Light & Container Review + Predatory Bugs

The MaxBloom Grow Light | Kingbo LED Grow Light | 10 Gal Planting “totes”

(I only review products I purchase and use, and have no affiliation with these companies, nor am I compensated in any way) 

So, I don’t know what black magic this company uses to make their lights so much better, but I can tell you two things about this light: (1) It works, boy howdy, does it ever, and (2) if you’re running a very small personal operation, this is probably too much light for you. Especially if you plan to have the light within a couple feet of your plant (because you’re in a small space, like a closet, cubby, or cabinet, etc.), you might want to reconsider and spend about a quarter of the amount on a more basic LED grow light.

On paper, the light looks great. It even looks like its efficacy, features, and growing power might be inflated with some marketing pomp. We got this one because it went on sale for about 40% off, so we thought, why not? It turned out to be everything it promised, and it nearly dazzled all our plants straight into the compost heap.

I must add a disclaimer that our plants were experiencing other stresses (below) at this time, so I’m sure all the problems we had with this grow can’t be attributed to the light, alone. The context for our unusual grow is below.  

We had a couple seeds we’d pulled from random flower over the past six years (including some brick weed we got in Texas for the purpose of making budder), floating around in a ziploc bag we moved cross-country no fewer than three times. We decided to plant all of them, just to see if there were any viable seeds left. We ended up getting about 15 sprouts from the 50 or so seeds, and from those, four formed healthy enough plants to make it to adulthood and first flowering. At the same time, we started about fifteen clones of our Groot, to do a little SOG (sea of green, flowering when young) experiment, and to give away to our friends.

Shortly after our very healthy little seedlings and clones started branching out, and about two days before we were set to flower, with several of the clones already starting to flower of their own volition, we received notice that the city would be coming with our landlord to inspect the premises. Ugh…so, yeah…it’s technically legal, but it’s also really stupid and pretty poor form to advertise growing weed in a rental (hint: they can kick you out), so we scrambled to hide all but a couple really lush landscape-centric plants I was growing on the balcony with my vegetable garden, also Groot clones, that blended in pretty well with the surrounding jungle. After that, the landlord and city couldn’t manage to get their shit together, and came back four times more over a space of ten weeks, effectively screwing our flowering schedule. It was interesting to see what the plants did with constant movement and inconsistent lighting schedule. We watched them bloom and stall multiple times. As of right now, one day before harvesting one of the four non-Groot plants, all four of these plants have flower on the branches that run the gamut from brand new, white trichome to rusty threads and steadily darkening bud. We’re erring on the side of done, in hopes that these sativa or sativa hybrid mystery plants won’t produce racy smoke.

Another unforeseen influence on the health of our indoor plants was the absolutely savage heatwave that marked the beginning of this summer; on top of having trouble keeping the temp down in the growing room as it was, our electric was out for almost two full days, which caused temps in our upstairs apartment to soar over 125°F. The outdoor plants never had to deal with more than 117°F (recorded outdoor temp at the time of power loss), and also benefited from being in a shaded area that receives indirect light and breeze through most of the day. After this, the indoor plants appeared to be thoroughly defeated, and frankly, done with the whole damned situation. They are can’t-evening-with-this-shit in the closet even as I compose this post. Soon, babies. Soon.

Indoor Plants that have “foxtail-ed” 

Outdoor Groot clones, happy and frosty

Through all this, we’ve been plagued with mites. They seem to be a regional issue, as every mite-attractive plant we’ve ever had in this place has immediately developed massive populations of the critters. We hand-washed our baby, pre-flower clones in neem oil, but since they started flowering early, we had to continue with a non-toxic, bud-safe organic solution, and decided on predators. We first introduced predatory mites, then slow-released batches of 50 or so ladybugs at a time over multiple months, to the absolute success of our outdoor plants, and while the predatory mites did a great job of establishing in the indoor pots and keeping the spider mite populations to a minimum, our stressed plants and weird growing conditions caused a decrease in the ability of the indoor plants to resist. As such, we have a lot of leaf damage, but very few mites. So few that we’ll be able to easily wash off any stragglers that remain, but the leaves have substantial scarring from when the infestation was fresh, whereas our outdoor plants have recovered completely and with little scarring or no visible mite activity, damage, or webbing.

MaxBloom 600W LED grow light

MaxBloom Grow Light
MaxBloom 600W LED grow light

So, aside from all the unexpected diversions, we were humming along nicely, seeming to get some strong central structure and stable plants, and then we activated the MaxBloom grow light. I’ve honestly never seen anything like the growth we experienced from that point forward. It seemed impossible. It may seem like a lot of growth really quickly is awesome; faster to the finish line, and all that. But what happens when a plant grows too quickly is that its support structures, including the trunk and root mass, suffer from lack of density. The plants foxtailed, which is exactly what it sounds like: they become abnormally long/tall, with a slight bulge in mass near the center, but with extremely little and thin, delicate upward branching. A lot of the new growth was malformed after using the MaxBloom; odd numbers of leaves, spindly, brittle end branches, burned leaves, and extremely fast vertical growth. It kind of looks like the entire plant is sitting on an ultra-high-powered fan that’s blowing everything upward and together. In the pics above, you can see how, when the plant is heavy with bud, those long-stemmed bolts bend low and will snap off if not held with some sort of support.

My guess is, if you’re growing in a large grow room where you have the ability to position your lights a lot higher and wash the plants in a more natural level of light, the MaxBloom would work really well. We’ve switched back and forth between the MaxBloom and our Kingbo LEDs, and it really seems to give our plants a critical rest and recovery time; it’s just too much for the small space and proximity to plant. We’re going to try it for an indoor vegetable aquaponics system we’re setting up in the kitchen and see if my theory holds true, since we’ll be able to mount it on the ceiling. More on that after we give ‘er a go.

10 gal. garden totes
Thumbs down on this product, unless they can be firmly anchored and not moved.

10 gallon gardening bags

Ever thought those black cloth gardening bags seemed intriguing, and weren’t sure if they were for you? Well, wait no more! They are not for anyone who cares about keeping their plants alive. The smaller bags may be useful, and the 10 gallon size might be good for moving plants, but if you have any love for your green friends, the bags aren’t something you’ll want to keep them in for long. They are definitely too good to be true. I imagine they’d be alright if you built a solid structure, like a crate, around them and then only moved them in that container. But the soft sides just absolutely annihilate roots of large plants, if they need to be moved.

We tried to re-pot our Groot mother plant into one of these things, and the first time we had to move it, I knew what the outcome of this experiment was going to be. Every time we had to move it, I could tell we were causing more and more damage to her roots. By the point we had time to go out and get another rigid 10 gallon container, our gorgeous mother plant was dead, her roots shattered a couple inches from the base from the movement of the bag. Luckily, we’ve cloned her enough and have spread her babies sufficiently around the LA area to ensure she lives on, but it was sad to lose a big beautiful plant like that. We’re talking about a plant with a sturdy trunk about double the diameter of my thumb. sadfacesadfacesadface

Stick with the basics: Kingbo for small ops

Kingbo 300 watt lights run around $50-70/each. If you’re looking for lights for a personal/home operation, we’ve been perfectly happy with these basic Kingbo LEDs, which have worked really well for us over the past couple years, have resulted in copious blooms, and sell at a really good price point. We use 2-3 of the 300W lights, at floor, overhead, and side angles for anywhere from two plants (one light) to fifteen (all three lights), and haven’t had a single issue.

We’re starting the harvest cycle tomorrow, and we’ll let you know how the buds fared.

Happy growing!

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