When it comes to weed, there are physical traits experienced medicinal cannabis growers seek for crops for reasons ranging from efficiency to harvest quality. At the other end of the pipe we have the medicinal toker, who is looking for traits based less on ease of growth and more on characteristics like good potency in a clean and smooth smoke that is free of potentially harmful contaminants.
You are most likely the “middle man (or woman):" You bridge the grower and the medicinal consumer and looking for something that can be referred to as “bag appeal," or marketability.
There was a time, which still exists in many places, when just having a decent bud to smoke is pretty great. Fortunately, the global standard for cannabis has steadily been on the rise, and coming with it are more discerning tastes and more criteria in what people expect from good bud.
Cannabis plants are strongly influenced by external environmental factors; and in large part, how those external factors act on the inherent genetics (whether from seed or clone). In short, plants come equipped with their own triggers, so they don't need any substitutions in their internal chemistry to influence growth traits; rather they are able to follow “signals.” These signals can be applied by the grower in a very wide variety of ways.
There is “no magic bullet” that is going to deliver all of the qualities sought in a medicinal cannabis harvest. Yes, there are many highly beneficial nutrients and additives that are exemplary for conscientious crop feeding that cross over very nicely into cannabis production.
Then there are those that do not.
Plant Growth Regulators (PGRs) can range from benign to humans and the environment to having a serious potential for harm.
Example: Sea kelp is full of naturally occurring plant hormones like cytokinins that can help create faster-growing, short, squat cannabis plants. My grandparents grew beautiful plants with aquatic compost, and so did their grandparents, whether they knew about naturally occurring PGRs or not.
But the synthetic plant growth regulators act in much the same way herbicides do: They making drastic and radical changes to the plants internal chemistry by way of externally applied synthetic chemistry (i.e signal “blockers”). These PGR can have harmful side effects for both people and the environment. Paclobutrazol is one such chemical, and has occasionally been mislabeled and sold to growers as natural. Make sure to read labels before using anything.
Also be sure to consider that there are ways to reach maximum yield that doesn't involve nutrients (chemical or organic) at all.
It's nice to have plants that grow squat, stout and flower quickly; perfect for producing the tight crystal-covered medicinal nugs that everyone loves. But how does one grow indoors under lights; while maintaining compact and productive plants?
You can use different light wavelengths to maximize growing indoors, so the light source works for rather than against the growing process.
High Kelvin (ie 5500+K) lighting in veg and early bloom will help keep your plants very stout, with more flowering sites per foot of vertical growth. By supplementing your bud cycle's High Pressure Sodium lighting with side lighting sourced from higher Kelvin (blue) lights, you will see tighter harder buds and better crop quality overall, with no chemicals required.
Then there are growers who tailor different wavelengths via LED (some use “reds,” which do more than HPS can do), which take cannabis resin qualities where they may have never gone before, and all without the use of synthetic PGRs.
Don't forget to start at the very beginning: your plant's genetics. Looking for strains that suit your growing style and what you want to see in your harvest is always going to be your best bet to cultivating success.
There are so many ways to grow beautifully. Stay tuned.