lifestyle | 08.02.2018

Mistakes To Avoid When Growing Your First Plant

Adrian Daniel Schramm

Staff

Like with anything, practice makes perfect when growing cannabis plants. But a few mistakes can be avoided straight out of the gate to ensure you at least have something to show after months of watering, pruning, and pampering your plant.

The following is a quick look at the common mistakes growers make when starting out, and a few tips and tricks on how to avoid them.

Overwatering

Your plant isn't always going to be thirsty.

Yes, plants need plenty of water to grow. But their root systems also need air, and they won't be able to breathe if they're constantly waterlogged. 

Letting them dry out, however, is also a death sentence, so balance, then, is crucial. You don't want your plants to dry out, but you really don't want them swimming in a pool, either. A trick, one that gets easier the more you do it, to learning how much watering your plants need: After watering, pick up whatever container you are growing your plant and get a feel for the weight. Then, when you go to water again, pick it up and try to feel the difference. Is it lighter than the day before? It should be - if not, it's clearly over-watered. Plants can also be temperamental; some days they will use more water, some days less, so understanding the "right" weight can mean the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy plant.

Over fertilizing

Your plant, also, will not always be hungry.

Like eating too much good food, no matter how delicious it is, will still leave you with a stomachache, so will too much fertilizer leave your plant feeling overstuffed.

Growers commonly give too much to their plants - believing, erroneously, that this helps them to grow faster. The opposite of that is true: Too much fertilizer, and thus too many nutrients in the soil, will burn the root system or the leaves and leave your plant very, very unhappy: It often takes days of zero nutrients, and only water, for a plant to recuperate from this - if it does at all.

Too much pruning

As with fertilizing and watering, a overabundance of pruning can have dire effects on your plants growth and overall health. Too much pruning can even kill it. 

The point of pruning is to remove extra, unneeded, ultimately useless branches and buds so that they won't fight with the main plant and the parts you want for nutrients. Old leaves can also steal light from from growing flowers - so pruning these is also helpful too. 

But pruning too much stresses your plant out and, like too many cuts on a human body, does much more damage than just a little.

It's all about balance.

Seeds no good

When cannabis seeds have a bad genetic, it doesn't matter how well you take care of the plant. You know the saying about "bad seeds" and "apples don't fall far from the tree?" Yeah. You won't get good results if your seeds are no good: Bad genetics limit the potential of your cannabis. 

Conversely, however, if you plant seeds with good genetics, you can do almost anything with the plant - the potential is unlimited. Genetics determine how large a plant can grow, how much stress they can take, and how many flowers (buds) they will produce once fully grown. 

pH not managed

pH levels tell us about the acidity levels of the soil. They tell us how well and how fast nutrients will dissolve. This is important, as the roots of the plant need nutrients to dissolve in soil, or they won't be able to use them to feed the plant. 

The perfect pH lies somewhere between 5.5 and 6.5. Monitoring the levels eith a pH meter on a regular basis is extremely important to understand the health of your plant - though if your leaves are starting to turn yellow that is also a great indication that you have a problem with your pH. 

Pro Tip: There are organic materials you can use to lower the pH of your soil.

Don't touch! The plants aren't ready

The smell of cannabis is in the air, and the flowers of the plant are looking mighty fine. They must be ready for harvest, right?

Not always.

To ascertain whether or not your plant is actually ready to be harvested, you have to look closely, like magnifying glass close, at the buds. Using a camera that has a zoom function also works. When you see most of the plant's trichomes turning a  cloudy color, with a few dark, red-amber hairs sprinkled in between, you'll know that your plant is finally ready to harvest. 

Like with most things, it's a balance - you also don't want to let them go for too long. 

Note: If they are more cloudy than amber, you will end up with a more "high-as-a-kite" effect. If they are mostly amber in color, be prepared for a more mellow, "stoned" effect.

No rootbound cannabis

Roots are great. Full stop. Without them, your plant cannot get nutrients from the soil, and, ultimately, cannot live. A large and robust root system will allow a plant to grow faster and stronger, as healthy roots can better pull nutrients from the soil. 

But if the root system is going wild without any room too grow, well, that's not so good. Like anything living, roots must be able to be breathe as they get bigger, and roots will strangle themselves looking for space.

Planning ahead for the growing cycle, then, will keep your roots from becoming rootbound and killing off your plant: Choose the right container in the beginning. Even a plant already in bloom will grow a substantial amount in their pots.

Nightlight problems

Your plants use a system of what are called photoperiods to know what season it is. 

It's actually pretty incredible: You plant can "know" how many hours of daylight and how many hours of night a day has, depending on if its summer or fall. In summer, as we know, days are much longer. In autumn, daylight becomes scarce.

In order for this system to work, however, the plant needs to have a strict lighting schedule. If a plant is expecting to sleep and is getting blasted with light, or if it looking for sun and left in the dark - well, I'm sure you know what you're like without the right amount of sleep... 

What happens, then is that a blooming plant will revert back to its growing stage - losing all its flowers. 

Pro Tip: Use green light if you have a lot of comings and goings around your plant. Green light is the most comforting, and subtle, light you can give your plants, lulling them into a general sense of calm no matter if its day or night.

Read next: Cultivation: Organic vs. Chemical