Hi everyone I am a medical patient and legal first time grower in the United States. I was curious about potentially growing my own medicine after marijuana was legalized here and decided to give it a shot with minimum equipment. Why not right?
I didn’t expect to really invest much time or money into it but I’m finding the process so fascinating and exciting that I thought I’d actually like to start journaling my grow.
I realize I may or may not succeed as a novice with an imperfect setup and no experience growing, but I hope this journal can provide insight to fellow beginners and would greatly appreciate input from any of you experienced growers throughout the journey!
My medium has already changed once and might change again so read on for details.
Wed May 27th
After reading up on the different germination strategies (starting with the grow bible), I dropped 5 Amnesia Haze Auto-flower seeds from ILGM into a glass of filtered tap water. All 5 were floating. Left the glass in the dark overnight.
All 5 seeds were still floating, slightest crack/opening on 1 of the seeds.
2 seeds sunk and were displaying tiny root tails. The other 3 were still floating, and 2 of those seemed to show the slightesstt crack. I read that the germinating water should be “replenished” every other day and the glass was already full so I figured I’d delicately drain most of the water and then pour/transfer the 5 seeds to a fresh glass of filtered tap water.
I had a feeling the next day would be planting day so I went out and dug up some garden soil. Again, I started this grow wanting to keep budget as minimal as possible! I live in the Midwest US so the soil is very clay-dominant. It had just rained so the soil was wet but we had an even bigger storm coming that night so I figured I’d just fill 5 plastic planting cups before it was even more drenched.
Had a crack/root tail on all 5 seeds (yay!) so I decided to get planting.
I planted them carefully root-down in garden soil about ¼- ½” down. This is the seed with the shortest root/tail that was planted.
After covering the seeds ~1/4" in the soil, I gave each plastic planting container (~the size of a solo cup) a couple sprays on top with a clean spray bottle of Walmart’s Great Value Purified Drinking Water (which lists ingredients as purified water, calcium chloride, sodium bicarbonate). It sounded like the purest water I had but more on that to follow.
This was the day I realized that my soil was veryyy clay like and even though it wasn’t as wet as I thought it’d be from rain, I was getting paranoid about how well the seeds would germinate fully into seedlings in this. Guides online were saying to avoid this type of soil.
I read that fluorescent lights would suffice for germination into seedlings stage so I placed them ~7 inches from the 1.5A 118V 60Hz recessed fluorescent lights in my basement. These were left on for about 7 hours then shut off for about 7 hours. The next day would start a more prolonged light schedule.
With the plants under the fluorescent lights, I decided to go to Menards to get some soil because I figured I’d need higher quality soil to transplant the plants to later anyways, and the paranoia kept increasing about my seeds dying of suffocation in that wet clay soil at home…
Turns out Menards was completely sold out of all soil. So I looked at the grow bible and saw that amongst the recommended soil alternatives/additives were: Perlite, Vermiculite, & Coco Coir. I happened to find perlite, vermiculite, and Burpee Eco-Friendly Organic Seed Starting Mix (advertised as made primarily of coconut coir). Great! Decided to buy those 3 and do more research at home.
After doing more research, I found that coco coir was excellent for water retention and preventing over-watering, providing more oxygen to roots, but had ~no nutrients in it. So I thought, why not mix this with the muddy soil so there is airflow & water retention/drainage from the coco, but with earthly nutrients and pH balance from the soil? So I created a Frankenstein soil/soilless mixture as follows:
Garden Soil: 30%
Coco Coir Mix (Burpee Eco-Friendly Organic Seed Starting Mix): 33%
I got 5 new plastic planting containers (the size of a solo cup) and filled each ~3/4 full with this mixture. I decided to transplant all 5 of my recently soil-planted seeds into this new mixture with hopes of a more promising future. During careful transplant with sterilized tweezers, I realized the roots had already grown quite a bit in just a day! I re-planted all of them root-down in the new combo mixture.
I gently covered the germinating seeds with the mixture and lightly sprayed the top a few times. Placed back 7” under the fluorescent light to complete 18 hours under light and 6 hours of dark, and things started to get exciting.
By the end of the next day, a lot of growth had occurred and 4 out of 5 seeds had broken the surface of the new mixture.
The stems of the seedlings were looking brown, frail and thin, and I was worried that something was going wrong, but happy to see such growth nonetheless! At least the first leaves were very green! The 5th seed I could visibly see was jussstttt about to break the surface. I thought wow! Maybe tomorrow I’ll have 5 healthy seedlings on their way!
I researched the symptoms of these thin brownish stems and ended up neck-deep in the world of hydroponics & the dangers of coco-coir. I found so many articles saying that coco coir should be thoroughly rinsed/flushed before even planting to ensure the typical high-sodium content is dissipated. And I frantically searched for more information on the Burpee Eco-Friendly Organic Seed Starting Mix that I included in the soil mixture and if they rinse it/how much sea salt is in it. All I could find were reports of successes and failures, and nothing labeled on the bag/website soooo I figured the chances of high-salt content were higher than comfortable
Then I found out about underwatering as a potential cause, seeing as how the surface of my containers were bone dry! And I learned especially for pure coco-coir this is a big no-no! So I thought dang, I need to water these wayyy more than just a few sprays like the grow bible recommendations. So I read other articles including coco coir, which I found almost no other growers using a soil-coco coir combination like mine, so it was so difficult to gauge! But all of them said to NEVER let the surface run dry. And given the fact that I didn’t rinse/soak the coco-coir mixture, I figured I was just running these plants dry of all water from underwatering and likely high sodium content from the coco.
So I freaked out and followed several articles’ recommendations to water until I got 20% drippage from the container (rookie mistake? - seems like only a grown plant regimen?) I used the same type of water bottle, the Great Value Purified Drinking Water. I literally poured just about the entirety of the 16.9 fl oz bottle amongst the 5 plant containers. It felt really good to see the 20% drippage from the bottom, as I figured if there was a ton of salt in there, this would help balance.
I then researched that pH was also a potential cause, and I have not at all paid attention to pH up until this point. I don’t have a pH tester and still feel like maybe I can get through this successfully without going crazy buying a pH tester and all the crazy tools the experts use. But through research I came to find that the bottled water I was using (the Great Value Purified Drinking Water) has a pH of 5. Yikes! Way too acidic! I will use filtered tap water only moving forward (which according to some local data, should be ~7pH from the tap).
But despite all the articles expressing a lack of logic in combining soil and coco coir, I figured perhaps I saved the whole operation by mixing soil and coco coir since the plant can still feed off the soil’s nutrients and be slightly pH balanced from the soil and not die from lack of nutrients of the coco coir mix with its likely overwhelming salt content (if the coco coir mix was indeed unrinsed to begin with). I could only hope and see!!
All 5 seedlings have sprouted above the surface, and are on their way. Woo! Two of them still have seed shells attached to them, with one completely suction-cupped as a helmet.
I researched and found that it’s okay to remove this as delicately as possible as it could kill the plant if left. It was literally glueing closed those first leaves, which I figured was perilous given the abnormally long stem and their need for nutrition from photosynthesis (which those leaves are necessary for). So I did careful “surgery” after spraying the seedlings with water sprayer and then pulling the seed shell off with clean tweezers. Success!
I am noticing all of the stems are getting a little longer than what seems typical, and the leaves are slightly droopy. I am starting to think that I have overwatered them and that I may have them too far away from the light.
The surface of the soil/coco coir mix is still wet so no more watering today. And I bring the plants closer to the light, now about 3 inches away.
And that’s it. I hope tomorrow to see more stiff/less droopy leaves as it seems to have come from overwatering, and less frail stems which seems to have come from too great a separation/distance from the lights.
Thanks for reading! I would love any and all input on this! I am a first timer so please be easy on me hahah looking forward to how this all manifests. This is a very exciting new hobby and I’m excited to be a part of this new-found community! Thanks for being so supportive and helpful for all growers and students alike!