Maximizing Yield and Quality, One Step at a Time: Bloom

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:

1. Germination/Cloning
2. Root building
3. Pruning
4. Transplanting
5. Blooming
6. Harvest/wash/dry/cure

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 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.

1. Stretch
2. Flower Formation
3 Ripening/Bulking

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.

Happy Gardening!

Doc Bud

Maximizing Yield and Quality, One Step at a Time

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:

1. Germination/Cloning
2. Root building
3. Pruning
4. Transplanting
5. Blooming
6. Harvest/wash/dry/cure

This first installment is going to deal with phases 1-4 above. Please stay tuned for more information on steps 5 and 6.

When germinating seeds it is very important to not stress the young seedling. The main sources of stress are handling the delicate emerging tap root, exposing the delicate tap root to light, germinating in such a way that gravitropism does not come into play (paper towell method) and germinating in a harsh environment.

An important point to remember is that a harsh environment for a seed is somewhere too wet and too humid, which ironically happens to be the ideal environment for rooting clones. So, do not germinate seeds under a humidity dome and do not try to clone in a dry environment. It is a common mistake to do both under the humidity dome. Don't do it!

We recommend germinating in moist, High Brix soil. At the very least, if you insist on germinating seeds in a peat plug, plant the peat plug into High Brix soil so the roots will be colonized right from the start. Make sure the seed is pushed into the peat plug to where it's dark at all times.

Always germinate seeds with temps in the high 70's, humidity 50-60% and with a bright light on the emerging cotyledon.

Cloning, on the other hand needs much less light, much higher humidity and pretty much the same temps.

We highly recommend not germinating on paper towells and then planting when the seeds "crack." Sure, you can be successful doing this, but it is far from optimal and the secret to getting the best is to relentlessly optimize each phase. With that in mind, we typically recommend germinating directly in soil, or in a plug planted in the soil.  

For Cloning, we recommend peat plugs over aero-cloners, because the roots are different and we're going to be in soil. Water roots from an aero-cloner take time to adapt to soil, which does not optimize this phase.

A very important tip on cloning is to only choose branches from the lower part of the plants, with woody-not-soft stems and 5 or more blades per leaf. 3-bladed leaves or even-numbered blades are signs of stress, and we need to pass up these shoots until they have odd-numbered 5 or more blades on their leaves.

Once the seedling or clone is established, phase 2 is to maximize root formation.  

We do this with wet/dry watering cycles, which are described elsewhere on this website. It amounts to soaking the container by submerging it and saturating every inch of it, and letting it go completely dry almost to the point where the plant wilts a bit (you can let it wilt ONCE, not repeatedly) and then saturating and beginning the cycle again.

This will create massive amounts of roots, fat, strong stems, short internodes and higher calyx to leaf ratio....which is exactly what we want to achieve.

The other thing we are concerned about in the vegetative phase is foliage. While it's true that leaves aren't nearly as important as roots, it's also true that healthy roots create healthy leaves, but not quite as many of them as would be if we skipped the wet/dry cycles.

When Pruning (Phase 3) the main thing we're trying to accomplish—whether topping, training, or letting it grow natural—is trimming off branches in such a way that we can look down from the top and see the dirt. This is very important, because we want to make sure that light can penetrate every inch of the plant and that no leaves are in the dark.

Phototropism---the ability of plants to move their leaves and branches and optimally orient themselves to the light will insure that all bud sites are getting the proper amount of light. If the upper canopy is too thick, the lower leaves will be shaded and we won't be optimizing this phase.

Phase 4 is also very, very important. After we've been careful to germinate under optimal conditions, developed strong roots, thick stems and made it so that all leaves can get light, we now need to transplant into the final "bloom" containers.

The single biggest mistake you can make at this phase is to transplant too soon. It is recommended that the plant be quite root bound, to the point of needed water every day before transplanting. Why? Because we want massive amounts of roots and a minimal amount of leaves going into the bloom phase.

A thick, sturdy rootball is difficult to damage by transplanting, whereas a new, barely formed rootball is easily damaged. It's much better to wait too long to transplant than to rush it and do it too soon.

Remember to vertically score the roots in 4 places, 90 degrees apart, and quickly plant into soil. The less time the roots are exposed to light and air, the better. A few seconds is all it takes.

We recommend starting in 1 gallon containers and transplanting into containers 7 gallons or larger. A second transplant, either from a tiny pot to a one gallon, or from a one gallon to 4 gallons, etc. is possible, but not recommended.

Transplanting is stressful to the plant—whether you see signs of Transplant Shock, or not. Minimize this stress by only transplanting once.


Seeds in soil germinate under bright light, with 50-60 rH.  
Clones need very little light and much more humidity....90% is great.
Wet/Dry watering cycles
Pruning to see dirt from above
Wait till you have a massive root ball before transplanting.

Following these simple steps will help maximize the bloom phase, which we'll discuss in the near future.

Happy High Brix Gardening!

DocBud's High Brix Blend