Customizing your feed schedule
How customizing your feeding schedule can lead to maximum yields
Feeding schedules outline what nutrients plants need and when. They’re typically presented as feed charts and are often provided by fertilizer and plant food companies with their products. For novice growers, just following the recommendations on the bottle or bag is usually fine, but for those who want to optimize crop health and yields as much as possible, it’s important to note that ideal nutrient concentrations vary by strain and environment as well as growth stage.
Growers of all ability levels should take notes about not just when and what they feed their plants, but also the climate conditions, what kind of water they’re using, the pH levels of their soil or hydroponic systems, the plants’ genetics, and how each of them responds to the added nutrients. That way, they can make alterations to the feeding schedule as they learn how to care for specific plants in their unique environments. For now, though, let’s start by taking a look at how having a feeding schedule can improve cannabis grows.
Changing Needs for Changing Plants
One of the benefits of establishing a set feeding schedule before the season starts is that it allows growers to accommodate the fact that plants have different nutrient requirements depending on what stage of growth they are in. In the seedling stage, which lasts around two weeks, cannabis plants need only small concentrations of nutrients. Overfeeding them during this stage can create problems with nutrient burns, so most growers do not supplement nutrients until their plants enter the vegetative stage.
Plants in the vegetative stage are devoting the majority of their energy to producing thick stalks and plentiful leaves to absorb as much sunlight as possible. They need a fertilizer or nutrient mix that contains plenty of nitrogen (N) to power vegetative growth.
Once your cbd 20:1 or cbd 18 to 1 plants enter the flowering stage, they stop devoting as much of their energy to reaching toward the sun. Instead, healthy marijuana plants stop their upward growth almost entirely and begin producing colas composed of many smaller buds. During this stage, the plants need less nitrogen since they are no longer focusing on vegetative growth. Overfeeding nitrogen during the flowering stage can discourage healthy bud development and leave the finished product with an unpleasant taste. Flowering marijuana plants require mixes with less nitrogen and more phosphorous (P) to help them produce healthy flowers.
Nitrogen and phosphorous are two of the three macronutrients required for healthy vegetative growth. The third is potassium (K), but marijuana plants have relatively stable potassium requirements throughout their growth cycles, so most nutrient producers don’t alter potassium levels all that much for different formulations.
Micronutrients for Different Growth Stages
Marijuana plants don’t just require different levels of macronutrients during different stages of growth. They also require different micronutrient formulations. During the vegetative stage, marijuana plants need iron to aide in chlorophyll production and zinc to ensure proper growth between nodes. Flowering plants crave calcium, magnesium, and sulfur.
Fertilizer and plant food manufacturers typically tailor the micronutrient formulations in their mixtures to accommodate marijuana plants’ diverse needs across their growth cycles, so it’s easy for growers to ensure that they are getting sufficient quantities of key micronutrients. Following the manufacturer’s recommended feeding schedule then tailoring it to the unique needs of each plant will help.
Following Feed Charts
The feed charts provided by manufacturers are usually broken down into a grid, with one axis listing the nutrients contained within different products and the other providing information about the timeline for feeding. They usually provide information about nutrient concentrations assuming one gallon of nutrient solution. Growers can think of it as a ratio of nutrients to water. If the feed chart recommends 2mL nutrients to 1 gal of water, just multiply the first number by the capacity of the feeding or mixing tank to get the right amount. Indoor or outdoor marijuana growers who use liquid fertilizers or plant foods should always test their nutrient solutions before applying them. Use a TDS meter to ensure that the PPM in the mixture is approximately as strong as the concentration recommended on the feed chart. This will ensure that the plants are receiving sufficient nutrients without placing them at risk of nutrient burns. This is a great time to record data in your personal grow journal, noting for example that your critical purple seed plants thrived with extra Magnesium added in the 3rd week of flowering.
Simple vs Expert Charts
Simple charts supply the garden or hydroponic system with the key macronutrients and micronutrients required to ensure proper growth, but they don’t include micronutrients not considered essential for production. Expert charts introduce more micronutrients into the grow. Using expert charts allows growers to boost their yields, enhance their buds’ taste or scent profiles, and improve their plants’ immune responses to protect them from pests and diseases.
Feed Charts vs Bottles
High yield autoflower growers who use multiple nutrient solutions may have noticed that the recommendations on the bottles often differ from those on the feed charts. There’s a simple reason for this. The instructions on a bottle of liquid nutrients only account for one nutrient in isolation, while those found in a feed chart account for how the nutrients work together in tandem. Feeding a crop according to the instructions on each individual bottle can lead to problems with nutrient burns and nutrient lockouts since the solution will almost certainly be too strong for the plants to handle.
Order of Operations
Most feed charts offer extra information about how to apply nutrients properly. Novice growers should follow them carefully until they get a better understanding of how each nutrient affects plant growth. If the chart says to apply one nutrient solution first, don’t just mix all of them together. Follow the instructions to ensure optimal nutrient absorption.
Adjusting Feed Charts
Following the feeding schedules recommended by product manufacturers can help to ensure that plants have access to all the nutrients they need to grow and thrive, but expert growers almost always find that they need to tailor the loose guidelines provided by manufacturers to their unique environments. Adjusting feed charts requires time, knowledge, and practice.
When using any new product, follow the chart for the first season and take notes about how the plants respond to each feeding. Note things like symptoms of nutrient deficiency, nutrient lockout, and nutrient burns and measure the pH and TDS in the soil or hydroponic solution before and after each feeding. During the vegetative stage, pay close attention to the overall growth and leaf production on your acdc hemp or cbd hemp strain seeds plants. During the flowering stage, pay more attention to bud growth.
Keeping detailed notes allows growers not just to keep track of how their plants are responding at the moment but also to monitor trends. That way, they can go back at the end of the season to determine what changes they should make for the upcoming year.
Accommodating Varying Light Levels
Indoor growers have much more control over environmental conditions than outdoor growers, which means they can alter their setups to accommodate varying light levels. Plants that are exposed to intense light should be fed slightly more nitrogen during the vegetative and flowering stages than plants grown in ordinary conditions. Aim for 350 ppm of nitrogen during the vegetative stage instead of 300, and increase nitrogen concentrations to around 110 ppm instead of 100 during the flowering stage.
Ensuring Proper pH Levels
Essentially all classic marijuana strains thrive in soil with pH levels between 6.0 and 6.8. Hydroponically grown plants prefer pH levels of between 5.5 and 6.5. Most growers already realize that maintaining proper pH levels is a requirement for ensuring healthy growth, but not all of them realize that pH levels can affect nutrient uptake. When pH levels in the soil or nutrient solution are too high or too low, the plants won’t be able to uptake macro- and micronutrients in adequate quantities, which can lead to retarded growth, decreased yields, and increased problems with pests and diseases.
Adding nutrients to a nutrient mix or soil-based grow can alter the pH level of the water or soil. That’s why growers need to keep track of pH levels. When using liquid plant foods, measure the pH of the water both before and after adding the nutrients. If the balance is off, use a product like pH Up or pH Down to compensate.
Ensuring Proper TDS Levels
Total dissolved solid (TDS) levels refer to the concentration of nutrients in the soil or hydroponic solution. TDS is usually measured in ppm, or parts per million. If the TDS level of a nutrient solution is too high, it can be just as problematic as improper pH balance. High concentrations of dissolved solids make it more difficult for plants to uptake key nutrients, so measure the TDS level of the nutrient solution before administering it and keep careful track of concentrations in the soil or hydroponic solution to avoid nutrient lockouts.
Nutrient Deficiencies vs Nutrient Lockouts
Nutrient deficiencies occur when the soil or hydroponic solution does not contain sufficient macro- or micronutrients to accommodate the plants’ needs. They are usually the result of either underfeeding or using the wrong plant food or fertilizer for the cannabis plants’ current growth stage. Nutrient lockouts exhibit the same symptoms of nutrient deficiencies but are caused by a completely different underlying problem.
Nutrient lockouts occur when a buildup of dissolved solids in the soil or grow medium prohibits the plants from uptaking sufficient quantities of nutrients. They happen when growers overfeed their plants or do not pay attention to TDS levels in the soil or hydroponic solution. The easiest way to differentiate between nutrient deficiencies and nutrient lockouts is to keep careful track of the feeding schedule and the TDS levels in the grow. Use this information to determine whether the plants are being underfed or overfed and make adjustments accordingly.
To Flush or Not to Flush
Most feeding schedules include a period of dormancy near the end of the flowering stage in which growers apply no nutrients at all to their plants. The rationale is that this allows the plants to use up the rest of the nutrients already in the soil or hydroponic solution instead of continuing to accumulate them in the buds. Just about all growers stop feeding their plants a few days to a few weeks before harvest, but there is still some debate as to whether flushing hydroponic and soil-based systems is a good idea.
The rationale behind flushing the grow is that it may improve the taste and aroma profiles of the finished buds by reducing concentrations of unwanted chemicals. Flushing involves not just putting a stop to the normal feeding schedule, but also applying excess water to the soil or grow medium to remove any excess nutrients lingering in the soil. Plants that have been flushed will move nutrients from their roots and other areas to the buds as needed, but cannot move immobile nutrients like calcium and magnesium. This can impact yield if growers use reverse-osmosis water that does not contain any minerals.
There is no universally accepted scientific evidence that flushing plants before harvest improves the quality of the buds. However, since nutrient concentrations in plant tissue are far higher than those in the soil or grow medium, it’s also rare for flushing the plants to have any significant impact on yield. Most growers will notice that their buds continue to gain mass even after the plants have begun cannibalizing themselves for nutrients, so while there’s no hard scientific evidence that flushing is an effective way to improve a crop, there’s also no reason to believe it will substantially decrease yields. Growers may want to try experimenting with the last few days to few weeks of their feeding schedules to form personal opinions based on direct anecdotal evidence.
The Bottom Line
Following an optimized feeding schedule will ensure that the crop receives sufficient nutrients to fuel growth during the seedling, vegetative, and flowering stages. Following plant food and fertilizer manufacturers’ feed charts can help novice growers get started with developing a better understanding of their plants’ needs, but experienced growers almost always find that they can increase their yields and the quality of their crops by making alterations to their feeding schedules as they learn about their strains and growing conditions. Getting the feeding schedule just right will take patience and practice, but it’s worth the extra work to maximize the return on your premium feminized seeds from 149 USA.