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Diary of a Cannabis Growing Preacher: Weeks Six-Ten (Balkhi seeds)

Stay off of Ladders

The last article started with snow but when this installment started it was almost 80°f. It’s easy to see that these warm days will soon be gone until March. I estimate that our Balkhi run will be finished about end-of-February to mid-March. Unfortunately, this article was delayed a couple of weeks because I ended up doing a little recovery time from a fall. These old bones are still pretty tough but I was rattled for a couple of weeks. I did well to keep things running while my balance found its feet again.

Because of the fall my plans to start flowering were delayed too. However, this did allow the smaller plants to gain a few nodes, so cloning will be easier. I’ll show you what I was able to get ready and where we are at now.  

We will decide the flowering time the old fashioned way, by trichome colour. I may run a chromatography test at around day 42 of flowering. This will allow me to pull the CBD phenos early. It has been my experience to pull CBD strains between days 42 and 49, day 56 is about the latest. However, some strains can hang until day 63 but I have noticed that the longer the plant goes the darker the oil is and the mustier the flavour. With strains that have the ability to produce higher levels of THC along with CBD, they need to be pulled sometime during week 7 for peak CBD levels. The CBD levels can begin to drop rapidly and THC levels can begin to climb in some strains. I first noticed this with Harlequin. The CBD can drop by half in just a week or two. This trait can allow the experienced grower to adjust the CBD:THC ratio to suit their personal preference with these plants. 

Why CBD?

 As an MMJ patient, I have learned that CBD isolate and distillate extracted from hemp have very little effect on pain. The lack of any THC and other entourage cannabinoids, lessens the effectiveness of the painkilling properties. However, only a minimal THC presence is necessary to provide its contribution to the entourage effect. So, an early harvest tends to provide a more effective and flavourful oil, at least for my purposes. 

Balkhi progress…

To help us keep an eye on the progress of our Balkhi growth I will show you the photo I posted at the end of the last article so you can see where the period starts and ends with each instalment. So, this is where we left off at week five. We are now at week ten and, well, you’ll see.

There have been some interesting developments since our last article. The growth rate has exploded and the plants were more than ready for repotting to their 3 gallon finishing pots. They have repotted nicely and the variation between the plants is somewhat visible. Some are showing the height pattern typical of males and the rest have variations in size and leaf structure as well. Here is the photo of where we are today. I have finished the cloning tray and will show you photos of that in a bit. Yes, there are sixteen plants in this mass of green.

Where did these spots come from…

I had a concern for a short while over some unusual spots on the leaves. As near as I can guess, without a direct test, these new Quantum LED’s are so intense that any droplets of water on the leaves cause a burn by magnifying the light. So, to counteract this I have been more careful not to get drops on the leaves and, as a precaution, I also dim the light for about an hour after watering to allow the drops to evaporate. By following this protocol, I have not detected any new burn spots from the lights. 

There are a few of the plants that went into a nutrient deficiency that I hadn’t run into with my regular soil mix. I was able to find some charts that helped me figure out what would solve the issue. Dosing with Epsom salts seems to be working well to solve the problem. I think once I start the nutrients to run a hydro-style of feeding, this will no longer be an issue

Light like the sun

These LED’s reproduce the closest match to sun light of any light on the market. I always expected this to happen in this new market, it is just too bad it has taken so long to achieve this goal. So, if you are a serious grower and want to achieve max results at the most efficient cost then these new Quantum LED lights are your answer. They claim that you can literally replace 1000w HID lights with around 400w of LED’s and do it for about the cost of 3-4 good quality 1000w HID bulbs. Plus, I expect these lights to last for years with none of the additional bulb replacement costs associated with HID. Time will tell if these expectations will be met.

Let’s build something…

As promised, I have two projects to share with you for this instalment. We need to build the light grid and the cloning trays we will use to keep cuttings. 

The cloning tray lineup

This next project comes from something I made almost 30 years ago. It functioned very well before when I was working primarily with Landrace strains. I had close to 100% success rate with this method and it was easy to maintain. There are a lot of similarities with this system to that of DWC, Deep Water Culture. I have tried the misting method but it is too dry here and only the more expensive units offer a humidity dome. The misting method seems to allow too much wilting and drying out of the cuttings in this dry environment. I don’t have drying issues with plants that maintain contact with the water so I may not need the humidity dome with this setup. Just to be sure I bought an extra unit so I can flip the bottom to work as a dome. These newer style Rubbermaid tubs work extremely well with the domed lids flipped upside down. This keeps the lids aligned with the nutrient tub and it will also hold the makeshift humidity dome in place, as well as requiring less nutrient solution to fill the tub.  

Trays from the past 

The first was created almost 30 years ago. It worked well without a humidity dome, but my grow room was underground at the time and humidity was pretty high.

This next one, from about 9 years ago, was my first attempt at using rockwool cubes along with a small net pot. I added a pump and drip tubes to give this setup a hydroponic functionality. I tried some smaller cloner versions that resemble most of the commercial units available today but the dry air at this altitude made these units a disappointment. 

Both of these earlier units were close to 100% effective. This may be why I keep returning to this method. I used the first model for several seasons because it allowed me to take a cutting at any time and just drop it into the already running tray.

This new design has returned to the smaller hole but includes small net pots. I had to trim the bottom to make the hole easier on the roots when the clones are ready to be potted.

By inverting the lids on the tubs, it allows the net pots to hang lower in the tray. As I said earlier, this accomplishes two things, less nutrient solution is needed and the upside down lid allows a second tub to be used as a humidity dome.

The new version looks very promising but we won’t know until we see the results. I have to clear out some wintering clones to make room for this tray but we’ll have photos for you in the next article.

The light grid

Since I did not like the burn effects I saw in some of the Youtube videos for these lights, and instead of paying a few less dollars for the larger 4-panel lights, I want to build a 4-panel grid with a fifth RED panel in the center. Let’s see how this turns out. 

I looked at several options for creating the grid. I examined using metal framing like shelf mounts and various other metal stock options. None of these really filled the slot very well. Not to mention, metal is more expensive than wood. I just happened to have some half sheets of plywood sitting around and it suddenly occurred to me that I can easily cut out slots to fit the lights and cords and have a solid, one piece frame that won’t have weak points. I can get two grids cut out from one full sheet. 

Not only does this solve the custom size needed but it doesn’t require a lot of additional hardware. All this allows me to accomplish spreading out the lights to reduce the heat concentration in the center as well as widening the pattern to help reduce shading. With a few extra holes in the plywood, it should allow heat to dissipate through the open spaces and help reduce the potential for burn. Since I am short on time and I don’t want to rush this, I will show you the finished light next time. Hopefully it will be up and doing the job well.

How does the Balkhi look now…

Keep in mind that I was out of sorts for a couple of weeks. So this last week has been spent putting everything together and getting the plants repotted. I wanted to take cuttings for this article but I had to make a supply run and I have to do some selective trimming while I am doing this, so I expect this to take another day. I sorted the plants by size and put them into tall 3 gallon fabric pots. I think I will do 3-Gallon buckets next time to solve the drainage issue I am facing to achieve a true hydroponic system. Monster trays like these are very pricey and I don’t want to drill them, so I will figure something out. I’ll be sure to share the solution with you.

 All 16 plants fit nicely into the space and once cuttings are taken in a few days they will be similar in height again. So, this is what a little organization looks like. Everyone appears to be doing very well in the new pots and mix. I still need to figure out the best way to feed these guys but I should have that all sorted out by the next time we post an update. 

If you can zoom in on these you can see that the new growth is showing very little signs of deficiency. When I take clones this week I will trim out most of the old damaged leaves. I will wait a couple of weeks into flowering before I pull out the testing kit to see if we can detect any CBD phenos in the group. Plus, a little practice with testing wouldn’t hurt.

As you might guess, the delay gave this bunch a lot of extra time in small one quart pots. I had to use the age-old technique of cutting the root bound plants to allow the new growth to spread into the larger pots. It looks harsh but I assure you it is necessary or the roots would continue to circle and bind. Cutting them and spreading them out a little will encourage them to spread rapidly into the new medium. 

 The new mix for these pots is very unusual. Since I want to try to run these in a soil type of mix and feed them in a similar manner as hydroponics, I used a combination of three ingredients to retain some moisture while providing excellent drainage. The mix looks very good. 

3 parts Coco coir, 1 part Perlite, and 1 part Vermiculite. 

As you can see, the roots look very healthy. This means that the current feeding method has been very effective. The Epson Salts must have done a good job of addressing the nutrient deficiency. Despite the one quart pots, these plants really took off. The small pot size required daily feeding and this worked very well with hydro-style feeding. It also explains how the deficiency caused leaf damage so quickly. It is because of this explosive growth associated with hydroponics that I wanted to try this method to see if I can reap the benefits of both organic and hydroponic.

Well, I promised Seedsman I would post the well overdue article tonight. I wanted to get the clones set and the light in place but that will happen in the next couple of days. I’ll be sure to take some photos and share all the details, good and bad! With so many new things going on, I am sure something will pop up. Until next time, be safe.

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Johnny THCeeds

Johnny THCeeds started growing cannabis in 1990 to help his wife who suffered from debilitating epilepsy. Circumstances lead Johnny into Christian ministry in 1995 and he now preaches in a small mountain community church. Because of his faith, he ceased growing until 2008 and 420, when he obtained a medical license to grow because of injuries. He has become an advocate for Landraces and their preservation, after discovering that hybrids increased his symptoms of PTSD, like paranoia and panic attacks.