Chapter 2 – Growing Top Shelf Buds

This is chapter 2 of a 14 part weekly series with highly specific how-to guide. Follow step by step to grow top shelf harvests like a pro. The information and instructions are highly scalable. These proven and well developed methods and technologies will work for anyone. Whether you want to grow some personal crops of buds at home or if you intend to fill a warehouse.

The Basics

Basic Overview - Cannabis cropping planDo not worry too much about trying to completely understand or visualize every conceivable detail of the cropping plan we will be following.

Each area highlighted will be discussed in detail and logistically in this growing guide. Fear not. This will all make perfect sense by the time our time here together is done.

Basic Overview – Plant Counts

In our cropping plan, we can vary the planting density based on our strain selections and the number of plants we are able to work with. Typically, for maximum efficiency, we will need from five to twenty five plants per square meter (that is 3.3 feet by 3.3 feet or 10.39 square feet). Higher densities mean less time is required in vegetative growth and plant quality will be more consistent from top to bottom of the crop. Plants that have less veg time tend to finish flowering faster too. Shorter finishing heights also improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the LED grow lighting that is recommended.

Basic Overview – Crop Lighting

LED Cannabis Grow lightingFor each square meter it is advised to use 600 to 800 watts of high powered LED grow lighting. There are a LOT of different fixtures and kits available; it can be confusing. We will explain what to look for later in greater detail.

Basic Overview – Why LED?

• Safety
• Efficiency and lower power usage; higher PPFD values per Watt of power consumed.
• Tunable or customized spectrum; bud quality and growth are exceptional versus other light sources.
• Cooler running: most fixtures run cool to touch versus HID lighting sources that reach several hundred degrees.
• Long lasting and reliable; no lamps to replace.

Basic Overview – Hydroponic Growing

Hydroponic Clean Growing CannabisHydroponics are selected as the cultivation method for cannabis because it is clean, hygienic, saves water, and has lower long term cost. Hydroponic systems use a much smaller amount of growing media versus soil and soilless gardens. In hydroponics, root systems are very compact and efficient, less root mass is doing more work. This makes plants easier to handle, stack vertically in systems and reduces the amounts of material that need to be handled both coming in and leaving the growing area for a crop cycle.

Most importantly, hydroponic growth rates and yields can be significantly better versus conventional growing methods. Growing with hydroponics gives roots more oxygen and direct access to water and nutrients for fast growing crops.

Combining hydroponics and high powered LED grow lighting creates super healthy and fast growing crops of buds that finish faster versus conventional growing methods. The harvest quality tends to be higher also.

The tastes and aromas of a well grown hydroponic harvest are exceptional. With hydroponic grown crops, you are tasting and smelling pure plant matter. No funky added tastes or aromas from soils or organic additives. It is all about bringing out the best in your cannabis genetics.

Basic Overview – Growing in Rockwool

Cannabis hydroponic clean plantingWe will focus on growing in rockwool AKA stonewool or glasswool in growing trays using Flood & Drain or Drip Irrigation Methods.

Rockwool is made from Basalt Rock yet is incredibly light weight when dry. It also has a lot of pore space, and when saturated can hold up to 90% water. By nature, it is very alkaline and completely inert from the manufacturing process. There is little, to no risk of introducing pathogens or pests to your crop from new rockwool.

We will also touch on substituting rockwool with coco coir or growstones and give some insights into other types of hydroponic methods.

Basic Overview – Growing Area(s)

For maximum efficiency and continuous cropping capabilities, we will maintain a propagation and vegetative growth area and a separate and independent larger flowering or bloom area simultaneously. We will not need nearly as much space or power for our vegetative and propagation area. This is one of the many benefits of maintaining smaller sized plants but more of them. It is important with the fast turnover rates in our flowering area(s).

Basic Overview – Flowering Area

Cannabis compact plants ready to flowerSometimes called a bloom room, this is where established plants are finished under 12 hours of light per day and 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness. Typically, you will want to have an area that is at least eight feet by twelve feet to work with as your flowering room. Even if you only start with one or two lights, leave yourself some room for expansion (we can stack vertical too). Most growers find with basic automation methods, growing more does not require much additional time versus a single light. For those thinking on a larger scale the instructions, recommendations, and dimensions we give are easily scaled up. This recipe will make from 9 cookies to 9000 cookies, it is up to you.

The flowering room provides a much more intensive environment than the vegetative and propagation area. Lighting, air movement, cooling, etc. will require more power here versus veg and propagation. A 40 AMP dedicated 240/220V circuit is typically enough for our eight foot by twelve foot bloom room. Access to more power is needed if you want to double up, i.e., vertical systems (double decker) or use air conditioning (recommended).

Basic Overview – Vegetative & Propagation Area

Basic Overview CompaSometimes called a veg room, this is where new plants are started and raised to a healthy but compact stature (around 9 to 12 inches tall) under 24 hours of constant lighting before plants get moved into the bloom room for budding to maturity.

The veg area needs to be only half the size of our flowering area. So, using our flowering area footprint from above, we will need an area around four feet by six feet to keep our bloom room perpetually full of healthy blooming plants.

As soon as one light is harvested, a crop of transplants is on the ready to move in and begin flowering. Only cleaning is required between plantings. Harvest and transplant can occur on the same day, adding up to more harvests per year. A couple 15 Amp 120/110V dedicated circuits is typically sufficient for power supply in our veg area. Lighting, cooling, environmental control needs are considerably less intensive versus the bloom room.

Basic Overview – Crop Timing

High quality cannabis crop efficientTo gain maximum efficiency and keep work steady and routine, we are going to operate our garden for a perpetual harvest. This means that every ten to fourteen days you will be harvesting a section of mature buds. You will replace those plants harvested from the bloom room with a fresh crop of transplant from our vegetative and propagation area. This keeps you in a steady supply of quality medicine or top shelf recreational buds, with no lulls. It is also good risk management.

By staggering crop dates, there is little risk of losing an entire crop if you have problems. Everything is in different stages, with each stage having its own dedicated nutrient reservoir and conditions. Fast turn over times means it is not such a big loss if you must scrap a batch of plants i.e., pests, pump breaks down, etc. There is always a fresh batch only two weeks away.



Links to prior chapter and scheduled release dates for upcoming chapters