The key to an amazing harvest is optimizing a cycle that begins with the seed or clone. That seed/clone progresses throughout it’s vegetation phase, it’s transplanting and bloom phases, and finally completing with the drying and curing process, like this:
2. Root building
This first installment dealt with phases 1-4 above. This current article focuses on step 5, The Bloom Cycle
Now that we have germinated properly, watered for maximum root growth, short internodes and a high calyx to leaf ratio, pruned so we can see dirt looking straight down from the top, have scored the roots and transplanted in a timely manner......now it's time to bloom.
I think it's important to re-state that the MINIMUM sized container that is appropriate for a High Brix plant is 7 gallons. Bigger is indeed better, but not always practical. Please do not use smaller containers!
Blooming happens in stages. We often refer to the first stage as "stretch" because the plants grow furiously and become tall, with alternating nodes, etc. Stretch can last 2-4 weeks, and even longer for some landrace sativas. The second stage of the Bloom Cycle is flower formation, and the final stage is Ripening/Bulking.
2. Flower Formation
Stage 1 "Stretch"
"Stretch" features two very unique growth events: Massive, furious formation of roots and and equally impressive formation of stems and leaves. "Stretch" is a transition from Veg to Bloom, and we must transition our soil from Veg to Bloom in order to optimize this step.
The reason we call one of our products "Transplant" is because that product focuses on root growth more than ourother products. Transplant=root food. Since we often put our plants on a 12/12 photperiod (bloom) the same day we prune/top/transplant we use "Transplant" every time we transplant.....and also anytime we need to focus on promoting root growth. Therefore, the first drench a plant should get in the Bloom Phase is Transplant. Root formation is unprecedented in the first two to three weeks of bloom and we want to support that as much as we possibly can. Start with Transplant.
However, "Stretch" also features massive growth of stems and leaves, which are usually about a week behind the roots. Our product "Growth Ionic Drench" is designed to support stems and leaves due to its very high Calcium content. High Brix soil features very high levels of Calcium and Growth Ionic increases that even more. This results in shockingly strong stems because the cell walls in the stems are being built with Calcium. In soils that do not have the right amount of calcium or have excess potassium (the vast majority of potting soils have WAY WAY too much potassium) cell walls form with potassium instead of calcium and the stems are much weaker. The plant senses this and will limit the weight of flowers if the stem can't handle it. A grower must them use a trellis, or other means of support if she wishes to have a good yield.
While High Brix plants can also need support, generally speaking they need much less and often none at all. The strong stems developed in "Stretch" allow for maximum flower weight to form.
A good rule of thumb to follow when navigating the "stretch" phase is to make sure the plants have at least 1 strong Transplant drench and 1 strong Growth Ionic drench prior to the end of "Stretch." While it is always advisable to start with Transplant, followed by Growth Ionic it is a matter of experience as to whether it is best to use a second drench of Transplant or Growth during stretch. If the plants are super healthy and just want to sprint, I usually opt for a second Growth Ionic. We'll often feed pretty heavy in this phase with a small drink of pure water in between drenching.
Foliar feeding in this stage remains the same: every week to 10 days spray with Brix. Only use DeStress if the plants are showing signs of stress, or if they have been exposed to environmental stress, like high temps.
Recommended temps for "Stretch": Night 68, Day 78-79, rH 60% (day temps can go to 83 with Co2 enrichment)
Once the plants stop growing vertically pistils should be seen everywhere, which brings us to the next phase:
Stage 2 Flower Formation
While root growth continues on during this phase, the main feature here is the appearance of pistilate growth (white hairs). Every place you see pistils, you're seeing a future, frosty nug. And let's state the obvious before we get too far into this: We're all about the flowers! Stems and roots are the foundation, but we do this for the flowers! Let's get the most we possibly can from this phase.
As stated throughout our literature, due to the composition of High Brix soil, we have the means to alter the electrical potential in the soil. We can add negatively charged ions (anions), like the Nitrate form of nitrogen....or we can add positively charged ions, namely ammoniacal nitrogen, sufates and phosphates. (Cations) Our product Cationic Drench, or Cat Drench is precisely designed to add cations to the soil.
Anions signal the microbes and plant to grow vegetative structures; stems and leaves. On the other hand, Cations signal the soil and plant to grow reproductive structures, namely flowers. (seeds too for breeders)
Once stretch has stopped and we can see all those future bud sites by finding the little, puffy balls of pistils, it's time to change our soil from supporting roots and stems to supporting flowers.
This is the Cat Drench cycle, which means we do two Cat Drenches in a row, usually around the 3rd to 4th week after initiating bloom. Most growers are pleasantly surprised to seen trichomes form literally overnight after the first Cat Drench.
Foliar feeding remains the same; Brix every 7 to 10 days and DeStress only if there are signs of stress.
It is also true that due to all that massive growth of stems, the soil is now wanting a "recharge" of minerals. We add the product "ReCharge" at this time, along with a fresh layer of Earth Worm Castings top dressed with the ReCharge.
Caution: some growers experience a "mid-bloom fade" after the second Cat Drench. This is often the case if root formation during veg wasn't quite on point, or if Transplant wasn't added enough at time of Transplant. Often times, it's merely a characteristic of the strain or the fact that we're in small (10 gallon or less) containers. At any rate a "Super Drench" is the perfect remedy for mid-bloom fade. Please be patient as it could take a week to regain that lovely color. Don't get nervous....the plant is still photosynthesizing and growing, but the leaves can be a tad yellow in extreme cases.
If a grower is familiar with a certain strain and knows that "mid-bloom fade" is a distinct possibility, adding 1/4 oz Snake Oil to a quart of Brix foliar about a week prior to the anticipated "fade" will usually keep things happy and green.
Recommended temps for Flower Formation: Night 66-68 Day 78-79 (82-83 with Co2) rH 50%
After the Cat Drench cycle, all the buds should be formed. We then want them to get very, very large and heavy, which leads us to the next stage......
Stage 3 Ripening/Bulking
Depending on the strain, we're now 4 to 6 weeks into the bloom cycle.....or about half way. What we do from here on out is no less important that each and every step that has gone before.
Ripening refers to the growth of the calyxes, drying and retreating of the pistils and formation of trichomes. Bulking refers to swelling of the fully formed calyxes. Unless you're growing certain Sativa's the plant is no longer trying to grow new roots, stems and leaves. The existing structures need to be supported and this is often a counter-intuitive process. For some reason, many people have the idea that we must force phosphates and potassium into the plant during this phase. Indeed, the application of phosphates will hasten the ripening of the flowers but we really want to see them bulk up first, so if additional phosphates are desired, we recommend adding them about 2 weeks before harvest via a Cat Drench. Most growers will find that additional phosphates are not required due to the foliar sprays, which focus on adding phosphates.
As we learned above, Growth Ionic Drench is Anionic, or growth oriented. This is the product to use for bulking up existing structures. While we still might use a Transplant drench or two, the main focus for feeding the soil during this phase is the use of Growth Ionic drench, due to the nitrates and calcium, which will bulk up the flowers.
Foliar feeding may also change a bit at this point. While we continue with applying Brix every week to 10 days, DeStress can now be used as a bulking agent. This often results in another stage of flower growth, which essentially bulks things up in a surprising way. Whether DeStress is used or not, please realize that High Brix plants will generally "finish" a week or two later than their hydro/salt fert cousins. Use of Destress can possibly add another week, but it's totally worth it, because yield will be fantastic.
We do NOT recommend using trichome coloration as a harvest marker! More on that in the next installment.
We continue drenching and foliar feeding right up until harvest! Don't listen to the well meaning friends of distant relatives who have ex-cousins that grow in Mendo.....foliar feeding with a proper High Brix product will NOT result in moldy buds! Delicious buds yes....moldy no.
For a very sweet product, finish up with Growth Ionic and Brix a few days before harvest.
Recommended temps for Ripening/Bulking: Night 64-68 Day 78-79 rH 50%. Cool dry nights, IE 65 degrees and 40% rH will bring out the resin even more in the final weeks, especially with Indica's and strains that developed in high latitudes and elevation, but not on tropical strains!
1. Start with Transplant and continue with Growth until Stretch is over.
2. Support flower formation with Cationic Drench. Add Recharge and EWC to re-mineralize the soil after stretch.
Be on the lookout for "mid-bloom fade" and be prepared to take action.
3. Use Growth Ionic to bulk up structures. ( embiggen the buds!)
4. Continue with foliar sprays right up until harvest. Experiment with De-Stress in the final 3 weeks of bloom for
even more bulking of flowers.
5. Lower rH from 60 to 50 as bloom progresses.