Growing, and Bowie, and Mites, Oh My!

I visited the Magical Grow Palace today to check on our sweet little buds. We have four weeks to go before harvest, and we’ve had some latent big problems around calcium and phosphorous after some n00b mistakes were made. This go-round we’ll be getting Shark Shock (aka Shark-anything or Great White) and Purple Alien. They’re both recovering nicely and looking good after our mineral deficiency scare turned both strains completely yellow overnight.

It’s kind of amazing, actually, how finicky these plants are. I wouldn’t have thought it, but I suppose the plants of yesteryear are comparable to today’s high-producing specialty strains in the same way a wild dog is different from a purebred English bulldog. You don’t distill genetics in any being to produce outrageous effects without compromise. Slight temperature and light fluctuations, imperfect nutrient balances — and I really mean “imperfect,” not “pretty messed up”; we’re talking tenths of points of pH disruptions in some cases, can really wreak havoc. It’s not of huge importance when you’re in vegetative stages because you can do whatever you need to get them where they need to be. Once you get to flowering, the plants need to be handled with some delicacy.

About two days after we saw our first trichomes, we ran into mites. Luckily, having an eye for detail and a good, strong sense of paranoia, I spotted this when but a single gossamer thread stretched from one leaf to the next. Careful examination yielded a single mite and no more silk, but I’ve been gardening long enough to know how quickly those little bastards can get completely out of control. I almost had a heart attack when I saw that single web, worried the mites would spread to other crops in the Palace. Luckily, we treated early and aggressively enough that this wasn’t the case.  I am dedicated to producing organic bud for my cooking, and in the past haven’t had a lot of luck with my vegetables and organic mite treatments. I thought the Shark and Alien were goners for sure. We immediately began treatment with cinnamon spray, repeating every third day for two weeks, and vanquished the dread creatures handily before they could do harm. We cut the soap from the mixture after two treatments and have been maintenance spraying the plants once weekly with the spice mix.

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Cinnamon Spray
1.5 gallons distilled water
1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground clove

*Ivory liquid dish soap (added to spray bottle, not cooked mix)

Boil for 1 hour, cool completely. Fill a spray bottle (full size, like you’d find at Home Depot) and add 3-4 drops Ivory soap. Don’t add more. Cut the soap if your flowers are developing. Make sure you wear a mask and eye protection — the cayenne will irritate your airways and mucus membranes. Seriously, don’t use this without protection. Turn off any fans that might blow it around. Make sure you spray the whole plant, including the undersides of the leaves. Spray the dirt. Repeat every 3-4 days.

In addition to the spraying, we did hand wash each of the plants in the shower, gently and with a soft, clean cloth. Having done this with infestations of scale and white fly on my indoor ficus trees, I know careful hand washing can really dramatically reduce critter population and give your plants the best chance at successfully kicking a potential infestation. Immediate, and I mean immediate action is always required when you realize you have a parasitic insect problem.

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Something that seemed to really help (and also provided an opportunity to see some really weird nature stuff at work) was that we were growing other crops in the tent — namely, dragon-tongue beans. I harvested the beans from a batch of organics we got the grocery store, and I was really just experimenting to see what would happen by starting bean sprouts under the same conditions as a flowering weed plant. Weird shit, let me assure you. Firstly, it really stressed the baby beans. They grew too quickly and flowered when they were too young. Stems on all three sprouts split up the center. There were a couple benign little flies in the tent (like tiny houseflies) that I left undisturbed in hopes they’d pollinate the beans. The beans (intentionally left untreated) ended up playing host to the displaced mites, which not only covered the short, split stems, but also covered ever space available on the bodies of the little flies. It was….kind of terrifying. We sprayed for a week, then removed the beans to outside the house, where the mites quickly died in the cold. The beans have now been treated, however, they’ll have to weather this El Nino season without further assistance.

shark-6weekssmPictured is our Shark in its 6th week of flowering.

How do you treat mites? What have been your biggest growing challenges? I’d love to hear from you.

* * * * *

I feel it wouldn’t be right or proper to pass by this day without mentioning the shock of Bowie’s passing. The balance of magic, here on earth where us mere mortals reside in tight coils, has been disrupted, shifted. In homage to him, perhaps we need to make sure we all create a little more magic so we can right this imbalance. With a heavy heart I wish you good night, good smoke, good sparkles, and as much good love and manage as you can muster and push out into the cosmos.


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