8 Steps to DIY Bokashi Composting

Bokashi: The Composting Samurai

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-branBokashi 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 Applications

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 RulesComposting Melon

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 Pilebokashi-composting side-by-side

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.

Bokashi Tea

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!

Elevation Organics Bokashi Root Zone InoculantWhat 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!

DIY Bokashi!

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!


  1. http://elevationorganics.com/soil-amendments/bokashi-root-zone-inoculant/
  2. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J144v03n01_16
  3. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J144v03n01_21
  4. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J064v19n04_10
  5. http://gro-kashi.com/
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effective_microorganism
  7. http://www.hawaiihealingtree.org/how-to-make-your-own-em-1-inoculant-and-bokashi/
  8. https://www.biodynamics.com/what-is-biodynamics
  9. https://emrojapan.com/how/
  10. http://www.wmrc.wa.gov.au/library/file/Earth%20Carers%20Fact%20Sheets/Factsheet%20-%20How%20to%20Bokashi.pdf
  11. https://www.csu.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/136685/bokashi_bucket.pdf
  12. http://www.gardensfromgarbage.org/home/faq_about_bokashi_composting
  13. http://www.ems.psu.edu/sites/default/files/u5/students/AnneTamalavage%20Paper_Honorable%20Mention.pdf
  14. https://www.planetnatural.com/composting-101/indoor-composting/bokashi-composting/

So Your Friend Told You to Use CANNA…

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 #4 and, 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.

Good Luck,

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.

Biofilm of antibiotic resistant bacteria, closeup view. Rod-shap

The Quick & Dirty Wrap-Up of Beneficial Microbes

Types of Beneficial Microbes

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.bacteria azospirillum

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.

Trichoderma"Fungus, Trichoderma reesi, growing on plant material."

are 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.


mycorrhizae arbusculeMycorrhizae is 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 AzosCloning with Xtreme Gardening 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 RECHARGE to 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 RECHARGE and 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:

OregonismAurora Innovations' Oregonism

  • 16 species of Mycorrhizal fungi
  • 14 species of beneficial bacteria
  • 2 species of Trichoderma

Great Whitegreat-white premium mycorrhizae

  • 7 species of Mycorrhizal fungi
  • 13 species of beneficial bacteria
  • 2 species of Trichoderma

RECHARGERecharge Natural Soil Conditioner - Realgrowers

  • 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!


  1. http://www.bioworksinc.com/products/shared/beneficial-soil-microorganisms.pdf
  2. http://www.bioworksinc.com/in-the-news/nm-pro-8-11.pdf
  3. http://www.aurorainnovations.org/oregonism-xl.html
  4. http://www.plant-success.com/wp-content/uploads/Plant_Success-How_To_Use.pdf
  5. http://www.plant-success.com/product/great-white/

Spirillum bacteria

5 Ass Kicking Applications for Azospirillum

Azospirillum, Fixing Nitrogen Like a Boss

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!

Passing Gas

Nitrogen exists in our air and ouNitrogen- Element of Mendeleev Periodic table magnified with magnifying glassr 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.Cloning with Xtreme Gardening Azos

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, Spirillum bacteriatheir 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?

Kingdom: Bacteria

Phylum: Proteobacteria

Class: Alpha Proteobacteria

Order: Rhodospirillales

Family: Rhodospirillaceae

Genus: Azospirillum

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?

Product Recommendation

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 SoilAzospirillum for raised beds

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.

2) Cloning

Cloning with Xtreme Gardening AzosTo 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.

3) Automation

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!

4) Watering-In

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?

Azospirillum Root Nodules on LegumePlanting 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!











LED vs CMH Lighting

LED vs CMH Lighting Technology

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 ClassLEC 315 lighting fixture

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?growing lettuce under LED lights

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.

Get LitSun Grip Light Hangers

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.

Thank you Dr. Seuss and Robert Lopshire
Thank you Dr. Seuss

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
  • Dimmable
  • 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 CMH technology, 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!

Eye Safety in Your Grow: Method Seven

Eye Safety and Your Grow Room

Do you like seeing the world around you? Sure that is a dumb question with an obvious answer. But maybe you haven’t considered how you have been jeopardizing your sight literally every time you walk in to your grow unprotected. What is equally important for serious growers is the ability to quickly and accurately identify nutrient issues. To do this, growers rely on their eyesight to detect coloring issues. The light in your grow room distorts the colors reflected by your plants, and may be throwing you off the trail of the real offender. This is where superior color balancing technology comes in to play in a big way! Don’t let ignorance risk your sight or your yield. See why we wear Method Sevens every time we walk into our grows, and why you should too!


UV and Infrared Rays

High-intensity discharge lights include mercury vapor, fluorescent, High-Pressure Sodium (HPS), and Metal Halide (MH) bulbs. All of these grow bulbs emit visible light, as well as Infrared and Ultraviolet light. What does that mean?  It means that safety should always be at the front of your mind.  You need to protect your eyes every single time  you step into your grow room!  If the sun can damage our skin, what do you think high-intensity bulbs are doing to your eyeballs?

All parts of the electromagnetic spectrum release radiation, however, different wavelengths release different types of radiation. Ultraviolet light emits UVA, UVB, and UVC radiation. UVA is the longest wavelength, however, UVB and UVC pose the greatest risks. Although UVC is the shortest wavelength, it is the most harmful to human skin and eyes. The earth’s atmosphere filters out most of the UVC from sunlight. But if you use indoor grow lights, you are at risk for exposure that is unsafe.  “More than 99% of UV radiation is absorbed by the front of the eyes,” so in your grow room, your eyes are in danger every time your lights turn on.

Infrared rays are generally considered less dangerous than UV rays, however, prolonged close-up exposure may cause cataracts. Ultraviolet rays are wavelengths that are too short for the human eye to see.  These shorter wavelengths cause higher energy output.  Infrared rays are too long for the eye to detect and are less energetically active than UV.  To put it simply, infrared waves only have enough energy to move molecules around, causing heat. Ultraviolet waves, however, have enough energy to break up molecules, causing more damage to skin and eyes. They can cause cataracts, macular degeneration, and damage to the cornea.

In addition to breaking up molecules, UV rays cause chemical reactions in the skin and eyes that create oxidants. These oxidants cause cancer.

Metal halide lamps let off the most UV rays because the light is focused in the cool, or blue, end of the spectrum. You should always protect your eyes when exposed to radiation. In indoor grow areas, it is particularly important to protect your eyes when under metal halide lamps. Wearing specialized eye protection is the best way to do this. Regular old sunglasses won’t do much to protect you from the extreme rays of indoor grow lamps. Some sunglasses do protect against UV’s, which is a big concern, but UV’s aren’t the only thing straining your eyes in the grow room.

Visual Problems in Your Grow Room


Color perception, visual clarity, the strobe effect, and the ability to distinguish shapes and movement can all have an impact on the health of your eyes and how our brains try to rationalize the crazy spectrums seen in that environment.

Our eyes are used to seeing objects in “Balanced White Light” (BWL), which covers the entire visible spectrum.  This type of lighting allows us to see natural colors and to recognize shapes and movement most easily.  Most grow lights are nowhere near BWL, so our eyes can strain to see color properly and to recognize objects and movement.  This type of strain is hard on our eyes and our heads. Regular old sunglasses actually make it even harder.  Do you ever feel disoriented or have a headache after leaving your grow room?  Now you know why.


HPS bulbs give off light that is in a really narrow yellow part of the Electromagnetic spectrum. Although plants love this yellow spectrum for photosynthesis, our eyes are not programmed to see in this kind of lighting.

The lack of blue-to-yellow light ratio in an HPS environment makes it extremely difficult for our eyes to focus properly. Additionally,  because AC voltage doesn’t stream consistently through your lights, there is a natural cycle of energy that causes the strobe effect. You won’t necessarily notice it with your naked eye, but if you try to take a photo under your HPS bulbs, you will see lines running across the screen.  This strobe effect, along with the unnatural color perception, causes headaches, difficulty seeing, and sometimes a dizzy or disoriented feeling.

Health and safety are obviously our biggest concerns, but how are you going to properly diagnose nutrient or pest issues with your plants if you can’t see their true color?

If you want to know more about why we are so gung-ho about Method Seven Resistance glasses, check out this 2 minute video:

Metal Halide

Metal Halide bulbs cover much more of the visible light spectrum than HPS, so visibility under them is much more natural than under HPS.  However, because Metal Halide tends to have a higher concentration of light in the blue end of the spectrum, UV production is a major concern with these bulbs.  At the very least, you should never enter your grow room with MH bulbs without UV-protective sunglasses. We prefer Method Seven brand of MH specific glasses because they are specially formulated to correct the color of MH bulbs and filter out UVC rays, as well as UVA and UVB.

Check out this 1.5 minute video about Method Seven Operator technology:




LED technology is exciting for a lot of growers, but in terms of eye safety, LED is a moving target. Not only is the technology constantly changing right now, but there isn’t a lot of consistency between manufacturers. This makes nailing down safety standards really difficult.  If you are growing with LED lights, you definitely should be keeping your eyes covered to prevent any issues. In terms of light spectrum, that is also ever-evolving, but Method seven currently makes glasses that correct the spectrum of brand leaders in LED and are constantly reacting to what is happening on the market.

The more you know, the better you grow!

In our opinion, every single grower, indoor or outdoor, should be using Method Seven glasses to protect their eyes. In terms of safety and quality, they really are the best. Method Seven uses superior color balancing technology for HPS, Metal Halide, LED, and the sun in super high-quality lenses that are formulated for optical clarity. Unlike most other glasses, Method Seven also filters out UVC rays, as well as UVA and UVB. Remember that UVC is super dangerous?  We don’t get much from the sun, but your grow lights, especially Metal Halide, put out plenty to do real damage to your eyes.

When you enter your grow room, be sure you are wearing the proper eye gear that is tailored to the light spectrum and environment for each light.  Method Seven is a game changer for every grower. Your eyes and plants will thank you!


LED vs. Plasma Lighting Technology

LED vs. Plasma Lighting Technology

Plasma, LED, or Neither…


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?Gavita Pro 270e LEP 

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?

nextlight-ledLEDs 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.

money burning -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 

Sun Grip Light Hangers

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

Eyeball Light Spectrum

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?

Growth coinsDue 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.







3 Lighting Measurements to Improve Your Grow

I Like Big Bulbs & I Cannot Lie – 3 Lighting Measurements to Improve Your Grow

Too Much of a Good Thing

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.Light Spectrum Rainbow


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.


hortilux hps-bulbs

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 1000Gavita 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.

For more on Gavita installation click here and here !



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 agrobrite t5 fluorescent lighting fixturevegetative 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.


nextlight-ledLEDs 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 LEC 315 lighting fixturesince 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!.


For more on CMH lighting technology check this out LEC 315: Ceramic Metal Halide Technology.



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 Gavita Pro 270e LEPbulb. 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.







5 Things You Need to Know About Beneficial Bacteria

Bacilli are a class of bacteria containing several well-known pathogens.

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 cycle. process by which nitrogen is converted between its various chemical forms. This transformation can be carried out through both biological and physical processes. Important processes in the nitrogen cycle include fixation, ammonification, nitrification, and denitrification.Nitrogen Cycle

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.

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.Backyard compost bins

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.

Image Source

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 Azospirilluma 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.

Commercial Bacteria

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.

Biofilm of antibiotic resistant bacteria, closeup view. Rod-shap
Bacteria Biofilm

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 microbes that 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.






Hydroponic Bells & Whistles

Hydroponic Bells & Whistles

Hydroponics 201Water DNA

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.

Reverse Osmosis

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 FiltersActivated carbon (charcoal or activated coal) water filter, sliced to show inside of the filter. Isolated on white background.

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 PumpAeration Pump

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.


Pump Maintenance

Water Pump


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

Auto SystemThe 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!


  1. http://www.chloramine.org/chloraminefacts.htm
  2. http://hightimes.com/grow/grow-hack-how-to-remove-chlorine-from-tap-water/
  3. Telephone interview with Scotty Real from Dude Grows. 30 July 2016.
  4. http://hightimes.com/grow/2015-hydro-report/
  5. http://www.cannagardening.com/using_air_injection_your_nutrient_tanks
  6. http://www.cannagardening.com/water_types_quality_and_treatments



Growing with CO2

Growing with CO2: Improve Your Yield Part II

This is a visual pun on the word "yield," meaning to give way, or give up, or to relinquish to something, and "yield" as in earnings, payments, profits, interest, dividends, etc. An upward pointing arrow with a U.S. dollar sign inside it suggesting the time or situation is enduring a favorable outcome. (See others in the series in the "Arrows and Pointers, and "On the Money" light boxes).When growing in an artificial environment, the goal is to mimic nature and all of its benefits. When aiming to increase your product yield with a natural option, using CO2 in your grow is sure to produce results.

How Does Growing with CO2 Work?


Biology 101

The biological use of CO2 in plants can be explained in Biology 101. Plants use CO2 in production of their own nutrients that enable them to grow during a process known as photosynthesis. Plants receive water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) that when activated by sun or artificial light releases oxygen (O2) and carbohydrates (C6H12O6) that they use as food. The concept of increasing CO2 levels in your grow acts as a catalyst for growth using its own biological processes.


Photosynthesis. Diagram of the process of photosynthesis, showing the light reactions and the Calvin cycle on blackboard


Plant cells only make use of CO2 during light exposure. When increasing the CO2 levels, it is necessary to also increase water, nutrients and light proximity to plants. The presence of CO2 enables the plant to grow at a faster rate than it would in an unaltered environment. The stomata (the porous openings of the plant) take in the CO2 that is available and release water vapor when open. When increasing CO2 levels, the stomata do not open as widely due to high availability thus producing less water vapor. This creates a stronger and more resistant plant structure.


Integrating CO2

In an unaltered environment, a plant will be exposed to an atmosphere containing 390-400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide. A plant will not grow or thrive in environments with less than 300 ppm in their atmosphere. When modifying the growing environment to increase the yield of your plants, a grower will increase their CO2 up to 2,000 ppm. Although, the recommended CO2 level is 1,200-1,500 ppm. You can relate elevating CO2 levels to natural steroids- the plants can only sustain so much growth over a shortened amount of time before the plant experiences tissue damage and no longer produces a desirable product. Higher CO2 levels create a more compact cellular structure in the plant that yields a denser, not bigger, product.



There are numerous way to integrate additional CO2 into your grow space. The two most common ways are CO2 tanks and CO2 burners.

CO2 Pressurized Tank

CO2 Refills $6.99CO2 integration by installing a CO2 tank into your grow room is the preferred method in larger grow systems. A CO2 tank can be easily equipped with a standard CO2 controller that will turn releases off and on based on desired levels. You can also equip yourself with a fuzzy logic controller, such as the Atlas 8 by Titan Controls, that will turn on your exhaust fan and shut off the CO2 tank when temps rise above optimum levels. The fuzzy logic is also equipped with a light sensor that will turn off the tank when the plants enter the dormant stage. Most controllers do, and should, come equipped with an emergency shut off valve.

CO2 Burner

A CO2 burner or generator is used by burning natural gas, butane or propane to introduce CO2 to the atmosphere. The danger associated with fire and risk of elevated monoxide levels make burners a less appealing option, although the risk is minimal and manageable.

When using a CO2 burner it is important to pay close attention to the color of the flame. Anything besides a white flame (red, orange and yellow are most often seen) is a sign of incomplete combustion and the high probability of introducing another element to your environment, most notably carbon monoxide. For your safety, it is highly suggested to keep a monoxide detector within the grow space where a burner is being utilized.

In comparison of the two systems, a CO2 burner emits heat that must be accommodated for with elevated use of air conditioning units, where as a CO2 tank does not.  For every one pound of fuel that is burned, 22,000 btu of heat is generated- as well as 1.5 pounds of water vapor. Due to the elevated process of transporation, both burners and tanks raise humidity levels that must be accounted for with dehumidifying systems.

CO2 Burner/Generator Recommendations

 Titan Ares 2

To avoid potential fire risks you may consider implementing a burner with a built in “tip over” switch, such as the Titan Ares 2 CO2 Generator. Although, the Autopilot CO2 LP Generator is listed as the safest generator on the market, it is best used for more condensed growing areas such as spaces 14’ x 14’ and smaller. An option for a larger growing space is the Autopilot CO2 NG Generator and provides 22 cubic feet per hour of CO2.

Other CO2 Generating Options

For smaller growing systems, there are many other options to explore. A few can be made at home and will add smaller amounts of CO2 to your grow but will still allow you to reap the benefits. An inexpensive at home option is to fill a large container or jug with a sugar, water and yeast mixture. The yeast will need to be replenished on a daily basis but will emit small amounts of CO2 into the air when left in an open container.


Another inexpensive option are mushroom colonies that have been placed into a bag with a one way filter, such as the Exhale CO2 bag. The downfall of these systems is not having anyway to regulate them. However, this does not propose an issue due to the minimal amounts of CO2 being emitted.


CO2 Level Range

What is Normal?

A plant in an unaltered environment, in a 400 ppm atmosphere, will typically take 12-16 weeks from seed to harvest. When adding CO2 to your grow, it speeds up the metabolic processes that the plant naturally conducts and allows it to reach harvest in a shorter amount of time. Elevating CO2 levels will depend on your own grow system and the amount of stress that you are willing to put on your plants, which in turn can affect your end product.

What is Ideal?

Most commonly, growers will begin by increasing their CO2 levels to 1,200 ppm. At this level, there is lower risk for error. You will see your plants production rate increase substantially and produce high quality dense product. At 1,500 ppm, you will see the best results in your grow and is experienced as the ideal level. Raising the CO2 levels incrementally to 1,600 ppm will see a slightly higher yield but the quality of your product diminishes at this point. When reaching levels above 1,800 ppm, the plant begins to produce a lower yield as it becomes highly stressed due to the environment. At higher CO2 levels, it is also a great environment for spores and fungus to thrive in and becomes another battle to combat in your grow.



The ideal growing space would not have an exhaust, intake or ventilation. The concept being that as fresh air enters or leaves the grow area it requires adjustments to the CO2 levels. Even the most tightly sealed environments are still assumed to have a 100% air exchange in an estimated two hour time-frame.

With the use of an air conditioning unit and a dehumidifier, micro adjustments can be made to temperature and humidity that fluctuates during times of light exposure and dormant phases. To add further ventilation to a closed grow area, you can pull in outside air through the ducting of your lighting system to cool the lights and provide airflow.

oscillating fan

It is recommended to incorporate oscillating fans, such as the Hurricane Supreme 16 with three adjustable speed settings, into your grow. They assist in circulating air within the growing space and can help to avoid stagnant CO2 rich air (a depletion layer effect) from skewing your meter readings and throwing your system off. CO2 rich air is heavier than oxygenated air and will reside closer to the plants and ground, causing the plants respiratory system to work harder than is necessary. The use of oscillating fans also mimics a natural environment and strengthens the plants against wind resistance.


Nutrient Levels

With an increase in CO2 levels you will require an increase in light intensity (proximity), water and nutrients. Adding CO2 to your grow is increasing the rate of all metabolic processes, which also means increase rate in deficiencies. In reference to the law of limiting factors, the plant will only thrive when the four factors (light, nutrients, CO2 and water) create the ideal growing environment. The plants will use more nutrients when processing higher amounts of CO2 requiring the grower to feed the plants more often than at the 300 ppm CO2 range.


Controllers and Regulators

Titan atlas 1What Does My System Need?

Whether working with a closed or open system, it is important to monitor levels to ensure that you have created the ideal environment for your plants to thrive. It is quintessential to have a measurement tool to gauge your CO2 ppm levels and it is recommended to install a regulator to disperse the CO2 as needed and in a controlled fashion. To allow the garden to be less time consuming for the grower, there are automatic regulators and controllers that measure the CO2 ppm and release the gas as needed.

Product Variations and Recommendations

A controller measures the CO2 ppm of the growing space and communicates with the regulator that will turn a CO2 generator or tank on or off as needed. The Titan Atlas 1 controller can be used for both CO2 tanks and CO2 generators. When using a CO2 tank, coupling the Atlas 1 with the Titan CO2 regulator is a perfect pairing. The Grozone SCO2 can be used with systems that are operating with a CO2 generator and comes equipped with a low and high CO2 setting.




The More You Know the Better You Grow!

So what are our takeaways here?

  • Use CO2 during the lights on period in your grow so that your plants can utilize the CO2 that is being added.
  • Decide which CO2 system is right for you, burner, tank or natural.
  • Ventilate properly to ensure you are not removing CO2 at the same rate you are adding it.
  • Keep your CO2 in the optimal range 1,200- 1,500 ppm.
  • Increase light proximity, water, and nutrient inputs to account for accelerated growth.














Root Aphids

Root Aphids: No! They’re Not Just Fungus Gnats

Of all the pests you may have to deal with in your garden, root aphids, or Phylloxera have the potential to be the costliest and most destructive. Being able to identify the problem as early as possible is key.

Root Aphid Identification

Root Aphid Tail Pipes SmallAphids have a unique and complicated life-cycle of up to 18 stages, depending on species. However, they don’t change much in appearance as they grow or between species, and don’t have a larval/pupal stage to look for. This is good news since even though they are easily mistaken for other problems, they will have a hard time hiding from your watchful eye once you know what to look for.

Root Aphid Life-Cycle

CrawlersAphid Life Cycle Small

In the aphid’s primary lifecycle, they are commonly called “crawlers,” since they are wingless and crawl through media looking for roots. Once they find a root, they will latch on and multiply. Crawlers don’t lay eggs, instead they breed and give live birth. This means even a single aphid can start an infestation. Juveniles and adults tend to be under 0.5 millimeters in size, brownish in color, with wide round abdomens and six legs.

Not a Mealybug

Close-up shot of a mealybugs infested plant stem close to the taproot area. This particular plant is an Asian Vegetable known as "Edible Amaranth", also known as Chinese spinach, or yin Tsai.

Early on, crawlers are very easy to mistake for young mealybugs, since they are about the same size and color. The easiest way to tell them apart is by the many small spines mealybugs have sticking out from the perimeter of their bodies instead of legs. Once mealybugs mature and find a place to feed, though, they exude a waxy substance that makes them much easier to spot.


In their final, reproductive phase, adult crawlers are capable of sprouting wings to help them travel between plants to mate and lay eggs. Their thorax (part between the head and abdomen) elongates a bit but otherwise the “fliers” look just like a crawler, but with wings 2-3x the body length. The fliers are particularly dangerous because they can easily spread crawlers to other plants. In this form, aphids lay eggs only and no longer give birth to live young. The eggs are very small, white, and laid in clusters that to the naked eye can easily be mistaken for beneficial soil fungus.

No! They’re NOT Just Fungus Gnats…

More than once I’ve heard a grower say to me “I don’t have pests… Well, just some fungus gnats.” More than once I was culling aphid ridden plants just weeks later. If you cycle plants quickly and apply lots of preventative treatments for pests, you may just think you’ve got some very persistent fungus gnats.

The easiest way to tell them apart is body shape. Fungus gnats have thin abdomens, long legs, and wings about the length of their body, like a small mosquito. Aphids are more squat, round, and stubby-legged. In addition, they have distinguishable “tail pipes” extending off their back-end. A loupe or microscope can be very helpful since both pests are so tiny.

Fungus gnats also behave differently, they seem to fly slowly and aimlessly. Winged root aphids fly higher and farther, seem more “alert” overall and are better at avoiding being squished. While fungus gnats will fly all over the place, root aphids will fly straight towards your lights. If you are in veg, check above the bulbs in your T5s for root aphid bodies.

It looks like a Nutrient Deficiency

Root aphids cause stunted growth, and droopy or yellow leaves resembling nutrient deficiencies. The yellowing (chlorosis) resembles a magnesium deficiency, and the yellow-brown spotting a calcium deficiency. If you have checked pH (feed and runoff), and know that your plants are being properly fed, you should probably check for root aphids. They feed by sucking nutrients directly from roots before plants can use them, so their damage isn’t obvious at first. Rule out pH problems quickly and carefully inspect any plant with signs of a deficiency.

Summertime Pests

In warmer temperatures, aphids eat voraciously and reproduce more quickly. This means they can be well established, but unnoticed as their eggs over winter and start hatching in the spring. By the time summer rolls around and damage or fliers are noticeable, the infestation may already be in full swing. That’s why it’s so important to check for them early in the spring and often throughout the summer growing season.

HydroponicsHydro Root Aphids XSmall

Root Aphids are especially easy to spot in hydroponics. Their dark bodies contrast with white roots as they latch on and colonize. Unfortunately, they also spread more quickly too. If you use Rockwool, look at the roots that stick out of the cube, and also pull back the plastic wrapper to check the sides. Checking your reservoir and runoff for aphid bodies can help you gauge how effective your treatments have been. Save yourself time and money. Don’t bother transplanting plants that have active and visible root aphids infestation. The plant may survive for a long time but it will likely remain stunted and never successfully root into larger cubes.

Soil & CocoRoot Aphid on Roots Small

In soil, soil-less or coco, they are easiest to see when you are watering. They will not drown, but watering does agitate them and you can usually see them crawling up the main stem or sides of the pot from the soil line. If you see crawlers but no fliers, you’ve caught the problem early. Transplanting while fighting aphids is generally more successful in soil or coco than in Rockwool, but it is still best if you can knock them out first.

When to Check for Aphids

Check your room as the lights are coming on, or in the morning outside. Fliers tend to be most active at this time, and will buzz around near your lights when they first turn on. Place yellow sticky traps both down low, and up high to monitor their population. Hopefully this will keep them off of your fruits and flowers. If trimming is essential for your infested crop, doing so around dead aphids makes the job twice as tedious.

Prevention and control

Now that we have a good idea of what they look like and how to find root aphids, let’s talk about what you can do to prevent them from every entering your growing space.

Clone Caution

Like spider mites, the easiest way for aphids to spread is by hitching a ride on a cutting or seedling into a new environment. The person selling clones or seedlings likely doesn’t even know they are there. A quarantine procedure for new plants can help. If you do spot root aphids during the quarantine phase the plants should be culled immediately. I have seen clones quarantined (for weeks), treated multiple times with systemic insecticides until there is no evidence of surviving aphids, and they still came back later in the grow.

Watch Over Watering

Aphids and their eggs can be spread between plants via their water runoff. This makes recirculating hydroponic systems especially vulnerable. Over watering also makes roots more susceptible to pest in disease in general.

Cleanliness is next to…..

A clean grow environment helps prevent most pests, and is imperative to preventing a comeback once you have gotten an infestation under control. A full cleaning and sterilization of your room and equipment between grows is unavoidable if you want pests to remain gone. Keeping a clean and tidy grow area can help prevent any eggs that do hitch a ride on clothes or plant matter from getting the chance to come in contact with one of your plants.

Natural and Organic Controls

Organic methods are preferred with root aphids since most insecticides are only moderately effective and may just end up making your garden more vulnerable to other pests by removing beneficial insects. Young and/or heavily infested plants should be culled since replacing them will be less costly in the long run.

Botanigard ES & WP

There is a reason this product is at the top of our list. Botanigard is a mycoinsecticide, or insect killing fungus. It can be inoculated in the root zone and kills all stages of crawlers (it kills fliers but they are less likely to come in contact). Aphids are unable to build up an immunity to the mycelium, and it’s perfectly safe to use up to the day of harvest. So while it isn’t cheap, and won’t kill them all in one shot, Botanigard is definitely worth the cost.

OG Biowar Foliar Pack
Another excellent biological control, OG Biowar packs contain beneficial microbes in a pure talc carrier. This means they can be brewed into a activated compost tea and applied as a foliar spray or root drench. The foliar pack is specifically tailored to help plants fight off pests and resist stress, and even includes insecticidal microbe species that work similarly to Botanigard. This product is highly recommended both as a treatment and preventative.

Azamax / Azatrol / Neem / Azadirachtin
Plants treated with a neem foliar spray and root drench will be more resistant to (and may actually repel) pests and disease. That makes neem oil our go to preventative. If you are fighting an active infestation, try switching to an Azadirachtin concentrate like Azamax or Azatrol for a more powerful anti-feedant effect.

Insecticidal Soaps / Oils
Essential oils like rosemary, capsaicin from pepper plants, and Insecticidal soaps like Garden Safe or Safer 3-in-1 are most effective as a foliar and “spot spray” to kill fliers. However, you can also try an essential oil and capsaicin root drench for an extra punch, just try it on a test plant first. As always, be careful with any kind of foliar spray during the bloom phase when plants are more susceptible to rot and mildew.

Predatory Nematodes
These beneficial parasites attack aphids in the root zone. However, once established root aphids can simply out-breed nematodes. These are best used as a preventative or in conjunction with other methods.

Bonus Tips on Manual Removal
Removing winged adults form the environment can dramatically slow aphids from spreading. If you have vented reflectors, you can try removing the glass (but still keeping them vented). Any winged aphids that fly up towards the light will just get sucked up and out of your room, so be mindful of where the exhaust goes. This was very effective for me in vegetative phase where I didn’t need to keep the lights/room sealed. Already in bloom or can’t vent your lights without the glass? Grab a shop-vac. Remember that winged aphids will fly up at lights on, suck them up while they’re conveniently in one place before they get a chance to lay eggs or get stuck in your flowers.


Root Aphids are incredibly hardy. Very few pesticides are capable of a “total kill” in one application. They can simply out-breed typical control methods, and quickly build up a resistance to poisons. Many of their natural predators, like nematodes and ladybugs, are also wiped out with pesticide use. Gardens already chemically treated for other problems may be especially vulnerable to root aphids. That is not to say that organic methods are the only choice, just that you should be careful and aware before you start applying any type of poison or insecticide.

If you do choose the synthetic route there are a few things to keep in mind. Ultimately, one or more pesticides may be required to effectively control a root aphid infestation. Be very careful when applying multiple products, it’s a good idea to stagger applications and try each product out on a tester plant first.

Natural and Synthetic Pyrethrin

Contact killers like Pyrethrins do kill root aphids. An aerosol or fogger can make short work of fliers. However, they aren’t as effective against the aphids in the root zone since they reproduce so quickly, and can invade all parts of the growing environment. Even synthetic pyrethrins which remain in the environment longer may not achieve a total kill before aphids develop resistance.

Other insecticides

There are a variety of other chemical insecticides which will kill aphids on contact. Bonide Eight, Ortho Bug B Gone and Seven Concentrate Bug Killer are all good options to use in concert with another, preferably systemic insecticide.


The most effective systemic pesticide is nicotine based Imidacloprid. It kills aphids and other insects by overwhelming their immune system as they feed on the plant. This means it doesn’t need to come in direct contact with aphids and can achieve a total kill with proper application.

Note: Imidacloprid is highly toxic to Bees (and most other beneficial insects), so it is not suitable for use in organic, outdoor or greenhouse grows. Great care must be taken even with indoor application. However, it has not been found to be carcinogenic so it can be a safe option if the manufacturers instructions are followed carefully.


Gone, but for good?

Even if all of the root aphids on the existing crop are killed, it is possible for their eggs to survive in the environment to infest your next grow. Consider the costs of treating versus culling very carefully. Hopefully you never have to deal with root aphids, but if you have an experience or method you’d like to share, we’d love to get your feedback, comment below!




Super Soil

What is Super Soil? Plus A Professional Review


The best part about it is the consistency.  I rarely, if ever, see any nutrient deficiencies, across various plant types.”


What is Super Soil?

Super soil is a term coined by well-known grower and seed producer Subcool to describe a soil recipe he uses to help simplify the process of attaining an ideal harvest no matter your level of growing expertise. It is a highly amended growing medium that eliminates the need to use liquid nutrients.  Subcool, who operates TGA Genetics, has been a contributor to High Times, Skunk, Treating Yourself, Heads, Weed World, and West Coast Magazines.  He has won the Cannabis Cup, is an accomplished author, and has over 30 years of experience as a grower.


Do you want a super easy, low-maintenance way to grow organically?

 The theory behind Super Soil is that by creating a well balanced and nutrient-dense growing medium, you should never have to adjust for pH or nutrient imbalance.  All you have to do is water!  Because Super Soil creates a very “hot” or nutrient-dense soil, you will want to be careful about how you use it.  Super Soil is a concentrate to be used in addition to base potting soil.  Below we have the recipe, along with specific instructions on how to build and use Super Soil in your garden.

There are benefits and drawbacks to using Super Soil, so before we really dive in, here are some things to think about if you are considering using a highly amended soil recipe:



Organic growing method

Saves money on fertilizers

Saves time on pH adjustments

Nutrient-dense so it grows strong plants

Mimics natural outdoor growing environment

No need to flush plants


“Cooking” time can be long and inconvenient

Potential to burn plants if not used properly

Not as easy to manipulate as liquid fertilizers

Yields may not be as large as with synthetic nutrients

Growth cycle may be slightly longer than with liquid nutrients

First, here is a little plant nutrition 101.

Plant Nutrition 101

All plants need nutrients from the soil for healthy growth.  Along with light and water, nutrients are crucial for plant development.  Plants require macronutrients in the largest amounts, and although micronutrients are needed in much smaller amounts, they are still a necessity for viable plant growth.

Primary plant macronutrients:


promotes healthy and fast vegetative growth


promotes root growth, flowering and fruiting, and disease resistance


helps with fruit ripening, disease resistance, and overall plant health

Secondary plant macronutrients:


helps plants process and utilize calcium, promotes vegetative growth and sugar formation


supports structural integrity of plants, new cellular growth, and disease resistance


helps fruits and seeds mature and promotes the growth of green leaves

Plant micronutrients:

Micronutrients are trace elements that help promote green leaf growth as well as starch formation.  These include boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc.

Super Soil is so effective because it takes into consideration every one of these plant nutrients.  Each ingredient in the recipe provides one or more essential plant nutrient to your growing medium, making it an ideal mixture for plants.

For more information on plant nutrition and how to diagnose nutrient deficiencies, check out our info at (http://waytogrow.net/nutrients/plant-nutrient-basics/)

The recipe below is from 2014 and has some slight modifications from the “original” recipe published in High Times Magazine (http://www.hightimes.com/read/subcools-super-soil-step-step).  If you have been using the original recipe for a while, you may notice some changes.  Let’s really dig into the nutrients more and the purpose they serve.


Super Soil Recipe

14 cubic feet (or 8 large bags) of Roots Organic Original Potting Soil

1 cubic foot bag Roots Organics Big Worm Worm Castings

2.5 lbs. Down to Earth Bone Meal

2.5 lbs. Down to Earth Fish Bone Meal

5 lbs. high phosphorus Sunleaves Jamaican Bat Guano or VermiBat

5 lbs. Down to Earth Blood Meal or VermiBlood

3 cups Down to Earth Oyster Shell

3 cups Down to Earth Kelp Meal or VermiKelp

3 cups Down to Earth Alfalfa Meal

¾ cup Pennington Epsom salts

1 cup Speedi-Grow Agricultural lime

2 cups Down to Earth Azomite

2 Tablespoons Down to Earth Granular Humic Acid

2 Tablespoons Mykos Mycorrhizae (per transplant, applied directly to the roots @STEP 6)



  1. Mix all ingredients together either on a large tarp, in a small kiddie pool, in a yard waste trailer, or even in the bed of a pickup. You can choose to leave out the mycorrhizae here and apply directly to the root ball when transplanting. If you choose to include mycorrhizae at this step it will remain dormant (usually encased in a clay) until it comes in direct contact with live roots.

Using a kiddie pool and tarp to mix up Super Soil potting mix.

  1. While mixing, moisten the media just enough to promote humidity, not enough to drench it.
  2. Once mixed, you can transfer to several lidded containers like 35-gallon trash cans, large totes, or just cover it with another tarp. Keep it in a warm area for a minimum of 30-45 days, up to 90 days to “cook”, or start the process of breaking down amendments.

Using a tarp to mix Super Soil potting mix.

  1. After this waiting period, you will want to fill the bottom ¼ to 1/3 of your pot with this Super Soil mixture, and then top with another couple of inches of base soil.Super Soil layering. Super soil concentrate base layer. Buffer Zone layer. Base Soil layer.
  1. Gently mix the top layer together to create a buffer zone between the base soil and the Super Soil. Then fill the rest of the way with base soil, creating a hole in the center of the dirt- this is where you are going to gently set the root ball of the transplant.
  2. Remove the plant you are planning to transplant from it’s container.  Apply mycorrhizae directly to the root ball.  Mycorrhizae need direct contact with living roots in order to snap out of their dormancy and cultivate properly.
  3. Finish packing the plant in with base soil. From this point, you should only need to water- no pH necessary unless you know your water supply can be unpredictable.

Quick Tip: Rapid potting trick to use when transplanting your plants.

Super Soil is a very nutrient-dense soil concentrate, so you never want to plant directly into the mixture or you risk subjecting your plant to nutrient burn.

Super soil can be a lot of work to get it set up, but for the growers who choose this method, the benefits are well worth it.

To get more familiar with the ingredient list, let’s dive into the purpose behind the specific amendments in this recipe.


What is the purpose of the ingredients in Super Soil?

High quality organic potting soil with coco and mycorrhizae

Coco is a by-product of the coconut industry and is an environmentally friendly alternative to using peat.  As coir breaks down, it also releases potassium, serving as both a potential nutrient source, while also increasing the structural integrity of your growing medium.

The benefit of mycorrhizae in your grow medium are indispensible, so finding a good base soil that includes it is important.  You can also add it separately, as we have shown in our recommendations for the recipe.  Mycorrhizae are beneficial fungi that attach themselves to the roots of plants.  Once attached, they help plants to better process and utilize nutrients more efficiently.

Worm castings are the waste products from earthworms that serve as an excellent organic fertilizer.  Worm castings are high in nitrogen, one of the three primary plant macronutrients.  Worm castings are coated with special oil as they travel through Earthworms.  This oil takes time to break down, which makes worm castings a very effective, slow-release nutrient source that can feed plants longer than other fertilizers. It is because of this that the nitrogen in worm castings is particularly helpful at promoting vigorous vegetative growth.

Bone Meal and/or Fish Bone Meal are good sources of Phosphorus.  Bone meal has the added benefit of containing calcium, a secondary plant macronutrient.  Calcium increases the structural integrity of your plants, promotes new growth, and increases disease resistance.

High phosphorus Bat guano stimulates soil microbes and improves plant development and growth.  Depending on your nutrient needs, you can generally find either high phosphorus or high potassium bat guano.  This recipe calls for a high phosphorus guano.

Blood meal is one of the highest natural sources of Nitrogen, which is often the limiting factor in plant growth.

Oyster shells provide slow-release calcium, a secondary plant macronutrient.  This is an especially useful amendment if you use Fish Bone Meal, which lacks the calcium you could get from bone meal.  In addition, oyster shells help neutralize soil acidity.

Kelp meal is used primarily as a source of trace minerals and plant micronutrients, including potassium.  It is also a source of natural plant hormones.

Alfalfa meal adds organic matter and trace minerals to soil.  It also contains trianconatal- a natural fatty acid growth stimulant.

Epsom salt provides magnesium sulfate, a highly soluble form of magnesium and sulphur, both secondary plant macronutrients.  Magnesium also helps the uptake of calcium and may be useful in preventing bottom end rot in tomatoes.

Dolomite lime buffers pH by neutralizing soil acidity, and provides calcium and magnesium to your soil mixture.  By serving as a pH buffer, it also makes many micronutrients more bioavailable.

Azomite is primarily a source of sodium and calcium, and is high in many trace elements.  It may contain as many as 70 individual trace elements, especially silica.  Studies have shown that Azomite helps plants better absorb nutrients from soil.

Powdered humic acid “neutralizes soil pH and liberates carbon dioxide.  Once the soil is neutralized, then many trace elements formerly bound in the soil (such as iron in alkaline soils) and unavailable to plant roots, become available to the plant.”

-Dr. Robert E. Pettit, Emeritus Associate Professor of Texas A&M University


The Breakdown

As you can see, Super Soil is a pretty robust concentrate.  You can see here the exact source and balance of essential plant nutrients:

Primary plant macronutrients:

(N) Nitrogen: worm castings, blood meal

(P) Phosphorus: bone meal, bat guano

(K) Potassium:  coco breakdown, kelp meal


Secondary plant macronutrients:

(Mg) Magnesium: Epsom salt

(Ca) Calcium:  bone meal, oyster shells, dolomite lime

(S)Sulfur:  Epsom salt

 Plant micronutrientskelp meal, alfalfa meal, azomite

 pH buffer: oyster shells, dolomite lime, humic acid


What do home gardeners have to say about Super Soil?

 To give you an idea of what it is like to work with Super Soil, we met up with seasoned gardener Topher Jones to get his take on it.


How long have you been using Super Soil?

I have been using super soil for about two years, or about a dozen or more indoor crop cycles.  We stage our crop cycles, so I can let a batch of soil cook for a minimum of 30-45 days, but honestly, the longer the better.  The longer you let it cook, you give everything a chance to really break down, making nutrients more bioavailable and less hot.  The longer you let it cook, the friendlier the soil is for the plants.  You have to have a constant batch of super Soil waiting, so you can have a batch ready, fully cooked when you are ready to transplant. 

What made you decide to make the switch to super soil?

I have always liked the idea of organic, natural-style growing and saw the benefits of saving time by not having to pH and mix nutrients for all different stages of growth.  I was looking for something that was low-maintenance on daily chores.  With multiple rounds in different stages of flower, it was a no-brainer to not have to mix different batches of water and nutrients for each phase group.   I have also been continually learning and helping other people learn about their plants and grows, so super Soil gave me a simpler platform to learn and figure things out as I went along and developed my grow more.


Do you modify your recipe from the original Subcool recipe?  Why?

Generally, I keep the original recipe for the most part, but I sometimes add more perlite and stay on the low end of worm castings.  It says 25-50lb of worm castings in the original recipe and 50 pounds just seemed like a lot to me.  I use 25 pounds of worm castings and that seems to really be enough- you get a lot of nitrogen from the blood meal, too.  For Perlite, I add about 4gal by volume for every 2 gallons of soil because I like a more aerated soil.  My plants seem to like it more too. 


Do you do any other modifications during your grow cycle?

I feed with compost teas two weeks after flower and two weeks before harvest to keep bacteria and micro-life alive and thriving and add a little nutrient bump at the end.  It helps fully digest the amendments in the soil mix.  I also tried Mammoth this last grow cycle instead of compost tea and had really great results.  It definitely bumped up my yield by potentially as much 33%, but it’s too early to tell for sure.   I was pretty happy with the results, though, and am considering using it again.  I’m thinking about trying a new compost tea recipe and attempting to match results with Mammoth.  That might be hard to beat, though.


Have you noticed a difference in your overall plant quality with Super Soil? 

Plant quality is definitely high, but the best part about it is the consistency.  I rarely, if ever, see any nutrient deficiencies, across various plant types.  Minimal in-cycle work is a major plus.  Flavors and smells are fantastic with Super Soil- you can’t beat organic growing and I never have to worry about flushing my plants. 


Do you have any final comments for our readers?

For people who like organic growing and have busy schedules, I definitely recommend a form of Super Soil or highly amended growing medium for a great way to grow quality product


Thanks for your input, Topher!


Despite the evolutions of Subcool’s Super Soil recipe, the basics have stood the test of time.  You can see there are some major benefits to making the switch to organic Super Soil!  Stop in today to one of our seven locations if you think Super Soil might be right for you!

We would love to hear about your experiences with using highly amended soils, as well!  Do you follow the original High Times published version?  Do you use a combination of Super Soil and liquid fertilizers?  Do you tweak the recipe for your plants?  We would love to hear what our fellow gardeners are up to- comment below!













Heirloom Seeds vs Hybrid Seeds

Heirloom Tomatoes grown from heirloom seeds

What is the difference between Heirloom Seeds vs Hybrid Seeds?

Hybrid seeds are created by selecting two strains and cross-pollinating them in order to create a more vigorous plant, often times selecting for higher yield and shelf stability.  Heirlooms are old-time varieties saved year after year and are prized for their superb flavor, superior nutrient density and the ability to save your own

What are some advantages to growing heirloom strains?


The number one reason to grow heirlooms is the exceptional flavor.  Many modern breeding programs have sacrificed taste and nutrition in order to gain shelf stability.  Modern hybrids are often times bred to be picked green and gas-ripened because that is what is needed for commercial growing and shipping.  Heirlooms, on the other hand have been saved for decades and even centuries because they are the best performers for home and market gardens.  The ability to ship and distribute them was never a concern.  This allowed flavor to and nutrition to take a front seat.  What farmer could survive in a world of direct-to-market produce if their tomatoes didn’t taste as good as their neighbors?


On top of the need for a more shelf stable product, commercial breeders have been steadily selecting hybrids which yield more and more.  Although for home gardeners, a small difference in yield is not a big deal.  Even though hybrids often do out yield heirlooms, research has shown that newer, conventionally bred vegetables are significantly less nutrient dense than heirloom counterparts.  According to a study done by the Biochemical Institute at the University of Texas in 2009, there is an inverse relation between yield and mineral density with some minerals declining by as much as 40%.  This relationship is known as the genetic dilution effect and has been recognized as a reality since the 1940’s.

Saving Seeds and Local Adaptations

Another advantage of heirlooms over conventional hybrids is the ability to save your own seeds and replant them year after year.  Because heirloom plants are open-pollinated, seeds saved from heirlooms will produce plants that are true to type.  This allows home gardeners to continuously select seeds from plants which performed better than others and enjoy them year after year.  This creates locally adapted varieties that can better combat local pests and diseases.  Small, diverse gardens and heirlooms that have been selected for specific localities will only become more reliable year after year.  Not only do you get a better, locally adapted strain when you save your own seeds, but you also save money because you don’t have to purchase new seeds every year.

The advantages of heirloom varieties are plentiful.  Flavor, nutritional content and unlimited seeds are just a few of them.  We highly encourage everyone, with any space to grow their own and to do so with the most environmentally friendly methods.  This means organically grown heirloom varieties picked right out of the garden and served to the community in which they were grown.

Heirloom PumpkinsChoosing Your Heirloom Varietal

Do Your Research

In order to choose a strong variety for your specific zone, the best practice is to first do research into which varieties flourish there.  Part of this is determining where you will be planting your garden.  Is it south facing?  If so, you will have the longest daylight hours throughout the growth season and will want to choose varieties which grow better under these specific conditions.  There may be several varieties well suited for your specific situation.  Choosing to grow several is advantageous because some will perform better than others and gives you better chances of finding one especially well adapted to your growth environment.  Beginning with too many can be a hindrance because some may have such drastically different growth characteristics that growing them may be more difficult and costly than preferred.  A good number to start with is five.  This allows you to have a good variety to choose from while maintaining the least amount of variables.  Some varieties require a longer growth period before the onset of bloom, if your growth zone has longer winters it can be advantageous to start in a greenhouse or indoor propagation area prior to the last frost.  Some varieties are known to be cold hardy and may be a better option for those without a greenhouse or indoor area to start.

Define A Win!

Once you’ve chosen the best varieties on paper, it’s time to grow them out.  The amount of tomatoes you get, the size of them, whether they are early or late, and how they taste is dependent on a combination of factors, mainly, the variety and growing practices.  If you’ve got your growing methods dialed in then it’s time to choose the best.  You can define “best” as whatever characteristics you’re after: most tomatoes, shortest growing season, biggest or healthiest plant, biggest, tastiest or most colorful tomatoes.  Whatever you want!  Just choose the best examples of what you want to save.

Heirloom Seed Saving

On to the harvest!  You’ll want to choose tomatoes in their prime, not over-ripe or under-ripe, no diseased or misshapen tomatoes, etc.  This ensures you harvest seeds at the most fertile period.  While it is not absolutely necessary to ferment the seeds, it does provide some advantages such as making them easier to separate from the gel, helps sort out poor quality seeds, reduces some seed-borne illnesses, and eliminates a germination inhibitor.  If you’re planning on trading seeds with others, it is considered good etiquette to ferment them and here’s how you do it:

How to Ferment for Seed Preservation

Cut the tomato in half and scoop our squeeze the gel + seeds into a small, labeled container.  Set the rest of the tomato aside for consumption.  Add ¼ to ½ cup of water.  Set the container aside, out of the sun for a period of three to five days.  A moldy film will likely appear on top.  This is okay.  At this point it is time to separate the seeds.  First carefully remove the film, add some more water and stir.  Healthy seeds will sink, so you are no able to carefully pour off the water and floating bits of pulp.  Repeat this process until all of the pulp is gone and you are left with clean seeds.  Drain them as well as you can and spread them in a single later on a screen or paper plate to dry, paper towels are okay but the seeds tend to stick to them.  The seeds need the water to be wicked away from them so the screen or paper plate are preferred methods.  If you’re saving multiple varieties be sure to label the plates.
Once the seeds are thoroughly dry, place them in an airtight container for storage.  Tomato seeds can remain viable for years, even stored at room temperature.  For extra protection we recommend to store them in the refrigerator or freezer, but you’ll want to let them come to room temperature before opening the jar so as not to introduce moisture via condensation.  A small packet of silica gel will also help absorb excess moisture.

The More You Know the Better You Grow!

Voila!  You have successfully grown and saved your best heirloom varieties.  Next season choose a couple more new varieties and compare them to the ones you’ve saved, you may be able to find an even better choice.  Happy growing!



Veg vs Bloom Requirements

LEC 315: Ceramic Metal Halide Technology

LEC 315 lighting fixture

LEC 315

In the world of HID lighting for horticulture, Double Ended (DE) fixtures have been getting all the attention lately, but there is another “new” HID fixture that some growers may have naturally overlooked. Ceramic Discharge Metal halide (CDM) also marketed as Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH) and Light Emitting Ceramic (LEC). All of these are in fact the same technology. Ceramic lamps tend to run at a lower, fixed wattage, and their potential to save energy is often their most touted feature, so they may not be as exciting as that fully adjustable DE fixture that you can crank all the way to 1175watts. To fully appreciate the difference and why they deserve your attention, It’s best to see plants growing under an LEC first hand. Here are some of the reasons why you should take a field trip to your local Way to Grow today to see the difference for yourself.


Quality over Quantity


Ceramic lighting tech has actually been available for some time. They were first marketed for use in retail and commercial fixtures as an alternative to unnatural looking yellow-orange HPS bulbs or traditional Metal Halides which dim and burn out more quickly. Similar to a standard HPS bulb except the filament runs at a higher temperature giving them a high Color Rendering Index (CRI), truer to natural sunlight. The upshot was a lamp with the long life of a HPS. As well as a spectrum that couldn’t be matched by the best metal halides, and also capable of putting out excellent PAR measurements.


Grower Tested, Industry Approved


Naturally, when growers first stumbled on the specs for these retail bulbs It seemed a little too good to be true. Once people actually started using them and showing off the difference it made in their plants, ceramic lamps gained a following and the industry began to notice. We can talk PAR, spectrum and PPFD all day. And yes LEC lamps do excel in those areas, but perhaps more compelling is the fact that this tech was discovered “in the field” by growers just like you. It has been researched and vetted not in labs but in garages, basements and warehouses. This is a product that pushed its way into the market and onto grow room shelves as a response to consumer demand.


The Other Bits and Pieces


We’ve been focused mainly on the lamp since most of the LEC fixtures on the market will use either one or two 315watt bulbs. Even considering the improved spectrum, it may not seem like a small wattage bulb could keep up with fixtures pulling nearly twice the power as many growers had been claiming. The ballasts that drive the new lamps are also much improved over the standard magnetic coil ballasts that are used with most metal halide lamps. Just like DE fixtures, the digital ballasts which drive the new LEC lamps use new “digital square wave technology” which basically means the ballast spends more of its time at maximum voltage/light output.


The lower wattage draw means less heat to dissipate even though the lamp element itself is at a higher temperature. This allows the new LEC fixtures to be run open without a lens, keeping the bulb at optimum temperature (and therefore spectrum) without a heavy glass lens, which can rob 10% or more of light output. So now we know it’s a combination of the wide spectrum lamp, efficient ballast and ideal reflector design that allows these fixtures to perform so well compared to lamps drawing much more power.


Applications Well Suited for LEC


While there are both bloom (3100k) and veg (4200k) spectrum LEC bulbs available, either bulb is really dual purpose. That doesn’t mean they’re the best lamp in all circumstances, though. Despite all of their advantages, the 315w LEC does have a smaller effective footprint compared to a 600w or 1000w HPS. For some gardens that may be just right, like when working with a small space, or limited power overhead. We’ll wrap up with some of our favorite uses of LEC fixtures.lec 315 lighting grow tent


Propagation Station:

A single 315watt LEC fixture can easily replace two, 2’x4’ T5 fixtures in your cloning and propagation area. This provides the ideal mount of light without having to worry about excess heat or having to move the lights, while saving power to boot.


Most Veg Rooms:

Having vegged with everything from CFL’s to T5s to metal halides of every brand and wattage, I can safely say that ceramic fixtures produce the best results that I have ever seen during the vegetative phase. I’m not making any claims about growth rate, I’m simply talking about overall plant health and vigor. You can see it in the size and color of the leaves, how thick the stems are and how much lateral branching there is. LEC lamps are always at the top of the list when it comes to recommending a new lamp for a veg area.


Supplemental Lighting in Bloom:

LEC’s are a great way to give your plants flowering under HPS that little extra something they need to reach maximum potential.


Smaller grows without separate Veg and Bloom:

If you veg in the same area that you flower in, it can be hassle to buy extra bulbs, store them and swap them. The low power consumption and low heat dissipation can also really help when you’re in a tight area or are already running at the limit of your cooling/airflow.


Limited Power availability:

Not every grow area has easy access to a 50 amp sub-panel or dryer hookup. Not all properties can be easily modified or upgraded. If you’re working with older wiring, or a limited number of amps, it may be much more practical to use LECs.


If you have any questions about ceramic lighting, use LEC’s, or have other suggestions on how to utilize them, comment below!