What is a Feed Chart? [Growing Cannabis 101]

An absolute must have for all growers
MarijuanaBreak Staff / Updated on November 14, 2018

cannabis feed chart

If you live in a location where cultivating cannabis is legal, you have the opportunity to grow your own! Let’s say you are allowed to grow six mature marijuana plants, and each one produces an average of 14 ounces of weed. That’s 84 ounces! Now imagine it costs around $200 an ounce. You have just grown $16,800 worth of cannabis. Not a bad return on an investment of a few hundred dollars and a maximum of three months!

In the event you want to grow weed at home, you’ll need to take the time to create a feed chart. This provides you with the recommendations and guidelines you need to achieve the healthiest, largest, and most potent cannabis crop. There are dozens of nutrients you can give to your plants, and each one causes a unique reaction from your crop. For instance, one nutrient could increase the pH of the soil while another will decrease it.

Not only does a feed chart tell you which products to use, but it also lets you know when it’s the right time, along with details of how much of each nutrient a marijuana strain requires. Those who use hydroponic systems (using a soilless medium like Rockwool) need a feed chart more than anyone else, because they are in complete control of their crop’s nutrient intake.

If you are a new grower, you may find cannabis growing to be something of a riddle. The nutrient concentrations you must feed your plants depend on the strain, growing environment, and even the plant’s stage of growth. The latter point is essential because there is a huge difference between nutrient requirements in the vegetative and flowering stages, for example.

As a novice cultivator, a feed chart will prove to be your savior. Once you develop your skills, it will be possible to adjust a feed chart based on what your specific crop needs. At that point, you can develop customized charts that account for a variety of factors including the traits of a specific strain, quality of water, and climate.

Reading Feed Charts for Cannabis Gardens

Don’t be fooled by the apparent simplicity of a feed chart; learning how to read one is a complex assignment. Typically, a feed chart looks a lot like a spreadsheet with vertical and horizontal columns. Although it depends on your preferences, most growers place the week-by-week format on the horizontal axis and the various nutrients on the vertical axis.

Once again, it depends on your preferences, but it is best if your feed chart measures nutrient intake in a ‘per gallon’ format. For instance, if your chart says the plants need 5ml of a nutrient solution in week 7, you mix 5ml of the nutrient per gallon of water and add it to your crop. If you’re making 20 gallons of the solution, add 100ml of the nutrient in total, because 20 x 5 = 100.

When the nutrients are added to the solution, use a parts per million (PPM) reader, otherwise there’s a good chance that you’ll add too many nutrients. This is a common problem with novice growers in particular, with Nitrogen being the main culprit. A well-designed feed chart also tells you to add certain nutrients before others.

Feed Chart Adjustment

If you’re growing weed for the very first time, it is probably best to stick rigidly with the feed chart recommendations. Once you have a couple of successful harvests, you can learn how to adjust the chart for the specific needs of your crop. First of all, make sure you understand the feed chart because it is essential to determine how your plants react after being fed. Otherwise, you don’t have a point of reference. When you have knowledge of a feed chart, you will know what can happen when you increase or decrease the intake of a certain nutrient.

As a feed chart involves weekly analysis, you need to go one step further and write a daily journal to record every single feeding. Not only should you write down how much of a nutrient you gave to the plant, but you should record the time at which you fed the plants as well. Take notes on how well the crop responded to the feedings. Timing is everything. Did you know that feeding your plants at the beginning of the day will increase the humidity in the grow room?

Your detailed notes will begin to reveal trends. For example, you may discover that you aren’t providing enough nutrients to your plants during the vegetative growth stage. Once you go back over your notes, you’ll know that adding extra nutrients early on is necessary for bigger bud growth.

It is as easy to underfeed your marijuana plants as it is to overfeed. A nutrient lockout occurs when you add too many nutrients to your plants. They build up in the growing medium and prevent your plants from consuming the nutrients. In the end, overfeeding could actually cause your plants to starve to death. Nutrient deficiency involves not providing enough nutrients to your crop, but it actually carries the same symptoms as nutrient lockout! When you keep a close eye on your feeding schedule, you’ll be able to tell the difference.

What’s the Difference Between Simple and Expert Charts?

As you can probably guess, an ‘expert’ chart is significantly more detailed. A simple chart is fine for beginners because it will contain everything you need for a successful harvest. Once you make the step up from novice to intermediate, however, you’ll need an expert chart if you want to get the very best from your crop.

Expert charts include far more nutrients to improve the size and potency of your crop. By adding the right extras, you may see a boost in your crop’s aroma, flavor, yield, and potency. Nutrients can also provide a much-needed boost to your crop’s immune system, which helps it fight off diseases and pests.

What Are Drain-to-Waste and Recirculating Systems?

These are types of hydroponics systems. In a recirculation system, the nutrient runoff is collected, replenished, and added to the substrate. In a drain-to-waste system, nutrient runoff is drained into the ground and or rerouted to a holding reservoir.

The Advantages of a Drain-to-Waste System:

  • More control over the composition of the runoff being applied.
  • An ability to increase the feeding time and remain sure that your crop is receiving a balanced nutrient solution.
  • Significantly less maintenance because the excess solution isn’t being recycled back into the reservoir. As a result, you won’t need to check the pH of the reservoir. With a recirculating system, pH levels can vary, which means you need to check and adjust it periodically. Failure to correct pH levels means poor nutrient absorption, among other issues.
  • Keeping pathogens at bay. In a recirculating system, pathogens quickly spread and infect plants that use the same reservoir. This won’t happen with a drain-to-waste system because when water leaves any plant, it goes to a drain instead of the main reservoir.
  • Making it easier to flush out salts.

Although recirculating systems maximize nutrients, there are a few problems associated with them, including:

  • Allowing pathogens to spread amongst the plants rapidly.
  • Major pH fluctuations which mean more maintenance.
  • Imbalanced nutrient levels.

Why Do the Numbers on the Bottle Differ from the Chart?

When you read the nutrient level of a solution on a bottle, you only see the amount of a single nutrient such as Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. On a feed chart, you are planning for a combination of several nutrients. Therefore, if you rigidly follow the recommendations on a bottle of nutrients, you’ll probably end up with an excessively strong solution. The result will be a nutrient lockout.

What Does PPM Mean?

PPM stands for parts per million and is a measurement that gardeners use to determine a nutrient solution’s density. It is a method of referring to the precise amount of minerals and nutrients in your water because your plants can only comfortably take a specific amount at any given time. It is wise to invest in a PPM reader as it can help you determine if your plants are experiencing nutrient deficiency or lockout.

Why Are pH Levels Important?

The pH scale is a method of measuring the alkalinity or acidity of a substance. The scale ranges from 0 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline). Marijuana prefers to grow in soil that is slightly acidic. When using soil as the growing medium, keep the pH between 6.0 and 6.8. When using a hydroponic system and a soilless medium such as Coco Noir, keep the pH between 5.5 and 6.5.

As long as you keep your growing medium’s pH within the range above, your crop will be able to absorb the nutrients it needs to grow. For instance, your plants will absorb manganese better with a more acidic medium. If you allow the pH of your growing medium to remain outside of the ideal ranges for any period, a wide range of problems can occur. The biggest issue is a nutrient lockout because improper pH levels negatively impact a marijuana plant’s ability to absorb nutrients efficiently.

What is a Feed Chart? [Growing Cannabis 101]
November 14, 2018

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