Things I've Learned (So Far) During My First Grow: A Comprehensive Overview

So I’m about in the middle of flowering and thought I’d share some things that I learned, some of which I wish I knew going into this but also some confirmations/cleared up misconceptions. When I was waiting on my seeds/equipment I spent a great deal of time researching, and even when I got started the researching didn’t stop. I spent hours upon hours researching over many days. To this day I still research to try and find better methods or ideas.

Before I get super into explaining this, I want to point out I was aiming for a “simple” grow, that is to say, I wanted to have to do as little maintenance (as hands off) as possible. I wanted to avoid “work” as much as I could. So I avoided things like transplanting, etc, which I will cover below. I did not do a “simple” grow as in scale as I do have an 8x4 tent with 2x HLG 600 lights, however, most of this will apply to a grow of any size.

I had one large issue I couldn’t remedy from research or simple searching which was caused by PH. A lot of people say you don’t need to worry about PH when growing in soil because of the buffers in the soil. Those people are wrong, depending on the conditions you will eventually use up your buffer and a PH imbalance will occur. Once the buffer is gone it leaves less room for error down the line. I got away with it for a long time and perhaps if I didn’t veg for 2 months I would have gotten away with it entirely, but I’d say the PH of your input is definitely important to check. It doesn’t have to be spot on but my nutrient solution was in the 4s and after 2 months of that my plant took a dive and if not for the people on here I would have lost it. I didn’t have a PH adjustment kit when I found out my PH was low, so I used common baking soda (yeah, arm and hammer brand from the kitchen) to raise PH. Some warn against baking soda but it worked well. Just be sure to let it sit for at least 30 minutes before testing it again as it works over time. When I adjusted to 6.5 and waited for 30 minutes I came back and tested again and got a bit over 7. So slowly ramp it up, once you know about how much to add for the amount of nutes you use it won’t be as annoying. Just pay attention to how much you are adding so when you get to where you need to be you know how much it took. I’m using Fox Farms feeding schedule (the full line not just the big 3) and it only took a few pinches/gal.

If your faucet/tap where you get your water is of the water-saving or aerating type then your PH may read artificially higher than it really is. So either remove that or leave the water sit for a day (you should do that anyway to let the chlorine evaporate) before testing it. It can make a big difference (my water is a 7 but with the “water saving” faucet it reads at 7.8). The same thing happens if you say, shake a jug after adding nutes. Stir it instead to avoid that.

I read a lot of things about starting seeds. My first germination attempt I tried 2 seeds in peat pellets and only one germinated. I found the peat pellets kept drying out quickly even when enclosed, so when one had dried out completely and I thought it killed the seedling (luckily it did not) I started one in seed starting soil in a “solo cup”. Later I also tried rapid rooters. In my opinion, while normally used for cloning the Rapid Rooters were by far the best. They all took about the same time for the seed to pop and the seedling to appear but the root system on the seedlings in the rapid rooter just exploded. With the peat pellet, I had just the tap root coming out the bottom. On the rapid rooter which was about the same size, I also had side roots visible and coming out in the same time frame. I believe the Rapid Rooters have root hormone in them. The plants I started in the rapid rooter grew faster and quickly caught up to the plants started significantly earlier, I attribute this to the root system being established quicker. Both the peat pellets and the rapid rooters do dry out faster than soil, but once the seed has popped the plant seems fairly resistant to this and doesn’t seem phased by it if you catch it pretty quickly (I was only checking once a day and it was fine).

The danger of overwatering is stressed a lot in guides (pretty much every single one of them) and for good reason. Most guides point out that overwatering is bad and a common mistake, but then they go on to stress that underwatering is also important to avoid. I only overwatered once and it took days for my plant to recover. I’ve underwatered several times and it only takes hours for the plant to recover. Underwatering is way scarier though, at least in terms of what you see. When you overwater for the most part the plant just looks unhappy. When you underwater it gets limp and lifeless looking. Stems and leaves hang down, almost like it’s dead. But within hours of watering it will be back to its perky happy self, while an overwatered plant will take days to recover. So when unsure if a plant needs water I’ve been erring on the side of just not watering it yet and waiting. This has served me well and I’m getting better at avoiding the issue altogether by getting a feeling for exactly when I need to water by remembering what a plant was like before I see the underwatering symptoms.

Soil choice is important but not as important as people make it seem. Most say to avoid Miricle Gro. It’s winter now so I only had Miricle Gro’s Nature’s Care as a choice. I mixed it with perlite I purchased off Amazon and it worked fine and was available at my local Home Depot. Don’t worry too much about soil choice. I’m sure a better soil makes things easier, but it won’t be impossible to grow in something else.

I did not transplant at all during my grow. I saw a lot of guides that said not to start in a large container but I also saw guides and videos of people who did it just fine. I didn’t want to deal with upsizing containers so as soon as I saw the first true leaves form I went straight into 5-gallon fabric pots. Until the plant’s leaves reached the edges of the pot I only watered a ring around the pot, halfway between the edge and the center. I did water directly under the plant for the first few days to ensure it had water while the roots reached out but I only gave it a little bit so it would still have to seek out the water in the rest of the pot. This worked well and saved the plant from transplant shock and saved me the hassle of having to upsize the pots.

Since I was using a Miricle Gro soil I did do something a bit different. I had heard of plants getting burnt with it, so what I did was I filled my 5 gal pot a bit over half way (maybe 2/3rds?). Then I took some of the soil and mixed it with seed starting soil. I put a layer of that down then formed a hole for the rapid rooter. I put pure seed starting mix in this then put in the seedling (still in the rapid rooter) and filled it in with pure seed starting mix (also Miricle Gro brand, btw). I did that to ensure the plant wouldn’t immediately be exposed to soil with lots of nutes in it. None of my seedlings showed any signs of leaf burn.

I’m using fabric pots (also called smart pots [which is the name brand, like Kleenex] or air pots). One thing I learned was to pack the soil down a bit. You don’t need to pack it down super tight but definitely do it. I mistakenly followed a guide’s advice that said not to do that because then the roots will have a hard time growing through it. That may be true, but soil outdoors is packed down way more than you could pack down potting soil and the plants grow just fine outside. The issue I ran into is after about a month the container was down about to about 2/3rds it’s original volume because as I watered it the soil compacted. By the end, the first node was below the height of the pot and I had to fold the sides down. What I did for my plants after the first was pack the soil down very tightly on the bottom and pack it looser as I got higher up. I packed the sides down as well but left the seed starting soil I mentioned adding above fairly lose, patted down but not packed down, and added some more as it compacted from watering. This worked well and the soil only settled down slightly below the rim (an inch or so). I still folded the sides down but that was mostly to get the handles out of the way when trying to water.

So many people focus on nutrients and soil, but upgrading my light made the biggest difference. My plants were started at different times so I had a chance to sort of look back and forwards in time when I tried something new to see what would have been different if I had done something sooner. Upgrading the light from a VIPARSPECTRE 400W (200W actual) to an HLG 600 (620W actual) made a huge difference. The younger plants, by a few weeks, are nearly as big as my first two plants. I attribute that mainly to the light. I cannot recommend the HLG lights enough, they are amazing. I almost bought 3x of the “1200W” VIPARs for the same price as 2 of the HLG 600s. Thankfully @dbrn32 recommended either the HLGs (or COBs) and with the HLGs being the cheaper option with similar performance on paper I figured I’d give them a go and have zero regrets other than not getting them sooner.

Some people talk about how great HIDs are, but I cannot imagine them being any better. When researching the HLG lights I found a few people that replaced their HIDs with them and said they would never look back. HLG lights cost more but you also need to factor in the cost of electricity, cost to run the dedicated cooling fan, the size (my lights are like 5" from the tent’s ceiling and as they are only maybe 2" high they basically don’t exist vs HIDs which are huge), and if venting into the room you need to factor in cooling the room/your house. The HLGs do generate a good bit of heat. With 2 of them + my “400W” vipar light it gets to be about 80F in the tent, but that’s actually ideal. The tent is in a 10x20 room and my home thermostat is set at 70F. Airflow in my house is poor so the heat they generate does not go far and the room is only a few degrees warmer than other rooms. Turning off the VIPAR actually lowers the temp 2-3F so it’s generating nearly as much heat as the HLGs, they are incredibly efficient. In fact, I believe most of the heat from the HLGs is actually from the light energy hitting a surface and being converted to heat energy, not from the lights themselves. It feels like you’re under the sun on a summer day at noon when under them. At 2 feet they are brighter than the sun would be if outside.

A light meter is helpful especially if you do get a strong light. When I first got my HLG lights I caused light burn and tacoing within the first few days despite the plants being a few feet away (yeah, even the ones 3 feet away were tacoing and the tips of the leaves ~2 feet away were burning). That’s a combination of the lights being so strong and them being so vastly different than what I was using. The plants weren’t expecting the sudden difference in light. I had to dim the lights and slowly ramp them up and then adjust the height to make sure they weren’t getting too much. I had purchased a light meter and it proved invaluable. It’s so much easier to dial the light in and find optimal positioning for the plants with it. While I did get an actual quantum meter you can use a lux meter too you just don’t know your actual usable light (as in PPFD) but it will give you relative numbers to find optimal positioning and get those colas in the most well-lit places. If you know your color temperature (i.e. 4000K) you can convert lux to ppfd (and vice versa), but that does not work with blurple lights (i.e. the VIPAR lights) because it matters how much of each spectrum is there since lux is weighted based on the human eye.

Pipettes are both cheap and invaluable. They work great for micro-watering seedlings, measuring nutrients, etc. They are cheap enough you can use a new one every day and not care. You can get a bag of 500 for ~$13 on Amazon. Even if you use 1 a day that will last over a year.

Bends in the outlet pipe matter. I had my fan exhaust piping just go out of the tent and fall onto the floor. This effectively made 2 90 degree bends. Adjusting the piping to only have 1 bend made the fan far more efficient and dropped the temps by 2F (82F → 80F). The fan also sounded a little quieter after adjusting the ductwork. So be very mindful of how many bends there are.

Humidity affects the efficiency of the carbon filter. That’s something I did not see mentioned anywhere when researching smell, at least not until I googled what affected the efficiency. Knowing what I know now I would have gotten a larger fan and filter. I’m using a 6" right now, so I would have gone with an 8". I was thinking of getting a 4x4 tent for starting plants for veg, if I do that I’ll probably move my 6" there and get an 8" for the 8x4.

Hope that helps! I’ll add more if anything pops up. I still have a few weeks of my grow left so who knows what else I might find out. :slight_smile:


pH is king. Everything good starts with that. Glad things have progressed nicely for you.