Selecting the best nutrients for growing weed can be a very daunting task. Sure, there are so many options to choose from, but this doesn’t really make your mission of understating the vast array of nutrients any easier.
However, a combination of basic knowledge of the way marijuana plants utilize nutrients to flourish and a pinch of useful tips, deciding which nutrients are best for growing weed can feel like a breeze. And we’re here to help you out.
For a start, let’s get down to studying up what are the main types of nutrients that marijuana plants need in order to thrive and how do these essential elements interact with each other. We will also focus on distinguishing the different types of nutrients for growing marijuana in soil vs. growing marijuana hydroponically.
Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium – The Holy Trio for Growing Weed
Marijuana plants have two main life stages, namely vegetative and flowering. During both of these stages, your cannabis plants need a different ratio of three major elements – Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium.
Nitrogen is intricately connected to the production of both chlorophyll and amino acids, and it plays a key role in the process of photosynthesis. Since a large part of plant tissue is made up by Nitrogen, this element is equally important during vegetation and flowering.
However, higher levels of Nitrogen are required during vegetation as opposed to flowering since Nitrogen will mostly encourage foliage growth.
During vegetation, your green babies will benefit from a boost in the production of healthy leaves and stems.
Thus, once your cannabis plants enter the flowering stage, they will be able to produce more food to nurture the hungry buds thanks to the healthy foliage.
Indeed, healthy foliage plays a crucial role in maximizing the yields you’ll get upon harvesting.
Large, well-developed leaves will accomplish the process of photosynthesis better.
Strong, vigorous stems will ensure successful transportation of essential elements from the growing medium and all the way up to the buds while simultaneously increasing your plants’ ability to hold and support the fattening buds during flowering.
But adding solely Nitrogen during vegetation is not what you want. In order to be fully utilized by the plants, Nitrogen must be combined with suitable levels of Phosphorus and Potassium.
Phosphorus helps to increase the number of buds.
Meanwhile, Potassium assists in stimulating the production of bulkier, juicier buds since it is intricately connected to increasing the weight of the flowers.
With this in mind, cannabis plants need high levels of Potassium during both vegetation and flowering.
The levels of Phosphorus during vegetation are best to be kept within only a medium ratio. As the flowering stage starts taking place, you can increase the levels of Phosphorus to boost the number of the buds. Key Takeaways
During vegetation, your plants will benefit from high levels of Nitrogen, medium levels of Phosphorus, and high levels of Potassium.
During flowering, your plants will benefit from low levels of Nitrogen, medium to high levels of Phosphorus, and high levels of Potassium.
Pro Tip:Different brands feature slightly different levels of N-P-K which are described as “best-working” by the different manufacturers so the choice is entirely in your hands. A good rule of thumbs is to stick to using the same brand during both vegetation and flowering because the fertilizers will be specifically designed to work best together. Plus, that’s the only way to understand whether you really like the action of a particular nutrient solution or not.
Quick Heads Up: You can find the Nitrogen – Phosphorus – Potassium content clearly labeled on the bottles or the bags of the nutrient solutions you’re opting for.
The ratio is always listed in the following order: N-P-K, respectively Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium.
Numbers are used indicating the percentage of Nitrogen to Phosphorus to Potassium, for example, 10-4-4.
In this case, 10 indicates 10% of Nitrogen available, along with 4% of Phosphorus and 4% of Potassium.
Other Essential Macro nutrients and Micro nutrients for Growing Cannabis
Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium are the major mineral nutrients that marijuana plants obtain from the soil or from other growing mediums used in hydroponic growing.
But what’s more, Calcium, Magnesium, and Sulfur are also part of the basic mineral nutrients cannabis plants need to thrive.
Altogether, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, and Sulfur are grouped as macro nutrients.
Other mineral nutrients that cannabis plants need in much lower quantities include Zinc, Iron, Molybdenum, Chlorine, Manganese, Silicon, Cobalt, Copper, and Boron. Altogether, these nutrients are grouped as cannabis micronutrients.
Each nutrient company has its own formulas and techniques that combine a suitable level of the most essential nutrients your green ladies need in order to flourish.
That’s why you can often come across nutrient combos featuring not only a Vegetative growth and Bloom growth fertilizers but also additional Calcium-Magnesium supplements.
While boosting your cannabis plants with extra nutrients may seem like a fantastic idea, keep in mind that nutrient companies will always gladly sell you more, without any regards on whether or not you will be able to handle all those nutrients and supply them efficiently.
As a rule of thumb, the less experience you have with growing marijuana, the more humble you want to stay when using extra nutrients.
For instance, Calcium-Magnesium formulas are generally not required for traditional soil growing but can come handy if you’re growing in Coco Coir. It is up to you to narrow down the list of nutrients to only the ones that you really need and understand.
When you’re purchasing seeds or clones from a reputable retailer, you can get reliable information regarding the particular cannabis strain/s you’re about to grow.
Make sure to check the descriptions completely because some strains are naturally prone to exhibiting specific nutrient deficiencies.
For instance, Gorilla Glue 4 is naturally prone to Calcium deficiencies so you want to make sure to supply a suitable boost of this essential mineral nutrient. But the same rule won’t apply to grow Northern Lights, so knowing your strains is no less important than understanding and utilizing the best nutrients for growing weed.
Heads Up: Optimizing pH Levels is a MUST to Utilize the Best Nutrients for Growing Weed
One of the most common reasons for nutrient deficiencies is not related to the fact you aren’t feeding your plants enough nutrients.
Instead, unbalanced pH levels are the number one cause for blocking the proper absorption of the essential nutrients present in soil or added to hydroponic growing setups.
Don’t forget that checking the pH levels of the growing medium, as well as the water you feed to your plants is equally important to avoid pH-related issues. You’ll only need to spend a few minutes per day to monitor and adjust the pH levels but every second of your time will be worth it.
For traditional soil growing, pH levels should be kept at 6.0 – 7.0.
For growing in Coco Coir or other types of hydroponic growing medium, pH levels should be kept at 5.5 – 6.5.
Best Nutrients for Growing Marijuana in Soil vs Growing Marijuana in Hydroponics
While making your way through the myriad of nutrients available on the market, there’s a huge probability of getting overwhelmed and choosing the wrong nutrients for your growing medium.
With traditional methods of cannabis cultivation, your growing medium is soil.
But with the advanced hydroponic setups available, the growing medium is actually soil less. For this purpose, Coco Coir, Rock wool, or Clay pebbles are used instead of traditional soil. Some sort of mix of these substrates is also often utilized for hydroponic marijuana growing.
Many of the potting soils that are labeled suitable for cannabis growing are, in fact, soil less blends.
That’s why it’s utterly important to look closely and carefully when choosing the best potting mix for your indoor marijuana plants, and you should keep in mind that it’s called potting mix for a reason. Just like the name suggests, potting mixes are created to be mixed along with additional soil blends to help you achieve a perfect balance of drainage, texture, and water retention rates for growing cannabis plants in soil.
If you go for a premium potting soil that is actually soil less and use it alone, this can lead to issues during your cannabis growing operation.Thus, if traditional soil growing is what you’re aiming for, the potting soil you choose has to be further optimized for indoor cannabis cultivation.
Meanwhile, most of the chemical nutrients that are specifically labeled as suitable for cannabis cultivation are not tailored to be used in soil (this rule refers to all liquid fertilizers, although some of these are also sold in the form of powders).
Instead, they are created to be used as part of a hydroponic marijuana growing operation. These nutrients are highly concentrated since they are made to be diluted in water.
With traditional soil growing, the robust chemical nutrients can quickly lead to issues due to overfeeding. So instead of doing your cannabis plants any good, you can actually harm them without even realizing the cause for your green ladies’ suffering.
However, many cannabis growers keep using hydroponic nutrients for growing in soil successfully.
But if you’re still a beginner marijuana grower, sticking to organic nutrient solutions is the best, and by far, the safest way to give your indoor cannabis garden a healthy boost while limiting any possible issues due to utilizing too many or too strong nutrients.
As a rule of thumb, if you decide to apply hydroponic nutrients for traditional soil growing, you need to fully dilute them in water within only a 25% ratio of the recommended dosage based on the manufacturer’s instructions. This way, you can feed the powerful nutrients to your plants while limiting possible problems related to overfeeding.
Gradually, you can start adding more of the nutrients in the case you see that your cannabis plants respond well to their nutrient schedule. If you come across any signs of stunted growth or stress, including but not limited to yellowing, darkening, curling and/or falling leaves, stop feeding the nutrient solution and flush out the soil immediately
Heads Up: For traditional cannabis growing in soil, adding more nutrients than needed tends to be one of the most common reasons for multiple possible troubles during the operation. Indeed, it does seem tempting to try to give your marijuana plants a good boost but with nutrients, the more doesn’t always mean the better.
If you’re using high-quality soil, it will be naturally rich in essential elements your plants need to flourish.
Thus, organic nutrients will be more than enough to provide your green ladies with the full spectrum of vital elements. More importantly, using the right nutrients for soil will prevent the common issues related to using hydroponic nutrients for traditional soil growing, such as burning your plants, apart from overfeeding them.
Keep in mind that nutrient excesses are a bad, bad thing.
In fact, it can be easier to treat nutrient deficiencies than nutrient excesses so think twice before you add that extra dosage of nutrients to your green ladies. Picture it this way – cannabis plants growing in nature do never ever get in touch with chemical nutrients yet they are still capable of producing truly impressive results upon harvesting.
So what happens if you feed your cannabis plants excess nutrients?
- High levels of extra nutrients can leave a bad “chemical” taste when you finally get down to consuming the dried and cured cannabis buds.
- High levels of extra nutrients can lead to nutrient burn. The nutrient burn will cause the edges and the tips of the leaves to look burned (and they are, indeed, burned!) Issues related to nutrient burn can be especially harmful if spread to the buds throughout flowering.
- High levels of extra nutrients are associated with nutrient deficiencies and lockouts. That’s because your plants may fail to optimize the levels of nutrients to a suitable level, leading to stunted growth in the development of the buds. As a result, you can end up with smaller buds instead of bigger ones you were striving for.
Super Soil for Growing Weed: No Need to Add Extra Nutrients!
If you want to use zero extra nutrients when growing cannabis in the soil, it will be worth investing in super soil. Super soil has become widely available across the web, and organic cannabis growers simply adore it.
A top-grade super soil mix will be already fully tailored to cater to your plants’ needs from seed to harvest. That’s because super soils contain a perfect mixture of micro nutrients, macro nutrients, as well as important living microorganisms.
Living microorganisms serve to break all the vital nutrients in the soil so that the plants can actually absorb them. As a result, the pH level of the soil is naturally balanced as if by a miracle.
But what’s more, thanks to the amazing living microorganisms, you don’t have to fret that much about maintaining the soil’s pH balance. The colony of microorganisms will do this job for you, just like in nature.
Little by little, essential nutrients will be broken up and released “automatically” or “on demand” since that’s what living microorganisms do!
Two types of living microorganisms in soil are fungi and soil-dwelling microbes.
These tiny creatures deserve to be called no less important than the micro nutrients found in the soil since, without the living microorganisms, the nutrients will remain locked up in a non-soluble form.
So even if you’ve got soil full of perfectly-balanced levels of all the essential nutrients, this can mean still mean nothing for the well-being of your cannabis plants as they won’t possibly benefit by any nutrients which remain locked up.
That’s why super soil is also often referred to as living soil. You can mix your own super soil, too, but this comes with certain cons.
In order to let the living microorganisms do their job, your super soil compost will take 30-60 days to get ready to use. That’s why compositing will require you to think and act in the long run, and if you don’t have much time to wait before planting your cannabis babies, then self-mixed super soil is not your best move.
Plus, composting is much better-suited to large-scale growing since you’ll have to purchase all the needed ingredients in bulks and compost quite a lot of soil at once. Nevertheless, this can also turn out to be rather expensive.
However, there’s an inexpensive option available on that note, too. You can create your potting mix by adding Blood Meal and Fish Meal for boosting the levels of Nitrogen. Use Bat Guano and Blood Meal to boost the levels of Phosphorus. Add Kelp Meal and Wood Ash to boost the levels of Potassium.
All of these need to be mixed carefully into the soil before you get down to potting your plants. By adding carbohydrates, you will feed the soil life and thus, help the living microorganisms to unlock all the nutrients your cannabis plants need to thrive.
But as we already mentioned above, pre-made super soil is widely available and it’s easy to find it in smaller quantities that suit the scale of your grow, as well as your budget.
An example of the ingredients you can find on the label of top-grade super soil includes but is not limited to different amounts of peat moss, Coco Coir, Perlite, Worm castings, Blood meal, Bone meal, Fish meal, Crab meal, Shrimp meal, Feather meal, Alfalfa meal, Fish meal, Kelp meal, Cottonseed meal, Soy meal, Neem meal, guano,Rock phosphate, Oyster shell, Lime, Humic acid, Azomite, Char, Trichoderma, Greensand, Beneficial bacteria, and Mycorrhizal fungi.
Another suitable option for utilizing the best nutrients for growing weed in soil is to go for pre-mixed organic nutrient fertilizers. In this case, even if you’re using soil that is naturally low in vital mineral nutrients, simply following the manufacturer’s instructions will help you establish a good feeding schedule with less of a fuss.
Another beautiful option for feeding your cannabis plants with the best nutrients when it comes to traditional soil growing is to brew your own super aerated compost tea. Don’t let the name of this concoction scare you off at the very start.
Brewing your own actively aerated compost tea (also known as AACT) is an incredibly well-working and inexpensive way to let the soil life fully process the organic matter, providing your marijuana plants nutrition that they can readily absorb.
Then again, we want to highlight the fact that using hydroponic nutrients for growing in the soil can be very tricky because your plants barely ever get to absorb their nutes fully. Of course, if used for hydroponic growing, these nutrients will get fully diluted in water in the absence of soil, and cannabis plants will suck up all the essential elements freely.
We understand all this information tends to feel quite overwhelming at first.
But with a healthy dose of patience, taking the time to understand what your cannabis plants really need and what are the best nutrients for YOU depending on the type of growing, your goals, as well as level of experience, every minute spent learning will pay you off once the harvesting time kicks in.
Organic Nutrients vs Chemical Nutrients
Wondering about the pros of organic nutrients vs. hydroponic nutrients? Let’s check these out.
Quick Tip: Don’t forget that you can choose to use hydroponic nutrients for traditional soil growing but you can NOT use organic nutrients for hydroponic growing.
- Organic nutrients are associated with providing a better flavor by bringing out all the subtle, deep, and delicate undertones of each strain. Both the taste, as well as the aroma profile of the strain you’re growing with organic nutrient systems will be upgraded into becoming smoother when smoked.
- Growing weed organically is a sustainable way of producing your own green medication while following the laws of nature, and that’s extremely important to the well-being of the planet.
- #Chemical nutrients are also associated with boosting the fragrance and taste of the buds, although they are not capable of bringing out the subtle flavors of the strains. Instead, chemical nutrients may simply increase the overall intensity of the aroma.More importantly, chemical nutrients can greatly boost the potency of the strain/s. So if potency is one of your major concerns, chemical nutrients can work better than organic nutrients.
- Chemical nutrients are water-soluble and don’t require the development of a colony of living microorganisms so that marijuana plants can absorb the essential elements in a breeze. That’s why when used correctly, chemical nutrients can encourage faster growth. This can be especially beneficial if you need to be able to harvest your green medication as soon as possible. But do keep in mind that this strong side of chemical nutrients can be utilized with organic growing nutrients, too, in the case you learn how to brew your own actively aerated compost tea.
Best Nutrients for Growing Weed: The Bottom Line
When choosing the best nutrients for growing weed, your top-priority is to choose products and/or methods that are compatible with each other, as well as suitable for the type of growing medium that you use.
Copy-pasting the methods of other cannabis growers is not your best move. Instead, you want to stick with choosing the best nutrients in accordance with your level of understanding, as well as the experience of growing marijuana.
Chemical nutrients can encourage faster growth and boost your yields but you’ll need to be very careful to optimize the levels of the nutrients, which means paying more attention and applying more knowledge as a cannabis grower.
Organic nutrients may face you with slightly decreased yields, and you’ll need to wait longer to reach the harvesting point but any of your possible mistakes along the way will be much easier to fix and better tolerated by the plants.
Taking enough time to do your research is crucial. Otherwise, you’ll simply learn your lessons the hard way. Stay humble with nutrients, listen to your plants, give them your love and affection, and you’ll be blessed with becoming a better cannabis grower after each operation.