marijuana growing

Crumbs Of The Crop: How To Move On From A Failed Cannabis Grow Season

Do you ever get to the end of a cannabis growing season and feel disappointed, if not outright angry or heartbroken, about the outcome?

I’d guess that all of us growing marijuana know how it feels to work hard for your plants every day, follow all the rules of professional cannabis cultivation, use the best grow lights, the best hydroponics nutrients and procedures — but not get the satisfying harvest you were counting on.

Of course, there could be technical reasons for a failed season that you must examine and analyze post loss. What went wrong and why it went wrong are of paramount importance. Problem is, sometimes you can’t figure out what happened, no matter how hard you try.

I just closed out a season I was sure would be plentiful and lucrative. I’d seen mistakes from my previous seasons, and vowed never to make those same mistakes again. I procured award-winning seeds that I expected would give me buds nearly a foot long. I purchased a new type of HID grow light and an expensive new LED grow light to add to my lighting array, and I switched up my nutrients.

Not only that, I committed to babying my plants with loving care. In the past, I’d only spent a few seconds or minutes per day in the grow room most days, mainly to check watering needs, temperature, humidity and plant height.

In my latest grow season, however, I practically camped out in my grow room. I forced myself to pay close attention to every plant, from top to bottom, every. Single. Day.

I even went so far as to mix different nutrient programs for different plants after I saw that some were unable to handle the standardized program I’d been delivering to all plants at the same time.

I had those grandiose visions in my head that all experienced growers must have — visions of buds that start near the bottom of the plant and go all the way to the top. Visions of internodes filled with floral growth. Visions of three or more pounds of dried buds per 1000-watt grow light. Visions of resin glands piled on top of each other and buds so strong that even dabtard friends get blasted taking a couple of hits.

Shattered Cannabis Growing Dreams

I was sure that because I was doing everything right, caring for this set of plants more than I ever had before, I was going to get a magnificent harvest and make a lot of money.

But gradually, my dreams were shattered.

The first bad thing that happened occurred during the initial three weeks of bloom phase. It’s during this time that my plants usually double their grow-phase terminal height and then gain only a couple of inches after that, and most if not all the height gain is solid bud.

But this time, my plants not only gained more than double their grow phase height, but most of the height gain was in the form of disgustingly long internodes, so long that on some plants there was 7–12 inches between budding sites.

I’d go into the grow room and not believe my eyes. If I’d been growing an equatorial sativa or similarly vine-like genetics, I might have understood why these long, vacant internodes were developing.

But I had three hybrid strains marketed to me as having approximately equal measures of indica and sativa. I’d previously seen these strains in bloom phase and they were nowhere near as tall and the internode spacing was much shorter.

Excessive bloom-phase stretch and long internodes can be caused by environmental and input factors such as too much heat in the crop canopy, or by feeding plants too much nitrogen.

They can be caused by defective nutrients, or by an incorrect root-zone pH that locks out or underfeeds phosphorus and potassium while overfeeding nitrogen.

It can also be caused by genetics — not just sativa-dominant genetics, but by poorly bred strains that have a built-in tendency for excessive stretch.

Excessive internodes and height gain cause much lower yield, plants that grow into the lights and get burned, and gangly, weak-limbed, unstable plants that have to be supported using stakes, cages or trellises.

I was shocked and appalled when I harvested less than a pound of bud per light. My dream of a heavy harvest and a season of wealth never materialized.

When Marijuana Growing Goes Wrong

When you see a cultivation problem that costs you yield, time and money, you want to know what causes it so you can eliminate it for next time.

To figure out what went wrong, I’d have to run a new grow season using the same genetics, but with changes to my grow-room equipment and nutrients, to investigate what happened and see if I could fix it.

I felt immense frustration about having to repeat the season after spending several expensive months on one that was so disappointingly fruitless.

Above all else, the main thing I’d been asking myself is: Why do grow-room failures hit me so hard — not just financially, but also psychologically?

I realized that my self-esteem, confidence and sense of security are derived from my cannabis growing. I’ve invested so much money and hope in my grow ops and crops that their success or failure determine my self-image and self-worth.

When I have grow-room success, I feel like a winner. When my plants get sick or perform poorly, not only do I feel bad for my suffering plants, I feel like a loser.

Why does it matter so much? Because I don’t have mastery of many other things in life. I can’t fix my own car or computer. I don’t know how to cook. But I do know how to grow great ganja.

Or do I?

When a cannabis crop failure happens, I get scared, worrying that my growing mastery isn’t so masterful after all, that I don’t know as much as I think I know, and I’m only a couple of crop failures away from being broke and homeless.

I know other growers who’ve felt these same feelings. When a marijuana growing season goes bad, and especially if it happens in a couple of consecutive seasons, some growers feel like giving up on growing altogether.

It’s too painful emotionally, even heartbreaking, to work for four or five months on a crop cycle and have it go wrong. Just think about it — two failed seasons, especially when you’re growing from marijuana seeds instead of clones, can cost you nearly an entire year of grow-room investment.

So, how did I overcome these feelings of guilt, despair and hopelessness so I could muster the motivation to start a new cannabis season after a disastrously disappointing season? I used the following tactics.

Letting Go Of Cannabis Growing Failure

Being attached to outcomes is necessary, otherwise why would we do anything? If we can’t see a payoff at the end of a venture, there’s not much reason to do it.

On the other hand, life isn’t fair, and there are very few sure things in this world. Not to sound pessimistic, but nothing good lasts forever, and every silver lining has its cloud. I spent several weeks in bitter regret and recrimination about my failed cannabis growing season.

I looked back at the failed season in an analytical way, trying to understand what went wrong.

Then I had to force myself not to think about the failure anymore. I erased it from my mind as quickly and completely as possible. I let it go. But it took a lot longer to erase from my mind than I expected.

When It Comes To Crop Failure, You Must Forgive Yourself

If you’re good at guilt-tripping, you can find a reason to blame yourself for everything that goes wrong in your grow room.

Let’s say the season’s failures came solely because you trusted the reputation of a cannabis seed breeder or a clone seller, and bought some strains that you were sure would do well, but that turned out to be duds.

Obviously, the real culprit in that situation is the seed breeder or clone seller who misled you about the quality and performance of their marijuana strains.

On the other hand, it was “my fault” that I didn’t do enough research or exercise enough skepticism to warn me off those strains.

Let’s say the season’s failures came because I made the wrong hydroponic nutrient choices, or used grow lights and bulbs that were inferior or defective.

Again, I could hate myself for not doing enough to identify how inferior the nutrients or grow lights were.

Ultimately, though, hating and blaming myself is self-destructive. Maybe I could have somehow figured out ahead of germination that these cannabis seeds were going to grow out to be plants with long internodes. But my mistake was trusting someone I believed was trustworthy, and I can’t hate myself for that.

To get through my cannabis crop failure, I had to forgive myself.

Cannabis Cultivation Hope Springs Eternal

Whenever I suffer a grow-room failure, I always remember my grandmother’s words. She would tell me why hope is so important if you want to live a good life, or live at all.

My grandma was a friend of Helen Keller’s, who was born in 1880 and, after suffering an illness as an infant, become deaf-blind at a time when deaf and blind people were often marginalized by society. Nobody wanted them, they were viewed as liabilities, and they often lived lonely, short lives.

But thanks to the tremendous amount of hope held by Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan, who taught her to communicate, Keller defied the odds to become an internationally known socialist, author, feminist, anti-war activist and labor leader.

Farmers of all kinds know that growing things is an act of faith and hope. Whenever you plant cannabis seeds or clones and begin a new season, you’re living in hope by putting your faith in a happy outcome that isn’t guaranteed, but is imagined and worked for to make it real.

The Will To Win At Working With Weed

Life is like a cannabis garden. You start something, nurture it, and hope it blooms into something you love.

Graduating from college, starting a relationship, having children, creating a business all begins with hope and planning sustained by grit and skill, and can result in a big win.

Sometimes things go wrong and you end up with a terrible loss.

I admit that after that crop failure, I was tempted to quit cannabis growing altogether. I’d spent at least 20 hours per week in my grow room, lovingly pampered my plants, and was absolutely sure I was going to get my biggest, most perfect harvest ever.

I even had dreams about the grow season, seeing every plant loaded with branch-bending buds, smelling the terpenoid aromas of diesel, lemon, skunk, cherry and pine.

I dreamed of a plush payday from that harvest and had already made plans for grow-room upgrades and even a short vacation, my first one in years.

So, when I saw those plants stretching and the internodes lengthening, it wasn’t just a horticulture problem — it was a life problem. I felt I was cursed, like the universe was punishing me.

It had been a month after I shut down that dismal grow and I still hadn’t renewed the grow room to start another crop. Usually, before I start flushing my current season, I was all ready to grow a new season with germinated seedlings or rooted clones. But not this time. I’d lost my motivation and excitement for cannabis growing.

I was moping around feeling sorry for myself, watching a TV interview with a boxer beaten badly by an opponent who wasn’t expected to last more than a couple of rounds. The boxer said he’d been upset, angry and dispirited after losing the fight. He considered retiring from pugilism, even though it was his life’s passion.

His manager and wife told him he had nothing to gain by giving up, that he was born to be a winner. They ordered him to book the rematch, get back into training camp, and beat the opponent who had beaten him. And that’s just what he did.

I figure, hey, if he can do it, so can I. I started a new grow, changing a couple of things to see if those elements were what had caused the excessive internode spacing and height gain. This time, the plants performed admirably. You can bet I breathed many sighs of relief during bloom phase.

I had to go through a process of self-forgiveness, rekindling hope, and reacquiring a fighting spirit before I was ready to start growing cannabis again. Those are traits and skills any successful cannabis grower must have, and they’ll serve you well in other areas of your life, for the rest of your life.

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