part one of three
Dr. Goodbud has been growing in
soil for twenty years. This issue he relates his
advice on Space, Soil, Seeds, Cycles, & Sex.
Space, Buckets & Gravel
In considering the size of your grow area, I recommend a four foot by four
foot space for each plant. This might seem like too much space, but as the
plant hits the bud stage (at four months) it will need space and good air
circulation. So for a closet, two plants is about tops; for a small room,
maybe four to six plants.
I use fifteen gallon buckets with drainage exits and a two inch reservoir
(the overflow tray under the bucket). At the bottom of this bucket is about
three inches of pea gravel, a little higher than the reservoir line.
Soil that sits in water will sour and toxify. The pea gravel provides a
porous intermediary and lets excess water go into the reservoir so it can
be reabsorbed when the soil and roots require it. A fifty pound bag of pea
gravel is very cheap, about three dollars. You certainly don’t need fifty
pounds of it, but it doesn’t come in small quantities. Save it for future
Soil & Fertilizer
I use Black Gold potting soil mixed thoroughly with vermiculite or perlite,
at a ratio of three parts Black Gold to one part perlite. This mix will
loosen up the Black Gold, so I end up with loose, nutrient rich soil for
root extension. Black Gold all-purpose soil is available at any nursery or
garden supply store.
For fertilizer I recommend a tablespoon of liquid Alaska Brand Fish
Fertilizer mixed with each gallon of water. A small amount goes a long way.
Leave the water bucket nearby, you obviously don’t add a gallon at any one
time. Alaska Brand Fish Fertilizer is about the best you can get, and it’s
available everywhere. It’s very mild (5-2-2), very forgiving, and useful
throughout the first 14-16 weeks, the grow cycle.
The bud cycle is the period from around week 15 to week 25 or 27. At this
point, your fertilizer should change. You now put Peter’s Professional
Brand Plant Food (10-30-20) in your water. It’s a blue crystalline plant
food, so you take a tablespoon full and dissolve it in your gallon of
water, applying the water as necessary. Follow the instructions on the side
of the container.
Unlike the Alaskan Brand, which is a forgiving one, Peter’s Professional
is more harmful if the amount is too much.
A hazard with fertilizers is that people get a great plant going, then on
the advice of friends they add some great fertilizer to it and fry their
plant’s roots. They then get very frustrated as the plant declines from
overfertilization. Be careful with fertilizers.
A natural way to keep your soil loose, enriched, and aerated is to add four
or five earthworms to the soil. If the earthworms thrive, then it is likely
your plant will as well, as both plant and worm are sensitive to the same
things: fertilizer overdose, moisture excesses and deficiencies, and soil
A Moist Hydrometer
To determine the moisture of your soil, get a hydrometer (a moisture
measurer). They’re cheap, maybe $15. At first, you may need to water only
once every three weeks, but by the maturation end of the cycle you could be
watering every three days.
When the plant has been watered the soil should be very moist, around 9 or
10 (blue) on the hydrometer. You should let the soil get to about 3 (red)
on the hydrometer before watering again. When watering, stop every now and
then to see if it has filtered down to fill up your overflow tray.
Algae, fungus, and other water-related problems aren’t usually due to the
water itself, but arise because of bad ventilation. Good air circulation
should keep your soil surface clean and dry.
A hydrometer is useful because the amateur grower puts his finger in the
top layer of soil and says, “oh, it’s dry, time for more water”. Your
bucket is 17 inches deep, so there’s plenty of moisture down where the
roots are. The hydrometer can help define when you should add water.
Seeds vs Cuttings
A clone is a cutting of an adult plant. It doesn’t matter if it’s from the
top or bottom of the plant, any healthy four to six inch shoot off the stem
or a branch will suffice. Transplant quickly into your soil. A cutting is
preferable to a seed because a mature cutting (of a good strain) has firm
genetic features, and is also more likely to be female.
With seeds, the quality of the strain is usually unknown. A seed will also
be more affected by its environment than a clone. A negative factor in your
ventilation, lighting, or soil can significantly affect your outcome when
using seed, whereas a cutting is better able to compensate for adversity.
If you are using seeds, you can at least eliminate defective ones. A good
seed will be shiny and fat, and its shell will contain no cracks or
imperfections. Occasionally it will have stripes which is a good sign. A
moist, bulbous, shiny, dark seed has the healthy characteristics that will
give your germination prospects an edge.
Before we place the seed in soil, it needs to be germinated. Soak your
seeds in distilled pure water (bottled water) for about 3 to 7 days. Your
seeds will sprout, and these germinated seeds should be placed a quarter to
half an inch below the soil surface, shoot end up. Within 3 to 4 days, they
should break the surface and will have shed their seed coats by day 4 or 5.
The Grow & Bud Cycles
I recommend a seven month cycle for maximum yields. I’ve gotten up to three
pounds (cured) of smokable material from a single cycle of a generous
plant. The grow cycle is four months, and the bud cycle is three months.
The indoor light cycle should be 18 hours of light and 6 hours of
darkness during your plant’s grow cycle. At week 14 to 16, you should cut
the light back to 12 hours light and 12 hours dark. If your plants were
grown from seed, then the light should be gradually cut back an hour a day
over the course of a week. Plants grown from clones can be switched to a 12
and 12 cycle directly.
Indica & Sativa
I’m an indica connoisseur, so a healthy plant in my crop should be four
feet tall at the end of its grow cycle, and about four feet wide or wider!
A sativa plant could be six feet tall and three feet wide. That’s why we
wanted that four by four space at the start. Give it room to
breathe. Always provide lots of air (more on this in part three).
Sexing the plants
Reproduction becomes the plant’s motivation at 3 to 4 months. Male plants
will develop two distinct characteristics. They have a stalky, tall, and
skinny structure. Females are shorter, bushier plants. Males also have
downturned white sacs at the junction of the stem and shoots (nodes),
getting ready to shoot their stuff to pollinate the female.
If you leave your male around, your female will produce seeds, which may be
useful if you need or want these. If you just want the maximum amount of
smokable produce then this is the time to pull out your male plant. Good
That's All for Now
OK, that’s it this time. Next column we’ll discuss specific lighting and
conditions, and a more detailed description of how your plant should look
at various times during the growth and bud cycles. After that we’ll look at
the all-important and often underrated ventilation.