Dear Danko: Expert Grow Advice

Short and stocky strains, drip irrigation, dirty water, identifying male plants and more.
Dear Danko: Expert Grow Advice
Short and stocky plants like this Afghan Kush from Dinafem produce larger yields than their lanky counterparts./ Courtesy Dinafem

High Times’ cultivation specialist Danny Danko answers all your burning questions about being the best grower you can be. But first, some quick tips from the expert himself:

  • If hard water pools on top of your soilless mix, add a drop of natural dishwashing soap to your nutrient solution to soften it for better absorption.
  • Every bend in your ducting slows down airflow, so keep it as straight as possible.
  • Use a clean and sharp razor blade when taking cuttings, and trim at a 45-degree angle for successful rooting.

Subject: Strains for Small Spaces
From: Duane W.

Hey, what are the best strains to grow in a small space while still getting a big yield, and how can I make sure that the plants don’t touch the light?

Dear Duane,

The best strains to grow in small spaces are indica-dominant varieties with shorter internodal spacing and a bushier grow profile. Sativa-dominant plants usually have longer flowering periods and also tend to stretch more after flowering is induced. The plants can be bent or trained in order to prevent them from growing into the light (and also to increase yield).

Subject: Too Hot
From: Messina

I’m growing an auto-flowering plant, and where I live it gets very hot during the summer months. Here in northwestern Arizona, it can reach 120 degrees during the day! I’m growing in a Gorilla grow tent with an Advanced Platinum 650-watt LED light. To mitigate the heat in the tent, I’d like to use a 15/9-hour day/night light cycle. Will I have good results?

Dear Messina,

You can certainly reduce the amount of light per day from 18-20 hours to 15 without triggering flowering, but your plants won’t grow to their full potential. Furthermore, this will only reduce heat for few hours each day, and the temperatures during your daytime light cycle will still be excessive unless you cool your tent.

An air conditioner in the room in which your tent is will work wonders in keeping the heat down. Just make sure it’s strong enough to counter the ambient temperature and the added heat generated by your lighting system. Luckily, you’re using LED (light-emitting diode) lights, which don’t generate as much heat as HID (high-intensity discharge) systems such as HPS (high-pressure sodium) or Mil (metal halide).

Subject: Drip Emitters
From: Billy the Adult

I’ve heard of growers using individual tubes to water their plants drop by drop all day long. Is this effective and, furthermore, how would I go about setting something like that up?

Dear Billy,

You’re referring to the hydroponic growing method known as the drip-emitter system (DES). When this method is used, tubing draws the liquid nutrient solution from a reservoir to each plant. The drip emitter sits at plant level and regulates how much water the roots receive.

To use this system, you first need enough tubing to reach all of your plants. Drip systems are quite versatile, and you can customize them to fit almost any space or number of plants. Cut the tubing in the lengths you need and secure the drip emitter at the end. Then firmly press the emitter into the top of your growing medium. Attach the reservoir end to your underwater pump and set the timer to drip when needed (typically about 10 minutes every 2 to 3 hours during the “daytime” cycle). You will need to decrease or increase the feeding time based on your plants’ sizes and nutritional needs as they grow.

Keep in mind that drippers tend to clog over time, so you need to make sure your nutrient solution keeps flowing to your plants. Adding redundancy, with several emitters per plant, can ensure that the roots stay wet and that any clog-related disasters are avoided.

Dear Danko: Expert Grow Advice
Drip emitters deliver nutrient solution directly to each plant./ Courtesy of THC Design LA

Subject: Dirty Water
From Mark K.

I have a deep-water-culture hydroponic bucket system, and my plants are less than 2 feet tall at 9 weeks. I just purchased a total-dissolved-solids (TDS) meter and discovered that our tap water is around 900 PPM! I think my plants are suffering from root lock. Will they thrive once I get my TDS problem under control?

Dear Mark,

Wow! That’s the highest parts-per-million level of dissolved solids in tap water that I’ve ever heard of. You need to invest in RO (reverse osmosis) water-purification technology and clean your water before you add any nutrients to your solution. Once you do this, your plants will recover and enjoy a happy and healthy life.

Subject: Plant Count
From: AJ

I just purchased a 4’ x 4’ grow tent. Would it be better to grow 16 plants, each in a 1-square-foot area, or 9 plants in a 16-square-feet area? I am growing indica/sativa mixes all with 9-week flowering times, and I’ll be vegging them for a month. Thank you for all the great help over the years!

Dear AJ,

Due to your monthlong vegetative time, you should consider growing fewer plants and giving them more space to fill out. Therefore, I would recommend your 9-plant solution over the 16-plant setup. Be sure to use large containers for each plant so that your roots have plenty of room to develop and thrive. I would go with 3-gallon containers or larger for the space you have. Additionally, topping or training the plants as they vegetate will result in a bigger harvest when flowering has finished.

Subject: Proper Feeding
From: MJ

I’m starting my second grow. For my first, I grew ADUB and Dream Queen strains with a 315-watt LEC light in a 5′ x 5’ tent. Unfortunately, I had trouble with heat control and got thrips. Well, okay-at least I learned a thing or two, maybe. Or not.

I used Fox Farms Ocean Forest for the medium and watered with pH-balanced water two or three times a week, depending on the dryness of soil. But until the end, I didn’t really saturate the soil with each watering. I did some fimming/topping. more on the ADUB than the DQ.and her spindly nature shows how bad I was at it. I won’t be so aggressive next time.

My DQ yield was abysmal! I ended up with only about 3 ounces. I vegged her from clone for about eight weeks, followed by eight weeks of flowering. The ADUB yield appears to be a lot less, but the silver-dollar-size buds are pretty dense in comparison to the DQ. (I almost lost her due to clawing leaves at one point-I think I may have overfed her.) I’m anticipating perhaps two ounces off her after I harvest this weekend.

I’m starting the second grow from seed. Germination is at Day 3. This morning, I put the spouted seeds into a rockwool medium to continue sprouting, having originated them using the moist-paper-towel method.

Here’s my question: Where can I find a good regimented feeding and transplanting schedule? I’d also like to know how large of a pot I should progress up to. I feel the 10-gallon Smart Pot I used was just way too large for the last crop’s growth and yield.

Dear MJ,

Almost every nutrient company will provide an online feeding chart with weekly schedules based on the stage of growth. Just keep in mind that their recommendations usually tend to be on the heavier feeding side, so start with half the recommended strength and work your way up if necessary. It’s always easier to add more than take away, so err on the side of caution for best results.

A 10-gallon Smart Pot is a great size for your plants, and a 2-month vegging period is fine as long as you allow the plants to thrive and build a nice-size root-ball during growth. Healthy plants will fill out your pots nicely, and you’ll increase your yields substantially.

Subject: Algae on Roots
From: Hans

l transplanted some clones into clear plastic cups using Happy Frog potting soil and Plant Success Organics Granular to maximize root growth. It’s been a couple of days and I have watered them as needed. Today I noticed a green moss around the root-ball. Do you have any idea what this is and what I can do to get rid of it if need be?

Dear Hans,

The green moss that you see is algae that has grown in your container due to the fact that you used clear plastic cups. The cups allow light to reach your wet medium, creating the perfect conditions for the mossy mess to compete with your plants for nutrients and providing a breeding ground for pests and harmful molds. Transplant your clones immediately into larger opaque containers with plenty of soil mix and don’t use clear cups in the future.

Subject: Kill the Males
From: Lil’ Smokey

I just planted a bunch of seeds indoors, and I need to know what the male plants look like. I was told I have to get rid of them soon.

Dear Smokey,

If your seedlings are indoors under at least 18 hours of light per day, you’ve got some time. They won’t begin to truly show their flowers until after you switch the timer to a 12/12-hour day/night light cycle. Then, within 2-3 weeks, you’ll begin to see clear signs of their gender. (Although auto-flowering seeds will begin flowering at a certain age regardless of the photoperiod.)

Teardrop-shaped calyxes with while hair sticking out will emerge from your female plants where the leaves meet the branches. The males will produce calyxes that have sharp spikes and which are noticeably less rounded. As they mature, the spikes will form into what looks like tiny bunches of green bananas.

Get rid of the males as soon as you can. Otherwise these “bananas” will open up and drop pollen all over your flowering females, leaving you with a crop full of relatively worthless seeds instead of the seedless female nuggets you’re hoping for.

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This feature was published in the April, 2019 issue of High Times magazine. Subscribe right here.

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