This article appears in Volume 5 – Issue 6 of SKUNK Magazine.
I JUST HARVESTED this six-plus foot tall monster Afghani Bullrider plant pictured here…[gmedia id=19]
My editor (and the whole art department) is chomping at the bit for this article. My resin-coated index fingers gently stick to the keys as I delve into the subject at hand: buckets. I refuse to miss a deadline even if it is my first one.
Some backstory: Michael Jackson “kicked off,” just as Slayer and Megadeth kicked off their Canadian Carnage tour ‘09 last night in Vancouver. Special guests of the one and only Dave Mustaine, my wife ‘Medicinal’ Michelle, friends and I sat in the VIP section of GM place, where my metal heroes thrashed the crowd around like wet mops on the end of a broomstick. And just this morning I received a comment on my YouTube video ‘Afghani Bullrider Weeks 5 & 2’ (where I illegally used Danzig’s ‘I Don’t Mind the Pain’) saying, “I was under the impression most serious cultivators only listen to rap or reggae.” This just goes to prove a main point: theories, propaganda and conspiracies abound in the world of cannabis cultivation like the proverbial jar of flies; many will crash and burn while others thrive and prosper.
Case in point: 5-gallon buckets. Hands-down the best innovation of the last quarter century. They won’t bust, rust or collect dust. You’ve had pickles from McHamburger that came from them and you’ve prolly used tons of them for painting and drywalling. As a grower, I’ve used them for mixing nutrients, hydro-tray stands, organizers and, with a couple of straps screwed to the bottoms, they’ve made great bucket-stilts for reaching average-height ceilings with ease when running overhead electric or adjusting light chains. In short, buckets rock!
They come in all colors that can possibly be pressed from PET pellets, and you might even have a source for free (non-toxic) 5-gallon buckets. If not, never fear; for your local hardware store probably sells ‘em for less than five bucks. 3-gallon plant pots (with holes) cost much more than that, not to mention they have holes; holes need drains, drains mean waste and mess. Ultimately, plant pots require more bullshit to remove the excess water than the amount of bullshit needed to get the water/nutes to your plants in the first place.
If you are a Rube Goldberg fan then you can stop reading this right now– I like to keep things simple, repeatable and practical. That is the only way I could possibly harvest with ever-increasing yields and zero downtime. I come from a mechanical background, so I know that complexity leads to bottlenecks and downtime, while simplicity leads to increased yield, efficiency and more free time to go bang my metal head. A fresh (constant) supply of the finest, cleanest and most mind-blowingly potent and clear-headed medicinal marijuana is my reward and savior. Without my medicine I would have been a statistic a long, long time ago– Prolly drowned in a bucket of pickles….
Without buckets, I used four-foot square monolithic grow beds which I would transplant plants like clockwork after harvesting bud-ripe plants. It was a messy and time-consuming job that created dust in the bud room and lower-back trauma for me. The beds now sit innocuously in my backyard growing vegetables from the soil that was recycled too many times to count. What once yielded high-grade cannabis now yields carrots and radishes. Great, now I’m going to have mofos e-mailing me to ask how many grams of carrots I get per square foot!
I can’t stress it enough: buckets are so much simpler. First, fill your bucket ‘outside’ the bud room and use this great new product (which I have just completed a 16-week evaluation of, with flying success) Organicare by Botanicare. Organicare is a granular-based product you can simply mix into a soilless mix at the rate of 1/2 to 1 ounce per gallon of soil. Economical and practical, this product is what the doctor ordered, as I have been experimenting for a year now with dry additives with varying degrees of success from over/under-something to way-way over/under-something. Botanicare strikes lightning in a bottle and captures it again with their whole line of 100% OMRI (organics material review institute)-certified concoctions and liquid additives including Huvega, Seaplex, Humega, Calplex and Nitrex. These have every conceivable micro/macro, humic/Fulvic, sea/land, air/water nutriment your plants could possibly require.
I have used the whole compliment of additives on my indo marijuana as well as my outdoor tomatoes and though I have never received so much as a “thank-you” from Botanicare (even after singing their praises for the better part of this double-0 decade), Adam, my guy from Plating Plus, hooked me up with their goods. Thanks Adam!
Impressed with the ‘works,’ I conducted a separate experiment where I used nothing but the dry ingredients and plain water. Five ounces of the granular Pure ‘Grow’ pellets were mixed in with five gallons of Sunshine #4 mix, upon transplantation of a rooted clone into a 5-gallon bucket. When the plant reached three to four feet in height the lowest three or four branches were trimmed-up to make clones, for ease of watering and because these lower branches never receive enough light to really bud properly anyway. Five ounces of Pure ’Bloom’ granules were added to the top-soil right before being moved into the bud room and watered in.
These eight ‘test’ plants were watered with nothing but plain water, approximately one to two gallons every 3 to 5 days, or when the buckets just felt light. Don’t be afraid to jiggle them or pick ‘em up until you get a feel for correct watering schedule. Proper watering will have air bubbling-up from below, bringing fresh oxygen down and releasing old carbon dioxide while nourishing the roots that swirl happily around inside the bucket. Move them a quarter turn each day for the most perfect, Christmas tree-shaped plant you’ve ever seen. Move the little ones right under the light between budding plants that are on the perimeters of the light, receiving lumens from the side of the bulb. Check out my video ‘Recycled Roots’ for more info.
Once I double-watered a bucket because I forgot that I watered it the day before. The saturation was immediately apparent when a puddle formed and didn’t go away (apparently pot doesn’t grow in swampland). I simply used my shopvac and sucked the root mass dry like a big dirt sponge. After five days I resumed the normal routine and harvested an unstressed plant. The one time I over-watered a grow bed I got yellow mushrooms and had to replace the whole thing – 16 bags of water-logged, mushroom-smelling, wasted dirt. My back hurts just thinking about it. Some of the beds were recycled to make new treads for my back stairs, another was toast while three are currently in my backyard. Each trip to the hardware store yielded 16-foot lengths of pressure-treated lumber cut into 4 four-foot lengths with 3/4-inch plywood bottoms that were built in my garage, one-by-freaking-one. Then the 200-pound behemoths were methodically pushed, prodded and cajoled into and (eventually) out of my budroom. Don’t forget covering the damn things with pond liner and staples only to have to remove the pond liner for recycling, and the staples! I could have built a moat around my house with all that freaking pond liner; “got a waterfall in front, got a waterfall in back, waterfall in the house, pool looks like a lake, got tired of watching the water run” – inside joke!
Growing medicinal marijuana needs to be – I repeat NEEDS to be easy and available to the masses, not exclusive and secretive with special handshakes, nervous-darting eyes and perspiring palms. Heart beating in your chest as you survey the local Southern California hard- where store (where is this, where is that?).
Picture this, three dumb buddies have their flatbed cart loaded with all the necessities, looking good (in fact, too good), as my naturally-inquisitive mind racks up their haul: Buckets, soil, fertilizers, clone-domes, sticky-traps, bamboo stakes and cheap fluorescent shop-lights. One guy has reptile lights and a questioning look on his face. As I casually stroll by with my cocky Chicago accent, I interject into the conversation without even being asked, “Go with the regular ‘cheap’ cool whites, they grow the healthiest clones.” Moments after I turn the next bend the three of them casually ditch their cart and hightail it out of the store without ever looking back. They’ve just learned their first lesson: buy your buckets here and your soil there, the stakes at a different time and the fert from your local hydroponics store. Spread the wealth around and be much less conspicuous than those three guys that I actually did run into right after I moved to Cali in ’02. Stealth is wealth and buckets are the best deal going in growing. I almost feel like keeping the whole thing a secret, but once I lit the fuse as High Times’ Canadian Pot Correspondent, I knew there was no turning back once the rocket took off. I look forward to sharing all the ‘secrets’ I discover just like the way Penn and Teller disclose how their tricks are done while still being entertaining and informative, disproving one myth at a time.
By the way, my plants just love Judas Priest, go figure? Rest in peace, Farrah…