Best Feeding Schedule for Autoflowering Plants
All autoflowering cannabis plants , like any other plant, need nutrients to stay alive and grow. Plant nutrients are divided into Macro and Micro. Macronutrients are nutrients plants use in large quantities: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). Micronutrients are the secondary elements and are absorbed in much smaller amounts: Magnesium (Mg), Calcium (Ca), Sulfur (Su), Copper (Cu), Zinc (Zn), Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn) among others.
Both macro and micronutrients are delivered by watering with mixed nutrients, pre-amended soil, or slow-release powder, when feeding, remember that you can always add more but never take away nutrients.
It’s easy to over or underfeed and damage your plant, that’s why we recommend following the best nutrient schedule for autoflowers, specially designed for autos.
- Week 1 Seedling – Plain water;
- Week 2 Vegetating – ⅛ veg. nutes;
- Week 3 Vegetating – ¼ veg. nutes;
- Week 4 Pre-flowering – ½ veg. nutes;
- Week 5 First signs of flowers – ¼ bloom + ⅛ veg. nutes;
- Week 6 Flowering – ½ bloom nutes;
- Week 7 Flowering – ½ bloom nutes;
- Week 8 Flowering & ripening – Flush;
- Week 9 Ripening & harvest – Flush;
1. Different Types of Nutrients
Nutrients can come in different forms. The most common are diluted in water, mixed with soil, and in powder form to be used as a slow-release top dressing or to be mixed with the medium. Usually, beginner growers ask What are the best nutrients? That will depend on your preference and method of growing, there are basically two types: organic and inorganic nutrients and there’s a big difference between them, both of them can come in the three different forms we talked above but work in completely different ways.
Organic vs Inorganic
Organic focuses on creating and maintaining a rich medium filled with microorganisms. By using organic nutrients you’re not feeding the plant directly, you are enriching the medium where microorganisms present to feed on the nutrients, breaking them down and making it easy for the plant to absorb.
Because you’re not feeding the plant directly, she can decide when and which nutrients to absorb so unless you do it on purpose, it’s really hard to have problems related to an excess or lack of nutrients.
Inorganic nutrients work by delivering an exact amount of nutrients to the roots. To be able to do this without any damage to your plant you must really know the necessities of your autoflower. The nutrients needed for optimal growth vary from strain to strain so it’s really hard to know exactly what and when to feed. Usually, you start experimenting and if you see signs of underdevelopment or deficiencies you feed a little bit more.
On top of that, you will have to adjust the amount given to an autoflower to avoid wasting nutrients (organic) and to avoid burning your plants (inorganic). Manufacturers usually make available instructions with an approximate schedule and amounts for the products they sell but they usually are directed to photoperiodic plants. Having that in mind, we recommend always starting with half the recommended amount with autoflowers.
Slow-release nutrients can come in pellets or in powder form. Usually used as a top dressing or pre-mixed with soil, this is the simplest way of feeding because it slowly releases nutrients when watering. So you don’t have to worry about feeding your plant until harvest unless you see any signs of deficiency.
The best way to water when using slow-release feeding is water more often with less water, this way the pellets or powder will dissolve faster and you won’t have any problems.
This way of feeding also comes with instructions directed for photoperiodic plants so with autoflowers you should (generally) use half of the recommended amount.
Tip: This way of feeding takes a couple of days to dissolve the pellets or powder if you water every couple of days. If you see signs of deficiency or you notice your autoflower is hungry, you can use a small amount of water-soluble nutrients to fix this immediately and give the slow-release nutrients a bit more time to dissolve.
Bottled nutrients are what everybody knows, grower, or not. These fertilizers come in liquid form and are usually synthetic, and relatively cheap due to the wide selection available.
Synthetic nutrients are popular amongst all types of growers, even though they’re not s safe as organic nutrients, you can effectively grow and harvest your plants without major problems.
You can find a lot of different brands and their quality may differ but all fertilizers will contain basically the same elements and ratio for the vegetative (3-1-2) and the blooming stage (1-2-3), so it’s just a matter of preference.
Have in mind that unlike organic feeding which focuses in creating an ecosystem in the soil, synthetic nutrients feed the roots directly so you can easily burn your autos, you should always start with a smaller dose and increase it gradually, this way you can check the signs your plant gives you and can adjust the amount of nutrients to your plant’s needs, avoid wasting nutrients and most importantly, avoid burning your plants.
Remember that because these nutrients are synthetic they’ll most likely kill the microorganisms present in the soil so (depending on the medium) you’ll have to provide all the micronutrients too, like Calcium and Magnesium, for example.
We recommend using organic nutrients when possible, this way you’ll be maintaining an ecosystem similar to what you find in nature, resulting in better tasting flowers and avoid overfeeding your autos.
2. Nutrients for the Seedling Stage
The seedling sprouts with two little leaves called Cotyledons. These leaves provide what the plant needs to survive until the first set of true leaves appear. The first two weeks of cannabis growth are the most crucial because the little seedling is establishing its root system and it is very fragile.
When to start feeding?
If you’re feeding in the seedling stage you must be very careful not to overfeed. You can start your autoflower with 1/8 of the recommended nutrients or better yet, just give the plant water for that first couple of weeks. If you overfeed your plant at this stage of growth it is highly possible that the baby plant won’t survive or if it manages to survive then the overall yield of the damaged autoflower will be greatly diminished.
Tip: Water-soluble feeding gives the plant access to the nutrients immediately.
If you are using mediums with added nutrients then you don’t need to feed the plant for the first 2-3 weeks (until the pre-flowering stage). So you can relax and forget about those nutrients at this stage of its growth.
Tip: Always read the recommendations as amended mediums contain different amounts of nutrients. Some may have the amount needed for the first weeks but others can have the amount needed up to the pre-flowering stage.
3. Nutrients for the Vegetative Stage
Photoperiodic cannabis plants have a vegetative growth stage but autoflower plants go from the seedling phase straight to flowering without the need to change the light cycle .
Some growers believe that the time when the little seedling gets its true set of leaves until it starts flowering is the vegetative growth stage for autoflowers. But it really doesn’t matter how we call this stage because we need to feed it just like a regular photo-sensitive plant in its vegetative stage.
When we see that our autoflower plant starts to grow fast we need to start giving it more nutrients. Usually, it is best to give half of the recommended dose of nutrients, but if the plant gets really bushy you can give it a full dose.
At the vegetative stage, cannabis needs a lot of Nitrogen (N) and a decent amount of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).
No matter what the percentage of the other nutrients is, just make sure that Nitrogen (N) is available more than those other two elements. Autoflower cannabis also needs those secondary nutrients but commercial fertilizers usually have a mix of the other nutrients your plant needs in the solution.
4. Nutrients for the Pre-Flowering and Flowering Stage
After a couple of weeks in the vegetative stage, your auto will be mature enough to start developing flowers, when this happens your plants will start to develop pistils, which are a sign that your plant is entering the pre-flowering stage.
When to switch to bloom nutes?
When the first pre-flowers start to appear you need to change your feeding to a mix of half vegetative and half blooming nutrients. You need to slowly start introducing more Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K).
Phosphorus is essential for bud production and has to be available when your autoflower enters the flowering stage. Once your autoflower starts really producing bud you should start feeding only blooming nutrients.
Some growers think that you must strictly go by the schedule when you are feeding your plants and if you don’t change your fertilizer your plant will not grow properly.
But the truth is that almost any fertilizer will do just fine. You can be very precise and if you have a lot of experience you can boost your yield with appropriate fertilizers but for beginners and medium level autoflower growers it is not as crucial. It is always best to give your plants less food than overfeed them.
5. Autoflower Nutrient Schedule
Cannabis plants don’t like to be overfed and they can easily get burned because of that, the amount needed for an autoflower depends on the strain and growing environment. The following schedule should be adjusted depending on when your plant starts flowering.
Chart for inert mediums
|2||Vegetative stage||⅛ vegetative nutrients|
|3||Vegetative stage||¼ vegetative nutrients|
|4||Pre-flowering stage||½ Vegetative nutrients|
|5||First signs of flowers||¼ bloom + ⅛ vegetative nutrients|
|6||Flowering stage||½ bloom nutrients|
|7||Flowering stage||½ bloom nutrients|
|8||Flowering & ripening||Flush|
|9||Ripening & harvest||Flush|
Have in mind that more nutrients does not result in more growth, some plants are more sensitive to nutrients. Overfeeding your autoflowers can affect your harvest because they will need time to recover and when this happens (especially in the flowering stage), it can take up to 7 days for them to recover and continue growing normally.
Note: This schedule is based on amounts recommended for photoperiodic plants, that’s why we use ½, ¼, and ⅛ amounts. If you were to use a medium with pre-added nutrients, then you should only water until you see signs of pre-flowering (around week 4) and only then start feeding following this schedule starting from the Pre-flowering stage.
6. Nutrient overfeeding
Overfeeding is the result of a too strong solution, as said above, more nutrients don’t always result in more growth and some plants are more sensitive than others.
When you don’t measure the dose of nutrients that go in your solution, you can overfeed your plants and they will surely show signs of deficiencies. Even though it’s a common problem amongst growers, the problems that come along are really serious and can end up killing your plants.
Signs of overfeeding are yellowing or yellow spots on the leaves and can be more serious if you don’t fix it, if you continue to feed a strong solution the leaves will start to brown, get crispy and die, this results in a stressed plant which will grow slower, can end up producing lower yields and ultimately die, so if you see signs of deficiencies you should flush right away, give your plant a couple of days to recover and start feeding again with a lower dose.
Have in mind that you can easily avoid this by using our feeding schedule above or just by simply using a lower dose than recommended and increase it gradually.
7. Nutrient underfeeding
Underfeeding can also hurt your plants, if you fail to provide the nutrients your autos need to produce sugars they won’t be able to grow and will show signs similar to the symptoms of overfeeding. Even though some plants can grow well without nutrients, it’s recommended you provide at least a minimum amount to make sure your harvest meets your expectations.
Remember that nutrients are extremely important so even though you may be afraid of overfeeding your plants, there’s no need to be, it’s normal for beginner growers to burn plants, even more experienced growers can burn plants when they’re trying a new nutrient brand so don’t worry.
Just make sure you learn with your mistakes and try to adjust the dose until you reach the optimal amount.
8. Flushing and when to stop feeding
Flushing consists of washing the excess nutrients from the roots and medium 1-3 weeks before harvesting. As you may know, all cannabis plants absorb nutrients to grow, when a plant absorbs nutrients there can be a nutrient build-up, although this is more common with synthetic nutrients, it can also happen with organic nutes.
Failing to flush properly can easily affect your buds, usually, plants which have not been flushed have a less potent smell and are harsher to the throat so if you want the flavor and smell of your buds to stand out, and a smoother smoke, we recommend flushing with plain water or flushing products which can be found in grow shops.
9. In Conclusion
Not only autoflowers but all plants are different in one way or another. You can follow schedules like the one we provided above but the optimal way to feed your plants is by understanding the environment you’re growing in and the cultivar you’re growing.
Our Purple Lemonade, for example, is a sturdy grower and will do perfectly fine without nutrients.
Usually, nutrients come with instructions for photoperiodic plants, learn how to adjust it with the best auto feeding schedule.
Topping and Training Autoflowering Cannabis: Can It Be Done?
To top or not to top, that’s the question countless auto growers struggle with grow after grow. While it is possible to top and train autoflowering cannabis plants, doing so isn’t for the faint of heart.
A guide to training and topping autoflowering cannabis.
From topping and super cropping to LST and ScrOG, there’s no shortage of training techniques to help you improve the size and quality of your buds. Unfortunately, while you may have plenty of experience using these techniques on regular photoperiod strains, applying them to autoflowering cannabis varieties is a whole different ball game.
In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at training techniques like topping, fimming, LST, and SOG/ScrOG, and explore how autoflowering strains might respond to the stress caused by these methods and others.
What’s the Point of Topping and Training Cannabis?
Topping and training cannabis plants is all about improving your yields and having more control over how your plants grow. Left to grow as they please, cannabis plants end up looking a lot like Christmas trees, with a wider bottom and a slim central cola. And while they might look great, especially around the festive season, letting your plants grow like this is far from optimal, particularly indoors under a finite source of light.
Training allows you to manipulate the way your plants grow and build an even canopy that makes better use of the light emitted from your lamp. If you simply left your plants to grow as nature intended, their main colas would soak up most of the light in your grow room, leaving you with small, airy flowers down on each plant’s lower bud sites.
Topping, on the other hand, allows your plants to develop multiple colas (clusters of flowers that grow along the main stem and branches), and can greatly improve the number of buds harvested from each plant.
Should You Top and Train Autoflowering Cannabis Strains?
Whether to train and top autoflowering cannabis strains is a highly debated topic among cannabis growers; some swear by it, while others argue it’s a recipe for a disaster. To better understand why, you need to have a basic understanding of the genetic traits of autoflowering cannabis strains.
Unlike photoperiod strains, autoflowers feature genetics from Cannabis ruderalis, a unique variety of cannabis that flowers automatically once mature (unlike indica and sativa varieties, which flower in response to light cycle changes). And, while the autoflowering gene of Cannabis ruderalis obviously has a variety of advantages, it also has some drawbacks.
Topping and training cause your plants some degree of stress, ranging from a minimal amount to a much more significant amount. When growing photoperiod strains, you’re able to compensate for this stress by prolonging a plant’s veg cycle, giving it time to fully recover before flipping it over to bloom. With autoflowering strains, you don’t have the luxury of extending a plant’s veg phase, and this is exactly why some growers stay away from techniques like training, topping, defoliation, or pruning. Some auto strains simply might not be able to recover fully from the stress of these techniques, and may therefore produce lighter, lower-quality harvests.
Pros of Topping and Training Autoflowers
- Potential for multiple colas and larger yields
- More controlled growth
- Wider, flatter canopy (great for growers working in small spaces)
Cons of Topping and Training Autoflowers
- Poor training or late topping can stress plants and reduce the quality and size of their yields
- Inexperienced growers are likely to make mistakes when training or topping
When Should You Avoid Topping/Training Autos?
We generally only suggest training or topping autos if you’ve got a fair bit of growing experience. If this is your first time growing weed (or autos, for that matter), focus on watering and feeding your plants properly and getting to know the strains you’re working with.
When to Try Training or Topping Autos?
Once you’ve got at least 1–2 auto harvests under your belt, feel free to branch out and experiment with topping and training. Just remember to only try these techniques on young, healthy autos. Plants that have been over/underwatered, are suffering from nutrient problems or pest infestations, or simply aren’t growing as vigorously as others won’t have the strength to properly recover from the stress of training/topping.
When training/topping autos, it’s also super important to start early. To avoid stressing your plants as they flower, we recommend you start training or topping them as soon as they’ve developed 3–4 nodes. Most autos start flowering in as little as 3–4 weeks after germinating, and stressing your plants close to this time may stunt their growth or ability to bloom, resulting in disappointing yields.
Finally, when experimenting with training techniques on autos, it’s always best to start with lower-stress techniques first. LST, ScrOG, SOG, and other techniques that involve bending your plants’ stems (rather than cutting or breaking them) are a lot easier on them than topping or fimming (both of which are high-stress techniques).
Different Training Techniques for Autoflowering Cannabis
We’ve discussed topping and training autos in broad strokes, but now it’s time to dig a little deeper. Let’s get into the details on specific training methods to see which ones are most (and least) viable.
LST (Low-Stress Training)
LST is, as the name suggests, a training technique that inflicts a low degree of stress on your plants. It involves gently bending the main stem of your plant and tying it down using wire, string, or pipe cleaners. Over time, this technique teaches your plants to grow outwards rather than upwards, and allows for better light exposure to all bud sites.
LST is easily one of the best training techniques for autos. It can be performed on very young plants and helps open up the canopy, which ultimately produces bigger, better flowers.
SOG (Sea of Green) and ScrOG (Screen of Green)
SOG and ScrOG are two techniques designed to help you create a flat, even canopy. SOG involves growing multiple small plants (usually of the same strain) close together in small pots, while ScrOG involves using a more advanced form of LST to teach only a few plants to grow laterally on a mesh screen.
SOG is very well-suited for autoflowers, as these plants naturally grow to smaller heights than photoperiod plants; simply germinate your seeds (try to use seeds of the same strain for best results) and keep your plants within 1–2ft² from one another to create a thick, even canopy.
ScrOG can also be done with autos, but it’s a little more hands-on and requires at least a basic understanding of LST. Once you’ve installed a screen roughly 20cm from the tops of your pots, space your plants roughly 30cm apart from each other. As they grow, direct their branches and stems to create a flat, even canopy above the screen that maximises the potential of your grow light. Remember to use string or soft wire to tie the plants down and keep them secured under the screen.
Topping involves cutting off a plant’s top shoot, which will cause it to grow two main branches that will eventually become two main colas. While taking a pair of scissors straight to a plant’s main stem can be intimidating for rookie growers, topping can be super effective at increasing yields.
However, it’s important to remember that topping is a high-stress technique. If you’re going to use it on an autoflowering strain, you’ll want to do so very early, and only if you’re positive your plant is super healthy. In general, we recommend staying away from topping when growing autoflowering plants.
FIM (Fuck, I Missed)
FIM is a slight variation on topping. Rather than removing a plant’s tip entirely, fimming involves only partial removal. The goal here is the same as with topping; you’re trying to encourage your plant to develop multiple colas. The benefit to fimming, however, is that it’s slightly less stressful than topping, as it doesn’t damage the plant’s main stem. Not only that, but fimming encourages the production of four main colas, while topping promotes two.
Super cropping is a very popular technique. It involves twisting the stems and branches of a plant to damage its inner herd while leaving the outer herd intact. The stress from the technique often promotes vigorous growth, and, when combined with LST, also helps expose more of a plant’s bud sites to the light, encouraging bigger, heavier buds.
Super cropping autoflowering cannabis plants can be risky, but it has been done: Hold a section of your plant’s stem and twist it gently between your fingers until you hear a snap. Be careful and remember that you only want to damage the stem’s inner herd while keeping its outer herd intact. For best results, only super crop an auto plant’s main stem and 2–3 of its main branches.
How to Top Autoflowering Cannabis Plants
- Select the plants you want to top. Remember to only top healthy, young plants (with just 3–4 nodes) that you’re confident will overcome the stress of this procedure.
- Using clean scissors or a razor blade, remove the tip of your plant’s stem (just underneath its last node).
- Monitor your plant’s recovery. Ideally, topped plants should recover within 3–7 days and show no signs of stunted growth.
How to Train Autoflowering Cannabis Plants
- Select the plants you want to train. Again, only train young plants with 3–4 nodes that look exceptionally healthy.
- With plenty of care, bend your plant’s main stem until it’s roughly 90 degrees from the floor.
- Tie the stem down using appropriate garden string/wire. You may want to make holes in the side of your plant’s pot to secure the string.
- As your plant continues to grow, regularly tie down parts of the main stem or branches that are growing above the rest of the plant.
Remember, the goal of LST is to manipulate your plant’s growth and create a lower, flatter canopy that allows more light to penetrate all parts of the plant.
Note: When growing photoperiod strains, growers often opt to top their plants first, then use LST to bring down the plant’s new offshoots. Unless you’re a very experienced grower who’s performed this technique on autos before, we don’t recommend combining these two techniques—they inflict far too much stress.
Topping and Training Autos: Practice Makes Perfect
As with any aspect of growing cannabis, practice makes perfect. When training or topping your autoflowers, remember to start slowly and stick to low-stress techniques first. As you gain more experience and intuition about your plants, their health, and how they respond to the stress of these techniques, you can gradually build up to experimenting with more advanced techniques. Just always remember to only train or top your autos while they’re young and super healthy.
Wondering whether or not to train or top your autos? Click here for an in-depth look at all there is to know about training and topping autoflowering cannabis.