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Targeting Potency Using Living Soil

Targeting Potency Using Living Soil

Big and bad-ass potent—that is the ticket

SALUTATIONS and welcome to Fall to everyone in SKUNK Land this fine day. Far too often I see growers messing up on their final product when it comes to potency. Now let’s be clear here, your genetics matter HUGE! However, what I see a lot are growers that produce buds from well-known clones and genotypes (strains/hybrids) that fall fairly short of their genetic potential. We’re going to tackle several of the top reasons for this; as I see it, based on my almost half of a century of growing experience.

Some of the following information applies to plants indoors or outdoors, in containers, raised beds, or straight into the ground. Like the part about controlling your nitrogen input, and the type of nitrogen, and while in flowering, if you are a decent grower, you know not to add nitrogen along the way—in significant amounts—top dressing with a little kelp meal or something is nominal, while top dressing with something like alfalfa meal can have bad results. There is always some nominal nitrogen in a living soil; no worries, don’t sweat that. Okay man, here’s a few ways many of you can tweak your growing dynamic to heavily favor the highest potency results, and away we go…

A Huge Biggie—Nitrogen

My number one choice for bone meal

There are many different types of nitrogen, but for the purposes of this article I’ll deal with two of them. Ammonium nitrogen & Nitrate nitrogen, NH4+ and NO3 respectively. This can all get very complex very quickly, but in the interest of this article’s purpose, I’ll keep it as basic as I can. So, basically speaking, Ammonium Nitrogen is rapidly available in large ratios to your plant. Nitrate Nitrogen is more slowly available over time, especially in concert with the microbeasties (microlife) in your soil. Not complicated, right? An additive that has major levels of NH4+ is blood meal. While something like bone meal is loaded up with major levels of NO3. We never want to be adding anything with Ammonium nitrogen to our plants anytime after a couple of weeks into flowering; however, if you absolutely have to add some nitrogen far into flowering, like halfway through flowering, you can top dress with very (very) small amounts of bone meal—but see my advice below before deciding to do this.

Keep well in mind here that any kind of lighting anomaly interrupting the photoperiod during flowering will often cause weird vegetative type growth to occur and will also many times result in hermaphrodites. Not having your flowering zone completely pitch-black will do the same. You can also see the “endless” flowering cycle from this, where plants won’t stop growing new pistils way past harvest date.

Do not even THINK about adding nitrogen at this point

Once your plant is into flowering past 2 weeks, dosing her with too much available nitrogen can cause her to reach a tipping point where she will elect to put on some extra vegetative growth. This is a huge problem because a plant can’t really be in a vegetative growth stage at all and produce any decent amounts of resin/flower—you savvy? Your final product will have taken a large hit regarding potency if this happens.

You will see on labels often the ammonium nitrogen as soluble, and the nitrate nitrogen as insoluble.


The Devil’s in the details as they say, heh heh, and anytime you have any nitrogen issue it’s most likely (seriously) not an actual problem with your nitrogen levels. Adding nitrogen can often lead to too much nitrogen which has negative domino effects on things like your potassium (K); quickly causing you to have some very unhappy plants. Number 1 rule here: don’t have the knee-jerk reaction to add nitrogen, or add anything for that matter; at this first diagnostic juncture. Number 2 rule: be sure it’s actually a nitrogen issue you are seeing, both magnesium and calcium issues can look like nitrogen issues to the untrained eye. Over compaction, lack of aeration, and the overwatering of your soil can all lead to anaerobic activity that makes a ton of nitrogen unavailable to the plant as well, and will appear as the plants needing some N.

This plant is ready to harvest with a perfect fade

See the photo with the perfect fade above. This is a beautiful thing and will result in the most tasty, smelly, and potent qualities from any given strain/genotype. Number 3 rule: don’t panic during the last 3 weeks of flowering, don’t add ANYTHING; nitrogen fade does accelerate towards the end of flowering a bit, but if it has been fading slowly over weeks, you are most likely (like 90%) all good, just keep giving her good water that has some PPM value regarding calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) right up until harvest. If in vegetative growth stage a simple transplant will always work, top dressing with something like alfalfa meal, or small amounts of bird/bat guano, etc. also works awesome, just give it a week or 10 days to show results.

Lighting Spectrum During Flowering

I like my flowering lights closer to 5000 Kelvin and full spectrum

I am truly a heretic when it comes to lighting spectrum during flowering, and I have no use for the old HPS (high pressure sodium) type bulbs, due to their spectrum and color temperature, and as a rule of thumb I like my lighting to mimic the sunshine as closely as possible; I mean, c’mon, it seems “brick wall falling on head” obvious to me—duh—because that is what they have evolved using. As far as HID (high intensity discharge) bulbs go, I love the metal halide Eye Blue bulb from Hortilux the best; however, those are some very spendy bulbs. So, nowadays I love the Agrosun Gold metal halide bulbs, which are a very-very close second in my opinion and far-far less spendy. Both of these metal halide HID bulbs only really work reliably using old-school magnetic ballasts.


Agrosun Gold HID metal halide bulbs rock flowering and ace potency

No matter what kind of light you are hunting, try to get the fullest spectrum and the closest to 5,500 kelvin in color temperature; FYI, 5,500 kelvin is the color temperature of sunlight. I would say as a rule of thumb here, between 4,000 and 6,500 is an acceptable kelvin range, also providing a full spectrum as close to sunlight’s spectrum as possible. Why is this important you may be wondering—I got ya here; in my experience, color temps below 4,000 kelvin produce less potent results than those above that level. Don’t be fooled with the old standard thinking of metal halide to veg and high-pressure sodium to flower. It’s simply not true as I have seen for myself a gazillion times.

Whatever type of lighting you are seeking, HID, LED, Plasma, etc. these are universal road rules in my opinion when growing using living soil. Spectrum and color temperature baybee.

Top shelf extremely potent cannabis is mostly about good fundamentals

Lower color temperatures closer to 3,000 kelvin (like an HPS bulb has) will indeed initiate flowering faster, and the flowers will be of greater size; however, they will be decently less potent, and less dense than they would have been under higher color temperatures with a full spectrum. It is a widely held myth (in my opinion) that HPS type spectrums deliver greater yields, they do not. The flowers are larger, but the density is lower than it would have been under a fuller spectrum at higher color temps.

The plants ability to get, use and store all elements is made all that much better under higher color temps with fuller spectrums. Especially things like nitrogen and phosphorous, along with calcium. Under fuller spectrums with higher color temps the plants really are at ultimate happy levels and make much more efficient use of available elements in my opinion.

Let It Finish—Don’t Be a Dork

I like flowering 3 plants per tent with enhanced air movement

Alright then, here we go, if you are flowering some kind of exotic sativa hybrid that goes for 12 to 16 weeks total flowering time, the best way to bone yourself and have waisted a ton of time and resources is to take these plants early; before they are actually finished. Your potency with these varieties really doesn’t get truly badass until like their last 10 days or so. Peeps that think sativas are weak or low potency have never smoked properly harvested and dried/cured sativa dominant genetics; or, you are growing some kind of ersatz watered-down sativa genetics. This applies to any strain or hybrid really, but hybrids closer to 50/50 sativa/indica or indica dominants will still be decently potent when harvested a bit early by compare.

See Also
Soil Structure for Growing Cannabis

Alternate placement for the always-on tent fan

There are so many reasons I have heard from peeps regarding why they had to take something early, it’s normally rain/mold issues outdoors, and sometimes indoors it is a mold/mildew thing as well. More often indoors it’s a parasitic infestation like spider mites or russet mites that caused the grower to have to harvest earlier than would be proper. Something as simple as overwatering repeatedly can literally kill your plants, slow and ugly style. Notice only space for 3 flowering plants in the photo of the tent floor, with 2 fans for air movement—optionally I could use a clip-fan up high, and have room for one of the fans on the floor while flowering 4 plants—the problem is I am old, damaged a bit, and not uber flexible these days, heh heh. So flowering 3 plants at a time allows me to access the plants without throwing my back out all the time. Rev is getting old these days, more Mr. Magoo like all the time, LoL.

All my tents are also vented (air exchange) along with the air circulation methods in this article.

You may be wondering why 2 fans per tent? Here’s why: 1 of the fans, the powerful little Honeywell Vortex style is on an intermittent timer, that is ON for 1 minute, then off for 4 minutes, continuously. I aim this fan upwards nearly vertical, normally aimed mostly at the light. The other fan (in the center) is weaker and on for 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I usually aim this fan straight downwards or very close. I’m a huge believer in circulating air, and you should be too—just sayin’ … this all makes for healthy and rapid happy growth, which allows even fussier plants to fully go to finish with a bang, so to speak. So, keep your fundamentals tuned up; and as always my green friends, I’ll see ya next time here on the flip-flop—cheers.

Never aim any fan that is constantly on, directly at any plant. As this will hyper-dehydrate the parts of the plant being hit by “the wind” and that’s why my constantly-on weaker fan in my tents is always aimed away from any plants—normally straight down. This is also why my Honeywell vortex more powerful fan is on an intermittent timer, to allow the plants recovery time.

Potency Bullets

I hope one day you can try a Rev-grown bud My favorite bat guano Always use a good mask like this when dealing with guanos

Here’s a few other random things I think matter a lot when it comes to getting the most bang out of your plants’ resin profiles:

  • Use crab meal if you can. Use it in your soil if you build it yourself, and for certain I recommend top dressing with some right at the beginning of the plants’ flowering cycle (during the first week of flowering). This brings in a punch of Chitin, which causes cannabis plants very favorable flowering bennies, with a noticeable potency bump. Try it you’ll like it—wink.
  • Use some ‘Garden Grade’ DE (diatomaceous earth) mixed with the water you use on the plants, in very small ratios, like 1/8th teaspoon of DE per 2 gallons of water. This product stays suspended well in water, and doesn’t float or sink fast at all; blend it in right before use. I do this during every watering from the second week of flowering to the sixth week of flowering. All about the silicon here my green friends, and doing this will definitely kick up your resin production a notch.
  • A perfect companion to use as a top dressing along with the crab meal above is bird or bat guano. I use a Down to Earth brand here at 9-6-2 for NPK values. You don’t need much here, and it contains sulfur in small amounts, which greatly enhances resin production, along with smells and flavors—bonus!

If growing indoors from seed and flowering seedling plants, make sure you let them stay in vegetative stage for at least 60 days before initiating flowering—just a little patience baybee, and it will pay off huge as far as potency goes.


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