Tag Archives: homegrow

The Pro Grows: Blue Gelato by Barneys Farm – The 100l experiment

Why you should grow Blue Gelato 41

Derived from Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies and Blueberry the Blue Gelato is another US based import to the European market under the distribution of Barneys Farm. The strain contains that mainly sweet and citric taste that Gelato is known for. Underlying with OG and Blueberry flavors you will get a …

(here I rolled a fatty to experience it another timer)

38°C on my balcony. The wind feels like a desert or caribian breeze. It all started with the selection of the particular flower. I decided to use one of the many top headbuds. The curing process was only three weeks in, the flower was as gluey as it gets and showed an incredible trichome density.

The effect delays into the second or third hit, subtle first but exponentially transforms to a truckload into the back of your head very quickly. The high is longlasting and top heavy. Side effects for me are a dry mouth and a big urge to eat some hot and spicy food.

(here I took another break to rest on the couch with some ice tea)

Items and tools

TL;DR – Blue Gelato 41

  • Strain: Blue Gelato 41 by Barneys Farm
  • From seed to weed: 141 days (veg 84 days, flower 57 days)
  • Wet harvest weight: n.a.
  • Final Dry yield: 244 gr (8.6 oz, single plant)
  • Effect: Strong, head heavy, numb mouth, clouded mind, psychedelic
  • Taste: sweet, OG, pungy

The Grow

Germination and Seedling Stage

When growing from seed you should always germinate more seeds than the actual number of plants you want to grow. Since I wanted to have one single huge plant I germinated two seeds and simply used the first one to show up as the main plant.

cannabis seeds
Blue Gelato 41 seeds

After about 0.5 cm of the initial root showed up, I put the seedling into a 3 gal smartpot with a fresh batch of BioBizz Lightmix. The first two weeks of a grow are always slow and boring: You dont really need to do anything but sit and watch. I kept the soil moist with my sprayer to prevent the seed from tilting from too much water. After the stem was strong enough, I turned to my usual watering schedule. This is also the point where I first give the seedling external nutrition. Lightmix already comes with a good amount of plantfood but for the remainder of the vegetative I gave her 2 ml of Bio Grow and 2 ml of Bio Heaven per liter of water. As usual I lowered the pH of my water dwon from 7.8 to the region bewtween 6.2 and 6.5.

Small cannabis plant in soil
Seedling a week after germination

Vegetative Stage – the long training

As you might know, I count the seedling stage into the veg stage. So the day my seeds get hit with water, I start counting veg days.

After 18 days the plant was ready for the top. I topped her once with intend and a few times by accident. I topped the plant right above the second node, so I ended up with four main branches, that will be trained outwards.

Cannabis plant in vegetative growth
After 18 days this plant was ready for an early top
topped cannabis plant
4 tops are left to be trained outwards
topped cannabis plant with LST applied
After three days the tops are ready for the bend!

Training setup is done! For the rest of veg I just had to train the shoots outwards again and again. four weeks into vegging I transplanted the plant into its final container: A single 100 liter unit! I decided to give her eight weeks to root through this volume.

Transplanted cannabis plant
Blue Gelato 41 after one month since germination in its final pot.

For this particular plant it was necessary to remove several side branches while it got trained further and further. The internodial distance was just to short, and even with this premeasurement the plant ended up being a nasty bush nontheless.

cannabis plant in a big pot
Bushy plant that needs some trainin…. (6 weeks old)
cannabis plant in training
…and after appyling LST (same day)

I wanted to play that out as far as possible and ended up with a structure that looked more like a weird piece of art than a plant.

heavy LST applied to plant
Heavy LST applied to a cannabis plant results in this structure. (8 weeks of veg)

The branches and the stalk are getting fatter by the day after 8 weeks of veg. The plan was to let her grow to the walls of the grow room and then upwards to encourage a bit of stretch once shes sent into flower.

cannabis plant and a ruler
My plant is 15cm tall after 10 weeks of veg.
upskirt shot of a cannabis plant
This shot shows what you have to deal with when doing something like that.

A few words why this method of growing cannabis is actually pretty dumb: So my grow room would be on top when it comes to economical grows. I use very efficient LED lights and do not bother with AC units or anything that impacts my electricity bill alot. I am still growing with under 400W of total power. But having a plant in this environment for that long kind of kills the idea of being economical here. Time is an important factor when it comes to economical growing, and what was done here was the opposite. The grow itself took close to 5 months to finish, while its possible to harvest more in just 3.5 months.

Flowering the beast

After 84 days of veg I pulled the trigger and started flowering. The branches did not really hit the walls of the grow room, but I thought the flowering stretch and a little bit of spreading would take care of that. Note that I defoliate pretty conservativley before flowering, which cant be seen here exactly, but my goal is, that every top gets direct sunlight.

huge plant
Blue Gelato 41 starting to flower.
detail shot of early flowers
Cannabis flowers in the earliest stage of development.

But I was wrong here: the plant had to support about 50 to 70 tops and stretching was not something she wanted to take care of. My assumption is, that the potential to stretch decreases heavily with the amount of top to put energy into to stretch. I got about 5 cm extra height overall, and thats it.

With the development of flowers, the plant now needs different supplements. So I switched from grow to bloom nutrition according to the BioBizz nutrient schedule sheet. I watered the pot with 10 l of water every 3rd or 4th day. Hitting day 21 of flowering I went for another round of defoliation, but I figuered out soon enough that this would not be enough for that lady. She kept putting out leaf material by the day, and I could grab handfuls of leafs far into the flower cycle. Most of the leafs on the back of the plant could not be pruned because I simply could not access that area at all…

cannabis flowers in development overview shot
Blue Gelato 41 in flowering.
macro shot of cannabis plant in early development
Resin production began early and heavily on that pheno.

Whenever you hit week six of flowering theres not much to do but checking trichomes and soil moisture.

maturing cannabis plant
Flowers of Blue Gelato 41 near the finish line

Although I had to deal with leafy colas the resin production on that strain is insane! After only 20 days of flower the colas were packed with trichs and after only 46 days I could already see trichomes turn amber.

trichome shot of cannabis
Day 46 of flower and the trichomes are already turning amber and are mostly milky. This one will be a fast runner!
cannabis plant closeup
Blue Gelato flower

Harvest, Drying and Curing

macro shot of harvestready cannabis
Brown pisitls, milky trichomes, and a good portion of amber ones: this lady is ready for harvest

So after only 57 days, six days before the harvest window given by the breeder, I decided to cut her down. Not only because she was ready, but I had to fight high temps in the grow room, and I did not want to risk any mold since that bush was so dense! pulling out a 100l pot out of that room was a pain.

bushy cannabis plant
The leafy backside of the plant, that I never had the chance to defoliate.

I decided to dry trim this time. So I cut away most of the fan leafs and hang her up branch by branch. After 7 days of this initial drying it was time for manicuring. This is mostly done by removing everything thats not flower material. But since the resin production of that one was so incredible dense I decided to keep a lot of sugarleafs on her. It was a rather experimental run in the end and I would not do it like that again, but a worthwhile experience!

cannabis dried and ready to smoke
Curing Blue Gelato 41

The Pro Grows: Lemon Zkittle by Dutch Passion

Why you should grow Lemon Zkittle

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.

Mature cannabis plant
Lemon Zkittle seven days before harvest showing amazing resin production.

Items and Tools

TL;DR – Lemon Zkittle

  • Strain: Lemon Zkittle by Dutch Passion
  • 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.

The Grow

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.

items for germination
Items im using for germination: Bowl with water, paper towel, seeds (in the middle), a jamglass lid, pH-meter
seeds on a papertowel
Put the seeds on the paper…
wet papertowel in a jar lid
Let the paper soak in water as much as it can, and add some additional water to the lid.

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.

cannabis seedling in soil
Lemon Zkittle Seedling looking through the soil.

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.

topped cannabis plant
Cut of the main top of the plant on day 14 after gemination.

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

LST applied on cannabis plant
3 days after the top, the plant was ready for LST.
LST reaction from the plant
Lemon Zkittles reaction to LST

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.

reaction of the plant due to LST
A new round of LST is applied (left). After only three days the plant is ready for the next round.

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.

bonsai cannabis
LST keeps the plant flat in check.
LST and clear bottom of plant
Keep the lower branches clear, to reduce larf/popcorn growth in the flowering stage.
stalk of cannabis plant
The stem will grow to a big stalk the longer you veg, and the more room there is for the roots.

Flowering Stage

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.

cannabis plant in full scale
Lemon Zkittle in early flowering filling up the space.

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.

stretching plant
Stretch of the Lemon Zkittle is pretty moderate. The mainlined tops are clearly outstanding in height.

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.

cannabis in early flowering
Bud development on the numerous tops I left for flowering.

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.

cannabis maturing in flowering
Trichomes are highly reflective and look very frosty in the middle of the grow.
single cola of cannabis plant
Lemon Zkittle cola in flowering. This structure with no space in between buds is a very desireable property.

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.

macro shot of cannabis plant
Macroshot in the middle of flowering. The trichome denisty is top notch. The trichomes are mostly clear and the pistils are pointing upwards. Maturity is still far from reached.

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.

full scale flowering plant
Late flowering: The leaves turn yellow
macro shot of trichomes
Mature flower: The trichome start to change from cloudy to amber. Its time!

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.

Cheers.

Quantum Board grow tent: 80 cm x 80 cm

This build is adressed to new growers from the EU with corresponding product links. Start your grow today.

Complete build to grow cannabis at home
Full build of the 80 cm x 80 cm grow tent with 25l pots.

Everything you need to harvest  ~10 oz. of dry material every 3-4 months!
I will list the items that are absolute mandatory to grow first. There is a list with additional items, that I deem useful below. Get started on your first grow tent!

General Assumptions regarding your grow

  • Your grow medium of choice is soil.
  • You grow in a grow tent.
  • You start from seed.
  • You are a grow enthusiast who wants to make the most of a given space.
  • You do not have to run this hobby on a budget. (Options for that below)

List of items

TypeItemQty.PriceLink
grow tent3×3 Grow Tent154,95 €amazon
light*260W HLG QB1319,00 €todogrowled
pots19 l smart pots433,96 €amazon
soil*100 l Light Mix128,70 €amazon
nutrition*Trypack113,68 €amazon
ventilationClip Fans1-230,96 €amazon
filtersystem*
ACF+fan+tube194,90 €growmart
clima controlTemp./Hum. Monitor18,95 €amazon
on/off switchProgammable timer112,85 €amazon


Tot.597,95 €

The light – Quantum Board LEDs

The top notch grow LED technology. The set from HLG comes with every part you need tohook up your light. Check out the build instructions from LED gardener how to do this. 

Parts to build a QB LED light
Driver, cables, wago connectors – everything is prepacked in this DIY kit.

The set is particulary inexpensive for the power you get: 260 W of one of the most efficient lights out there. The board has the famous Samsung LM301b chip on the boards. With the driver running at 100% you can expect up to 2.61 µmol/J and over 170 lm/W. You can even ramp that up with two of the kits running both at 200 W. Read more on LED tech in the theory section.

The kit also comes with predrilles heatsinks to passively cool down the boards. This is possible since there are numerous chips far apart from each other on the board, so heat dissipation is easier. One more advantage: Light is distributed much more evenly across the canopy area. In my opnion (11.2018) Quantum Boards are the single best technology for homegrowers right now and HLG are on top of the game.

Soil and Nutrition

This is an optional choice but I had very good results with the products from BioBizz before. You can also choose an alternative like Kanamu Pacha, Canna or Plagron. Read carefully the nutrition and soil usage instruction. Overfeeding is one of the biggest problems for new growers.

The Filtersystem

Air circulation is key to have optimal temperatures inside your grow tent. Room temperature between 19°C and 22°C are very much optimal for a grow room. The light, no matter if LED or HPS, will create dissipative heat through the process of creating light and of course the photon output. Its necessary to get this air exchanged at least once every five minutes. A good fan will do this easily. Remember that the use of an active carbon filter will reduce the overall power of a fan, so you need to consider that when planning a grow room.

Active coal filter and fan combo
Air gets sucked through the active coal unit out of the tent. 

Do you need active intake? Not necessarily. A powerful fan will create negative pressure inside the the tent and air gets sucked through the gaps of the tent inside. Thats more than enough for a homegrower.

Additional Items

Model builders syringes

It can be hard to get the right amount of nutrients out of the bottles. Use syringes to get it right.

Watering can

I mean, a simple container that can hold 5-10 l of fluid will work, but a normal watering can will ease up the process significantly.

pH test kits

Tap water is oftentimes not suitable for watering cannabis in an optimal fashion. Try to keep track of the tapwateres pH levels and change it accordingly. The pH for soil grows can be buffered through the grow medium itself, but it is helping alot if you can dial it in before putting it in.

pH levels for soil grows should be between 6.0 and 6.5.

Sharp gardening scissors

Keep your stuff clean and only use it for plants. This prevents infections and pests from entering you grow area.

Defoliation – Make way for the light

Buds tent to develop best, when hit by direct light. If a bud is overshadowed by big green fan leafs the bud will develop not as good. Defoliation is the key to make the most of your plant and maximize flower development.
This grow tech requires a bit of experience and knowledge of a Cannabis plants structure. I do not recommend this if this is your first grow. After a full run, without removing leafs you will know exactly what to look out for the next time.

There are growers out there removing nearly every fan leaf that a plant grows after 21 days and after 42 days of flowering. This is called schwazzing and a rather extreme manipulation technique. The other extreme is to remove nothing. My way of defoliation will remove a lot of leafs in the process, but will leave a lot of leafs for the plant. Its kind of a middle way.

The Pros way: Moderate or selective Defoliation

Not every plant needs to be defoliated the same amount. There also no godly plan to defoliation for all the plants.

Defoliation in the vegetative state

If you have a very bushy indica dominant strain or applied a lot of LST to your plant it will potentially grow very bushy. In extreme scenarios only a few leafs on the top of the plant will be necessary to build up a full canopy.
This is not good if you want to encourage branches under there to develop!
Remove the big fan leafs from the top of the plant to make sure that budsites below get direct light aswell.

freshly defoliated plant
Freshly cut plant: Fan leafs from the top of the plant got removed
recovered from defoliation, new growth is visible
New growth after three days: The gaps have been closed by new branches taking the spot.

How to check if a certain fan leaf should be removed:

  • If the fan leaf creating a shadow to budsites below remove it.
  • If the fan leaf is growing “inwards” or growing bigger and bigger, remove it.
  • If the fan leaf grows at the edge from the plant away, it can stay.

This way you will remove the leafs very selectively and keep the plant not as stressed out. Its also not feasable to potentially stun the plant because you removed so much.

Defoliation in the vegetative stage can be tedious since it could be applied about every third day from a certain plant size on.

Defoliation in the flowering process

This is pretty similar to the vegetative state. Since the plant will still grow new green material, remove the leafs that steal light from buds. Just look closely at every bud and check if there is a leaf above. Remove all the leafs. From about week 3-5 the green development of the plant will be reduced because the plant packs more supply into the flowers. Your work is pretty much done then regarding defoliation.

Extreme Defoliation: Schwazzing

Widely in use by certain industrial grow operation schwazzing is the process of removing nearly every fan leaf that grow on a plant at the beginning of the flowering stage, leaving only the top of every budsite intact. This method also involves some kind of lollypopping since every side branch is pretty much removed as well. Just leave the first 2 to 3 nodes from every branch intact.

Timelapse video of schwazzing in an industrial grow setup. These operation have a lot more light power per squaremeter than a common homegrow. The lights can penetrate much deeper! Schwazzing a plant makes sense here.

Chocolope that got alot of nodes removed, leaving up only the top of the plants, sortly before flowering.
The same plant in flowering: Branches full of buds!

Additional notes

I would not recommend schwazzing for every strain out there. There are alot of cannabis varieties that are able to put on serious weight on the side branches where you would harm more than you do good if you remove too much. Branchy indica type plants are very much content with selective defoliation while some other plants like to be cut more heavily. I suggest you.

Lemon Zkittle that got exposed to defoliation: You can see through the branching to the other side of the pot.
Alot of Budsites are directly visible from the topview, since the light now got a free way down there.
Areas that wont get direct light will be cut most.

Defoliation is a pretty harmless tech, since a plant will develop way more fan leafs than needed to survive. A grow tent is also an environment where the plant is enclosed and save enough so that it can deal with this harm without having to fight pests or difficult weather patterns while at it.

Production cost of homegrown marihuana

stock photo of a power bill

If you are entrigued by the costs of a grow operation, you might be surprised how little it is in comparison to street weed or cannabis from a dispensary!

After the initial investment in a small or a bit bigger setup this is your running cost of a marihuana operation.

Cost factor I: The power bill

Power has the biggest impact on your bill over the course of a grow. Your light, ventilation and air circulation are all ramping up that bill.
To determine the cost of a run (one grow operation from seed to weed) you have to consider the different stages of the grow. 

I will determine the cost of my current run as an example:

Lemon zkittle cannabis plant
For a single plant grow you have to spend more time in the vegetative period. This costs more money!

Im using a light that draws about 310 W from the wall, a fan for air circulation that is worth 40 W and a single outlet fan for 10 W. Im also running  two Raspberry Pi minicomputers in there taking the pictures for my timelapse which will add up to about 10 W in total. (might be less, since they should be on standby most of the time)

The light was on 18 hrs a day for 51 days (vegetative state) and will be on for roughly 63 days for 12 hrs a day. I am paying about 25 ct for a kWh right now.

(51 days  · 18 hrs/day + 63  days· 12 hrs/day) · 0.31 kW · 0.25 €  / kWh = 129.74 €

For the fans and the Raspberry Pis I have to calculate a 24 hrs/day running schedule:

(114 days · 24 hrs/day) · 0.06kW · 0.25 € / kWh = 41.04 €

So in total the power bill will be at an extra 170.78 € after a single run or 44.86 € per month if I consider this a 3.8 month run. 

Cost factor II: not reusable items

If you use seeds, soil, bottled or packed nutrition or any other item that you have to rebuy after a grow, it will go into the final calculation.

In my case I have used 2x 15l packs of Kanamu Pacha Hortisol coming for 43.80 € and a single Dutch Passion Lemon Zkittle Seed, that would cost about 15 € if bought in a pack of three. I am also using Greenhouse Feeding Bio Nutrition that costs 19.95 €. In total I am looking at 78.75 € for the items I had to buy to start this run.

What do I pay for my weed?

In the end it all boils down to efficieny. With my current setup I harvested about 300 gr of dry material in the last two run, and im not expecting less in this one. 

In the end I will have invested 249.53 € in 300 gr of high quality cannabis resulting in a price of 83 ct / gr

Cannabis Critical flowering
Critical! Good weed does not have to be expensive!

How to save even more money!

Here are some suggestions to shrink your budget even more:

  • Use LED lights. Preferably passivly cooled ones with high efficiancy values like COBs or Quantum Boards. AND you save moneyfor NOT needing an AC unit in your tent. 
  • Reuse your soil. Bio Bizz for example states that you can easily reuse their soil with a smell addendum of fresh one.
  • Use clones. Save money on seeds by using cuts from a mother plant. Remember, that maintaining a mother can also be pretty expensive. Suitable for bigger operations.
  • Use Autoflowers. Autoflowering cannabis has a much shorter lifespan than photoperiods. You can harvest more often. But be careful: A light cycle of 18/6 or 20/4 can impact your powerbill surprisingly hard!
  • Use the Sea of Green grow style! This grow style requires you to take care for a lot of plants at once. The advantage: you shorten the vegetative grow time significantly (usually 2-4 weeks) which saves moneyon power. Disadvantage: You will need to spend more money on soil and seeds.

How to evaluate growlights- Part One: Phlizon 600W LED

Disclaimer: Blue/Purple grow “lights get the job done”. But do not expect more than that.

This article is a rant.
Its subjective, but backed with sources, experience and knowledge from over four years of growing with alleged top notch technology.

People are pretty simple if it comes to marketing. Everyone wants to buy the best valued components for the best price to get going. If you ever build your own PC or a drone you will know what im talking about. 
Creating a grow setup was a simple task ten to twenty years ago. You just had to go to one of these grow shops, where you talked with a clerk to get the best out of your budget for your operation. You got a tent, a HPS light, soil, nutes, seeds and some ventilation. Online and offline sources were limited to a few books the old masters wrote.

With spreding legalisation many companies jumped on the grow train trying to advertise their products to you. And i have to admit: They are good at it!

Google results for "grow light"
Google result of  “grow light” … That says it all.

Just google “grow light” and you are flooded with the infamous blue/purple spectra of common grow lights you find on amazon or alibaba. But a great search engine optimization does not equal the quality of the product.

False advertisement

To be honest: There is nothing wrong with running these lights. They are getting the job done. They will not get you near the results you always see on the famous pictures circulating on the internet. The lights are often praised with heavily exaggerated numbers. I will discuss the most bought LED grow lights from amazon.com and show you whats wrong with them.

Critical cannabis in flower
Get back to me, if you manage to do this with a single Phlizon 600 W. I did this with a 310 W light. So yours should be at least in the ballpark of my result. 😉

Example One: Phlizon 600W LED

Phlizon light from amazon
Phlizon 600W LED light. The hangers and hygrometer are actually useful. Pic from amazon.com


NO REFLECTOR NO DANGER- Many others’ grow lights are used led spotlight reflector to make the light look beautiful, but we don’t use it because the led reflector is not heat-resistant. If a short circuit occurs,reflector at 80℃ is easy to melt and fire. we do not use the reflector, we can not give up the safety beause of beauty.

Amazon Description

Reflectors are a thing of beauty huh?
Phlizon claims, that reflectors are useless and just melt, if there is a short circuit.
Do they assume their light will short curcuit at one point?
LEDs are emitting light in all directions. It actually enhances the optical properties of a light if you use reflectors. They just ditch them, because they think its just a cosmetic element. You actually need them to focus the light more in the direction of the canopy.

FULL SPECTRUM- We did lots of experimentation to ensure that this full spectrum design promotes plant growth. It includes universal Blue Red IR UV and white light provide everything plant desire in the natural sunlight. The expensive IR UV led promote plants to defense mechanisms, blue and red led is essential light for plant growth.


Amazon Description

Okay! Thats bold. The spectrum is one of the least “white” ones you could imagine. Its mainly blue and red. The McCree curve, where you can see, what intensity distribution your light should have is vastly different from Phlizons “white” light. White light is created if the spectrum contains of every wavelengths in equal parts. Its fine to build an only red-blue light, but do not call it white.

McCree Curve vs the phlizon spectrum
The McCree Curve behind the “full spectrum” of the Phlizon 600W spectrum. You get an idea whats missing here.

DOUBLE SWITCH- Veg and Bloom button have different function. Veg switch: It’s blue led and white led. For seeding or young vegetative growth,you can use Veg switch only. Bloom switch: It’s red led and white led.for flowering/blooming,you can use both Veg and Bloom switches. View Angle of LEDs: 90°and 120°


Amazon Description

Thats actually cool to save money on energy. I really doubt that your plants do well under one of these lights switched to veg, but useful nontheless. Good LED COB or Quantum Board system got a dimmer as well to do save energy.

COMPARE TO HPS/MH- The 600W LED grow light can replace traditional 400 watt HPS/MH while consuming only 108 watts! More effective coverage area than any reflector series lights. perfect for a 2x2ft growing area at 24″ height. The difference of us is that we use double cooling fans. Can most extend the light life.


Amazon Description

There is so much bullshit in here…
WHY would you name it a 600W LED if its an ACTUAL 108 Watt LED claiming it will replace a 400 Watt HPS
It will not even come close to a 400 Watt HPS output. The only honest fact in there is, that this light is perfect for a 2 x 2 environment. No grower with the right mind would setup a REAL 600 Watt light in that, nor a 400 W hps. 
What other purpose is there but to confuse the customer?

More confusing info

Screenshot of lamp info
What color is 600 W? The wattage is 108 Watt, not 600! From amazon.com

The made up 600 W are pulled entirely through the hole descripton. You can actually light up an area of 1.44 m² with a high quality 600 Watt LED light. This area is about 4x bigger than the 2′ x 2′ space advertised.

PPFD values from Phlizon amazon lamp
PPFD of 260 at 24″ distance is  about 1/4 of the optimal value. From amazon.com

They also claim that a hanging distance of about 24″ (61 cm) is the perfect height. I will not believe them any further but a PPFD value of 260 is way below the 700-1000 a high quality COB/Quantum Board light will deliver.

Conclusion: Phlizon 600 W

  • No, it is nowhere near a 600 W LED light. It is a 108 W low quality LED. You can replace your 100 Watt HPS with that, and will be happy, that this abomination will run a bit cooler.
  • No, the spectrum is not the perfect fit for your flowers. It is mass produced lowball asian LED that get put into mass produced low quality LED arrays.
  • You need actually 6(!) of these to light up a 5′ x 5′ tent. Thats about the size a high quality LED with 600 actual Watt could light up. That will cost you about $540. Buy a real light instead.

Do not buy this light if you expect a high yield, high quality harvest.

Buy this light if you just want to take a look into the hobby. But you might want to upgrade as soon as possible….

The Pro Grows: Chocolope by DNA Genetics

Why should you grow Chocolope

Chocolope is a direct descendent of OG Chocoloate Thai which is basically an Asian sativa landrace.

Chocolope cannabis in flower
Chocolope putting on the fall colors in pre harvest. She changed to red, golden colors. The buds have a baseball bat structure and she stretches like a real sativa lady


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.

DNA Genetics, Source

The other part is Cannalope Haze a crossing from Orginial Haze and a Sativa landrace from mexico. Overall the Chocolope has a nearly 100% Sativa background which she shows in her grow pattern!

Items and Tools that I used for that grow

TL;DR – Chocolope

  • Strain: DNA Genetics Chocolope feminized
  • 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.

The Grow

Germination and failed start: Week 0 – 5

Chocolope Seedling in a hydroponic setup
Chocolope seedlings surrounded by hydrostones in an IKEA hydroponic setup. Source: homegrow-pro.com

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…

Chocolope in an aeroponic setup
Chocolope after 5(!) weeks in the aeroponic setup. After this i ditched the system and transplanted her alongside six other plants into BioBizz Allmix. 
Source: homegrow-pro.com

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. 

Chocoplope in vegetative stage in soil after transplantation
Chocolope getting the metal hook treatment. 
Source: homegrow-pro.com

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.

Chocolope after it got trained with LST
Final shape of the chocolope before she starts flowering. All budsites have roughly the same shape and size. She will thank you with uniform growth in the flowering stage. Prepare for a massive stretch! Source: homegrow-pro.com

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.

Chocolope in flower
Chocolope in flower – she is a massive stretcher!

About 6 weeks into flowering I stopped the nutrient supply. She reacted by showing off her beuatiful fall colors.

Putting Chocolopes stretch into perspective: 
She is in corner at the back left more than double the height of the critical directly in front of her.

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.

Spider mite damage on chocolope
Spider mite damage on the leafs. Several buds had to be thrown away because of pest damage and 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.

Sugary trichome on a chocolope cola.
Pictures with flash enabled really bring out the trichome density on that strain. She is covered in sugar!

Consuming Chocolope

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.

Setup for the Avid smoker – The 3×3 grow tent

Grow tent in full flower
You can do this, with a setup described in this section. Source: homegrow-pro.com

Everything you need to harvest  10 oz. of dry material every 3-4 months!
I will list the items that are absolute mandatory to grow first. There is a list with additional items, that I deem useful below. Get started on your first grow tent!

General Assumptions

  • Your grow medium of choice is soil.
  • You grow in a grow tent.
  • You start from seed.
  • You are a grow enthusiast who wants to make the most of a given space.
  • You do not have to run this hobby on a budget. (Options for that below)

List of items

TypeItemQty.PriceLink
grow tent3×3 Grow Tent1$90amazon
light*400W COB Light 1$600timbergrowlights
pots3 gal airpots4$50amazon
soil*60l specialized soil1$15 – $30(see below)
nutrition*Trypack1$15(see below)
ventilationClip Fans1-2$10-$20amazon
filtersystemACF+fan+tube1$90amazon
clima controlTemp./Hum. Monitor1$3amazon
on/off switchProgammable timer1$12amazon
Tot.~$895
  • Tents are great to keep control of every aspect. You can change temperatur, brightness, humidity and even simulate seasons in there! Its absolutely necessary to get your tent completely dark to your needs. If you have a closet or a room where you can manage to create pitch black darkness, you dont need a tent. The brand of the tent does not really matter. 
  • Light: Your articficial sun. Good growlights are hard to find in the LED jungle. Read more about lights below.
  • Pots: They come in different varieties. Plastic, fabric, with holes in it from 0.5 to 30 gal. I choose the airpots, because they let air move through the soil, and roots are pruned naturally at the outlets, preventing root rot or rootbound plants.
  • Soil: Do not buy common gardening soil. Cannabis roots need space to roam. Specialized cannabis soil has the right consistency and is often perfectly balanced with nutrition. You can also cook your own soil!
  • Nutrition: Personal opinion about nutrition – as long as its marketed for cannabis and does not kill your plants every brand seems legit. It is more like a personal decision what kind of nutes you use…
  • Ventilation: Moving air prevents bud rot and keeps the branches moving. That creates resistance and your plant will grow thicker and stringer. Keep the vents on 24/7.
  • Filter system: Your main exchange for air. If you have to grow stealthy or at home you do not want to have the smell leave the tent. Get one of these asap.
  • Clima Control: Really important to keep track of your values in there. You want to know the numbers. Once you know its over 34°C in your tent all the time, you know its time to do something about it. Same with humidity.
  • On/Off switch: Over the course of 100 days of a grow you dont want to hit the switches twice a day at the same time. Automate that.

*

The light

Yes, the light is the most expensive item in a grow operation. Yes, you can save money on light, but this is the best option for a grow room of that size. Its cool, quiet and runs damn bright. It has the most recent technology behind it and does not need extra cooling. But there are alternatives.

PRO TIP: You need at least 35W/ft² of high quality LED/COB light or at least 50W/ft² if you use CMH/HPS lights, if you want max out the tent potential! There are thousands of options. Just make sure its a grow light. Spectrum, PAR, PPFD values and color of light are also important properties. Read everything about the theory behind light here.

Alternative 1 – The Quantum Board

Horticulturelightinggroup.com has a very decent 320 Watt kit. It has alot of advantages like better light distributions or overall efficiency. I just did not link it as first option because it only has 320 Watts, and we wanted to get the most of our room with the given conditions. If you are able to build these lights yourself with a kit, buy these! The magic behind Quantum boards are LM56c or LM301b LED chips from Samsung. If you can find other distributors using these chips, you can go for it.

Grow tent with a quantum board
Quantum boards have an exceptional efficiency and overall light distribution!

Alternative 2 – Other LED Distributors

Its true, Timbergrowlights is just an option when in comes to LED lights. There are several chips out there that are awesome to grow weed with.
Timber makes use of Citizen CLU048, Cree CXB3590 and Vero29 COB LEDs. But other companies do it aswell!
Cobshop.net has a 3×3 kit including 4 COBs for $480, but they dont disclose how many Watts you get in the end. I assume its 200 W, so only half of my first option.

Alternative 3 – Low Budget only

I will list them here only because they work. But do not expect wonders. Im talking about the infamous blue/purple or pink lights you find on amazon.
NO, they almost NEVER deliver the amount of power they have in their names, NO you dont need just one, but at least 3 of these “300W” varieties you find online. Which one you take does not really matter, they are all ok. They only use the cheapest LED technology, including chips and drivers. If you spend $210 on three of them, you will be able to light up your tent properly. But remember to tune up the ventilation system, because three of these bad boys run pretty hot in a 3×3.

Blurple light tent
Blurple lights – They just won’t leave me alone! Low costs – low yields.

Alternative 4 – HPS lights

A 600 W HPS light will get you pretty far in a tent like this. And it costs only $130. This can reduce the inital cost significantly, but keep in mind that these light run HOT. And by that i mean shit-i-might-need-an-AC-in-my-tent HOT. The price is low, but running this shit can cost you! Save some money, ditch the AC and the pay only 2/3 to run a sweet LED light in there and pay less for your production.

Alternative 5 – Build your own COB or Quantum Board light

www.ledgardener.com, is the best source for that. There will be a guide here soon….

Soil and nutrition – Globalization and availability

If you live in Europe you have different soil companies than in the US. So while you can buy BioBizz in Europe pretty cheap, it is better to choose Fox Farm. 

The right soil is very important for your grow. Your roots want a pretty loosy, oxygenated environment. Many soil companies put peat (turf) in their soil which is very harmful to the environment. Check the ingredients, if you want to save the planet.

EU soil recommendations

US soil companies

Nutrition

Same with as soil. It seems like there is a new nutrition company out there every week. Even the breeder try to jump on the nute train and handing out their own nutrition along the seeds. (Royal Queen Seeds and Green House Seeds for example.)

I will also only recommend nutrition that have an organic base. I just do not believe in chemicals, but thats up for discussion.

EU nutrition recommendations

US nutrition recommendations

Useful additions

There are a lot more items making your tent easier. These are nice to have, but not 100% necessary. This list is not not yet completed.

Pre-grow

  • Depending on your method of germination you will need papertowels or kitchen paper.
  • Since germination needs a dark, moist and warm environment, you might need a propagation box. I just put them in an old cookiebox on my PC.
  • Do not touch seeds! Use a tweezer.

Seedling and vegetative stage

  • Seedlings do not need flooded with water. Use a pump sprayer and be careful!
  • If you plan to train your plants, you need gardening wires or metal stakes. Or anything else you can come up with. You can also just use a cord and bind them down.
  • Use sharp scissors, knifes or even scalpels to cut leafs!
  • If you see pests like mites or thripes, treat them with bio degradable organic insecticide. Be careful with that!

Flowering stage

  • Some genetics produce fat buds. Too fat to hold them in place. Use plant yoyos or bamboo sticks and wire to hold them in place.
  • If you see any pests in the flowering stage do not spray the buds with insecticide. Use predatory bugs to fight them. This is your chance to have a personal ladybug army in your garden.
  • Jewelers loupes help you watching the trichomes and help to determine the harvest window.

Harvest, Drying and Curing

Choose wisely! – A closer look on seeds & genetics

Let me introduce this chapter with one of the most asked questions for growers:

What is the best strain?!

To be honest I dont really know what this question is all about. Most people in the world are still not able to choose from different strains where they live so they take what they get.
For me as a grower this is totally different. Its like going to the liquor store and asking the clerk:

What is the best alcohol?

Strains nowerdays are vastly different from each other. In this chapter I will take a look at it from a growers as well as the consumers perspective and try to resolve some controversial opinions about it.

The three types of Cannabis

Right now, there are three types of seeds available that are relevant for homegrowers:

Regular Cannabis seeds (regs)

Regs are created through the natural way of plant reproduction. Male Cannabis plants produce the pollen, while females produce the counterparts. The female trichomes are pretty sticky to catch any flyby pollen. This process will create seeds on the female parts which is used to multiply the strain with male and female genes. A new strain is born!
The big disadvantage to this for homegrowers is that these seeds have a 50% probability to be male. A cannabis plant takes a lot of time and preparation to produce flowers in the vegetative state. So the pro wont recomment to use regs as a useful way of growing cannabis flowers at home.
Controversial: Some oldschool growers tend to the opinion that regs contain the more stable genetics and will produce better products.Regs are mainly used for breeding at home. This is a way to get seeds for free. The process is very time consuming and needs alot more knowledge which is not posted here.

The Pros First Choice: Feminized Cannabis seeds

Femnized Cannabis seeds are the way to go for a homegrower who likes plant manipulation and high yields. A Feminized Cannabis seed can be created in various ways. The main advantage is, that these seeds are 99% female. And a homegrower only wants the female in his/her tent! Feminized seeds need to be introduced to articficial change of seasons to initiate flowering. This is helpful to get the most of a plants potential but adds another level of complexity to a grow.

mainiling training cannabis lst
Feminized plants need to be sent into flower. You can manipulate them as much as you want. This tech is called “mainlining”.

The Pros Second Choice: Autoflowering Cannabis seeds

Autoflowers are the new shit on the market. Autoflowering cannabis seeds are crossings with the unknown little sister of the great sativa and indica: Cannabis Ruderalis. Crossing a strain with this small, bushy landrace with poor THC levels has an awesome effect: It ignores light cycles. Autoflowers have an internal timer when germinated and will flower after a set amount of time. So you can actually have flowering plants and vegging plants in the same room! This is a great chance for home- and microgrowers who have small spaces but still don’t want to miss out on great harvests.
Controversial: Autoflowering plants tend to have less dense buds and less THC contents, but the breeders did a great job in the last years and today we can enjoy bigass autoflowers with THC contents exceeding the 25% !

A typical autoflower – Royal Creamatic by Royal Queen Seeds. You can see the ruderalis background: she is compact and small – the buds are often less dense and the THC content is lowered but you safe time growing them and you can harvest more than once per year even if youre an outdoor grower! They are also much more usable for a perpetual setup.

Grow trees or grow bushes – sativa vs. indica types

There are two main types of cannabis landraces plus the ruderalis one which is used solely for creating autoflowers. The other ones are cannabis sativa and cannabis indica. (Controversial: there is actually no indica, but there is a phenotype that grows in India, that have alot of different properties than the landrace called sativa.)
Every modern strain is an abbrevation of these landraces and contains parts of both of the two. This is called a hybrid!
Modern seedbanks try to tell you in what parts sativa and indica genes are included in its strains. This can help to determine the plants shape. But since the genetics are so complex its better to look up the strain from a certain breeder in a grow diary or grow report.

The relevant datapoints as a grower are: projected yield, indica/sativa proportions, flowering time, flowering stretch.

Things to check before the grow:

  • Dont mix strains with vastly different flowering times, if you need the tent for drying!
  • Dont mix high stretch and low stretch plants. The lights height and resulting power output is determined by the lights distance. Higher buds will develop great, lower buds meh.

difference indica sativa chocolope critical
Two different strains. Two different heights. The stretch is a feature every strain has. Sativa dominant plants tent to stretch heavier.

The Pros choice: Look up several grow diaries and reports before choosing a strain. Dont grow strains which tend to hermaphrodite or long flowering times if you are a newcomer. Patience is the number one virtue to have while growing and long flowering periods encourages silly moves. Indica dominant phenos are more easy to grow indoors: You dont have to care about the flowering stretch and different strains tend to stay at the same height. They also have awesome yields, because the buds are more packed at the branches.

Consumers Perspective I – THC content

As a consumer I have other needs regarding my weed. I think the effect is a highly subjective field but is also part of a heated discussion. Everyone has heard about “sativas makes high” while “indicas makes stoned” kind of arguments…
In my case its more like “high effect” and “low effect” regarding different THC contents after i tried about 50-60 different strains in the last decade. I appreciate a high THC content, but since i keep my THC tolerance low i can also work with lower contents. THC should be a part of your decision, but not the sole one.
There are strains out there containing more than 30% THC. But since you can just roll a smaller joint or hit a smaller dab these numbers arent worth alot from a growers perspective. It can save money in the eye of the consumer.

Consumers Perspective II – Terpenes

One last point: The taste! Cannabis contains a vast number of smells! Strawberry, Diesel, Tangie, Garlic are only a few to be named here. It seems that breeders will never get tired to bring out new variations of taste in their strains. The “terps” are the elements that give the plants its unique smell, taste, psychoactive and medicinal effect. The most common ones are Limonene, Carophyllene and Pinene.
For example: A high quantity of Limonene will give your plants the typical lemon flavor, while Pinene will make the flower smell foresty.

The Pros choice: I dont have answer on what my favourite weed is. I never really disliked what i have grown. That being said you can mess up at drying and curing and will have nasty hay intead of deliciously fermented nuggets. Sometimes i like the clear high of my Chocolope (DNA Genetics), sometimes i want to hit the couch with a fat torch full of Critical (Royal Queen Seeds). The liquor store clerk also will look very puzzled if you ask him about the best “alcohol”. Just make sure it fits your needs.
I personally love to smoke fruity flavors with a moderate to high (18-25%) THC contents and a nice head effect. For Example Kosher Tangie Kush (Amsterdam Genetics). You can lookup my Grow Diaries for an honest opinion on strains as a grower and a consumer.

DIY Cannabis Grow Timelapse with a Raspberry Pi

In this guide, you will learn about the basics to timelapse your grow. Furthermore you will learn how to setup Linux on a Raspberry Pi Minicomputer, remote control it via VNC and how to use it as an FTP server.

 

List of items

To copy my workflow of approximately 10 minutes a week you need the following items:

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B is used as an automated photographer and FTP-Server for easy access.
  1. Raspberry Pi Minicomputer (buy @ amazon.com , 35 $) (Raspi) – This is the heart if this project. This device captures the photos at the right time ,saves the photos and is also your local Fileserver. There are different versions of the Raspberry Pi. Its important that the device can run WLAN. The best Pi to do this is the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B which brings the most calculating power.
  2. Raspberry Pi Wide Lens Camera (buy @ amazon.com, 23 $) – There are also some PiCams without a wide lense, but the optic helps alot in very
    picture of raspberry pi cam
    Raspberry Pi Cam with wide lense optics

     

     

     

     

     

     

    narrow rooms with less space

  3. A Power source for the Pi – You actually will not get this with a purchase of a Raspberry Pi! Make sure to have a power plug with a Micro-USB dongle which can deliver 5 V (Volts) and between 700 – 1000 ma (Milliampere). Any old smartphone loading plug should do it.
  4. HDMI-Cable, USB-Mouse and USB-Keyboard – You will need that only for setup. Once you setup the Pis remote control, you can use these for other purposes.
  5. Micro SD-CardThis is your hard drive of the Pi. Make sure you have one extra because this will stay in the Pi for the course of the run. 32 GB should be OK. for a whole run.
  6. WLAN Router – Since you cant access the filesystem on the card, without a linux based system, you will need to establish an FTP connection to the Pi. This is also pretty convenient because you dont have to interact with the Pi while its in the grow room anyways
  7. Micro USB power plug
    Micro – USB Power Plug

     

    PC, Notebook, etc … – This is necessary for moving pictures and merge the images in a reasonable time.

  8. Micro SD-Card reader – You need this to install the operating system on the Micro-SD Card. 

 

 

Preparations – One Time Setup

Get the Pi ready

Everything in the Chapter Preparations you only need to do once.

  1. Download the operating System. You get the files here: https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/raspbian/ . The Version is called Raspian Stretch with Desktop as .zip and unzip it after downloading.
  2. In the meantime you download the software Etcher from https://etcher.io. You need that to get the OS on the SD-Card.
    Etcher User Interface – if you fuck up here you’re not made for this.
  3. After its done, put the Card in the Pi.
  4. Connect the HDMI-cable to a screen and then to the Pi alongside your USB-mouse and USB-keyboard.
  5. Plug-in the power and wait…

 

Raspberry Pi configuration

Congratz! You got a computer on your hands with the power of a five year old smartphone. Very much enough for this guide tho. The Pi wants to change the default setting at first start – its recommended but not necessary. The default login is username: pi, password: raspberry.This will be important later.

raspberry pi configuration screenshot
Menu of the Raspian OS. Click on the raspberry symbol on the upper left > Preferences > Raspberry Pi Configuration
  1. In the configurations menu (caption of the picture) you can change the login.
  2. We will access the system time to shoot our photos. Make sure to change it to your local timezone: Click on Localisation > Timezone and choose the respective timezone.
  3. In the field Interface you activate the options Camera, SSH und VNC.
  4. Also in interfaces there is the option Keyboard. Set it to your needs! Coding is hard, if you’re using an EU keyboard with US (default) settings.
  5. On the Desktop to the upper right is a symbol to the WLAN connection. Connect it to your local WLAN.

Reboot the Pi to have all settings activated. You’re done configuring this for now. We’re heading to test the camera.

 

 

Testing the Camera – Your first picture

Connect the camera to the Pi. Make sure the connection adapter is tight aroung the cable. You can actually pull the sides of the connector out and back in after you set up the cable. Try it!

  1. Start the Pi by plugging in the power plug if not done yet.
  2. Start the Terminal  (tool bar to the upper left) and update/upgrade the OS by typing in a row and confirm with enter:
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get upgrade
  3. This might take a few moments.
  4. Test the camera by typing in the terminal
    raspistill -v -o test.jpg

    This code will create the file test.jpg and saves it the given place (home/pi). Open the file to check out the picture!

  5. Call your local IP adress via typing
    hostname -l

    in the Terminal and write it down for the moment.

If the camera works, we now need to setup the automation and remote control.

 

 

VNC, SSH, FTP – Remote access

Our key target is to have the Pi shoot pictures inside the tent automatically. This is why the next step is to put the pi into the tent. You dont need the periphery keyboard, mouse or monitor anymore. Its your job now to find a nice perspective for the pi. Mine is below my DIY COB Light. Another Pi-Cam got installed on the wall. Mind that a Raspberry Pi can only handle one distinct Pi-Cam, but more than one USB-Webcam.

Remember this might be the final position. Test that, and make sure that it never moves.

picture of led light diy grow light picture of pi cam setup raspberry pi camera

  1. If everything is alright in the room, you can now switch on the Pi by plugging in the power source. There is no need to have a keyboard, mouse or monitor to be attached anymore,
  2. Download VNC-Viewer to your home PC or notebook (not the Pi). Remember to have the Pis IP adress around as well as the password and username for the connection. You can access the IP adress via your router config or by typing hostname -l in the Pis terminal.
  3. If you are connected tryout the code for shooting a picture again and calibrate the camera very carefully. You can turn on the lense to make the picture more sharp.
  4. Test the FTP connection: Download FileZilla or something similar (Filezilla download: https://filezilla-project.org/download.php) Don’t choose the pro version, its not needed.
    1. After you started Filezilla click File > Servermananger to connect.
    2. Protocol: SFTP – SSH File Transfer Protocol
    3. Server <local adress of the Pi>
    4. Connections: (normal: not as safe) but most convenient.

Now you should be connected to the Pi via your PC/notebook. You can now access the filesystem of the Pi via FileZilla and remote control it via VNC.

 

 

Creating the scheduler for the pictures

Now we are ready to script our photo scheduler using the software crontab on the Raspberry Pi. This software is able to execute operations at given time intervals. Perfect for timelapses.

Create a folder and change the restriction on it immediatly

We cant always create, read and write folders or files on the Pi, so we need to manipulate the accessability on a given folder first. Via rightclick > properties > permissions you can solve this. In the target folder for the pictures everything should be available for everyone.

Create the file “camera.sh” for capturing the photos

In the target folder (where you changed the read/write rights): Rightclick > Create New… > Empty File and name it camera.sh

  1. Open the file camera.sh in Text Editor and write the
    following:
    #!/bin/bash
    export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/usr/lib/
    cd <Path of the folder>
    DATE=$(date +"%Y-%m-%d_%H%M")
    raspistill -n -q 100 -o <Path of the folder>$DATE.jpg
  2. Just exchange
    <Path of the folder> 

    with the path to the place where camera.sh is. This code creates filenames like: 2018-10-15_2250.jpg and will therefore list the pics chronologically inside the folder.

  3. Test the script: Open up the Terminal. Navigate to the right folder via cd <Path of the folder> and confirm with Enter. After this you type in:
    sudo sh camera.sh

    into the Terminal. If everything works as intended there should now be a .jpg with a timestamp in the right folder!

Configure crontab to finalize automazation

In order to do this last step of preparation you need to be remote connected to the Pi via VNC. Open up the terminal and write:

sudo crontab -e

If you get asked what editor to choose, take nano. The terminal should change to this:

Linux terminal screenshot
The linux terminal.

Be careful when editing this file! Scroll to the bottom of the file and press Enter to end up with a newline without a “#” symbol upfront.
Disclaimer: Youre probably using other light cycles. And we want the camera only to shoot when its bright for the plants.

*/20 21,22,23,0-8 * * * sh <Path to the folder>/camera.sh

How does this code work?

  • */20 takes a photo every 20 minutes in a given hour
  • 21,22,23,0-8 says that it only shoots pictures between 21:00h and 08:XXh. Change this, if youre different cycles!
  • * * * takes care of weekdays, months and years. You put in asteriks so that you dont need to bother for this on the course of your run.
  • sh initializes the shellscript of the camera.sh file
  • <Path to folder>/camera.sh tells the cronjob what is to execute. In our case the photographing script.

 

Weekly tasks

Via the software FileZilla you should backup your files regulary. I do it once a week. If you config crontab my way, you will shoot about 18 pictures a day.

ffmpeg and rename.bat – Creating the timelapse

Turn on your PC/Notebook.
In order to use ffmpeg follow the instructions here. You only need to do it one to make it work: https://video.stackexchange.com/questions/20495/.
ffmpeg works the easiest with filenames that are numbered in order. To transform the filenames you need to create a file which you call rename.bat and write in the following code:

@echo off
setlocal EnableDelayedExpansion

set i=0
for %%a in (*.jpg) do (
set /a i+=1
ren "%%" "!i!.new"
)
ren *.new *.jpg

Now create your first timelapse:

  1. Copy all pictures to the folder with rename.bat in it. Never run rename.bat in your backup folder. It will destroy everything.
  2. start CMD and navigate to the timelapse folder: type in
    cd <Path to the folder containing the renamed pictures>
  3. type in the following to initate the timelapse process:
    ffmpeg -r 60 -i %d.JPG -s 1440x1080 -vcodec libx264 timelapse.mp4

This will create a 60 FPS videofile named “timelapse.mp4” with the resolution 1440×1080 under the x264 codec out of the renamed frames.

Maintenance and cleanup

It happens rarely, but you will find frames which you dont want to use in the timelapse. You need to sort them out before you rename the images and merge them. The ffmpeg code will not work if hes not fed with consecutive numbers.

 

Grower watering his plants
The grower got caught watering the plants. This will not look good in the final timelapse.