Marijuana needs nutrients to grow. If cannabis plants are to reach their full big-budded, heavy-yielding potential, it must be ensured that the sufficient nutrients are available to support this growth.
Don’t be the naive grower who plants marijuana in an unprepared plot of soil, only supplementing with some random compost. Plenty of people have tried that before you, and let me tell you from experience – it will not amount to the fat, beautiful buds you are dreaming of.
Nutrients are basically food for your plant. Underfed cannabis plants will be affected by slow, stunted growth, yellowing, frail structure and weak immune system – thus leading to small, low-quality yields.
Organic growers practice feeding the soil to in-turn feed the plant, while inorganic growers tend to directly feed the plant. Both ways will provide the same basic nutrients to your plants, although overuse of inorganic fertilizer can have negative effects on your soil’s biology.
::MRS:: recommends a True Living Organics set-up for medical marijuana plants.
Some facts about nutrients
Cannabis is a heavy-feeding plant, requiring a large amount of nutrients to support it’s leaves and thick flowers.
There are six major nutrients that weed plants require to grow – three of which are obtained from the air and water:
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – Plants simply absorb CO2 from the air, combining it with water and light, to make carbohydrates – a process more commonly known as photosynthesis.
- Hydrogen (H) – Hydrogen is a part of water (H2O). As plants absorb water, they split the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen using the energy from the sun.
- Oxygen (O) – Along with what has been described above, plants consume oxygen through their pores – even at night. This is what’s called respiration. Respiration combines oxygen and the food created during photosynthesis to produce usable energy for plants.
The other three major nutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Commonly referred to as NPK in the agriculture world. This is what you need to know about, and supply your cannabis plants with the right ratios for is specific stage of growth.
Major nutrients (N-P-K)
- Nitrogen, being a gas, is a major component of chlorophyll – the vital plant energy juice that is created from energy absorbed from the sun (photosynthesis). It is also a major component of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Devoid of proteins, plants will wither and die.
- To ensure healthy structure of leaves and other plant matter, it is important that sufficient nitrogen levels are obtained by your marijuana plants. This is why higher levels of nitrogen during your plants vegetative growth stage is preferred, as the plant is producing much of it’s foliage during this time. Plants supplied with enough nitrogen will be a healthy lush-green and grow rapidly with glowing strength.
- Phosphorus is a component of the complex nucleic acid structure of plants, which regulates protein synthesis. Being important in cell division and development of new tissue, phosphorus is also associated with complex energy transformations in the plant, such as transferring energy from one point to another.
- The most critical time to provide phosphorus is when your plants are starting their flowering process, as this is when a big energy change happens. During the beginning of flowering, high levels of phosphorus in a plant will lead to additional flower (bud) sites and a healthy root system. Your ganja plants will benefit from healthy phosphorus levels throughout it’s flowering cycle.
- Potassium regulates the opening and closing of stomata (pores) during photosynthesis, in part controlling CO2 uptake. It also triggers the activation of different growth-related enzymes important in many chemical processes taking place during growth. Potassium is attributed to playing a major part in the absorption and movement of water, nutrients, and carbohydrates in plant tissue.
- Potassium is a catalyst for carbohydrate metabolism, so when you want your marijuana plants to really pack on the carbs, high levels of potassium are critical. It’s best to increase your potassium levels during the midst your flowering cycle, healthy amounts of potassium will lead to full, thick and heavy bud production.
Minor and micro-nutrients
- Minor and micro-nutrients are essential for healthy plant growth, just used in smaller amounts by plants; hence the name.
- There are three nutrients classified as minor nutrients. These are:
- Calcium (Ca) – has a regulating effect in the cells and contributes to the stability of the plant, important in the development of cell walls.
- Magnesium (Mg) – is a building block of chlorophyll, essential to the process of photosynthesis. Without magnesium, plants can’t process sunlight.
- Sulfur (S) – is used in the formation of amino acids, proteins, and oils. Sulfur helps develop and activate different vitamins and enzymes.
- Seven elements are needed in tiny amounts, these are dubbed micronutrients.
- These include boron (B), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), zinc (Zn), nickel (Ni) and chloride (Cl).
- Do not underestimate the power of these micronutrients, as being deficient in any of these can impair growth.
There are many benefits to using organic fertilizers, they are at large more beneficial for the soil’s microbiology, loaded with microorganism cultures and free from high levels of salt and phosphorus that would disturb beneficial microlife, such as mycorrhizal fungi.
Most organic fertilizer is slow-release, it must be broken down further by the soils microbiology to become available to plants, but there are many readily-available fast-acting organic fertilizers on the market today.
FoxFarm Happy Frog
FoxFarm’s Happy Frog dry fertilizer is a mix of different organic ingredients such as bone meal, bat guano, kelp meal, feather meal and humic acid. It even comes pre-loaded with mychorrizal inoculant, essential for gardeners who want to speed up the rate of organic matter decomposition in the soil – this will help slow-release soil additives become more quickly available to your plants. I have been using this product for years, and i’m constantly impressed with the results, especially considering the low price-tag. For flowering plants, use the 3-8-8 bulb food. If you didn’t mix any into your soil during transplanting, try ‘spiking’ this into the ground around your roots, filling in small holes with the dry fertilizer, as well as layering some on top below your mulch.
Loaded with a myriad of organic substances including alfalfa meal, cane sugar, copper sulphate, glacial rock powder, iron sulphate, kieserite, manganese sulphate, molasses, plant extracts, potassium sulphate, rock phosphate, sodium borate, sodium molybdenate, soybean meal and zinc phosphate. Bio Thrive is no joke, and has proved to be a useful fertilizer for all types of growing – from hydroponics to in-the-ground soil application. Dilute this concentrated vegan fertilizer 4 tsp per gallon water. Try foliar feeding during the start of flowering, continuing with soil feedings as flowering progresses.
A long-standing legend in the organic agriculture community, Maxicrop is made from harvested Norwegian kelp (Ascophyllum nodosum). Containing more than 70 minerals, micronutrients, amino acids and vitamins, using Maxicrop provides plants with many health benefits. This includes, bigger more prolific blooms and improved stress resistance, as well as keeping pests and diseases away from your plants. Research studies have claimed that use of Maxicrop increases root growth by up to 60%. Mix 3 tbsp of powder per gallon of water – you can apply by foliar-feeding, watering in the soil, and can even soak roots in the solution for a low-stress transplant. This is one product that is essential for me as a grower, many times I have seen a visible rich-green darkening of the leaves following application.
General Organics CaMg+
I was always told by my Hawaiian uncle that magnesium is “the hardener” when it comes to flowering time. While I took this (and most things I hear) with a grain of salt, research and growers worldwide have come to know the importance of calcium and magnesium during the flowering process. General Organics CaMg+ is made from an all-natural blend of fermented calcium and magnesium, combined with organic acids and sugar chelates. The low molecular weight acids may facilitate calcium and magnesium transport into the plant. If you haven’t heard of the term ‘Cal Mag’, you probably have not been around too many growers, as it has become standard vocabulary.
Botanicare Growilla Bud
Sold by the bucket for heavy-duty growers, Botinicare’s Growilla Bud fertilizer is made from multiple sources of guano, earthworm castings, and fish meal providing a wide range of food for plants and beneficial soil microbes. Safe and organic, this fertilizer is designed specifically for plants during their flowering stage. Claims to be suitable as a stand-alone flowering supplement, although I have always used it alongside my other favorites – with great success. Mix it into your soil during transplants. For existing plants, you can probe (spike) the soil in the root-zone and fill in with fertilizer, and also topdress Growilla Bud on the soil underneath your mulch. Ideal for the real-deal outdoor gardener, as the small size being sold is a 12-pound bucket.
These are more potent than organic fertilizers, and are usually immediately available for plant absorption. Although be warned – maintaining a healthy soil microbiology, taking advantage of beneficial fungi, will just not happen while dosing your soil regularly with these fertilizers.
If you really want to use non-organic fertilizers, I recommend skipping soil completely and growing in a mix of 50% perlite to 50% vermiculite. Being a nutrient-free mix, you will need to provide nutrients (water-soluble fertilizer) at every watering. Growing in such a mix will not retain built-up nutrients, as they will have nothing to stick to – which means you can pump up your plants and not worry about the nutrient lockouts that can happen in soil.
J R Peters Jacks Classic 10-30-20 Blossom Booster
If you are growing on a budget, Jacks Classic 10-30-20 Blossom Booster provides a complete nutrient regiment for the flowering plant. This is the classic ratio 1:3:2 that has proven through our modern day agricultural system to be the standard for blossom enhancers. Works well foliar fed, as well as root fed, use Jacks Classic 10-30-20 Blossom Booster at 1 tbsp per gallon of water. Also containing micronutrients, many growers swear by this stuff. I have personally seen impressive results – if you are a cash-cropper looking to cut costs, give this fertilizer a try.
Grow More Hawaiian Bud 5-50-17
Back in the days when I was non-organic, this was my go-to wonder product. Basically a nutrient ‘boom!’ to your bud plants, I have pulled impressive yields and fat flowers with Grow More Hawaiian Bud. Packed with an insane amount of phosphorus, use this product as your first flower hairs are forming. If used correctly, plants will stack up heavily with multiple bud sites. Can be a problem if repeatedly used in soil, as phosphorus lock-outs do happen, so stick to using foliar (use half the recommended dose for foliar – beware of burning) until buds have formed. Works well with the perlite-vermiculite mix described above – expect chunky results.
FoxFarm Liquid Nutrients
Many people assume that these FoxFarm liquid bloom products are all organic. False. While ‘Big Bloom’ – made from earthworm castings and bat guano, is organic, ‘Tiger Bloom’ and ‘Grow Big’ are non-organic, containing various inorganic nitrates and phosphates. That being said, these fertilizers are ‘softer’ in comparison to other chemical fertilizers (no crazy-high levels of phosphorus) and are even combined with organic ingredients and active microbes. You can get these three bottles together in a package, and they make for a fully balanced bud flowering diet. Many, many growers swear they get increased resin production and yields using FoxFarm Liquid Nutrients.
Osmocote Smart-Release Plant Food
Most inorganic fertilizers are readily-available – meaning that they do not last long after application, and need to be reapplied regularly for best results. Osmocote Smart-Release Plant Food is a balanced fertilizer loaded inside of clay balls that slowly disintegrate, releasing plant available nutrients as it does. Rated at 14-14-14, a well balanced heavy feeding formula. This is the standard tried-and-true for old-school guerrilla growers, as relieves you of having to visit your plants so often with fertilizer, making trails as you trek out that could compromise your grow-op. With it’s inexpensive price, Osmocote is truly some bang for your buck.
Advanced Nutrients Bud Blood
Weighing in at a whopping 0-39-25, Advanced Nutrients Bud Blood is a heavy-duty blossom booster packing a punch. This type of fertilizer should be used most during early flowering, as it will promote loads of bud sites, resulting in plants that are ‘all bud down to the stem’. Be careful of burning, because of it’s high PK ratios, foliar feeding must be done in lower doses, the company even warns against doing it at all! Bud Blood will work well fed into a 50% perlite 50% vermiculite mix, as being such an easy mix to flush clean of nutrients, you would not have to worry about nutrient lockouts. You can really pump up buds to incredible sizes and heavy weights using the correct techniques with this fertilizer.
Plants that have all the nutrients they need while growing helps them to perform at maximum potential. This is a well-known fact of agriculture.
If you want marijuana plants to benefit from quicker growth, healthier immune system and increased pest and disease resistance – all while experiencing stacked bud sites, larger flower size and heavier yields, make sure your nutrient regime is on point.