For SKUNK’s inaugural medical issue, it would only be fitting for me to give you a tour of a real medicinal garden. My Afghani Bullrider, aka Sweet 16, is the only strain I grow, except for a limited amount of Burmese that I only grow every eight weeks or so.
Maintaining legal plant numbers, keeping things as simple as possible and producing good, clean, top-notch medicine have always been my goals.
49 is the legal plant number I must conform to and that doesn’t just mean setting 49 plants under 49 lights and letting ‘em rip. No, it takes a lot of strategy. For example, by only budding four plants at a time and having only 16 to 20 plants budding at any given moment, it gives me room for 29 to 33 clones, moms and immature plants to grow in a separate veg room. After all, a plant is a plant. It takes (roughly) seven to nine weeks for an average strain to bud, AB is no different, and I regularly harvest every eight weeks (I set the date on the calendar). For efficiency, I can harvest a day or two before or after the actual date to make room for life. Speaking of which, there’s no real time for vacations when you perpetually harvest the way I do, but the way I do it is no different than any other factory, bakery or manufacturing facility that runs 24/7, 365 days a year; 366 days on a leap year!
I can harvest a day or two before or after the actual date to make room for life. Speaking of which, there’s no real time for vacations when you perpetually harvest the way I do
When I blazed into Southern California back in 2002, the local growers thought I was crazy for watering by hand, like it was sacrilege or something. But within months, my methods proved reliable where their “automated” bullshit failed 30 to 40 percent of the time. And that’s not even including the 20 to 50 percent of inefficiencies with light/heat/cooling/pests they regularly dealt with. Slow and steady wins the race. Even if it is a rat race! My buds speak for themselves and I was entrusted with the strain I now hold so dear: Afghani Bullrider!
That’s right, Canadian rap superstar Drake just gave a shout out to my Bullrider in Rick Ross’s newly released single, “Made Men,” here in 2011. There is nothing like hearing your life’s work mentioned in song. I really needed the boost to get back on this bus!
But back to the tour:
The Veg Room
Hours of light: 24
Capacity: Under 30 Plants
Total Watts: Under 1000
Cooling: 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner
Here is a super simple wall-shelving unit; the brackets can be easily adjusted for any plant height. Here they are roughly spaced 10 to 12 inches apart. Attaching lights to the bottoms of the top three shelves creates light for the shelf below. Heating mats are entirely optional and I’ll sometimes shut them off during the hottest summer months. At 20 watts each, this saves 80 watts of electricity. The bulbs are cheap 16-inch T-12s that I change every January. And 10 x 20 plastic trays with clear plastic domes serve me well.
The trays and domes do need to be discarded every year or so due to salt build-up and light damage; cleaning them just makes them wear out faster! I’ll start clones on the lowest shelf and then, week-by-week, I’ll graduate them up to the next shelf. I do cut 20 to 50 percent more clones than needed and cull the weak or slow growers, gathering the healthiest for transplantation from the 20-ounce beer cups into one-gallon pots.
Call it the earthquake method. ‘Shake, shake, shake your plant, yeah!’ I will then fertilize with full-strength nutrient grow solution, making sure it drains freely
When the newly rooted plants start to need water daily and have more than doubled in size, they get repotted into one-gallon containers. I simply fill a pot with a liter of Sunshine #4, remove the plant from the cup, set it into the pot and fill with another liter or so of soilless mix. A shake or light tamping is all that is required; let the first heavy watering set the soil. I call it the earthquake method. ‘Shake, shake, shake your plant, yeah!’ I will then fertilize with full-strength nutrient grow solution, making sure it drains freely from the bottom. That is where the salt build-up on the trays occurs; they also get ‘sanded’ bottoms from sliding them around on the floor and will eventually leak. I mention this to show that nothing lasts forever, no matter how carefully treated. I wish Rubbermaid made plant trays! They would last, dammit!
After the transplant into one-gallon pots and full fertilization, the happy plants go four or eight at a time under a 200-watt, four-bulb, four-foot T-5. T-12s are 12 mm wide while T-5s are only 5 mm wide, and that’s much more efficient. These bulbs get changed every year and the difference is obvious. If your room just isn’t producing what it used to, chances are the bulbs are older than a Joan Crawford joke. What? Change your bulbs today!
The last step in the veg room is transplanting the growing one-gallon plants into five-gallon buckets. After much experimentation and practice, I’ve decided to wait until a week or less before there’s room in the bud room to transplant into the five-gallon buckets.
Going from a one-gallon pot to a five-gallon bucket is the same as going from a cup to a one-gallon pot. Simply fill the 18-liter (five-gallon) bucket with about eight liters of soilless mix, remove the one-gallon pot (this is best done when the plant is semi-dry), insert the root ball on top of the soil and cover loosely with another eight liters of soilless mix. Wait, eight plus eight only equals 16? Yes, but the one-gallon pot takes up roughly two dry liters, so this brings us up to 18 liters, which will bring us two to four inches from the rim of the bucket, allowing for adequate watering and root coverage. The five-gallon bucketed plants are now around two to three feet tall and they go under a 400-watt metal halide bulb and reflector for tempering.
The fluorescent bulbs grow excellent and very healthy plants, but they don’t give off any real UV rays. Some folks prefer their 400 to 600 HPS, but for me, they don’t put out the UV rays necessary to temper, or ‘harden,’ the plants for when they go into an 8000-watt bud room, ripe with UV and high-intensity 1000-watt high-pressure sodium bulbs under LR1000 reflector hoods.
Without the five to seven days under the 400-watt MH bulb, the plants will get sunburned leaves that won’t heal. The leaves will dry in rough square patches and only the ones closest to the light will be affected. Making the diagnosis easy, the first time it happened was when a batch under T-5s was actually bigger than the one under the 400-watt bulb. I put them to bud first and the top leaves got burnt. The second time was when I forgot to change the bulb one year and it stopped doing its sun-tanning job. Change your bulbs!
The Bud Room
Hours of light: 12 / Hours of dark: 12
Capacity: Under 20 Plants
Total Watts: 8000
Cooling: Dedicated 3-Ton Split-System Air Conditioner
It has taken me a long time and I’ve gone through many trials and tribulations to get to where I am now. People think an eight-week strain means that in two months you’ll be tokin’ it up, but it can take you years to hone your skills and find the right strain to fit the lock in your brain. In the veg room, the plants are smaller and more manageable, easy to monitor and keep track of, but once they go into the bud room there is no room for error. One bug on one plant that’s going in this week could unravel everything I’ve worked for over the last six years, AND what I’m doing for the next six. Notice I haven’t sprayed a single thing, on a single leaf, of a single plant. I don’t have to. I have carbon filters scrubbing the air, a UV filter that sterilizes the air three to four times a day and doctor-like standards where I won’t go into a room unless I’ve taken a shower and changed my clothing. It’s all part of the plan. I haven’t had a bug in over two years; not even a fruit gnat! I can literally eat off my growing and bud room floors. Can you?
When it is time to water in three to five days, it will be full-strength bloom fertilizer that I use from then until two to three weeks from harvest time – six weeks from going into the room!
Before two Burmese or four Afghani Bullriders go into the bud room, I’ll give ‘em a final inspection, a nice stake for comfort in their old age and a thorough watering with full-strength grow nutrients. It is detrimental to switch immediately to bloom food because the plants will still continue to grow vegetatively under the intense orange light, sometimes doubling in size in the first week. When it is time to water in three to five days, it will be full-strength bloom fertilizer that I use from then until two to three weeks from harvest time – six weeks from going into the room!
The transition is amazing. Everybody loves to watch the leaves on trees change color in the fall, but my God man, can you imagine those trees transforming into humongous buds instead of simply shedding their leaves? I can. Trees use up the sugars their leaves have stored from the summer sun, shedding the excess so they can survive the winter and return. Cannabis, on the other hand, puts all her energies into creating resinous buds to protect herself from UV rays, filling those buds with seeds for her return. Removing the males creates buds with no seeds, swollen buds that are actually unfulfilled in a way, but medicinal buds that definitely fulfill mankind. Is that why they call it KIND bud? My kind, your kind, hell – even Drake’s kind. That’s my kind of story.
For details on when and how to harvest, consult the back issues of SKUNK.
Jef Tek 2011