Start Your Home Garden Today!

What’s In Your Garden?

Intro

The most challenging step of starting any new hobby is to get started. If you are looking for a fun, calming, and rewarding hobby look no further! Medical patients in IL are allowed to grow their own medicine (up to five plants) and I have found very few people are taking advantage of this amazing perk. Not only will you be able to save money by purchasing less cannabis from dispensaries, you will also know where your cannabis was grown and how it was grown. If you would like to see some examples of craft growers bud, make sure to follow us on Instagram.

As a new hobbyist grower, you might be overwhelmed with the amount of information on the web in 2020. This is why I created Chicago Hydro, to help guide you in the right direction. I will help you better understand hydroponics and the benefits that come with growing your own marijuana. I have broken down each section so feel free to skip ahead to your subject of interest or read through the entire guide to have a full grasp on starting a hydroponic grow.



Location

Step one is locating the space in which your plants will grow best. There are a few things to take into consideration when choosing the best location in your home for your plants. Privacy is a big one, so make sure your setup will not be seen by neighbors or other people in the area who might have negative intentions. Light penetration is also another factor to consider, especially if you will not be using a grow tent indoors. We also want to make sure the grow room can be optimally controlled with the Gear you will have installed.

Grow Medium

After choosing where your plants will grow, you will need to decided how your plants will grow. There are plenty of guides out there on soil grows, which is why I will focus on a hydroponic guide of growing marijuana in Chicago. (I might make a soil guide in the future.)

I will be focusing on the hydroponic medium which is the process of growing weed without the use of soil. Instead, the roots will be submerged in the water and will be given oxygen through the airs stones. Nutrients will be manually provided weekly during the reservoir change. We can also clean the reservoir during the water change. Since we are growing in a hydroponic setup, we will not need any soil for this grow. Instead we will need Reverse Osmosis water or purified tap water, which is what I use and it works just fine since Chicago has access to Lake Michigan’s water.

DWC

Single bucket system

RDWC

Shared reservoir system

EBB & Flow

Shared reservoir

&

Water pump on timer

Many first time growers are intimidated by starting with a hydroponic system because of how many moving parts there are. This guide is made to help new growers feel confident when starting with a hydroponic system by going over the function of each piece of gear and how it benefits plant growth. For those seeking personal consultation or an in home installation of a DWC or RDWC system, please click here and schedule a meeting. The first 15 minutes phone consultation is free and I can answer any concerns or questions you might have.

Gear

Now that we know where and how the plant will be growing, we need the gear to make it happen! I recommend starting with a DWC system to prevent leaks and other unwanted issues. After a full cycle and learning from your errors, I recommend moving up to an RDWC or Ebb and Flow system. When you are more familiar with the errors that are possible in a DWC system, you can better be prepared for errors made in a shared reservoir hydroponic systems.

DWC

  • Timer
  • Air Pump
  • Air Stones
  • Air Stone Tubing
  • Bucket/ Tote (5gal)
  • 3″ Net pot
  • Clay Pebbles Grow Media
  • PH Meter
  • PPM Meter
  • Water Thermometer
  • Grow Tent
  • Hydroponic Nutrients
  • Grow Light
  • Inline Fan & Carbon Filter
Basic DWC Bucket

The items listed above are the essentials needed to start your DWC home grow. The grow tent and lights are the most expensive pieces of gear required. Some additional gear might be needed to control the environment better indoors. If Chicago begins to get humid you will need a dehumidifier, but in the winter time you will need a humidifier to keep the dry winter air from harming your plants. The water temperatures will be monitored by the thermometer and will need adjusting if the water exceeds 70 °F. A water chiller might be needed in the summer or you can freeze water bottles to frequently add them throughout the day for a temporary adjustment in the reservoir.

Environment

We have the where, how, and the cart with the gear is on the way, but do you know what you are building? The reason we want a grow tent is to better control the environment in which our plants grow. Without a grow tent you are welcoming dust, light leaks, and a multitude of other problems into your plants grow area. Managing an environment in a grow tent is much easier than an entire room. If you do choose to go down the no tent route, make sure you are on top of cleanliness, room temperature, and room humidity.


Perfect Grow Tent Environment

Vegetative Stage
  • Tent Temperature: 69°F – 78°F
  • Humidity : 45-55%
  • Light Hours: 18 on /6 off
  • Constant Air Flow
  • Water Temperatures: 60°F-70°F
  • Water PH: 5.8 ideal (5.6-6.4)

Make sure seedlings have plenty of humidity and are top fed if their roots are not in water yet. Stop the top feeding when the plant can uptake nutrients on its own.

Flower Stage
  • Tent Temperature: 75°F – 82°F
  • Humidity : 55 and Drooping Over Time
  • Light Hours: 12 on /12 off
  • Constant Stronger Air Flow
  • Water Temperatures: 60°F-70°F
  • Water PH: 5.8 ideal (5.6-6.4)

Humidity will be dropping all of the flower stage to allow the plant to use up all its stored nutrients.


Make sure to clean your grow area thoroughly before and after every grow cycle. This will help prevent any unwanted pests or dust build up. Best practice is to clean the reservoir one time a week, ideally during the reservoir change when the water has been drained.

Nutrients

Hydroponic grows require nutrients to be added manually weekly. I use General Hydroponics Trio and have had great results. There are supplemental nutrients you can use during the flowering stage such as advanced nutrients, which carries a variety of bundles. Below is a general schedule for a DWC system from seed to harvest.

DWC grow Schedule
DWC Nutrient Feeding Schedule

Make sure to do your research before choosing your nutrient source. The nutrient line should be compatible with coco or hydroponic grows. Over the week, keep an eye out for signs of nutrient deficiencies or signs of root rot.

Root Rot in DWC system
Root Rot

Before adding new water to the reservoir mix the nutrients, PH the water, and check the PPM of the water. If there is an imbalance of nutrients in the reservoir, the plants will show signs of nutrient deficiencies/ nutrient burn. The PH being outside its ideal range will also cause the plants to appear weak and dull. Keeping the PPM in the ideal range weekly is also important to prevent nutrient lock.

Note: Check PPM and PH every two days to make sure the plants are uptalking nutrients.

You will notice the last two weeks are blank on the schedule. This is because the plant has nutrient buildup in the leaves, which will need to be used up by the plant before they are harvested. The more nutrients are used by the plant during the flush phase, the cleaner the smoke will be from the Harvested and cured buds. It is ideal to use reverse osmosis water during the flush phase to make sure that there are no nutrients in the water for the roots to feed on.

Seeds/Clones

Now that everything is in order, you are ready to start browsing through your cannabis containers for seeds found in dispensary cannabis. If the Illinois cannabis industry is selling cannabis with seeds in it, this must mean they want us to perfect what the corporate grow ops could not. So take that that single seed and master those genetics until clones and seeds become readily available in the Chicago area.

Note: Do not go DMing people asking for seeds or clones.

Not all strains are created equal and that is exactly what cloning is for. When a grower takes clones from a mother plant, the cuttings DNA is an exact copy of the mother. This means we can expect the same growth, nutrient needs, height structure, herming probability, and anything else seen on the mother plant genetically. So if you find a strain you really like, make sure to clone her and keep a mother plant in a low light setting.

If you start your grow from a seed you will need to germinate the seed, plant the seed, and ease the seedling into a young vegetative plant. This can take one to one and a half months to complete at the earliest. After the seed goes to the seeding stage, it will remain in the vegetative state until its light schedule is switched from a 18/6 to a 12/12 cycle. The younger the plant, the more susceptible it will be to the environment and issues with your build. But do not fret because things do get easier as long as you pay attention and make modifications where needed.

When a plant is in the vegetative state, you can clone branches from the plant in order to keep genetics and shorten the vegetative stage for the clones. Instead of starting from a seed, the clone will need to develop roots and then continue into the vegetative stage with a head start. The less time spent in veg, the more harvests you can go through a year.

Note: Outdoor growers are limited by the seasons, indoor growers control their tents seasons.

Getting started!

Hopefully you are feeling more confident about starting your very first indoor grow as a Chicago medical patient. You now know what is required to begin a grow at home. But if you would like a free consultation to go over any other questions you might have, click here to set up an appointment. The cannabis community in Chicago is welcoming and willing to help people looking for a safe space to ask questions and learn more about craft growing. I post weekly on YouTube if you are more of a visual person and would like to see how I personally grow my plants from seed to harvest.

Week Ten: Defoliation Before Flower

Week Ten:

RDWC Grow Log Update

11-19-2020

Now that we are in week ten of the veg cycle, my goal is to maintain the canopy as even as possible. Making sure that new growth is managed in the lower nodes is crucial when producing plants with as few popcorn nugs as possible. Because new growth will lead to more popcorn nugs, I will be defoliating the bottom 1/3 of the plant and low stress train branches in need of more LED light. Repeating week 3 of nutrients is needed to keep the plants in their vegetative state living in an RDWC system. Next week we will begin the transition phase of the current tent.

Weed nutrient schedule
We are repeating week 3 until we are ready for Flower cycle

Dinafem’s Sweet Deep Grapefruit has fully healed from its center tear and is producing some amazing nodes. The top and sides of this plant are filled with plenty of nodes that will give off top quality buds. Most of the inner nodes will be defoliated to allow better light penetration and wind circulation in the grow tent. With the upgraded Mars Hydro TSW 2000, the plants should have plenty of energy to produce top shelf bud. The SDG was LST enough to keep her height in check. However, we will have to keep an eye out and maker sure the top buds do not get too close to the LED lights.

The Passion Fruit strain, by Dutch Passion seed compony, has filled in nicely and is ready to flower. All the nodes are exposed and are being given enough light to produce top quality buds. The LST and defoliation done earlier to her has shown its merit, now that we are so close to the flowering cycle. Without training, these plants would have been 4ft tall and would have grown another foot during their flowering stretch. Fortunately we have learned from our first growing mistakes.

Always keep a notebook to track your plant life, nutrients, deficiencies, notes, and make sure you have an error section to remind you to not make those same mistakes again.

-Oz

The DOS SI DOS 33 by Barneys Farm has maintained its tenacity and grown more inner nodes than I know what to do with. Cloning is always an option when defoliating, which is just what I will be doing with the DSD33 branches I take off her during defoliation. Because she has so many, I will be choosing the best looking ones and tossing the rest. No need for more clones than required. With clones on stand by, you can always have a good rotation going on your flowering genetics.

The Headband Kush clone has already started picking up some size, but will not be close to the other girls in here. Since it is a hybrid strain, the Headband will not be gaining crazy size, unlike the NASA Bruce that was in here before. With just one week remaining, I will be moving the Headband to a separate bucket where it will be in a DWC system separate from these girls in the tent. This will allow the Headband to take up as much nutrients as she need and not worry about sharing them with the other older girls in the grow tent.

Week Ten Info

Strains: Dos Si Dos 33Passion FruitSweet Deep Grapefruit, Headband Kush

Nutrients used: General Hydro TrioCal-Mag Plus, and SLF-100 (week 3)

Light used: MARS HYDRO TSW 2000 LED Grow Light and VIPARSPECTRA UL Certified 300W LED 

Cannabis Medical Patients

Chicago craft growers with jars
Why buy when you can grow?

With the first year of medical patient cultivation coming to an end, why are you not growing your own cannabis yet? As of January 1, 2020, registered medical patients in Chicago are allowed to cultivate up to five plants for medical use. Medical patients complain about Chicago dispensaries not having the best cannabis quality, taxing too much for all products, or simply inconvenienced by having to leave their homes during this second wave of Covid-19. If you have your medical card, have a space of at least 2 x 2, and the willingness to learn, check out Chicago Hydro for more information on how to get started on your home setup today!

Chicago Hydro does things a bit different. We specialize in hydroponics, the method of growing without the use of soil. This can take some time to wrap your mind around, which is why I started a YouTube channel where I demonstrate the day to day of maintaining a hydroponic setup. I enjoy reading the comments with different opinions than my own because it gives me a different perspective on how I train my plants. Chicago hydroponics is rapidly growing and I am here to help teach the new wave of growers along the way.

To be connected to the Chicago grow community make sure to follow our social links below. I post weekly updates on YouTube, do live training on Instagram, and plan events in the city of Chicago through Facebook! Looking forward to seeing you at one of our next events!

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Week Nine: Training Before Flower Cycle -Beginners Guide

Week Nine:

RDWC Grow Log Update

In week nine of the vegetative cycle, I have done some further training to best prepare my girls for the flower cycle. Since Chicago medical patients are allowed to grow up to five cannabis plants, I am using as many training techniques as possible to maximize the canopy size. As the canopy develops more nodes in the vegetative cycle, the plant will be able to develop more top bud sites come flower cycle. Repeating week 3 of nutrients is needed to keep the plants in their vegetative state living in an RDWC system. For now I will need to maintain their canopies and defoliate when needed.

Weed nutrient schedule
We are repeating week 3 until we are ready for Flower cycle

Dinafem’s Sweet Deep Grapefruit was left alone during its early weeks, mainly because it was one of the slower growing plants in the tent, but now she seems to be one of the healthiest growing girls in here. The fan leaves are growing to be hand sized in about 2 days. This rapid growth keeps me busy with defoliation to allow the lower nodes to have access to more light. If these plants grow too long without guidance, the canopy might become uneven leading to more popcorn nugs at the end of harvest. Earlier in her training, the SDG (Sweet Deep Grapefruit) was accidentally split down the middle. Fortunately I was able to save the plant by using tape on the hemp and allowing it to heal, becoming stronger in the process.

The Passion Fruit strain by Dutch Passion is quite the beautiful bouquet of nodes with just a hint of purple in the mix. All the branches on this plant are thick and have plant of nodes growing from them. Some lollipoping was definitely needed for this strain since most of the inner nodes would have only taken energy away from the top canopy. Defoliation and LST will guarantee that the most nodes are being developed while keeping the number of fan leaves to a minimum. Remember not to go over board when defoliating. A good rule of thumb is to only take away the fan leaves that are not directly connected to a node or bud-site.

The DOS SI DOS 33 by Barneys Farm has been the front runner since these girls were seedlings. I defoliate her one day and by the next her fan leaves seem to have doubled. She seems to be the NASA Bruce replacement in the tent as alpha plant. Some branches were removed from the center branches of DOS SI DOS 33 because she was topped two times. I knew the growing branches would need room to develop, so I made sure there was space for them to grow into. The majority of the branches are LST to the bucket lid taking up the most area in the grow tent.

When the Headband Kush clone develops four top nodes I will be transitioning this tent into the flower cycle. The temperatures have recently started dropping in Chicago, which is perfect for the flower cycle for trichome development. We will talk more about he ideal conditions for weed plants during the flower cycle in a future blog. Make sure to subscribe and follow to not miss out on the most resent updates on this grow tent.

Week Nine Info

Strains: Dos Si Dos 33Passion FruitSweet Deep Grapefruit

Nutrients used: General Hydro TrioCal-Mag Plus, and SLF-100 (week 3)

Light used: MARS HYDRO TS 600W LED Grow Light and VIPARSPECTRA UL Certified 300W LED 

Week Eight: When to Flip Plants to Flower?

Chicago Hydro is on its eighth week of progress in the veg cycle. We began this grow with three seeds and a NASA Bruce clone early in October. The NASA Bruce strain, however, overtook the grow tent with its rapid growth. Now we have replaced the NASA Bruce with a Headband Kush clone and will allow two weeks for the clone to adjust and further develop its root structure before we flip this whole tent into the Flower cycle. But when exactly is it the best time to flip your grow into the Flower cycle? Well, it all depends on who you ask.

Most beginners follow a grow schedule and stick to it religiously in order to understand the process of growing on their own. After a few grows, you will begin to understand the signs your plant shows you when it is trying to communicate they are not receiving enough nutrients, too many nutrients, are upset with their environment, etc. Doing research ahead of time can prevent easily avoidable errors early on in your growing journey. Errors made in the Veg cycle follow you into Flower and are noticeable during harvest. Making sure to have a solid root structure early on is the best thing you can do to your plants to speed up the veg cycle and get to Flower ASAP.

Chicago Hydro believes in the use it or lose it philosophy when it comes to space in your grow tent. If allowed to grow without training, the plants will grow as nature intended, tall and narrow allowing only the top buds to grow big and dense. We are an indoor micro grow though, so every inch counts when only five plants are allowed per grow (make sure to do your own research on cannabis laws in your home state.) Training techniques are crucial early on in the veg stage if you want to have an even canopy with very few popcorn nugs.

After I train my plants enough to take up most of the area in the tent, I will flip them into their Flower cycle and change their nutrients to Bloom. I have also just added a clone into the RDWC system, so I will make sure to give it some time to develop its root system before the Flower cycle flip. It is usually recommended that clones settle in for about a month before the flip, but I have faith in my clones!

Now that I have upgraded my grow light to mars hydro ts 2000, I am eager to see how the flowers develop on these girls. The Veg cycle also seems to have been quicker since the switch to the brighter LED in the Chicago Hydro tent. I will be going over all the LED lights I have worked with in the past and go over the pros and cons this weekend on the Chicago Hydro Youtube page. If you have questions on my grow, your grow, or want to get started make sure to reach out on here or on any of my social media links listed on the sidebar!

Week Eight Info

Strains: Dos Si Dos 33, Passion Fruit, Sweet Deep Grapefruit

Nutrients used: General Hydro Trio, Cal-Mag Plus, and SLF-100

Light used: MARS HYDRO TS 600W LED Grow Light and VIPARSPECTRA UL Certified 300W LED 

November 1, 2020