There is a lot to know when it comes to nutrients. It can take decades to learn how to properly prevent, identify, and treat pests and problems. And as technology continues to advance at breakneck speeds, constant learning is required for even the most knowledgeable cultivator.
But a PhD in biochemistry isn’t necessary to grow marijuana. Generations of humans have utilized soil, water, and sun to grow their plants. But nature is fickle and never gives up her bounty willingly. Fluctuations in weather and climate make keeping the correct balance difficult.
So modern farmers utilize greenhouses and indoor gardens to help stabilize the mix of elements. This leads to a more consistent and bountiful crop but also increases the knowledge required to keep the system in balance. Failure to fulfill or adapt to the plants changing needs results in dead plants.
Just like human bodies, plants need specific nutrients at specific times. The basic building blocks of any plant are Nitrogen, Phosphate, and Potash (commonly abbreviated as NPK). Once dissolved into water, these chemicals provide the structure and propel the chemistry plants depend on to live.
Plants use NPK to develop strong stalks, transport chemicals and especially to produce new growth. This means that growers must feed a steady supply to the plant throughout the growing process. But care must be taken to avoid providing too much at once as well.
If the levels of any nutrient rise to high, the plants essentially lock-out that chemical and generally suffer. When growing cannabis, this can lead to stunted plant growth and low harvest weights. Because of that, most growers rely on a nutrient system.
Cannabis goes through three main stages of growth: Clone/seedling, vegetative and flower. In the clone or seedling stage, plants need mostly water since the initial nutrients for life are contained in the seed. Clones have the added need of a rooting solution like honey or Atomic Root Powder to stimulate root growth.
But the plant quickly develops into the vegetative (veg) stage. During this stage, the plant uses the most nitrogen but little phosphorus and potash. This is when you get the most growth and this stage lasts until the plant enters flower.
Once the flowering stage begins, the amount of nitrogen the plant needs drops dramatically. But building big, beautiful buds requires a lot of phosphorus and especially potassium. The standard rule of thumb is to have twice as much potassium as nitrogen in the growing media at this time.
Not all nutrients are the same.
Because science is a thing, people have developed multiple nutrient systems. Companies like Advanced Nutrients, Vegamatrix and Dakine 420 all produce their own lines of nutrients. Each company also offers a slight variation to the ratios and concentration of the mix. Just be sure to pH balance after adding your nutrients.
Advanced Nutrients provides a liquid three-part system. They also offer a massive index of individual micronutrients that the curious can use to tweak their plants growth. This is like the equipment designed for astronauts; high tech and with more buttons than people know what to do with.
Vegamatrix uses a three-part system of liquid nutrients. They also offer additional micronutrient solutions with a focus on non-GMO sources. This system is akin to shopping at a farmers market where processed elements are completely absent.
Dakine 420 goes with a four-part system of powder nutrients. This system includes all of the micronutrients needed for vibrant growth but the company also provides rooting powder as part of the base system. It’s like an Olympic athletes diet that has been fine-tuned over generations.
Powders offer a big advantages.
There is a long-standing debate over the efficacy of liquid versus powder nutrients. But long-term studies show that both forms are used by plants equally. This means that farmers are free to choose the system that fits their needs best instead of which form is more effective.
The initial reason to choose powdered nutrients is the weight savings during shipping and subsequent storage. Liquid nutrients are concentrated but still contain large amounts of water. Many micronutrient solutions can have almost 90% water. But powders ship only the active ingredients, saving massive amounts of money on shipping and storage, especially for large commercial operations.
Powders are also significantly more stable. Fluid nutrients can ‘go bad’ after a few months. Liquids can dry out, settle and separate while powders remain stable over time. There is a chance for clumping with powders but usually only if water or other liquid is introduced to the mix.
Most indoor cannabis cultivators are growing hydroponically. Because of this, the vast majority of nutrients are designed for these systems. Most liquid nutrients come in two parts because they contain elements that can precipitate out.
Mixing chemicals in the wrong order or concentration can cause the them to bind with other nutrients. When this happens, the plants are no longer able to absorb them freely. For this reason, it is incredibly important to mix nutrients in the order the manufacturer suggests. But don’t follow the instructions blindly and overfeed.
Overfeeding is a rookie mistake that can lead to plant damage or even death. Because of this, most experienced growers suggest starting any new nutrient line at about 25%-50% of the potency the manufacturer recommends. Then only increase the potency if the plant appears to be struggling.