since they’re designed to dissolve faster and more efficiently. Organic products—as good as they are—sometimes clog up your pumps because their ppm ratio is different.

As long as you flush periodically with pure water and just before harvest with Final Phase (to remove any lingering chemical taste or residue) using synthetics works perfectly. As Hunter used to say on TV—“It works for me.”

posted by Wes @ 11:33 AM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, February 16, 2007

Insects and Microorganisms that Attack Cannabis

If you have good control over the environment of your grow room and feed your cannabis plants with a reputable base nutrient (such as those from Advanced Nutrients Medical), as well as beneficial root colonizers and helpful supplements, you can be fairly certain that you’ll be free of cannabis diseases and pests. However, even the most impeccable grow room can be attacked once in a while, so awareness of these dangers is not unwarranted.

About a year and a half ago I started noticing a pale green chlorosis on the leaves of my medpot plants. At first, I thought it was some kind of nutritional deficiency, but I checked and rechecked the make-up of my nutrient solution and couldn’t find anything essential missing. Conversely, no macro or micro nutrients were present in excessive amounts. Overfeeding can sometimes be just as much of a problem, as underfeeding.

Then I picked up a book by J.M. McPartland, an excellent authority on the subject of cannabis diseases. Under the heading “Hemp Streak Virus” I found “pale green chlorosis” as the number one sign of this impossible to get rid of malady. The discoloration soon developed into yellow streaks on the leaves, then brown, necrotic flecks appeared.

It was a nightmare coming true. This cannabis plant was acting as if it had read McPartland’s book and was following the instructions to the letter. But the book said that this virus most often appeared on fibre cultivars in Europe. Reading further, however, I found a statement that dozens of viruses could infect cannabis, regardless of location.

Viruses do not kill your pot plants but they do reduce your yields. Once your plants catch a virus (usually vectored by an insect) they are permanent. Subsequent generations will be infected through pollen and seed infections. The only cure—pull the plant and burn it!

I did just that and I watched my remaining plants like a hawk for any signs of infection. Contrary to what endangers humans, viruses and bacteria relatively seldom attack cannabis, especially in comparison to fungal infections. Over 88 fungi are known to attack marijuana, with the most prevalent being pythium, powdery mildew, and gray mold.

Pythium causes root-rot as well as the rot of the lowest part of the stem. It is especially fond of attacking young plants and cuttings. It flourishes in wet and humid environments. Pythium spreads its spores only through water.

Avoid fluctuations in the temperature of your grow medium to avoid this infestation. Another obvious action to take is to colonize your root zone with beneficial fungi. Advanced Nutrients Piranha both fights and prevents Pythium, as it does most fungal infections.

Piranha contains live fungi that feed on harmful fungi. Bacterial diseases can be prevented by colonizing your roots with the beneficial bacteria of Tarantula. Viral infections can be prevented by avoiding the infestation of the insects that vector these diseases.
Piranha and Tarantula can also be used as foliar sprays, in case you see signs of fungal or bacterial infestation on your leaves or stems. This is especially helpful to counteract gray mold or powdery mildew.

Another foliar spray made by Advanced Nutrients is Scorpion Juice, which, if used judiciously, imparts induced systemic resistance in medpot plants, which gives them the strength to ward of numerous pathogens and pests on their own.

Advanced Nutrients Barricade is another good way to strengthen the cells of your cannabis plants. Stronger cell walls ward off many pathogens and pests that try to attack your plants. Sap sucking insects go elsewhere when there is resistance to their activities.

Common sense sanitation practices, good ventilation, and lower levels of humidity go a long way in preventing these infestations. Educating yourself as to the symptoms and prevention techniques is also a good idea. The Advanced Nutrients Medical website features detailed description of all the diseases and pests that plague cannabis.

By far the most troublesome cannabis pest are spider mites. They’re not actually insects, rather tiny arachnids that can take over your entire grow room, if left unchecked. I had a minor infestation not so long ago and took care of it by spraying with Scorpion Juice.

The mites suck the sap from the underside of the leaves, causing white specks to appear on the top of the leaves. They also weave a very fine webbing. If you use a magnifying glass you can see the tiny spiders as they busy themselves ruining your cannabis plants.

Some people use the baking soda, horticultural oil combination as a spray. Perhaps a spoonful of each in a Liter of water. However, I found that the mites reappeared after this treatment, so I went back to using Scorpion Juice. That got rid of them real quick.

Whiteflies can also be a problem, particularly if you have vents without fine mesh screens, or if you leave the door to the grow room open for any length of time. Getting rid of weeds near the entrance to your grow room also helps to prevent such insects from invading your grow space.

Yellow sticky traps hung over the canopy of your medpot plants will give you an idea of how serious the infestation of whiteflies might be. You can tell by shaking the branches of your plants. The flies will swarm and fly around.

They’re harder to get rid of than spider mites, but there is an assissinator wasp that is smaller than the white fly and it can be utilized to get rid of these pests. This wasp is called the ichneumon fly (Latin name Encarsia formosa) but it is very small so it takes quite a while to get rid of all the white flies, which are more numerous.

Every two weeks you have to put new assassinator wasps into your grow room, so it’s a head ache. It’s much better to take preventative action. Remember, white flies and other pests can also enter your grow room on your clothing or in your hair, so it’s a good idea to take off your outer clothing and always clean yourself thoroughly before working in your grow space.

Aphids, thrips, and scale insects can also invade your grow room, especially if you let down your guard with regard to personal hygiene and sanitation.

Damping off, hemp canker, yellow leaf spot, pink rot, and white leaf spot are all fungal diseases that cannabis is vulnerable to. So are Fusarium Wilt and Verticillum Wilt. Wilt diseases are more prevalent in field-grown cannabis, than in indoor cultivation.

McPartland’s book is called “Hemp Diseases and Pests.” It is a valuable addition to the libraries of those medpot growers who keep worrying about insects and microorganisms that might attack their cherished medicine.

posted by Wes @ 3:05 PM 1 comments links to this post

Friday, February 09, 2007

Are those carbon emissions coming from your grow room?

Whatever your choice is with regard to tuning into the media, it’s hard to avoid all the talk of global warming these days. And at the root of this man-made problem are carbon emissions.

As I did my regular grow room maintenance this past week, I came across my slightly dusty red, second-hand CO2 generator. The thought occurred to me—“Hey, here I am generating carbon dioxide and contributing to global warming.”

Now before Squirrel, our gutsy daughter, starts attacking me for being an environmental pariah, I better examine this whole question of generating CO2 in my grow room to make my cannabis grow better, in order to produce a better grade of medicine for Claire and I.

If you’ve just started reading this blog, Claire suffers from periodic migraines (characterized by excruciating pain, if you’ve never had one) and I started smoking medpot in order to alleviate the pain and nausea associated with chemotherapy for cancer.

My cancer is (knock on wood) in remission, and Claire manages her migraine pain much better since she started using therapeutic cannabis. If you visit the Advanced Nutrients Medical website, you can read all about how this healing herb is used daily by thousands of ill people around the world.

It helps to increase their appetites, boost their immunity, stop their chronic pain, reduce the pressure in their eyes, or get rid of the nausea that is a side effect of certain invasive therapies.

Carbon dioxide enrichment is a time-honored tradition in commercial greenhouses. I’ve been using it in my grow room because cannabis plants are high-energy plants and they will benefit from the addition of this gas to stimulate their growth.

According to the Advanced Nutrients tech guys, the rate of application should be the same as the rate of your nutrient mix. So, if at a certain stage of your grow or flowering cycles you are administering 1200 parts per million of nutrients, then you should also crank up your CO2 burner to 1200 ppm.

Under bright lights, such as my 600W High Pressure Sodium lamp, high energy plants consume anywhere between 1200 to 1500 ppm of CO2. Given optimum conditions, administering the correct level of CO2 can double the rate of growth of your cannabis plants.

I’ve noticed incredible results with my CO2 burner and that is why I’m reluctant to abandon it. Normal air has only 300 ppm of CO2, so the rest you have to generate. You can either burn propane to make CO2, which is the method I use, or you can release compressed CO2 from a bottle by way of a CO2 emitter system. Needless to say, this is more expensive.

Contrary to mistaken beliefs, you do not administer CO2 to the roots of your plants. Your roots require oxygen. CO2 is absorbed by the cannabis leaves and then used to produce growth boosting sugars, as well as some water and oxygen.

The question I had for the Advanced Nutrients tech guys is how much of the CO2 I generate escapes from my grow room, contributing to global warming? They didn’t think it was a problem, since most of the gas is absorbed and used up by the plant.

“Some grow rooms are what is known as closed rooms, where there is no ventilation to the outside,” said the tech advice man. “I gather you have an exhaust fan, so a small amount of CO2 might get sucked out of the room that way, but if you turn down your exhaust fan to minimum speed while you’re generating CO2, the amount of gas that leaves is negligible.”

Whew! What a relief! Now I can relax my conscience. I just hope I can convince Squirrel, before she starts pummelling me for polluting the atmosphere!

Two bi-products of my old-fashioned CO2 generator are heat and water. This inadvertently raises the temperature and humidity in my grow room. Given that it’s winter, the heat doesn’t bother me much at the moment, I just turn my radiators off when I’m generating CO2.

The humidity can be a problem, since an extra humid grow room can lead to fungal infestations. I use Barricade religiously during both vegging and flowering, and wish that Advanced Nutrients Protector were available again,

Protector was specifically designed to prevent and fight powdery mildew. It is temporarily discontinued until Advanced Nutrients can solve a labelling problem. The authorities wanted the company to label it as a fungicide, which it is not. It doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals.

Plants treated with CO2 drink more, eat more, grow faster and bigger (require more room), and are generally higher maintenance than non-CO2 plants. The temperature in the grow room can be slightly higher than normal since they are high-energy plants.

So when I’m adjusting my Nutrient Calendar, I punch up either moderately heavy feeding or just plain heavy feeding. During week 6 of my ladies’ flowering stage, this nearly doubles the amount of Sensi Bloom A&B I have to pour into my reservoir, along with doubling the amount of Mother Earth Tea Bloom, Grandma Enggy’s Humic Acid and Fulvic Acid, as well as of B-52.

The amount of SensiZym I have to add goes from 288 mL if I’m light feeding, to 578 mL during heavy feeding (during week 6 of flowering). The amount of Barricade increases from 5.75 mL to 11.52 mL. Carbo Load Powder goes from 17.28 grams to 34.56 grams.

The parts per million of my nutrient solution peaks at week 4 of flowering. It’s 1200 ppm if I’m light feeding and 2000 ppm while I’m generating CO2 and heavy feeding.

CO2 is heavier than air, so normally it would leak out of the grow room in the cracks under the door and other openings. A room chuck full of CO2 will return to normal levels (300 ppm) within three hours of the generation being stopped.

In order to be a solid environmental citizen of this planet, I have plugged up the crack under the door and stuffed batten into other openings, except the ventilation ones. This way whatever CO2 I generate will be sucked up by my plants and used by them in a beneficial way.

And it won’t seep out into the atmosphere to worsen global warming.

posted by Wes @ 2:55 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, February 02, 2007

Sinsemilla: Unfertilized Virgin Females

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been lucky. From the fifteen seeds that I usually start with, six of them are bound to be females. Other growers have complained that all they’ve got is males and hermies (hermaphrodites—having the characteristics of both male and female).

I’ve placed my one-inch rockwool cubes onto a grid in a growing tray that has a humidity cover. I water sparingly, only when I feel the tops of the cubes and they have dried out.

Over-watering at this stage can cause root rot and damping off. Under-watering, on the other hand, will cause the tiny roots to dry up and die.

As the seed sprouts, white tap-roots burst forth and the first, seed or cotyledon leaves appear. The plant will eventually drop these, as the first true leaves make their appearance.

Needless to say, the tender, young cannabis plants are very delicate at this point, so they should be warmed and nurtured with care. If the temperature in your grow room is not up to snuff (around 75º to 80º F) it is a good idea to put a heating pad under your grow tray. Warn seedlings will grow up to be strong, potent plants.

I grow my fifteen seedlings under a fluorescent grow light, and leave it on for 18 hours a day. Any longer that that will cause spindly plants and is counterproductive. However, according to the owner of Dutch Passion Seeds, if you cut back and only give your plants 14 hours of light at this stage, you will encourage the formation of female plants.

Jorge Cervantes quotes Henk, the Dutch owner, in his “Indoor Marijuana Horticulture.” Other hints from Henk to get more female plants include increasing the amount of Nitrogen you feed your seedlings.

(Remember, only give your plants a weak solution of your basic fert at this time. Some growers recommend no food for the first two weeks, only a vitamin like B-52 or Organic B, and perhaps a weak solution of Voodoo Juice. Voodoo has a trace of Nitrogen in it, which might be enough for your seedlings at this very early stage.)

Other Henk hints: lower temperatures increase the number of females, as does high humidity. If you allow your growing medium to dry up too much, you’re encouraging the formation of males.

More blue light encourages females, while environmental stress results in more males being formed.

Why is there such a huge emphasis on growing females? The unfertilized female of the cannabis plant is known as Sinsemilla, which comes from two Spanish words meaning “without seed.”

There are many theories as to why unfertilized Cannabis females are so potent, but many of them border on romanticism. Scientifically, it has been proven that seeding reduces the life span of the plant not allowing enough time for THC to accumulate.

Seeding causes hormonal changes within the plant, which affect its metabolism. These changes probably cause an imbalance in the enzymes that control cannabinoid production. THC is only one of the cannabinoids that determine the potency of cannabis.

Sinsemilla plants continue floral production long after the fertilized plants have stopped. When the calyx is fertilized, it is suspected that trichome production stops. So female “virgins,” so to speak, continue to produce THC long after their seed bearing sisters have stopped doing so.

What I do to ensure untouched females is tough love. I discard the males. Now when you pay hundreds of dollars for seeds, discarding any of them is heart wrenching. But the pure, potent smoke of the Sinsemilla plants makes up for this sacrifice.

I could keep a male or two and fertilize one of the females in a controlled fashion, but to do so is a complicated process and things could go wrong. All my females could end up being fertilized and our medicine could end up being much less effective as a result.

How do I tell the males from the females? That’s a very good question. Female plants on the whole are shorter and have more branches. The leaves of female plants go all the way to the top, with many leaves surrounding their flowers.

Males, in general, have fewer leaves near the top and their flowering limbs have no leaves whatsoever. Many growers wait until flowers first appear, before being able to differentiate between a male and a female plant.

Before flowering, the only hint as to the sex of the plants is trends in shape. Primordial flowers first appear during the end of the vegetative stage along the main stem at the nodes.

Male flowers have a curved, claw shape, while female ones sport a symmetrical, tubular calyx, also known as a floral sheath. These are easier to recognize at an earlier stage, than the male primordial flowers.

With experience, each grower accumulates a certain intuitive sense as to which of his plants are females. Since I grow under only one light, I can’t take all my fifteen plants into flowering, especially if they’ve had a robust vegetative growth stage.

Have I ever been wrong about my choices? Thank heavens, no, but at times I do make the choice with trepidation. By the time I switch from Sensi Grow A & B to Sensi Bloom A & B. I usually have only six female plants firmly embedded in the clay pebble grow medium of my six hydroponic buckets.

But that time seems eons away right now, when I have yet to transplant my one inch cubes into three-inch rockwool cubes and then into six-inch pots. If there is one thing that growing a succession of seed to harvest cycles has taught me, it is patience. All in due time.

I keep discovering new things on the Advanced Nutrients Medical website. If you click on the Medicinal Growers Forum you’ll see a couple of banners. One of them urges you to become a Test Pilot for Advanced Nutrients and be rewarded with some exclusive offers. In December, you could buy a container of Big Bud and was given one for free.

January’s offer has to do with Clone It. You can sign up for the Circle Club newsletter with your e-mail address and be advised of these great offers as well as new products and developments.

Advanced Nutrients Medical is the only website that I find myself visiting time and time again. Call their technical help line and they’ll enlighten you about any growing question you may have.

posted by Wes @ 4:42 PM 1 comments links to this post