Home Grow 101: Sussin’ Out the Situation …with Bubba Kush
by Bubba Kush
Hello my bubbas! For those of you who missed last month’s THC, I’m Bubba Kush, and I’ll be taking on the mantle of this fine publication’s Grow Editor. My objective in this column is to share a few lessons that I’ve learned over the past 25 plus years of growing indoors. I’ve grown in every possible indoor space. From closets, houses, warehouses, and barns. I’ve built secret rooms in apartment buildings and dug out bunkers under houses. I’ve navigated probably every problem you could ever encounter. I am really going to enjoy sharing some of the basics of growing and a few of the techniques I’ve learned over the years. So this series is for the novice grower who has always wanted to see if they had a green thumb and start a new hobby. This will be just enough information to start being dangerous, so keep reading. I will only teach you what you are allowed to do according to Colorado state laws and regulations set by the MED. This is not intended for people that want to grow beyond what’s allowed for themselves and their family.
Growing is both an art and a science, yet it can be dissected into parts. Building a grow is not a linear process, so I will paint broad strokes and go back into detailed steps while trying not to digress or ramble as I tend to do. You’ll have to have some MacGyver-like skills and it is good to be somewhat mechanically inclined. Growing is not for everyone, be prepared to spend a lot of time in your grow doing what seems to be menial tasks like watching water fill in a reservoir ‘cause if you walk away you just flooded your basement. It is very costly to set up a grow as well, so before you spend the money make sure you have the time, passion, and dedication to make your grow successful and produce quality collie.
So let’s start jumping around a little bit. The first thing you want to do is pick your room. Not everyone will have this luxury and you will be forced to use the space you have. WARNING!!! YOU WILL DETROY THIS ROOM!!! Picking the right location in the house is essential for many reasons. The temperature on lower level floors typically stays cooler, which helps your ac work more efficiently, but on the flip side it is often trickier to ventilate and control the smell. Depending on how many lights you plan on hanging you will probably need supplemental air conditioning. If you are only hanging one light, AC might not be an issue, but always keep in mind that you might have to install another AC unit. One trick is to close the rest of the vents in the house except the one in the grow room. There are lots of compromises you will encounter where you’ll have to question what is more important, your comfort or the plants’.
Before you build out the room, temporarily light the room and see if your air conditioner can handle it. If it doesn’t you will need AC work and you’ll want the room to be empty while any work is done. It will save you a lot of time, stress, and money to finish building everything before you put any plants in the room. When deciding how much ac you will need, I like to go by an old rule of thumb: for every light, you’ll need 5000 Btu’s. It is a little overkill, but it is better to have more than less. The calculation is as follows: #lights x 5000 Btu /12000 Btu = #tons needed.
One ton of AC is 12000 Btu. This calculation works for unvented lights, which I prefer over vented. We will discuss the difference when we cover the topic of venting lights.
The best locations are also close to a water source as well as a drain. Try to avoid complicating your life as much as possible. Water is a destructive mess, so make your water transferring and draining processes as tight and simple as possible. Too many parts and pieces mean more places to leak and break. If your water source is far from your main feeding reservoir or RO (reverse osmosis) storage tank, you may want to plumb a water line to the room. You’ll want to pump the wastewater into a drain. We’ll design that when we build the feed system in a later article.
You also want to make cleaning the room as easy as possible, so it is nice to have a bathroom nearby or in the room. I try to save myself as much time as possible with the menial stuff.
You’ll want a room with the least amount of windows and doors as possible. The room has to be pitch black for over half the time the room is running so you have to cover any possible light leaks. Put curtains on the windows and then drill plywood covering the whole window and the caulk or foil tape the edges depending on how much you care about destroying the walls. You will want to rip the carpets out. Trust me, even if you tarp the room, the carpets will get ruined and it will hold moisture that promotes all kinds of problems. Keep your pets out of the room, as they are a great way to get mites. I also don’t suggest throwing house plants from home depot in your grow. I’ve had many people ask me why they keep having problems with mites and usually one of those has been the reason.
Before building the room, you need to make sure you have enough power. No matter how many lights you plan on hanging, get a professional electrician to look at the room and make sure it is safe, even if it is a new building with new wiring. Chances are that he will have to do some work such as adding breakers or rerouting power. Electricity scares the shit out of me and it should scare you too, so make sure you don’t half ass the electrical. You don’t want to burn your place down or constantly pop breakers.
Now that you’ve picked the room, figured out if you have enough power and AC, and a water source, you now have to build the room. The grow medium you choose and your feeding system will dictate how you set up your room. There are variety of grow mediums to choose from. The most common are dirt, coco fiber, and rock wool. I find dirt and coco really messy and inconsistent, and occasionally you’ll find dandelions and grass growing out of nowhere in your garden. The consistency of dirt is questionable and a place you can pick up problems like pests and disease. There are many good things about dirt but it is not my specialty, so in the future I will have a guest grower come on and talk about dirt and coco. I also have environmental issues with throwing dirt in landfills and chopping down trees for coco fiber, especially in commercial grows that don’t recycle their dirt.
There are some nice things about growing in dirt or coco. You don’t have to water as much and can leave the house for a couple days at a time without having to set up an auto watering system. Anyone who grows knows that the grow is like a child or a pet, you can’t leave either one for long and it’s hard to find or trust someone to watch it for you. Nine times out of ten if you let someone watch your grow, when you get back something will be messed up or everything is dead. The worst was when I left 96 lights with an old friend who was helping me run the place for a couple crops. I told him to turn all the lights back to flower the day after I left, but he thought he knew better and wanted them to get taller. They got tall all right…grew right over the lights. When I came home to the double decker jungle, all the tops of the plants were burnt or scraggled, the middle was all duffy, moldy shwag, and everything else was mold. Rule number 1: Someone always thinks they know better.
I’m sure you figured out by now I am a rock wool hydro guy. You start with a clean slate. No bugs, no disease, and no dandelions are mixed in with rock wool. You can still run an organic system with rockwool but it’s not considered organic just because the medium is not organic. It is spun volcanic rock…that’s all. Another reason I like rockwool is it’s nutrient free to start and it does not mess with the ph balance of your system. Rockwool is very clean and ready to go which helps keep the room clean as well as the rest of your house. Rockwool needs no mixing or breaking apart. It only requires to be preconditioned by soaking the cubes over night in ph-balanced water or in your feed solution. Rockwool is forgiving in it’s own way as well. If you ever make a mistake in your solutions, see signs of toxification or have to flush your plants really fast for any reason, rockwool flushes really quickly and you have a better chance of saving your plants. Rockwool is nice at harvest time when you flush your plants of residual nutrients and ripen more consistently. After harvest, rockwool blocks drain easily by stacking on top of each other. It is so porous water will run right through it when stacked on top of more rockwool so the top dries in seconds and then can be tossed and restacked until it’s all dry. Soon there will be recycling plants like there are in Europe, but I still feel it’s pretty much environmentally benign. It starts as rock and then is spun into glass, pretty clean to me.
Choosing your feeding system is like choosing a lifestyle. There have been so many developed over the years I could probably do a whole series just on feeding systems, from aeroponics to flood and drain and everything in between. For your first couple harvests, I would suggest hand watering and then start adding technology once you get to know your plants and know you want to keep growing before spending more money. There is also something about watering plants that is very relaxing and Zen like. It is also important to bond with your plants and really watch them grow. Automating everything makes it too easy not to look at your plants. That’s when you miss things like deficiencies, toxifications, or infestations. I don’t suggest automating until you feel you really know your plants and can diagnose problems, but we’ll address these issues in coming months. I will go through a basic automation system for you when we build the room. Thank you everybody and I hope you continue to follow. Love your Bubbas…
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