Tropical Grow - backwards diary

robsamui

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Tropical Grow - suck it n see.

Before I began this project, I posted maybe a dozen messages on forums in Europe and America. I needed help and advice on how to grow herb in a humid tropical climate with more or less a year-round 12-12 spread of daylight. Nobody could help me. So I tried it the hard way and jumped in and did it, mistakes and all. I hope this backwards-look diary might help others with similar growing conditions.

I’m living in a tropical country, mid way between Vietnam and Malaysia. The average temperature is 30C degrees, but rising to 33C+ on warm days (85 – 92F) and the humidity is high, between 60 - 70% and with occasional highs of 90%. Added to which, six months of the year we have 12-12 daylight, and the other six months are 45 minutes plus or minus.

Four or five years ago, and knowing totally zip about growing herb, I bought some seeds, germinated them successfully, and watched them all wither on their 3rd set of leaves. I now think that the 12-12 daylight made them want to flower right away and so they just collapsed. But this year I decided to do it all properly. And I first spent three months solid reading everything I could find.

Firstly, using a light tent seemed the only practical way to control the quality and the amount of light. And so to the first problem: what size tent. I wanted a rapid turnover and to cash-in fast on maybe six or eight plants. But a big tent was out of the question. But a small tent means less plants. And that’s where my version of LST came in. The small 2x2x5-ft tent would go on its side, giving a practical floor area of 4 foot by 2, and the plants would be trained along the surface of the soil, in a circle, in low 9-inch pots. So I bought a tent from Aliexpress (PIC 1) for $130, and it was excellent.


But lighting was the biggest problem – this is the one thing that everybody is an expert about, and there is more religious ranting here than in the whole bible belt. Cost was the main thing – I didn't even know if anything was going to grow, never mind investing hundreds in stadium floodlighting.

And then it occurred to me that heat was going to be a bigger problem. The room temperature was going to be 30 degrees (85F) to begin with. And the coolest lights were CFLs. So that’s what I bought – from Aliexpress again, incuding one big 150W CFL for the middle. Plus a couple of full-spectrum (red bias) 45W LED cone-lights to balance things up. :volcano vaporizer: Plus, as an afterthought, a pair of T5 strip lights to hang along the front and rear of the whole length of the tent (PIC 2). Total wattage around 450 watts, including the three sets of fans.


Seeds? A bit of a lottery here. Something that would tolerate high temperatures. And definitely a feminised strain. I ended up with a basic kush (Pure Sensible Kush) and picked up a couple of others just as tests – compact and short-flowering times (Cotton Candy, Kera White Thunder). The idea was three months hit and run – but it didn't turn out that way!

Nutriments, minerals, soil acidity? Another area where everyone’s an expert. So I thought sod it – survival of the fittest – and bought bags of potting compost, and then mixed them with dry, crumbly buffalo sh*t and fragments of coconut husk to retain water (PIC 3).

The rainwater here is about as pure as you can get, so the PH level must be OK! (Which proved to be true . . .) Although I also bought-in some rose fertiliser pellets (15-5-15) and some high nitro stuff (10-52-17) for the budding stage.

The ‘pots’ I finally found in a supermarket – freezer storage, circular, 5-inches high and 9-inches diameter. I sprayed them black on the outside and drilled the bases for drain holes – plus the lids made perfect drip trays. But to begin with I germinated the seeds in fibre jiffy peat pellets, using one LED cone light and a pair of 45W 5600K CFL lights overhead (PIC 3 again). All the lighting was controlled from a simple 24-hour on-off timer, which worked faultlessly throughout. The seedlings took off like rockets, but looked leggy by their 4th leaves.

So I stopped guessing about light output and bought a lux-meter. The seedlings were getting 3,000 lumens so I doubled the number of CFLs and lowered them. This gave me around 7,000 lumens. And eventually, when all were growing well, I adjusted the lighting so the the minimum any plant got was 7K and the maximum was 9K. And I rotated the plants around every week to allow for this. But after 5 weeks something was wrong. The seedlings took about 3 weeks to shoot up to five leaves – then seemed to stick there (PIC 4).


And after another two weeks they were still on five or 6 leaves, although looking healthy enough (PIC 5).


Then I noticed that some of the plants were showing signs of heat stress. The problem is that when the ambient temperature is 33 degrees (90+F) any lights at all will only add their heat to this. Even with LEDs and CFLs, the temperatures in the open tent were sometimes 36C (98F) in the day, dropping down to around 30C (86F) at night. During the day there was a 6-inch fan blowing through an inlet vent, with a bank of four 4-inch computer fans inside the tent (PIC 6), plus a big room fan blowing into the tent. But without air-conditioning there was a problem.


This was solved by adding CO2 via 1-litre plastic bottles containing a sugar and yeast mix (PIC 4a).


Suddenly all the plants took off again and were growing almost an inch a day, as they should have been. But the end result was that I’d lost almost three weeks of growing – at 40 days I still had babies (PIC 5 again).

I had started to train the plants down towards the ground right from the start, using copper wire loops. Not only did this not corrode and chafe the stems, but it was easy to cut and bend. Now that the plants were growing well, once they got about half way around the edge of the pot I FIMmed half of them as an experiment (PIC 7).


This worked well, eventually causing good lateral growth (which later put out lots of buds – PIC 10).


And everything continued to do really well (apart from an attack of spider mites) right up until I put them into bud at around 120 days (PICS 8b and 8c). (Yep – the high temperatures had slowed them down.)

(The difference in colour is due to the warm daylight bulbs.)


I’d changed the lights to a set of warmer ones at around 3,600K (plus the LED cones) and put them onto a 12-12 cycle. To start with everything looked great, lots of buds forming. The buds came on thick and fast, but after a couple of weeks started to slow right down, just like what happened at the veggie stage. It seems that using CO2 doesn't have any effect when the plant is in bud.

But then I got caught out again. The other thing that constantly high temperatures cause is hermaphrodites. The kush was fine – no problem. But I didn't spot the male flowers forming on the Cotton Candy. Next time I’ll know to check each plant carefully as it starts to bud. But by the time I noticed this, it was too late. The little hairy things had already turned brown on most of the plants. But for some weird reason, one of the kush plants escaped this and went on to have no seeds . . .

About the third week of budding, everything slowed right down again and came almost to a halt. The trichomes were nice and cloudy (PIC 9), but the amount of buds on the colas weren't increasing – the gaps weren't filling in.


By this time it was about 150 days from germination and I was getting pissed off. I gave it another two weeks and then called it a day, harvesting two plants at a time, just to keep the others going (PICS 9a and 10).


The yield was poor, but potent (PIC 11). I only got about ¼ ounce from each plant (five plants after I culled the herms), but bear in mind that the plants would only have been about 20-24 inches high (but bushy) if they had been allowed to grow naturally(PIC 10 again). This was my plan anyway, but I was expecting it to all have happened in less than half the time!


Final problem – ever tried curing pulled plants in a tropical climate with 70-80% humidity? My idea was this – a black plastic 10 gallon bin with a mesh waste-paper basket inside – plus some big sacks of silica gel at the bottom (PIC 12a and 12b).



But on the third day I could see signs of mold forming. So the answer was to hang a 60W tungsten bulb in the middle. It worked fine, slowly letting them dry out over a period of about two weeks. And then finally finishing them off by stripping the buds and laying them on the bottom of the the waste-paper basket with the bulb about 10 inches above.

I've learned a lot. I’m going to leave the next grow until the weather cools down, between mid-October and January, when the average temp here is 26 - 30 C (78 - 85F). I’m going to buy feminised auto kush seeds to start with, so I don’t have to mess about with opening the tent for ventilation at 6.45 each morning. And I’m going to grow two plants in each bowl, to maximise the yield.

And hopefully, this time around, I’ll end up with 14 mini-plants in three months, each with at least half an ounce of bud on them. Keep your fingers crossed for me, and if you've got any advice, it’s welcome!
 
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While your plant may have been 150 days old, it had only been flowering 35 days when you gave up--unfortunately, you made a huge mistake here. The total time the plant has been growing is immaterial--you can conceivably keep a plant in vegging forever. It is not until you flip the lights to 12/12 that the flowering begins. Thirty five days of budding is not nearly enough for any strain. Even very fast flowering strains are going to take about 50 days, with most taking 9-10 weeks or 63-70 days. Your plant has a definite sativa look to it, so it is a strain that probably has a 70+ day flowering period. At 35 days it is just barely starting to get into flowering. If you had let this run its full flowering period, you probably would have gotten something. There are certain things we look for that tells us the plant is done--you cannot really arbitrarily take the plant at any time--immature trichs will not get you high.

You also appear to be underlit for your space, which does affect all phases of growth of your plant. You need 3000 lumens per sq ft for vegging and 5000 lumens per sq ft for flowering.

I personally would not get auto seeds. How do you figure that autos are going to be able to help you keep the tent cooler? They need 20 hours of light a day. It is also a bad idea to put 2 plant in one pot. This will not maximize yield and in fact may have the opposite effect. More plants does not mean more yield. Your conditions are capable of producing x number of grams of bud. Crowding the plants does not up the yield. You also have very little headroom in your sideways tent, so I do not know if autos will be a good fit. It is not advisable to do any training to them (like you have done with these)as any stress at all will slow down their growth. You would probably be a lot better off growing clones from photperiod plants.
 

kaotik

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THG covered a lot..
i applaud you for producing some smoke for yourself in that location.
gotta be butt puckering growing there eh? ;)

you mention it's basically 12/12 there all season, why not use this to veg and put em outside to bloom? (IF and only if you feel safe doing that.. probably pretty timid in that location)
then you could leave this for veg, and you could even do clones instead of starting from seed (to cut down your time)
just a thought.
 
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Actually, I was kind of envious of his climate. I have temps into the triple digits a lot in the summer and below zero in the winter. I have humidity so low it rivals the Saraha desert. And a growing season that is less than 90 days long.
 

robsamui

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While your plant may have been 150 days old, it had only been flowering 35 days when you gave up--unfortunately, you made a huge mistake here. The total time the plant has been growing is immaterial--you can conceivably keep a plant in vegging forever. It is not until you flip the lights to 12/12 that the flowering begins. Thirty five days of budding is not nearly enough for any strain. Even very fast flowering strains are going to take about 50 days, with most taking 9-10 weeks or 63-70 days. Your plant has a definite sativa look to it, so it is a strain that probably has a 70+ day flowering period. At 35 days it is just barely starting to get into flowering. If you had let this run its full flowering period, you probably would have gotten something. There are certain things we look for that tells us the plant is done--you cannot really arbitrarily take the plant at any time--immature trichs will not get you high.

You also appear to be underlit for your space, which does affect all phases of growth of your plant. You need 3000 lumens per sq ft for vegging and 5000 lumens per sq ft for flowering.

I personally would not get auto seeds. How do you figure that autos are going to be able to help you keep the tent cooler? They need 20 hours of light a day. It is also a bad idea to put 2 plant in one pot. This will not maximize yield and in fact may have the opposite effect. More plants does not mean more yield. Your conditions are capable of producing x number of grams of bud. Crowding the plants does not up the yield. You also have very little headroom in your sideways tent, so I do not know if autos will be a good fit. It is not advisable to do any training to them (like you have done with these)as any stress at all will slow down their growth. You would probably be a lot better off growing clones from photperiod plants.
Thanks for this - I got myself into a mindset where I was convinced that things weren't working in the flowering stage, so I more or less gave up. Only yesterday I was reading more about flowering and realised that I'd messed up. Like you say, I should have stuck it out. I didn't know that plants took 9-10 weeks to flower fully. Oops. This is my first grow so it was a major learning curve.

Lighting? - I'll take your advice and check that carefully the next time around - middle of next month in fact.

The auto seeds were a thought due to me having to set my alarm to wake up every morning at 6.45 am to open the tent in the budding stage! Right now it's already light at 6.15 am and there's almost 13 hours of daylight. Therefore I kept the tent closed and in darkness until the lights kicked in at 6.45. I overslept one morning and after 2 hours zipped closed, the interior was at 44C (104F). When I do the next grow it will be 12.5 hours dark and 11.5 light, so no problems with this. Plus what you have told me about autos means they are not right for me full stop - thanks.

Thanks for all of this - everything noted and taken on board!
 

robsamui

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THG covered a lot..
i applaud you for producing some smoke for yourself in that location.
gotta be butt puckering growing there eh? ;)

you mention it's basically 12/12 there all season, why not use this to veg and put em outside to bloom? (IF and only if you feel safe doing that.. probably pretty timid in that location)
then you could leave this for veg, and you could even do clones instead of starting from seed (to cut down your time)
just a thought.
Well - I'm delighted I got anything at all, even with me messing up the flowering period!

I'm living on a small island and there is no way I'm going to risk growing outside. Probably 3/4 of the island is inland and looks deserted - mainly thin scrub and jungle. But somebody owns the land - and if a stranger turns up for "no reason", then it will be noticed. I don't fancy spending my last years in jail (I'm 66 already).

Clones is something I had not thought about. I'll try the next grow with this in mind . . . (See my more detailed reply to The Hemp Goddess.)

Thanks!
 

robsamui

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Actually, I was kind of envious of his climate. I have temps into the triple digits a lot in the summer and below zero in the winter. I have humidity so low it rivals the Saraha desert. And a growing season that is less than 90 days long.
Chuckle - and I bet UR just groaning at the way I went about it! Well, if I had your knowledge and experience, you can bet I'd have done it all differently.

This was my first grow. I can promise you that - thanks to your help - the next one will be infinitely better.
 
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No actually, things look pretty good given what you have to work with. We get a little spoiled i9n the US as we can either just go get what we want or order it on the internet. I think that you have done a fine job and that given more time you probably would have gotten over an ounce. We all were beginners at one time. And we all made plenty of mistakes as we learned. Here is a link to a thread with some good links. Some of the books are a little out of date, but you should get a good overall picture of growing. http://www.marijuanapassion.com/forum/showthread.php?t=69335

If you can get an exhaust fan and put it in one of the openings, that would do a huge amount to decrease the heat. Also, I run my flowering lights at night when it is cooler.
 

robsamui

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No actually, things look pretty good given what you have to work with. We get a little spoiled i9n the US as we can either just go get what we want or order it on the internet. I think that you have done a fine job and that given more time you probably would have gotten over an ounce. We all were beginners at one time. And we all made plenty of mistakes as we learned. Here is a link to a thread with some good links. Some of the books are a little out of date, but you should get a good overall picture of growing. http://www.marijuanapassion.com/forum/showthread.php?t=69335

If you can get an exhaust fan and put it in one of the openings, that would do a huge amount to decrease the heat. Also, I run my flowering lights at night when it is cooler.
Thanks for the book link - I'll study these.

Exhaust fan? When the ambient temp is 90 degrees plus, and the temperature of the air being drawn in is 90 degrees, and the tent is open, how can exhausting the hot air into the outside hot air, then replacing it with the same 90 degree hot air be of any benefit? It's just moving the same hot air around faster?
(Jus wonderin . . .)
 
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Indoor growing you are just going to try and find some way to cool your incoming air. There are some things we can get around and some we cannot. Like I said, I run my flowering lights at night when it is cooler. In the summer, we don't get incredibly cool temps, but it does help to run your lights at night.

With clones you can get by with a short vegetative period so you won't have to have your 24 or 18 hour light period too long. If at all possible, you should run your veg lights all the time as this will help limit stretch, encourage shorter bushier plants, and cut your veg time down. You can get the plants kind of close when they are small and run less light. If the plants can be squeezed into 1/2 of the tent and some kind of temporary reflective divider put up (this can be as simple as putting up a painted piece of cardboard), you can also run fewer lights. Remember we want 3000 lumens per sq ft, so less space equals less light with the same results.
 

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