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!
In this chapter you will learn about the different aspects of light in gardening. It clears up all the different keywords and hopefully all technical terms that occur when talking about light.
Definition of Light
“Light” is actually defined as a thin part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Exactly the one we can see with our human eyes.
Light can be divided into parts called photons, which act in theory as light particles. According to physics you can treat light as a particle and a wave simultaneously. We will need both ways in this chapter!
If you want to learn about lightsources such as Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), High-Pressure Sodium lamps (HPS), Compact Fluorescent lamp (CFL) or Ceramic Discharge Metal Halide (CMH) you will not only have to look at the specs each of these lamps have, you also have to look at the theory on which the light is created. Every single light source used for growing has its advantages and disadvantages.
All light sources used for growing work with a the same rough principle:
Turn electrical energy (input) into light (output)
The devil is in the details. As always. What I will describe now is awful lot to learn and difficult to have alook through. But its worth the reading, and after this you will be more able to decide wether a light is “good” or “bad” for your cause.
What light does a plant need?
Plants have two main sources of energy: The root environment (soil, water, aeroponics, nutrition…) and the light that shines on its leafs. The process in which the leafs turn light energy to “food” is called photosynthesis.
Not every light that a plant is exposed to, is usable to do photosynthesis. A human eye can basically see every color between 390 nm and 700 nm, but is blind for colors that have lower wavelengths (ultra-violet) or higher ones (infrared). Humans are most sensitive for the color green. As opposed to plants. Keep that in mind when you get to the unit section
Plants have a similar spectrum, but see actualy green light the least. Thats obvious, since leafs are commonly green, so they reflect the green parts of the spectrum. The three ingredients in a leaf that are responsible for the reaction are Chlorophyll-a and Chlorophyll-b as well as Carotenoids.
If you look at the lower spectrum in the picture above you can get a sense of what kind light a plant likes to receive: two broad bands of light between 400 nm and 500 nm and between 650 nm and 700 nm. One is in a blueish region, whilst the other is rather red.
The Relative Quantum Efficiency
The three molecules (molecule groups) Chlorophyll-a ,Chlorophyll-b and Carotenoids are not the only driving factor of photosynthesis. In of the most cited articels from K.J. McCree (1972) he measured how the plants react to light of different wavelengths. He found, that the area around the green light (550 nm) is actually well used by the plants. Not as good as blue or red light, but up to significant margin! So green light is not inherently bad for plant growths.
Measuring light – A jungle of units
Now that we have the favourite colors of a plants light dinner, we need to figure out, how much they need! This is determined by the amount of light a source can emit. This amount can be described with various units of measurement. Some of them make sense for growing (PAR, PPFD), others don’t (lm, lux), and the rest is not normalized and/or very subjective in a way that it is depending on the experimental setup one uses to measure it.(also PAR/PPFD).
The following part will enlighten you about the different units of measurements scientist and light distributors characterize light. Note: I tried to sort the units in order if importance, starting with the most important one.
PPF and PPFD – Photosynthetic Flux Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density
Lets dive right into things. So photosynthesis is a quantum process. Just think about it this way: A leaf is plastered with billions of little molecule-machines trying to catch light particles in the exact right energy range. The more machines are hit per timeframe the better. So PPFD counts the amount of photons (µmol) that hit a certain area (m²) in our timeframe (s). This results in the unit of measurement: [PPFD] = µmol/m²/s .
PPF on the other hand only counts the Photons emitted by a light source, but does not take into account any absorption effects. So if a photon is emitted through a source and runs right into a the case of the light, its counted towards PPF but not PPFD. [PPF] = µmol/s
The counted Photons also have to be from a certain spectral area between 400 nm and 700 nm. Everything else is not counted!
Example 1: Lets say we have two lights emitting 100 photons a second on a normalized area. One is blue, one is red. The blue photons contain more energy. The PAR value would be higher for the blue light. The PPFD value would be actually dead even because both lights emit the same amount of photons in the active range. So which light is “better”? Answer: The red one for flowering, the blue one for vegetative growth. This is also the reason “common grow lights” give you both parts of the spectrum which results in a pink look of the lights. (blurple if you want…).
Example 2: We add a green light to the show with an output wavelength of 555 nm monochromatic light. Its PAR values would be better than the red light, but worse than the blue ones. PPFD would be dead even again. Do we take the green one now? Answer:No! A green light is not effective to grow cannabis. The plants will not be able to do photosynthesis with green light, as effective as with the use of fullspectrum systems, because they simply reflect alot of it.
Conclusion: When reading about PPFD values in the description of your light, always take a look at the spectrum as well. If the light “wastes” alot of intensity on green wavelength the number is not as useful anymore! If you have a high PPFD value it can mean less if it has mostly a green spectrum. Its also interesting to look at the light distribution a light creates at certain distances to the source and wether the source created an even output! If there is a disproportion between PPF and PPFD its often times a lack of optical diffractors that distribute the light uneven to the plants. Take a look at a HPS lamp that creates light in a very narrow area inside its tube. This creates a very uneven distribution on the surface area: Buds on the edge of the light cone will develop more poorly.
PAR – Photosynthetically active radiation
This is easy to figure out: You imagine a perfect black surface and shine a light on it. The hypothetical surface (m²) absorbs the energy at a 100% effectivity which you can measure. Within a certain timeframe we can now measure the power (W) emitted by the light in [PAR] = W/m². The counted photons are again in the 400 nm to 700 nm range.
Here is a subtle difference to the PPFD value we learned about in the last section:
Example : Imagine two light sources. One monochromatic red and one monochromatic blue one. The red one has an output of 200 photons a second with 700 nm in wavelenghts, while the blue one puts out 100 photons with 400 nm. PAR does not care if the plant can use this light, it just takes the values because they are in the range where we observe PAR. So regarding PPFD we learned that the red one should be twice as good as the blue one. But on PAR level both are about even, because the blue light can carry more energy than the red one and PAR only cares about energy over time on a certain surface.
Conclusion: PAR can be at a high value, because it gets pushed through high intesity of blue parts in the spectrum (more blue wavelengths). Always check PAR, PPFD and the spectrum.
W – Real Power Draw (Watt)
The Wattage of a lamp is a good ballpark number to start searching for a light source. Its actually the first value I look at, and from there you start to compare lights on the same level!
The power draw from the wall can directly calculated into money that appears on your power bill. So this is often the first thing you want to check. After this, you find out which light converts this money to the best possible PAR/PPFD/spectrum combination.
Many light suppliers tend to market their lamps with this value to its customers.
WARNING! Blue/purple lights from various distributors will name their lamps after “artificial HPS equivalent Watts” to trick the customer. You might think that a 600 W LED with the an awesome blue/purple spectrum is the deal of the day. Be aware that these companies hide the true power draw in the description at amazon or eBay. And they are good at it. Don’t get fooled. If you think you can have 600 W of high quality LED plug-and-play light for 100$ you are WRONG.
Always check for the real power draw.
If you’re going for HPS/CMH/Lowball LED light: Calculate with at least 50 W/ft² for decent results.
If you are using High-Quality LED Lights (COBs or Quantumboards): Calculate with at least 35 W/ft² for decent results.
lm, lm/W – Lumen, Lumen per Watt
Now we’re really deep down the cave. But still: Companies try to catch you with values like this!
Lumen is one of the least scientific units around, but still has some meaning for interior architects and astronomers. The unit is an abbreviation from the units candela (which literally refers to the output of a burning candle) and the so called luminosity function.
So if you are following you might wanna ask yourself something. First remember: The human eye can best distinguish green wavelengths, because it is most sensitive around the 555 nm value. A plant is literally blind in this region. WHY would you buy a light only because it has awesome lumen values?!
As always: check the spectrum! If the light is mostly green it will have awesome lm values. And perhaps, if its a modern LED, also great lm/W values. But it might not really suitable for growing.
NEVER BUY A GROW LIGHT ONLY BECAUSE OF THE LUMEN OR LUMEN/WATT VALUES. THE UNIT IS MADE FOR HUMANS, NOT FOR PLANTS!
How The Pro chooses a light
When it comes to the decision for the grow lights people always hassle. The market is flooded!
Determine the size of your grow area and find out how many of the sweet Watts you want in there. The unit might not mean much, but you gotta start somewhere! Example: 3×3 tents have 9 ft² of space, so we need about 315 Watts of High Quality Growers Masterrrace LED Awesome Lights, or 450 Watts of Lowball LED / Good-old-fashioned HPS or CMH lights. Make sure your light has a PPFD value of 700-1000 at canopy level, has a full spectrum (warm white) and an efficiency of 120-200 lm/W (remember that you can use this number only for lights with similar spectra).
How is your budget? Great LEDs are expensive, but worth the money. Pre build ones come for $1-$4/W in various forms. So youre looking potentially at $315 – $1260 just for the light. If you want to save money you can choose low-quality LEDs for like $250 that will reach 300 Watt if you buy 2-3 fixtures. Or you just go for a HPS setup for about $150 as a bundle with reflectors and balast. (I wont go into the details here)
Lower your expectations! Great, you just want to take a look into growing and chose the entry level LEDs. Thats totally fine! You can grow awesome weed with these lamps! But if you ever feel you are missing out on something, come back and read about the real LEDs.
Did you really get the HPS?! Thats also fine. They are working for decades and give awesome results. Come back if you think about buying an AC unit and have nightmares about your power bill…
You cant decide between two or more lights? Compare PPFD/PAR/spectrum values at the same Wattage and find your favourite! A light should at least bring the PPFD up to 700 – 1000 in the sweet spot.
LEDs recommended by The Pro
I’m not getting paid for it (yet) but here are some lights i will approve. I saw the results from growers and if you want high yield, dense buds and fast growing weed with low internodial distances buy from them. They also tend to run much cooler than HPS lights…
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