AeroGarden “An Incomplete Guide to Growing”
- Jul 12, 2010
AeroGarden, “An Incomplete Guide to Growing”
“An Incomplete Guide to Growing”
Incomplete because there is so much to know and do. And no one ever really knows it all. So this is MY incomplete guide on how to grow using the AeroGrow AeroGarden system! I credit all the weed heads on 420 that pointed me in the right direction.
I originally got the idea when I was reading one of the High Times articles. The article was titled “AeroGarden Experiment”, September 08 issue, page #96. There were 4 pictures on the one page showing the grow in several stages of growth. A couple of these pictures showed the plants with lots and lots of “Trichomes”. It was a beautiful thing. Lowryder II seeds were used. The pictures were taken 64 days after planting. The master gardener kit was the only thing he used, using only the provided nutrients (nutes). The article didn’t really go into any more details other then he did what Aero suggested and added nutes every 2 weeks. I’m sure there was more to it.
I had already bought my garden a year before but of course was actually using it as it was intended. to grow herbs and vegetables.
I have the AeroGarden Pro100. There are several spice, herb and vegetable settings; I use the tomato/peppers setting like the article did. There are LED’s for Germination, Initial Growth and Mature Growth stages. Once you plug the machine in it starts with the germination stage. The light setting for tomato is 18/6 during germination and 16/8 for the mature growth, for whatever reason it skips the initial growth setting. The beauty about this machine is you can set it for 24hr light and then control light with a timer for that all important flowering stage of 12/12. And that’s it. NOT.
Needless to say my first attempt didn’t go well. First of all I didn’t use my seeds right away. They sat for about a year. I stored them in a dark dry closet but may have been exposed to drastic temperature changes. But when I did use them I only started with 4 seeds. Straight from the closet to the AeroGarden with the old nutes that I still had. They never popped. I also handled the seeds a lot during my germination stage. Not sure what I did wrong but I was already online visiting the weed sites and came up with a few reasons. Seeds should have been stored in the refrigerator or freezer. After reading that I put the rest of them in an old 35mm film case and placed that in the freezer. Another reason may have been the old nutes. Also found out that I should have germinated without nutes. Nutes may have killed the seeds. And yet another reason may have been the nutes were old.
On the second attempt the only thing I changed was using the seed (only one this time) from the freezer. The seed popped nicely and even produced a seed leaf but never went beyond that, Again, bad nutes?
By this time I was well into my reading and asking questions. Read, read, read and read some more.
With help from all the SME’s I come up with my next game plan. I will post my journal with pictures as soon as the last few supplies get here.
The equipment I will be using is:
1. Computer Hutch
2. AeroGarden Pro100
3. White Widow Strain
4. Distilled Water
5. Stealth Hydro Nutes
6. PH Kit
9. Vent Fan
10. Air pump w/air-stone
Below is what I’ve learned thus far:
The optimum growing temperature is 72-85 degrees. However many list extenuating circumstances that allow temperature to go higher, assuming genetics is not a factor; plants seem to be able to absorb more light at higher temperatures, perhaps up to 90 degrees. Do not let the room temp get over 95 degrees or drop below 70 degrees. Optimal temp is 72-85 degree. 78 is ideal but keeping between these ranges will do fine. Humidity should be between 45-65 percent. Temp can drop to 60-65 during lights out.
Be sure to keep fresh air moving through your grow room. This is critical in keeping healthy plants. This also helps you keep a stable temperature and humidity level. Be sure you have an exit area for air to escape and replenish the room (even at night). Do not blow on any plants, keep it moving around, not blowing ON the plants.
Fans help move air around plants. A Vent fan will help control/keep the humidity and temperature down and distribute CO2 to your plants from new incoming air.
Negative ion generators have been used for years now to cut down on odors in a grow room, but reports are coming in that a negative ion generator will increase growth, speed and yield. No true evidenced to support this; however it does make sense, due to the fact that people and animals seem to be altered in a positive way by negative ions in the air, so plants may “feel” better too. Try putting one in the grow room. You may notice the buds do not have as much scent when picked, but that may be desirable in some cases.
What is PH? PH stands for “Potential of Hydrogen”. And PPM stands for “Parts Per Million”. PH is one of the most common analyses in soil and water testing. An indication of the sample’s acidity, pH is actually a measurement of the activity of hydrogen ions in the sample. PH measurements run on a scale from 0-14, with 7.0 considered neutral. Those solutions with a pH below 7.0 are considered acids, and those above 7.0 are designated bases. The pH scale is logarithmic, so a one unit change in pH actually reflects a ten-fold change in the acidity. For instance, orange juice (pH 4) is ten times more acidic than cottage cheese, which has a pH of 5. Water with nothing in it is pH neutral. or pH of 7.0
Adding your hydroponic nutrients to the water will tend to bring the pH down. The nutrients themselves have acidic properties. Either naturally or are made this way by the nutrient manufacturer to help get your reservoir to an acceptable pH range. In hydro it tends to be a negative pH shift of about .7 of soil acceptable range. so 5.5 -6.2 or so. In hydro it is beneficial to flux within the range to best absorb all nutrients. So set res at 5.5 let flux to 6.2 then bring back to 5.5 etc.
As the plant absorbs the nutrients (remember which are acidic and lowering the pH) from the water the pH will shift north towards neutral.
The more plants you have and the less reservoir space you have will lead to huge fluctuations in a short period of time. Unless you want to stand over your reservoir constantly monitoring and adjusting for pH and PPM then you should plan on 5 gallons or more of reservoir volume per plant.
When you add your nutes, they will almost always lower the ph. Add the nutes to water before adding to res, stir, check your ph. Then bring you levels within range. Then add to your res.
Plant foods have 3 main ingredients that are the mainstay of your garden. Nutrients or “nutes” simply put is the plant food. Different types and amounts of nutes are using during the growing process. Nutes have levels of NPK which the plants needs at different times during the grow stage. N=Nitrogen, P=Phosphorus and K=Potassium. The plant needs all of them at all times but with different levels. During growth they need more N, during flowering and more P for blooming. Secondary nutrients are Calcium, Sulphur and Magnesium. In trace quantities, boron, copper, molybdenum, zink, iron and manganese.
I use the “Stealth Hydro” brand nutes during the entire grow cycle. Each is used just with different amounts during different stages, Stealth Grow for the vegetative stage and Bloom and Micro for flowering. I also use Floralicious Plus and FloraNectar Pineapple Rush for more flavors during smoke. SH includes a nice little graph telling how much and when to use. You can also use Miracle Grow Patio, Rapid Grow, FloraGro, Oxygen Plus Plant Food and Epson Salt but none of the products could easily be found locally or online. Mix the Oxygen Plus and Epson Salt with the MG, RG or FG. Use half the dose until you know what the plants can take.
In a nut shell, change out water every week or two. Fresh nutes every week will produce healthier and happier plants. Like all things in growing – too much of a good thing is bad. And too much flushing is not only a waste of time and money, but you can flush away stuff that can be good for the plants. Know when to flush.
There are three basic times/reasons to flush:
1. Pre-Harvest Flush – many folks agree that this will improve the flavor of the cured bud. If you’re using Clearex then you can flush as close as 3 days before harvest. Other methods should be done a week to 10 days before harvest and repeated three days later.
2. When you dramatically change the nutrient schedule – usually when you start Flowering, some flush entering Veg as well. This is a preventative flush. Again – not mandatory, but not a bad idea. Also, in soil, this is about the time the plants have sucked all the nutes from the soil, And before you go jacking it up with your own mix – its not a bad idea to sort of zero it out.
3. If you are experiencing Nutrient Lockout. Usually (NOT ALWAYS!) when you have a dramatic nutrient imbalance the cure is not to try to figure out the exact one, but flush the plants, and add a fresh WELL BALANCED and MEDIUM STRENGTH dose of nutes. Now don’t go flushing at every burned leaf or tinge of yellow. Use common sense. But if you see dramatic problems, and there are no obvious signs of another problem like heat, cold, grey goop in the res, root rot, etc – then it’s probably not a bad idea to flush the plants and re-fill the res.
Remember – when you are flushing, you are trying to get rid of that buildup of nutrients. Most of that buildup is NOT above the ground. You are trying to flush the roots and soil. So try to do it at the beginning or end of the day when you can mist the plants with plain water. This will lower their transpiration and keep them from sucking up more flush water than they need. This step is not required, but its on the Clearex label so I do it.
Drain your res and refill, saturate the system for 5-15 minutes with plain distilled water then allow it to drain back to the res. Repeat at least 3 times. Check your ph on the last go round. Drain and fill with nutes. That’s it.
Lights out during germination! Germination should occur between 2-7 days up to 14. No fertilizer during germination? Wash hands every time you play in your garden! Soak seeds in solution of bleach to kill off any fungus, Â½ tbsp of bleach to a gallon of water. Soak for Â½ hour. Then soak seeds in plain water (distilled) for 8-14 hours. Seeds will sink to bottom of glass when they are ready to move on to next stage. Seeds then can be placed in wet paper towel or pod. For the towel cover seeds with another wet paper towel and let sit for another day or two till tap root appears then move to pod or move from glass to pod and start machine. Once sprouted, and the seed has broken ground or clears the pod the plant starts vegetative growth. Move to grow light cycle. This means the plant will be photosynthesizing as much as possible to grow tall and start many grow tips at each pair of leaves.
All plants have a vegetative stage where they are growing as fast as possible after the plant first germinates from seed. It is possible to grow plants with no dark period, and increase the speed at which they grow by 15-30%. Plants can be grown vegetatively indefinitely. It is up to the gardener to decide when to force the plant to flower. A plant can grow from 12″ to 12 before being forced to flower, so there is a lot of latitude here for each gardener to manage the garden based on goals and space available.
Sexing, cover a plant’s lower branch for 12 hours a day while it is in a constant light vegetative state. Use a black paper bag or equivalent to allow for air flow while keeping out light. Use a magnifying glass to look at the early flowers sex type. A male plant will have a small club (playing card) looking pre-flower with a small stem under it. A female flower is usually a single or double pistil, white and wispy, emerging from an immature calyx. Do not pre-force plants unless you have lots of time. Just cover one branch per plant with black paper (light tight, breaths air) 12 hours every day under constant light to force pre-flowers and differentiate early.
“Training” fouls the plants lower leaves to grow faster to reach higher points. Plants with a twist are a great way to get them to also bush out a bit. Take any type of plastic or paper twist tie and wrap it around the top of the plant, then pull it over until the top is bent over 90-180 degrees and then attach this to the main stem lower on the plant. Do this for one week and then release the plant from its bond.
Pruning encourages the plant to produce as much as possible and remain healthy. Pruning the lower limbs creates more air-flow under the plants in an indoor situation and creates cuttings for cloning. It also forces the plant effort to the top limbs that get the most light. Plants that are regenerated need to have minor growth clipped so that the main regenerated growth will get all the plant energy. This means that once the plant has started to regenerate lots of growth, the lower limbs that will be shaded or are not robust should go. The growth must be thinned on top branches such that only the most robust growth is allowed to remain.
Cloning is asexual reproduction. A grow tip is the part that can be cloned or propagated asexually. They are located at the top of the plant and every major internodes. Cuttings are taken from a mother plant in vegetative growth, and rooted in hydroponic medium to be grown as a separate plant. Take cuttings for clones before you move plants from vegetative growth to flowering. Low branches are cut to increase air circulation under the green canopy. Use these cuttings for cloning. Take cuttings from the bottom 1/3 of the plant. Rooted clones are moved to the vegetative growth area, and new clones are started in the cloning area using the low branch cuttings. Cut young growth tips from a vegetative stage, mature plant 3-5 inches long with a stem diameter 1/5-1/10 inch. Rootlets will appear at the bottom of the pods in 2-3 weeks. Each cycle of growth will take from 4-8 weeks, so you can constantly be growing in 3 stages, and harvesting every 6-8 weeks.
Once the plant is at least 12″ (12-18″) begin flowering. Flower plants as soon as they root to keep them short. Flowering, 10-13 hours of dark (equal parts day/night 12hours). A high P plant food such as Stealth Hydro or Peters 5-50-17 plant food is used for flowering, blooming and fruiting plants when beginning 12 hour days. Flowering, the plant will be induced to fruit or flower with dark cycles of 11-13 hours. This simulates the oncoming winter. A schedule of covering the plants for 2 weeks will start your plants to flowering. After the first 2 weeks, the schedule can be relaxed but it will still be necessary to continue this routine for the plants to completely flower without reverting back to vegetative growth. Early flowering is noticed 1-2 weeks after turning back the lights. Look for 2 white hairs emerging from a small bulbous area at every internode. 3-6 weeks after turning back the lights, your plants will be covered with the white pistils emerging from every grow tip on the plant. Some plants will do this indefinitely until the lights are turned back yet again. At the point you feel you are ready to see the existing flowers become ripe (you feel the plant has enough flowers), turn the lights back to 8-10 hour days. Now the plant will start to ripen quickly and should be ready to harvest in 2-3 weeks. Look for the white hairs to turn red, orange or brown and the false seed pods to swell with resin. Most of the pistils have turned color (about 80%), the flowers are ripe to harvest. Do not touch the buds. If you do the THC will come off on your fingers and reduce the overall yield if mishandled.
Regeneration for 2nd and 3rd harvest. A second harvest can be realized in as little as 6-8 weeks. When harvesting, take off the top 1/3rd of the plant. Leave mostly healthy fan leaves in the middle of the plant, cutting buds off branches carefully. On the lower 1/3rd of the plant, take off end flowers, but leave several small flowers on each branch. These will be the part of the plant that is regenerated. The most buds you leave on the plant, the faster it will regenerate. Feed the plant some miracle Grow immediately after harvest. It will take 7-14 days to see signs of new growth when regenerating a plant. Allow the plant to grow a little vegetative.
Plants are harvested when the flowers are ripe. Ripeness is defined as when the white pistils start to turn brown, orange, etc. and start to withdraw back into the false seed pod. If you harvested early with only a few of the pistils turned color, the buds will have a more pure THC content and will have less THC that has turned to CBD and CBN. The lesser psychoactive substance will create the bouquet of the pot, and control the amount of stoneyness and stupidness associated with the high. A pure THC content is very cerebral, while high THC, high CBD, CBN content will make the plants more of a stupid, or hazy buzz. Buds taken later, when fully ripened will normally have these higher CBN, CBD levels and may not be what you prefer once you try different samples picked at different times. Most growers want to pick early, that is OK, just take buds from the middle of the plant or the top. Allow the rest to keep maturing. Often the tops of the plants will be ripe first. Harvest them and let the rest of the plant continue to ripen. Use a magnifier and try to see the captivated stalked trichomes (little THC crystals on the buds). If they are mostly clear, not brown, the peak of floral bouquet is near. Once they are mostly all turning brownish in color, the THC levels are dropping and the flower is past optimum potency, declining with light and wind exposure rapidly. Do not harvest too late! It is easy to be too careful and harvest late enough potency has declined.
Do not cure pot in the sun, it reduces potency. Slow cure hanging buds upside down in a ventilated space. Drying in a paper bag works and may be much more convenient. Bud tastes great when slow dried over the course of a week or two. Dry buds until the stems are brittle enough to snap, and then cure them in a sealed Tupperware container, burping air and turning the buds daily for two weeks. Dry in an un-insulated area of the house (garage) so that the temp will rise and fall each night.
Seed and bud storage:
Use a seal-a-meal to hermetically seal the bag with no air inside. Freeze or refrigerated bud and seed can be kept for years this way. Wrap seeds in a paper towel to absorb moisture. Keep them in the freezer, and pull out only as many seeds as you need, then pop them back in the freezer quickly.
CO2, carbon dioxide, used to increase growth speed. The plant uses CO2 for photosynthesis to create sugars it uses to build plant tissues. CO2 is most usable for flowering. CO2 can be generated from fermentation, pour vinegar on baking soda. Turn off CO2 2 weeks before harvesting.
AeroGarden, "An Incomplete Guide to Growing" AeroGarden "An Incomplete Guide to Growing" Incomplete because there is so much to know and do. And no…