Jeffs Desert Challenge


This page will be a journal of sorts for what I am calling the Desert Challenge. Ever since I started growing I have found it impossible to grow outside in the Nevada desert. The sun basically microwaves the plants, killing them dead in hours in the heat of the summer, which averages way above 100 degrees for months on end. And no water/rain so the air is dryer than a popcorn fart.

I have tried many different things, from green houses to hydroponic gardens and no luck. I can grow on the edges of summer;  typically I can throw a few plants out in February to finish before the light tips too much to summer. The fall I can transplant already-vegged plants outside end of August, which gives them maybe a week to settle in but then the light here starts to get to 13/11 and with the right nutrients, blooming can begin.

I have not ever gotten anything from seed to weed totally outside, using the natural seasons light. To do so would mean getting plants going in July at the latest and thats when plants are at their tenderest so the sun just eats 'em up.

I know I am getting near the end of my growing days, so I have two projects going, sorta final projects. One, the Operation: Black Diesel is already documented here but the Desert Challenge will be to see if I can grow in the worst of the Nevada heat. The rig I have going on the side of the house (my test zone) is built from PVC and has 40% shade cloth spread over the top like a room. Further, woven into the shade cloth is a misting rig I got from Amazon, right now constantly spraying a fine mist over where the plants will go. I currently have one cannabis plant going in there, it is a probable Tahoe Cure and its a strange one. I planted that seed back there in February of last year...but the freak cold weather we had stunted everything so this thing never got to bloom before the light changed too much. The thing is, I have kept this thing alive and thriving this whole time, and we are closing in on month #3 of 100-120 degree weather every single day.

For actually hosting the plants I am using leftovers; I have 4 pots in two Autopot planter/feeders and I have 4 of my pots (drilled out waste baskets sitting in tubs of nutrients) in the other positions. All either are auto-fed by a 12.5 gallon reservoir back some 20 feet from the grow, in the shade. Everything is gravity fed so power is not an issue. The soilmix is my usual 75/25 mix of coco coir and perlite.

Testing in progress....

If all goes well, tomorrow or the next day I mean to transplant the 5 Gorilla Glue #4s and 1 lone Sunset Shertbet I have ready in my veg tent just for the occasion. These will get transplanted outside and left on a gentle cool mist for 24/48 hours to help them acclimate. Inside its about 85. Outside mid-day is 110-120. Being as most of these are GG#4, and GG#4 has a tendency to hermie, I don't want to overstress the plants.

This boys and girls, is the challenge: can I successfully use my techniques to grow in the desert, using a minimum of cash and equipment?

Stay tuned!

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Update: 27 July 2018:
The next day, good news, bad news: good news is all of the tubs I put out there and hooked up to the system are feeding nicely which means no clogs etc have happened since the spring. Bad news is, the new mister system I put up (came with cheap aquarium tubing) blasted apart in the night and just pooled water in one spot. Fixed, though I mean to replace this with better tubing.

So, I shut everything off, mixed up an inaugural batch of veg nutrients in the reservoir and transplanted the first two GG #4s from the nice controlled environment of my veg tent to the hostile world that is the Nevada Desert. As expected, the to go cup things made transplanting a breeze, easiest part of the whole day. Once settled I turned the mister back on to keep them cool(er) in their first taste of 120 degree heat. After 15 minutes of that I swapped the timer programming to go for 5 minutes every other hour. Will watch to see if thats enough; the constantly-on misting was kicking their ass. Plants always look like shit the first 24-48 hours as they get over the shock so the next day or so will be watching closely. If things look good 24 hours from now, I will do the next pair and if things are great the next day, the last two, and that will get this project on its final (loong) leg, meaning I just gotta keep them misted and the nutrient rez full...

First two GG#4s (front) with mystery pot in back
KTFB...
Jeff
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24 Hours later....

This may seem like a really brief time to wait before checking but out here, the hostile environment kills fast. In fact in the 3 hours after the above pic was taken, the mister system burst due to pressure over and over and the little ones were getting whacked by the sun, both very very wilted-looking within hours and stayed that way until sunset. 24 hours later (with a mist applied every 2 hours for 10 minutes) they looked like this around 06:00:
Back to life after 24 hours and a new environment.

 Looking good with rich dark green leaves....

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30 July 2018: Installed better misting system, same basic thing just not such a piece of shit as the first one. Worked like a charm first-try and since the last two were doing so well I decided to move the remaining four outside to join them. So as of now I have 7 plants in the Desert Challenge:

1 Tahoe Cure (probably) that has been there since 01 Feb 2018. Was barely a germinated seed when it got crammed into a pot back in February. It had a stunted youth and so never reached bloom stage before the light changed, thus has been this tight light vegging plant all summer long, at least 90 days of 100+ degree heat every day. Has a rather interesting pale green shade not noticed when I grew that strain indoors.

1 Sunset Sherbet, a rogue plant that came from a batch of dodgy seeds (other six molded immediately), been growing stunted since the get-go but eventually took off.

5 Gorilla Glue #4: These are mutant seeds from my mentor, might have some Citrus Sap and/or Tahoe Cure in the genetics, but is likely mostly GG.

Here we are this morning, kinda where things will stay for months to come. Plants are getting misted 10 minutes on every hour until I am sure they are acclimated, then the misting will go down to maybe 5 minutes every two hours, though the plants will tell us what they like...Since I made my system work with the same feed-lines and reservoir as Autopot (what I would use if I could not build my own) I have 4 plants in two of my rigs and 3 plants in Autopots under my 40% shade cloth...this is where I am placing my bet on the Desert Challege. I don't know if I have time for another go-around but Randy suggested something fascinating if I do: take clones of the heartiest of the out-door survivors as proven heat-resistant plants.

Anyhow here we are as of today...

I know the rest of the pic looks like hell but fuck it: this is my playground, my mad-scientist laboratory. Experimenting with this is the best mental fun I have available, it is relatively cheap, keeps me active both mentally and physically) and to an extent, it also provides cost-effective meds to make this more tolerable.

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Update 01 AUG 2018: That shade cloth is something. First, it was pretty cheap which makes sense because it was really cheaply made. At 40% reduction in light and UV I expected a little shade or something to be noticeable but it never has been. Have seven plants under it now and yesterday, day before maybe we were rigging the new misting rig up across the top of the shade cloth to be just above the plants when dispensing water. In the process, we made a hole about 2-3 inches square in it but figured that little hole would not make much difference. Go out there today and find that, while the rest of the crop looks great, the plant right under the hole looks like the top was microwaved or something....ordered new cloth pronto and sealed the hole to prevent more damage...so I guess it was doing something important after all....the desert sun is a bitch on wheels when it comes to growing....
Microwaved plant
Rest of crop is fine (bottom-right is the whacked plant)

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Update: August 2018
OK We are sort of pointing at the start of bloom soon, meaning stretch, meaning that lean-to shit had to go. Plus, now that I have introduced a vastly superior misting system, I needed something better to hang it on than the top of that shade cloth. Also, all this hanging of things from said cloth is resulting in gaping holes that fry plants at high-noon.

So over the past two mornings we tore down the old setup, took the PVC and after adding a few bits from Lowes, turned it into a giant (10 foot x 5 foot) frame with a cross-bar. Then we stretched a new shade cloth across it and carefully secured all edges with zip-ties. Looked like this when done:


Next, I took the existing mister, which is essentially a length of 1/4 inch irrigation tube with pre-installed misters, and strapped them to an about 8 foot length of 1/2 inch PVC, resulting in what I am calling the Desert Mist Pro 3000:
DMP 3000 in test...

The Desert Mist Pro 3000
Finally, we mounted one side of the frame to existing eye-hooks I had in the cement. The point of the design was it would loosely-hinge on that side and rest against the side of the house on the other. This worked out perfectly, much to my personal shock...
So now the roof is alot higher yet everything is secure. The misters work great. LOTS more room to work and everything feels stable. Finishing touch was adding a sort of "door" to the end, just some extra shade cloth connected to some PVC like a flag w/o a handle.

Behold, the grand opening video of the MGM Grand Cannabis Spa and Resort...

So....I am hoping this is it, I won't need to do anything else to that grow. Its largely on its own now. Good luck ladies....even the monster in back...


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WOW Update 15 August 2018:
These plants are teaching me something new every day. So far the misting has been working like a champ, although I hit a key problem with using automated misting to keep the plants cool with a gravity-fed system. To paraphrase the bard, there was water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. Or in this case, the misting was filling the tubs and all plant rigs with pure water, keeping any of them from being fed from the main rez. I solved this by using this big roll of black plastic to sort of make "bibs" for the plants, thus anything not landing directly into the puts were drained off the side; the plants started eating immediately. Before I fixed this though, I gave them all a nice shot of fish shit straight into the soil mix of each pot; if they were going to drink so much straight from the water hose, this will add great nutrients.

For my first grow (ever) I was instructed to use these two products for veg and bloom:

Great cheap blooming nutrients for cannabis, available everywhere.

This stuff is the most amazing nutrient for vegging plants.

So I just took a gallon of clean water, added two capfuls of fish shit to the water, shook well and watered all plants with it from the top soil.

And that is when things got interesting. So here we are, still mid-summer in the desert, and I have this neat environment to try to keep vegging plants safe in the desert sun and its working but I also know when they start blooming I needed to back off of much of the stuff I am using now...I honestly thought I had another month of vegging because I need the "stressful" part of the grow to be over with before I remove the shade cloth etc. Why? Because kids, this is Gorilla Glue we are talking about, absolutely a well known strain for going hermie on you with the least bit of stress...yet here is what I saw this morning on the monster cropped GG#4:
Its flower time baby...
Yep, thats right, they are all flowering....with 13.5 hours of daylight still (again, thought I had another month because thats about when the 12/12 thing happens for us)..add to that, these plants have seen nothing but veg nutrients (prevents blooming, or so they say) and yet against all wisdom here they are, blooming their green little asses off. I am concerned that since the GGs will be flowering while its still so intensely hot outside, the odds of getting a hermie in the bunch skyrockets so I will have to watch them like a hawk. At least until it cools enough outside to shock the plants on a daily basis. So once this rez of veg nutes is consumed, I will be switching to General Hydroponics Bloom and Micro-nutrients for the rest of the grow.

Peace until next time...

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Midway-ish Grow Update: 20 August 2018. The outdoor grow has settled down nicely, the shade cloth and the light misting once per hour has keep them alive and thriving thru months of 110F+ degree heat every day and almost zero rain. The Gorilla Glue monster crop is flowering nicely, the others are coming along about a week behind.  I made this video to show the status of things so far. I think we are just getting past the worst of the summer heat.....


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Update 31 August 2018: The two projects have now overlapped! Details here....

https://livingwithlewybodies.blogspot.com/2018/08/things-are-coming-full-circle.html

So now I have Black Diesels on the outside challenge and the monster clone I had taken is now in bloom. This should rock hard. And I figured out how to my a true hydro-soil-hybrid medium. Actually its a kludge because I had to put a rooted hydro plant in soil outside...click the link to see what I did.

Jeff

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Update 21 Sept. 2018: Its that special time of year again. No not my birthday or anything. Its the date when the avg temps around here have cooled enough to allow direct sunlight. Its been a 100 or less for a bit now to this morning I carefully unanchored the shade cloth from the PVC frame and rolled it back to expose plants to direct sunlight. I left the rest of the frame and mister rig in place for now. Its almost impossible to guess when any of these should be ready for harvest; lets just say, sometime between now and January 2019. Even though they are all mostly the same age, some have taken to outdoor life better than others and will probably finish sooner...or to be more accurate, they will be ready "on time" for their strain but some of the others experienced trauma more than once out there and that means all bets are off. Just like the monster cropped GG#4 out there; it looks to be the furthest along but that doesn't really mean anything since its been out there and going since last February.

So for today and maybe tomorrow I will keep a sharp eye on the plants during the daylight hours and the mister when it runs; it no longer is tied to anything other than once right in the middle to a cross-beam on the PVC frame. IOW balanced. Under normal circumstances that would be fine but we get some wicked wind storms out here in the desert.

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Update 25 Sept 2018:
Well, so far, so good. All of the plants are dealing with the new light regimen nicely and flowering is really starting to get going with most of them. On one end of the scale is the monster-cropped GG#4 with its 5-6 nice colas forming but on the other end is a Black Diesel that didn't adapt to the outdoor heat with anything resembling grace. That one went from OK to partly/mostly dead. Small handful of nice flowers on it that have grown since bringing it out rest of the plant is useless.

On the down-side, I developed not one but three different feed-line clogs I had to troubleshoot and to date, the only way I had of testing/fixing the many different kinds of valves and joints I use was crawling around the floor, disconnecting different sections and then blowing them out with my breath. Works fine, the Autopot float valve thing they have clogs alot or worse, freezes "open" meaning all 33 gallons of the reservoir will be a lake in the bloom then the following day. So fixed a clogged Autopot valve, then found another clog up a ways on the feedline in a T connector. At that point I thought I had it all but as luck would have it, there was an additional one clogging the lines going into the tub next to the clogged Autopot. This morning the tub that held a pair of Tahoe Cure I think was bone-dry. Thats where my belt-and-suspenders mindset wins where. Any other grow arrangement and both plants would have been dead today; if they were pure hydro, it would be hours. So my rig has both "soil" in the form of soilmix (75% coir, 25% perlite) sitting in a hydro container/base, which serves as a backup reservoir in case the main lines fail between the pot and the main reservoir. Everything is covering everything elses back. The soilmix acts as a buffer to the tender roots, protecting them from sudden temperature changes, not to mention sudden shocks from mis-applying nutrients, etc. The hydro part of this ensures constant and even nutrient distribution to the entire rootball and the tub always makes sure there is 5 gallons on-hand in case of failure from the main reservoir.

Anyhoo, things are looking fine there, or fine as they can be. I think I will succeed in demonstrating how to grow cannabis in the desert but not how to grow Cannabis Cup winners out there. They survived and barring accident could yield between 3-5 ounces of usable product.  I can see a few modifications in my head for "next time" if there ever is one. Also, currently I am stuck with six very nice clones of the Black Diesel strain I gotta find a home for; as soon as the last plant indoors is harvested, I gotta tear it all down and pack it up temporarily as we get some new floors put in...

More to come...

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Status update 27 Sept 2018:

I made a quick video of my inside and outside grow experiments for my mentor Richard and then thought it might be good to put them here too. Gives a semi-decent look at everything alot closer than the pics normally do...



Jeff
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14 October 2018: (Gradual) Harvest!

 Time to start really sampling the results of the Desert Challenge: its harvest time...sorta. Here is the deal. Chronologically these are all very mature plants (one been out there since last Feb)..but with them being in a kind of "alley" like situation, that limits the hours of direct sunlight as it goes overhead. With indoor, your lights are positioned plus you can do side-lighting to fill out the lower buds. Outside, can't do any of that....so the stuff on the very top of the plants is done/way done but you go 6 or 8 inches down and they look like they need weeks more. So what I do in this situation is what I know as a "gradual harvest".

A gradual harvest works like this. On the day you go to harvest, you only take about the top third or maybe half of the plant, usually down to about where the main canopy is. The more-mature bud is then harvested as usual (guess I better get to writing that page, last one missing) and the lesser stuff is left on the plant for another few weeks of sun, food, etc. Each plant goes how it will but you can tell visually when the rest are "done enough" and you simply harvest the rest of the plant. By this time, many of those lesser buds have filled out and you get more quality smokable bud to use. Otherwise, if you just took the whole plant, the initially done stuff is good for smoke but the entire rest of the plant is only good for making hash, wax, etc. Gradual harvest allows you to have more of the good stuff for smoke.

Now before I start with some pics, I need to tell/remind the reader of the odd menagerie of stuff that grows in my outside crops:

1. I have a special batch of seeds from a fellow grower where three feminized strains (GG#4, Tahoe Cure and Citrus Sap) partially hermied and cross-pollinated stuff, so what turned out was a bazillion feminized seeds that don't hermie on you, but are various levels of cross between these three powerful strains. These are great to use for projects and things as they do produce some pretty good medicine but where with many strains, you only get about 3-4 primary phenotypes or growth patterns (aphasia is screwing me here, can't recall right word), these seeds grow in a pretty wild variety of shapes, types and flavors. I used a batch of 20 for my last main big crop and out of these, at least 6 different types showed up, way way different from the others.

2. In addition to the above, the plants that are part of this project have experiences levels of trauma and shock never experienced by indoor plants, from the temperature extremes (40 degrees at night, 120 in the day), to the wind (desert is known for wind storms) to rain (not experienced indoors all that much) and more. And that leaves out all the patently stupid things I do to them as well.

3. One last wildcard in the bunch, the GG#4 from last winters crop, planted outside 1 Feb as a barely-sprouted seedling, it vegged some but at that time of year the light is totally into bloom so I fed it bloom nutrients from day-one. In truth, I never expected it to live...but live it did and thats when things got interesting. The reason I left it there to begin with was that a fellow grower/experimenter was messing with a technique he was called 12/12 from seed. With this approach, you just get your seed germinated and from then on its on 12/12 light. Now in his approach, while the plant was in the bloom light, he fed it veg nutes for the first few weeks or so, then bloom nutrients from then-on. The upshot is, the plant kind of knows what its supposed to do and will try to do it anyways so what you get with this is a plant that self-veges for about two or three weeks max and then just kicks in the flowering. What you end up with is something very much like an autoflower: a smaller than usual plant yet fully matured buds. Primo for closet growing where autoflowers are normally a good choice and the best of this is you can do this with any seeds as far as I know whereas autoflowers tend to be pretty expensive.

All of that was to explain why I thought the seedling in Feb might work; on the calendar it had like 2 weeks to veg and then 7 weeks of bloom before the light changed too much in the spring/summer. What happened though is a few cold snaps shocked this thing into barely growing at all; it didn't look sickly or anything, just wasn't really taking off. What ended up happening is by the time it did start to flower, the light was too far along and the plant then re-vegged and stayed out there all summer long until the light changed again.

Revegging a flowering plant is a technique called "Monster Cropping" and its quite interesting if you do it on purpose. What happens is, say you start with a very normal plant, normal branching, leaf distribution etc. When this plant goes through the monster cropping process of veg-flower-reveg, it somehow seems to short-circuit the plants normal growing pattern and when the plant reveges and then reblooms, the branching is random, almost chaotic, with tops everywhere, plant branching so dense you can barely figure out where to snip anything. But when properly done, it can get a standard plant to yield a shit-ton of pot relative to what it produces normally.

Since I didn't plan it or take care of it, it was just this chaotic mess out there. So that was one type of oddball. The next type is actually what I am aiming for...I may have mentioned this but I intentionally put plants of a certain age/stage of development out there with the key intent of the shock and trauma shocks the plant into locking in the state of the plant when I take out out there. When you move a plant to bloom, the very first thing that happens is whats called "stretch" or "bloom stretch"; all plants will double and sometimes triple their size in this time before it concentrates totally on flowering (at which point all growth stops).

For outside, I don't want plants the size of trees; between the cops and the kids, I wouldn't even get them to harvest before theft of confiscation. Yes its legal to grow in NV but not outside w/o a lockable green house and never less than 6 feet from any property line. Problem is, my options here are limited so I am growing in this little "alley" beside the house and don't want the plants taller than the walls. So what I have been trying to do is work out a repeatable method of growing lots of what are called single-cola plants. Basically the whole plant is only about 2 feet tall but is just one long cola with little to no branching.





Here are examples of single-cola plants with the fan leaves removed:


This is basically the entire plant; single stem festooned with nice plump crystally buds

I have been doing that trick for a few crops now, starting some younger plants blooming indoors and in the second week of bloom, when the plant has stretched all I want it to, I transplant it outdoors and the resulting shock stops the stretch and branching and by the time the shock wears off, it just works on budding. Keeps the plants short, compact...more...discreet. And you can really pack them in if you want.

Now these are cool and good meds and all but there is another type that happens out-doors only, for reasons I do not understand. Most buds look like what you see here but for some reason, be it the seeds, the weather, who knows but I get about 40% of my crop out there as "fox-tails" or buds that don't look like buds at all....

Classic Fox Tail bud...
 Now they may not LOOK like good/classic buds but let me tell you, these were some of the tastiest and most potent of that entire crop. Zoom the pic to see the heavy trichome coverage. All buds on these plants are like this, no normal and this mixed in. First time it happened I had no clue WTF happened to my nice GG#4 plants...but when they dried and I tasted them, WOW! So now when plants out there fox-tail, I keep them in a special place after dry and cure for special occasions. Look like crap but man they are good meds.

So at this point I have one completely-gone plant (the MC GG#4) and 3 half-plants still out there. The GG made some good bud but mostly good for hashish/wax. The other buds are all nice golf-ball sized buds drying on cardboard soup can cases on a shelf. The trim and bud for wax is drying in a paper bag. I was going to move my one remaining plant indoor/bloom outside to finish but my back/brain just gave out for the day. The growth on the GG was so chaotic, I simply could not make my mind focus enough to trim it, had to delegate that to my caregiver. Reason for pushing plants outside as quickly as possible I know I have a very limited number of weeks left before the weather gets too wintery for plants to survive, plus I need to shut down my whole operation inside because the floors in our house are getting replaced soon.

Since the Black Diesel is turning out to be such a vibrant and potent strain, I have a pair of "donors" vegging away in the veg tent; the week before I tear it all down, I take a dozen or more clones from these and start them rooting on shelf-top setups so that when the floors are done, I have a bunch of nicely-rooted Black Diesels raring to go....

Comments

  1. Jeff, as the plants are exposed to rain in nature I assume this is a mute question. I was just wondering if the continual misting wouldn’t run the risk of washing off some of the trichromes as it approaches maturity?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Randy; This misting will only continue until they start to bloom because by then the daylight/change of season should do its part in not killing my meds. Also, this frequent misting now is simply an attempt to help my Gorilla Glues over the shock of the transplant + 30-40 degree jump in temperature. However in any case I fully expect the heavy misting to be done before trichomes appear. I am pretty sure due to their nature that they would just "shake off" rain, forgot word that explains it but one of the biggest pot-growing regions in the US is the Pacific Northwest and they got a LOT more rain than I will be giving these girls....right now its more like a struggle for survival, withe the cannabis plants being the antelope and the sun is the mountain lion racing in for the kill. First 24 hours were crucial to me, the first week is also important but after that, they should be fine, barring the misting system breaking down, I forget to feed them (or over-feed, thanks dementia).

    Right now, just watching the first two survive until my replacement misting rig arrives, then the rest go out....

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