My Biggest Regret About Growing Weed

Published Feb 15, 2020

by Nebula Haze

I have a huge regret when it comes to growing cannabis. I think most growers end up feeling the same way after they’ve had a few successful harvests.

This is me growing weed in a closet in 2008. I wish I’d read this article back then!

Note: Don’t follow that picture and keep plants directly on carpet. You will ruin your carpet. (That’s not actually what this article is about, but seemed worth mentioning since we’re talking about regrets…)

What do I really regret?

I used to feel guilty and embarrassed when something went wrong.

I spent years feeling like I’m the only cannabis grower who runs into problems. If you’re going by what people post online, it seems like every plant is perfect. Every bud is huge and sparkly. No one ever loses a plant, gets bugs, sees deficiencies, or runs into an issue they can’t figure out.

It can feel like other no other grower has problems

It wasn’t until I became friends with other growers that I realized I wasn’t alone. Things happen. And even when your grow goes smoothly from seed to harvest, there’s always something you wish you could have done better.

You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.

Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius

No Garden is Perfect

It’s taken a few years but I think I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that we’re growing plants, which are living natural things. We like to think we have total control over our garden, but that’s an illusion. Mother Nature loves to strike exactly when you’re feeling confident!

Mighty Mother Nature loves meddling with your garden

There are so many factors growing into each grow. Some factors are partly under your control, like genetics and a great grow setup. Yet even then, sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Some plants are runts, are born with non-beneficial mutations, or run into other unexpected problems. There are also many aspects of growing that are basically out of your control (local weather, space limitations, power outages, living situations, emergencies, etc.)

I decided to make a short list of things that happen to tons of growers. Grower’s beat themselves up when these happen, but we should all relax a bit because it probably isn’t your fault!

 

1.) Genetic Sabotage

Even with the best and most trusted breeders, there’s a chance your plants don’t grow as expected. No matter how great the breeder, they can’t control 100% of seedlings. For example, a breeder can’t prevent mutations even if their starting genes are basically perfect. There’s also a chance the seeds are old or weren’t stored properly.

There’s no such thing as “perfect” seeds, unfortunately.

Feminized cannabis seeds - if you order from a safe seed source you can get them delivered anywhere in the world

If a grower is using bagseed (seeds you find) or gets seeds from a less-than-reputable breeder, the chances that you’ll be sabotaged by genetics goes up!

(Are my cannabis seeds good to grow?)

It may not be your fault…

  • Poor or slow germination rates
  • Plants are hard to clone
  • Slow growing or runt plants
  • Buds stay small
  • Buds don’t smell or get sparkly
  • Some plants seem more sensitive than others
  • Hermies (more info below)

Experience helps prevent these problems, but your genetics will always have a huge impact on how your plants grow. For example, trichome production and bud smell are heavily influenced by genetics.

The following two plants of different strains were germinated together and grown in identical conditions.

Pictures were taken on the same day. Notice the huge difference in trichome production!

In fact, when a plant doesn’t grow many trichomes, it’s almost always due to genetics. Grow tactics do have some impact, but there’s nothing I could do as a grower to make the first plant as sparkly as that second one. Just about anything that made one plant sparklier would also make the other one sparklier.

Then there are mutations…

The red arrow points at a mutant plant that seemed strange and slow-growing from the beginning.

It grew oddly its whole life compared to the other plants.

At harvest, the plant’s buds were smaller and less dense than any other plants in the tent, despite receiving the same care.

Still great buds to smoke! But if this was someone’s only plant, they might feel bad their buds were airy and small, even though the results were affected by genetics.

Speaking of challenges caused by genetics…

 

2.) Hermies and Bananas (“Nanners”)

The word “hermie” is short for hermaphrodite and is used to describe cannabis plants that produce both male and female flowers. This can appear as pollen sacs, which look just like male flowers. They can also appear as “bananas” or “nanners” actually emerging from your buds. These are easy to miss if you don’t know what to look for!

If you see yellow “bananas” appear on your buds, get rid of the plant quick. Otherwise every bud in the area will get seeded.

Same thing if you see pollen sacs. You should toss any plant with pollen sacs (if you want to avoid seeds).

A cannabis plant showing both sexes at the same time.

What’s the big deal? Male flowers and bananas will pollinate your beautiful buds (“bananas” are basically the inside of a male pollen sac, only exposed). Pollination causes seeds to grow. It lowers your overall yield when the plant focuses on seeds instead of buds, and seeds can be a pain to pick out of buds. A few seeds here and there won’t really make much difference, but pollination also reduces the potency if buds get heavily seeded.

What causes hermies? They often appear after a plant goes through a stressful event. Heat, light leaks, unusual light schedules, too-heavy defoliation, supercropping, and all sorts of stress can trigger a plant to herm. Learn more about hermies and bananas

So isn’t herming your fault?

In my opinion, no. And here’s why.

Some plants will herm even in perfect conditions. In some parts of the world, there are actually wild populations of cannabis where ALL the plants produce both male and female flowers. In fact, most flowering plants on earth (besides cannabis, hops, and a few others) always produce both male and female flowers on the same plant. As home growers, we viciously remove any “always herm” plants out of the breeding pool, because it’s so essential to prevent seeds if you want the highest quality bud and yields. But that doesn’t mean we do it perfectly. Some strains carry the ability to herm within their genes.

You can’t overcome a plant’s genes.

Female marijuana plant turns hermie and grows balls

Every grower should strive towards giving plants the best care possible, but we shouldn’t feel guilty if a plant herms. Figure out what caused it, if anything, and you’ll be better prepared next time.

 

3.) Can’t Figure Out the Deficiency

This is something that really plagued me when I first started growing. I kept getting what I thought were nutrient deficiencies and I couldn’t understand why.

I’ve never shared this before, but here are some plants from when I first started growing. At this point, I’d already had 3 successful grows under my belt using CFL grow lights in a closet. I upgraded my setup with some LED grow lights and a grow tent. For the next three grows, my plants looked terrible.

The first grow in the new tent started out okay. Here’s right as the plants started flowering

But once the plants were flowering, they started doing this and I couldn’t figure out why

LED grown cannabis buds burnt because the LED was kept too close

I checked the pH, which is what had caused nutrient deficiencies in the past. It was spot on. I got an expensive pH Pen to double-check and still the pH was correct. I thought I was doing everything right. I’d already had successful grows at this point, including one in hydro.

What the heck was going on?

A closeup of some of those cannabis buds damaged by light burn from LED grow lights

After harvesting those plants, I decided to go back to coco coir from hydro. That seemed less likely to run into problems. Everything seemed normal at first…

But once the plants started flowering, basically the same thing happened.

I remember feeling upset, disappointed, and confused. I’d already grown weed successfully 3 times at this point. Why was this happening?!

Online everyone said it was either nutrient burn (too much nutrients) or a nutrient deficiency. I lowered nutrient levels. Raised them. Switched nutrient brands. Tried supplements. Yet this kept happening. I felt so embarrassed and frustrated. I seriously considered quitting growing.

But in the 3rd grow in this tent, I finally figured out the problem…

The new LED panels I’d purchased were frying my plants!

I was taking pictures of the plants in my bathtub and realized there was a part staying green. Hmmmm. I investigated the grow tent and eventually noticed that the LEDs over the green section weren’t turning on. The only green section was growing under a broken part of the LED!

Just like the others, this plant started flowering and the leaves started dying. But one part was staying green this time (circled). How could that be? I realized half of an LED panel had gone out… right over that section! The green leaves were the only ones NOT getting light from the LEDs.

And suddenly it all made sense. I only started experiencing these symptoms after I’d purchased new LEDs to supplement the CFLs. I’m pretty sure I was keeping them too close (though I was following the manufacturer’s specifications). For whatever reason, the plants only started getting symptoms after they started flowering. Once I tossed those LEDs in the garbage, I never experienced this problem again.

LEDs have come a long way since 2009, so this exact problem likely won’t happen to you. But I just wanted to share an example of a time where I was unable to figure out a problem even though I wasn’t doing anything wrong. The party who should be ashamed is the LED manufacturer for selling a light that didn’t work well. Never mind that the panel broke after just 2.5 grows! *Shakes fist*

These days, luckily, there is so much more help available to growers. Including in our friendly awesome grow forum full of experienced and helpful growers. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t figure out a problem! It happens to every grower at some point, and it’s not your fault. You don’t know what you don’t know, and there’s a surprising amount of unexpected things that can happen during a cannabis grow.

 

4.) Bugs and Pests

Bugs and pests often cause growers a lot of shame. It feels like you must be a terrible grower if your plant got bugs. But let’s consider…

Where do growers usually get bugs?

  • Soil too wet for too long (fungus gnats are common with overwatering soil or coco)
  • From another grow room <– Most common cause for bugs besides overwatering!
  • Track them in from outside (I heard of someone getting spider mites from a bouquet of roses they bought for their wife)
  • The bugs were already in the soil when you bought it
  • Outdoor growers just have to deal with them

I’m not saying you shouldn’t protect your plants from bugs. That’s an important part of being a grower.

Many growers deal with bugs at some point. Thrips were nibbling on this plant.

A cannabis leaf with thrips damage

Yet most growers overwater their plants at some point. The optimal amount of watering depends on the grow medium, pot size, temperature, humidity, size of the plant, and more. Learning how to water properly with your unique setup is something every grower needs to learn, but no one is born with that skill.

And of course, it’s always a great idea to start with good soil (or choose coco or hydro for less a chance of bugs). Avoid going from outside directly to your grow room. Don’t visit or take clones from other grow rooms. Keep your grow space clean. Those are good steps to take.

But is it really your fault that you trusted someone enough to take clones from them? Is it so terrible that you went to visit your plants after going outside, or trusted the soil you bought was bug-free? No! So, don’t beat yourself up!

Cannabis clones are a common source of pests. The grower who gave them to you probably didn’t know they have bugs.

Example of a cannabis clone that has grown roots

We should always learn from our mistakes, but you also shouldn’t blame yourself for what you couldn’t know. Most growers will deal with some type of pest eventually if they grow for a few years, especially if they grow in soil. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad grower.

Now if you just ignore the bugs after you spot them, that’s a different story!

 

5.) Bud Rot (Botrytis)

Bud rot is a jerk. Right as you’re starting to feel like you’ve got the hang of growing, the plague known as Botrytis often rears its ugly head. Why? Bud rot loves big buds.

“I like big buds and I cannot lie!” ~Botrytis

An outdoor marijuana plant that has been attacked by bud rot

I never thought about bud rot in my first few years of growing because, frankly, my buds were on the small side. I remember feeling shocked the first time it invaded my grow room.

Bud rot often first appears as some random yellow or discolored leaves on fat buds

One of the first signs of bud rot is often yellow leaves where the mold is taking hold

Bud rot is most common in grow areas with high humidity and low air circulation. It usually targets your fattest, best buds. Once a plant has bud rot, often the best thing to do is immediately harvest all plants in the area because bud rot spreads quickly. Even if you lower the humidity, you can’t always stop bud rot taking over a garden after an outbreak has begun. Most importantly, be aware and keep an eye out for leaves on buds that change color overnight!

What you need to know about bud rot:

  • Try to keep humidity under 50% RH, especially once buds are thicker than the width of your thumbs
  • Ensure plants get fresh air and good air circulation
  • Defoliate very leafy plants, especially if you’re seeing wet spots forming between the leaves
  • Don’t let it get too hot or cold
  • Watch out for discoloration of the leaves or pistils on buds.

If you look close, you’ll see the leaves fall right out and usually the buds open up to reveal the mold or brown rot inside

Example of bud rot which appeared at the base of yellow leaves on a thick dense Pineapple Chunk cannabis cola. Don't let this harvest-killer affect your plants!

Bud rot tries to punish you for taking your growing skills to the next level. Yes, it totally sucks. Losing your biggest buds is heartbreaking. But now you know so hopefully you’ll be able to prevent it striking your garden 🙂

 

6.) Real Life Happens

There are aspects of growing that are outside your control. Constraints based on your living situation. Weather. Real-life events that take your attention away from your garden.

Local weather, power outages, life emergencies, space limitations, etc. are often outside of your control!

What do I do for my cannabis plants when the electricity goes out?

It makes me think about this poor plant from several years ago. I unexpectedly had to leave town for 3 days. I gave this little solo cup seedling a ton of water so it wouldn’t dry out while I was gone (notice the green algae growing on top of the coco from too much water). While I was gone, there was a heatwave. Needless to say, it was a very unhappy plant by the time I got back.

Every grower runs into problems. Sometimes it’s out of your control!

This poor plant did not have good drainage and was overwatered regularly - causing a pretty severe case of root problems

You can say I’m a terrible grower for letting this happen, but the truth is I had a family emergency and didn’t have any choice but to leave town immediately. This was long before I realized what other options I had available to keep a plant watered (like Blumat Classic Junior stakes).

For anyone wondering, that poor baby did survive and produced a nice harvest.

Even if your plant dies, you can always plant another seed!

If you’ve read down this far, I hope you walk away with one lesson more than any other: Be kind to yourself. Stuff happens, and you’ll get past it!

 


 

I shared some examples of problems I’ve had over the years in the hopes that you don’t feel bad if something happens in your garden.

I’ve learned lots of lessons over the years. Learn from my mistakes!

 


 

 

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