Welcome to Grow Your Own with Kyle Kushman!
Feeding and watering your plants are crucial to a successful grow. It’s just as easy to overwater as it is to overwhelm your plant with too many nutrients. So for Episode 8, I’m going to talk about different growing mediums, nutrients, water, how much to feed, when to water, and how to be responsive to your plant.
You can choose from soil or natural materials like Sphagnum and coco. They can even be certified organic. You can also grow hydroponically, which literally means “without soil,” using materials like Rockwool or pea gravel. If you choose soil, you have to decide between something inert like Pro-Mix or a super soil with preloaded nutrients.
Two great super soil recipes are SubCools and my own veganic mix – the Vegamatrix. After deciding on your soil, you have to choose your nutrients. There are many choices. I’m obviously going to suggest using Vegamatrix or at least something organic. Do some research. If you’re using my Veganic Super Soil (VSS), you’ll still need to add nutes, but only at 50% of the recommended dose on the food chart.
Whatever you choose, follow the feeding schedule provided by the nutrient manufacturer you're using. Your plants' needs may change quickly, so always make notes.
I found the best way to water your plants is to cycle wet to dry. There are certain times your plants will require smaller, partial waterings, which I'll discuss in the transplanting video. Cycling involves watering to complete saturation, then allowing the plot to almost completely dry before watering again.
This would encourage the most prolific root system. Again, observation is key, gaining the ability to recognize the weight of the fully watered pot and an almost dry pot, and the process becomes easy. Cycling keeps roots constantly searching and growing. Each time the moisture recedes, the root system will improve, creating a solid root ball.
Adding nutrients affects the pH of the soil, so check your inputs and runoff regularly. The optimal pH for soil gardening is around 6.5, so make sure your inputs are between 6.2 to 6.7. For hydroponics, optimal pH is around 6.2 and, for coco, it's closer to 5.8.
The pH balance of the soil affects how well your plants absorb nutrients. If the pH is too far off, you'll quickly notice signs of deficiency like yellowing leaves. Anything more than three or four-tenths outside the optimal range and your plants will struggle – like trying to drink liquid from a collapsed straw.
If the pH of your nutrient solution is too low, adjust by using a pH up product, adding just a little at a time until you hit your mark. If the pH is a little high (as high as 7), I suggest you don't adjust. Organic media always acidifies overtime. That said, if your inputs consistently come in very high, you can adjust down to 6.5 to 6.7.
Parts Per Million (PPM)
Another thing to monitor is PPM or Parts per Million. This represents the level of solids in a solution. Monitoring input numbers and comparing them to runoff numbers is one way to know if you’re over or underfeeding.
Different stages of the grow have different acceptable PPM levels. Checking your input levels is easy, but you also have to check the runoff. Do this by running extra water for the feed and measuring the excess that runs out of the pot. If the PPMs are too high, alternate in a few plain waterings. If it’s too low, simply move up a notch on the feeding chart.
In conclusion, watering and the application of nutrients is of supreme importance. Try not to overdo anything. When plants are young, they require very little of anything. Too much water or nutes can stress them out. The best thing you can do for your plants is to check on them regularly, get to know them, especially the timing of their wet-dry cycles and how this changes as they grow, and keep the pH and PPM levels as optimal as possible. Getting these details right will give you a far better chance of success.
In Episode 9, we’ll look at transplanting, when and how to do it. See you soon!