There Few things in life as good as your own herb, grown by yourself at home out in the garden and indoors in pots... Oregano, Dill, Basil, Sage and other herbs are all easy to grow. Mint will take over the whole yard if you let it. Fresh mint and celantro are incredible in salads and oriental dishes. But it all comes down to a truly motivational herb that is your friend and mine, a great healer and teacher to those that know it well. 
Most people think of gardens as a seasonal, yearly project, but it’s actually less time consuming and more rewarding to keep the garden going year round. If one were to attempt to grow year round, indoor gardening techniques will be needed at least during winter to keep the garden producing. You will have herb fresh at all times, there is no worry of mass storage thru the winter and spring, it requires less space, and once established, requires only minimal attention every week to keep it producing at optimal levels.
 
The best part of being a gardener is it connects you to the earth. It connects you with nature, and is spiritually enriching. Try giving your plants energy by beaming good thoughts and energy at them every time you visit them. I find this helps me as much as it helps them; my plants seem to respond to it favorably.

 

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GENETICS AND THE PLANT 
It’s very important to start with good genetics. You should attempt to find seeds from local gardeners that are acclimated and bred for local climate and best floral characteristics. Potency, aroma, fast growth, early maturation, resistance to fungus and pests. All of these factors are considered by the seasoned gardener and you will benefit enormously by finding a friend to get you started on the journey that never ends...
 
Attempt to find an Indica/Sativa hybrid if possible, as this will have the best high and good characteristics for indoor growth as well. Indica plants have a heavy, stony high that is tiresome, and sativas’ are hard to grow indoors due to high light requirements, and late flowering traits, so a hybrid can be bread that will have the energetic, cerebral high of the sativa and the early maturation tendencies of the Indica plant.
 
The Indica plant is easily recognized by its extremely broad leaves that are very rounded on the sides. The Sativa has very narrow, finger-like leaves. A hybrid will have qualities of both and have leaves that are a cross of these two types, thinner than an Indica, but much broader than a Sativa. It is possible to recognize a good hybrid by the leaves once you know what to look for.
 
Look for seeds that are dark brown or light grey. Some may have dark lines inset into these colors, like tiger stripes. White, small seeds are immature and should not be planted.

 

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INDOORS & OUTDOORS - CONSTANT HARVEST STRATEGY 
One of the best solutions to energy verses output for most home gardeners is to use outdoor light for flowering and use continuous light indoors for germination and vegetative growth. This will take advantage of the natural light/dark cycle and cut your energy use in half compared to the same operation indoors. A small greenhouse can be built of Filon fiberglass or PVC sheets that is innocuous and looks much like a storage shed or tool shed so it’s not likely to raise suspicions.
 
In fact, a large shed of metal or plywood can be modified with a luminous roof of PVC, glass, fiberglass or plastic sheet, and some strains that do not require a great deal of light will grow well. Such a shed will discourage fly-by sightings and keep your business your own! It also allows you to keep out rats and gophers, keeps out the neighbor kids, and can be easily locked up. It will also give you an opportunity to actually plant in the ground if you desire, and this is the best way to avoid root-bound plants (if your not using hydroponics), and get bigger harvests.
 
In winter, indoor space is used to start new seedlings or cuttings to be placed outside in the spring, using natural sunlight to ripen the plants.  This routine will provide at least 3 outdoor/greenhouse harvests per year.  If more space is available to constantly be starting indoors and flowering 2nd harvest plants outdoors, harvests are possible every 60 days in many areas, with a small indoor harvest in the winter as a possibility as well.
 
The basic strategy of year round production is to understand the plant has two growth cycles. At germination the plant enters into a vegetative state and will be able to use all the continuous light you can give it. This means there is no dark cycle required. The plant will photosynthesis constantly and grow faster than it would outdoors with long evenings.  Photosynthesis stops during dark periods and the plant uses sugars produced to build during the evening. This is not a requirement and the plant will grow faster at this stage with continuous photosynthesis (constant light).
 
Once the plant is 12-18” tall, weather permitting, it can be forced to start flowering by placing it outside in the Spring or Fall. (For Summer outdoor flowering, the night must be artificially lengthened in the greenhouse to “force” the plants to flower. See FLOWERING chapter.)
 
Moving the plants to 10-13 hour light periods (moving it outside) with uninterrupted darkness (no bright lights nearby) will force the plant to flower. It will ripen and be 2-3’ when ready to harvest. When a plant is moved from continuous indoor light to a 10-13 hour day outside, it will start to flower in anticipation of oncoming winter. Vegetative starts moved outside March 1st, will be ripe by May 1. Vegetative starts moved outside on May 1 will be ripe by July 1. Starts moved outside Sept 1 are picked by Nov. 1st. In Winter, operations are moved indoors and a crop is planted for seed in anticipation of planting outdoors the next summer, or just for some extra winter stash.
 
Keep in mind that the “man” is looking for plants in the Sept./Oct./Nov.  time-frame, and may never notice plants placed outside to flower in April.  Be smart, make your big harvest in May, not October!

PLANTING INDOORS 
A small indoor space should be found that can be used to germinate seeds; these vegetative starts are placed outside to mature in the spring after last freezes are over. The space can be a closet, a section of a bedroom, a basement area, an attic or unused bathroom. Some people devote entire bedrooms to growing.
 
The space must be light leak proofed, so that no suspicious light is seen from outside the house. This could invite fuzz or rip-offs.
 
The space should be vented. Opening the door of a closet can be enough ventilation if the space is not lit by big lights that generate a lot of heat. Separate exhaust and incoming air vents are best. One at the top of the room to exhaust air into the attic or out the roof, and one to bring in air from an outside wall or under-floor crawl space. Use fans from old computer cabinets, available from electronic liquidators for $5 each.  Dimmer swithes can be used to regulate the speed/noise of the fans. Use silicon to secure the fans to 4-6” PVC pipe pushed thru a round hole cut in the floor and ceilings. Use lots of silicon to damp the fans vibrations, so that the walls do not resonate to the fans’ ocsilations.
 
Line the walls with aluminum foil, dull side out to diffuse the light and prevent hot-spots, or paint the walls bright white to reflect light.  Aluminized mylar, 1 mil thick is best.($20 for 25 feet of a 4’ wide roll.)
 
Mirrors are not good to use, since the glass eats light!
 
Line the floor with plastic in case of water spills, etc. Set up a voltage interrupt socket and be sure the electrical wiring will handle the lamps your going to use. Always place ballasts for HID lamps on a shelf, so they are above floor level, in case of water spills. Spacers place on the floor under a ballast will work too.
 
A shelf above the main grow area can be used to clone cuttings and germinate seedlings. It will allow you to double the area of your grow space and is an invaluable storage area for plant food, spray bottles and other gardening supplies. This area stays very warm, and no germination warming pad will be needed, so this arrangement saves you $.
 
Hang a light proof curtain to separate this shelf from the main area when used for flowering. This will allow constant lights on the shelf and dark periods in the main grow area. Velcro can be used to keep the curtain in place and ties can be used to roll it up when tending the garden. Black vinyl with white backing works best.
 
Now you need light. A couple of shop lights will be fine if you just want to start plants inside and then take them outside to grow in a small greenhouse. They can be purchased with bulbs for about $10 each, or without bulbs for around $8. Try to find them on sale. Use one Cool White and one Warm Light type bulb in each to get the best light spectrum possible for plant growth. Do not use expensive Grow Lux type bulbs, as they do not put out as much light, and therefor do not work as well in most situations (go figure). If Cool White is all you can find, or afford, use them. They work fine, and are by far the cheapest.(About $1-2 each.)

SHELF GROWING 
Shelf gardening with fluorescents may be the trend of the future, since the materials are so inexpensive, and easy to obtain. Fluorescent lamps are great for shelf gardening. In this system, many shelves can be placed, one above the other, and fluorescent lamps are used on each shelf. Some shelves have 24 hour lighting, some have 12 hour lighting (for flowering). Two areas are best, perhaps with one other devoted to cloning and germination of seed.
 
Shelf gardening assumes your going to keep all plants 3’ or shorter at maturity, so all shelves are 3-4 feet apart. Less light is necessary when you have plants that are this short and forced to mature early.
 
One drawback to a shelf garden like this is that it is very time consuming to adjust the lamp height every day, and it is harder to take a vacation for even a week with no tending of the garden. This applies mostly to the vegetative stage, when plants are growing as much as an inch per day. Lamps on the flowering shelves are not adjusted nearly as often.
 
Normally, the lamps should be kept within 2 inches of the tops of the plants, with the plants arranged such that they get progressively taller as the end of the lamps go up, so that all plants are within this 2” range. This is an ideal however, and if you do go on vacation, adjust the lamps so that your sure the plants will not be able to grow up to the lamps within that length of time. If enough flourecents are used to completely saturate the shelf with light, the spacing issue will not create spindly plants. They will mearly grow a little slower if the lamps are not very close to them.
 
An alternative is to use fluorescent lamps for cloning, germination and early seedling growth on the top shelf of a closet, then switch over to HPS for heavy vegatative growth and/or flowering in the main closet area.
 
Position the HPS such that it won’t need adjustment, at the top most possible point in the closet or room. Most HPS installations will not require lamp height adjustment. Just attach the lamp to the underside of shelf or ceiling as high as possible, and if you want to get a few plants closer to it, put them on a temporary shelf, box or table to get them closer to the lamp.
 
A shelf is all that is necessary with this type of setup, preferably at least 18” wide, up to about 24” maximum. This area must be painted a very bright white, or covered with aluminum foil, dull side out to reflect light back to the plants. (Dull side out prevents hot-spots; diffuses light better.) Paint the shelf white too. Or, use aluminized mylar, a space blanket, or any silvery surface material. Do not use mirrors, as the glass soaks up light.
 
Hang shop lamps from chains and make sure you can adjust them with hooks or some other type of mechanism so they can be kept as close to the plants as possible at all times (1-2”).
 
If the lamps are too far from the plants, the plants could grow long, spindly stems trying to reach the lamp, and will not produce as much bud at maturity. This is due to internode length being much longer.  This is the length of stem between each set of leaves.  If it is shorter, there can be more internodes, thus more branches, thus a plant that provides more buds in less space at harvest time.
 
Shelf gardening is sometimes referred to as Sea of Green, because many plants are grown close together, creating a green canopy of tops that are grown and matured quickly, and the next crop is started and growing concurrently in a separate area of continuous light. Clones are raised in a constant light shelf, until they start to grow well vegetatively, then placed on a 12 hour per day shelf to flower.

LIGHT 
Indoors, 2008 lumens per sq. ft. is about as low as you want to go indoors.  If you get under this mark, plant growth will certainly not go as fast as possible, and internode/stem length will increase. Also, light distance to plants will be much more critical. Daily adjustments to the lamps will be necessary, meaning you get no vacations.
 
2500 lumens psf should be a good target, and 3000 is optimal if your going to inject or enrich CO2 levels (more on that later).
 
High Intensity Discharge lamps are the best solution for most indoor growers. HID lamps come in 3 basic flavors: High Pressure Sodium (HPS), Metal Halide (MH) and Mercury Vapor. Metal Halide is an improved spectrum, higher intensity Mercury Vapor design. HPS is a yellowish sort of light, maybe a bit pink or orange. Same as some street lamps.
 
HPS lamps can be used to grow a crop from start to finish. Tests show that the HPS crop will mature 1 week later than a similar crop under MH, but it will be a bigger yield, so it’s better to wait the extra week.
The easiest HID to buy, and least expensive initially are the flourescent and mercury vapor lamps. MV will put out about 8000 lumens per 175 watts, and 150 watts of HPS puts out about 15k lumens, so HPS is almost twice as efficient. But the color spectrum from MV lamp output is not as good. HPS is high in reds, which works well for flowering, while the Metal Halide is rich in blues, needed for the best vegetative growth. Unfortunately, MV lamps provide the worst spectrum for plant growth, but are very inexpensive to purchase.They are not recommended, unless you find them free, and even then, the electricity/efficiency issues outweigh the initial costs saved.
 
400 watt HPS will output around 45k lumens. For every 500 watts of continuous use, you use about $20 a month in electricity, so it is evident that a lamp taking half the power to output the same lumens (or twice the lumens at the same power level) will pay for itself in a year or so, and from then on, continuous savings will be reaped. This is a simple initial cost vs. operating costs calculation, and does not take into account the faster growth and increased yield the HPS lamp will give you, due to more light being available. If this is factored into the calculation the HPS lamp will pay for itself with the first crop, when compared to MV or fluorescent lamps, since it is easily twice as efficient and grows flowers faster and bigger.
 
Lamp Type  Watts  Lumens per bulb  Total efficiency
 
 

 Fluorescent Bulb 40   3000   400 watts = 30k lumens 
 
 
 Mercury Vapor 175   8000   400 watts = 20k lumens

 Metal Halide  400   36000   400 watts = 36k lumens 
 
 
 High P. Sodium 400   45000   400 watts = 45k lumens
 
 

Notice the Mercury Vapor lamps are less efficient than the fluorescent (FL), and can not be positioned as close to the plants, so the plants will not be able to use as much of the MV light. The light distribution is not as good either. MV lamps simply are not suitable for indoor gardening. Use flourecent, MH, or HPS lamps only. Halogen arc lamps generate too much heat and not very much light for the wattage they use, and are also not recommened, even though the light spectrum is suitable for decent growth. 
There is a new type of HPS lamp called Son Agro, and it is available in a 250, 1000, and 400 watt range. The 400 is actually 430 watts; they have added 30 watts of blue to this bulb. It is a very bright lamp (53k lumens) and is made for greenhouse use. These bulbs can be purchased to replace normal HPS bulbs, so they are an option if you already own a HPS lamp. The beauty of this bulb is that you do not give up most of the advantages of MH lamps, such as minimal internode spacing and early maturation, like most HPS users do, and you have all advantages of a HPS lamp. One bulb does it all.
 
Internodal length of plants grown with the Son Agro are the shortest ever seen with any type of lamp. Plants grown under this lamp are incredibly bushy, compact and grow very fast. Son Agro bulbs however, do not last as long as normal HPS bulbs. There is something like a 25% difference in bulb life.
 
Metal Halide (MH) is another option, and is available in both a 36k and 40k lumen bulbs for the 400 watt size. The Super Bulb (40k) is about $10-15 more, and provides an extra 4000 lumens. I think the Super Bulb may last longer; if so, that makes it the way to go. Halide light is more blue and better than straight HPS for vegetative growth, but is much less efficient than HPS. It is possible to purchase conversion bulbs for a MH lamp that convert it to HPS, but the cost of the conversion bulb is more expensive than the color corrected Son Agro bulb, so I would recommend just buying the Son Agro HPS. Even though it costs more initially, you get more for your energy dollar later, and it’s much easier to hang than 10 fluorescent tubes.
 
If you have a MH 36k lumen lamp burning at 400 watts and a 53k lumen HPS burning at 430 watts, which is better efficiency wise? Which will provide a better yield? Obviously, the Son Agro HPS, but of course, the initial cost is higher. Actually, the ballast will add about 10% to these wattage numbers.
 
The Son Agro bulb will prove much better than the MH for any purpose. The MH bulb does not last as long, but is cheaper. Compare $36 for a 400 watt MH bulb vs. $40 for the HPS bulb. Add $15 for the Son Agro HPS. The HPS bulb life is twice as long. 10k hours vs. 21k hours. The Son Agro is 16k hours or so. Still, longer bulb life and more light add up to more for your energy dollar long term.
 
Horizontal mounting of any HID is a good idea, as this will boost by 30% the amount of light that actually reaches the plants. Most HID’s sold for indoor garden use these days are of this horizontal mounting arrangement.
 
HPS is much less expensive to operate than any other type of lamp, but comes in the 70 watt size at the home improvement stores. This size is not very efficient, but blows away FL in efficiency, so they might be an alternative to FL for very small operations, like 9 sq. feet or less.  Over 9 sqr. feet, you need more light than one of these lamps can provide, but you could use two of them.
 
70 watt HPS lamps cost about $40 each, complete.
 
Two lamps would be 140 watts putting out about 12k lumens, so it’s better than FL, but a 150 watt HPS puts out about 18k lumens, the bulb life is longer, bulbs are cheaper and the lamp more efficient to operate.  The biggest problem is that the mid size lamps like the 150 and 250 watt HPS are almost as expensive to buy as the larger 400’s. For this reason, if you have room for the larger lamp, buy the 400.  If your going pro, a 1080 watt model is available too, but you might find there is better light distribution from two 400’s rather than one large lamp.  Of course, the two smaller lamps are more expensive to purchase than one large lamp, so most people choose the larger lamp for bigger operations.
 
Heat buildup in the room is a factor with HID lamps, and just how much light the plants can use is determined by temperature, CO2 levels, nutrient availability, PH, and other factors. Too big of a lamp for a space will make constant venting necessary, and then there is no way to enrich CO2, since it’s getting blown out of the room right away.
 
Bulb Costs: the bulb cost on the 70 watt HPS is $24, the 150 is only $30, and the 400 is only $40. So you will spend more to replace two 70 watt bulbs than you will to replace one 400 watt HPS. (Go figure.) Add that up with the lower resale value on the 70’s (practically nothing) and the fact that they are being modified and are not suited to this application, and it becomes evident that $189 for a 250 HPS lamp, or $219 for a 400, might just be worth the price. Keep in mind that for $30 more, you can have the larger lamp (400watt) and it puts out 20k lumens more light than the smaller lamp.  Not a bad deal!
 
Here is the breakdown on prices (from memory):

Type Complete Cost Bulb Cost  Bulb Life Lumens

HPS 400  $219   $40  18k hours 50k

MH 400  $175   $37  10k hours 36k

Son Agro400 $235   $55  15k hours 53k

Super MH400 $190   $45  ??   40k

MH 250  $149   $32  ??   21k

HPS 250  $165   $36  ??   27k

HPS agro250 $180   $53  ??   30k

MH 150  $139   $25  ??   14k

HPS 175  $150   $30  ??   17k 
 

If your looking for these types of lamps, look in the Yellow Pages under gardening, nursuries, and lighting for indoor gardening stores in your area.

SEA OF GREEN 
Sea of Green (SOG) is the theory of harvesting lots of small plants, matured early to get the fastest production of buds available. Instead of growing a few plants for a longer period of time, in the same space many smaller plants are grown that mature faster and in less time. Thus, less time is required between crops. This is important to you when the electricity bill comes each month. One crop can be started while another is maturing, and a continuous harvest, year round can be maintained. 4 plants per square foot will be a good start for seedlings. 1 plant per square foot will allow plenty of room for each plant to grow a large top cola, but will not allow for much bottom branching. This is OK since indoors, these bottom branches are always shaded anyway, and will not grow very well unless given additional light and space. The indoor grower quickly realizes that plants that are too tall do not produce enough at the bottom to make the extra growing time used worth while.  An exception to this rule would be if it is intended the plants are to go outside at some point, and it is expected that the light/shading issue will not be a factor at that point.
 
The plants, if started at the same time, should create what is called a “green canopy” that traps most of the light at the top level of the plants.  Little light will penetrate below this level, since the plants are so close together. The gardener is attempting to concentrate on the top of the plant, and use the light and space to the best advantage, in as little time as possible. Use of nylon poultry fence or similar trellising  laid out over the green canopy will support the plants as they start to droop under the weight of heavy fruiting tops. Stakes can be used too, but are not as easy to install for plants in the middle and back of the room, where reach is more difficult.
 
It’s easy to want big plants, since they will produce more yield per plant, but it’s usually better with limited space to grow smaller plants that mature faster and pack into smaller spaces. Sea of Green was developed in Holland. Instead of fitting 4 large plants in that small room, fit 12 small ones on a shelf above 12 other small plants. These plants take only 3-4 months to mature from germination to ripe buds, and harvesting takes place constantly, since there is both a vegetative and flowering area devoted to each, with harvests every 45-60 days.
 
It’s not the size of the plant, but the maturity and quality of the product that counts. Twice as many plants grown half as big will fill the grow space twice as fast, so harvests take place almost twice as often.  Get good at picking early flowering plants, and propagate only those that are of the best quality.
 
6” square containers will allow for 4 plants per square foot. You may also gauge by the size of your growing tray (for passive hydroponics); I like kitty litter boxes. ($3 each at Target) Planted 4 per square foot, (for vegatative seedlings) a 12 sq. ft. closet will hold 48 seedlings on one shelf.  In my case, I use 4” rockwool cubes that fit into kitty litter pans @ 12 cubes per pan. I can get 5 pans onto a 12 sq. ft. closet upper shelf, so that is 60 seedlings on one small shelf!
 
For flowering indoors, 1 plant per sq. ft. is a good rule of thumb for SOG.  If less plants are grown in this size space, it will take them longer to fill the space, thus more electricity and time will be used to create the same amount of product. If more than one plant p.s.f. is attempted, the grower will soon find that plants thus crowded tend to be more stem than bud, and the total harvest may be reduced, so be cautious.
 
It’s good to avoid “topping” your plants if you want them to grow as fast as possible. It’s better just to grow 2 or 4 times more plants, since they will produce more, faster, in the same space. Also, “training” plants with twist-ties is a great way to get them to bush out a bit. Just 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 it’s bond. The plant can be trained in this fashion to take less vertical space and to grow bushier, to fill the grow space and force lower limbs to grow upward and join the green canopy. This technique takes advantage of the fact that if the top is pulled over, it creates a hormonal condition in the plant that makes it bush out at all lower internodes.
 
Sea of Green entails growing to harvest the main cola (top) of the plant.  Bottom branches are trimmed to increase air flow under the “blanket” of growing tops. Use these cuttings for clones, as they are the easiest part of the plant to root. It’s also the fastest part of the plant to regenerate after flowering has occurred.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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