Growing Marijuana Indoors Guide
Nutrients and fertilizing
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- Artificial Light
- Setting up the Garden
- Soil and Containers
- Pots and Other Containers
- Properties of Soil
- Preparing Commercial Soils and Mixers
- Buying Soil Components
- Digging Soil
- Growing Methods
- Maintaining the Correct Environment
- Requirements for Germination
- Light Cycle and Distance of Lights from Plants
- Gardening Techniques
- Supports for Plants
- Uniform Growth
- Nutrients and fertilizing
- Application: fertilizing
- Nutrient Deficiencies
- Soilless Mixtures
- Diseases and Plant Pests
- Microbial Diseases
- Nutrient Diseases
- Plant Pests
- Maintenance and Restarting
There are about 15 elements known to be essential to plant life. Carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen are absorbed from air and water. The remaining 12 elements are absorbed primarily from the soil, in mineral (inorganic) forms such as NO3- and K+. They constitute a natural part of soil that becomes available to the plant os organic matter decays and soil particles such as sand and clay dissolve.
Soil elements that are necessary for normal growth are called nutrients. The elements nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K) are considered major nutrients. The three numbers that appear on all fertilizer packages give the available percentage of these three nutrients that the fertilizer contains; and always in the order N-P-K. For example, 10-2-0 means 10 percent N, 2 percent P (actually, 2 percent P2O5), and no K (actually, no K2O). Fertility is often measured by the amounts of major nutrients a soil contains. Relatively large amount of N-P=K are needed for lush growth.
Three other elements - calcium (Ca), sulfur (S), and magnesium (Mg) - are called secondary nutrients. Plants require less of these nutrients, and most cultivable soils contain adequate amounts for good growth.
Six remaining elements are called trace elements or micronutrients. As their name implies, they are needed in very small amounts. Commercial soils contain enough trace elements to sustain normal growth. The trace elements are also present in manures, humus, ash, and limestone. Marijuana seeds contain all necessary nutrients for successful germination, after germinating cannabis seeds grow into young seedlings which are easily sustained without fertilizing for first 2 weeks of their life.
The amount of nitrogen a soil can supply is the best indication of its fertility. Nitrogen, more than any other soil nutrient, is inextricably linked with the living ecosystem. Nitrogen is continually cycled through living systems: from soil to plants and back to the soil, primarily by the activity of soil microorganisms. Nitrogen is essential to all life. Nitrogen is a key element in the structure of amino acids, the molecules which make up proteins. These, and all other biomolecules, are synthesisd by the plant. Chlorophyll, genetic material (for example, DNA), and numerous enzymes and plant hormones contain nitrogen. Hence, N is necessary for many of the plant's life processes.
Cannabis is a nitrophile, a lover of nitrogen. Given ample N, Cannabis will outgrow practically and plant. Ample nitrogen is associated with fast, lush growth, and the plant requires a steady supply of nitrogen throughout its life. Marijuana's requirements for N are highest during the vegetative growth stages. After germinating marijuana seeds wait at least 2 weeks before fertilizing seedlings with N.
P is a constituent of energy-transfer compounds such as NADP and ATP, and molecular complexes such as the genes. The energy compounds are necessary for photosynthesis, respiration, and synthesis of biomolecules. Cannabis takes up large amounts of P during germination and seedling stages. During flowering and marijuana seeds creation, Cannabis' need for phosphorous is also high.
K influences many plant processes, including photosynthesis and respiration, protein synthesis, and the uptake of nutrients. Just as with P, K uptake is highest during the earliest growth stages. K is associated with sturdy stems and resistance to disease in plants.
Ca functions as a coenzyme in the synthesis of fatty compounds and cell membranes, and is necessary for normal mitosis (replication of cells). Plants take up much more Ca than the small amount necessary for normal growth. Ca is not added to soil as a nutrient; is added to adjust the soil's chemistry or pH.
S is a constituent of certain amino acids and proteins. It is an important part of plant vitamins, such as biotin and thiamine, which are necessary for normal respiration and metabolism. (Plants synthesis all vitamins they need.) Most soils suitable for growing marijuana contain plenty of S.
Mg is involved in protein synthesis and metabolism of carbohydrates. Mg is the central element in the structure of chlorophyll molecules and hence has an important role in photosynthesis. Most mineral soils and commercial soils have a good supply of Mg.
The trace elements (Fe, Mn, Mb, B, Cu, Zn) are particularly important in the coenzymes and catalysts of the plant's biochemistry. Many life processes, particularly the synthesis and degradation of molecules, energy transfer, and transport of compounds within the plant, depend on trace elements. Trace elements are not used in large quantities to spur growth, but are necessary in minute amounts for normal growth. Indoor soils rarely require an addition of trace elements.
All the nutrients are needed for normal growth. However, most of them are supplied by the potting soil. Ca, S, and the trace elements rarely present any problems. For most growers, fertilizing will simply require periodic watering with a complete fertilizer, one that contains N, P, and K. Wait with watering with complete fertilizer until 10 days after cannabis seeds germination.
6.3 Application: fertilizing
To grow to a large size, marijuana requires a steady supply of nutrients. These can be added to the soil before planting or anytime during growth. Bulk fertilizers are added while the soil is mixed, as described in section 6. These include manures, composts, humus, and concentrated fertilizers, such as rose food. Once the plants are growing, never condition or mulch indoor soils with bulk fertilizers. they promote moulds and fungi and attract other pests to the garden. Concentrated fertilizers can damage the plants if they come in direct contact with the stem or roots.
While the plants are growing, nutrients are given in solution; they are dissolved in water, and the plants are watered as usual. Soluble fertilizers can be either organic or inorganic (chemical), and come in a wide range of concentrations and proportions of nutrients. Two organic fertilizers are liquid manure (about 1.5-1.0-1.5) and fish emulsion ((Some fish emulsion may contain whale by-products.)) (about 5-1-1). Chemical fertilizers commonly may have 20-20-20 or 5-10-5, or may contain only one nutrient, such as 16-0-0.
A 10-5-5 fertilizer is 20 percent soluble nutrients and 80 percent inert ingredients. a 30-10-10 has 50 percent available nutrients and 50 percent inert ingredients. There is approximately the same amount of N in one tsp. of 30-10-10 as in three tsps. of 10-5-5.
Actually, you can almost use any fertilizer, but the nitrogen content should be proportionately high, and there should be some P and L also present. For example, a 20-20-20 would work fine, as would a 12-6-6 or a 3-4-3, but not a 2-10-10 or a 5-10-0.
How much fertilizer to use and how often to fertilise depend primarily on the fertility of the soil and the size of the container relative to the size of the plant. Small plants in large pots usually do not need to be fertilized. Even in small pots, most plants do not need to be fertilized for at least the first month.
As the plants grow, they take nutrients from the soil, and these must be replaced to maintain vigorous growth. During the vegetative stage, even plants in large pots generally require some fertilizing, particularly with N.
The rate of growth of indoor plants is usually limited by the amount of light and space, once adequate nutrients are supplied. At this point, an increase in nutrients will not increase growth. Your goal is to supply the plants with their nutritional needs without overfertilizing and thus toxifying the soil.
Most fertilizers are designed for home use and have instructions for fertilizing houseplants. Marijuana is not a houseplant, and it requires more nutrients than houseplants. The extra nutrients that it needs may be supplied by the use of large pots and a fertile soil mixture. In many cases, you will need to fertilise only in the dosages recommended on fertilizer packages for houseplants. For instance, Rapid-Gro (23-19-17) is popular among marijuana growers; use one tablespoon per gallon of water every two weeks.
A typical program for fertilizing might be to avoid fertilizing within first 2 weeks after marijuana seeds germination, and to fertilise during the fifth week of growth and every two weeks thereafter until flowering. Then discontinue fertilizing (or give at one-half concentration) unless the plants show a definite need for nutrients. It is better to fertilise with a more diluted solution more often than to give concentrated doses at longer intervals. (For instance, if instructions call for one tablespoon of fertilizer per gallon once a month, use one-quarter tablespoon per gallon once a week.)
Make sure that a fertilizer is completely dissolved in the water before you apply it. Put the recommended amount of fertilizer in a clear glass bottle and mix with about one cup of water. Shake vigorously and then allow it to settle. If any particles of fertilizer are not dissolved, shake again before adding the rest of the water. If you have difficulty getting all the fertilizer to dissolve, first add hot top water. If the fertilizer still does not completely dissolve, you should use another fertilizer.
Never fertilise a dry soil or dry Soilless medium. If the medium is dry, first water with about one-half quart of plain water per pot. Let the pots sit for about 15 minutes so that the water is evenly dispersed in the pot. Then fertilise as usual.
It is difficult to give instruction for fertilizing that will cover all garden situations. You want to supply the plant with its nutritive needs, but overfertilizing con toxify the soil. fertilizing according to instructions for houseplants (both in frequency and concentration) should not toxify the soil. However, the plants may sometimes require more frequent or more concentrated fertilizing. A good way to judge the plant's needs is not to fertilise one plant, double the fertilizer of another plant, and give the rest of the plants their normal dose. If the unfertilized plant grows more slowly, or shows symptoms of deficiencies, then probably all the plant are depending on soluble fertilizers and must be fertilized regularly. If the plants receiving the double dose grows faster than the other plants, increase the other plants' supply also. On the other hand, if there is little difference among the plants, then the soil is providing the plants with enough nutrients, and they either should not be fertilized or should be fertilized with a less-concentrated solution.
Because they are grown in a relatively small area, it is easy to overfertilise indoor plants. When plants are vigorous, look healthy, and are growing steadily, don't be anxious to fertilise, particularly if you have already fertilized several times with soluble fertilizers. Slow growth or symptoms of deficiencies clearly indicate the need for fertilizing.
In an effort to do the best for their plants, some people actually do the worst. Never fertilize within first 2 weeks after germinating the marijuana seeds. Overfertilizing puts excessive amounts of nutrients in the soil, causing toxic soil conditions. Excessive amounts of one nutrient can interfere with the uptake of another nutrient, or change normal plant-soil relations. Since it takes time for a build-up to occur high concentrations of nutrients generally encourage excellent growth until the toxic level is reached.
It takes less N than other nutrients to toxify the soil; hence there is less margin for error when using N. Too much N changes the osmotic balance between plant and soil. Instead of water being drawn into the plant, water is drawn away and the plant dehydrates. The leaves feel limp even though the plant is well watered. The plant will soon die. This tips of the leaves die first and very rapidly the leaves change color, usually to gold, but sometimes to a brown or green-grey. This change in the plants is faster, more dramatic, and more serious than for any kind of nutrient deficiency.
You can save the plants by immediately leaching the pots as soon as the condition is recognized. Place the pots outdoors or in a sink or bathtub. Discard the top inch or two of loose dirt. Run lukewarm water through the soil until a gallon of water for each two gallons of soil has passed through each pot. The leaves recover turgor in one or two days if the treatment works.
Foliar feeding ((Nitrogen fertilizers are usually NO3 (nitrate) or NO2 (nitrite), substances which are also used to preserve food. They have been shown to undergo reactions to form carcinogenic substances (nitrosamines). As with eating food treated with nitrates and nitrites (hot dogs, sandwich meats, etc.), there is a possibility that such substances might be ingested by eating or smoking foliar-fed plants.)) (spraying the leaves with fertilizer) is a good way to give the plants nutrients without building up the amount of soluble substances in the soil. After the first month, foliar feed the plants with, for example, fish emulsion or a chemical fertilizer. Use any fertilizer that states it can be used for foliar feeding even if it says "not recommended for foliar feeding houseplants." Use a fine-mist sprayer, such as a clean Windex or Fantastik bottle. Dilute the fertilizer according to directions (fish emulsion at one tablespoon per gallon) and spray both sides of the leaves. When foliar feeding, you should spray the plants with plain water the next day, to dissolve unabsorbed nutrients and clean the plants.
Foliar spraying is also a good way to treat plants suffering from nutrient deficiencies. Some nutrient deficiencies actually are caused by the soil's chemistry, rather than by the absence of the nutrient in the soil. Addition of the necessary nutrient to the soil may not cure the plants' problem, because the nutrient becomes locked in the soil, or its uptake may be limited by high concentrations of other elements present in the soil. Foliar feeding is direct, and if the plant's deficiency symptoms do not begin to clear up, then the diagnosis is probably incorrect.
6.4 Nutrient Deficiencies
Before you assume the plant has a nutrient deficiency, make sure the problem is not due to other causes. Examine the plant leaves, and along the stem and in the soil.
Even under the best conditions, not all leaves form perfectly or remain perfectly green. Small leaves that grew on the young seedling normally die within a month or two. Under artificial lights, bottom leaves may be shielded from the light, or be too far away from the light to carry on chlorosynthesis. These leaves will gradually turn pale or yellow, and may form brown areas as they die. However, healthy large leaves should remain green at least three to four feet below the plant tops, even on those plants under small light systems. Under low light, the lower-growing shoots as well as the large leaves on the main stem are affected. Some symptoms of nutrient deficiencies begin first at the bottom of the plant, but these symptoms generally affect the lower leaves on the main stem first, and the progress to the leaves on the branches.
Although some deficiency symptoms start on the lower, older leaves, others start at the growing shoots or at the top of the plants. This difference depends on whether or not the nutrient is mobile and can move from the older leaves to the active growing shoot. Deficiency symptoms of mobile nutrients start at the bottom of the plant. Conversely, deficiency symptoms of immobile nutrients first appear on the younger leaves or growing shoots at the top of the plant. N, P, K, Mg, B, and Mb are mobile in the plant. Mn and Zn are less mobile, and Ca, S, Fe, and Cu are generally immobile.
A dry atmosphere or wet soil may cause the blade tips to turn brown. Brown leaf tips also may indicate a nutrient deficiency, but in this case, more tissue will turn brown than just the end tips.
Chlorosis and necrosis are two terms which describe symptoms of disease in plants. Chlorosis means lacking green (chlorophyll). Chlorotic leaves are pale green to yellow or white. Chlorotic leaves often show some recovery after the necessary nutrient is supplied. Necrosis means that the tissue is dead. Dead tissue can be gold, rust, brown, or grey. It is dry and crumbles when squeezed. Necrotic tissue cannot recover.
Symptoms of deficiencies of either N, P, or K have the following in common: all involve some yellowing and necrosis of the lower leaves, and all are accompanied by red/purple color in stems and petioles. The simplest way to remedy these deficiencies is to fertilise with a complete fertilizer containing nearly equal proportions of three nutrients.
N is the most common deficiency of Cannabis indoors or out. Nitrogen deficiencies may be quite subtle, particularly outdoors, where the soil may continuously provide a small amount of nitrogen. In this case the opt of the plant will appear healthy, and the plant will grow steadily, but at a slow pace. The deficiency becomes more apparent with growth, as more and more of the lower leaves yellow and fall. The first sign is a gradual, uniform yellowing of the large, lower leaves. Once the leaf yellow, necrotic tips and areas form as the leaves dry to a gold or rust color. In small pots, the whole plant may appear pale (or lime color) before many bottom leaves are affected to the point that they yellow or die. Symptoms that accompany N deficiency include red stems and petioles, smaller leaves, slow growth, and a smaller, sparse profile. Usually there is a rapid yellowing and loss of the lower leaves that progresses quickly to the top of the plant unless nitrogen is soon added.
Remedy by fertilizing with any soluble N fertilizer or with a complete fertilizer that is high in N. If your diagnosis is correct, some recovery should be visible in three or four days. Pale leaves will regain some color but not increase in size. New growth will be much more vigorous and new stems and petioles will have normal green color.
Indoors, you should expect plants to need N fertilisation a few times during growth. Once a plant shows N deficiency, you should fertilise regularly to maintain healthy and vigorous growth. fertilise at about one-half the concentration recommended for Soilless mixtures. Increase the treatment only if the plants show symptoms again. Once the plants are flowering, you may choose not to fertilise if the plants are vigorous. They will have enough N to complete flowering and you don't want to chance toxifying the soil at this late date.
P deficiency is not common indoors, but may appear outdoors, particularly in dry, alkaline soils or in depleted soils, or during cool weather. Phosphorus deficiency is characterised by slow and sometimes stunted growth. Leaves overall are smaller and dark green; red color appears in petioles and stems. The leaves may also develop red or purple color starting on the veins of the underside of the leaf. Generally the tips of most of the leaf blades on the lower portion of the plant die before the leaves lose color. Lower leaves slowly turn yellow before they die. Remedy with any soluble P-containing fertilizer. Affected leaves do not show much recovery, but the plant should perk up, and the symptoms do not progress.
K deficiencies sometimes show on indoor plants even when there is apparently enough supplied for normal growth. Often, potassium-deficient plants are the tallest ((Potassium is associated with apical dominance in some plant species.)) and appear to be the most vigorous. Starting on the large lower leaves, the tips of the blades brown and die. Necrotic areas or spots form on the blades, particularly along the margins. Sometimes the leaves are spattered with chlorotic tissue before necrosis develops, and the leaves look pale or yellow. Symptoms may appear on indoor plants grown in a soil rich in organic material. This may be due to high salinity (Na) of some manures or composts used in the soil. Red stems and petioles accompany potassium deficiencies. K deficiencies that could seriously affect your crop rarely occur with indoor soils. However, mild symptoms are quite common. Usually the plants grow very well except for some necrotic spotting or areas on the older leaves. (This condition is primarily and aesthetic problem, and you may choose not to fertilise. See 19.3.)
K deficiencies can be treated with any fertilizer that contains potassium. Wood ashes dissolved in water are a handy source of potassium. Recovery is slow. New growth will not have the red color, and leaves will stop spotting after a couple of weeks. In a K-deficient soil, much of the added potassium is absorbed by the soil until a chemical balance is reached. Then additional potassium becomes readily available to the plant.
Ca deficiencies are rare and do not occur if you have added any lime compound or wood ash. But calcium is added primarily to regulate soil chemistry and pH. Make sure that you add lime to soil mixtures when adding manures, cottonseed meal, or other acidic bulk fertilizers. An excess of acidic soil additives may create magnesium or iron deficiencies, or very slow, stunted growth. Remedy by adding one teaspoon of dolomitic lime per quart of water until the plants show marked improvement. Periodically fertilise with a complete fertilizer. Foliar feeding is most beneficial until the soil's chemistry reaches a new balance.
S is plentiful in both organic and mineral soils. Liming and good aeration increases S availability. Hence S deficiencies should not occur in soils that are suitable for growing marijuana. However, sulfur deficiencies sometimes can be confused with N deficiencies and may also occur because of an excess of other nutrients in the soil solution. Sulfur-deficiency symptoms usually start at the top of the plant. There is a general yellowing of the new leaves. In pots, the whole plant may lose some green color. Both sulfur and Mg deficiencies can be treated with the same compound, epsom salts (MgSO4). Epsom salts, or bathing salts are inexpensive and available at drug stores.
Mg deficiencies are fairly common. They frequently occur in Soilless mixtures, since many otherwise all-purpose fertilizers do not contain Mg. Magnesium deficiencies also occur in mixtures that contain very large amounts of Ca or Cl. Symptoms of Mg deficiency occur first on the lower leaves. There is chlorosis of tissue between the veins, which remain green, and starting from the tips the blades die and usually curl upward. Purple color builds up on stems and petioles.
A plant in a pot may lose much of its color in a matter of weeks. You may first notice Mg symptoms at the top of the plant. The leaves in the growing shoot are lime-colored. In extreme cases, all the leaves turn practically white, with green veins. Iron deficiency looks much the same, but a sure indication of Mg deficiency is that a good portion of the leaf blades die and curl. Treat Mg symptoms with one-half teaspoon of epsom salts to each quart of water, and water as usual. The top leaves recover their green color within four days, and all but the most damaged should recover gradually. Continue to fertilise with epsom salts as needed until the plants are flowering well. If you are using soilless mixtures, include epsom salts regularly with the complete mixture. Because Mg deficiencies may indicate interference from other nutrients, foliar-spray with Mg to check your diagnosis if the plants are not obviously recovering.
Fe deficiency rarely occurs with indoor mixtures. Iron is naturally plentiful in most soils, and is most likely to be deficient when the soil is very acid or alkaline. Under these conditions, which sometimes occur in moist eastern soil outdoors, the iron becomes insoluble. Remedies include adjusting the Ph before planting; addition of rusty water; or driving a nail into the stem. Commercial Fe preparations are also available. If the soil is acidic, use chelated iron, which is available to the plants under acidic conditions.
Symptoms of iron deficiency are usually distinct. Symptoms appear first on the new growing shoots. The leaves are chlorotic between the veins, which remain dark green and stand out as a green network. To distinguish between Mg and Fe deficiencies, check the lower leaves for symptoms. Iron symptoms are usually most prominent on the growing shoots. Mg deficiencies will also show in the lower leaves. If many of the lower leaves have been spotting or dying, the deficiency is probably Mg. Mg deficiencies are much more common than iron deficiencies in marijuana.
Other Trace Elements
The following deficiencies are quite rare. Trace elements are needed in extremely small amounts, and often enough of them are present as impurities in fertilizers and water to allow normal growth. Many houseplant fertilizers contain trace elements. Trace-element deficiencies are more often caused by an extreme pH than by inadequate quantities in the soil. If a deficiency is suspected, foliar-spray with the trace element to remedy deficiencies. Our experience has been that trace-element deficiencies rarely occur indoors. We advise you not to add trace elements to indoor soils, which usually contain large amounts of trace elements already because of the addition of organic matter and liming compounds. It is easy to create toxic conditions by adding trace elements. Manufacturers also recommend using amounts of trace elements that may be too high for indoor gardens; so use them at about one-fourth of the manufacturer's recommended dose if an addition is found to be necessary.
Mn deficiency appears as chlorotic and the necrotic spots of leaf tissue between the veins. They generally appear on the younger leaves, although spots may appear over the whole plant. Manganese deficiencies are not common. Manganese is present in many all-purpose fertilizers. Mn deficiencies may occur if large amounts of Mg are present.
B deficiency may occasionally occur in outdoor soils. The symptoms appear first at the growing shoots, which die and turn brown or grey. The shoots may appear "burned," and if the condition occurs indoors, you might think the lights have burned the plant. A sure sign of boron deficiency is that, once the growing tip dies, the lateral buds will start to grow but will also die. B deficiency can be corrected by application of boric acid, which is sold as an eyewash in any drugstore. Use one-fourth teaspoon per quart of water. Recovery occurs in a few days with healthy growth of new shoots.
Mb deficiency occurs in outdoor soils, but rarely indoors. Mb is readily available at neutral or alkaline pH. Mb is essential for nitrogen metabolism in the plant, and symptoms can be masked for a while when N fertilizers are being used. Usually there is a yellowing of the leaves at the middle of the plant. fertilizing with nitrogen may remedy some of the yellowing. However, Mb symptoms generally progress to the growing shoots and new leaves often are distorted or twisted. Mb is included in many all-purpose fertilizers.
Zn-deficiency symptoms include chlorosis of leaf tissue between the veins. Chlorosis or white areas start at the leaf margins and tips. More definite symptoms are very small, new leaves which may also be twisted or curled radially. Zn deficiencies may occur in alkaline western soils. Galvanised nails can be buried or pushed into the stem. Commercial preparations of zinc are also available.
Cu deficiencies are rare; be careful not to confuse their symptoms with the symptoms of overfertilisation. The symptoms appear first on the younger leaves, which become necrotic at the tips and margins. Leaves will appear somewhat limp, and in extreme cases the whole plant will wilt. Treat by foliar-spraying with a commercial fungicide such as CuSO4.
6.5 Soilless Mixtures
Soilless mixtures are an alternative to using large quantities of soil. Their main advantage is complete control over the nutrients that your plants receive. Soilless mixtures are also inexpensive and easy to prepare. They have a near-neutral pH and require no pH adjustment.
Soilless mixtures are made from soil components such as vermiculite, sand, or perlite. Soilless mixtures should be blended in such a way that they hold adequate water, but also drain well and do not become soggy. A good general formula is two parts vermiculite to one part perlite. About 10 percent coarse sand or gravel can be added to give weight and stability to the pots. Instead of vermiculite, you can use Jiffy-Mix, Metro-Mix, Ortho-Mix, Pro-Mix and other commercial soilless mixtures, which are fortified with a small amount of necessary nutrients, including trace elements. You can also substitute coarse sand for perlite.
It is best to use solid containers with soilless mixtures rather than plastic bags. Grow the plants in one- to three-gallon containers. There won't be much difference in the size of the plants in one-gallon or in three-gallon sizes, but you will have to water a large plant every day in a one-gallon container. (The plants can always by transplanted to a larger container.) The pots must have drainage holes punched in the bottoms. Pot as usual, and add one tablespoon of dolomitic lime or two tablespoons of wood ash to each gallon of mixture.
Germinating marijuana seeds
Cannabis seeds may have problems germinating in soilless mixtures. The top layer of mixture often dries rapidly, and the marijuana seeds sprouts may die or not germinate. Young seedlings also seem to have difficulty absorbing certain nutrients (notably potassium), even though adequate amounts of nutrients are being added. Since this difficulty may retard growth, it is best to germinate cannabis seeds in small pots with soil. Use eight-ounce paper cups, tin cans, or quart milk containers cut in half. Mix three parts topsoil or potting soil to one part soilless mixture. Fill the starting pots and germinate the marijuana seeds as usual. When the plants are two to three weeks old, transplant to the soilless mixture. First moisten the soil, and then remove the soil as intact as possible. You might handle the transplant like making castles, by carefully sliding the moist soil out of the pot. Or you can cut away the sides of the container while you place the transplant in the soilless mixture. When watering, make sure you water around the stem to encourage roots to grow into the soilless mixture.
Peat pellets that expand are also good for starting seedling. Plant several marijuana seeds in each pellet, and place it in the soilless mixture after the sprouts appear.
Soilless mixtures can be treated with a trace-element solution. We have grown crops with no special addition of trace elements, and the plants completed their lives without showing symptoms of trace-element deficiency. In these cases there were apparently enough trace elements in the lime and the fertilizers that were used to provide the major nutrients. Many all-purpose fertilizers also contain trace elements. However, it is a good idea to treat soilless mixtures with a mild solution of trace elements before planting. Large plants can be treated a second time during the third or fourth month of growth. Do not use trace elements more often unless plants show definite trace-element deficiencies.
Iron is the only trace element that is needed in more than minute quantities. Iron can be supplied by mixing a few brads or nails into the soilless mixture.
Use any soluble fertilizer that is complete, that is, that contains some of each of the major nutrients. Choose one with a formula that is highest in N but contains a good portion of both P and K. For example, Rapid-Gro is 23-19-17 and works well for soilless mixtures.
Table 18 gives a formula that has worked well for us. The figures in it are a guide for estimating the amounts of fertilizer to use. When choosing a fertilizer by means of this chart, use N for a guide. For example, suppose the only fertilizer you can find that has good proportions of the major nutrients as a 20-15-15. Divide 5 (the figure for N in the table) by 20 (the figure for N in the fertilizer), and get the result 1/4. That is, the fertilizer if four times as concentrated in N as you need; so you would use one-fourth the amount of fertilizer shown in Table 18. For instance, during the vegetative stage, you would give the plants one-half to three-fourths of a level teaspoon of fertilizer per gallon of water each time you water.
Table 18 - Guidelines for Fertilizing Soilless Mixtures Growth Stage N P2O5 K20 Amount Seedling 5 3 4 1.5 to 2 tsp/gal Vegetative 5 2 3 2 to 3 tsp/gal Flowering 5 5 3 0.5 tp 1.5 tsp/gal
It is also not necessary to fertilise in these ratios. You could use a 10-10-10 fertilizer throughout growth; you would use half the amounts listed in Table 18. The most important point is that the plant receive enough of each element, not that they receive specific proportions.
fertilizing according to volume of fertilizer is not very accurate, and also does not take into account other variables (such as variety, light, temperature, etc.) that determine the amounts of nutrients your plants can use. However, it is a simple and useful way of estimating the plant's needs. You can more accurately gauge the plants' needs by giving a sample plant twice the concentration of fertilizer, and another half the concentration. Their performance will give you an idea of whether you are using too much or too little fertilizer. Too much fertilizer is the most damaging condition; so when in doubt give the plants less rather then more. Do not continue to give the plants the recommended amounts of fertilizer if the sample plant that is receiving less nutrients is growing as well as the other plants.
Another way of monitoring the plant's growth is to grow a few plants in a standard soil mixture. This will show you whether the plants in the soilless mixture are growing as fast as they should, and will give you a reference for diagnosing deficiencies.
Besides providing N, P, K, and the trace elements, you must also give your plants secondary nutrients. Ca is added by mixing a tablespoon of lime or two tablespoons of wood ash when preparing the soilless mixture. (Calcium is usually present in water and in many fertilizers as part of the salts that contain nutrients, for example, Ca(NO3)2.) Magnesium and sulfur are both found in common epsom salts, MgSO4. Use one-eighth teaspoon of epsom salts to each teaspoon of 5 percent N. For example, if you are using a 20 percent N fertilizer, you would use half a teaspoon of MgSO4 to each teaspoon of fertilizer. (Actually, enough sulfur is often present, either as part of the soilless mixture or as part of nutrient salts to allow growth.) Magnesium can also be supplied by using dolomitic limestone.
Soilless mixtures are something between soil mixtures and water cultures (hydroponics). With hydroponics, the plants are grown in a tank of water. The fertilizers are added in solution, and the water solution is periodically circulated by a pump.
Another variation on soilless mixtures is to add a small amount of soil or humus to the soilless mixture. Some examples are:
1. 4 parts soilless mixture to 1 part soil; 2. 8 parts soilless mixture to 1 part humus; 3. 15 parts soilless mixture to 1 part limed manure.
Overfertilizing is less a problem with soilless mixtures then with soil, because of higher concentrations of salts are tolerable in soilless mixtures and because excess salts are easily flushed out of the mixture. A good idea is to flush each pot once after two months of growth, again after four months. Any time the plants show symptoms of overfertilisation, leach the pots immediately. Flood each pot with plain water so that it runs out the drainage holes. Continue flooding the pots until a couple of gallons of water have run through the pot. Don't fertilise for at least a week. Then fertilise with a more dilute solution that was used before.