Questions from you. Answers from Nico Escondido, cultivation editor of HIGH TIMES.
Welcome, friends, to our first-ever edition of Nico’s Nuggets – our online Q & A dedicated to helping the world grow. And what better way to fight ignorance and propaganda than through passive civil disobedience? So have no fear, HIGH TIMES is always here to help you quietly fight the good fight and get growing today!
Question One Subject: Indoor, Nutrient Deficiencies From: Nannette Lane Q: I'm growing in a closet growroom. My babies are about one foot tall and they were looking very healthy. Now the leaves are curling at the edges and feel dry. I have good circulation and ventilation. I was wondering if this condition is being caused by too little or too much water, or are they not getting enough carbon dioxide? Thanks for any help you can give…
A: Hey Nannette, Plant leaves can be an excellent barometer for garden conditions, and more often than not any discoloration or wilting of leaves points to nutrient deficiencies. That being said, water, temperature, and humidity can also affect the development of leaves, stems, and flowers as incorrect ratios of these factors can severely hinder food production and movement.
Going purely by your description of curling leaf edges and dry tips, your issue sounds more like a nutrient deficiency – most probably potassium (K). Potassium is essential throughout all stages of plant development. It is a mineral that is easily translocated from older leaves to younger, so potassium deficiencies will first appear on lower, older leaves. Additionally, nitrogen (N) and magnesium (Mg) deficiencies can lead to drying and turning or cupping upward of leaves.
My recommendation is to begin a mild nutrient regimen immediately. Look for a nutrient line that offers a complete N-P-K package as well as some of the smaller, “micro” nutrients such as calcium, zinc, magnesium, etc. Since your plants are young and still in a vegetative state, your N-P-K ratio should be higher on the nitrogen side – something like a 5-2-2 should suffice – with minor amounts of the other trace elements to round out the menu.
Always use reputable nutrient brands like General Hydroponics (GH) or Botanicare and be wary of heavily loaded brands (such as Miracle-Gro) which generally have very high mineral values and can cause more problems than they solve. The best practice for a feeding regimen usually follows a three-day cycle, with feeding on the first day, pure water only on the second day, and nothing on the third day, allowing the medium to fully dry out; then repeat.
Question Two Subject: Outdoor, Organic Soils & Plant Containers From: Brgmred70 Q: I am going to start growing! We watched your Grow Like a Pro DVD and liked the big outdoor plant boxes you showcased. I am going to make mine 4’ x 4’ x 2’ deep. Wondering what the ratio for the soil is? Also what about using compost from our local waste management department? Used it for veggies and it worked fine. Seems like I'm having a hard time finding ratios. Thank you!
A: Dear Brgmred70, Glad you liked the grow DVD! The boxes featured in the outdoor cultivation segment are an excellent way to create individual plant sites (especially on steep, terraced hillsides) that will grow immense pot trees.
Your question is a good one and, as mentioned in the video, the soil used in these container boxes is essential to the both the quality and quantity of bud harvested. The growers featured in this segment bought a specially mixed compost soil from North American Organics in Mendocino County. As far as buying composts from your local waste management department goes, that is certainly an option, especially if you have used their composts before. But I would caution growers who live near major cities when purchasing composts from these government agencies as it can pose a security risk to your grow, as well as a health risk if certain contaminants make it into their compost process.
Alternatives exist to purchasing compost soils. You can start your own compost pile at home and use that each spring to plant your garden. If you are aiming for a larger operation, you may need more bulk and therefore mixing your own components into workable medium may be your best option. Most pro mixes are peat- and sphagnum-based, but if you have the land, digging up some fine earth soil is also a great option. Other additives may include coarse sands, humus (decayed organic soil material), and silt particulates (or loams). The ratio of soils-to-compost should be around four-to-one (or 15 to 20 percent compost).
Once you have selected your base, think about additives that will create an airy medium, allowing air to penetrate the soil and get into the root zone more easily. Remember, roots breathe oxygen, whereas the plant aboveground breathes carbon dioxide. Since you are growing outdoors, it is best to consider natural or other organic additives such as wood chips or lava rocks.
Next, consider mixing in some light nutrients only if your soil is not heavily compost-based. If your medium does carry large amounts of compost (over 20 percent) you will likely have enough macro- and micronutrients in the soil to last your entire grow season. But if you feel the need to boost your mineral count, keep with the organic trend and use mild organic nutrients such as guanos, ocean kelps, and shells, or mix in some compost teas at the end of the grow season (once a week for the last month) during your regular waterings.
Remember when constructing your container boxes to first put down chicken wire or screening of some sort over the ground, under your box, and compost soils. This will help keep burrowing animals from getting up into your boxes and feasting on your plants’ roots. Also, put down a 2”-4” layer of lava rock or similar stone atop the screening to aid in drainage and soil aeration.
To submit your cultivation questions to Nico, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.