Do you have one strain that you are just in love with and want to create replicas of for eternity? Well, lucky you! Cloning may still be controversial when it comes to humans but you can clone your plants at home without getting a sideways stare down.
Why Should I Clone My Plants?
Cloning is also referred to as asexual reproduction and creates genetic copies of the “mother” plant. If you have a particular strain you have grown that is resilient against pests, produces dense flowers, has a high cannabanoid profile and delicious flavor then why would you not want to replicate it over and over again? Propagating your favorite strain is a great way to save money on buying new crops, to stabilize your growing environment and grow the true cream of the crop.
Cloners can hold from six to over 150 plants, depending on your grow goals. Most come equipped with a pump to circulate water and nutrients through the reservoir, misters to maintain a humid environment and slotted baskets for your preferred growing media.
Rockwool cubes are the most popular choice among growers because it retains nutrients and moisture for the tender root systems of your clones. It is easy to work with, non-toxic and inexpensive.
Cloning Step-By-Step Guide:
Obtain a single edge razor blade.
Select a branch to serve as your clone near the top of the plant where there is new growth. The cutting should be about 5-8 inches long. Use your razor to make a clean, single cut.
Manicure your cutting by removing the the smaller branches near the base to expose the stem and allow for more depth when rooting and planting.
Make a 45 degree angle upward cut underneath the nodes left behind from the lower leaves that you cut off for most amount of root expulsion. The angled cut exposes more surface area and capillaries allowing the stem to absorb more water and nutrients than if you were to cut straight across.
Cut the edges of the leaves on your cutting to about 50 percent of their original size. This helps with the transpiration process and prevents the clone from coming in contact with the other plants when using a cloner. The plants touching and layering over one another can enable moisture to hide out in between the leaves and become a breeding ground for mold or fungi.
Grab one cutting and use your razor to split the end of the stem like a snake’s tongue about a half an inch long. Again increasing the surface area for root growth and nutrient uptake. Be very careful to not cut yourself while doing this step.
Dip the stem in filtered water or a cloning solution and place in the soil or a cloner. If harvesting numerous cuttings at once, makes sure to put their stems in some water to keep them hydrated until you are ready to move forward.
Place the prepared cutting into the pre-soaked rockwool cube and let the cloner go to work for you.
There are many different solutions out there that boost root growth and stability. However, some growers just dip their clippings in filtered water before placing them in their cloner and see strong, healthy clones as a result. The true to organic growers dip their clippings in undiluted aloe vera gel (the real stuff, not that green fake goo for sunburns). Aloe vera is rich in minerals and nutrients that promote growth.
We recommend using an Azos solution that contains the most commonly used Azospirillum brasilense bacteria to ramp up the root growth rates of your clones. Combine four tablespoons of Azos with one gallon of 6.0 pH water (or filtered water) and use this solution to soak your growing media in (i.e. rockwool, plugs, or coco pellets). Soak the media for at least 10 minutes while you prepare a one part Azos to two parts water for your root soaking solution. Soak your plant roots for about 15 seconds before placing them in the growing medium and placing them in the cloner.
No need to get spendy on your lights for your clones. Clones require a lot less light energy than your maturing plants. You can use inexpensive T5 fluorescent fixtures to get your clones going. The team at Way to Grow recommends using the Hortilux PowerVeg T5 bulbs to expose your plants to a small amount of UV light in preparation for transferring to more intense lighting as they move into veg phase.
Clones are much more sensitive and tender than mature plants. In addition to being hypersensitive to pathogens, they are also sensitive to light. Keep your lights a good 5 to 6 feet away from the canopy to avoid heat burn and frying your plants to death.
The More You Know, The Better Your Grow
Cloning is one of the many ways to create a stronger growing environment for your plants. It has the ability to save you money in the long run of your grow and is less risky than growing from seed. Growing is an art form and every grower does it differently. You will find that different methods will work better for different strains and plants. We encourage you to play around with the different available options and offer your feedback below!
Effective microorganisms (EM) are tiny little living entities that help break down compost and organic matter. They operate in a different way than beneficial bacteria or fungi in how they affect your plants. They turn up the volume on compost and aid in creating a soil that is rich in microbes and nutrients that you can integrate right back into your grow. Let’s dig into Bokashi.
What is Bokashi?
Bokashi is a Japanese word that means “fermented organic matter”. The term refers to both the method used and the inoculant mixture (the kick starter) used to power the fermentation process. The inoculant mixture consists of lacto acid bacteria (Lactobacillus casei), photosynthetic bacteria (Rhodopseudomonas palustris), and yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae).
Freshly fermented bokashi doesn’t usually stay alive very long. Therefore, the inoculant mixture is made up of either bran or sawdust that has been soaked in water with molasses and beneficial microbes. This mixture is then dried out, packaged and remains shelf stable for up to two years for use in your grow.
Composting with Bokashi
Bokashi has a number of benefits, which is why we love it. You can use it to compost, to add nutrients to your soil, or to brew in into a compost tea. The most common known use for it is its amazing power and efficiency fermenting compost. Many people use bokashi bran to create a simple, closed compost bucket in their kitchen. After a few weeks, you have usable compost right there under your sink. If you aren’t into composting in your kitchen, adding bokashi straight to your grow can improve the rhizosphere of your plants, as well.
The composting method involves layering the bran with layers of your compostable material and leaving it to ferment. A big benefit of using the bokashi composting method is that it doesn’t require heat or air the way that traditional compost heaps do. It can work its magic in a sealed container with no access to fresh air or sun. The bran acts as a compost accelerator. In just ten to twelve days, this miracle bokashi will have fermented your food scraps and plant waste to create healthy beneficial compost, full of microbes and nutrients, for your garden! There are a few different bucket methods, but the basic idea is that as you throw food scraps into your bucket, you then toss some bokashi bran on top. This article has really great instructions on how to use any of the simple bucket methods. Due to the fact that bokashi decomposes waste so fast, it doesn’t create nasty odors that you usually get coming from compost piles. It may smell a little like vinegar or beer because of the yeast that is present but it should never smell putrid. You may see a light white layer of mold on top of the compost while it is fermenting, it is totally normal and not a fungal infestation. If you see black or green mold, however, that is a sign of contamination and you will not want to use it in your garden or grow.
Bokashi and Bacteria
The bacterias that are created during the bokashi fermentation process are the same as some of the bacteria that have been found in the soils of oak trees and fruit trees in Asia. They help to produce ATP in plants and enable them to grow bigger and stronger. These bacteria use the energy of the heat of the sun in the soil and convert the secretions of the plant’s roots by eating it and producing a nutrient that is easier for the plant to take in as food.
Breaking All the Rules
Thanks to the anaerobic processes in bokashi composting, you can throw more than just plant waste and your rotting vegetables in there. The environment in bokashi fermentation buckets doesn’t allow for pathogens to live or grow. This is because bokashi composting is an anaerobic process, which means that it does not require oxygen. No need to worry about sprouting unwanted pathogens while turning waste into nutrient dense soil. The only thing you will be adding is more micronutrients to your soil. So feel free to scrape your dinner plates directly into your bokashi bucket!
Adding Meat, Dairy, or Egg Products to Your Bokashi Compost
Bokashi has the ability to break down meat (not bones), cheese, and egg products in addition to your typical compost additions. Just make sure to add a layer of bokashi bran to the top of your bucket when throwing these protein items in. Charles Sturt University says there is no need to worry about those protein items messing up your microbial ecosystem with pathogens such as salmonella and e-coli.
There is little risk of a pathogenic infestation because of the lack of air available in the sealed bokashi composting bins, as well as the acidic presence of lacto bacillus. With an airtight seal, the only thing that has the ability to grow is the bokashi bacteria that actually help in making its own pathogen-fighting environment. To really make sure that you are not passing along salmonella or ecoli to your plants or gardens, let your compost ferment completely. If the idea of throwing meat and eggs in your compost bucket is too freaky for you, just leave it out.
How Do I Use It?
You can always use the composted material from you bin, but if you don’t want to commit to composting with bokashi, there are a few other ways to reap the benefits of what it has to offer. You can mix bokashi bran right into your soil, you can make a compost tea, or you can spray it directly on your plants. By mixing the bran directly into your soil, you are introducing tons of awesome micronutrients into your growing medium. It increases microbial activity and helps your plant to uptake nutrients as a higher rate.
Bokashi in Your Compost Pile
You can use bokashi bran to speed up your regular compost pile outdoors by just adding it to your existing pile or composting bin. We prefer to use the bokashi airtight bin in our kitchen to get the fermentation process started and then move the pickled goodness to the outdoor heap. Also, worms love bokashi. You can expect to see them more frequently in your outdoor piles doing work to your soil when you feed them nutrient dense bokashi compost.
Bokashi as a Top Dressing
When you use bokashi as a top dressing, add 1/3 cup of bokashi bran to every cubic foot of soil. Apply the top dressing once every two weeks to see awesome results.
By making a compost tea, you ensure that your plants are receiving a uniform application. Additionally, a liquid application will be absorbed by the root system at a faster rate.
For a five gallon brew, begin with a mixture that is 0.5 liters of bokashi compost and then add 5 gallons of unchlorinated water. For best results with the tea, let it brew for 20-40 hours before applying to your plants. You can use that same diluted brew to spray directly on your plants, as well. If you are using bokashi to compost your vegetable and plant matter, simply add that compost to your grow or outdoor garden when it is done fermenting and watch your plants thrive!
Tried and Tested
If you want to see the difference that effective microorganisms and other added nutrients have on your soil, consider purchasing a BRIX meter. A BRIX meter measures the mineral, sugar, and nutrient density in your soil and plants. This handy tool can help you determine a more appropriate feeding schedule specifically for your grow. It can also help you better understand how added nutrients affect your plants.
Is It Compatible With My Grow?
You can use bokashi with any system- hydroponic, aquaponic, or soil medium. You do not want to add a bokashi brew to your hydroponic reservoir but instead should apply it directly to the root system. Bokashi can also be used with synthetic nutrients but that is where it gets a little bit of a grey area. Bokashi is meant to help foster a natural and organic grow- a step towards biodynamic farming. If you are using synthetics, you may not see all the benefits that you would in an organic system.
Why Use It?
Bokashi is an all natural additive that is not harmful to you, your plants, or the environment. Unlike regular composting, it doesn’t emit any greenhouse gasses, nor does it require any additional heat or churning. Another added benefit is the cost savings when compared to other fertilizers and synthetic nutrients. It provides micronutrients to your soil and is a renewable resource that you can even brew yourself.
Beneficial Microbes, Yet Again!
Developing beneficial microbial life through the bokashi process helps to diversify the microbial life of your soil. This creates a healthier ecosystem within your growing medium that is a huge benefit to your plants. These microorganisms help your plants grow bigger and stronger while becoming more disease resistant. Diversifying the microbiome helps your plants build up resistance to potential threats!
What Would We Do?
The product that we recommend is BOKASHIplus from Elevation Organics. It comes in 3.5 pound, 15 pound and 35 pound bags full of alfalfa meal and grain substrate fully inoculated with EM. BOKASHIplus has an added biochar that provides even more beneficial fungus, bacteria, and protozoa to the mix.
We recommend brewing a compost tea for a 24 hour period before adding it to your soils. The micronutrients then flourish before being added to your grow and they supply your plants with immediate benefits. You can expect to see more resilient plants as a result of a higher biodiversity in the soil, and as a result, higher yields.
For a detailed feeding schedule, visit the Elevation Organics website. The measurements in the chart are listed in measurements per gallon of water. It is laid out to account for both vegetative and flowering schedules. There are different measurement listed for whether you are growing with soil or coco too!
If you feel like taking on a new pet project, making your own bokashi bran could be right up your alley. It is pretty easy and cheap so you can save a few bucks when taking the time to make it yourself.
What you will need to gather for supplies:
-EM (effective microorganisms)- We recommend buying a prepared EM serum to ensure that it contains lactic acid bacteria, yeasts, and photosynthetic bacteria.
-Chlorine-free water- If using tap water, be sure to let it sit out for at least 24 hours to let the chlorine evaporate.
-Wheat or rice bran
-A big tub or tarp to mix it all together
-An airtight container to ferment your bran
DIY Bokashi Instructions
For 10 pounds of bokashi, you will need 4 tablespoons of EM, 4 tablespoons of molasses, 10 cups of water, and 10 pounds of bran.
Step 1: Add molasses to water and stir until dissolved.
Step 2: Add EM microbes to water/molasses mixture and stir.
Step 3: Place bran into a container large enough to hold it (or onto a tarp if mixing a large amount).
Step 4: Add the liquid mixture and stir it with your hands. This mixture should be moist and crumbly, but not sopping wet. If it is too wet, you run the risk of growing pathogenic mold. You can adjust the moisture content by adding a bit more liquid or a bit more bran.
Step 5: Place the damp bran into your airtight container and fasten lid on tightly.
Step 6: Let it sit in warm place for 2 weeks or more.
Step 7: Check your bokashi bran. White mold is totally okay, but black or green mold is no good. Your bran should not smell bad.
Step 8: If you are storing this mixture long-term, be sure to dry it out completely after fermenting and store in an airtight container out of light for up to 2 years. Happy fermenting!
Check out this awesome video for the live DIY version:
The More You Know, The Better Your Grow
When your intention is to grow a high-quality product in a natural way, implementing bokashi into your grow is a must have. The price is right and allows to you to diversify the microculture of your soil that richly benefits your plants. Why would you not want to feed your plants, simultaneously build up their disease resistance, and increase your yield?! Because bokashi is all natural and organic, you don’t have to fear your plants may have a bad reaction. Just remember, this is potent stuff and you don’t want to overdose your plants. To learn more, drop into one of our seven stores and come rap with one of our knowledgeable staff!
So, you were told you should be fertilizing with CANNA nutrients. Why? And what does that mean? CANNA is the industry leader in quality fertilizers, which just happen to work really really well in cannabis cultivation. They are always on the cutting edge of research and development, and share their knowledge and discoveries with the curious gardener looking to better their abilities.
Custom Cadillac Nutrients
While other companies make fertilizers that are compatible with several different mediums, CANNA takes it many steps further. They make substrate specific fertilizers, to maximize the health and yield of every crop. What I mean by that is, if you want to grow in Soil, Coco, Rockwool, Soil-less, Recirculating Hydro Systems (you get where I’m going) they have a specific fertilizer line. CANNA’s specific fertilizers (in tandem with a good climate) produce some of the best looking and tasting marijuana I have ever consumed. But don’t just take my word for it – try CANNA for yourself!
So, how do you garden? Or how would you like to, knowing there’s a way to maximize any system? Let’s go over CANNA’s different fertilizer lines and intended use and figure that out!
CANNA’s Coco A & B fertilizer line (a personal favorite of mine) is designed for the gardener growing in Coco mediums. This unique two part fertilizer is comprised of Coco A and Coco B used in both grow and bloom stages of the plant, making it incredibly easy to use for all levels of gardener. Performing best with CANNA Coco plant medium, any high quality washed and buffered Coco medium, such as Botanicare’s CocoGro will produce exceptional results. Its high stability in reservoirs also makes it attractive in drip irrigation systems. Make sure the electrical conductivity (EC) of your Coco medium doesn’t get too high, but be prepared to feed with every watering.
CANNA’s pioneering research into Coco and Coco specific fertilizers also led them to create a more advanced fertilizer and matching substrate. CANNA CoGR is a substrate designed for the expert Coco gardener looking to maximize yield and performance. Comprised of a two part COGr Vega, a two part COGr Flores, specific COGr Boards as the growing medium, and a COGr Buffer Agent to buffer the medium this line is intended to push the limits of Coco gardening to its maximum potential.
CANNA’s BioCANNA line is designed for the gardener using good old-fashioned tried and true soil. Not only easy to use but also certified for organic gardening BioCANNA is the ideal soil fertilizer. The BioCANNA line consists of a one part BioVega, and a one part BioFlores. While BioCANNA is intended to be used with CANNA’s Bio Terra Plus potting soil, due to moratoriums from US customs this soil cannot be imported currently. It is, however, compatible with any high quality potting soil. There are many types and brands of soil available, some of my personal favorites are Happy Frog and Ocean Forest, both from Fox Farm and Roots Original from Aurora Innovations. I’ve found BioCANNA works best when fertilizing with every other watering and supplementing with beneficial soil microbes, such as Real Growers Recharge.
CANNA’s Terra fertilizer line is the perfect choice for gardeners favoring soil-less planting mixes. Specifically designed to work well with non-fertilized or pre-fertilized soil-less mixes Terra gets the job done. CANNA recognized the popularity of peat based potting mixes and saw the need to formulate a specific fertilizer to match. The Terra line consists of a one part Terra Vega, and a one part Terra Flores. Designed to perform best with CANNA’s Terra Professional Plus potting mix; however, this line works well with any peat-based planting mix, including Sunshine #4and, my favorite, PRO-MIX HP. Highly stable in reservoirs this nutrient performs very well, from the hobby gardener who hand-waters to the greenhouse master gardener who irrigates.
CANNA Substra has been developed specifically for the gardener favoring an inert medium where runoff water drains away. There are many types of medium you could use with Substra though my favorite by far is Grodan Rockwool. Be sure to pick the right medium for your style, choose something that doesn’t interact with the nutrient solution (is inert) and remember; the faster the medium dries out, the sooner you have to feed again. This unique line consists of a two part Substra Vega in addition to a two part Substra Flores. Unlike many other fertilizer lines there is a soft water version and hard water version, depending on the EC of your input water. The use of a Cal-Mag supplement is not needed with CANNA Substra, either you already have it with the (hard) water you’re using, or it’s built into the soft water version. If you are dealing with very hard water, I suggest using a reverse osmosis filter to strip unwanted mineral content that could interact with the nutrient solution.
CANNA Aqua is for the gardener using an inert medium that recirculates the nutrient solution. Sound like another language? Let me elaborate. These are systems like Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain), Deep Water Culture (DWC), and Aeroponics just to name a few. To learn more about the variety of hydroponic systems, check out our article on hydroponics. Extremely fast draining mediums like Clay Pebbles, Rocks, or Growstones are the ideal choice for these recirculating systems. These particular growing methods favor reverse osmosis water and require more attention and adjustment to pH and EC values than other methods. Given the nature of these systems diseases and problems can spread quickly and unnoticed. Don’t let that dissuade you though; despite its drawbacks recirculating systems can boast incredibly fast growing plants and large yields when compared to other methods.
Hacking the Code
Now that we’ve gone over the different fertilizer lines CANNA has developed and their intended grow mediums and irrigation techniques, let me highlight a few keynotes.
Fertilizing with CANNA nutrients properly is key to success and maximizing the health and yield of your crops. Using CANNA nutrients with the incorrect medium or growing method leads to poorer yields, nutrient lock out, diseases, slow or stunted growth, and if left uncorrected can ultimately result in the death of your crop.
Some of the more common mistakes growers make using CANNA nutrients involve the incorrect use of BioCANNA products. Remember that BioCANNA is a fertilizer line specifically developed for use in soil. This fertilizer is not intended for use in Coco, and nutrient lockup almost always becomes an issue. A reddit user posted a thread probing this issue and CANNA was quick to answer and elaborate.
“Just learned that the BioCANNA line is NOT meant for Coco coir. Wish I would of learned that when I was asking the guy at the shop and he assured me it would. Organics is not meant for Coco. Here is the letter I received.
Thanks for the question. I am sorry but I cannot help you. Coco, as indicated in our literature, does not work with organic fertilizers. To begin, it is of itself not certified Organic. Then organics require the correct kind and number of Exchange Sites to breakdown, along with the ability to remain in situ for a few days. Coco Exchange sites lock onto individual ions once released but then, due to the delay, come off the coco particle as it degrades and takes the ion out of the mix. Then there is a pH issue that also changes these variables. Additionally, if this were an acceptable medium for organic growing, the additional use of the marine and fish products are going to both overheat the medium and detrimentally change the ratio of many elements. This is partially evident in the Calcium deficiency (leaf rolling) you indicate, just as 1 example. The best option for organics remain our TPP or a well designed, properly adjusted potting soil derived from peat, or mineral soil adjusted in your garden. Sorry I could not give you a better solution.
CANNA Research North America”
Am I Doing This Right?
To get the most out of this enhancing product (while making sure your money spent on the product isn’t going to waste), make sure you are applying it as directed. Visit the CANNAgardening Grow Guide page to calculate how often to feed your plants your CANNA products. The page conveniently offers a calculation tool that will take the guess work out of application methods. It calculates your feeding schedule using the following metrics:
Type of CANNA product being used
The size of your tank or grow space
The type of water being used and its hardness value
How heavy of a feeding schedule you are on
The calculator will output your recommended dosages in either mL or teaspoons, depending on preference. The guidelines offered based on the sites calculations are thorough and informative. As with all growing advice and recommendations, there are variables to be considered with each individual grow. CANNA’s disclaimer at the boom of their recommended use guidelines puts it best:
“The guidelines in the table aren‘t an iron law, but can help novice growers to develop a sophisticated fertilisation strategy. The optimum fertilisation strategy is further determined by factors such as: temperature, humidity, plant species, root volume, moisture percentage in substrate, water dosage strategy, etc.”
The More You Know, the Better Your Grow
Scientists working for CANNA have developed quality fertilizers designed to interact with substrates and systems in proprietary ways to provide the best outcomes possible for your crops. Trust in their research, and use CANNA products in their intended methods. Don’t listen to your friend who swears his stuff is the best around. Listen to science and research and you will discover why CANNA is the preferred nutrient choice for many, from the novice to the professional.
The idea of working with microbes can be a bit intimidating or confusing for those that have never done it before. Introducing strains and colonies to your soil culture has a number of benefits that can increase your plant yield, overall health, and vigor.
Beneficial microbes often work within the rhizosphere (the area that surrounds your plant’s root system) of your soil. This is where these beneficial buddies hang out, eat, digest and positively influence what grows above the soil.
They form mutually beneficial relationships with your plants. These bacteria and fungi help to digest potential pathogens and then convert them into food or beneficial nutrients for your plants. They have a little more going on for each other than just the mutual back scratch.
Don’t Wash Off That Rhizobacteria
Bacteria have gotten a bad rap as the reason that we get sick or a reason that your plants die off. However, rhizobacteria is the good kind of bacteria that you should literally pay money for to add to your grow if they are not already flourishing naturally. These beneficial bacteria inhabit the rhizosphere of your plants, working to help increase nutrient uptake and fight against potential harmful pathogens. The most common strains of beneficial bacteria you will find in commercial products are are Bacillus, Streptomyces and Pseudomonas.
It’s All About That Azos
Azospirillum is another type of rhizobacteria that you will often see sold as its own additive. It is some pretty powerful stuff and worth learning all about.
Azospirillum, along with the other rhizobacteria, are nitrogen fixers. This means that they convert the unusable nitrogen into a form that your plants can use. They take in the atmospheric nitrogen, digest it and excrete it so that your plants grow bigger and stronger!
Bennies of Fungi
Although mushrooms are great for you, this fungi is not the type you put on your pizza. Mycorrhizae, Trichoderma, and Glomus are all beneficial fungi strains.
Trichodermaare key in helping your plant reach full potential. They protect the root zones from parasites. After melting the cell wall of the ill-intended pathogens, Trichoderma digest pathogens converting them into nutrients for your crop. Additionally, Trichoderma act as immune support for your plants as it surrounds and protects the roots against disease.
Mycorrhizaeis a wild fungi. They extend the root system of your plants. By extending the root system, Mycorrhizae thereby increase the surface area covered in the soil, expanding your crop’s nutrient supply. It does this by forming a thin covering around the root that continues to replicate, elongating the root.
This is a mutually beneficial relationship. The fungi feed on carbohydrates (photosynthesis by-product) that the roots give up in exchange for the extended ‘root system’ and added nutrients mined by the Mycorrhizae.
Just like Trichoderma, Mycorrhizae help build the immune systems of your plants. These two work well together and can be found in one of our favorite products, RECHARGE.
Trichoderma is more resilient when used with synthetic nutrients and will continue to feed even with use of synthetic, salt-based nutrients. Salt-based nutrients conflict with Mycorrhizae, sending signals that the plant is getting all the nutrients that it needs, rendering Mycorrhizae useless.
Glomus is also a beneficial fungi, and a genus of Mycorrhizae. It thrives in the rhizosphere’s environment. Its main reason for praise is due to its ability to convert soil bound nutrients into plant available nutrients. This is very useful when working with mineral rich soils and growing media because Glomus can use it as food.
When to Use What?
Propagating with Azos
Some beneficial microbes work better in certain situations than others. For instance, when you are propagating it is beneficial to soak your seeds or roots in Azospirillum. This will kick-start the growing process.
Use Azos to soak your growing media in a light solution (4 tablespoons to a gallon of water) before placing your clones in them. Don’t forget the tips! Soak your root tips in a more concentrated solution (one part Azos to two parts water) for about 15 minutes and then plant them in your media.
From Transplant to Veg
Clones are very sensitive to environmental stress. Plants in the cloning stage of life are at a high risk for a potential pathogen invasion. During this point in their life-cycle, we are fond of adding RECHARGEto the mix. RECHARGE contains four different strains of the bacteria, Bacillus, as well as our favorite fungi- Mycorrhizae and Trichoderma.
Using RECHARGE on your transplants and through the vegetative stage is the proactive and recommended approach. Remember the old adage: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A healthy plant will much more easily fight off invaders and maintain vigorous growth than a weak one. By allowing your plants to build up their own defenses and protect themselves against possibly harmful intruders- such as mold and parasites, your crop will be able to maintain stronger growth and better yields.
For best results brew RECHARGEand Mykos together to create a powerhouse immune booster for your plants. You should notice white, healthy roots and a girthy stalk that you wouldn’t have without Scotty Real’s special sauce.
As an alternative to a Mykos and RECHARGE blend, if you are looking to only use one product, we would go with Oregonism or Great White. See the comparison of the products below:
16 species of Mycorrhizal fungi
14 species of beneficial bacteria
2 species of Trichoderma
7 species of Mycorrhizal fungi
13 species of beneficial bacteria
2 species of Trichoderma
4 species of Glomus (Mycorrhizae)
4 species of Bacillus
2 species of Trichoderma
Plus kelp, molasses, humic acid, fulvic acid and amino acids
Bigger numbers don’t necessarily mean better. Great White is double the cost of Oregonism. All three products have shown to improve yields, increase nutrient uptake, and build up tolerance within the plant’s defensive systems. You can use any of these products along with your synthetic nutrients, but make sure to time the addition correctly so you get the most out of your Mycorrhizae.
Not a One Hit Wonder
You can’t expect to hit it and quit it with microbes. They are living organisms that eventually die off. The bacteria and and fungi will self-replicate but they will get weaker every time that they go through the cycle.
It is best practice to inoculate your plants weekly by giving them a healthy brew of their favorite blend of beneficial microbes. It helps to keep the population of do-gooders at a level that will make sure to give your plants all that it requires. The microbes are non-toxic and you cannot oversupply your plants, although you can over-water them if applying too much microbe brew too often.
When in Bloom
It is always an exciting time when your plants transition from veg to flower. Everything seems to come alive and all of your hard work is finally paying off. It is during this time that you will want to take a step back from introducing bacteria and fungi to the rhizosphere.
During flower, your plants don’t require nitrogen at the level that these bacteria will provide. If you continue to use beneficials, we recommend only using RECHARGE, Oregonism or Great White. Although the fungi and bacteria are non-toxic, it is during this stage that your plants will not benefit from it as much as it had in veg state.
For novice growers, we recommend that you stay away from using beneficials altogether when entering flower. If you are feeling the need to continue using beneficials, consider purchasing a solely Mycorrhizae additive. Orca is a liquid Mycorrhizal additive that you can make a very light solution (1-5 mL/gal) to apply to your plants during flower. Mycorrhizae will not harm your plants and will simply die off if is not needed.
The More You Know, the Better Your Grow!
Know that you have a complete guide to using microbes to enhance your grow, there is no reason to not begin inoculating immediately! Creating this community of bacteria and fungi has so many benefits that you just can’t pass it up.
A few things to remember:
When making your brew teas, make sure that you are using water with a pH of 6.0 or are mixing with distilled water
Store your microbes in a room temperature environment to ensure they do not die off due to extreme temperature changes
Reinoculate weekly for the best results
Soak your roots in a denser solution than your growing media
Always follow the supplier’s user recommendations when first starting to use them
They are non-toxic
A natural way to boost your plant’s immunity, growth and nutrient uptake
For more information about beneficial microbes and other useful growing information, visit our blog page or come visit us at one of our seven locations!
Trichoderma is a beneficial fungus that helps to protect your plants against molds and bacteria. These tough little guys stand up against root rot and grey mold, protecting your plants from being destroyed. They create a barrier that make it impossible for harmful bacteria and pathogens to pass through.
Trichoderma surrounds your plant’s roots releasing compounds that trigger their natural defense systems.
Fungi That Flexes
These guys aren’t messing around. Not only do they strong arm potential pathogens but they also have the ability to kill those that may already be present. Additionally, Trichoderma reduces Pythium, Fusarium and Rhizoctonia. These enzymes attack harmful soil bacteria and fungi. They wrap themselves around the harmful fungi, releasing these enzymes that then dissolve the invaders cell wall. Think of how a snake’s saliva breaks down its prey after it has swallowed it whole. Yeah, kinda like that. The sexy action term for it is “microbe parasitism.”
They produce mainly two types of enzymes: cellulase and chitinase. Cellulase is an enzyme that breaks down cellulose (the structure of plant cell walls). On the flipside, chitinase is an enzyme that breaks down chitin (the structure of fungal cell walls). Chitinase is also what breaks down the crunchy exoskeleton of insects but as far as studies show, this fungi isn’t an omnivore as of yet. Trichoderma is some mind-blowing stuff. They know when to activate which enzyme depending on what root system and soil that it is residing within to not cause harm. Is there anything that these beneficial fungi can’t do??
Who Are These Fungi?
There are four different species of trichoderma- harziamum, viride, longibrachiatum and reesei. Each of these have defining characteristics and qualities but mainly are separated by what they eat.
Trichoderma harziamum is the most commonly known species of this beneficial fungi. It likes to hang out in temperatures between 86 to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It is used as a fungicide and a biocontrol for a number of different fungal pathogens.
Trichoderma Viride was thought to be the only species of trichoderma for a long time. It is also known as the “green mold disease of mushrooms”. It breaks down both chitin and cellulose and uses them as its food source. According to our beloved grow expert, Scotty Real, “Its ability to break down both compounds make it very adaptable.” This species can grow on wood (cellulose) and fungi (chitin).
If you are considering doing any mushroom farming in the future, make sure to keep this particular species far away from any mushroom cultivation. Trichoderma Viride have voracious appetites for all fungi.
Trichoderma longibrachiatum is not used as often as some of the other species of this fungi. This new kid on the block is the most recently discovered Trichoderma. It is particularly powerful and is often genetically modified to make enzymes that enable it to perform as a bioremediator (meaning that they can clean up heavy metals).
Just as great as they can be in cleaning up, they can be just as terrible when found in the wrong place at the wrong time. Trichoderma longibrachiatum pose a high potential for causing allergic reactions in humans. It is the common black mold found in air filters and the corners of your windows.
Although beneficial in your soil, those that have lymphoma or have recently had a bone marrow transplant should fear this strain like the plague because it has been known to colonize in recovering patients….
Scotty Real is a pretty big fan of Trichoderma reesei. He shared with us that it was first discovered during World War II on the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. The allied soldiers were finding that it was eating the cellulose off their clothes and wearing holes in the canvas of their tents. Present day fashion designers now use Trichoderma reesei to create the “stone washed” jeans effect that keeps going in and out of style.
In addition to eating cellulose, Trichoderma reese excretes antibiotics for the plants. These antibiotics trigger the resistance response within the plant to help it to fight off fungal pathogens.
You can find Trichoderma organically in nature in native soils on nearly every continent of the world. They can be found in soils of varying temperatures but thrive between 77 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Outside those temperatures, the fungi begin to lag or die off.
Trichoderma is very resilient and can survive in the face of pathogens, heavy metals and bacteria. These spunky little fungi can handle just about anything that you throw at them. But humans are giving them a run for their money by interrupting their natural balance and ability to organically exist in soils.
Just like we are responsible for salt build up and alkaline soils, we are killing off these beneficial bacteria with mining, construction, pesticides, drought, flooding, and extreme heat waves. We now find ourselves having to add it back to our soils instead of benefiting from its naturally occurring colonies. Just one more reason to give a shit about environmental practices, and how your food is grown…..
In addition to helping your plants keep themselves healthy and fight off diseases, Trichoderma also help increase nutrient uptake, increase growth, increase yield and increase the amount of seeds they are able to germinate.
Trichoderma and Other Microbes
Trichoderma work well with other microbes, buddying up with anything that is going to increase the health of its rhizosphere. It will literally melt any pathogenic fungi causing ZERO negative effects.
Scotty Real is a believer in combining Mycorrhizae with Trichoderma for even more stellar results. So while Mycorrhizae extend the root system, mining the soil for life-sustaining molecules, Trichoderma protect against and even kill off the bad guys. Both of these improve the health and overall vigor of the plant.
Biopriming with Tricoderma
Biopriming with Trichoderma is a fancy trick that requires just a few supplies and resources. By soaking your seeds in a Trichoderma-rich solution, you are giving that seed a leg up by empowering them with all the benefits of that fungi. It’s not exactly a Bubble Boy scenario, but it kind of is. Trichoderma provide everything your little seeds need to protect themselves against infection!
Hydro Versus Soil
Although the benefits of Trichoderma are usually researched within soil, it can be a big benefit in hydroponic grows as well. However, there are notable differences in the two different types of growing media. Trichoderma will take less time to inoculate within soil because the soil provides a host and food immediately upon arrival. There is no initial food source for the colony to take a hold of in a hydroponic system. It is only when the root system grows in length that they are provided with a food source. Until that time however, the colony will begin to break down the cellulose of the coco or peat to use as a food source.
In both systems, you have to reinoculate (add a Trichoderma brew) about once a week. The Trichoderma will replicate itself but it loses its strength over time. It is best to introduce new, strong fungi to replace the withering guys on a steady schedule to make sure that your plants are always being taken care of by this powerful workforce.
Beware! Trichoderma is an opportunistic pathogen and will adhere anywhere it is applied. If you drop some sprinkles on or near something that you did not intend and there is a food source, it will thrive. This is particularly useful information for mushroom farmers!
How to Use Trichoderma
Trichoderma has a lifecycle of about 28 days. It will replicate itself again and again all on its own but the quality of its performance will weaken over time. Thus, you must reapply to maintain the desired effects on your plants.
The great news is that it is all natural and won’t hurt your plants if you exceed recommended dosages. We recommend the “once a week treat”. The only danger is over-watering your plants if applying the tea too often.
You want to apply your microbial brew right to your plant’s soil or media. Putting it into your reservoir allows for potential putrefaction caused by dips in oxygen levels. Trichoderma prefers to live in the same pH level that is recommended for your plants, 5.5 to 7.5 pH. So you shouldn’t see any issues when adding it to your growing media.
Trichoderma is like homeopathic medicine when you have a cold. It is just as much about prevention as it is early detection. If you start applying them too late into the game you will sadly let down by the results.
Trichoderma Product Recommendation
RECHARGE today, RECHARGE tomorrow, RECHARGE forever. It is the best bang for your buck, with over 400 million of those little beneficial microbes per gram. Most importantly, it has years of proven results with growers everywhere. You literally won’t find one of us that don’t use and love this stuff!
“Recharge is a Natural Soil Conditioner that enhances the quality of any crop, potted plant, lawn or landscape material. If it grows in soil, Recharge will grow it bigger, stronger and most importantly, the way nature intended.”
RECHARGE is compatible with any fertilizers or nutrient that you may be using in your grow. All you should look forward to is a healthy root system and a resilient plant. Just add a 1/4 teaspoon per one gallon of water, and water-in once a week.
If have been or are planning on doing more research on beneficial microbes you will likely run across products touting the powers of mycorrhizae (and we love mycorrhizae, but…). Both Trichoderma and Mycorrhizae are fungi, but have notably different qualities. Mycorrhizae is a symbiotic fungus, meaning that the fungi and the plant benefit from their relationship by working together.
One defining difference between the two fungi is what they eat. Mycorrhizae eat only very specific sugars, and they work hard to get it. Mycorrhizae works by sheathing plant roots, weaving a fungal web that increases the surface area of the root. It attaches to the root tip and seeks out plant nutrients, increasing the absorbency of the root by up to 8,000x. Do the math: more food equals more growth and stronger plants. A by-product of vigorous growth and healthy plants is disease resistance. So yeah, there is that too.
Another thing that sets these fungi apart is that mycorrhizae do not do well with salt-based nutrients. When Mycorrhizae are exposed to salt-based nutrients they interpret it as a signal to stop searching out nutrients. At this point, nutrient uptake comes to a screeching halt. The difference here being that Trichoderma will continue to eat and work no matter the amount of fertilizers or nutrients that are present. As long as there is food on their plate, Trichoderma will continue to gorge.
Two Fungi are Better Than One
Mycorrhizae are highly beneficial for organic long-term gardens but when working with a 90 day crop cycle, Trichoderma will benefit you more in a shorter amount of time. However, the two make a great team. They are not competitive in anyway and when applied to your grow, you will reap the benefits of both being present. In our experience, when the two work together they help to create the most resilient plants that you can grow, with the bonus of using organic and natural products.
Can You DIY This Fungi?
Although we recommend purchasing your fungi from a retailer for safety’s sake, you can make it at home if you are feeling super domesticated. What you’ll need is:
Small amount of Trichoderma powder
Three cups of rice
Two cups of water
Rice cooker (or pot with lid)
A stirring spoon
Some ziploc baggies
Sewing needle or thumbtack
Safety glasses and gloves
Here we go:
Put your water and rice in the rice cooker. Turn it on. If using a pot and lid, bring the rice and water to a boil then lower to a simmer and put the lid on it. Cook until the moisture is gone (about 25 minutes).
Put a couple spoonfuls of the cooked rice into a new and clean ziploc baggie. Squeeze all the air out, packing down the rice and then seal the bag and wrap it to keep any spores or air from getting in. Let the rice cool until you can handle it comfortably.
Once the rice is cool, open the bag and add a 1/2 teaspoon of Trichoderma powder to the rice. close the bag again. Don’t squeeze the air out this time. Seal it with a rubber band at the top, not the ziploc part. Let the bag naturally fill with air. Shake the bag and spread around the fungi on all the rice. Create two sections to the bag. Pack the rice tightly again at the bottom, leaving the air at the top of the bag.
Take your needle and poke about 10 holes in the air-filled part of the bag.
Do this repeatedly with as many bags until all the rice is gone.
Place the bags in a clean area that is room temperature that is not too dark.
Shake the bags again in two days, pack the rice down again and let sit for another 7 days.
The fungi is ready to use. It will remain usable for 3-4 weeks. The Trichoderma could be anywhere from dark green to light yellow to white. If it is healthy, it should smell vaguely like coconut sunscreen.
Once you are ready to use your homemade fungi, dilute 1 kg of rice with 200 liters of water. Any unused fungi can go into your compost or simply placed in the trash. Be very careful to not spread any unwanted spores in your home or garden!
The More You Know, The Better You Grow!
By using Trichoderma in your grow, you are taking action to create a healthy root system and plants that are more resistant to pesky pathogens. It is all natural and saves you from having to resort to applying nasty chemicals. Once you find out how well it works for you, tell a friend about your new little fungi friends!
Flatulance, while this might be an oversimplification, is essentially the process from which Azospirillum convert nitrogen gas to plant usable, ammonia (NH3). When it comes to nutrition nitrogen is the limiting factor in plant growth, playing a key role in almost every process of a plants life. In effect, azospirillum also affect almost every process of a plant’s life. So yeah, it’s pretty important!
Nitrogen exists in our air and our soil. Actually, 78% of our atmosphere is made of nitrogen (N2). The way it exists in our atmosphere doesn’t do much for our plants unless it can take on a solid form. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria take in nitrogen the way that we do oxygen.
Then they excrete it as a solid form that plants can use. When nitrogen is taken from gas to solid, it is called nitrogen fixation.
There are two main types of nitrogen-fixing bacteria: free-living and mutualistic. The free-living bacteria are the self-sufficient, independent radicals of the group. Azospirillum is a mutualistic type of bacteria that creates symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship with the soil and the roots that grow in it. They are also known as root-colonizing bacteria or rhizobacteria.
The efforts of azospirillum can only be matched by a couple of other rare events in nature that require much more energy than releasing a few little bacteria to do the dirty work. Other natural elements responsible for nitrogen fixation include: ultraviolet radiation, electrical equipment and being struck by lightning. We suggest sticking with picking up a bag of Xtreme Gardening Azos for your azospirillum fix.
Are All Bacteria Created Equal?
There are three different strains of azospirillum- amazonense, brasilense, and lipoferum. Along with a few other defining characteristics, it is their cell size and shape sets them apart from one another. They all have been found to work well with grasses, sugarcane, rice, maize and sorghum. Although, their little bacteria-sized magic works when applied to other types of plants as well.
Azospirillum amazonense differentiates itself from the other two common strains due to its ability to be more resistant to soil acidity than the others. This is good to know if dealing with soil that has a lower than ideal pH score.
Azospirillum brasilense is probably the most well-known and common bacteria used in plant growth. It has been studied more than other species of azospirillum. It is the species of azospirillum that is most often used in fertilizers and growth supplements available today. To get heady, what chemically sets this specific bacteria apart is its ability to use the beneficial carbohydrates ribose and mannose. Without the presence of Azospirillum brasilense your plants would have a hard time making use of the sugars that ribose and mannose provide.
Azospirillum lipoferum’s name can be translated to “small, fat bearing, spiral”. This species of azospirillum is set out from the others for elongating the roots in plants more than the other species.
You Wanna Put What in My What?
Class: Alpha Proteobacteria
Azospirillum is a grower’s little helper. When adding azospirillum to your soil, you are allowing them to go to work on the root zones of your precious plants. The bacteria reproduce and multiply on the root hairs and create little swollen bumps called root nodules. It is inside these nodules that these little bacteria do the work, you might say they can work from home… They convert nitrogen gas to ammonia (NH3), an important element that you find in fertilizer and is very beneficial to plant’s health.
Ready to brush up on your Latin root words? Azospirillum is considered a biofertilizer because it is living (“bio”) and promotes growth (“fertilize”). When you add azospirillum to your soil, it offers gas exchanges and nutrients that are beneficial to the growth of your plants. The use of biofertilizers helps to avoid using chemical fertilizers and helps you to enhance your grow in a more natural way.
Supplementing with azospirillum in your grow will help your plants convert nutrients into energy and grow at a faster rate. It is a growth tool and supplement. The benefits of using this bacteria have also shown to help plants become generally stronger all around. Scientific studies have proven that incorporating azospirillum in your grow will increase drought resistance in plants, provide protection against the adverse effects of salts, and increase resilience when faced with toxicity and pollution within their environment. Basically, azospirillum gives your plants superpowers.
What Would WTG Do?
The best product we have come across to boost azospirillum content is Xtreme Gardening’s Azos Beneficial Bacteria Natural Growth Promoter. It comes in 2oz, 6oz, 12oz and 8lb bags to serve all sizes of grow operations. It puts to work the most commonly used azospirillum brasilense to bump up the growth rates of your plants. Azos is a product with a history of helping to create world record-breakingly large plants and produce, such as the 2015 pumpkin that weighed in at 2,230.5 pounds! You can use this product on your fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs, or whatever else you choose to grow in your garden.
How Do I Use It?
Again we are going to emphasize using Xtreme Gardening’s Azos if you are looking to introduce Azospirillum to your grow, don’t waste your money on the other brands.
1) Raised Beds and Soil
Azos can be used in all different growing mediums from soil to hydroponics to aquaponics. If you are going to use it in your initial setup or a backyard garden, add a tablespoon to the hole you will be placing your plant in. Alternatively, you can also apply it directly around plant roots or dust the entire root ball with one tablespoon of Azos.
To make the best use of it when growing clones, make a mixture of four tablespoons of Azos and a gallon of 6.0 pH water. Soak your material of choice (i.e. coco, rockwool or plugs) in the mixture for about 10 minutes. While your material is soaking, make a more potent solution that is one part Azos and two parts 6.0 pH water. Use this dense solution to soak the root tips of your clones in for about 15 seconds before putting them in their presoaked plugs.
If you have an automated system that delivers your water and nutrients, you can add Azos to that as well. Make sure that your water’s pH is at 6.0 and add one tablespoon to every gallon of water in your reservoir. Your system will do the rest!
To have the same effect during the vegetative stage, you can mix a light solution and use it to water in your plants. You will want to mix two tablespoons of Azos to every five gallons of water that you add to your reservoirs or soil. The manufacturer recommends applying this mixture once a week to see the best results. Use warm water (65-80℉) when mixing any type of solution to better allow the Azos to disintegrate and be evenly distributed.
5) Brew a Tea
For super crazy results, you could brew Azos with Xtreme Tea Brews at the rate of two tablespoons per gallon and applying it weekly.
Can I Make it Myself?
Planting legumes and bean crops (i.e. clovers, alfalfa, peanuts and soybeans) help to fertilize the soil and fix the nitrogen in the areas they are planted. Leguminous crops are great for your garden. They already have root nodules that house nitrogen-fixing bacteria. When your plants are alive and thriving, they use the fixed nitrogen for themselves. The great thing about them is when they die, all that great fixed-nitrogen sticks around in the ground. By rotating your crops, you can release the benefits of those leguminous crops upon the next crop that are placed in that same area of soil. Make sure to let your nitrogen fixing plants die before removing them for the added nitrogen benefits.
The More You Know, The Better Your Grow
Who knew that these little buggers could have such a big impact on your grow? Nitrogen-fixing bacteria are a great tool to have in your arsenal to help your plants grow to the best of their potential. Releasing azospirillum into your soil to convert the nitrogen that exists in our air to a form that they can use is like being a great wingman. You’re giving them a leg up they wouldn’t have had before.
The thing we like the most about using azospirillum is that it is all natural. They eliminate the need to use chemically, genetically engineered fertilizer to get better results out of your grow. Way to Grow loves its Azos, and so will your plants!
Light Emitting Diodes or Ceramic Metal Halides? You Be the Judge.
Have you found yourself digging through Google pages full of LED hula hoops and burning man posts to find out more about LED lighting technology? Want to know how they stack up to LECs? Suffering from a case of FOMO when it comes to your yields? Learn from decades of lessons learned the hard way.
Ceramics, Not Just a High School Art Class
Ceramic metal halides (CMH), also known as ceramic discharge metal halides (CDM), are also known as light emitting ceramics (LECs). Basically, those are a lot of names for the same bulb and technology. CMH fixtures pull low watts and cover large areas, making them an energy-efficient choice when comparing your lighting choices.
CMHs tend to be a long time favorite with growers. They came on the market to replace high-pressure sodium lights and regular metal halides. CMH fixtures offer a bulb with a longer lifespan than their predecessors and are designed with a higher color rendering index (CRI) that more closely mimics the spectrum of the sun. The Sun System LEC 315 has a 92 CRI rating. For reference, the sun has a CRI of 100, and an HPS bulb has a CRI of 25.
LEC 315 fixtures are offered in two different spectrum heavy options- a 3,100-kelvin red heavy lamp, and a 4200-kelvin blue heavy lamp. You want to use the blue spectrum light during your vegetative state, and switch out your bulbs to the red spectrum in flower to get the most out of your plants. LECs, whether it be 315w or a 630w, have a lifespan of 20,000 hours and their ballasts are rated at 50,000 hours.
What’s Up with LEDs?
Light emitting diodes (LEDs) work a lot differently than CMH fixtures. Instead of one long bulb, like the LEC uses, LEDs are made up of hundreds of little lights called diodes. Each of those diodes is a set specific spectrum of light. LEDs come in panels that combine hundreds of different diodes spectrums with others to create a large panel of full spectrum light.
Some LEDs come in strips and are great for growing things in rows, like for growing produce in a greenhouse. For grows looking for more even light distribution and larger coverage, there are many different sized panels to choose from. There are also many different LEDs on the market that combine their diodes differently to provide different spectrum heavy panels. Creating the perfect balance of spectrum for your precious budding babies is important in giving them the ideal environment in which to grow.
One of the differentiating factors about LEDs is that they are dimmable and micro adjustable. This means you can dim your lights from a higher blue to a more red spectrum with the turn of a dial. It allows you to cater to your plants and their stage of growth without having to change out bulbs or move your plants into a finishing room. This is such a cool breakthrough in grow light technology! This is very handy when your plants may be experiencing a large amount of heat and you need to bring it down a notch, literally. For its consistent, superior lighting technology, our personal favorite LED on the market right now is NextLight.
So, Which One Do I Need?
There are benefits to both kinds of lighting. For example, CMH fixtures provide a lot of light energy and cover a very large area. The dimming capabilities on LEDs is something not offered by any other light. So, which do you need? That depends on the size of your grow, how long you will be growing (will you be growing for 1, 2, 5+ years), and your budget??? All questions you need to answer.
It is not worth the cash to use LEDs to propagate your plants. Seedlings or clones require such little light energy so we recommend going with a cheaper lighting option if that is all that is in your grow space at one given time. Using a T5 fluorescent fixture, bumped up with Hortilux PowerVeg T5 bulbs, is a cost-efficient way to get your plants vigorously underway. This way you aren’t wasting the limited life of your expensive a$$ LEDs or CMHs.
Again, don’t waste your money on using one of these bad boys for propagation. Your cheap little T5s will work beautifully. One CMH fixture can cover a 4×4 or 5×5 growing space during the veg stage and a 3×3 in the flowering phase. The Sun System LEC 315 has a high 1.95 PPF (photosynthetic photon flux) per second light source. This means it is effective at penetrating the canopy of your plants to offer light to the entire length of vertically growing plants.
The comparable Next Light version of the LED would be the NextLight Mini. It only pulls 150 watts but covers 3×3 foot veg footprint or a 2×2 flowering footprint. LEDs are known for not having the same light intensity as CMH fixture, but we have found that the Next Light Mini does a comparable job and is rated at 1.73 PPF per watt. The NextLight offers a five-year manufacturer warranty on their fixtures, so at least you have a peace of mind should anything happen to your investment.
Hanging your lights was made so much easier when pro grips were invented. All CMH and LED fixtures should come with V-hooks attached to them that will make hanging them a piece of cake. Set yourself up with some Sun Grip Light Hangers. They create a pulley system that attaches to your V-hooks with carabiners. Cinch those babies up and enjoy the ease of movement you have with your pulleys when you need to adjust the height of your lamps.
The light hangers are really useful when you consider that the Sun System LEC 315 weighs in at just over 20 pounds and the NextLight Mini weighs 12 pounds. Not something you are really wanting to have to lift and move up and down an old school chain hanging system when adjusting your height by just a couple inches. Plus, with the pulley system you can adjust heights when the lights are on without having to wait until lights are off and they’ve cooled down enough to touch.
Do Your Lights Hang Too Low?
CMH fixtures put off quite a bit less heat than their counterparts, but still produce heat nonetheless and you still need to get rid of that heat so you don’t overheat your grow. You are going to want to place them higher than you would with LED. The recommended height is 24 inches from the canopy of your plants to avoid bleaching or burning your leaf tips.
CMH fixtures are not air cooled and will emit most of their heat directly down towards the plant canopy. To help distribute the heat, you have to HVAC Like a Pro. Proper ventilation and air flow are one of the most important parts of having a successful grow op. Oscillating fans are a huge help in moving the warmer air around that tends to sit at the canopy throughout the room. Read our blog to learn more about strategic setup to ping pong warmer air to then let it be pulled up and out through your exhaust system.
LEDs can be placed much closer to your canopy. The recommended distance is 12-18 inches from your plants. They emit a majority of their heat out the backside of the bulbs, in what we call a ‘heat sink’. This heat sink hits the aluminum reflector of the fixture, which helps to disperse the heat over a larger area. This aluminum panel works to get a longer life out of your LED bulbs. The heat coming out of the back of the bulb doesn’t just sit there and slowly burn them out, one by one.
Are You Seeing Spots Yet?
Seriously though, have you spent time in your grow and walked out of your room seeing spots? You’ve got to protect those peepers. When growing indoors, you are trying to recreate the power of the sun with your grow lights. Spending too much time working underneath them can cause some serious damage to your eyes.
Wearing your favorite pair of Ray Bans might ward off a few of those UV rays but you should really consider investing in a pair of growing glasses, like the Method Sevens. They work with any type of lighting that you choose to install in your grow and allow you to see your plants with clarity without causing damage to your retinas. Cataracts aren’t sexy- put on the shades.
So, What Is My ROI?
The return on investment is going to be higher on CMHs if you see yourself growing for less than five years. To be real, the initial costs of setting up an LED system make it impossible for some growers. Especially because there are a lot of other parts that go into a grow (i.e. air conditioning, nutrients, etc). You can’t blow your cash load all on your lighting. If you are in it for the long term, investing in LEDs will save you money over a longer amount of time in both bulb replacements and energy costs.
If you know that you have a fear of commitment, don’t worry. Using CMHs in your grow have actually be seen by our growers to provide a higher yield in vertical growing plants due to their higher PPF and canopy penetration. It allows you to get the most out the less expensive option of the two types of lighting; even if you are going to be replacing bulbs about once a year.
Let’s Break it Down
Both CMH and LED fixtures are great for growing a high-quality product but they do have their differences.
Initial costs are lower
Bulb lifespan is 20,000 hours
One year warranty on the lamp
Ballast has 50,000-hour lifespan
Recommended to change bulbs for veg and flower stages
Higher PPF and canopy penetration
Better standalone lights
Offers full spectrum lighting in one bulb
Initial costs are steep
Bulb lifespan is 50,000 hours
Manufacturer guarantee of 5 years, Unit has 100,000-hour lifespan
Numerous narrow bands of spectrum to create a full spectrum
Better supplemental lights
The More You Know the Better You Grow
LED technology is continuing to develop- making them more cost effective and appealing to the novice grower. In our experience, those that have tried them out like them but prefer the results of CMHtechnology, especially considering the start up cost of an LED set up.Don’t feel like you need to keep up with the latest trends though if your budget doesn’t allow it. Ceramic Metal Halides provide a great product and provide a great lighting option for your grow.
Want to learn more? Stop into one of our seven store locations and talk with our knowledgeable staff or visit our blog page for other ways to improve your grow!
If you still want to Google LED vs Plasma after reading this, don’t waste your time just click here!
LED or Plasma? Both cost a sh%#ton, so which one is better? If you have found yourself Googling answers to this question, search no more. Let us save you time and money. Learn from our successes and failures with these two expensive a$$ grow lights.
What’s the Deal with Plasma?
Lighting emitting plasma (LEP), also known as plasma lights, are a full spectrum light from infrared to ultraviolet. Plasma bulbs are a solid state bulb that have no moving parts. They are not equipped, nor do they need, a fan which makes them a single piece of silent machinery.
As a low wattage bulb, they are incredibly energy efficient while offering all the benefits of being able to mimic the sun’s spectrum closely. Plasma lights have almost a 100 CRI (color rendering index) rating, meaning using them is the closest thing to using bottled sunlight that there is on the market. The Gavita Pro 300 is our recommended plasma fixture, and will see an average lifespan of 30,000 hours!
Plasma lights are not dimmable because they are at such a low wattage already. The bulbs are only offered in two colors, one more heavily weighted with red spectrum and the other in the blue spectrum. The best pattern footprint to use in your grow is to use a blue plasma bulb as supplemental light to a mainly high pressure sodium (HPS) setup.
What’s the Deal with LEDs?
LEDs are composed of panels that have a varying number of light emitting diodes (LEDs) with an average lifespan of 50,000 hours. Each light is a narrow band of the light spectrum.
You can purchase different bulbs and combine them to create varying spectrums to cater to your plants and their stage of development. Alternatively, you can purchase pre-selected bulbs that have been matched with one another to provide the fullest spectrum available. We recommend the NewLight LED line as the best currently on the market, coming soon to a Way to Grow near you! LEDs are also dimmable and the color spectrums can be micro-adjusted during different stages of your plants life.
You can buy LEDs in strips that are useful in greenhouses which are growing produce aligned in rows, such as lettuce or broccoli. For plants that require broad and even coverage, it is best to arrange your lights in a pattern footprint that allows for consistent coverage across the canopy. You can use panels that are 2×2 feet that house hundreds of LEDs to create the coverage that you need.
The blue light spectrum of LEDs is the most energy efficient and and is the highest in light energy (the amount of energy a photon possesses in electron volts and is measured in joules). Red light is the lowest in energy light but plants have evolved to take up and use red light more efficiently due to this fact.
When to use which?
Although both LED and plasma lights can be used for growing seedlings or clones, we do not prefer to use them for this application. Growing seedlings and clones requires very little light energy during those early stages of growth.
Plasma bulbs can be beneficial during this stage, but you need to make sure to do it right. Yes, plasma lights provide the closest spectrum to natural sunlight and run very low wattage producing little heat. But this doesn’t mean you should just throw your tender little clones directly under a plasma light. If you are insistent on using plasma lighting for this stage of your grow, make sure the fixtures are a good 5-6 feet above your developing canopy.
If we can convince you otherwise, learn from our mistakes. Just use T5 fluorescent fixtures for cracking your seeds, or giving your clones a good start. They are way cheaper, and they do an excellent job. Take your fluorescent fixtures up a notch by outfitting them with Hortilux PowerVeg T5 bulbs. These provide some UV light, and help condition your clones to a more intense vegetative light such a plasma.
So what is the take-away here? Plasma fixtures provide an amazing spectral input to any grow and we highly recommend using them. However, use them where they are needed. Add Gavita Pro 270e LEP fixtures to your HPS mix for the additional spectral input and stellar results, but don’t waste your money using them to clone under.
Our advice for using LEDs with seedlings or clones is the same for LEDs as it is plasmas. Simply put, don’t waste your money using big price tag, high-end technology on such “low maintenance” little guys, who may or may not appreciate the added effort. Use LEDs during vegging or flowering. You can change the spectrum when the time is right to switch your plants from veg to bloom. With the ability to change the color spectrum with the turn of a dial it eliminates the hassle of having a finishing room or having to change out your fixtures.
Moving Towards Light
Well-Hung, Lighting that Is…
When hanging your lights, remember that pro grips are a true godsend. Both plasmas and LEDs come with hanging brackets that attached to the sides of the fixtures. Equip your grow with a set of Sun Grip Light Hangers and attach the hangers with carabiners to your light fixtures. The Sun Grips make it super easy for you adjust the height or your lights with a pulley system.
Keep Your Distance
Plasma lights are low wattage and do not emit much heat. Due to the full spectrum of light that they produce, you must be careful of allowing your plants to get too close to avoid potential bleaching caused by exposing your plants to the light saturation point. It is recommended to place your lights 18-24 inches from the canopy of your plants.
LED lights create a heat sink that emits the heat produced by them out the backside of the bulb, not affecting your plants near the surface of the bulbs. This lets you place your LEDs a bit closer than you would plasmas, 12-18 inches from the canopy. LED fixtures are made with a panel of aluminum that covers the back of the lights where the heat is escaping to. It helps to distribute the heat to not create pockets of heat directly behind the lights. The aluminum panel prolongs the life of the bulb by not burning out one spot in the fixture and also makes it easier to circulate and vent in your room.
Neither plasmas or LEDs are air cooled lights. Due to their low heat emissions, a quality ventilation setup and air conditioning unit will have no problem disbursing the heat created by the lights. Make sure that you are exchanging the air within your grow one every three to five minutes. To learn more about ventilation, read more here.
But, Are They Worth It?
Plasma lights are best utilized a supplemental lighting in your grow to ensure that your plants are getting a full spectrum of light. When plasma lights are used as the sole light distribution, there should be one light placed for every 16 cubic feet.
Plasmas are very effective at canopy penetration and some users believe they increase the potency of your crop. They allow you to grow tall dense plants without the worry of reaching the foliage underneath the canopy.
LEDs are not praised for their ability to penetrate canopies. LED fanatics usually choose to spread their plants out to create a shorter, wider plant base. This prevents competition for light penetration or at least it keeps competition minimal. The ability to dim the lights and get veg and bloom out of one fixture is what keeps some growers coming back to LEDs time and time again.
Is the Price Right?
Plasmas are known to be pretty pricey. They are the most expensive bulb per price currently on the market but the price pays for a bulb with a longer lifespan and higher efficiency. LEDs are also an even more expensive choice in lighting, but the industry is seeing the prices coming down as the technology develops and becomes more appealing to the market.
Bulbin’ on a Budget
Depending on your lighting budget, the return on investment may be worth it if you see yourself using plasmas or LEDs for years to come. The extra money that you spend on LEDs or plasma now will come back to you over time in lower energy bills. They will pull less wattage overall both from direct required electrical inputs, and indirect electrical inputs from air cooling. Unless you have a small fortune to spend or lots of expendable income, we suggest that beginner or personal growers just stick with HID lighting until the cost of these technologies is less prohibitive.
Mama Said to Not Stare at the Sun
When managing your grow, wearing protective eyewear is not often your main focus, but ohhh how it should be! Even the shortest bursts of light exposure at this level can cause irreversible damage to your eyes.
Plasma lights are designed with a high quality glass filter that help to filter out UVC for your plant’s and your eyesight’s protection. While some growers may prefer to remove the glass to utilize more of the bulb’s light emitting power, we recommend keeping it in place. You are still going to be exposed to UVA and UVB with or without the glass.
So don’t fry your eyes! Our go-to for eye protection are Method Sevens. Method Seven has a pair of glasses tailored to just about any grow op rocking just about any lighting technology.
LEDs can also cause harm to your eyes if you don’t take precaution. LEDs have a high amount of blue spectrum (ultraviolet) they emit and is the brightest (in nanometers) of the available color spectrum. This can be very harmful to the human eye, even though your plants may love soaking it up. So again, make sure to rock your Method Seven shades to prevent against spot blindness (AKA “seeing spots”) or other long term effects.
Better Technology, Better Yield?
Due to the technology being so new, the debate is just beginning about whether plasma or LEDs will provide you with a better yield. When considering making the switch to one of these newer technologies (or implementing them as a supplemental light source), consider your limiting factors. The size and production of your grow is limited by three things: your budget, the size of your space, and your available amount of electricity.
Plasmas and LEDs are a financial commitment. Invest in them to see the financial return over a few year’s time in lower energy bills, and increased crop quality. For all you altruistic growers, you can sleep better at night knowing you are not using as much electricity and lowering your carbon footprint!
HIDs are cheaper initially and provide the light needed to cover a larger growing space. You have to evaluate your own limiting factors to determine what works best for your grow. Ultimately, our favorite use for both of these technologies is to add a couple of them to our lighting mix to maximize their spectral benefits, and decrease our overall electrical consumption.
Ok, So Let’s Recap LED vs LEP
While both types of lights have expanded lifespans, and save on energy and electrical costs, they do have differences that set them apart.
Provide full spectrum
Near 100 CRI
Does not skip nanometers
Best used as supplemental lighting
Capable of making micro-adjustments to spectrum output
Veg and bloom in one fixture
Hundreds of diodes to create spectrum
Constantly evolving and improving
The More You Know the Better You Grow
As lighting technology continues to evolve year after year. Researchers are attempting to develop quality bulbs and fixtures that are more energy efficient and provide the best value for their price. This definitely holds true for the ever evolving LED and the relatively new plasma. As technological advancements are made with these two we should see their cost come down making them a more tangible addition to your lighting setup. Until then, stick with HID lighting or splurge and add one or two to your lighting mix.
The next piece in our lighting technology series looks at LED vs LECs or Ceramic Metal Halide fixtures. So keep your eyes open for our next piece if this article left you with….. well, a few more questions.
When it comes to the lighting you use for your plants, how much is too much? Believe it or not, there is a science behind finding out how many lights you should have and how to place them. It isn’t about just putting your one plant under an incandescent bulb in your bedroom closet anymore. The research is constantly evolving in an attempt to mimic the sun- both its intensity and spectrum. Don’t miss what our Grow Guru from The Dude Grows Show had to say about his experience with the different lighting technology. Learn how you can best use the newest lighting technology to your benefit to get the most out of your plants.
Riding the Rainbow
Lighting is one of the most important elements to your grow. Understanding how lights affect your plants allows you to use knowledge as power. The quality of the light provided is defined by the spectrum of light that they emit. This light allows them to conduct biological processes, such as growth and photosynthesis. Different ends of the light spectrum affect the plant differently, signaling to your plants to move from a vegetative stage to a flowering stage.
Every color of the rainbow within the PAR spectrum has an effect on your plants. However, red and blue spectrums have the most influence on your plants’ growth and production. Red light is absorbed by the phytochrome receptor that increases the plant’s production of the hormone metatopolin. Metatopolin helps to prevent the breakdown of chlorophyll in your plants and enables them to be green in color. Blue light is absorbed by the cryptochrome receptor and slows the production of the hormone auxin. Auxin is what helps with the vertical growth and the root development in your plants. Using a full spectrum light (a light that has all the colors of the rainbow emitting from it) is the closest way to mimic the sun.
After all this talk about spectrum, it is important to note that the color spectrum is the first thing that depreciates in a bulb. Don’t wait too long to change your bulbs or the spectrum’s degradation will negatively affects plant growth long before the lumens or PAR drop.
3 Lighting Measurements to Improve Your Grow
1 . PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation)
PAR is range of light that is emitted from the bulb that is measured within the range of 400-700 nanometers (nm) but confusingly enough is not a measurement unit in itself. It serves as a point of reference to show if a light is within the spectrum to trigger the photosynthesis in your plants. If the light that you use is too far-red or ultra-violet (outside the 400-700nm), it can create adverse effects on your plants such as stunted growth or heat burn. You want to be sure that your plants are receiving consistent spectrum across the entire
2. PPFD (Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density)
The PPF is the most important thing to consider when determining how many lights are needed in your grow space. The PPF is the bulb’s “horsepower”. It is the mathematical number of photons per second that are coming out of the light at the point of source per second. This measurement is the way that you can ensure that your plants are receiving the light that they need to thrive.
It is important to note that there are planes of PPFD. PPF is the amount of light being emitted by the source and the density (the PPFD) is the amount of light in a certain spot of the room. The PPFD pertains to the plants directly under the light source. There are varying planes of PPFD as you move further away from the light. It is like a flashlight in complete darkness. The closer to the source the higher the density of light, as you move away from the light the intensity diminishes but the area of coverage increases.
3. CRI (Color Rendering Index)
Another rating to take into consideration when purchasing bulbs for your grow is the color rendering index. The CRI is the uniformity of the light spectrum in the PAR range and how even the light spectrum is. The sun is 100 CRI because it is completely even spectra. When purchasing a full spectrum bulb the CRI should be rated very high but some bulbs test higher than others. For example, light emitting ceramics are very even and broad, running a high CRI, while HPS tend to run quite low.
What you are looking for is a relative Quantum Efficiency Curve, also known as the McCree curve (1). As previously mentioned, your plants benefit from exposure to different color spectrum during different stages of growth. You want to ensure that your plants are capable of going through their photosynthetic processes (natural biological growth process) by providing the adequate amount of spectrum needed at the correct time in their grow cycle.
How Lite is Too Light?
Plants are products of photo-tropism that determines their growth by exposure to different wavelengths of spectra. By withholding blue spectrum during times of vegetative growth you will end up with spindly twizzler looking plants. When a plant is denied red spectrum during flowering stage, you find yourself working with bushy little shrub plants. This is why an even spectrum is so important.
If your grow has areas that are prone to more shadows you may experience your plants growing at a slant in an effort to move towards the point of light source. The reason is that auxins in the plants cause movement away from the shadows and elongation of cells on that side so that the plant bends to face the light. With that being said, there is definitely such a thing as too little light in your grow room. Too little light exposure in general will not allow your plants one of the most important elements that it needs to generate it’s own food and grow.
The amount of light exposure, or photo-periodcity, is also important. Photo-periodcity is how a plant knows when to enter flowering stage depending on the amount of darkness hours that it experiences. When plants are in a natural outdoor environment, they know when to enter flowering stage due to the lessening of daylight hours that occur in the fall season. Indoors, you mimic this change in season by changing the amount of hours they are exposed to the grow lights (or are in darkness).
I Like Big Bulbs and I Cannot Lie
You need to take into account many factors when considering what types of bulbs to use in your grow. This includes the size of your grow, how much you want to invest in your grow, and the number of plants that you plan to have. We were lucky enough to spend some time with our Grow Guru to pick his brain about the different lighting options currently on the market.
High Pressure Sodium (HPS)
Typically, HPS lights are recommended to be hung at least three feet above your plants. You can place HPS bulbs in either an open fixture with a powerful air conditioning unit or air cool them. Air cooled HPS can be hung 18-24 inches above your canopy. HPS bulbs are offered in a 600 watt bulb and a 1000 watt. A 600 watt HPS will cover a 3×3 to a 4×4 grow space and will put off less heat than a 1000 watt. A 600 watt should be placed about 16” from your canopy and a 1000 watt should be about 20” away. A 600 watt is a few extra dollars than a 1000 watt but are more energy efficient, giving you more light with less electricity. The Grow Guru suggests HPS bulbs for flowering but insists they are not great for the veg stage due to the lack of blue in their spectrum.
Gavita Pro E Series 1000
The Grow Guru names Gavita the “industry leader”. The price may be a bit steep but it is well worth the investment. It is the best offering of the HPS bulbs but will only work to your benefit in the right environment. Gavitas require high ceilings to work with them. They probably won’t fit in the average basement grow set up because they were designed for greenhouses in Holland. They also emit a lot of heat. This also has to do with their original design. Originally they were intended to heat the greenhouses in the winter, as well as provide superior lighting. If you go with Gavita, you will to need to have at least three feet of space between the light and the canopy of your plants. For more on Gavita’s double ended HPS technology check this out Gavita Pro- E Series.
Fluorescent bulbs are “white light tailored spectrums”. The Grow Guru finds their canopy penetration leaves something to be desired. A positive to this is that they emit very little heat. The PPF is low, and therefore does not penetrate the canopy as desired or as well as other lights with a higher “horsepower”. This is not to say that you can’t produce a quality product with fluorescent, in your vegetative stage at least, and are actually recommended for a beginner grower due to their low cost. We do not recommend attempting to use these for flower. You will not be happy with your results. It is recommended to keep your fluorescent bulbs 12 to 18 inches from your canopy to avoid potential heat stress. You can always do the “hand test” and hold your hand at the level of the canopy for 30 seconds and see if your hand can stand the heat. You’ll want to raise your lights if you can’t stand the heat.
LEDs emit a white light and can be placed directly over the canopy to the point that plants can actually grow into them. This can be helpful for growing in tight quarters.
Your plants may experience a bit of bleaching on the tips of the leaves due to overexposure to light and arresting the production of chlorophyll. The bulbs don’t emit heat down to the plants, but instead create heat sinks that exit out the back of the light. The prices of LED are higher than some of the other bulb options on the market but the Grow Guru believes we will see prices drop as the technology advances.
Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH)/Light Emitting Ceramic (LEC)
The Grow Guru lists CMH as the industry’s “bulb winner”. The price is right for the quality that you’re getting out of the bulb. Also, it has a high CRI rating making it almost as good as growing under natural sunlight. There are both 91 CRI bulbs and 99 CRI bulbs. CMH are white light bulbs and are typically best for larger grow rooms. CMH cannot be air cooled, but since they put off far less heat this is not usually a problem for most growers. Make sure you place them at least 18 inches away from your canopy.
CMH do allow you to see the true colors of your budding babies without the aid of light filtering glasses, although we don’t suggest doing it for any length of time without them. Protecting your eyes against these powerful bulbs is important. Keep your eyes open for our article coming soon on proper eye protection. You don’t want to grow blind!.
Plasma bulbs are the newest type of grow light on the market and changes and improvements are being made constantly. Plasma bulbs are the bulb that comes closest to mimic the sun’s full spectrum, and provide plants with the perfect color balance they need to grow at their fullest potential. They are however “cost prohibitive”, being the most expensive per watt. Similar to an LED, plasma lights emit little heat and can therefore be placed closer to your canopy than an HPS bulb. Some may argue that the money saved by not needing a large air conditioning system, due to their low heat emissions, could be money invested into purchasing these highly priced bulbs.
Get Hung Up
The placement of your lighting technology not only affects how the canopy receives light but also delivers heat to your plants as a byproduct. Placement of your lights is a total science and can be calculated with all the information given to you on your bulb’s box. Each bulb has a recommended distance they should be placed from your plants to avoid heat stress. Make sure to follow the recommendations by the manufacturer to get the most out of your plants.
The More You Know the Better You Grow!
Integrating your lighting system into your overall grow design before building your room is always recommended when starting from scratch. Whether you are designing a warehouse or looking to improve your current grow setup you can benefit from the following pro-tips:
Ensure that your lighting provides consistent coverage across the canopy of your crop.
Do not make the assumption that your plants are receiving enough light. Use the tools available that you have available such as a PAR meter. They enable you to measure the energy coming from your bulbs.
Provide your plants with a full spectrum of PAR to ensure you receive the best product from your plants.
Just like watering, you can over-saturate or under-saturate your plants with light. Set timers to make sure your plants are getting the adequate amount.
Maintain the quality of your bulbs and plan on replacing them at the appropriate intervals.
HPS bulbs – 9-10 months
DE HPS Bulbs – 10-11 months
CMH/MH bulbs – 6-8 months
Fluorescent bulbs -8-9 months
Make sure to place your lights the appropriate distance from your canopy to avoid heat stress.
The impact that light has on the human eye is different than the effect it has on your plants. Plants take in light to use in the photosynthesis process to convert energy into sugars to consume as food. Different colors of the light spectrum have varying impacts on the quality of your plants, the rate at which they grow, and when they fruit or flower. We had the chance to pick the brain of John G from Sunlight Supply, that was nice enough to share his knowledge and expertise. Come ride the colors of the rainbow with us and John and learn more about how light spectrums and light exposure affect your plants.
Eye Spy With My Little Eye
To better understand what you are offering your plants when flipping that light switch, let’s breakdown some industry info. We asked John G to give us the lowdown, “The light spectrum is measured in nanometers (Nm)- that’s one billionth of a meter. Typically, when evaluating the light spectrum you look at the realm of 380 Nm to 780 Nm. We call this the lumen scale.”
Well, you only “see” the scale of 400-700 nm with the human eye. That’s why in the industry we tend to say that “lumens are for humans.”
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
The 400-700 nm scale is what we know as primary (red, blue and yellow) and secondary colors (orange, green, indigo and violet). Plants have the ability to see further into the ultraviolet (<390 nm) and infrared (700+ nm)- the furthest ends of either side of the light spectrum. However, plants do not benefit from these extreme ends of the spectrum.
John G explains that “plants experience infrared and ultraviolet in the same capacity that humans do.” Infrared is perceived as warmth (1) and does not aid in any vitamin or chemical processes and ultraviolet (UV) rays will prohibit growth and can actually burn and kill the plant, much like overexposure can burn skin.
Mimicking the Great Outdoors
It is a true artist of a grower that can truly mimic the sun. When growing indoors, you are constantly attempting to recreate environmental factors within an enclosed space. From your ventilation system to your lighting, you are trying to mimic both the wind and the sun to trick your plants into believing they are in their natural habitat. Part of mimicking the free offerings of nature, is attempting to recreate the seasons for your plants so they know when to flower and/
Plants respond to the different colors of light due to their ability to trigger different stages of the growth cycle.
Plants’ photoreceptors and hormones are affected when exposed to certain spectrums in different intensities. The segment of the light spectrum that plants are responsive to is called the photosynthetic active radiation (PAR). PAR accounts for the 400-700 nanometer wavelengths that plants see and utilize for growth and development. When playing with the spectrum that you apply to your plants, it allows you to forgo the use of plant growth regulators that can have potential weird side effects on your plants. By discovering the desired balance of spectrum and ideal number of “daylight” hours your plants prefer, you can manage growth naturally (our preferred growing method).
Green Doesn’t Mean Grow
Your plants appear green because it is the color of light they do not absorb and actually reflect. Plants have no use for the color green on the light spectrum and as a result is the color we perceive with our eyes when looking at them. Plants also appear green due to the chloroplasts in the leaves of your plants that produce chlorophyll and are the energy production system of the plant.
Red Light District
Plants have a photoreceptor that is a blue-green in color and called a phytochrome. John G explains that “the sole job of a phytochrome is to absorb red light. The absorption of red light will increase your plant’s production of a hormone called metatopolin.” This hormone prevents the degradation of chlorophyll in the foliage of your plants and is what allows a plant to stay green during the spring and summer months (2). The more chlorophyll that your plants have, the higher ability they have to process more energy and promote their own growth. Red light also helps your plants to determine when to flower and affects seed formation.
The secondary colors on the red side of the spectrum (yellow and orange) have a similar, but less intense, effect as red light would.
Due to the effect that red light has on triggering the flowering phase of your plants you should avoid exposing your plants to red light during their dark period. This means not opening the door to your grow for any reason during their dormant hours or having any other lights within your grow space that may affect them (i.e. power cord power buttons, automated controller LED lights). We recommend covering any lights with black electrical tape to minimize exposure to unintentional light sources. It may seem melodramatic but, just like your emo best friend, your plants are sensitive little souls. The exposure can extend the vertical growth period and put off the flowering phase, which means losing more time until a potential harvest. If your plants don’t move into flowering phase when expected, it is more time spent on that crop cycle, more money invested in nutrients, systems and energy costs.
Just as with the exposure to red light, plants also have a photoreceptor that uses blue, indigo and ultraviolet light. The blue photoreceptor is called a cryptochrome. In the presence of elevated blue light, which is typically emitted more by the sun in the fall season, a plant will slow its vertical growth. This is due to the fact that blue light slows down the production of the hormone called auxin. Auxin is responsible for both root development and vertical growth. When the production of this hormone slows, plants begin to branch out laterally, growing more bushier as opposed to taller.
John G shares that “plants also use blue light to determine how much or how little open their stoma (the pores of the plant responsible for taking in CO2 and emitting water and oxygen). The plants reads the amount of blue light present and will use this information to either increase growth or to slow development and go into the flowering phase. “
The far side of the blue spectrum enters into ultraviolet territory and can be both beneficial and harmful for your plants. Just like UV effect on your skin, it can cause DNA and membrane damage. However, UV can also increase the production of anthocyanin, which can give your plants a purple hue but also help your plants naturally defend themselves against lethal microorganisms. It is a delicate balance.
Light My Way
There are many different light methods that have been used in the growing industry. More recently, the norm has shifted towards the use of mixed spectrum lights that are composed of both red and blue spectrums, created to mimic the sun. “Daylight as we call it is full spectrum. The only down fall to daylight is that in some cases its can be too much light. You will notice that many times at the brightest time of the day plants will drop their leaves and basically shut down photosyntheses. You can see this in garden centers when the plant description tells you how much exposure the plant really likes.” -John G from Sunlight Supply.
This balance is best set at a 5:1 red to blue light ratio (2) but there are many growers that still uses plant or light transfer methods. By this we mean, either changing out your bulbs from a primarily red to blue light when ready to move into the flowering stage in smaller operations. For larger operations, it is easier to move your plants into a “finishing room” with a higher blue spectrum lighting.
You can create your own custom light spectrums by being intentional when combining and choosing your grow lights. When customizing your lighting spectrum, we are big fans of Hortilux bulbs. You can select lights, such as the Hortilux family, to fill your four lamp or eight lamp fixture to create a blue specific formula to use during your veg cycle. You can also select from their FLOWER line to let your flowering/fruiting plants reap the rewards. If you are looking to create a mix spectrum fixture, you can combine lamps that will help to simulate an outdoor growing environment and allow you to avoid any exchange or further thoughts to your grow lights than routine maintenance. To read more about lighting technology, check out this link to see what may be most beneficial for your grow.
The More You Know, The Better You Grow!
Step Into the Light
Your lighting system is an art form to perfect as an indoor gardener. Developing a system for your plants that gets you the most return on investment takes time and experimentation. To help get you there a bit faster there are a few pro-tips that can help you develop your lighting system:
Give your plants a 24-36 hour darkness treatment to speed up the your plant’s transition into bloom
Stick to a rigid 12-12 lighting schedule with no interruptions once your plants have entered their flowering cycle
Use a light timer to keep your plants on a consistent light schedule and know that schedule so you don’t disturb them when they are sleeping
Even brief flashes of light exposure during your plants’ dormant hours can cause damage to your plants cycle and can take upwards of a month to readjust
Lighting is an essential element to creating a quality grow op. By staying informed with our fresh industry information, the more you will come to know how to improve your grow! Keep your eyes peeled for more information about how to choose the right lighting for your grow and how to use it on our blog page.
We had the awesome opportunity to sit down with Scotty Real of Real Growers and The Dude Grows Show. Scotty brought his 25 years of expertise to the table, helping us shed light into the dark corners of the soil world.
Before we jump into beneficial bacteria, we should first talk a little bit about the rhizosphere. Why? Because that is where you will find all of the bacterial action we are about to discuss. The rhizosphere is the microbial party zone.
Often called “the last frontier in agricultural science,” the rhizosphere is the area around a plant’s roots. What makes the rhizosphere more special than other areas in the soil? Roots release special compounds called exudates with which microbes interact, basically functioning as all-you-can-eat salad bars for our microbial friends. Root exudation is a complex process and the many compounds released by roots are not fully studied or understood. We do know, however, that some of these exudates are “amino acids, organic acids, sugars, phenolics” as well as polysaccharides.
Plant growth-promoting bacteria, or PGPB, are found within the rhizosphere of many plants and plant species.
All of these exudates create the ideal environment in which soil microorganisms thrive, and represent one of nature’s most important symbiotic relationships. For this reason, significantly more microorganisms are found directly around plant roots than in other areas of soil. We are talking about the first two millimeters around plant roots.
The amount of interaction between bacteria and plants plays a role in determining soil fertility and overall plant health. Although there are many types of microorganisms on earth, for plant health you want to look for a good mix of mycorrhizae, bacteria, and Trichoderma. If you want to learn more about mycorrhizae, check out our earlier post. For now, there are some special characteristics of bacteria that we want to focus on.
1. They Work With Synthetic Nutrients
“Microbes are not ONLY for organics.” – Scotty Real, Realgrowers & The Dude Grows Show.
Many growers have long believed that if they don’t grow organic, soil inoculation is a waste of their money. Scotty Real confirms this is not the case.
Bacteria strains are more durable than mycorrhizae when it comes to synthetic nutrients. Synthetic nutrients kill off mycorrhizae, so myco-only products are best used strictly in organic gardening. Bacteria, on the other hand, can withstand the concentrated nutrient levels found in synthetics.
If you are using synthetic nutrients, it is best to feed your plants first. Inoculate them with beneficial bacteria after feeding. Although beneficials works with synthetics, they don’t necessarily love each other. If you wait to inoculate after feeding, you reduce the risk of synthetic nutrients causing any harm to your inoculants, especially if you use a mix that also contains mycorrhizae.
Although they work with synthetics nutrients, bacterial strains can be equally beneficial to the organic gardener, as well as the conventional grower.
“In organic growing, you are trying to create this ecosystem that grows itself. So those mycorrhizae have to stay alive and those Trichoderma and bacteria have to stay alive so they can colonize and expand.”
2. They Increase the Bioavailability of Nutrients
“It is like a slow-release capsule of nutrition.”
Beneficial bacteria break down nutrients and minerals into smaller parts that plant roots can absorb more easily. These bacteria are an important part of the carbon and nitrogen cycles and increase nitrogen fixation in the soil.
According to the Annals of Microbiology, beneficial bacteria can also synthesize certain compounds, like hormones, that are good for plants.
They can have either a direct beneficial impact or an indirect beneficial impact on plants, depending on the type of bacteria present and its mechanism.
The production of plant hormones has a direct impact on plant growth. These hormones include auxins, cytokinins, gibberellins, ethylene and abscisic acid. The root tip is the biggest site of cytokinin synthesis. Both cytokinins and auxins promote shoot development. Gibberellins promote overall plant growth, including germination and flowering. Ethylene, on the other hand, stimulates later parts of the life cycle, including flowering, fruit ripening, and leaf shedding. Lastly, abscisic acid helps plants respond to stress and promotes wintering behaviors. For instance, abscisic acid helps trees shed leaves, close stomata, and promotes seed dormancy.
Beneficial bacteria “enhance resistance to stress, stabilize soil aggregates, breakdown organic matter and improve soil structure. PGPR retain more soil organic N, and other nutrients in the plant–soil system, thus reducing the need for fertilizer N and P and enhancing release of the nutrients.”
Nitrogen goes through various transformations as it becomes plant food. Bacteria help with these processes. Nitrogen gas (N2) is absorbed into soil, but is unusable by plants in this form. Bacteria then convert the Nitrogen gas into Ammonium ions (NH4+), which can easily be utilized by plants. The only other naturally occurring usable form of Nitrogen is NO3-, which is converted by lightning in the atmosphere. It then enters the soil through rainfall. Without the conversion of N2 to NH4+ by beneficial bacteria, plant would literally be waiting around for lightning to strike to receive nitrogen.
Nitrification is the conversion of ammonium to nitrate, which plants can use as food.
Plants can also use ammonium as food, so the biological breakdown of nitrogen into ammonium (called Assimilation or Mineralization) helps to feed plants, as well. This also feeds beneficial bacteria in the soil.
Nitrogen Fixation is the conversion of nitrogen gasses in the air to organic nitrogen for plants. Only certain bacteria and lightning can do this.
Bacteria also have an indirect impact on plant growth by inhibiting pathogens. Soil bacteria produce hydrogen cyanide. This is a compound that degrades the cell walls of fungus. This weakens the defenses of the bad guys.
Many types of bacteria also produce compounds that give soil antibiotic properties. Certain bacteria create their own biofilm, which acts as a protective layer. When bacterial colonies are covered in biofilm, it is much harder for pathogens to break into those areas of the soil. In this way, established beneficial bacteria “elbow out” the pathogens by taking over all of the space around roots.
What does all of this mean for you? In soil, you are unlocking the full potential of the nutrients already present. You may also be ale to reduce the amount of pesticides needed in your grow. These same benefits may be available in hydro, as well.
3. Each Type of Bacteria Has a Specific Job
“You gotta get lazier. Let nature do more of the work.”
Naturally Occurring Bacteria
Bacteria comprise four main functional groups.
Many bacteria are decomposers. According to the USDA, they “consume simple carbon compounds, such as root exudates and fresh plant litter. By this process, bacteria convert energy in soil organic matter into forms useful to the rest of the organisms in the soil food web. A number of decomposers can break down pesticides and pollutants in soil. Decomposers are especially important in immobilizing, or retaining, nutrients in their cells, thus preventing the loss of nutrients, such as nitrogen, from the rooting zone.” In the words of Scotty Real, ” their cells are organics and naturally sticky so [nutrients] stay in the soil instead of washing away like salt on your skin after the beach.” These decomposers include Actinomycetes, which give soil its signature “earthy” smell. Bacillus strains are also considered decomposers.
Mutualists are nitrogen-fixing bacteria that form symbiotic relationships with plants. Rhizobium strains are mutualistic bacteria found in the root nodules of legumes. Mutualists also include Azospirillum, a bacteria that is closely associated with grasses.
Pathogens are dangerous for plants. These include Erwinia and Agrobacterium. Erwinia causes fire blight on apples and pears. Agrobacterium causes Crown Gall disease in over 140 species of flowers. Just like with humans, pathogens make a plant sick.
Lastly, you have lithotrophs or chemoautotrophs, which get their “energy from compounds of nitrogen, sulfur, iron or hydrogen instead of from carbon compounds. Some of these species are important to nitrogen cycling and degradation of pollutants.” For instance, Nitrosomonas oxidize ammonia into nitrite and then Nitrobacter turns nitrite into nitrate through the same process.Chemoautotrophs also include some Pseudomonas, as well.
There are tons of native bacterial strains found in soils, but only a few are available commercially. Certain strains of Bacillus, Pseudomonas, and Streptomyces can be purchased or found in inoculating products.
A good microbial inoculant will contain multiple beneficial strains of bacteria, as well as mycorrhizae and Trichoderma. One of our favorite microbial products, Recharge, contains four different types of beneficial bacteria (along with some mycorrhizae and Trichoderma). Recharge contains the following four types of bacteria for very specific reasons.
First of all, these four strains are symbiotic, meaning that they live harmoniously together. Not very many bacteria can do that, even beneficial ones. Most decomposers will try to digest other bacteria, even if they are beneficial.
Bacillus Licheninformis has antifungal properties because it produces an antibiotic that can be helpful in preventing plant diseases. It also produces enzymes that promote and facilitate the nutrient cycle.
Bacillus Pumilus promotes plant growth “by enhancing the uptake of nutrients, nitrogen fixation, interaction with symbiotic microorganisms and producing antimicrobial agents against pathogenic bacteria and fungi as well as by reducing metal toxicity”. Bacillus Pumilus is a type of Bacillus Subtilis, so can often share the same traits.
Bacillus Subtilus functions as an immune booster for soil and plants. It produces the antibiotics polymyxin, difficidin, subtilin, and mycobacillin. These antibiotics increase the “chance at survival as the organism produces spores and a toxin that might kill surrounding microbesthat compete for the same nutrients.” They act as biofungicides and antibiotics for plants. B. Subtilus also creates a biofilm over its colonies. This biofilm protects plants from pathogenic infections, as well as preemptively colonizing areas. Preemptive colonization prevents pathogenic microbes from invading since the area is already claimed by beneficial microbes.
Bacillus Megaterium is the most prevalent bacteria found in soil, hence the name “mega”. Bacillus Megaterium metabolizes soil components to create food for plants and other organisms. It does this by producing the enzyme amylase. Amylase is an enzyme that digests starches into sugars. Those sugars are then used as bacteria and plant food. Like all other beneficial bacteria, Megaterium contributes to the carbon and nitrogen cycles in soil, as well.
4. It Is Good for Any Type of Grow
Whether you are a tried and true soil gardener or committed to growing hydro, beneficial bacteria is a must-have in your grow.
The easiest, most cost-effective, and fastest way to inoculate your plants is with a pre-made product.
You can always brew your own compost tea, but there are products out there that have done the work for you. No matter the type of garden, you can easily inoculate your plants. The easiest and safest way, regardless of your growing method, is simply by top dressing. In either setup, pour directly onto your growing medium.
Avoid putting any type of product (especially ones that contain Molasses) into a hydro reservoir or irrigation system. That is a sticky mess waiting to happen!
5. You Can (and Should) Supplement Regularly.
By dumping synthetic macronutrients down your plant’s throats, you may end up with a fat plant, but you are basically just making plant fois gras instead of growing plant athletes.
If you want to build really strong, resilient, super healthy plants, it is important to be sure they are getting micro, as well as macro nutrients. One of the best, most bio-available ways of doing that is to inoculate with beneficial microbes.
Since microbes increase the bioavailability of all nutrients, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. You can actually cause nutrient burn if you give your plants too many beneficial microbes.
The general rule of thumb is to inoculate once a week, whether growing in soil or hydro. This gives your plants enough time between doses so that you don’t cause nutrient burn, but frequently enough that they get all of the benefits.
The More You Know the Better You Grow!
With a little help from our friends at Real Growers and The Dude Grows Show we were able to dig in and break down beneficial bacteria. Here is the take away:
It is perfectly safe, and totally advisable to add beneficial bacteria to your grow whether you are fully organic or conventional. They can take the heat of synthetic nutrients better than most microbes.
Beneficial Bacteria is so important because it makes Nitrogen and micro nutrients more bioavailable for your plants. If growing in soil, you get more for your money by unlocking the potential of your soil. If you are growing in hydro, you may be able to decrease the quantity of nutrients you use on your plants. Win!
Not all bacteria are the same. Some bacteria are pathogenic. Definitely stay as far away from those as you can. Bacteria also digest carbon and decompose organic matter into usable plant food. They can form symbiotic relationships with plants (mutualists). And chemoautotrophs are special because they turn nitrogen already present in soil into usable ammonium for plant food.
You can inoculate your plants whether you are growing in soil, in hydro, indoor, outdoor, hand watering, or with an irrigation system. Simply mix up an awesome product like ReCharge and top dress your plants! (After feeding if you are using synthetics)
For best results, add beneficial bacteria once a week.
If you’re looking to improve your hydro system, you may be looking to add some new accessories to your setup. Your grow could benefit from new gadgets, like ditching your old aquarium pump for a soundless one with a longer life span. You may also be considering expanding your grow op and may want to think about automating some of your systems to save time and energy. But first, let’s continue with the 201 basics.
What’s in the Water?
When growing with a hydroponic system, you depend on water as the essential growing mechanism. Just like a gardener that has been fouled with bad soil, you can’t expect to grow a fruitful crop with contaminated water. Water is not only composed of H20 (Hydrogen and Oxygen). It also holds dissolved minerals and substances that can be both good or bad for your plants. Just because the water that you use for your grow is the same that you drink, does not mean that it is the best option for your plants. Well water, tap water or spring water all have the potential to contain water treatment chemicals, pathogens or minerals that may impact your grow. They may impact your pH, nutrient levels, and the ability of your plants to uptake nutrients. Don’t fret, these “grow contaminants” are pretty easy to take care of yourself.
How Do I Test My Water?
One of the most common issues when using tap water is the added chlorine and ammonia. When combined these make chloramine. Chlorine and ammonia are used to make water drinkable for the public. If it was just chlorine in the water, you could let the water aerate for 24 hours and the chlorine would evaporate (2). Unfortunately, chloramine has a much slower evaporation rate. To test your water for chlorine levels, you can use the same chlorine testing strips that you would use in your swimming pool. As a rule of thumb, the closer you live in proximity to the source of distribution the higher your chlorine level tends to be. However, in very large municipalities there are chlorine boosting stations throughout their distribution routes. This prevents “chlorine overload” at distribution near the source. To learn more about what may be in your water, you can also visit your local municipality. It is also good to learn what other minerals may be present.
How Do I Fix My Water Issues?
Theoretically, you could solve all your water issues by buying filtered water to feed your plants. This makes the assumption that the water you are purchasing is better than the water coming out of the faucet. So let’s get real, we do not recommend this for any size grow especially for large grows. Even if you are ballin’ on a budget installing a simple water filtration system in your grow is the best option for your ladies and Mother Earth. Your water source is going to be the predicting factor dictating how you will need to filter.
Most growers prefer to set up a reverse osmosis filter when using potentially contaminated water. It is the first line of defense for your plants. Using reverse osmosis allows you to start with a blank slate, so to speak. Its filtering process removes solvents (minerals and chemicals) from the solution (the water) forcing the water through a semipermeable membrane (3). The process leaves you with two byproducts- wastewater and neutral (pH of 7) usable water. Your setup should be equipped with a wastewater bucket to be discarded or a drain and a flow for the filtered water into your reservoir or watering system. A good wastewater system is important due to the inefficiency of the RO system. Typically, you will see a usable to waste ratio of 2:1 even with the most efficient of RO systems. We really dig the quality of the Ideal H20 Classic. You can purchase a 100 up to 1200 gallons per day filtration system depending on your needs.
Carbon is what is used in common water filters that you would use in your house to make your drinking water taste cleaner, like the Brita jug that you keep in the fridge. Carbon filters work to remove chloramine (2) and help to reduce the amount of effort that the RO has to put out. When used as a pre-filter, it removes some of the larger particles that may be in the water you are using (4). A carbon filter will help to remove some of the alkaline residues that can build up and clog your RO system.
If starting with a quality water source (low PPM), a carbon/sediment filter should be enough to remove potential debris and larger molecules that could be harmful to your plants. The type of carbon filter you choose matters. Coconut carbon filters are cheapest and do a decent job. KDF-85 would be a step up from coconut carbon filters, and Catalytic carbon filters are going to provide maximum filtration.
What’s in the Air?
Plants will not survive in stagnant water. You cannot expect to see results from roots that are floating in a still reservoir. There is no way for oxygen to be replenished and delivered to the root system in still water. As your plants take up nutrients, they also deplete the water of oxygen. Sitting water also loses needed gases (like CO2) through evaporation that leaves through the surface. You will want to equip your hydroponic system with some sort of aeration system and/or pump to add the needed oxygen to your water.
Aeration pumps help to add oxygen and movement to your reservoir. Some grow ops can benefit from a
simple aquarium pump while larger scale operations will need to install larger and higher grade pumps. Aeration pumps are placed in a low corner in a reservoir and pull water through one side and out the other. They move water across the bottom and towards the surface to grab the available gases from the air above. It’s like giving every water molecule a chance to come up for a breath of air after swimming along the bottom.
Chase Those Waterfalls
Another option is to create a waterfall effect with your pump. You can pull water from your reservoir and have it pull through a perforated tube that sits over the reservoir. It will eject streams of water out the holes and drop into the reservoir below. It only needs to break the surface. A couple of inches of drop enables the water to gather gases while falling through the air. The additional churning movement is another benefit. The impact on the surface adds further circulation and movement that is beneficial in aerating the water.
Having a pump go out on you can be devastating to your plants. Even if it stops working for just a few hours. The pH levels will be affected, the potential for root rot goes up, and your plants will lack oxygen. Equip yourself with a high-quality pump that will be long lasting. It is recommended to do routine maintenance on your system’s pump every two to three weeks. Remove the filter and wipe away any slime or buildup. It will not only promote a longer life for your pump but will protect your plants in the long run as well.
Automation in Your Grow
Automation can help you limit the amount of time spent handling your plants on a day to day basis. Automating your grow takes away the guess work, nearly eliminating human error. In particularly large grow operations where you have numerous “cooks in the kitchen”, it helps to make the system mindless so that there are no communication issues. Don’t put your yield in harm’s way because you and your partner are doubling up on feedings
You may be thinking that automating your system makes you a sellout but why not use the available technology? Think of how nice it could be if your system operated in the cloud and you could feed your plants or adjust the pH levels from an app on your phone (5)! Consider taking some of the nuances out of your grow with the following systems. We have a product for this
Auto pH Systems
The pH in your nutrient delivery water will go up and down depending on when the plants were last fed and where they are in the growing cycle. Typically, the pH lowers in the veg state and rises in bloom (4). Implementing an auto pH system will let a robot do the mindless testing and adjusting for you. Auto pH systems come equipped with a pH pen to do routine testing on a set schedule. The results will then trigger an electronic response within the box to release a pre-measured dose of either pH up or down into the main reservoir to adjust as needed. Your only tasks with that system are to set the desired pH level, make sure it is has the appropriate chemicals needed to perform, and to re-calibrate the system once a month. We have a product for this
Don’t let that big word scare you. All this means is that you can now automate your nutrient delivery. Some growers see their nutrient blend as an art form. You take the time to know your plants and learn what they like to eat, how often they like to eat it and when they prefer to eat. There is nothing saying that this would take away your grow cred. It does mean that you can teach an electronic device to deliver your plants the nutrients that you know they love on the schedule they prefer. You can fill the reservoir with your perfect nutrient recipe and still take credit for their good looks. They are your babies after all.
The more you know, the better your grow
Starting with a blank slate is ideal to providing your plants with a productive growing environment. You don’t want to be unknowingly feeding your plants water treatment by-products that may be present in your tap water. Using carbon and sediment filters and/or reverse osmosis systems helps erase any potential substrates and compounds that may have an undesired effect on your plants. The use of chlorine to sterilize drinking water for human consumption can raise or lower the pH of the water and affect how your plants absorb the nutrients that you are providing for them. Start with a neutral (pH 7) solution and build your plants nutrient delivery system from there.
Automating your grow is useful for many reasons but don’t become a lazy gardener! You still need to manage your systems and check that they are calibrated correctly so that you are getting the most out of them. You can save time and energy by implementing auto pH and fertigation systems into your grow. Visit us at one of our seven stores to learn more from our knowledgeable staff!
So, what’s all the hype about hydro gardens? They seem to be the next big thing in growing but how much do you really know? Maybe you have considered making the switch from soil to a hydroponic system but aren’t sure how. Lucky you! We’ve done the research, and have the experience so that you’re in the right place. Read up on the history, what, where, why and how of hydroponic gardening here!
Hydroponic 101: Hydroponic gardening is a system to grow plants in a way that does not require soil. That’s right, no dirt. It can be used to provide a growing area in regions that do not have arable (farmable) land or to build large-scale gardens in a small amount of space. Hydroponic systems are often simple to assemble and allow for total control of nutrient levels. Hydroponic gardening enables you to design an environment to grow most anything- during any season, anywhere in the world.
One great advantage of growing with hydroponics is the expedited return on investment you see from your plants. Nutrients are delivered directly to the roots. This speeds up growth processes without sacrificing quality. You can increase the number of feedings without risking over watering your plants. Another advantage is the reduction of fungi and bacteria often associated with soil. Pesticides are not often needed in a hydroponic system when temperature, humidity, and pH levels are carefully managed.
Disadvantages include cost and the time investment. Hydroponic systems are time intensive due to the daily pH level measurements, water temperature checks, nutrient management and pump maintenance. To get the most out of a hydroponic system, it must be treated as the science project that it is. With hydroponic growing, you are creating a synthetic environment for your plants. When playing the gardening god role, you must keep all of your elements in perfect harmony to avoid the imminent death of your crops. Just as fast as your plants benefit from direct contact with nutrient solutions to promote faster growth, deterioration can happen just as quickly when mismanaged.
So, why was hydroponic gardening invented? It allowed for farming and gardening in areas that were too arid or soilless. It also provided larger growing power in smaller spaces. The history and use of hydroponics goes back before recorded history. One of the first recorded large scale hydroponic gardens is also one of the world’s seven natural wonders, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
The Egyptians have hieroglyphs of growing soilless crops on the Nile, Marco Polo discovered the hanging gardens in China, and there are records of the Aztec’s building floating garden rafts. The Aztecs piled nutrient-rich mud from the bottom of lakes on top of these rafts, then used them to grow vegetables and even trees! The Spaniards made notes about the unexpected sight of floating islands of trees and lush vegetables when they arrived. Minds blown!
In the 1600’s, scientists began using hydroponic techniques to learn more about how plants grow, and what elements are needed for a plant to thrive. The first recorded scientific article was written by John Woodward in 1699. He was an English physician that set out to disprove the theory that plants were made up completely of water and could live on water alone. Woodward’s findings proved that plants grown in pure spring water did not grow as fast as those that were grown with dissolved substances from the Thames river, rainwater or soil. Following these studies, scientists came to understand the biology of plants and continued their research.
German scientists in the 1860’s, Knop and Sachs, laid the foundation for many of the hydroponic nutrient recipes we use in our grows today. They discovered macro and micro elements needed for plants health and growth. The meaning of the name given to this style of gardening is Hydro, from the Greek word meaning water, and ponos meaning labor. The work of water and the experiments of those before us have gifted us the wonderful world of hydroponic gardening!
Artificial Environment Components
High powered lights are used to replace the natural sunlight received by plants in the outdoors. The use of indoor grow lights allows you, the goddess of your grow, to dictate the amount of “daylight” hours your plants receive, as well as regulate the quantity and quality of their light. Alternatively, you can operate a hydroponic system with natural sunlight indoors, in a sunroom or greenhouse. However, hydroponic systems are designed for being used in climate controlled areas. Keep in mind, it is easier to manage temperature indoors in an enclosed area.
To simulate the breeze and movement of air, the strategic placement of fans is needed for a successful grow. Plants use the CO2 that surrounds them quickly. Thus, the air within close proximity of the plants needs to be replaced with fresh air at regular intervals. This also keeps the air from stratifying by breaking up layers of heat that are overly oxygenated, or CO2 rich atmosphere layers. Install an intake fan near the floor of your grow room to bring in fresh air. Place an exhaust fan near the highest point of your grow room to pull air from the hottest part of the room.
The movement of air, with the help of the oscillating fans will mimic the movement of air in the outdoors. Fans are also helpful for temperature regulation. Most plants thrive between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Any higher or lower may cause the plants stress and prevent them from producing the highest quality product.
A plant’s root system is very sensitive to stress. To provide a consistent, temperature controlled environment, it may be necessary to implement a water heater or water chilling unit to your grow. We would recommend a titanium water heater over a glass heat for safety and practicality. The nutrient solution being given to your plants must be stored and fed to your plants at the same temperature that the system is running at. Your goal should be to keep the root system temperature at or around 72 degrees, allowing temps to dip to as low as 60 degrees during dormant (nighttime) hours. If you are using a pump, remember that it has a tendency to warm the water. You may want to counteract the pumps heat by using a water chiller. We prefer Active Aqua or the JBJ Artica Chiller. They are consistent and affordable.
Since hydroponics does not use soil, it lacks many nutrients that are typically held in the soil. This means you are going to need to supplement these much needed nutrients in a water soluble solution. When selecting nutrient solutions, make sure to check that they contain boron, calcium, copper, magnesium, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, silica, sulfur and zinc. There are a number of products to choose from but our favorite nutrient lines for hydroponics include Botanicare, General Hydroponics, and Canna. At the very least, you must replace what is being lost in the absence of soil, but a solid nutrient solution will help ensure rapid development and a healthy production.,. Synthetic nutrients are not plant specific. They contain all elements essential to plant growth, but may need to be given in different dosages depending on what you are growing.
There are different formulas that are best suited for your grow. For example, for more vigorous plants such as tomatoes, adding a silica-rich solution will give them the strength to hold themselves upright without the help of stakes or trellises. In addition to nutrient solutions, indoor growers should also consider adding supplemental CO2to the growing atmosphere. When growing indoors, you can accelerate growth even more by implementing a CO2 regime during daylight hours. By providing higher levels of CO2, it allows the plants to speed up their metabolic processes.
The pH measurement runs on a scale from 1 to 14 and measures the acid-to-alkaline balance. One is the most acidic, seven is neutral, and 14 is the most alkaline (basic). Every full point on the pH scale indicates a 10-fold increase or decrease in alkalinity or acidity. This is very important to understand. A drop of water that reads at a pH of six is TEN TIMES more acidic than a drop of water reading a pH of seven. Assuming you’re great at math, then you already know that water with a pH reading of five is a HUNDRED TIMES more acidic than a water pH of seven.
Make sure you pay close attention to your pH levels and read them at least once a day to make sure your system is in balance. If a solution is too acidic you run the risk of salt burn. If your solution is too basic, can severely limit nutrient availability. Most plants thrive between a pH of 5.5 and 6.5. If pH levels sway by a half a point outside this range, don’t worry too much, but this is a warning that something is off. Make sure you investigate what could be throwing your pH off. Anything more than half a point is cause for concern and immediate action. Make sure you adjust the pH up or down accordingly. One of our favorites is Canna Rhyzotonic as a pH up. If you are looking to adjust your pH down, you may want to reevaluate your nutrient solution. If you have made this evaluation and still need to pH down, we recommend Botanicare’s pH down. The plants absorb more elements at different pH levels within the nutrient solution. So make sure you see a healthy swing between the optimum pH levels of 5.5 and 6.5.
How Do I Get Started?
There are a number of different setups to choose from. It depends on your personal preference of which factors you feel like focusing your energy on. Read on to explore your different growing options when using hydroponics to get the most out of your grow.
Deep Water Culture
Deep water culture, or the reservoir method, is the easiest of all the methods of growing hydroponically. In this system, the roots of the plants are suspended in a nutrient rich water bath. A pump, similar to what you would use in an aquarium, is used to bring oxygen to the root system of your plants to prevent them from “drowning” in the bath. Water is the way of delivering nutrients to the plants. Make sure you are not feeding your plants with chlorine rich, nutrient stripped water (i.e. tap water), if you are expecting to see a fruitful crop. We are going to go out a limb here and assume you do want a decent yield, so make sure you are utilizing a water filtration system such as Ideal H20 to filter out sediment, heavy metals and certain water borne pathogens.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
The nutrient film technique is built on a system that is situated at a tilt. A pump ejects nutrient water to the highest point and gravity feeds it back into a pool at the end of the growing table. The water is continually being pumped and again fed through the root system. This way, there is a continual flow of solution that moves over the top of the root systems of the plants. This system does not require an oxygen providing pump because just the tips of the roots are exposed to the fluid. The rest of the root is exposed and available to receive the available oxygen in the room.
Ebb and Flow/Flood and Drain
Ebb and flow systems are the most common for beginning hydroponic growers. Typically, you will have your plant roots placed in a reservoir that would be flooded with your nutrient rich solution according to an automated timer. The reservoir is then drained, providing a resting period for the plants, and then again flooded on demand of the timer. The danger of this system is in relying on a timer and pump to provide nutrients for the plants. If the pump fails, so do you. The ebb and flow works well with plants that benefit from short dry spells and that can survive up to ten hours without getting water if the pump goes out- such as tomatoes and cannabis.
Drip systems deliver nutrients in small amounts continuously throughout the day. It works best when paired with a material, such as Coco Coir, Rockwool or Hydroton. These will absorb the nutrient rich water, and support the root systems. For a hassle free, prefabricated hydroponic drip system we like the Hydrofarm Eurogrower Drip Hydroponics System.
Aeroponics is another method of using hydroponic growing methods. In aeroponics the root systems are suspended in the air to be frequently misted by a nutrient rich solution. Just like in drip systems, if the pump goes out in this system you’re screwed. A typical aeroponic setup consists of gutter type trays that hold a number of 3-inch mesh pots. The roots grow outside the pots and reside in the open air. A line of PVC pipe with misters is placed in direct proximity to the root zone to administer the nutrient solution. The misters are fed by a pump that pulls from a reservoir of solution. Make sure your pump is set on a timer to water 1-3 minutes on and five minutes off. Watering is only needed when the lights are on with this method, with the option to set your timer to administer one or two short sprays during dormant hours to keep the roots moist. If you would prefer to just play around with this method, check out Hydrofarm’s Aeroflo Aeroponics or Rainforest Aeroponics Systems.
Hydroponic mediums serve as an anchor for the plants and aid in moisture retention. When choosing a growing medium, you will want to choose one that compliments the hydroponic system that you have chosen to implement. Different types of substrates each have beneficial qualities to consider. There are three main types- Rockwool, expanded clay aggregates, and Growstones.
The most popular of the available growing mediums is Rockwool. Rockwool is volcanic rock that is spun into thin fibers. It is made from the same type of rock, molten basalt, that is often spread on icy roads in the winter. It is lightweight and very porous. When shaped into cubes, blocks or cubes, it provides a great environment for water and nutrients to flow through. Rockwool is sterile out of its original packaging.
Lightweight clay aggregates are formed into small balls that are fired in a kiln. They resemble a honeycomb in structure. Clay aggregate pebbles have dozens of tiny holes that are useful for storing and providing oxygen, moisture and nutrients to your plants after flooding stages used in systems like the ebb and flow. A major benefit is that clay aggregate can be sterilized and re-used multiple times.
Growstones are made from recycled glass and are largely popular in the green growing community. They are beneficial in using for airflow and are said to have up to three times the amount of water storage than clay aggregate (which can be a positive depending on your growing system). Due to their shape, they provide large porous gaps to allow for adequate airflow and oxygen intake. The larger gaps also provide more space for roots to take hold and thus creates a more stable root environment.
Soilless mediums can be mixed and matched to create the perfect balance of porosity and nutrient delivery needed for your grow.
When building up your hydroponic system there are a few items to consider:
Choose a plastic that is UV resistant and won’t break down overtime
If repurposing materials, make sure there are no residual materials from their previous use that may cause harm to your plants
Don’t use any materials that you wouldn’t yourself drink water from
If using silicon, seal your joints so you don’t poison your plants
Put a cover on your solution reservoir to avoid evaporation of product and money
Build in an anchor system for your plants so your plants won’t fall over
Waterproofing your power sources are a key preventive safety measure
Managing your pH will make or break you
The more you know, the better your grow
Growing with hydroponics is a great way to take complete control over your growing system. It also enables you to create an automated system that requires less time from you as a grower. Your plants also benefit from soilless mediums because it removes potential bacteria and fungi that reside in soil based systems.
Many growers see their grows as an art form that they can calibrate and adjust to get the most out of their plants and hydro lets you do just that. With the number of growing mediums to choose from, nutrients and flow systems to mix and match- you can create a unique system unlike any others.
Gavita Pro E-Series: Double Ended Lighting Technology
Of all the new lighting technologies available, double ended HPS bulbs and specifically the Gavita Pro E-Series Ballasts that drive them have garnered the most attention. Rightfully so, as these new fixtures are delivering the increased light output and efficiency the manufacturers claim. What are the key differences that set these lamps apart? More importantly, are they right for your application and is the extra performance and features worth the premium price?
These lamps are an evolutionary improvement over the traditional mogul base HPS bulb and digital or magnetic ballast. Let’s go over the three important differences of these fixtures versus a traditional electronic ballast and single ended bulb.
The main design difference in a DE bulb is that the electrode enters the bulb from each end, eliminating the need for a wire frame around the arc tube and reducing the distance that electricity needs to travel within the bulb. This also allows for a smaller diameter bulb with improved optics that can run hotter at higher voltage. These bulbs run hotter and at higher voltage, the upshot to all this is improved spectral output and efficiency.
The first thing you notice when you see this reflector is what’s missing, it’s a beautiful example of simplicity in design. It has no vent ports to lose light from, eliminating the need for a steel frame and allowing bulb heat to dissipate upward from the thin aluminum reflector. The reflector is designed to be replaced annually avoiding loss in output due to oxidation of the aluminum. Lastly, but perhaps most important, the open bulb design means there is no glass lens, which can block 5% or more of the light output from your lamp even if it’s perfectly clean.
One person can easily handle and install the all-in-one fixture, and the lack of remote ballast cord eliminates RF interference. The ability to run all of your ballasts (up to 80!) from a single EL2 Master Controller with sunrise/sunset, heat based auto dim and shutoff, and external notification (txt/e-mail/alarm) is icing on the cake.
Sounds great right? Not so fast!
Before you rush out and plunk down your hard earned green, there’s a few things to consider to determine if these lamps are a good match for your application. While very efficient and good at dissipating heat, it doesn’t magically disappear, the heat goes straight up. You will need 2-3’ open above the fixtures to provide enough airspace for them to cool properly. The next question is how to remove that heat from the grow space. Gavita’s knowledgebase recommends 2600 BTU of cooling for a 600watt Pro-line and 4000 BTU for each 1000watt. If you’re running a fresh air room you will probably need to increase the CFM of your exhaust (and perhaps size/number of filters) to exchange the air quickly enough. If you are in a sealed room with CO2 and A/C, those BTU’s add up fast so make sure your climate control is up to the task.
Okay, but are they really worth it?
The goal of this article isn’t to convince you to buy new DE style lamps, but rather to help you become familiar with the technology and be able to make an informed decision. That said, if your environment will support these lamps, it would be very difficult for me to recommend a traditional air cooled reflector and digital ballast over a Gavita Pro E-series. These new fixtures may still carry a premium price, but compared to buying a separate air cooled reflector, digital ballast and HPS bulb, the cost is comparable. The real open question may be is it worth upgrading old style HPS fixtures early (before failure) or wait? There are many factors to consider obviously, but the additional light output and efficiency of these fixtures does translate into increased yields, so for many of our customers the answer has been yes.
With so many different types of nursery pots to choose from, you may be left wondering what is the difference or why does it matter? The answer is simple, performance. One of the biggest influences on performance is air pruning.
Air pruning is the introduction of dry air into the root system. When this happens the apical cells at the root’s tip become dehydrated. The plant responds by growing a pair of secondary roots that branch off of the initial root. Each time the media dries out, the process repeats itself creating literally thousands of offshoot roots. This vigorous root system is much better at mining soil and increasing nutrient uptake. Air pruning also prevents the plants roots from literally strangling each other, a process known as spiraling.
To break it down for you, below is a list of popular nursery pots, and how they stack up with regards to air pruning.
The Nursery Container: This is the standard planter on the market, and one of the
least effective. With little air access, the pots effectiveness at air pruning a healthy root structure is limited at best. That being said, it is hard to find a more cost effective planter on the market, and it is widely available in a variety of sizes.
The Rootmaker: These pots allow air access into the root structure on multiple levels, promoting vigorous air pruning and dynamic roots. Since the air access holes are not exceptionally big, this
pot is suitable for fine media such as coco coir. In addition, the Rootmaker’s design tapers down, making this container ideally suited as a transition container before final transplant. One negative is the limited size availability of this container.
Hercules Pot: These pots allow even more air access than the Rootmaker pots. This allows for exceptional air pruning. The Hercules pot design uses larger square shaped holes
for air penetration that run vertically around the pot. Such large holes make this pot not well suited for fine media.
The Air-Pot: These pots require a small assembly, but are perhaps the pot that “breathes” the best. The outside is a large plastic sheet with multiple holes
throughout. The sides wrap around a circle grid base. Plastic screws connect it all together. The Air-Pots design promotes fantastic air pruning, but as such isn’t well suited for fine media.
Root Pots: These containers are constructed of fabric. Since maximum air penetration and air pruning is achieved, these pots create outstanding
root systems. They are well suited for all media, and reusable. Though one thing to consider is when reused multiple times the fabric has a tendency to hold onto salts.To alleviate this problem, rinse in Nutrilife’s H2O2 Liquid Oxidizer before a hot water bath between uses. As a transition container, transplanting requires more finesse and a bit of practice.
Smart Pot: The sides of these containers are constructed of fabric. However, the bottom is made of capillarymatting which draws the roots down. Maximum air penetration and air pruning, combined with capillary pull creates superior root structure. Smart Pots are also available in a tan color. This reflective pot makes them ideal for outdoor growing, by helping to prevent the roots from getting “cooked”. These containers are well suited for all media, and reusable. However, as with other fabric containers, Smart Pots have a tendency to hold onto salts when reused multiple times. To alleviate this problem, rinse in Nutrilife’s H2O2 Liquid Oxidizer before a hot water bath between uses. As a transition container, transplanting requires finesse and a bit of practice.