High Times’ cultivation specialist Danny Danko answers all your burning questions about being the best grower you can be. But first, some quick tips from the expert himself:
- Remove male plants from your garden before they’re able to open up their flowers and release pollen.
- Plants continue to stretch for several weeks after flowering is induced, so factor in extra vertical space.
- Keep hot ballasts out of your growing space to reduce heat buildup.
Subject: Falling Branches
From: Doctor Octopot
I have what some might call a high-class problem. I grow my plants in 5-gallon buckets and vegetate them out for 6 weeks before I start flowering. By the time I’m ready to harvest, the plants are over 4 feet tall with multiple branches. The only problem is that many of the branches sag and droop from the weight of the buds. What is the best way to keep them closer to the lights?
The easiest way to ensure your colas stay upright is to use a simple trellis system. I prefer this to using individual stakes because it’s less work and more forgiving. Use strong string or rope to create an interlocking mat the size of your canopy with holes between the ropes approximately 6 inches by 6 inches. Safely secure it above your plants during the vegetative stage and let the branches grow up into it, taking care to guide branches into unpopulated holes. Eventually, this trellis system will keep all of your branches pointing upward toward your lights, and you won’t have to worry about sagging colas that don’t receive enough lumens to reach their full potential.
Subject: Bud Rot
I’ve been growing outdoors successfully for several years, but I’ve recently run into a serious problem. After an unusually wet late summer/early fall, my flowers seem to be developing some sort of mold. Parts of the colas suddenly start to appear brown, and then the brown part seems to spread throughout the buds very quickly. I’ve been cutting out the effected parts, but now I’m losing close to half of my harvest to this plague. Is there anything I can do to try to prevent this in the future, and also, is it safe to smoke the unaffected buds?
Bud rot is a serious issue and certainly not one to take lightly. There are a few things you can do to mitigate or avoid the problem. One is to grow in a greenhouse or hoop house so that rainwater can’t accumulate within your colas. Shake off any branches that have visible wetness on them as well, even within the enclosures, because high humidity can cause liquid to build up and this is where mold thrives. If you insist on growing outdoors, cover the plants temporarily before any rainstorms and in the mornings when dew can accumulate.
You’re right to cut out any moldy or rotten parts you can see in order to keep it from spreading, but the fungus that causes rot isn’t always visible, and it can spread even after you’ve seemingly removed the affected pieces.
As for smoking moldy buds, I would never recommend it, particularly for people using medical marijuana due to compromised immune systems. Airborne fungus particles that settle in your lungs aren’t part of a safe smoking experience. Like I mentioned before, the buds don’t have to be visibly affected by bud rot to still have spores on them, so you are smoking them at your own risk.
Subject: Snail’s Pace
I’m only a grower for personal medical use, but my problem is that since it’s been raining like crazy where I live, all these damn snails and roly-polies are eating my plants alive! What’s the best solution?
Snails can be a serious problem, especially for young plants. Signs of their damage are the mucous trails they leave behind and holes in leaves of plants. It’s a good idea to spread some diatomaceous earth around the plants to discourage snails and slugs.
One of the best ways to keep them from harming your plants is to maintain a dry top layer of soil by watering from below, but it doesn’t sound like that’s possible in your growing situation. Another great and safe remedy is to sink a cup of beer into your soil, leaving the rim of the cup at the soil level. Slugs can’t resist the yeasty concoction and will drop right into the cup and drown.
I try not to recommend slug- and snail-killing products such as Deadline (Sluggo is the safer alternative if you have pets), but I would be remiss not to mention them as a nuclear option. Spray a thin line of it about a foot or so in diameter around the base of your young shoots in the evening and then every 3 to 4 weeks after that.
Roly-polies (also known as pill bugs or potato bugs—scientific name: Armadillidium vulgare) mostly eat dead and decaying plant material, but they’ve been known to eat the roots and stems of living plants as well, albeit rarely. They prefer damp areas but are fairly harmless to your plants.
Subject: Flowering Clones
From: Big D Papa
I have a question about some clones I got from a friend when they were all about 6-12 inches tall and already budding. I don’t know how this happened because they were outside, but I want to know if this is going to affect the overall yield. Should I toss them and start over, or is there hope for them to survive and then thrive later down the road?
I’ve seen this problem arise plenty of times. People forget to clone their plants during the vegetative stage and then think they can get away with cloning them when they are flowering. The problem is that the flowering clones must then revert back into the vegetative stage, and this process takes time and can also result in shocking plants into strange behaviors.
I strongly suggest taking clones only from vegetating plants. This way, you won’t have to re-veg the plants and you’ll avoid issues such as the plants turning into hermaphrodites or mutating in other ways due to stress. Sometimes, leaves will come out twisted or with only one or two blades. All of this means that you’ll be wasting time instead of strengthening the plants for their eventual flowering stage.
The reason this happened outside is likely because the plants weren’t receiving more than 12 hours of light per day. If you supplement their light regimen to 18 hours or so per day, you will avoid having them prematurely flower until you want them to do so.
Subject: Side Lighting
l have a question about something I’ve been struggling with: What would be a better option, supplementing my closet grow with some side lighting or removing the lower branches from my plants? I’m not a big fan of removing anything other than suckers and big fan leaves that suppress light penetration. I would like to add LED bars on every side to give the lower branches more light. What are your thoughts?
I highly recommend adding side lighting over removing lower branches. This will increase your yield significantly at a fairly low cost with minimal heat added. If you choose not to add side lighting, then removing some of the lower branches will send more energy into the upper branches, but lighting the lower ones is a better option in my opinion.
Subject: Compost Builder
From: Aleks K.
I’m very interested in making my own compost and finding a good natural fertilizer for my first grow. I want to be as natural as possible, and I’m hoping that my plants might benefit from calcium produced from eggshells, potassium from bananas, etc. Am I on the right track? Should I try this?
Composting is a great way to reuse kitchen scraps and yard waste while also providing mild nutrients to your plants. You can purchase a composting bin or make your own compost pile very easily. The important thing to remember is the proper ratio of carbon to nitrogen (or browns to greens) for the composting process to occur. Most organic gardeners recommend about 30 to 1 (not by volume, but by chemical composition) of carbon to nitrogen to get the pile to heat up and decay properly.
Examples of carbons (or browns) are dead leaves, straw or hay, while nitrogens (or greens) consist of grass clippings, food scraps (excluding meat and oily scraps), coffee grounds and seaweed (rinsed of salt). Build your pile starting with a base of carbons and then add nitrogens in between layers of more carbons.
Once built, your pile should start heating up, and you’ll be amazed at the microbial activity and may even see steam rising up from your pile. Turn it every couple of days or so with a pitchfork to mix and you’ll see finished compost in a few months depending on how active your pile gets.
You can then use the cured compost as a mulch on top of your existing soil around the base of your plants, or you can brew it into compost tea using a simple 5-gallon bucket. Place the compost inside a bag that will allow water to permeate into it without letting the compost out. Pantyhose or a burlap sack work nicely. Oxygenate your solution for 24 hours to activate and accelerate the growth of microbes, and then pour the tea directly onto your plants or use it as a foliar feed.
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Originally published in the June, 2019 issue of High Times magazine. Subscribe right here.