Cannabis nutes or nutrients are vital to a plant’s health, without them a plant won’t grow. Choosing the right nutrients, planning your feeding schedule and calculating dosage can be a daunting task, especially for the first time grower. However, there are a few simple steps you can use that will make feeding your marijuana plants much easier.
What are nutes
Nutes are simply nutrients for cannabis plants that provide all of the vital macro and micro nutrients that they need to survive. Nutrients generally fall into one of two categories; organic and synthetic.
Organic nutrients feed the tiny organisms that live in the soil, creating a natural mini ecosystem that is great for sustaining long term health plant health without the use of chemicals. Synthetic nutrients on the other hand are man-made chemical alternatives that do the same job, but rather than microorganisms living in soil and feeding your plant you will be adding the nutrients to the water that you feed them each day.
Organic vs synthetic nutrients
By using soils made up of nutrient rich substrates such as bat guano, worm castings and compost your plants have all they need to thrive. Tiny microorganisms will create a living soil that allows the nutrients to be continuously produced over time and steadily feed the plant throughout its life.
Many growers prefer using organic nutes because it is a natural way of growing and usually creates better tasting weed. However, growing with organic nutrients can sometimes take a little longer to achieve the same size and bulk as bottled ones. You can even make your very own DIY mix at home and create one of the best cannabis soils for weed plants.
Benefits of organic nutrients
- Cheaper – Your only cost is the compost or amended cannabis soil, once you have this all you need to do is water your plants. If you want to be super-efficient you can even create your very own compost using organic waste matter such as scrap leaves, twigs and vegetables.
- Healthier– Using organic nutrients means that you are feeding the plant how nature intended. Although the grow may take slightly longer, many connoisseurs claim that you cannot beat the taste and quality of organically grown weed.
- Environmentally friendly – Creating your own living soil means that you don’t have to put any chemicals in your soil and it pretty much sustains itself. Not only is it less hassle but it’s much more environmentally friendly.
The first step is understanding the nutrients, there are three main nutrients you will use, Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, known collectively as N-P-K. When you buy nutrients they will often have numbers on the label such as ‘2-1-6’, this is the ratio of these nutrients in the mixture (see below image).
Different mixtures will have different ratios, however as a rule of thumb marijuana plants generally need a higher percentage of nitrogen during the vegetative stage and then a higher percentage of phosphorus during the flowering stage.
What are veg and flower nutes?
You will see that lots of nutrient companies offer both a veg mix and a flowering mix in separate bottles. This is because the fertilizers in the two bottles cannot be combined without ruining the consistency of the liquids. Usually, they need to be mixed together in a bucket in equal measurements with water and mixed thoroughly before feeding the plants.
Benefits of synthetic nutrients
- More Potent – Because you can measure the exact amount of nutrients many people say that chemical nutrients are able to create higher levels of THC in the plant.
- Faster Growth – Chemical nutrients are instant and easy to absorb for the plant and so it is the most efficient way of feeding them. You can even foliar feed by spraying nutrients directly onto the leaves for faster uptake. Plus, once you have done a few grows and pick up on signs of deficiencies you can measure the nutrients to perfection based on how the plant responds.
- Suitable for Hydro – If you are growing hydroponically then it is best to use chemical nutrients. This is because organic nutrients contain microorganisms that can be a catalyst for mold and pests to gather in the water reservoir. Also most hydroponics setups use clay pebbles, rock wool or coco coir and none of these contain any nutrients.
Understanding how pH affects nutrients
Getting the pH levels right when watering your plants is just as important as getting the right measurements of nutrients. More often than not when there is a nutrient deficiency it is down to the pH level of the water not being correct, this is because without the right pH level in the water the plants will not be able to absorb the nutrients effectively.
What is the perfect pH level for weed:
- Soil: 5.8 – 6.2
- Coco Coir: 5.5 – 6.5
- Hydroponics: 5.5 – 6.5
For $10 – $15 you can purchase a pH meter to measure the pH of your water each time you feed your plants. Believe me, it will more than pay its worth back over time.
Are powdered nutrients better than liquid?
It’s difficult to say that all powdered nutrients are better than liquid ones, however they do have some major advantages over liquid nutrients. Liquid nutrients do have one pretty big advantage and that’s convenience. No mixing, no measuring, no calculators or weighing scales, you just simply follow the measurement on the bottle and that’s it. Feeding done.
So, if powdered nutrients are more hassle why use them?
- Longer shelf life – Usually nutrients that are dissolved in water have a greater chance of going bad over time. Whereas dry powdered nutrients can last for years if stored correctly.
- Higher quality – This isn’t always going to be the case, but with powdered nutrients you can see the raw material, whereas liquid nutrients are ready dissolved and so it is much more difficult to spot a substandard product.
- More potent – Powdered nutrients are much more concentrated than liquid because with liquid nutrients a huge proportion of what you are paying for is just water.
- Cheaper – The added weight of the water in liquid nutrients means they cost more to transport and store, and this is passed down to the customer making them more expensive. However, it is the convenience that you are paying for.
It is without a doubt that liquid nutrients are the easier option, but they aren’t necessarily the best for your plants. If you are a beginner grower you may prefer to use liquid nutrients purely for their ease of use. Although if you want to provide the best nutes for your cannabis, consider powdered, or better still organic.
Invest in a mini digital scale and a set of measuring spoons to accurately weight the doses of your powdered nutrients. Accuracy is key and messing up on your nutrients could cost you dearly.
What nutrients make bigger buds?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a single magic nutrient that I can tell you that will make your buds bigger. It is more about a combination of having the right nutrients along with the correct plant training approach.
Bigger buds start in the vegetative stage. Although the buds themselves won’t grow yet, it is the veg stage where you prepare your plant for that explosive bloom in the flowering stage. To correctly prep your cannabis plants you need to use methods such as topping, fimming, LST and ScrOG. By using these training techniques you will be able to bulk out your plant so that there are plenty of bud sites come flowering time. Providing your plants with a healthy dose of nitrogen during the vegetative stage will also encourage this growth and prepare your plants for the flowering phase.
Once the flowering stage is underway all of that preparation you did in the vegetative stage will have paid dividends and you should have a large leafy plant with plenty of bud sites. Now that your plants are in the flowering phase you can dial back the nitrogen and provide a bigger dose of phosphorus, this is the nutrient that will help them to flower and produce those nice juicy buds.
When should I start feeding my cannabis seedlings nutrients?
Cannabis seeds and the soil you are growing in will provide enough nutrients for the first few weeks. During the seedling stage cannabis plants are very delicate and giving them nutrients too early can kill them. Once your plants have produced at least 3-4 sets of true leaves you can begin using nutrients. At each growth stage of the plant’s life the nutrients will need to be adjusted. You can use the nutrient feeding chart below as a guide to how much of each of the macro nutrients you should provide your plants.
Nutrient feeding chart for cannabis
|Growth Stage||Nitrogen (N)||Phosphorus (P)||Potassium (K)|
Should I use nutrients every time I water?
No, you should not be using nutrients every time you water your plants. Too many nutes and you will cause nutrient burn which can take weeks for your plants to recover from. Less is more with cannabis nutrients, you can always add more, but you cannot take nutrients away once they have been fed to your plants. Ideally you should be alternating between nutrients and pH’d water. So, you do one feed of nutrients, followed by one feed of plain pH’d water.
Can I use both synthetic and organic nutrients?
Yes you can use both together, but bear in mind that if you are using organic living soils containing things like bat guano, worm castings and compost these are already rich in nutrients. So it would be wise to adjust the dosage slightly according to this and then you can gradually increase it based on how your plants respond.
Always err on the side of caution with nutrients, and to begin with use less than you think you need. Most growers that grow using organic nutrients do not bother with synthetic soil, simply because it sort of defeats the purpose of using organic nutrients in the first place. However, because organic grows tend to take a little longer, some growers like to give their plants a head start with synthetic nutes, before dialing them back during the later stages to allow the plant plenty of time to flush them out and improve the flavor of the buds.