Plants are more alike to humans than most people think. Just like us, a cannabis crop consumes food and water and needs many different nutrients to grow in order to become big, strong, and healthy.
Obviously, plants can’t get their sustenance by sitting down to a nice meal. It’s up to you as a nurturing grower to give your crop the nutrients it needs by choosing the right cannabis fertilizer and establishing a regular watering schedule.
There’s a lot riding on the fertilizer you choose, and even though plants are known to be resilient, growers around the world are constantly making mistakes when it comes to nutrients. These are the most common nutrient-related pitfalls to avoid.
Over (and Under) Feeding
Failing to give your crop enough nutrients is obviously going to cause problems. Without nutrients like nitrogen and potassium, you can’t expect them to reach their full potential. But this doesn’t mean you should go crazy with your nutrients and pump your crop full of fertilizer.
Actually, overfeeding can cause even more problems than underfeeding. This is a classic mistake among new growers since they just assume the phrase the more the merrier applies. Well, it doesn’t. More food doesn’t equal more growth – it’s important to find the right balance.
Overfeeding nutrients can cause something called nutrient burn, which happens when the nutrient levels become toxic to a crop. It’s usually when there’s too much nitrogen present, which makes sense since nitrogen is the main ingredient in cannabis fertilizers.
It can also lead to something called nutrient lockout, which happens when there’s a buildup of too many nutrients in the root system, therefore “locking out” the potential for any more to be absorbed. Both nutrient burn and lockout can be prevented by feeding your crop the right amount.
Just as there’s a thing as too many nutrients, the same goes for too much water. If you go overboard with your watering, you’re essentially drowning your crop. Too much water causes the roots to suffocate, and if you continue with the overwatering trend, the root system could die off altogether. And without roots, a plant has no way of drawing up nutrients from the soil.
There’s no right or wrong amount of water to give your plants since it depends entirely on their current size and the stage of their growth. The general rule is that the bigger the plant, the more water it needs. But it’s not quite that simple.
The best way to know when it’s time for watering is to pay close attention to your plants. They’ll tell you when they’re thirsty by showing signs, like droopy leaves and lackluster color. The main thing to remember is that it’s better to slightly underwater the crop than it is to overwater it, so start out slow with your watering to see how the plants react.
pH plays an enormous role in nutrient uptake, and a pH that is too low or too high can prevent your crop from getting the nutrients it needs. Even if you give them the perfect balance of nutrients and just the right amount of water, it won’t matter if the pH is off.
Before you can understand why that is, you have to know a little bit about pH. pH is the measurement of how acidic or basic a solution is. Every type of plant thrives in a specific pH range, and in this case, it’s slightly acidic in the 6-7 range (and slightly lower for hydro growing).
You can adjust the pH of the water you feed your plants by using pH Up and pH Down products, and it’s OK to let your pH fluctuate a little bit with each watering. But if you stray out of the ideal range, you’ll definitely start to notice some nutrient deficiencies.
Choosing the Wrong Fertilizer
This next mistake goes hand-in-hand with focusing on macronutrients. If you choose a high-quality fertilizer, chances are it will contain everything your crop needs, including both macro and micronutrients.
Going for a lower-quality fertilizer might save you a few bucks in the short term, but it will cost you in the long run. Cheap fertilizers usually have to be supplemented with additional nutrient products since they generally don’t contain all the necessary micronutrients. There’s a good chance you’ll end up spending more money on buying calcium and magnesium supplements.
Using a Low-Quality Medium
Nutrient uptake has a lot to do with the growing medium you choose – AKA, the soil. You can’t just use any old dirt, it has to have the right texture, drainage, water retention, pH, and organic nutrients within it. If the soil isn’t right in one way or another, the roots will have a tough time drinking up the nutrients.
Focusing Only on Macronutrients
There’s a long list of nutrients that your crop needs for optimal health, but the 3 main nutrients (called macronutrients) are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. That’s why you’ll always see the letters “N-P-K” on fertilizer bottles.
Nitrogen plays a role in general growth and development, phosphorus is needed for photosynthesis and energy transfer, and potassium is used for plant metabolism and resistance to disease and stress. As you can see, each of these nutrients is vital, and the only way to ensure your plants get the N-P-K they need is by feeding it to them through the soil.
After feeding the crop the perfect balance of N-P-K, your work is far from over. Even though your plants need these in higher doses than other nutrients, this doesn’t mean you can only focus on these 3 elements. There are also micronutrients like boron, calcium, copper, iron, and more that play an equally important role in plant development.
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