Back to square one – from a Royal Queen Seeds veteran
Patron felt like I was going back in time. Royal Queen Seeds was the first
breeder I bought seeds from – Amnesia Haze Automatics being the first. And also
the feeling not really to know what I’m doing wrong was there again.
One year after my last run with RQS Critical – my last RQS run until El Patron – I have now a lot more experience under my belt and equipment in the closet.
I had the opportunity to test out Lien-Tecs very own interpretation of a Samsung Lm301b chipboard including the now commonly used photo- as well as far-red LED chips on a passively cooled fixture. The system came with an LCD display with a dimmer attached to set the power as desired. In the 2’x2’ (60 cm x 60 cm) tent area I dimmed the light down to values between 120 W (seedling, veg) and 160 W (early and mid flower).
For air circulation I used one low powered static fan inside the tent and an AC Infinity Cloudline T6 for filtering and air-exchange. I aimed to grow four plants total in 3 gal smart pots filled with my go to soil: BioBizz Light Mix. Not too hard on the seedlings and cool for the first weeks alone, while also (usually) easy to maintain when combined with the BioBizz nutrition line, which I also did.
Seedling and Vegetation Stage
had a rough summer to germinate in. I got my four favorites and started the
run, at first separated under two different grow lights, but altogether after a
brief time of three weeks.
Right after germination I recognized the first problems: All four plants seem to “forgot” to develop one of the second-set branches, resulting in a weird triangle shape. Cannabis plants usually retain a decent symmetry for a longer time after sprouting – especially under LED lights. Followed by the first signs of nutritional malady they grew okay in veg. Longer internodial distances and a vague signs of nitrogen deficiencies were always visible. “I had it worse…” – I thought and wanted to let them go vital before switching to flower.
For training I’ve chosen my favourite LST method with the metal hooks you can read about on my website here.
I switched to flower rising the power usage of the light to 160 W from the wall, while I reduced the hours of light per day to 12 hours. I also raised usage of the nitrogen source in order to get ready for the flowering stretch. Up to three weeks into 12/12 the plant is still creating large amounts of green material such as branches and sun leafs and grows exponentially, raising its height by up to 300%! In the same time I increased usage of the potassium (K) and phosphorus (P) parts of my nutrition plan and let it buffer up in the soil to be ready to use mid flower, where a plant is the hungriest.
El Patron is a late stacker. You have to wait to the very end until she abruptly stops pushing out bud volume. I was greeted with medium to medium-high yields of bud. Was the quality worth all the hassle?
The Product – taste, potency, flavor and smell
To answer that question: For me, definetly. I am a taste/personal use grower, so yield is not the first aspect when it comes to growing. I want new tastes, flavors, structures, views and colors. While the colors were nothing special in this run (although I tried – running sub 20°C in the nights) the initial smell is mesmerizing. The first thing I thought was: ”Oh, it’s just like Lemon Haze! “, which is very commonly the first distinct terpene variety you experience as a rookie cannabis consumer. If you squeeze it you get whiffs of cookies and cream as well as parsnips, without being too dominant. Smoking it reminds me of oldschool Amnesia taste, also no surpise due to the AMG lineage.
The high drops in hard and head-heavy: I got talky as usual and was in urgent need to eat a lot of food in a short time. I also got pretty much useless doing tasks that involve a lot of different steps at the same time, so I went and did another round of macro shots of the now dried out plant. The buds were exceptionally dense (apart from that one pheno that didn’t) and became rock-hard in the initial drying phase. There will be some remoisturization going on, burping and curing her, but at a first inspection – very grindable and enjoyable material! Should also be very good for extracts like hash or rosin.
If you are a hazelover who needs head-high in the afternoon to clean up the living room (very slowly!) – here you go! El Patron by Royal Queen Seeds – Thanks again for the opportunity to grow a new variety. Its a great experiment to set “new grounds” for a new strain!
With the on-going
legalization in the US and Canada many awesome crosses have emerged from the
vast number of varieties developed in that part of the world. Next to OG Kush,
Cookies or modern strains like all the Gelatos there is one name to be heard
all the time: Zkittlez.
Lemon Zkittle by Dutch Passion is a derivate from Las Vegas Lemon Skunk and cupwinning Zkittlez relative. Her THC content exceeds the 20% as all modern strains seem to do. The phenotype I have grown shows some differences to the given description by Dutch Passion due to the conditions she was in. I grew her in winter, so at lights-off the ambient temp in the tent could drop somewhat under 20°C which gave her a little purple shade in the end. I also used prefertilized soil by Kanamu Pacha and solid nutrition in the form of the GreenHouse Feeding Bio Line. So no bottled nutes were used this time, only organic material that has to interact with the medium and water. The resin production of the Strain is outstanding, and you will end up with a carpet of trichomes on the leaves and flowers.
From seed to weed: 143 days (veg 76 days, flower 67 days)
Wet harvest weight (wet trimmed): n.a.
Final dry yield: 188 gr (6.6 oz)
Effect: extreme strong, head heavy, paranoid, numb/dry mouth, long lasting
Taste: Due to some fuckups by me on the hay side, subtly lemony, next to no Zkittles flavor
Grow it… …if you like US resin coated sugar strains. …if you like lemon flavours.
Don’t grow it… …if you like to mainline your plants.
Germination and seedling stage
I used my usual method to germinate two seeds in a paper towel. I used pH-regulated water (pH of 5.7 to 6.0) and let it soak in water until saturation.
This way, the seeds start with a lot of moisture. Put the ghetto-petri dish in a warm (around 27°C is perfect, but not necessary) and dark place and check it every 24 – 48 hrs. After 3-7 days the seed should be ready to pot when the inital root is between 0.5 cm and 1 cm long. The soil should be at least a bit moist at this point, but not dripping wet. Make the root look for the moisture and stretch to it. Place it about 1.5 cm deep and put some loose soil above it.
After a couple of days the seedling should break through the soil. In this stage the seedling is most vulnerable. I recommend to just let it be, and keep the area around the plant moist. I use a water sprayer for that. In this time I wet the soil every day. The stem and roots are not strong enough to keep the plant standing if the soil is too wet, so prevent that. Its not lethal if it happens tho. After some days the stem will be strong enough to use my flood watering method again. Since the roots need time to grow through the soil, you can take 5l of waters for the 30l of soil and you will need to water only once a week for starters.
Vegetative Stage: Training!
14 days after germination the plant was ready for the first top at the forth node. I wanted to achieve a mainline of four branches going in perpendicular direction and keep the secondary branches coming out of them for a massive bush.
The mainline was done via the metal stakes im using for a while now. The branches keep growing horitontally while second nodes develop more heavy since the plant wants to compensate for the hassle of the main branches. I will never
The LST is applied everytime the plant grows back pointing upwards. This can take a lot of time, since i wanted to fill up as much area as possible.
This method will result in a great amount of nodes and leaves. Its your job to decide which node you keep and which one to cut away. Usually I keep mine for a week or two to determine if the plant is distributing energy to it. This will be adressed later when it comes to lollypopping in flowering.
When the plant uses up most of the grow area its time to send her to the flowering stage. Note that this is only possible if you are using regular or feminized plants and not autoflowering ones.
This plant was in veg-stage for 51 days before flowering. In the first 21 days of flowering I let her stretch out and removed some leaves here and there, but nothing major.
On day 21 I removed a lot of fan leafs and cut away some poorly developed tops. The reason for this is, that I want to have well developed main tops instead of a massive amount of larf. From that point on there will still be a fan leaf found casting a shadow over a bud once in a while. Rule for removing leafs: If a leaf keeps direct light away from a bud, it has to go.
Rule for removing entire tops: If its way below canopy level and poorly developed, it has to go. Disclaimer: I should have cut more on that plant. The plant has about 50-60 tops in the end, and the pot was way too little to distribute energy to every single one of them properly.
After day 21 i basically just sit and watch the plant thrive. Keep her fed and watered and watch out for deficiencies. This plant was grown fully organically and i stopped actively giving nutrition around week 5 of 9.
In the course of the grow the Lemon Zkittle developes an amazing trichome density. This is always a good sign! The trichomes start with clear appearence.
After seven weeks, the plant shows visible signs of deficiency. Since the life cycle would be over after week 9 to 10 and im using organic nutrition I refrained to use more of that on her and let her fade.
After 8 weeks the trichomes were mostly cloud, while a good portion already started the transition to amber. I had her in the closet for another week and harvested her on point after 63 days of flowering.
Harvest and curing
Harvesting such a large plant is not always easy. She had such a large number of tops that I had to do the whole ordeal in two days. I let her dry off about 10 days as a whole plant before I went to dry trim and curing. I aimed for 300+ gramm but only came out about 60% of that. Thats fine for a single plant, but I think I screwd up the training process and was a bit less patient for the flowering switch to happen. I cured her for about a week with burping and paying close attention to the feel of the product. After that I used the C-Vault and Boveda Packs to further store the goods in a perfect environtment. In the end I would like to encourage you to tryout that strain. The trichome density and frost of the flower is extreme and the effect is equivalent to this.
Chocolope is a direct descendent of OG Chocoloate Thai which is basically an Asian sativa landrace.
I got these seeds from key’s of choc thai back in the early 90’s we selected for the best traits and quick finishers. We made only a few seeds of this and Drawoh is the man thats keeping it alive by inbreeding it more.
From seed to weed: 143 days (veg 76 days, flower 67 days)
Wet harvest weight (wet trimmed): n.a.
Final dry yield: 70 gr (2.46 oz.)
Effect: High / Head / Euphoric / Hallucinogenic
Taste: Sweet / Earthy / Caramel
Grow it… …if you have some vertical space to fill up. She is a stretcher. …if you like haze. …if you want to be able to be somewhat productive after a smoke. …if you have the time to spread her out.
Don’t grow it… …if you want small compact plants. …if you are a militant kush lover. …if you rather sit on a couch after consuming.
Germination and failed start: Week 0 – 5
This was my first test trying to implement a hydroponic (high pressure aeroponic) setup. The system is called Bifarm Aerokit and I failed this machine completely. The setup was okay, and the Aerokit is running smooth. After 5 weeks in the aerokit the plant was still poorly developed and small. I think it was stunned due to wrong nutrition plans. It was a nice experience, but I wont come back all too fast doing hydro.
In short: The water chiller is running hot, heating up the grow space. Its also very loud. If you want to deal with two sources of heat (chiller and light) you will have to implement an AC unit aswell. That could cost more than the aeroponic setup can achieve in the end…
Vegetative Stage – Week 5 – 10
After transplanting the poor girl she started to thrive very fast. BioBizz soil is made for this! I gave her my way of low stress training along with alot of lollypopping.
After another four weeks of vegging she was ready to flower. I went exactly as the nutrient schedule says with the BioBizz starter kit. She was thriving til then. Chocolope is a very larky plant with long internodial distances. To keep her in check its helpful to cut away any 3rd generation side branches. If done right, she reacts very good to spreading and bending.
Flowering Stage Week 10 – 19
Chocolope show her sativa descent in the flowering in full extend. She is a nasty stretcher and needs to be controlled. My phenotype built very dense and baseballbat-like colas that where stuffed with buds.
Grow conditions were far from optimal. The summer was very hot and dry, which also effect condiditons in tents, that are not fully climate controlled. Temperatures of 30°C and more were more standard than exception. But she dealt pretty decent with it.
About 6 weeks into flowering I stopped the nutrient supply. She reacted by showing off her beuatiful fall colors.
Bad grow conditions and harvest
In the end the plant the conditions went worse: Moderate spider mite infestation and very few cases of bud rot needed to be adressed and quite a number of buds got lost in the process. I also tried to use neem oil against the mites in the late flowering stage, wich i would not recommend to anyone. Just throw the buds away if you dont like it.
Pro Tip: Do not spray any pesticide or insecticide on your plants while flowering. Its better to get useful predators to deal with these pests. You want to consume the product in some way. And you can not really clean the surface – like tomato or a pickle.
Pro Tip: Try to keep your temperature at 25°C +-/3°C and the humidity low in flowering to prevent bud rot.
Harvest Chocolope is a breeze. The phenotype has a very nice leaf to bud ratio and can be manicured with ease.
Pro Tip if you have spider mites on your plants at the end of a grow cycle: Hang the colas upside down. The mites are always looking for the highest spots on the plant and will gather around the stalk or branch of the cola. You can just burn them away with a lighter. Do not forget to clean your grow and dry area very thoroughly. Mites are a bitch to deal with. Make sure, they stay dead.
Chocolopes effect is a clear high. Get out to your favourite smokespot in the green and get going. The effect is pretty strong and caused a few visual and auditive hallucinations. Prepare to get a good bit of tunnel vision and subtle music you might hear in the sounds of nature around you. After a while it really clouds your mind and you will drift away. This is strain is nice if you are alone and want a bit of time with you and your mind. It also does not effect you for the rest of the day. You will get clear very lean but after a bit of time. The taste is very sweet and earthy. The typical haze smell is missing, which is unusal for a sativa dominant plant, making this strain more atypical. One could also reason this characteristic comes from the bad grow conditions. We will know, when I grow her again.
Royal Queen Seeds states on the product page of Critical that it is “the ultimate cash crop”. And only there you will find that expression! On top of that it has decent values on the datasheet and a whooping 600 reviews from other growers.
So as with Justin Bieber – can’t be bad if it has such a great fanbase, eh?
I just built my new light earlier in 2018 and wanted to test the limits of my setup back then. I was not up for taste or bagappeal (two things this strain has great values in nontheless), i wanted a massive yield!
From seed to weed: 97 days (veg 39 days, flower 58 days)
Wet harvest weight (wet trimmed): 1264 gr
Final dry yield: 309 gr
Effect: Strong / Couch / Body
Taste: Oldschool / Pungy / earthyGrow it…
…if you want big buds and an nothing to do for the rest of the day. …if you look for compact plants. …if you like to use LST on your plants. …if you are looking for a good starter strain. Don’t grow it… …if you want fruity flavours. …if you are looking a plant high in size. …if you are a haze advocate
Germination and seedling stage : Week 0-2 veg
Royal Queen Seeds rarely disappoints with the quality of their products. The germination rate was 4/4 (100%) and the plants looked healthy and ready to go from the start. I used my IKEA greenhouse and my 72 W fluorescent lights for the start. My tent was still in use, so the little ones had to start outside of it. They were transplanted very early: about 7 days after first green. In this time of the grow theres not much happening. The Critical didnt like the hot BioBizz all mix very much, but got used to it after a few days in the big pot.
In this stage you just keep watering every other day.
Pro Tip about watering seedlings:Don’t water too much. Seedlings can not hold their own weight very well. So just water the surface of the soil around it to prevent the seedling from falling to the side. Once the stem has established a proper thickness, you can start the Pros Way of watering, i will describe further down.
Vegetative Growth: Week 3-5 veg
After two weeks in the medium the seedling enters its vegetative stage. It is now much stronger and can also hold its own weight after you flood the medium.
Pro Tip about watering in general: Im using a technique called flooding to water my plants. I use about 1/4 to 1/3 of the pot volume in water and give it to my plants. Watering has to be gently! If you spill to much into the pot you will create a channel in the soil where the water just will funnel through. Using this tech will give the plants roots more oxygen: Water closes gaps in the soil. If you water too often the plants just drowns from oxygen deprivation, watering less can result in underwatering. Both will give you a stressed plant and a stressed grower. If you use this tech you can expect to water them only every 5-3 days, since the whole pot will be soaked.
So my watering can of 5 l will be enough for two of the plants to get water. So after mixing in the nutrition you can start watering. I usually dont give nutes right away. Most specialized cannabis soil is premixed with nutrition which is more than enough for the start and even further in.
Pro Tip about nutrition: “Water when they need it, nute when they crave for it.” are words to live by. You can treat your plant to get used to nutrition tho. Just follow the nutrition chart of the brand closely. If you use BioBizz soil and nutes you will get a detailed chart that you can follow. Buy a syringe of a cup to measure the amounts of nutes needed for the particular stage and you are fine. If you are new: Don’t give them nutes by good measure! This is one of the most common reasons plants die early – overnuting. Overfeeding a plant is not necesarry lethal, but it takes an uncessary amount of work to help the plants get back on track.
Critical is very nice to spread. It answers exceptional well to techs like LST, which i started about three weeks in. If you can see a good amount of the second node, you can start bending the stems to encourage the side nodes to get more energy. In the end you want to big branches bend down while the smaller ones catch up on them. This process goes by in days and you can soon bend over the newer branches as well. In the end you want even developed budsite all over the plant to have a nice uniform grow. Critical is also not a massive stretcher, so dont expect plants that are high in size. LST really brings out the bonsai structure in Critical.
After week 4 I added defoliation to the training program. This means that i cut away the fanleafs that steal light from lower budsites. I do this very selectively in the vegstate and extensively in flowering. The extreme version of defoliation is called schwazzing. But im not a big fan of this.
Pro Tip – Maximize yield with high potential flowers: In some books or even the BioBizz feeding chart you can read about a vegtime of about “two weeks”. This is totally bullshit if you start from seed in big containers. Theres a technique called Sea Of Green where this is a decent amount of time to get the plants started. But in 3 gal pots or more the roots need much more time to fill up. My tip is: Take a photo from directly above canopy. If you cannot see the ground anymore because its all green with budsites its go time!
Transition to flowering: Week 1-3 flower
To “flip” a plant you just change the timer of the light to 12hrs of light a day. This will initiate flowering and bud production. The end of the branches are called budsites. The transition is a key stage in growing. There is actually happening so much you cant lose track! The stretch and growth are the to main problems to fight with. You will find new big fan leafs everyday to cut away. Defoliation is key in this stage as well as bringing the stretch under control.
Pro Tip: The transition to flowering is technically still connected to vegetative grow. So you can still train your plants, since the stems are still somewhat bendy. Its important to get a hold of some branches that want to grow to high.
If done right you will enter week four with as many buds of the same height as possible.
The race: Week 4-8 flower
The datasheet says she will make the run in 7 to 8 weeks of flowering. This is a good ballpark number, but its almost necessery to go to the upper end of these to make sure shes ripe. In the end i wont go for this measure anyways. The last weeks are really boring. You just watch the plants fatten up and try to keep your patience. Feed her according to the schedule and you will have a great harvest! The anticipation and blindness for change will become really problematic for some new growers. Learn to go through it til the end. you can do it! The Critical never had problems with deficiencies, toxicities or pests. She was a breeze to grow up until day 58 of flower when i took all of them down at once.
Pro Tip about training in flower:Leave her alone. Seriously you did everything you could in preparation. Now its on her. Let her go. If you find single fan leafs over a bud, remove them. But dont bend, break or top anymore. Just leave her in peace and you will earn it later.
Pro Tip about the harvest:This is one of the most asked questions from new growers! “Does she look ready? I think she is ready.” There is a subreddit with a nice meme for that. It says: “two more weeks.” If you think shes ready, just give her two more weeks. It wont hurt, trust me. New growers tend to harvest too early and are rewarded with rough smokes, low THC numbers and the awful haytaste. Let her build up the trichomes, watch them closely and just do not be stupid.
Get some scissors, beers, a friend or two, your camera to make nice budshots for your kids, some stoner movie on Netflix and go. At this time i still did wet trimming. You did not wait 97 days to fuck it up here! At first you remove all fanleafs that have no trichomes on them. You see trichomes? You keep the leaf! Its trim at the least to make extracts like hash or dab from it. Cut down a bud, take your time with it and cut away as much leafs as you can find, to leave only bud behind. The less green matter in the end, the smoother your smoke will be. Critical was okay to harvest. Weed can be a total bitch if it comes to harvesting.
Pro Tip about wet trimming:I do not endorse wet trimming anymore. The difference is definetly there. Wet trim leads to a shorter drying period and you can start curing faster. But this leads also to less taste in the end. My Tip: Drying and curing is a slow process, and leafs on the buds slow it down by a good margin. Hanging the whole plant upside down for 1-2 weeks is a better way to do it. So if you can wait for nicer weed, keep the leafs and trim dry. Dry trimming is also a total bitch, but in all seriousness, more rewarding.
Drying and Curing
After we were done we put the buds on the hanging nets in the dark and just four days later the buds are trimmed a bit further and put into glass jars, with the lid open. The buds felt very crispy on the nets, but will remoist very fast if packed tightly. So you keep the lid open to let go of the moisture. The packing slows down drying and starts the curing process. You want your weed to be fermented before it reaches its final state. After a few days (2-3) the lid can be closed for some hours (6-12). check them regulary. If they still feel very moist when you open the lid, keep it open and shuffle the buds around. Repeat until you can keep the jar closed for 24hrs. After this your plant is pretty much dried and will now ferment. This process open ended. You could smoke the buds as soon as you get them from the drying rack. But they will taste best if smoked right now.
Criticals effect is just strong. I mean RQS tells you the THC content is just about 18% (which is still significantly higher than most streetweed) but not on the level of some more modern stuff. It’s still a strain I can’t really smoke alone. This Indica dominant hybrid hits you like a truck, so be sure you have someone to pass it after you puff it. 😤
Smell and taste is very old school: earthy, skunky. The prototype smell of what’s in your moms head when she tells you that she smells weed.
I can also recommend this strain to new growers: You can’t really overnute her, she is a fast one and yields a ton after all. Perfect microgrow / homegrow strain!
Grow high quality Cannabis at home