Medpot Minstrel: Hydroponics Medical Marijuana

Friday, April 27, 2007

Ozone Generation and the Final Flush

Even though I use a carbon filter on my exhaust fan, some telltale odors do escape from my grow room now and again. As you know, my wife Claire and I are medpot patients, growing legal marijuana according to the laws of the state we live in. However, the federal government doesn’t recognize the validity of this state law, so their drug enforcement agencies have been known to bust and prosecute patients growing medical cannabis, especially if they grow more than the allotted amount.

We don’t need this hassle, even though we’re only growing six plants each time. So we would prefer to keep the existence of our grow room secret from our neighbors and any authority types who might come sniffing around. To make a long story short, I’ve been looking into the wisdom of using an ozone generator to get rid of the odors completely.

Ozone generators use ultraviolet (UV) light to turn the oxygen in air (O2) into ozone (O3). The ozone molecule is somewhat unstable and is constantly looking to unload the extra oxygen molecule by binding with other molecules. Odors are particles consisting of molecules that float in the air, so they become the most convenient thing for that extra oxygen molecule to bind with. This binding process is often referred to as oxidization.

A word of warning is warranted—never look directly at the UV lamp or tube. The intensity of the UV light can damage your retina beyond repair. Also, never use an ozone generator in a completely closed grow room. Adequate ventilation is absolutely essential. Smart growers keep the ozone generator in a separate space, next to the grow room. Then they vent the odors through this room to get rid of them, before finally venting the odorless air to the outside.

The reasons for all these cautions are based on the never-ending quest of the O3 molecule to get rid of that extra oxygen atom. Once it finishes cleaning the air of odor particles, it looks around for anything else to bind with. Your cannabis plants are handy, so it starts binding with the marijuana molecules. If you see chlorotic spots or streaks on your plants and you’re running an ozone generator in the room, you might be seeing ozone damage.

Once it kills your cannabis plants, the ozone will devour your plastic buckets or trays. It’s bad news. Many a grower has gone away for a few days inadvertently leaving their O3 generator on and have returned to find complete devastation. Also, if you happen to be working in the room, the ozone will attack your lungs. A good idea is to go in, switch off the machine, then go out again. Go back in about half an hour to do your work in the grow room.

If you’ve ever smelled ozone, you’ll never forget the smell. It somewhat resembles the smell of burnt hair. Narcs are also aware of the sudden smell of ozone outside your grow room. It’s like a red alert for them. That’s why I’ve always stayed with carbon filtering, but unfortunately it’s not as effective in eliminating odors as ozone is. But I’m going to keep my carbon filter and incorporate it into this new system. I wonder if it will remove the ozone smell before I vent my exhaust air to the outside?

Since I use automatic timers to run all my mechanisms—lights, ventilation fans, radiator heaters, CO2 generator, the pumps that flood my six-bucket ebb and flow system periodically only to switch off and allow my nutrient solution to return to my reservoir—I would also have to put the ozone generator on a timer. If I had the unit inside my grow room and the timer failed I could damage my medicinal crop or worse.

So I am rerouting my exhaust fan ducts through an adjacent closet, which will be completely sealed. I’ve been meaning to do this work for quite some time now, but I never had enough time to do it. I am taking a week off so I’ve gathered all my tools to do this work. I’ve also bought a well-made ozone generator, one with a dead man’s switch that makes direct eye contact with the UV light source impossible.

Some growers use their ozone generators as an anti-fungal tool. Ozone is used in sterilization, so if your have a mold and mildew problem in your grow room, running ozone for a few hours will get rid of it. Luckily, I don’t have a fungal problem. I use Advanced Nutrients Barricade to strengthen the cell walls of my cannabis plants so they can fight off and repel pathogens. I also keep the humidity down in my grow room and don’t’ believe in misting.

Another trick to prevent any kinds of pathogens from getting a foothold in your grow room is to spray regularly with Scorpion Juice. I’ve sprayed my six ladies ever since they were seedlings every three weeks with this very effective product which imparts induced systemic resistance to my plants.

This is week 7 of the bloom cycle, so all I’m doing is flushing my system with Final Phase and clean water. As you know, I’ve fed my ladies the ultra premium basic fert called Connoisseur A & B since week 3 of flowering. The super nutrient has done its work. My stems are thicker, my leaves are bursting with life, and my buds are gigantic. I’m looking forward to harvesting them next week!

I’ve used all the supplements with Connoisseur that I had been using with my Sensi Grow A & B and Sensi Bloom A & B, which are the basic ferts that I would use normally. So the vitamins, organic and synthetic supplements, beneficial fungi, bacteria, and microbes, debris-munching enzymes have had a synergistic effect in producing a larger than normal harvest, crowned by the use of Advanced Nutrient’s top of the line fert each week for the past four weeks.

And even though I stopped adding Piranha, Tarantula, and Voodoo Juice in week 2 of the bloom cycle, the live microorganisms contained in these products continued to thrive in the roots of my ladies until this final flush. They helped make the roots grow large and strong and enabled them to better absorb all the vital nutrients that ensured this phenomenal harvest coming up.

Claire and I are both in awe of the size and vigor of our trichome covered buds and their enhanced fragrance. Come to think of it, the Connoisseur-induced extra fragrance (assisted by the use of Sweet Leaf) was the reason that I put my plan into place to start ozone generation.

posted by Wes @ 2:48 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, April 20, 2007

Role of Potassium, Connoisseur Harvest Approaching

Potassium is a macronutrient. It’s the K in NPK. This chemical is used in each stage of a plant’s life. Soils that are high in Potassium increase a plant’s resistance not only to bacteria, but also to mold and mildew.

K is involved in the manufacture of carbohydrates—both sugars and starches. It is also a major player in cell division. It boosts chlorophyll in plant foilage and stimulates and regulates the opening of the stomata. Leaves store and move carbs with the help of Potassium.

Last week I discussed how the polyamino alcohols in Connoisseur increase the elasticity of cannabis cell walls, thus allowing more carbohydrate accumulation in the marijuana leaves. Then when bud formation requires the extra energy, these carbs are transferred to the bud sites.

Potassium plays a primary role in this process. I also mentioned that certain growers got good results reducing the ppm of their base nutrient (i.e. Connoisseur) by 2 or 300 ppm, then doubling up on the Bud Blood during the first week of flower formation.

I called the Advanced Nutrients Medical tech guys, since I was concerned that such high Phosphorus and Potassium levels might hurt some plants. They confirmed my suspicions. You should only try this with well-established plants—ones that have been vegging for some time.

If the plant had only 2-3 weeks of vegging and is only a foot and a half high, doubling the Bud Blood is not a good idea. Also, it’s a new method, unproven in scientifically conducted trials. With anything new, you should leave a large percentage of your crop using your tried and true procedures, and pick one or two “sacrificial lambs,” as the tech guy called them, in order to try the new regimen.

This way you’ll be protecting the bulk of your crop from possible failure, but also providing a scientific comparison to see if your trial method worked or not. Are there any other compatible ingredients with Connoisseur—such as Bud Blood—that we should know about?

The AN tech guy said that if I check the Nutrient Calculator, the suggested ingredients are all compatible with Connoisseur, and are basically the same ones as with Sensi-2. “The interaction with the supplements as far as the feed rate and the time is basically the same,” said Tech Mike.

“Does Connoisseur need extra Calcium, or anything?” I asked. “Not unless you’re growing in coco fiber. If you were growing with Connoisseur in coco, then you would need the Sensi Cal. Otherwise, you would use Monkey Juice for coco.”

I asked about a discrepancy between the Nutrient Calculator and the Advancedpedia. The latter states that Bud Blood, which is very high in Phosphorus and Potassium, should be used during the first two weeks of flowering. The Nutrient Calculator suggests to use Bud Blood for only one week.

Tech Mike explained that it’s hard to be as accurate and up-to-date with published material as with the Nutrient Calculator. The Calculator is updated quarterly, so it more accurately reflects the latest Research and Development conclusions. But the Advancedpedia will be corrected in due time.

Then the talk turned to my reservoir. I have a six-bucket ebb and flow system with a 72-Liter extra deep reservoir. That’s 12-Liters per bucket. I just wanted to make sure that I was doing things right, since I was using this new, super powerful base fertilizer, Connoisseur.

I pre-mix my nutrient solution the night before, making sure that hard-to-dissolve ingredients, like Barricade, are well blended into the mix. I take pH readings every half-hour, until my solution has settled between 5.6 and 5.8 pH. If you get two consecutive identical readings in a row you can be pretty certain that your solution has stabilized.

I have my timer set for three floodings per day, each for a 20-minute duration. My medium is baked clay pebbles, and I flush my system between changes. Tech Mike suggested that I mark the top level when I first pour in the mix, then top up my res up to the mark line with water only, never with food.

Taking evaporation into account, my plants consume about 20 percent of the content of the reservoir, per day. By topping up with water only, I am changing the pH of the mix. “Don’t worry about the pH, it will fluctuate,” I am told. “Worry more about the temperature of the nutrient solution. Don’t ever let it go above 80º F. Better to keep it at 70 or even 60º F. Your roots can cook at anything higher than 85º F.”

I remembered last summer at the height of the heat wave when I had to put ice cubes in my reservoir to bring the temp down. Then Tech Mike reminded me that I should always check my airstones. “Make sure that the air is bubbling through the water. Your roots need to breathe, even when they’re submerged.”

I remember a previous session on the phone, when he explained that your roots can be divided into three sections. The bottom third is okay with sucking up water, the middle third can either suck water or breathe air. The top third of your roots prefers to breathe air.

This is week six of flowering, and I’m still adding Connoisseur A and Connoisseur B in reduced quantities, after that tip burn episode. Instead of 130 mL of each, I’m only adding 110 mL of each. I’m reducing each ingredient in the mix, across the board, by ten to twenty percent.

Instead of 86 mL of Humic and Fulvic Acid and Mother Earth Super Tea Bloom, I’ve added only 72 mL. Instead of 259 mL of B-52, I’ve poured in only 245 mL. Of Carbo Load Powder I measure only 20 grams. Barricade got reduced to 7 mL. Sensi Zym to 380 mL and Overdrive to 150 mL.

The total ppm for week 6 is 1000, instead of the suggested 1400 ppm for bloom-medium feeding. Next week I’ll add nothing but 180 mL of Final Phase, and then I’ll flush the system and harvest. My buds are looking gigantic already—I don’t know if I can wait that long!

I understand that Connoisseur will be available in all markets by next month. The tech guys say that feedback is very good on it—all growers who are testing it are satisfied with the results. I am very satisfied. My ladies never had it so good!

posted by Wes @ 6:06 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, April 13, 2007

Connoisseur thickens stalks, leaves, and buds

This is week 5 of the bloom stage and I’m feeding Connoisseur to my six ladies. I’m beginning to see a transformation that I don’t remember seeing with the Sensi Bloom 2-part.

The stalks seem to have thickened, the buds look like they have more weight, the plants look bushier, and even the leaves seem to be a bit meatier. However, I noticed slight tip burn here and there, so I phoned the Advanced Nutrients Medical tech guys right away.

“The tip burn is nothing to get worried about. Just cut back on your feeding, from 200 to 400 ppm.” It seems that they’ve found in selected med growers' trials that certain strains needed a lighter feeding regimen when it came to Connoisseur.

I told the tech guy that I was reducing the ppm by 200 in any case, going from week 4 to week 5 (1600 to 1400 ppm). But that I would reduce an additional 200 ppm to make sure that the tip burn is eliminated. He said that sounded good.

I asked him what the major difference between the Sensi 2-part I’ve been using and Connoisseur is, and he said that all the micronutrients in the latter are amino chelated and that the polyamino alcohols in Connoisseur make it a very different base fertilizer.

“What do the alcohols do exactly?” I asked. “They increase the elasticity of the cellular walls,” said the man. He doesn’t know how much he can reveal about the formulation of the Connoisseur ingredients since the formula is proprietary.

He did, however, speculate that the cell walls being more pliable, more carbohydrates accumulate in the cells of the leaves, which extra nourishment then becomes available to feed the buds at the end of the flowering stage.

More weight, more girth, bigger yields. “Is Connoisseur selling well?” I asked, knowing full well that this ultra premium fert was being sold at a premium price. “We can’t make it fast enough, it’s disappearing from the shelves of our warehouse,” was the answer.

The selected med growers trials all reported higher yields, with or without the suggested supplements in the Nutrient Calculator. Just like the other Advanced Nutrients base fertilizers, Connoisseur can be used as a standalone product, or in conjunction with suggested ingredients in a nutrient mix.

One medpot grower reduced the ppm of Connoisseur and doubled up on the Bud Blood during week 1 of flowering and got excellent results. Being that it’s week 5, I’m adding 200 mL of Overdrive to my pre-mix tank, along with 400 mL of SensiZym; 250 mL of Barricade; 30 grams of Carbo Load Powder; 300 mL of B-52; and 75 mL each of Fulvic Acid and Humic Acid, as well as of Mother Earth Super Tea Bloom.

The amount of Connoisseur A and Connoisseur B I’ve cut back from 186 mL during week 4 to 125 mL each during week 5. I did some quick readings with my EC meter, and came close to EC 1.71, which is 1200 ppm, 200 ppm lower than the suggested level for this week, and 400 ppm lower than what I fed my ladies last week.

“The more food the leaf has the more potential the flower has, because it draws from the leaf,” summed up the Advanced Nutrients tech advisor. “All I know is that everyone who tried Connoisseur and were familiar with the genetics of the strain they were growing showed an increase in yield, improved vigor, increased uptake, and a better product in the end.”

The chelated nutrients in Connoisseur are made from the highest quality ingredients and they are designed to be absorbed by the plants more rapidly in a molecular configuration that enhances floral growth.

Connoisseur also contains a proprietary blend of floral-growth enhancers that influence plant bloom metabolism and floral production.

Connoisseur is designed to increase the set points for flowering, thus increasing the number of buds per plant. Even though I introduced this outstanding product during week 3 of flowering, I did notice that some extra budding points formed on the stalks, and these mini-buds are experiencing rapid growth.

I wonder if they’ll catch up with the buds that formed during week 1, when I mixed Bud Blood into my reservoir. Bud Blood is high in Phosphorus and Potassium and is designed to trigger flower formation on your cannabis plants.

Bud Blood has an NPK of 0-39-25, which means that it has 0 percent Nitrogen, 39 percent Phosphorus or Phosphates, and 25 percent Potassium. It’s composed of Potassium Carbonate, Potassium Phosphate, and Potassium Sulphate. It is suggested that you use it only during week 1 of flowering.

If I had been using Connoisseur from the very start of flowering this time, I would have had to mix in 36 grams of Bud Blood into my 72 Liter reservoir. That’s actually the exact same quantity that I did use, even though during week 1 I was still using Sensi Bloom A & B.

Used in conjunction with switching your light regimen from 18-6 to 12-12, Bud Blood is designed to kick start flower production. The large amount of Phosphorus in Bud Blood is critically required by the roots of cannabis plants for the production of cytokinins. Cytokinins are phytohormones that move up into the vegetative growing tips and trigger the growing of flower tissue, as well as increased branching.

The increased amount of Phosphorus in Bud Blood is a perfect match for the ingredients in Connoisseur, which include Potassium Chelate and Potassium Nitrate. Phosphorus makes up a considerable amount of the physical matter of plant cells. Phosphorus is crucial to the structure of many plant molecules.

Phosphorus is integral to DNA and RNA molecules, holding together the genetic code of all membranes that surround all cells. As a macronutrient, Phosphorus effects plant growth in general, but in particular, flower formation. Scientific literature is full of examples of how this important mineral interacts with the living tissue of plants.

During weeks 2, 3, and 4 I fed my plants Big Bud Powder, which has an NPK of 0-10-40, so it’s higher in Potassium. The importance of Potassium in flowering will be the subject of next week’s blog entry.

posted by Wes @ 5:01 PM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Watering intervals in my ebb & flow system

Three things are necessary for figuring out how often to flood your flood and drain (ebb and flow) system. First, a good quality digital timer; second, previous growing experience; third, common sense.

When you’re growing from seed under a transparent plastic humidity cover, you only water your rockwool cubes every 12 hours, twice a day. When your seedlings get bigger, you’ll notice that they drink more, so you switch to four times a day, but you lose the humidity cover since you want to avoid fungal infestations.

When you transplant your seedlings into your ebb & flow setup under an HID light, it is advisable to start your regimen at three flood and drain cycles per day, usually during the 18 hours when the light is on. So you’re flooding every six hours.

When you switch to the 12-hours light, 12-hours of darkness for the blooming stage of your plants, they’ll probably be tall enough to be watered four times during a 24-hour period. Usually 3 times at four hour intervals during “daylight,” and once during the six hour midpoint of your 12-hours of “night.”

I arrived at these watering times through trial and error. I used to have a cheap timer which left me no choice, I had to flood my system for 30 minutes. With a digital timer you can set the duration of the flood stage. I find that a 20- minute flooding makes more sense and is better appreciated by my ladies. Their roots don’t like to be deprived of oxygen for too long.

Speaking of what my ladies appreciate, they have visibly perked up with the introduction of Advanced Nutrients Connoisseur into their reservoir. It’s as if after being fed an adequate but humble diet, all of a sudden you were given a five-star gourmet meal!

This is week 4 of my ladies’ bloom cycle, so the EC of my nutrient solution is 2.28 and the parts per million is 1600. I’m doing a medium-feeding regimen—don’t want to overdo it! I can always do a heavy feeding the next time around.

In addition to 186.5 mL of both Connoisseur A and Connoisseur B, I’m also feeding my ladies 115.2 mL each of Mother Earth Super Tea Bloom, and Grandma Enggy’s Humic Acid and Fulvic Acid.

The Super Tea provides that organic touch that benefits all cannabis plants. Continuing in the same vein, the calcified organic substance known as “leonardite” is the source of both Humic Acid and Fulvic Acid. These products turn my hydroponic reservoir into a rich, black, humus-like growing medium.

576 mL of SensiZym is also added to the mix in order to supply over 80 different types of enzymes that are living organisms. They love to munch on plant debris in my clay pebbles, turning this debris into absorbable nutrients for my marijuana plants.

34.58 grams of Big Bud Powder went into my pre-mix tank the night before, along with 11.52 mL of Barricade, and 345.6 mL of B-52 vitamins. Big Bud is a powerful bloom booster that I’ve used before to maximize the size and potency of my buds.

Barricade is a potassium silicate product that strengthens cell walls and thus wards off numerous pathogens and pests, that are unable to penetrate and have to go elsewhere to find food.

Once I mix all these ingredients in my pre-mix tank, I take a pH reading every 30 minutes, until my pH becomes stable. If it’s not 5.6 I add pH Up and or pH Down until it does read 5.6. Advanced Nutrients Medical recommends 5.6 pH for hydro, and 6.3 pH for soil.

How often you flood your ebb and flow system has to do with the strain of cannabis that you’re growing. Trial and error is recommended. Start with three floodings during the light period.

See if your grow medium and the root mats sticking out the bottom of your buckets are totally dry when your lights turn on. If the mat is totally dry, you probably need to insert a flooding during the hours of darkness.

Remember, over-watering is just as harmful and under-watering. Mark the inside wall of your reservoir to see how much your ladies drink during a 24-hour period. Also, some water will disappear through evaporation.

It’s a good idea to top up your reservoir each day with fresh water. Take a pH reading every time you top up. You might need to readjust your acid-alkaline balance. Also, be aware of how you EC and ppm readings change as a result of these toppings up.

Never flood more than 50% to 75% of your grow medium. Your roots have to breathe, even during the flood cycle. The absorbency of your grow medium is also a major factor in how often you have to flood your system.

If you’re using rockwool, for instance, which soaks up and retains a lot of water for an extended period of time, you’ll have to flood less often. Coco coir only absorbs 60% of its weight in water, 40% always contains air so it allows your roots to breathe.

Clay pebbles are highly porous so they also retain a lot of oxygen, especially when the nutrient solution drains and air rushes in to replace the liquid.

Watch your plants before and after the waterings and you’ll be able to tell whether you are watering too much or too little. If you notice that the leaves of your plants are slightly curling up, that is a sign that they are desperately trying to retain moisture and you should definitely water more often.

Any sign of wilting before watering means water more often. If your plants wilt after watering, then your are flooding your system too often, so cut back. Allow the medium to dry out between waterings.

You don’t want to have your roots immersed in the nutrient solution for too long, because you risk drowning your delicate roots. Sometimes, even 30 minutes is too much, but definitely never keep your roots submerged for longer than an hour.

Cutting off their roots’ oxygen supply can have disastrous results on your plants. In fact, the tech guys at Advanced Nutrients Medical recommend airstones in all hydro set-ups, even the ebb and flow kind that I have.

Airstones can be purchased in any aquarium shop and they help oxygenate your nutrient solution to keep your roots supplied with O2, even when they’re sucking up the life giving liquid that you’re feeding them.

And when that solution contains Connoisseur, it’s like feeding your cannabis plants a diet of liquid filet mignon.

posted by Wes @ 5:12 PM 1 comments links to this post