Article 4-1 Foundation for Maximum Yield
Ask an experienced grower to describe a perfect crop plant, and this is what he would say: Vigorous, active growth. Healthy: no bugs or disease problems. Sturdy, compact shape. Good established branch structure. Healthy, deep root system. Can use high light levels. Able to take up and use very strong fertilizers. Can benefit from increased C02 levels. Makes good use of growth hormone treatments.
Each of these qualities contributes to high crop yields. Healthy plants can produce more crop; good branch structure supplies the framework to hold the crop, and so on. And these desirable qualities are inter related; A sick, bug infested plant can't use strong foods, and a poorly lit, crowded plant will lose its compact shape as it stretches for the light. Developing winning qualities in your plants depends on creating the right combination of growing conditions in the garden.
The key to having perfect crop plants is to grow perfect green plants. "Training" green growth plants to use high light levels, strong nutrient mixes, extra C02 and growth hormones gives these plants the ability to handle all these growth enhancers during their crop production stage. You'll have a vigorous healthy "green" garden while setting up your plants for maximum yield in crop production.
So how do we grow perfect green plants?
- Give plants a smooth transition from propagation stage (rooted cuttings and seedlings) into green growth stage.
- Plan your green growth strategy.
- Fine tune growing conditions in the green room. 4. Be certain crops are free of disease and pests.
- Crank'em up
Let's look at each step in this process:
- GIVE PLANTS A SMOOTH TRANSITION INTO GREEN GROWTH
- PLAN YOUR GREEN GROWTH STRATEGY
- Short Green Growth Stage: Two Weeks or Less
- Gradually increase light levels, air movement, and CO2 as new roots and top growth show on transplants
- Give slight increases in nutrient strength as transplants become established (active growth in full light)
- Do not use growth hormones during this brief green growth period.
- Green Growth Stage More Than Two Weeks
- Gradually increase light levels and air movement as plants show new growth.
- Apply growth hormones and increase fertilizer strength gradually as plants become established (active growth in full light).
- Repeat hormone applications every 10 14 days.
- Stop applying hormones two weeks before the end of green growth stage.
- Fine Tune Growing Conditions
Make all changes in growing conditions gradual. Young plants growing under fluorescent lamps will face twenty five times as much light when they're moved into a brightly lit green room. Raise the lights a few feet above the new transplants, and gradually lower lamps as the transplants show signs of new root and top growth. Gradually increase food strength, air movement and temperature as new transplants become established. (For further information on managing this transition, see "Shifting Gears I")
Sudden changes in growing conditions can set back and shock your plants, causing all sorts of problems (leaf bum, water stress, root damage, etc.)
Growers who increase fertilizer strength too quickly during this transition stage can permanently stunt the root systems of their plants, while forcing excessive new top growth. At first everything looks great lots of new leaves and stems, and no sign of problems. However, as the plants grow larger during green growth stage, the stunted roots are unable to meet the increased water demand of the, top growth, and the plants wilt, usually during the last few hours of the light cycle. This problem becomes more severe during production stage, as these plants attempt to produce crop without enough roots to support the water demand of the top growth.
Even a mild nutrient solution can turn deadly in a reservoir that lacks proper aeration. Nutrients can settle to the bottom of the reservoir between watering, and a pump sitting on the bottom of the reservoir can pump ultra strong nutrients directly to the roots of the plants. This could result in damaged roots and possible disease problems, as well as permanent stunting of the root systems, as described above. Growers using rockwool or potting soil mediums must be sure to aerate their nutrient solutions well to avoid this problem, since their pumps are off for longer periods than gardeners using hydro-corn or lava rock mediums.
Gradual increases in light levels, nutrient strength and air movement will help your transplants make the transition into green growth smoothly and without set backs.
First, decide how long your plants will be in green growth stage. Often, the plants are kept in green growth until they reach a target height, or until a crop production area becomes open for them.
In either case, the gardener needs an estimate of when his plants will move into crop production stage to plant his green growth strategy. This is because the grower may make changes to his crop management during his last two weeks of green growth. He may withhold growth hormone treatments luring the fast two weeks to avoid "stretching" at the start of flower or crop production stage; he may reduce nutrient strength on the amount of nitrogen in his solution; he may start to gradually reduce day length during this period, to initiate flowering in short day crops. All these changes require that the grower know the approximate end date of his green growth stage. Let's look at two examples of different green growth periods and consider how to handle each situation:
Now's the time to evaluate the growing conditions in your green growth area. Are plants carefully spaced to allow room for them to grow? Are light levels good? Temperature? Air movement? Make improvements where they'll make the biggest difference to your green plants. Healthy vigorous plants will reward you for your hard work by reaching "target size" quickly, and they'll fight off disease and pest problems better, too.
When evaluating your garden, consider basic growing conditions first. High light levels are an important requirement for young vigorous plants, powering their growth and building their ability to use strong nutrients, extra C02 and growth hormones. How you use your lamps is just as important as how many you have] Be sure you're lighting your crops efficiently (your retail supply store staff can help) and monitor temperature regularly to avoid heat stress in your plants. Evaluate air movement through the garden.
Do you have enough oscillating fans? Are they located for maximum efficiency? Can your exhaust fan handle the heat and humidity of the garden? Good air movement cools overheated plants and helps them take up fertilizers faster. Air flow through the plants replaces stale, humid air with fresh, C02 rich air, encouraging good growth while it discourages bugs and disease problems. Evaluate the irrigation schedule : Do crops get too dry between watering? Do they stay wet? Aim for a good mix of air and water around the roots.
If you can successfully manage all these growing conditions in your green garden, you've gained valuable experience you can put to use in your crop production area too!
- Be Sure Plants Are Problem Free
Got bugs? Kill them now! We can handle bug problems easily when our plants are small (fewer hiding places) and still in green growth. Once flowers or crops show on plants, our choice of pesticides is very limited, since some bug sprays can damage flowers and contaminate crops. Besides, why bring problems into your crop production room riding in on pale, half dead plants! Get the bugs out of your garden and your life now, while your plants are still young. They'll recover quickly and you'll have a healthy vigorous garden right away. Take advantage of the new pesticides. They're safer and less damaging to your plants, and they get the job done. Your local retail supply store can help you choose the right product and explain the best way to use it.
Follow the same strategy immediate action if signs of disease appear in your garden. Fast treatment minimizes damage and stops disease problems before they gel. . . a firm hold on your plants.
Often diseases develop in the garden because of stress or poor growing conditions that weaken plants and encourage infection.
High humidity levels, poor air movement, excess heat, roots too wet or too dry, strong pesticide applications, very strong or weak fertilizer mixes review the recent history of the garden to learn what happened to reduce the natural disease resistance of your plants, and correct garden conditions to help your plants recover and avoid future disease problems. Start using a recommended fungicide at first sign of disease, and use a vitamin based product (Vitamax) to help plants recover quickly.
- Crank'em UP!
Once you have good growing conditions in place, and plants are free of pests and diseases, it's time to "crank 'em up" to train your plants to use stronger foods, extra C02 and growth hormones. Building the metabolic rate of your green plants results in faster green growth while building the ability of the plants to use all these growth enhancers later in crop production stage.
For example, a grower might gradually increase the food strength of his healthy, established green plants from 1800 ppm (a standard full strength green growth formula) to 2400 ppm, watching his plants closely for any signs of over feeding. He helps his plants to use this stronger nutrient solution by applying growth hormones and extra C02 when he starts increasing his food strength. Without training his plants during green growth stage, chances are he would not be able to increase his food strength during his period of crop production. (See Intensive Crop Production, for more details on managing plants during this growth stage). It makes good sense to train our green growth plants, since we expect them to "run a marathon" for us every day, during crop production stage.
Now for the good news: our crop producing plants have been brainwashed by hundreds of millions of years of intense competition in the wilds, and molded into tireless workers eager to produce maximum crop yield for you. Careful breeding has produced your hybrid plant, with its own specialized skills often the ability to produce an improved quality or quantity of crop. Your garden is on your side, and your plants want to work for you to produce great crop yields. By recognizing and understanding the abilities of your plants, you'll understand the benefits of improving growing conditions and using these crop management techniques.