Feeding occurs when watering. Sounds obvious to anyone that has grown just about anything, but to a complete novice, maybe not so obvious. The art of feeding is as much a science as an art. The trick is paying attention to your plants. They will speak to you. When discussing feeding with an experienced grower, you will likely get a mix of science and their philosophies developed over years of growing. It often sounds more like a spiritual practice than something as mundane as feeding plants.
On one hand we have those that feed based on current observations of their plants. Again, a very zen place to be as a grower. On the other hand we have feeding schedules produced by all major nutrient companies. These can be intimidating if you have never used one. It’s important to note, it’s not necessary to use every product in a particular company's product line to grow quality cannabis. The companies themselves don’t create these grow schedules intending for everyong to use every product. Schedules are there to guide a grower to the timing and quantities when using a given product from their nutrient line.
All this is fine and great, but how does a newbie know what, when and how much to feed our precious plants? This is the question every grower must find a balance with during every grow. Ideally, the amount and frequency will be maximized based on what the plant can uptake. This of course is the edge of maximizing yield and quality which is often dependent on the chosen cannabis strain. Some strains will yeild less quantity, potency and quaility because their genetics are the limiting factor. So before you sprout a seed, do some research and choose wisely.
SOIL / MEDIUM
Before you start, there are a few details you will want to be aware of. Understand the nutrient requirements of your given soil type. If you are using what is known as a living soil, a cannabis plant can live its entire grow cycle without feeding. This is because a living soil comes pre-packed with nutrients. Although, your plant will eventually use them and the soil will become depleted. At least supplemental feeding is recommended in a living soil. Which is why some feeding with living soil is necessary. If you choose pretty much any other medium for your soil, you will need to feed almost every watering. This is because mediums are designed to be inert substances that don’t come with any nutrients. You will need to supply your plants with all their nutritional needs.
The next detail is pH. If your soil, medium or water pH is outside of the range a cannabis plant requires, your plants will not uptake nutrients or water. Resulting in what is known as lock out followed by the plant most likely dying. So before you begin to grow, invest in a method of confirming the pH of your soil or medium. When testing your water, it’s most important to know what the pH is after mixing in nutrients. Although, if the water you start with is way off to begin with, this could be a problem as well. There are pH up and down products to correct this.
Acceptable pH ranges for each grow medium:
- Coco pH range: 5.7 to 6.2
- Soil pH range: 6.2 to 6.8
- Hydroponics pH range: 5.7 to 5.9
As stated in the beginning, feeding occurs at the time of watering. But what to feed? Most suggest choosing a popular nutrient brand such as House and Garden or Advanced Nutrients. Study their products and get a feel for the strategy they use for feeding. Mixing multiple nutrient lines can be confusing unless you are keanly aware of what a chosen product does and you are experienced enough to know how to use said product.
Once you decide on a nutrient line, start with the base nutrients. Your plants can thrive with just the base nutrients. Everything else is the beginning of growing the best cannabis you can find. Simply follow the mixing instructions and ratio’s on the product label. Then water per the instructions laid out in my previous article. You can find it here: https://dig.supply/blogs/education/watering-feeding You will want to acquire a suitable watering container. A five gallon bucket works well, but of course there are watering cans with spouts that shower when watering. Just be sure you can measure the volume of water so you can be sure to mix the nutrients at the correct ratio.
Don’t mix more than is needed for one feeding. Once these products are mixed together in water, they will begin to react with each other. This is the reason most products are packaged separately and it’s not possible to create one mixture with everything needed. In addition, the needed nutrient ratios will change based on the stage your plants are in.
When feeding, take into account the maturity of the plant. Young plants won’t need as much water or nutrients. Again follow the instructions from the previous blog post about watering. Pay close attention to your plants. Look for signs of trouble, research what you see and come up with a solution. Ideally your cannabis plants should be a deep green with leaves that reach for the sky when the lights are on or the sun is out. If they are drooping under light,( they will droop in the dark ), show signs of yellowing, curling leaves or the tips are burning, these are the important signs to look for.
Remember overwatering is the most common mistake a new gardener makes, so make sure to allow the soil to dry thoroughly before watering and feeding again. Be sure to water and feed consistently. Missing a day or two, or three means you are limiting the potential of the end product. Also, a plant, like exercise for a human, gets used to the patterns you create. Consistent watering and feeding is important to train the plant to uptake more nutrients.
Now that you have a consistent feeding pattern shown in the healthy nature of your plants, it’s time to take into account the stage of its growth cycle. We have the veg stage. ( veg = Vegetative ) This is when your plant is becoming larger and not flowering. During this stage your plants need more nitrogen than anything else. This will be reflected in any nutrient brands base products.
Once a plant reaches the flowering stage ( aka: bloom ), it is generally thought of as three stages. Early, middle and late flowering. During this time a base nutrient is still needed. Again, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations in regards to how much. The details of how to feed during flowering can be quite detailed and will vary depending who is doing the growing. How a gardener feeds during the flowering stage is developed in time as you gain experience. For now, it’s important to know the cannabis plant requires a denser feeding of PK. Phosphorus and Potassium. So in addition to an adjusted amount of your base nutrients it’s time to add a PK boost, as it’s often referred to.
This covers the primary nutrients a cannabis plant needs to thrive. There are a few other well known additives to note. In particular, soil microbes. Also known as mychorrhizae, bacterial innoculants or just innoculant to name a few. Soil microbes form a symbiotic relationship with the roots, allowing the roots to access more nutrients and water. This not only improves your yield, but it also makes the plant more resilient to disease and pests. This is why microbes are known as an innoculant.
You can’t add too much soil microbes. Although at some point you are just wasting money and product. The leading product for the rhizosphere is Tribus. The term rhisophere is often used to refer to the environment in the soil containing soil microbes. You can find Tribus products here. https://dig.supply/collections/fertilizer/brand_impello-biosciences Some people will feed their plants Tribus every feeding. Others are a bit more selective. Another thing you will develop as you gain experience.
In addition to soil microbes, your soil microbes like to eat and they eat sugar. Virtually the most well known cannabis nutrient is Bud Candy by Advanced Nutrients. While this isn’t the only product filled with sugars to feed soil microbes, it is well known. https://dig.supply/products/advanced-nutrients-bud-candy?_pos=1&_sid=cc0d092f3&_ss=r Another form of sugars is molasses. Here is an example here: https://dig.supply/products/raw-cane-molasses?_pos=1&_sid=0ea119494&_ss=r
Other good products to consider that work well with soil microbes are teas. Here is a web page with the teas we carry here at DIG. https://dig.supply/collections/fertilizer/type_tea Tea’s are another topic altogether. Their ingredients are more complex than other products and some growers swear by them. Just another thing for you to explore.
Good luck with your gardening adventures!