hydroponic nutrients

Hydroponic Nutrients Brands Put To The Test By One Determined Cannabis Grower

Several years ago, I was confused and frustrated by claims and counterclaims about which brand of hydroponic nutrients would grow me the biggest, stickiest buds.

I’d inquired about nutrients at hydroponics stores and cannabis expos, talked to other pot growers in person and on internet cultivation forums, and read and reread the likes of High Times and Skunk magazine. All I got in return were arguments and assertions about hydroponic nutrients brands, but not any verifiable facts.

I wanted to know which brand of hydroponic nutrients, if any, would help me grow the healthiest cannabis and get maximum-yield harvests of the most valuable weed. Some people told me it doesn’t matter what nutrients you use, but I’d already seen that some brands were clearly superior to their competitors. I decided to conduct a grow-op test and find out for myself, once and for all.

It took me several grow-op seasons to complete my nutrient testing, but despite the investment of my time, it really wasn’t so difficult to do. All that’s required is cultivation consistency, organization, and of course your time.

What you first need for a valid comparison test of hydroponic nutrients are stable mother plants that produce identical clones for several grow cycles.

You also need the same grow room, with identical operating conditions. When clone genetics, plant numbers, grow lights and grow bulbs, indoor grow-room climate, root-zone media, water quality, and protection from pests and diseases are all the same — and the only thing different is the hydroponics brand you’re using — you’re able to see how different brands compare.

Now, let’s take a look at each nutrient brand I used, plus my identical grow setup for each:

  • Nutrients: General Hydroponics three-part Flora Series base nutrients, General Hydroponics FloraBloom bloom booster
  • Hydroponics system: Rockwool slab recirculating
  • Genetics: Stable Jack Herer clones
  • Bloom-phase duration: 73 days
  • Grow lights: Three 1000-watt fixtures using Eye Hortilux Blue Metal Halide in grow phase, and Eye Hortilux Super HPS bulbs in bloom phase
  • Harvest total dry weight: Four pounds
  • Comments: pH instability in grow and bloom phase. Sedimentation. Some nutrient burn at recommended dosage.
  • Nutrients: Botanicare Kind Base Grow Bloom three-part system, Botanicare Hydroplex Bloom Enhancer Plant Supplement 0-10-6
  • Hydroponics system: Rockwool slab recirculating
  • Genetics: Stable Jack Herer clones
  • Bloom-phase duration: 71 days
  • Grow lights: Three 1000-watt fixtures. Eye Hortilux Blue in grow phase, Eye Hortilux Super HPS in bloom phase
  • Total dry weight: Three pounds, 11 ounces
  • Comments: Hard-to-mix base nutrients. pH instability in bloom phase. Sedimentation. Lack of cannabis-specific grower support.
  • Nutrients: Canna Aqua Vega two-part for grow phase. Canna Aqua Flores for bloom phase. Canna PK 13/14 bloom booster
  • Hydroponics system: Rockwool slab recirculating
  • Genetics: Stable Jack Herer clones
  • Bloom-phase duration: 70 days
  • Grow lights: Three 1000-watt fixtures. Eye Hortilux Blue in grow phase. Eye Hortilux Super HPS in bloom phase
  • Total dry weight: Four pounds, three and a half ounces
  • Comments: Leaf tip burn at recommended dosage. Sedimentation. Lack of cannabis-specific grower support.
  • Nutrients: Humboldt Nutrients Three-Part Kit and Ginormous liquid bloom booster
  • Hydroponics system: Rockwool slab recirculating
  • Genetics: Stable Jack Herer clones
  • Bloom-phase duration: 69 days
  • Grow lights: Three 1000-watt fixtures. Eye Hortilux Blue in grow phase. Eye Hortilux Super HPS in bloom phase
  • Total dry weight: Three pounds, nine ounces
  • Comments: Sedimentation. Difficult to adjust pH. Mixing problems.
  • Nutrients: Technaflora B.C. Hydroponic Nutrients Grow, Boost, Bloom three-part base nutrients. Technaflora Awesome Blossoms bloom booster
  • Hydroponics system: Rockwool slab recirculating
  • Genetics: Stable Jack Herer clones
  • Bloom-phase duration: 72 days
  • Grow lights: Three 1000-watt fixtures. Eye Hortilux Blue in grow phase. Eye Hortilux Super HPS in bloom phase
  • Total dry weight: Four pounds, two ounces
  • Comments: Sedimentation. Difficult to adjust pH. Mixing problems. No cannabis-specific grower support.
  • Nutrients: Advanced Nutrients Sensi Grow & Sensi Bloom pH Perfect hydroponics base nutrients. Advanced Nutrients Big Bud bloom booster
  • Hydroponics system: Rockwool slab recirculating
  • Genetics: Stable Jack Herer clones
  • Bloom-phase duration: 67 days
  • Grow lights: Three 1000-watt fixtures. Eye Hortilux Blue in grow phase. Eye Hortilux Super HPS in bloom phase
  • Total dry weight: A few grams under five pounds
  • Comments: Accurate pH buffering. Cannabis-specific grower support.
hydroponic nutrients

The Jack Herer strain was used as the control in this experiment.

Setting Up My Grow Environment For Testing Hydroponic Nutrients

To make comparison testing easier, less expensive and more consistent, I chose a simple feed program, using only each brand’s midprice hydroponics base product and foremost solo bloom booster.

The cost of nutrients for each test season was similar, within the range of $55, give or take. There was no noticeable deterioration of mother plant, of clone vigor, or phenotype consistency during the testing period.

Grow-phase duration totaled 28 days from when rooted clones were transplanted into the rockwool system. I placed six clones per 1000-watt light, with grow bulbs replaced every season. My sealed grow room was free of pests and diseases, with no added CO2. Grodan rockwool in each grow ensured the root zone was neutral. Rockwool is among the most sterile and inert root-zone media for growing cannabis, and this neutrality makes a great base for testing hydroponic nutrients.

Before using a brand’s nutrients, I called the corresponding hydroponic manufacturers to ask for their grower support department, identifying myself as a legal cannabis grower who wanted to use their best base nutrients and bloom booster supplement, following their recommendation.

Some manufacturers don’t even provide technical advisors to customers. Of the ones that did, only the General Hydroponics and Advanced Nutrients representatives would discuss cannabis cultivation. The Advanced Nutrients rep was more helpful and knowledgeable than any other brand’s employees. And I could tell the Advanced Nutrients advisor was a professional cannabis grower.

The Results Of Testing Hydroponic Nutrients For Cannabis

After I compared results from the test seasons, I took the additional step of conducting my own side-by-side comparison between the top two yielders, Advanced Nutrients and Canna. Advanced Nutrients out-yielded Canna by seven ounces, and those same plants were ready for harvest several days earlier than the Canna-grown Jack Herer clones.

With my brand loyalty now firmly established, I once again called Advanced Nutrients technical support to ask if, why, and how I should use the extensive menu of Advanced Nutrients products, given that I’d achieved respectable results using only the brand’s pH Perfect base nutrients and Big Bud bloom booster.

Advanced Nutrients makes several different bud boosters for cannabis bloom phase, rather than just the one phosphorus-potassium product that competing hydroponics nutrient manufacturers offer. I challenged the rep to explain why I should buy three additional bud boosters to go along with Big Bud.

The advisor explained that cannabis has multiple bloom sub-phases that benefit from targeted bloom boosters, which helped me to understand the point of using the range comprised of Bud Ignitor, Big Bud, Bud Candy, Nirvana and Overdrive.

So, I used the full suite of Advanced Nutrients products in my next Jack Herer season and noticed three important outcomes:

  1. The plants were ready for harvest after only 61–63 days in bloom phase. That was the fastest this phenotype had ever finished.
  2. The yield was the highest ever for these clones, nearing three pounds per grow light, a yield I had longed for and was very excited to weigh up. That much yield isn’t common for Jack Herer.
  3. I saw acceleration of resin gland formation and increase in the number and size of resin glands.

And because the Advanced Nutrients pre-flowering/early flowering product Bud Ignitor promotes earlier onset of budding plus more budding sites, my bloom phase was 4–7 days shorter, saving me money, work and time.

Jack Herer isn’t known as a particularly high-yielding strain, and by the time I was done with my hydroponics nutrient testing, I moved on to different strains, in search of the best phenotypes for a new generation of mother plants.

Overall, my testing season laid to rest the confusion that had plagued me about hydroponic nutrients brands. The consistently outstanding yields I now get in my grow room are the result of providing my plants the best climate control, pest control, air and water that I can, along with the verified best hydroponic nutrients for growing cannabis, Advanced Nutrients.

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