by Sirius Fourside
What’s the secret to growing the best bud? Is there really even a secret? As growers, our nature compels us to search for that “secret thing” that will take our grows to the next level.
The problem is that sometimes we’re looking in the wrong place, and I’ve personally spent a lot of time and money doing exactly that!
For example, when I first started growing I paid about $300 for an all-in-one (light included) ‘herb-growing’ system after reading on a forum that it was great for growing cannabis. To make a long story short, it was not great for growing cannabis and I used my new $300 system to hold my tears.
Meanwhile, I could’ve spent that same amount of money and got enough materials for a full grow! Honestly, I could have bought $300 worth of buckets and dirt and it still would have been a smarter purchase.
If you hate learning lessons the hard way, read below for some tips that would’ve saved me hours of time, hundreds of dollars, and a lot of heartache!
Quick tips to keep your money safe from harm:
- Take what any seller says with a grain of salt – Sellers want to sell you something! Try to find grow journals, videos and/or pictures of people using the gadget, supplement, light, nutrient, product, etc. on actual cannabis plants so you can know what to expect.
- K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Silly) – There’s something to be said for keeping things simple; especially for your very first grow! When it comes down to it, you just need a growing medium, a cannabis-friendly grow light, base nutrients, pH adjuster, water (yup, even tap water) and a place to grow. Sometimes adding more to the mix (like how I did) just makes things more complicated and you might not be able to tell what exactly is causing your problem.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If someone tells you that you’re going to get triple the potency and double the yields from using their product, they’re probably exaggerating. If something worked that well, it would quickly become standard procedure for growers everywhere; humans aren’t too good at keeping secrets that big.
Light Is Like Food
Light is by far the biggest contributor to the potency and yields of your harvests after genetics. That’s not to say light is the only thing cannabis needs; they also need water, an array of minerals, air, proper pH, and the list goes on.
However, of all the things you need to provide to your cannabis plants, light is one of the only things that will increase the potency and yields of your buds in direct proportion to how much light your plants get (up to a point of course). Light is “food” for your plants and directly powers the growth of buds!
One way to measure light intensity is using a unit of measurement called “lux” (which is equal to lumens per square meter). Higher lux means higher light levels. Your cannabis plant can survive on as little as 15,000 lux, or as much as 85,000 lux for light-resistant strains (like many sativas) in the flowering stage.
For most strains, 65,000 lux is a great amount of light. More is better up until that point! Being on the top end of that range means you don’t have to worry if your cannabis is getting enough light.
A lux meter isn’t a perfect measure of how much light is getting to your plants, but it will help you estimate how much light your plants are getting in specific spots compared to other spots. This will help you get more out of your grow lights, and it’ll also show you if your plants could do with more or less light. If you’re looking to get bigger, more potent buds and your plants aren’t getting anywhere close to 65,000 lux, you know where to start making changes!
If you’re a grower who utilizes LEDs, lux won’t help you in terms of measuring light intensity. However, while lux isn’t a perfect measurement of the light that plants need, it just happens to be close enough when it comes to pretty much every other kind of grow light besides LEDs.
Learn how to use a lux meter to measure light levels
Here’s a quick guide to lux:
less than 15,000 lux – sparse or “stretchy” growth – plant isn’t getting enough light
15,000 – 50,000 lux – good amount of light for healthy vegetative growth
45,000 – 70,000 lux – optimal amount of light for cannabis plants in the flowering (budding) stage
70,000 – 85,000 lux – a lot of light, some sativa strains thrive at this light level, but some plants lose their top leaves early under this light intensity, especially plants that are not resistant to heat/light (like many indicas)
more than 85,000 lux – at this light intensity, you’ve hit the plant’s “saturation point” which means your plant can’t use all the light without additional CO2 and may start experiencing light bleaching!
Lesson learned: When other factors are taken care of, light makes the most difference in bud quality and yields. Also, a lux meter can pay for itself in a single harvest.
Nutrients and Supplements Are Like Vitamins
Have you ever tried an expensive nutrient line because it’s supposed to make your plants grow faster?
Have you ever used a supplement that claims to make your buds bigger, more potent, and more fragrant?
I’ve used many types of nutrients and given dozens of different supplements to my plants in the effort to make them bigger and better. Honestly, I did it in the hopes that I would get better bud with minimal effort. But one day I switched to a basic nutrient line (General Hydroponics Flora Trio) and stopped using supplements and something weird happened…nothing!
The plants I grow with basic nutrients are basically indistinguishable from the plants I’ve grown with expensive nutrients and all kinds of supplements. This actually makes sense when you consider that light, genetics and the dry/cure are the major players in bud quality/potency.
I’m not trying to posit that supplements or high-end nutrients are inherently bad or anything. In fact, I still like some of the higher-end nutrients and there are supplements that I use in every single grow. It just means that for me, many of these products aren’t justifying their prices with tangible results. The plain base nutrients from most popular companies will do the job just fine on their own!
This is what’s most important to remember when it comes to nutrients & supplements:
- Your overall growing environment, your strain and your dry/cure each have a bigger impact on your final yields and bud quality than the specific nutrients/supplements you use – no bottle can make up for not taking care of your plant and buds properly.
- Managing the pH is the #1 way to prevent nutrient deficiencies. Nutrients just don’t work very well if the pH at your plant roots is too high or low. This is the most common reason growers see signs of nutrient deficiencies (you might be interested to learn about growing in super soil, which is the only way to grow cannabis where you don’t need to manage the pH). Plants tend to be hardier in the vegetative stage, but in the flowering stage the pH becomes crucial, especially during the second half of the flowering stage when your plants start getting finicky!
- Don’t use too much at a time. Too high levels of nutrients will give you nutrient burn, which can affect the taste of your buds in the flowering stage. It may seem like more = better but unfortunately, that’s not true. Generally, it’s recommended to start at half strength compared to what the manufacturer tells you (since most nutrient schedules are far too strong for cannabis) and only use a stronger strength if your plants are looking pale and getting deficiencies even when the pH is in the correct range.
- Give an all-purpose (vegetative) nutrient formula in the vegetative stage. The extra nitrogen ensures fast vegetative growth!
- Use a low-nitrogen (bloom) nutrient formula in the flowering stage. Too much nitrogen affects bud taste and can suppress bud growth (giving you smaller yields!)
- Everything in this list matters more to your results than the brand of nutrients you use. Learn more about cannabis nutrients and supplements.
Lesson learned: Until your plants are getting 65,000 lux, every dollar spent towards getting better lights will give you VASTLY better returns than paying for more/better nutrients/supplements. You can use just base nutrients, which give you everything your plant needs, and get superior results. For example the General Hydroponics Flora Trio is cheap, no frills, and works like a champion all by itself!
Every Strain is Different, or ‘They Can’t All Yield Like Wonder Woman’
A while back, I did a DWC (hydroponic) grow with 2 strains side-by-side: BlackJack and Wonder Woman. Although they both turned out well, the Wonder Woman in particular was an absolute beast!
This plant produced 2 ounces more bud than the plant it was sharing a tent with!
Wonder Woman has a lot of positive traits:
- Quick flowering time
- High Potency
- Monster Yields
- Insanely resilient; deals with any problem in stride
- Easy to train
Almost sounds too good, right? So what’s the problem? You’ll see in just a second…
Right after the Wonder Woman and BlackJack, I grew 2 different strains side-by-side: Sour Diesel and 818 Headband. This time, it was the Sour Diesel stole the show. This is one of several similar-sized colas:
So here’s where the problem shows up. Before I even got a chance to try any of this Sour Diesel, I compared its yields to the Wonder Woman:
- Wonder Woman yields: 12.57oz (one plant)
- Sour Diesel yields: 5.58oz (one plant)
The Sour Diesel yielded less than half of the Wonder Woman!
The conditions were basically the same, so I assumed I must’ve just messed up somewhere.
After 4 weeks of curing the new buds (and beating myself up), I finally tried the Sour Diesel and immediately decided it was the best bud I had grown. Make no mistake, Wonder Woman is extremely potent and very high-yielding! But this Sour Diesel blew me away in a way I had not expected. I was so happy with it that I got a vacuum sealer for my mason jars just so I could keep it as it was for as long as possible. To this day, Reserva Privadas version of Sour Diesel is still my favorite strain!
Lesson learned: A strain’s worth is based solely on how much YOU like it. The yields, potency, taste, smell and popularity mean nothing compared to how it works for you personally. Also, don’t get caught up on yields! If you’re happy with what you harvested, that’s a win!
Try Your Best to Be Patient (It’s Hard!)
There are a few major tests of a grower’s patience that occur in each grow:
- Waiting for seeds to break the surface: Growers get afraid that they might not show up, or are just curious to see them. Either way, it’s hard to leave plants alone during this time because it can take a few days. Learn some of the best ways to germinate your seeds.
- Waiting for signs of a plant’s sex: Even if you bought feminized seeds, most growers want confirmation from their plant that they have a girl since only female plants make buds. It’s like a cannabis plant delivery room, except it takes weeks! Most of the time you can spot the gender when a plant is 3-6 weeks from seed (earlier for males, later for females).
- Waiting for the right time to harvest: You’re never hungrier than when you’re at a restaurant, you’ve placed your order, and you’re waiting for your food to arrive. Waiting for harvest time is like waiting for your food…while you’re standing behind the chef…who happens to be very slow. Your plant has been growing new leaves and stems throughout the grow, but in the second half of the flowering stage it doesn’t look like it’s doing anything at all. Even though the buds are fattening up and increasing in potency, you won’t be able to see much difference from day to day and it starts getting really tempting to harvest your plants early! Waiting for the right time to harvest will dramatically increase your yields and potency, so don’t fall into the trap of harvesting early!
Being an impatient grower can cost you even more time and money than you hoped to save; trust me on that one!
But with that being said, #3 is the real one to watch out for! Harvesting your bud early means possible speediness/headaches, decreased yields and drastically decreased potency. Conversely, harvesting late just means that your buds will have a stronger couch-lock effect. Even if that’s not ideal, I personally would prefer having a stronger couch-lock effect as opposed to harvesting smaller yields of weaker bud.
Lesson learned: Being patient is tough, but we can all do it. Harvest time is a part of the grow period that requires a bit of patience. Never harvest early if you can help it; it’s better to harvest 2 weeks late than 1 week early!
Learn more about proper harvesting here: https://www.growweedeasy.com/harvest
Be Nice to Yourself!
I’ve seen pictures of plants from first time growers, and I’m absolutely blown away at how well so many people do on their first try! My first attempt ended with 2 dead plants before I ever got to the flowering stage!
But sadly, so many growers – despite doing a great job – beat themselves up for not having perfect plants. And while there’s nothing wrong with being critical of your own work, it’s always best to keep your self-criticism in perspective. It’s easy to look at other grows online and feel like you’re not doing well.
The truth is that no one is the perfect grower. Even growers with lots of growing experience and seemingly perfect plants run into problems occasionally. I know that I run into my fair share of problems as well. If you’re hoping to have 100% pristine plants from seed to harvest, it’s likely that you’re setting yourself for a bit of disappointment.
Besides, what matters is the end result. If your plant is happy, a few leaves that don’t look perfect isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it’s the norm!
If you’re thinking of beating yourself up over a mistake you’ve made, instead, ask yourself this question:
Did I learn something that will make my next grow better? Am I still happy with what I have?
If you answered yes, you’ve already won. Remember, the only person you’re competing with is you. You’re growing medicine for yourself, so it only has to meet your requirements. If you’re happy with the bud you’re harvesting, you’re a successful grower.
Lesson learned: The only person you need to impress is you. If you love what you’re producing, that’s all that matters!
- Light is of the utmost importance! See our page on choosing or upgrading your grow lights for more info.
• A lux meter is worth its weight in gold if you’re using T5, CFL, MH, LEC or HPS!
- Patience can’t be purchased when it comes to harvesting your plants, but a jeweler’s loupe or a handheld microscope will definitely help you resist harvesting early! We use this digital handheld microscope by Carson. Learn how to use a magnifier to pick the perfect time to harvest.
- Nutrients and especially supplements aren’t what makes big yields. A simple nutrient line like General Hydroponics Flora Trio will last you 3+ grows and will take you from seed to harvest! You need only base nutrients to get great yields and amazing bud quality, plus you’ll also get a baseline so you can tell if extra supplements actually seem to help! Still, there are supplements (Cal-Mag, Hydroguard that are great, so discount them all.
- There is no best strain; what makes a good strain is dependent on your preference! Wonder Woman and Sour Diesel are both Superstar strains that I love, but what’s most important is finding the right strain that excites you!
- Be nice to yourself! I bet you’re doing a great job! In fact…
Come visit our growing community and share what you’ve been growing! Green-thumbs, Black-thumbs and Grass-assins are all encouraged to join!
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How to Use a Cheap Lux Meter to Increase Yields
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Learn how to consistently harvest 4-7 ounces with our 250W grow tutorial!