The Future of Indoor Gardening


08/18/2011 11:33




Part I

General Infromation




      In 1969, Richard Nixon initiated Operation Intercept, a pro-

gram designed to stem the flow of Mexican marijuana into this

country. The program forced Mexico to use paraquat on its mari-

juana fields. In similar actions, pressure was put on Thailand, Col-

ombia, and Jamaica to curtail imports to the U.S.

      Domestic smokers became increasingly alarmed at the reports

of lung damage after smoking paraquat-sprayed marijuana. In fact,

at the time, Dr. Carlton Turner, currently President Reagan's Drug

Policy Advisor, developed a kit to determine whether the marijuana

a smoker had purchased was contaminated. In addition, infections

were reported from smoking imported marijuana which was con-

taminated by animal feces and mold.

      In this climate of health fears and supply shortage, Ed Rosen-

thal and his colleague Mel Frank wrote Marijuana Grower's Guide,

which was the most monumentally successful book of its kind ever

published. Domestic cultivators took the technology found in Mari-

juana Grower's Guide and developed their own indoor and outdoor

plots, no longer willing to rely on foreign supply. The more the

government stepped up its eradication attempts aimed at imports,

the more mini-gardens and mini-farms began to develop in the U.S.

In simple-to-understand language, Marijuana Grower's Guide made

experts out of gardening hobbyists.

      Marijuana cultivation technology has accelerated since Mari-

juana Grower's Guide was written. Advances in lighting

technology, hydroponics and propagation left a void of serious

literature on the subject. Marijuana Growers Handbook is a com-

pletely new book which covers all phases of cultivation, including

state-of-the-art techniques.

      Most experts agree that U.S. growers are the finest in the

world. They can get a good yield from the smallest space and have

developed hybrids of incredible quality. This indicates that many

growers use sophisticated techniques. This book was written to help

these people with their gardens, as well as helping novices who are

growing for the first time.


      The Wall Street Journal recently estimated that there are bet-

ween 20 and 30 million regular users of marijuana in this country.

Other sources put the figure at 50,000,000 users of marijuana in this

country. High Times calculates that 50% of the marijuana used in

this country is domestic. Marijuana will not go away.

      Cowardly and reactionary politicians who have maintained

prohibition will soon see marijuana legalized. Realistic politicians

who see the damage that the marijuana laws have done to the socie-

ty will change the laws so that they can tax and regulate marijuana.

Only homegrowers will be free of the market and government

regulation. We are ready for legalization, too. We have the

technology for growing superior marijuana and the tools for doing


      Marijuana prohibition was initiated because of the people who

smoked it. The laws continue in effect today for those same

reasons. Politicians don't like people who think for themselves, are

independent, and who recognize bullshit. They would prefer for

each citizen to become a subject, a ward of the state, who is depen-

dent on government for making his/her life decisions. Marijuana

tends to let us develop different sets and set perceptions, to see the

world a little differently. To change not only what we think but how

we think. That's what scares the regulators.




      It is a felony to cultivate marijuana in 49 of the 50 states (it is

legal in Alaska). It is legal or tolerated in only a few countries:

Holland, India, and Nepal.

      Growers use precaution when setting up their gardens. They

make sure that their activity arouses no suspicion and that the

garden and its contents cannot be seen by unintended observers.



      Artificial lighting, usually the main source of light for indoor

gardeners, can draw quite a bit of electricity. Electrical systems

should be adequate to support the electrical draw. If a large amount

of electricity is used, the utility company may investigate the situa-

tion for shorts or other drains, including a surreptitious garden.

      Growers are circumspect about discussing their gardens. The

smartest ones use only the "need to know theory" - that anyone

who doesn't need to know doesn't know. Envy, jealousy, and even

misplaced morality have made informers of ex-friends.


Chapter One

Marijuana: The Plant


      Cannabis probably evolved in the Himalayan foothills, but its

origins are clouded by the plant's early symbiotic relationship with

humans. It has been grown for three products-the seeds, which are

used as a grainlike food and animal feed and for oil; its fiber, which

is used for cloth and rope; and its resin, which is used medically and

recreationally since it contains the group of psychoactive substances

collectively known as Tetra-hydrocannibinol, usually referred to as

THC. Plants grown for seed or fiber are usually referred to as hemp

and contain small amounts of THC. Plants grown for THC and for

the resin are referred to as marijuana.

      Use of cannabis and its products spread quickly throughout

the world. Marijuana is now cultivated in climates ranging from the

Arctic to the equator. Cannabis has been evolving for hundreds of

thousands of generations on its own and through informal breeding

programs by farmers. A diverse group of varieties has evolved or

been developed as a result of breeders attempts to create a plant

that is efficient at producing the desired product, which flourishes

under particular environmental conditions.

      Cannabis easily escapes from cultivation and goes "wild". For

instance, in the American midwest, stands of hemp "weed" remain

from the 1940's plantings. These plants adapt on a population level

to the particular environmental conditions that the plants face; the

stand's genetic pool, and thus the plants' characteristics, evolve

over a number of generations.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Varieties differ in growth characteristics such as height, width,

branching traits, leaf size, leaf shape, flowering time, yield, poten-

cy, taste, type of high, and aroma. For the most part, potency is a

factor of genetics. Some plants have the genetic potential of pro-

ducing high grade marijuana and others do not. The goal of the

cultivator is. to allow the high THC plants to reach their full


      Marijuana is a fast growing annual plant, although some

varieties in some warm areas over winter. It does best in a well-

drained medium, high in fertility. It requires long periods of

unobstructed bright light daily. Marijuana is usually dioecious;

plants are either male or female, although some varieties are

monoecious - they have male and female flowers on the same


      Marijuana's annual cycle begins with germination in the early

spring. The plant grows vigorously for several months. The plant

begins to flower in the late summer or early fall and sets seed by late

fall. The seeds drop as the plant dies as a result of changes in the


      Indoors, the grower has complete control of the environment.

The cultivator determines when the plants are to be started, when

they will flower, whether they are to produce seed and even if they

are to bear a second harvest.


Chapter Two


Choosing A Variety


      Gardeners can grow a garden with only one or two varieties or

a potpourri. Each has its advantages. Commercial growers usually

prefer homogeneous gardens because the plants taste the same and

mature at the same time. These growers usually choose fast matur-

ing plants so that there is a quick turnaround. Commercial growers

often use clones or cuttings from one plant so that the garden is

genetically identical; the clones have exactly the same growth habits

and potency.

      Homegrowers are usually more concerned with quality than

with fast maturity. Most often, they grow mixed groups of plants so

they have a selection of potency, quality of the high, and taste.

Heterogeneous gardens take longer to mature and have a lower

yield than homogeneous gardens. They take more care too, because

the plants grow at different rates, have different shapes and require

varying amounts of space. The plants require individual care.

      Marijuana grown in the United States is usually one of two

main types: indica or sativa. Indica plants originated in the Hindu-

Kush valleys in central Asia, which is located between the 25-35

latitudes. The weather there is changeable. One year there may be

drought, the next it might be cloudy, wet, rainy or sunny. For the

population to survive, the plant group needs to have individuals

which survive and thrive under different conditions. Thus, in any

season, no matter what the weather, some plants will do well and

some will do poorly.

      Indica was probably developed by hash users for resin content,

not for flower smoking. The resin was removed from the plant. An

indication of indica's development is the seeds, which remain

enclosed and stick to the resin. Since they are very hard to discon-

nect from the plant, they require human help. Wild plants readily

drop seeds once they mature.

      Plants from the same line from equatorial areas are usually

fairly uniform. These include Colombians and central Africans.

Plants from higher latitudes of the same line sometimes have very

different characteristics. These include Southern Africans, Nor-

thern Mexicans, and indicas. The plants look different from each



other and have different maturities and potency. The ratio of THC

(the ingredient which is psychoactive) to CBD (its precursor, which

often leaves the smoker feeling disoriented, sleepy, drugged or con-

fused) also varies.

      High latitude sativas have the same general characteristics as

other sativas: conical form, long bladed leaves, wide spacing be-

tween branches, and vigorous growth.

      Indicas do have some broad general characteristics: they tend

to mature early, have compact short branches and wide, short

leaves which are dark green, sometimes tinged purple.

      Indica buds are usually tight, heavy, wide and thick rather than

long. They smell "stinky", "skunky", or "pungent" and their

smoke is thick - a small toke can induce coughing. The best in-

dicas have a relaxing "social high" which allow one to sense and

feel the environment but do not lead to thinking about or analyzing

the experience.

      Cannabis sativa plants are found throughout the world. Potent

varieties such as Colombian, Panamanian, Mexican, Nigerian,

Congolese, Indian and Thai are found in equatorial zones. These

plants require a long time to mature and ordinarily grow in areas

where they have a long season. They are usually very potent, con-

taining large quantities of THC and virtually no CBD. They have

long, medium4hick buds when they are grown in full equatorial

sun, but under artificial light or even under the temperate sun, the

buds tend to run (not fill out completely). The buds usually smell

sweet or tangy and the smoke is smooth, sometimes deceptively so.

      The THC to CBD ratio of sativa plants gets lower as the plants

are found further from the equator. Jamaican and Central Mexican

varieties are found at the 1 5-2Oth latitudes. At the 3Oth latitude,

varieties such as Southern African and Northern Mexican are

variable and may contain equal amounts of THC and CBD, giving

CHART 2-1: The Varieties at a Glance

Variety     Maturity  Outdoor Size  Branching Pattern Bud Type  Aroma   High         Buds          Color      Comments

      (in feet)               Density of Bud    (flowers)

      Height Width                  Indoors

Afghani     mid-  4-8   3-6   squat, compact,   thick,      heavy heavy,      rounded,      dark  The standard corn-

& Kush      Sept. short sidebranches,     dense,      pungent, tiring,  dense green,      mercial plant. Quality

      -Oct. thick webbed leaves     short,      skunky-  stupefying           purple      varies within

                  rounded     fruity                  population.

Colombian late    7-12  4-7   conical, X-mas    med. thick,  sweet,     spacy,      Tends to run   green,      Rarely seen commer

      Nov.-Jan.   tree, long branches     4-8" long,  fruity,     thought-  long flower      some red cially. Needs lots of

            at bottom, tapering     light to    light provoking, stem, sparse light and warmth to

            at the top, thin long   medium            strong    flowered      develop thick colas.

            leaves      density                 _________ ____________________

Indian      mid Nov.-   8-12  4-6   long internodes, big    big, thick, med   strong,      large fluffy      light Will run without

(Central)   mid Dec.                leaves, strong firm     7-12" long; fruity-     active,      buds  green,      intense light.

                        branches, elongated     light-wt.   skunky      social            red      Susceptible to

                        conical shape     flowers on                    pistils     fusarium wilt.

                              tiny cola


Jamaican    late  6-10  3-6   conical, but squat-     long thin   light,      medium,      thin, long runs   light Adaptable, good



      Oct.-Dec.               ter than Col. Med.      colas sweet,      active,     under low light green weather resistance.

                        leaves, medium    w/buds      musky social                  Susceptible to

                        branching   11/2 "-3"                           fusarium wilt.


Mexican     Oct.-early  8-15  41/2-9      elongated   long, thin  light,      weak, long thin      light Vigorous plants, fast

(Northern)  Nov.              X-mas tree, long  12"-24"     sweet slightly    mature well      green,      starters. Some cold-

                        branches, medium- colas perfume,    heavy,            red      resistance.

                        sized leaves            spicy sleepy

Mexican     Nov.-Dec. 8-14  4 1/2-9 shorter than      long thin   sweet comes on  long, thin, may very' light Hybridizes well with

(Southern)  northern    12 "-18"    quick;      run a little      colored,  Afghani.

            colas intense,          red hairs


Moroccan Aug.-    4-9  21/2-5 some sidebranching, thick, round med.     weak, thin buds      dark  Good breeding

      Sept. but most effort in      ed, 3"-6"   sweet to buzzy    mature easily     green      material, lots of

            tops  long  skunky                  variation.

Nigerian  mid     6-12  4-7  X-mas tree with    med. thick,  dry- very  thick, med. medium  Vigorous warm

      Nov.-mid    strong side dense; runs sweet,      strong,     length, may green weather plant. Needs

      Dec.  branches; long,   in low light      perfume     bell- run; needs        light to mature.

            highly serrated         musk  ringing,    lots of light

            fingers                 paralyzing

Thai  Dec.-Jan.   5-9   4-8   asymmetrical, long      dense,      medium,     strong      fluffy,     medium      Many hermaphodites

      and con-                branches seek open      under high  dry-  druggy,     mature Se-   green make growing hard.

      tinuing                 space light runs  sweet,      has energ   quentially        Buds ripen but plant

                              otherwise   spicy       over months       sends out new


Southern  Aug.-   5-9   4-6 elongated conical   med. thick,  heavy      uplifting,  thin buds      light Very variable. Good

African   Oct.    lower branches    may be      sweet to social   mature easily   green      breeding material.

      angle up sharply; somewhat    spicy

      thin-bladed leaves      loose &

      often heavily     leafy



All of the descriptions are tentative guidelines. They are affected by cultivation technique, microenvironmental conditions, variations in climate, nutrients

available, latitude and other factors. Often, several distinctive varieties can be found in the same areas. The most common varieties are described.

the smoker a buzzy, confusing high. These plants are used mostly

for hybridizing. Plants found above the 3oth latitude usually have

low levels of THC, with high levels of CBD and are considered


      If indica and sativa varieties are considered opposite ends of a

spectrum, most plants fall in between the spectrum. Because of

marijuana and hemp's long symbiotic relationship with humans,

seeds are constantly procured or traded so that virtually all popula-

tions have been mixed with foreign plants at one time or another.

      Even in traditional marijuana-growing countries, the mari-

juana is often the result of several crossed lines. Jamaican ganja,

for example, is probably the result of crosses between hemp, which

the English cultivated for rope, and Indian ganja, which arrived

with the Indian immigrants who came to the country. The term for

marijuana in Jamaica is ganja, the same as in India. The traditional

Jamaican term for the best weed is Kali, named for the Indian killer




Chapter Three


Growth and Flowering


      The cannabis plant regulates its growth and flowering stages by

measuring changes in the number of hours of uninterrupted

darkness to determine when to flower. The plant produces a hor-

mone (phytochrome) beginning at germination. When this chemical

builds up to a critical level, the plant changes its mode from

vegetative growth to flowering. This chemical is destroyed in the

presence of even a few moments of light. During the late spring and

early summer there are many more hours of light than darkness and

the hormone does not build up to a critical level. However, as the

days grow shorter and there are longer periods of uninterrupted

darkness, the hormone builds to a critical level.

      Flowering occurs at different times with different varieties as a

result of the adaption of the varieties to the environment. Varieties

from the 3oth latitude grow in an area with a temperate climate and

fairly early fall. These plants usually trigger in July or August and

are ready to harvest in September or October. Southern African

varieties often flower with as little as 8 or 9 hours of darkness/15 to

16 hours of light. Other 3oth latitude varieties including most in-

dicas flower when the darkness cycle lasts a minimum of 9 to 10

hours. Jamaican and some Southeast Asian varieties will trigger at

11 hours of darkness and ripen during September or October.

      Equatorial varieties trigger at 12 hours or more of darkness.

This means that they will not start flowering before late September

or early October and will not mature until late November or early


      Of course, indoors the plants' growth stage can be regulated

with the flick of a switch. Nevertheless, the plants respond to the ar-

tificial light cycle in the same way that they do to the natural

seasonal cycles.

      The potency of the plant is related to its maturity rather than

Chronological age. Genetically identical 3 month and 6 month-old

plants which have mature flowers have the same potency. Starting

from seed, a six month old plant flowers slightly faster and fills out

more than a 3 month old plant.

Chapter Four~~


Choosing a Space


      Almost any area can be converted to a growing space. Attics,

basements, spare rooms, alcoves and even shelves can be used.

Metal shacks, garages and greenhouses are ideal areas. All spaces

must be located in an area inaccessible to visitors and invisible from

the street.

      The ideal area is at least 6 feet high, with a minimum of 50

square feet, an area about 7 by 7 feet. (Square footage is computed

by multiplying length times width.) A single 1,000 watt metal halide

or sodium vapor lamp, the most efficient means of illuminating a



garden, covers an area this size.

      Gardeners who have smaller spaces, at least one foot wide and

several feet long, can use fluorescent tubes, 400 watt metal halides,

or sodium vapor lamps.

      Gardeners who do not have a space even this large to spare can

use smaller areas (See the chapter "Novel Gardens").

      Usually, large gardens are more efficient than small ones.

      The space does not require windows or outside ventilation, but

it is easier to set up a space if it has one or the other.

      Larger growing areas need adequate ventilation so that heat,

oxygen, and moisture levels can be controlled. Greenhouses usually

have vents and fans built in. Provisions for ventilation must be

made for lamp-lit enclosed areas. Heat and moisture buildup can be

extraordinary. During the winter in most areas, the heat is easily

dissipated; however, the heat buildup is harder to deal with in hot

weather. Adequate ventilation and air coolers are the answer.


Chapter Five


Preparing the Space


      The space is the future home and environment of the plants. It

should be cleaned of any residue or debris which might house in-

sects, parasites or diseases. If it has been contaminated with plant

pests it can be sprayed or wiped down with a 5 % bleach solution

which kills most organisms. The room must be well-ventilated when

this operation is going on. The room will be subject to high humidi-

ty so any materials such as clothing which might be damaged by

moisture are removed.

      Since the plants will be watered, and water may be spilled, the

floors and any other areas that may be water damaged should be

covered with linoleum or plastic. High grade 6 or 8 mil polyethylene

drop cloths or vinyl tarps protect a floor well. The plastic should be

sealed with tape so that no water seeps to the floor.

      The amount of light delivered to the plant rises dramatically

when the space is enclosed by reflective material. Some good reflec-

tive materials are flat white paint, aluminum (the dull side so that

the light is diffused), white cardboard, plywood painted white,

white polyethylene, silvered mylar, gift wrap, white cloth, or

silvered plastic such as Astrolon. Materials can be taped or tack-

ed onto the walls, or hung as curtains. All areas of the space should

be covered with reflective material. The walls, ceiling and floors are

all capable of reflecting light and should be covered with reflective

material such as aluminum foil. It is easiest to run the material ver

tically rather than horizontally.

      Experienced growers find it convenient to use the wide, heavy

duty aluminum foil or insulating foil (sold in wide rolls) in areas

which will not be disturbed and plastic or cloth curtains where the

material will be moved.

      Windows can be covered with opaque material if a bright light

emanating from the window would draw suspicion. If the window

does not draw suspicion and allows bright light into the room, it

should be covered with a translucent material such as rice paper,

lace curtains, or aquarium crystal paint.

      Garages, metal buildings, or attics can be converted to

lighthouses by replacing the roof with fiberglass greenhouse

material such as Filon~. These translucent panels permit almost all

the light to pass through but diffuse it so that there is no visible im-

age passing out while there is an even distribution of light coming

in. A space with a translucent roof needs no artificial lighting in the

summer and only supplemental lighting during the other seasons.

Overhead light entering from a skylight or large window is very

helpful. Light is utilized best if it is diffused.

      Concrete and other cold floors should be covered with in-

sulating material such as foam carpet lining, styrofoam sheeting,

wood planks or wooden palettes so that the plant containers and the

roots are kept from getting cold.


Chapter Six~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Plant Size and Spacing


-     Manjuana varieties differ not Oflly in their growth rate, but

also in their potential size. The grower also plays a role in determin-

log the size of the plants because the plants can be induced to flower

at any age or size just by regulating the number of hours of uninter-

rupted darkness that the plants receive.

      Growers have different ideas about how much space each plant

needs. The closer the plants are spaced, the less room the individual

plant has to grow. Some growers use only a few plants in a space,

and they grow the plants in large containers. Other growers prefer

to fill the space with smaller plants. Either method works, but a

gar  den with smaller plants which fills the space more completely

probably yields more in less time. The total vegetative growth in a

Worn containing many small sized plants is greater than a room

co ntaining only a few plants. Since each plant is smaller, it needs

less time to grow to its desired size. Remember that the gardener is

in terested in a crop of beautiful buds, not beautiful plants.

      The amount of space a plant requires depends on the height the

plants are to grow. A plant growing 10 feet high is going to be wider

than a 4 foot plant. The width of the plant also depends on cultiva-

don practices. Plants which are pruned grow wider than unpruned

plants. The different growth characteristics of the plants also affect

die space required by each plant. In 1-or 2-light gardens, where the

plants are to grow no higher than 6 feet, plants are given between 1

and 9 square feet of space. In a high greenhouse lit by natural light,

Where the plants grow 10-12 feet high, the plants may be given as

m uch as 80 to 100 square feet.





Getting Started


Chapter Seven~~~~


Planting Mixes


      One of the first books written on indoor growing suggested

that the entire floor of a grow room be filled with soil. This method

is effective but unfeasible for most cultivators. Still, the growers

have a wide choice of growing mediums and techniques; they may

choose between growing in soil or using a hydroponic method.

      Most growers prefer to cultivate their plants in containers filled

with soil, commercial mixes, or their own recipe of soil, fertilizers,

and soil conditioners. These mixes vary quite a bit in their content,

nutrient values, texture, pH, and water-holding capacity.

      Potting soil is composed of topsoil, which is a natural outdoor

composite high in nutrients. It is the top layer of soil, containing

large amounts of organic material such as humus and compost as

well as minerals and clays. Topsoil is usually lightened up so that it

does not pack. This is done using sand, vermiculite, perlite, peat



moss and/or gravel.

      Potting soil tends to be heavy, smell earthy and have a rich

dark color. It can supply most of the nutrients that a plant needs for

the first couple of months.

      Commercial potting mixes are composites manufactured from

ingredients such as bark or wood fiber, composts, or soil condi-

tioners such as vermiculite, perlite and peat moss. They are design-

ed to support growth of houseplants by holding adequate amounts

of water and nutrients and releasing them slowly. Potting mixes

tend to be low in nutrients and often require fertilization from the

outset. Many of them may be considered hydroponic mixes because

the nutrients are supplied by the gardener in a water solution on a

regular basis.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Texture of the potting mix is the most important consideration

for containerized plants. The mixture should drain well and allow

air to enter empty spaces so that the roots can breathe oxygen.

Mixes which are too fine may become soggy or stick together,

Preventing the roots from obtaining the required oxygen. A soggy

Condition also promotes the growth of anaerobic bacteria which

release acids that eventually harm the roots.

      A moist potting mix with good texture should form a clump if

it is squeezed in a fist; then with a slight poke the clod should break

up. If the clod stays together, soil conditioners are required to

loosen it up. Vermiculite, perlite or pea-sized styrofoam chips will

serve the purpose. Some growers prefer to make their own mixes.

These can be made from soil, soil conditioners and fertilizers.

      Plants grown in soil do not grow as quickly as those in

hydroponic mixes. However many growers prefer soil for aesthetic

reasons. Good potting mixes can be made from topsoil fairly easily.

      Usually it is easier to buy topsoil than to use unpasteurized top-

soil which contains weed seeds, insects and disease organisms. Out-

doors, these organisms are kept in check, for the most part, by the

forces of nature. Bringing them indoors, however, is like bringing

them into an incubator, where many of their natural enemies are

not around to take care of them. Soil can be sterilized using a 5%

bleach solution poured through the medium or by being steamed

for 20 minutes. Probably the easiest way to sterilize soil is to use a

microwave. It is heated until it is steaming - about 5 minutes for a

gallon or more.

      Potting soils and potting mixes vary tremendously in composi-

tion, pH and fertility. Most mixes contain only small amounts of

soil. If a package is marked "potting soil", it is usually made most-

ly from topsoil.

      If the soil clumps up it should be loosened using sand, perlite

or styrofoam. One part amendment is used to 2-3 parts soil. Ad-

ditives listed in Chart 7-2 may also be added. Here is a partial list of

soil conditioners:








      Foam rubber can be used in place of styrofoam. Although it

holds water trapped between its open cells it also holds air. About

1.5 parts of foam rubber for every part of styrofoam is used. Pea-

size pieces or smaller should be used.



      Gravel is often used as a sole medium in hydroponic systems

because it is easy to clean, never wears out, does not "lock up"

nutrients, and is inexpensive. It is also a good mix ingredient

because it creates large spaces for airpockets and gives the mix

weight. Some gravel contains limestone (see "Sand"). This material

should not be used.





      Lava is a preferred medium on its own or as a part of a mix. It

is porous and holds water both on its surface and in the irregular

spaces along its irregular shape. Lava is an ideal medium by itself

but is sometimes considered a little too dry. To give it more

moisture-holding ability, about one part of wet vermiculite is mixed

with 3 to 6 parts lava. The vermiculite will break up and coat the

lava, creating a medium with excellent water-holding abilities and

plenty of air spaces. If the mix is watered from the top, the ver-

miculite will wash down eventually, but if it is watered from the

bottom it will remain.



      Perlite is an expanded (puffed) volcanic glass. It is lightweight

with many peaks and valleys on its surface, where it traps particles

of water. However, it dQes not absorb water into its structure. It

does not break down easily and is hard to the touch. Perlite comes

in several grades with the coarser grade being better for larger con-

tainers. Perlite is very dusty when dry. To eliminate dust, the

material is watered to saturation with a watering can or hose before

it is removed from the bag. Use of masks and respirators is impor-






      Rockwool is made from stone which has been heated then ex-

truded into thin strands which are something like glass wool. It ab-

sorbs water like a wick. It usually comes in blocks or rolls. It can be

used in all systems but is usually used in conjunction with drip emit-

ters. Growers report phenomenal growth rates using rockwool. It is

also very convenient to use. The blocks are placed in position or it is

rolled out. Then seeds or transplants are placed on the material.







      Sand is a heavy material which is often added to a mixture to

increase its weight so that the plant is held more firmly. It promotes

drainage and keeps the mix from caking. Sand comes in several

grades too, but all of them seem to work well. The best sand to use

is composed of quartz. Sand is often composed of limestone; the

limestone/sand raises pH, causing micronutrients to precipitate,

making them unavailable to the plants. It is best not to use it.

      Limestone-containing sand can be "cured" by soaking in a

solution of water and superphosphate fertilizer which binds with

the surface of the lime molecule in the sand, making the molecule

temporarily inert. One pound of superphosphate is used to S

gallons of water. It dissolves best in hot water. The sand should sit

in this for 6-12 hours and then be rinsed. Superphosphate can be

purchased at most nurseries.

      Horticultural sand is composed of inert materials and needs no

curing. Sand must be made free of salt if it came from a salt-water


Spbagnum Moss

      Sphagnum or peat moss is gathered from bogs in the midwest.

It absorbs many times its own weight in water and acts as a buffer

for nutrients. Buffers absorb the nutrients and hold large amounts

in their chemical structure. The moss releases them gradually as

they are used by the plant. If too much nutrient is supplied, the

moss will act on it and hold it, preventing toxic buildups in the

water solution. Moss tends to be acidic so no more than 20% of the

planting mix should be composed of it.



Styrofoam Pellets


      Styrofoam is a hydrophobic material (it repels water) and is an

excellent soil mix ingredient. It allows air spaces to form in the mix

and keeps the materials from clumping, since it does not bond with

other materials or with itself. One problem is that it is lighter than

water and tends to migrate to the top of the mix. Styrofoam is easily

used to adjust the water-holding capacity of a mix. Mixes which are

soggy or which hold too much water can be "dried" with the addi-

tion of styrofoam. Styrofoam balls or chips no larger than a pea

should be used in fine4extured mixtures. Larger styrofoam pieces

can be used in coarse mixes.



      Vermiculite is processed puffed mica. It is very lightweight but

holds large quantities of water in its structure. Vermiculite is

available in several size pieces. The large size seems to permit more

aeration. Vermiculite breaks down into smaller particles over a

period of time. Vermiculite is sold in several grades based on the

size of the particles. The fine grades are best suited to small con-

tainers. In large containers, fine particles tend to pack too tightly,



not leaving enough space for air. Coarser grades should be used in

larger containers. Vermiculite is dusty when dry, so it should be wet

down before it is used.

      Mediums used in smaller containers should be able to absorb

more water than mediums in larger containers. For instance, seed-

lings started in 1 to 2 inch containers can be planted in plain ver-

miculite or soil. Containers up to about one gallon can be filled

with a vermiculite-perlite or soil-perlite mix. Containers larger than

that need a mix modified so that it does not hold as much water and

does not become soggy. The addition of sand, gravel, or styrofoam

accomplishes this very easily.

Here are lists of different mediums suitable for planting: Below

is a list of the moist mixtures, suitable for the wick system, the

reservoir system and drip emitters which are covered in Chapter 9.






      1)    4 parts topsoil, 1 part vermiculite, 1 part perlite. Moist, con-

tains medium-high amounts of nutrients. Best for wick and hand-


      2)    3 parts topsoil, 1 part peat moss, 1 part vermiculite, 1 part

perlite, 1 part styrofoam. Moist but airy. Medium nutrients. Best

for wick and hand-watering.

      3)3 parts vermiculite, 3 parts perlite, 1 part sand, 2 parts pea-

sized gravel. Moist and airy but has some weight. Good for all

systems, drains well.

      4)    5 parts vermiculite, S parts perlite. Standard mix, moist. Ex-

cellent for wick and drip emitter systems though it works well for all


      5)    3 parts vermiculite, 1 part perlite, 1 part styrofoam. Medium

dry mix, excellent for all systems.

      6)    2 parts vermiculite, 1 part perlite, 1 part styrofoam, 1 part

peat moss. Moist mix.

      7)    2 parts vermiculite, 2 parts perlite, 3 parts styrofoam, 1 part

sphagnum moss, 1 part compost. Medium moisture, small amounts

of slow-releasing nutrients, good for all systems.

      8)    2 parts topsoil, 2 parts compost, 1 part sand, 1 part perlite.

Medium-moist, high in slow-release of organic nutrients, good for

wick and drip systems, as well as hand watering.

      9)    2 parts compost, 1 part perlite, 1 part sand, 1 part lava.

Drier mix, high in slow-release of nutrients, drains well, good for all


      10)1 part topsoil, 1 part compost, 2 parts sand, 1 part lava.

Dry mix, high in nutrients, good for all systems.

      11)   3 parts compost, 3 parts sand, 2 parts perlite, 1 part peat

moss, 2 parts vermiculite. Moist, mid-range nutrients, good for

wick systems.

      12)   2 parts compost, 2 parts sand, 1 part styrofoam. Drier,

high nutrients, good for all systems.



      13)   5 parts lava, 1 part vermiculite. Drier, airy, good for all


Here are some drier mediums suitable for flood systems as well as

drip emitters hydroponic systems (covered in Chapter 9).








2) Pea size gravel


3) Sand


4) Mixes of any or all of the above


      Manure and other slow-releasing natural fertilizers are often

added to the planting mix. With these additives, the grower needs to

use fertilizers only supplementally. Some of the organic amend-

ments are listed in the following chart. Organic amendments can be

mixed but should not be used in amounts larger than those recom-

mended because too much nutrient can cause toxicity.

      Some growers add time-release fertilizers to the mix. These are

formulated to release nutrients over a specified period of time,

usually 3, 4, 6 or 8 months. The actual rate of release is regulated in

part by temperature, and since house temperatures are usually

higher than outdoor soil temperatures, the fertilizers used indoors

release over a shorter period of time than is noted on the label.

      Gardeners find that they must supplement the time-release fer-

tilizer formulas with soluble fertilizers during the growing season.

Growers can circumvent this problem by using a time-release fer-

tilizer suggested for a longer period of time than the plant cycle. For

instance, a 9 month time-release fertilizer can be used in a 6 month

garden. Remember that more fertilizer is releasing faster, so that a

larger amount of nutrients will be available than was intended.

These mixes are used sparingly.

      About one tablespoon of dolomite limestone should be added

for each gallon of planting mix, or a half cup per cubic foot of mix.

This supplies the calcium along with magnesium, both of which the

plants require. If dolomite is unavailable, then hydrated lime or any

agricultural lime can be used.


AMENDMENT   N     P     K     1 Part in X Parts Mix

COW MANURE  1.5   .85   1.75  Excellent conditioner,

breaks down over the

growing season. 1 part in

10 parts mix.

CHICKEN MANURE    3     1.5   .85  Fast acting. 1 part in 20

                       parts mix.

BLOOD MEAL  15    1.3   .7    N quickly available. 1 part



                        in 100 parts mix.

DRIED BLOOD 13    3     0     Very soluble. 1 part in 100

                        parts mix.

WORM CASTINGS     3     1     .5    Releases N gradually. 1

                        part in 15 parts mix.

GUANO 2-8   2-5   .5-3  Varies a lot, moderately

soluble. For guano

containing 20/0 nitrogen, 1

part in 15 parts mix. For

8% nitrogen, 1 part in 40

parts mix.

COTTONSEED MEAL   6     2.5   1.5  Releases N gradually. 1

                       part in 30 parts mix.

GREENSAND   0     1.5   5     High in micronutrients.

                        Nutrients available over the

                        season. 1 part in 30 parts


FEATHERS    15    ?     ?     Breaks down slowly. 1 part

                        in 75 parts mix.

HAIR  17    ?     ?     Breaks down slowly. 1 part

                        in 75 parts mix.


N = Nitrogen e p = Phosphorous e K = Potassium


Chapter Eight


Hydroponics vs. Soil Gardening


      Plants growing in the wild outdoors obtain their nutrients from

the breakdown of complex organic chemicals into simpler water-

soluble forms. The roots catch the chemicals using a combination

of electrical charges and chemical manipulation. The ecosystem is

generally self-supporting. For instance, in some tropical areas most

of the nutrients are actually held by living plants. As soon as the

vegetation dies, bacteria and other microlife feast and render the

nutrients water-soluble. They are absorbed into the soil and are

almost immediately taken up by higher living plants.

      Farmers remove some of the nutrients from the soil when they

harvest their crops. In order to replace those nutrients they add fer-

tilizers and other soil additives.

      Gardeners growing plants in containers have a closed ecology

system. Once the plants use the nutrients in the medium, their

growth and health is curtailed until more nutrients become available

to them. It is up to the grower to supply the nutrients required by

the plants. The addition of organic matter such as compost or

manure to the medium allows the plant to obtain nutrients for a

while without the use of water-soluble fertilizers. However, once

these nutrients are used up, growers usually add water-soluble

nutrients when they water. Without realizing it, they are gardening

hydroponically. Hydroponics is the art of growing plants, usually

without soil, using water-soluble fertilizers as the main or sole

source of nutrients. The plants are grown in a non-nutritive



medium such as gravel or sand or in lightweight materials such as

perlite, vermiculite or styrofoam.

      The advantages of a hydroponic system over conventional hor-

ticultural methods are numerous: dry spots, root drowning and

soggy conditions do not occur. Nutrient and pH problems are large-

ly eliminated since the grower maintains tight control over their

concentration; there is little chance of "lockup" which occurs when

the nutrients are fixed in the soil and unavailable to the plant; plants

can be grown more conveniently in small containers; and owing to

the fact that there is no messing around with soil, the whole opera-

tion is easier, cleaner, and much less bothersome than when using

conventional growing techniques.


Chapter Nine


Hydroponic Systems





      Most hydroponic systems fall into one of two broad categories:

passive or active. Passive systems such as reservoir or wick setups

depend on the molecular action inherent in the wick or medium to

make water available to the plant. Active systems which include the

flood, recirculating drip and aerated water systems, use a pump to

send nourishment to the plants.

      Most commercially made "hobby" hydroponic systems

designed for general use are shallow and wide, so that an intensive

garden with a variety of plants can be grown. But most marijuana

growers prefer to grow each plant in an individual container.




The Wick System


      The wick system is inexpensive, easy to set up and easy to

maintain. The principle behind this type of passive system is that a

length of 3/8 to 78 inch thick braided nylon rope, used as a wick, will

draw water up to the medium and keep it moist. The container,

which can be an ordinary nursery pot, holds a rooting medium and

has wicks running along the bottom, drooping through the holes at

the bottom, reaching down to the reservoir. Keeping the holes in the

container small makes it difficult for roots to penetrate to the reser-

voir. The amount of water delivered to the medium can be increas-

ed by increasing the number, length, or diameter of the wicks in

contact with the medium.

      A 1 gallon container needs only a single wick, a three gallon

container should have two wicks, a five gallon container, three

'wicks. The wick system is self-regulating; the amount of water

delivered depends on the amount lost through evaporation or




      Each medium has a maximum saturation level. Beyond that

point, an increase in the number of wicks will not increase the

moisture level. A 1-1-I combination of vermiculite, perlite, and

styrofoam is a convenient medium because the components are

lightweight and readily available. Some commercial units are sup-

plied with coarse vermiculite. To increase weight so that the plant

will not tip the container over when it gets large, some of the perlite

in the recipe can be replaced with sand. The bottom inch or two of

the container should be filled only with vermiculite, which is very

absorbent, so that the wicks have a good medium for moisture


      Wick systems are easy to construct. The wick should extend S

inches or more down from the container. Two bricks, blocks of

wood, or styrofoam are placed on the bottom of a deep tray (a

plastic tray or oil drip pan will do fine.) Then the container is placed

on the blocks so that the wicks are touching the bottom of the tray.

The tray is filled with a nutrient/water solution. Water is replaced

in the tray as it evaporates or is absorbed by the medium through

the wick.

      A variation of this system can be constructed using an addi-

tional outer container rather than a tray. With this method less

water is lost due to evaporation.

      To make sure that the containers fit together and come apart


Search site

Michigan Quickgrow © 2011 All rights reserved.