Cannabis Canada, spring96 – Dr. Goodbud’s Growling
Dr. Goodbud’s Growline
part two of three
Dr. Goodbud has been growing in soil for twenty years. This issue Dr. Goodbud lights up.
Electricity can be a serious safety problem if you don’t do it properly. If a fire starts because you have an improperly wired grow room and the fire department comes a-calling, you are in trouble. So please heed the following safety pointers:
- Always have a good fire extinguisher ready in your grow area, and preferably another one in your house. They are good insurance. Be sure you have the kind that is designed for electrical fires.
- When installing your lighting, correctly assess the amount of electrical current you will need. You can safely extract a maximum draw of 80% of the capability of your circuit breaker from your electrical service. You must not draw more current than your wires and fusebox can handle.
- You must use proper equipment, strong modern wiring, and install safety-approved circuit breakers. Your lights will be on eighteen hours a day, and the more lights you have, the more wear, heat, and pressure there will be on your system. Any weakness from your circuit box, wires, or receptacles can cause an overload and the shutdown of your system. Even worse, there is the potential for fire, and the endangerment of your grow system, your home, and possibly your family.
- Have a fire and smoke alarm in your grow room that is clearly audible in any part of your house. Try to get one that is not heat-sensitive, as your room temperature will be higher than normal.
Now that you have taken care of your safety precautions, we can proceed to actual setup. This article is for no more than eight plants, preferably four to six, in a small to modest grow room.
If you have outlets or existing lighting that is suitable only for 100 watt bulbs, or wall outlets that are used for standard household usage, it would be wise to upgrade with a new feed of BX cable from your electrical panel to wherever you want to establish your grow operation.
This is not as big a deal as it sounds. You simply have an electrician come in, and tell him that you’re setting up a workshop for power tools that draw a lot of current, like sanders, skill saws, etc. Get a few heavy duty wall outlets put in and an overhead BX cable for a strong fan and light.
You could have a friend install the wiring or even do it yourself, but you must be sure that your electrical panel is modern and capable of handling the stress of having your lights on eighteen hours of the day. It’s not that complicated, but it has to be done right!
I don’t believe in the theft of electricity, so it is important to know how much your electricity will cost so that your usage doesn’t quadruple overnight.
For example, one kilowatt-hour in British Columbia costs about six cents, with taxes. One 1000 watt metal halide bulb is the same as one kilowatt, so one hour of this bulb in use costs 6 cents. Multiply this by 18 hours (one day’s lighting) and that’s $1.08 per 1000 watt lamp per day. Electrical bills in BC are bi-monthly, so one 1000 watt metal halide bulb in use for 18 hours a day for sixty days is $64.80 ($1.08 x 60 days). That kind of consumption wouldn’t be too noticeable.
Two 1000 watt bulbs would be $129.60 in two months. This is somewhat noticeable, but with over six hundred thousand electrical customers in the Lower Mainland it is not likely to draw attention if all other things are “normal”. However, I would say that’s about tops if you want to remain discreet and keep your growing affordable.
The ideal time to begin your grow operation is right when you move into a new residence. That way you establish a consistent and regular high-use pattern, not unusual for a new tenant or homeowner.
The Landlord & the Cops
If you rent your premises monthly and the electricity is included in your monthly rent, you have a bit of a problem. Your landlord is going to notice any increase that is more than 20% above previously “normal” usage. The best thing to do is to tell him up front that you want to grow tomatoes, but that you’ll pay your own electrical bills directly.
If the situation is tight you could downsize your grow operation, say one 400 watt metal halide for four plants with the mylar light reflection method (explained below). This is only a $25 per two month increase, an acceptable and discreet amount. But really, this is inadequate for what we want.
Remember, the Vancouver area police have a narcotics team of eight officers to keep on top of the thousands of more substantial grow operations in the Vancouver area. There are new home-grow operations starting up every day, so your two to ten plants are not a magnet for their attention unless you are very careless.
The Light Situation
For the first three to four months, the plants move upward in what is called the vegetative or grow stage. What you want are bushy, vigorous, healthy plants. For two or three plants, I recommend a 1000 watt metal halide ceiling lamp and fixture. For four to six plants, 2000 watts of light is recommended.
Metal halides and fixtures aren’t cheap but they are the best. If it’s a choice between growing your own marijuana and buying on the street, you’ll save a lot of money by buying a very good lamp and fixture and never buying on the street again. Metal halides provide an outstanding range of the light spectrum that effectively mimics the light from the sun, thus activating eighteen hours a day of uninterrupted photosynthesis. This can produce outstanding and rapid growth of your plants.
Metal halides also produce heat, so they should be far enough away so that the heat does not wither the plants, particularly in the earlier stages. Lights should be no closer than three feet away. Your lights should have hoods to aim all light downward towards the plants.
1000 watt metal halide “kits” include a 1000 watt super halide lamp, a 1000 watt ballast, a mogul socket and lampwire, and a power cord. You should add a four foot parabolic lamp shade. This would come to $320 Canadian plus GST and PST. Look for a horticultural metal halide that is now on the market in growing stores.
Go to a lighting shop or grow store, but if you want their help, do not use the “M” word, it’ll scare them off. Do not use credit cards when buying your equipment!
A Perfect World
If possible, I’d recommend the ideal set-up for a modest room (say 15′ x 15′ x 8′ high), as being a minimum of 4000 watts of light. This would be a kick-ass grow environment, but you’d need proper wiring and a suitable electrical panel. It would cost $260 every two months in electrical consumption, and that kind of draw could be noticed if it occurred in a home not normally noted for heavy electrical consumption. A five bedroom home in North Vancouver will have no trouble with increased power loads (the jacuzzi, pool, etc.) that might seem extraordinary in a two bedroom home in Southeast Vancouver.
Unfortunately, this is why electrical theft occurs, because the prohibition created by this irrational government makes it impossible for us to act legally without creating an obvious situation of self-incrimination, particularly for those who want to cultivate a larger number of plants. Acting legally and honestly in these cases could land a person in jail with their plants seized. This is one more reason among the hundreds of other good arguments for legalization. The government’s vicious and bigoted laws regarding home-grow cultivation are costing both BC Hydro and the taxpayer money. My recommendation is that if you’re that worried then you should buy a generator and produce your own electrical power.
Magic Mirror Mylar
The interior of your grow room should be entirely covered in a double-thick layer of mylar reflective material, although a single layer is adequate. Double thickness mylar allows no light to escape, whereas single-thick mylar allows a little light to seep out into the wall behind the mylar.
Mylar is mirror material without glass, and it holds up to abuse fairly well. You could also use aluminum foil, but you get crinkly lines in it when you put it on the wall which makes it less effective than mylar. The mylar material makes the most efficient use of light: by constantly reflecting it back at the plant, which absorbs it.
Mylar extends your light value by 50% over bulbs without mylar. Two lights with mylar are equal to three lights without. This saves a lot of electrical expense, so mylar actually pays for itself in just three months. Note that mylar does conduct electricity, so be careful.
Some people will recommend that you use only High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lamps. This is bogus advice! Even if you get a few generations of decent marijuana plants out of HPS lamps, all you will ever have with HPS-only is a weakening of the strain over time. HPS lights were designed for use as outdoor security lamps and highway night lights (because they cut through fog well), not as horticultural bulbs. HPS bulbs do not deliver the blue light necessary for a healthy grow cycle. Metal halides are the closest spectrum of light to the sun, they have a very balanced output of light.
High Pressure Sodium should only be used as a supplementary bulb for growing. It’s very high in the red, orange, and yellow light ranges, and that’s a helpful supplement in the flowering or bud stage. I use an HPS bulb strictly during the bud stage, when you cut back to 12 hours light and 12 hours dark.
I do not recommend fluorescent tubes, “grow” bulbs, or ordinary incandescent bulbs if you have any serious expectations of getting a healthy, worthwhile yield. Time will be your biggest investment if you do your indoor growing improperly or sloppily. Good planning and a modest investment at the outset will yield you 10 to 100 times the smokable bud value (in weight and quality) compared to cheating yourself on the initial setup investment and using cheesy equipment.
The First 3 Months
For the first three to four months of growing, the optimum amount of light for your plants is 18 hours a day, with 6 hours darkness. This does not change until you want your plant to go into its flowering stage. You make your plant flower by cutting back the light to 12 hours a day. With a clone you can cut back in one go, while with a seedling you should cut back an hour a day for about a week, until you reach 12 hours light and 12 hours dark. This simulates the natural shortening of sunlight which peaks June 21st and then declines.
In natural conditions, as July and August come along, the plants are fully concerned with reproduction (flowering and pollination). The shortening of summer light is nature’s way of telling the plant to reproduce now, because winter frost is approaching. Reproduction must be accomplished before winter because for the plant frost equals death.
The Budding Stage
Determining when to go to the budding stage, that is, the flowering of the female plant into resinous THC active buds, depends on whether your plant came from a seedling or from a cutting.
If you started from a seedling, it is important to get the plant to full vegetative height before cutting back light. A seedling needs to get to its maximum potential in the grow stage, especially if you want to take cuttings later on from that plant. Therefore, go a full 14-15 weeks before cutting back your light.
With a cutting, since it has come from a mature plant, you can cause it to go into bud stage by cutting back directly to 12 hours light and 12 hours dark whenever you like. When your plant reaches the right stage of growth (height, bushiness, or you just have to have some smoke in the near future), cut back your light and your plant will immediately begin flowering.
Ten to twelve weeks is a generous bud time. Harvest when the resin sacs on the female flowers are full, clear, and bulbous. The Marijuana Grower’s Guide by Mel Frank and Ed Rosenthal has excellent photographs of the resin glands on a female bract at a magnification of 25 times. If the round resin glands (bubble-like things) are clear and full, that means it’s time to harvest.
Time for the HPS
When you go to bud stage your power consumption will drop by a third as your lights will only be on for twelve hours a day instead of eighteen. At this point, add the HPS light. You will then be using three bulbs where there were two, but at a third less time, so the overall power consumption should be identical. This is a good idea in creating constant, non-conspicuous electrical use, while assisting the plant’s health during its budding stage.
It is better if your electrical use does not go up and down according to a pattern. Power companies are hip to indoor grow cycles and power consumption.
Next issue, we’ll be looking at ventilation.