When growing indoors, whether it be organic or hydroponic, you will need to establish a routine that includes taking preventative measures against some of the more common problems that can surface and potentially turn into devastating problems. I have heard it a million times, most grow room problems are cultural and often go misdiagnosed as nutrient deficiencies. So we need to take out as many of these cultural variables that we can and establish a baseline of preventative measures.
Beginning an anti-pest preventative regimen will help ensure a successful growing season. Before your rooted clones and seedlings are transferred into the grow room, make up a neem based anti-fungal solution in a small bucket of some sort and dip each plant into it, making sure to completely cover all surfaces of the plant. Use the manufacturer’s instructions for mixing up the solution. Always wear rubber gloves when working with gardening products that are used for the management of insect pests and fungal diseases like neem and gnatrol.
Fungus Gnat Elimination - Gnatrol
After your seedlings and clones have been moved into the vegetative room, I recommend watering your plants with RO (reverse osmosis) water mixed with 3 teaspoons of Gnatrol for the first month. Keeping your young plants root system healthy and pest free is very important. Gnatrol is a powder form of the bacteria Bti (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis). Bti attacks larvae stages of certain dipterans like fungus gnats, flys, and mosquitos. Bti is the bacteria that Monsanto has engineered into some of its agricultural products to provide resistances to insect pests on a genetic level. Read more about Bti.
Check Your Water - pH Monitoring
Don’t waste your money on a pH meter, they are more trouble than they are worth. Instead, go buy the General Hydroponics pH test kit for $5 from your local hydroponics store or Amazon.com. Whether you are growing in soil or are using a hydroponics setup, you need to make sure that your water’s pH is in the right range for cannabis plants to flourish. If your water’s pH is off by even a small margin, a chain reaction of nutrient lockup can occur. Maintain a pH of 6.5-7 when growing in soil and 5.8-6.5 with hydroponic setups. When growing organically, you can use baking soda to raise the pH of your water and white vinegar to lower the pH.
Clean Your Water - Reverse Osmosis
Filtering your water with a reverse osmosis filter is a great idea. A good reverse osmosis filter can reduce the amount of total dissolved solids (TDS) in your water to about 20 PPM (parts per million). Distilled water, which is chemically pure, has a TDS of 0 PPM. Your plants will benefit greatly when they are provided with clean water. Reverse Osmosis filters come in various configurations. For indoor grow rooms a 3 stage unit would be perfect. The 3 stage filter unit consists of a sediment filter, a carbon filter, and the reverse osmosis filter membrane. These systems remove sediments, chlorine, bacteria, and many harmful elements like lead, arsenic, and fluoride. Investment in a reverse osmosis system will pay for itself many times over.
Lifecycle Management Practices
Do yourself a favor and buy a garden sprayer like the one pictured on the left. If you don’t, you will learn pretty quickly that you can not efficiently manage an indoor garden with spray bottles. Garden sprayers make the task of preventative fungicide spraying a breeze. Thoroughly spray your plants every 2-3 weeks with an organic fungicide to fend off pesky fungi like powdery and downy mildew.
My 3 favorite organic fungicide recipes:
- Baking Soda – Mix 2 1/2 tablespoons baking soda into a gallon of water, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon of dish detergent (the vegetable oil will help adhere the solution to the leaf surfaces and the dish detergent will help the solution spread out)
- Neem – Follow manufacturer’s mixing directions
- Milk – Use 1 part organic milk to 10 parts water, any fat content will work just fine