There are three essential rules to growing high-quality harvests. These rules involve choosing the right grow lights, keeping the environmental conditions in your grow room at peak levels, and providing the best nutrition possible for your plants.
Getting the plants in your grow room to harvest is one thing, but getting those plants to yield a great harvest is a different story. In this article, we'll explain the three important steps you should take to get huge, high-quality harvests.
Setting Realistic Expectations When Growing
Imagine the ripest piece of fruit you’ve seen and tasted: the color’s right where it needs to be, the taste is extraordinary, and the smell is incredible. That’s the plant’s peak quality, and that’s where the bar is set for that harvest.
It’s important to understand how great a plant's peak quality can be for three reasons:
1. You'll find out what your plants should look and smell like.
Since you know what the best plants taste, smell, and look like, you'll be able to track how your plants are growing and where to make any necessary adjustments.
A perfectly ripe strawberry, for example, will not only be a nice, solid red all around — it will also give of a sweet, slightly flowery scent. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a strawberry that's not quite ripe won't have the same vibrant red hue and instead appear light red with white or even green. On top of that, you won't get a sweet smell from it, either.
2. You'll avoid over-ripening harvests.
An orange won't taste like more of an orange than it possibly can, and a rose won’t get any more crimson than it’ll possibly be. While we all want the best out of the yields in our grow room, trying to force a plant to "up" its quality beyond its capabilities can — and in most cases will — be detrimental.
An over-ripened strawberry won't taste better than a perfectly ripe strawberry. It'll appear dark and bruised, and it'll be too mushy. In addition, if it's way past ripe, it could give off an odor of fermentation or even moldiness.
3. You'll know how to properly harvest your plants.
If you grow excellent plants but don't properly harvest them, you could end up with a degradation in quality.
Cannabis is a great example, as improperly harvesting could lead to a loss of potency. Once cannabis has been harvested, it stops receiving nutrients from the root ball it was attached to. This means you'll have to take the necessary steps to keep your plants healthy after they've been harvested. This includes ensuring that your plants aren't exposed to too much humidity as this could lead to mold, as well as keeping them cured, or properly stored.
Understanding peak quality is important because it allows you to measure the quality of the plants in your grow room, and it lets you know if you need to make any modifications to your grow room setup. To successfully grow the best possible plants, you'll want to make sure your grow room is properly equipped.
Once you have a proper understanding of what the plants in your grow room are capable of, you can use the three rules outlined in this article to ensure your harvests are at peak quality.
Rule #1: Use the Correct Grow Light
We all know that light is what helps plants conduct photosynthesis. That's a simple enough concept to understand — but choosing the correct grow light goes beyond simply choosing a good grow light.
Using the wrong grow light can limit the quality of your plants right off the bat. There's no substitute for proper lighting, so make sure you’re using the right type of grow light for the correct amount of time.
The first part of choosing the right grow light is figuring out how strong you need that light to be. You want to make sure you’re using a light that’s strong enough to give your plants what they need, but not so strong that it damages them.
For example, if you’re growing two plants in a 4' x 4' grow tent — like the Yield Lab 4' x 4' Reflective Grow Tent — and it’s recommended to use a 600w HID grow light — like the Yield Lab 600W HPS+MH Air Cool Hood Reflector Grow Light Kit — at intervals of 8 hours on and 16 hours off, you'll want to stick to those guidelines. Using a weaker light, like a T5, will stunt the plants' growth, while using a light that's too strong will overwhelm your plants if it's not regulated properly.
The spectrum of your grow lights matters, too. Specific wavelengths of light help with certain parts of plant growth, so it’s a good idea to use lighting that utilizes a wide range of light. Finding the right light for your plants means being aware that it’ll provide the correct wavelengths of light. You wouldn’t want to use an MH bulb, for example, if you’re trying to flower, because MH lights don’t contain red wavelengths.
In order to maximize the potential of any grow, it’s a great idea to include a healthy amount of infrared (IR) and ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths. Infrared wavelengths can help boost your plants’ growth and assist with photosynthesis, leading to better blooming. Meanwhile ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths are great for increased flavor, aroma, and root production in plants such as cannabis.
Rule #2: Keep Environmental Conditions at Optimal Levels
The environmental conditions in your grow will help determine the quality of your yield. You can give your plants the perfect light and feed your plants the best nutrients possible, but if the environmental conditions in your growing area aren't at optimum levels, not even the best nutrients can give you what you want.
Air Circulation: Plants need to be able to breathe, so keeping a grow room free of dust with fans is beneficial. Plants use pores known as stomata, located on their leaves, to take in and expel oxygen, CO2, and other essential gases. Fans keep the air clean, and they also they keep plants’ leaves from accumulating dust and debris that would otherwise impair their ability to breath.
In addition, proper air circulation is vital to leaf and stem strength. Plants are able to adapt to their surroundings — a grow room with good air circulation will allow the plants to sway with the air and adapt to the movement, thus strengthening their leaves and stems.
The Importance of CO2: Without fresh air in your grow room, your plants can’t take in quality CO2, and without fresh CO2, your plants won’t be able to metabolize their food well. What does that mean for the plants in your grow room? If their metabolism can’t process the food, they’re going to suffer from things like nutrient lockout and general deficiencies, and it can even lead to mold if parts of the plants die because of it.
CO2 is measured in parts per million (ppm). Typically, normal levels measure at 400 pm. For optimal results, you’ll want CO2 levels in your grow room to reach 1000-1500 ppm, with a lower ppm for seedlings and a higher ppm for plants reaching maturity.
Temperature: The temperature in your grow room also plays into how well your plants grow. The wrong temperatures mean your plants have to fight either too much heat or not enough heat to grow, which will stress your plants and lead to a bad yield.
Plants react most positively to temperatures between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Combined with the proper CO2, reaching temperatures close to 80 degrees will allow your plants to thrive the most. You should try to keep your plants within that range, though, as anything much higher or lower will decrease the rate of photosynthesis.
The environmental conditions of a grow room are vital to its success. Unfavorable or inconsistent conditions will lower the quality of any harvest. Meanwhile proper conditions will help strengthen your plants’ growth and increase their quality.
Rule #3: Proper Nutrition Is Vital to Growth
Plants get their nutrition from nutrients in soil and sunlight. Plants need the proper nutrition to grow to their peak potential. Providing the proper nutrition for your plants means that you’re giving your them the macronutrients and micronutrients they need (more on these in a minute), feeding them at the right intervals, and giving them the correct portions.
Finding a Balance in Nutrients: When it comes to feeding plants, it's helpful to think about feeding a person. With the wrong food, we can get sick or become unhealthy. Even with healthy foods, too much all at once can be unhealthy. Some foods might contain so much of a certain ingredient that, if not neutralized, can toxify us. That's essentially the same idea you'll want to keep in mind to grow not only a big plant, but a healthy one, too.
What Your Plants Are Eating: In order for your plants to grow stronger and healthier, they need the correct macronutrients and micronutrients.
Macronutrients include carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen — these help create the sugars and starches in your plants that strengthen their leaves and stems. Other essential macronutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, sulfur, and magnesium — these macronutrients do a variety of things, from feeding your plants to strengthening their buildup.
The micronutrients your plants need are iron, boron, chlorine, manganese, zinc, copper, cobalt, nickel, and molybdenum. Micronutrients do a lot for your plants, including helping them break down enzymes and boosting cellular development.
PPM & pH Content of Nutrients: You’ll want to make sure that your plants are getting the correct amount of nutrients by measuring the PPM and pH content of the nutrients.
PPM is what tells you how much nutrition your plants are receiving from the nutrients. Depending on what stage your plants are at, PPM levels should range — 300-700 during the vegging cycles all the way to 750-1600 during the flowering stages.
You measure pH levels to make sure that what your plants are consuming is safe. For example, pH content can be too acidic or too high in alkaline, which could mean problems for your plants. A pH level that’s too low is toxic for your plants, while a pH level that’s too high will result in growth issues. Typically, you’ll want the pH level of your plants’ nutrients to be from 5.5-6.0.
Following the Three Essential Rules
There are a lot of things you can do to make sure that the plants in your grow room are healthy and giving you great yields. Following the three rules outlined in this article will help your plants by giving them the richest flavors, scents, and effects.
The right grow light will help your plants properly take in nutrients by boosting photosynthesis. Meanwhile maintaining optimal environmental levels will allow the plants to grow to their fullest potential, keep the air around them clean, and give them strength to grow. Lastly, the proper nutrition will give your plants the essential nutrients so that they are strong and capable of producing high-quality harvests. The elements detailed here are important for achieving premium, high-quality yields, and if you follow them, your grow will see high-quality harvests.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2018 and has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.