Liquid feeding–the process of applying nutrients with a liquid mixture–is the most common way to provide a cannabis garden with the nutrients needed to thrive. Used with soils or other growing mediums, liquid fertilizers may be the only input or utilized in conjunction with other feeding methods.
Liquid feeding begins by preparing a solution in a mixing tank with water. This solution is fed to the roots to promote healthy, strong growth. Because liquid nutrients are readily available to the roots, they are fast-acting–which can also damage your plants if you feed them too much.
In this article, we’ll look into what makes liquid fertilizer unique, as well as when and how to liquid feed cannabis plants.
Advantages of Using Liquid Fertilizer for Cannabis
Liquid feeding is the go-to method for both soil and soilless cannabis gardens. In soilless setups, liquid mixtures allow precise control over what nutrients make their way into your cannabis plants. With soil-based grows, you can easily give your plants a boost by applying liquid fertilizer if the soil doesn’t provide enough nutrients to sustain your plants. This precise method of feeding has given rise to some of the best and most consistent cannabis in the world.
When to Use Liquid Fertilizer for Cannabis
Your liquid feeding schedule depends on the type of cannabis garden you’re raising. If you’re running a hydroponic setup, you will regularly expose your roots to nutrient-rich solutions.
On the other hand, if growing in soil, you should liquid feed every other watering–if not less–depending on the complexity of your soil. At the very minimum, you might only liquid feed a few times throughout their growth until flowering has started.
In the final two weeks before harvest, only give your plants water to help the plants remove the nutrient buildup in the buds.
Just as important as knowing when to liquid feed is knowing when not to administer nutrients. In the final two weeks before harvest, only give your plants water to help the plants remove the nutrient buildup in the buds. This process, which leads to a cleaner smoke, is called “flushing.”
Avoid liquid feeding if your plants do not appear to be taking in the nutrients. This is known as a nutrient lockout and it occurs when the plants have been overfed; due to salt buildup, they are unable to take in any new nutrients.
How to Liquid Feed Cannabis
Like all other types of feeding, there are a few rules and tips to follow to ensure you are liquid feeding properly.
Deciding which fertilizers to use can be a difficult choice as liquid nutrients are often very expensive and confusing to understand.
All nutrients offer the nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK) ratio, which is shown as three numbers. These are the primary nutrients needed to grow plants. However, what a cannabis plant needs during its vegetative cycle is different from what it needs while flowering. A general rule of thumb is that a vegetative fertilizer should have high nitrogen, low phosphorus, and moderate potassium. An example would be an NPK ratio of 9-4-5. As a plant transitions into flowering, taper off the nitrogen and focus on phosphorus and potassium–seek a ratio around 3-8-7, for example.
Finding the best nutrient products for you will take time. Speak with your local store for recommendations to get started, but remember that spending the most money and buying all the products does not guarantee success.
How Much Liquid Fertilizer Does Cannabis Need?
Properly feeding your plants requires careful monitoring. Many growers start at a lower solution dose than recommended and work their way up until the plants respond optimally.
Some find that their plants thrive at a lower dose while others achieve the same results with more nutrients. The key is to be observant of your garden and pay attention to how the plants respond to fertilizer. Too little food and the plants will have stunted growth, while too much food can lead to nutrient burn and lockout.
Simple and versatile, it comes as no surprise that liquid nutrient solutions are so popular among cannabis growers. Liquid nutrients can be pushed through drip lines, misters, and hoses for easy and efficient delivery.
Although liquid fertilizers may be the only input your plants need, be sure to also familiarize yourself with the other feeding methods discussed in this series.
TREVOR HENNINGS – Lead image by Leafly