Hello Professor Lee

I've been growing hydro for a while but been wanting to try organic.  Have you ever dipped clones into a diluted tea before planting?



Hello Jack,

Yep, organic rooting teas are very effective at jumpstarting clones.  The official research I’ve dug up while looking into organic rooting teas/compounds dates back to the 1910’s, but I’m sure that people have been using them for much longer than that.  Rooting teas are easy to make and work extremely well.  The two main teas available to the average grower are made using seaweed, kelp, or willow.  The seaweed or kelp mixtures are available online or at good grow supply stores.  By happenstance I was in a store a couple of weeks ago, checking out the latest and greatest things on the market, when I found a bottle of seaweed extract that could make about 128 gallons for less than twenty dollars.  That’s pretty affordable when you consider how pricey a bottle of cloning powder is. 

The documented benefits of seaweed/kelp extracts include:

  • Larger root shoots that develop into a more substantial system.
  • An increase of available nutrients to the plant. 
  • A reduction in root and other plant diseases. 
  • A marked increase in stress resistance. 

Most people who use willow tea make it themselves by cutting up green or yellow willow tree stems into one-inch pieces, the more the merrier.  The pieces are then put into a suitable container and covered with boiling water.  Let the tea sit overnight to steep and cool.  The next day strain the tea to remove the stems.  Use the tea by soaking your cuttings in it for half a day before planting them in their medium or by simply watering the medium with the tea until roots begin to appear.  If you have ready access to willow trees this home brew method would be the most cost effective, and possibly the most satisfying solution to your organic tea question.  

Willows have naturally occurring hormones that allow them to aggressively reproduce themselves from cuttings.  These hormones include Indolebutyric acid (IBA) that stimulates root growth and Salicylic acid (SA) that helps protect the plant from pathogens.  Salicylic acid is also the key ingredient in aspirin. 

I Hope This Answers Your Question and Good Luck.

Professor Lee 

Hello Professor,

I am a medical patient that has been growing indoors for a few years, but I recently moved to an area where I have access to a really big outdoor growing area.  Because I live in a state where I can grow outdoors I’ve always wanted to do so, but I didn’t have a backyard to do it in (LOL).  I plan on growing six plants and I want them to be big ones.  So far the tallest plants I ever grew were only about four footers.  I want to know what tips you might be able to share with me and what kind of problems I can expect.  I really want to do this right and I understand that nobody gets it perfect the first time.  I also know I want to eventually exclusively grow outdoors and I’ll stick to it until I master it. 

Thanks So Much!

Jenny (Not from the Block)

Hey Jenny,

Good for you!  Outdoor growing is challenging but super fun.  You have the right attitude: eager and willing to learn as you grow.  My first advice is to go over your medical marijuana grower regulations and make sure you are adhering to the letter of the law.  Some places require that you clearly post your growing credentials, only produce a specific number of plants, secure the site from roving hordes of kids, or even inform certain authority figures.  Once you have anything like that covered you can concentrate on actually growing. 

You may have some favorite strains picked out, but have you considered how well they will do outdoors in your particular part of the world?  After all, you don’t want to do all that hard work only to find out your plants can’t handle some local mold or weather phenomenon or won’t finish before the frosts come.  Consult with your local seed supplier and possibly growers you trust as to what varieties do well in your area with regard to pests and diseases, climate challenges, and ripening times. 

Next, you will want to consider your containers - when growing outdoors it's a case of the bigger the better.  Large plants produce large root systems.  If the roots are restricted the plants won’t get as large as they potentially could.  Large volume containers also retain more moisture, thus extending the time between watering.  It’s not uncommon for growers to use pots that hold two or three hundred gallons of soil.  If this seems too daunting, then start with thirty or fifty gallon pots, or build some raised beds with lumber to whatever size you want. 

I get asked a lot about burying containers or digging large holes and filling them with high quality soil and these techniques work well if your native soil has good drainage.  You could test the drainage of your yard by digging a three foot deep hole and pouring in a five gallon bucket of water.  If the water drains out in an hour or less you have good drainage, but if it takes all day your soil is too heavy and the roots could rot.  Most plastic containers that growers use come in standard black.  If it gets really hot in your area the black plastic can absorb a lot of heat and cook the soil a few inches within which will prevent the roots from completely filling out the pots.  If this is a problem try wrapping the containers with burlap or some light colored material.  This will reflect a lot of the sun’s heat during the hot months, and if the weather starts to grow cold you can remove the material and let the roots warm up during the day to extend your growing season a little bit. 

I don’t encourage using the native soil in your yard by itself.  Who knows what could be lurking in there: pests, pathogens, toxic waste, etc.  So, no matter what, always use the highest quality soil mix you can get your hands on.  In my opinion the best soil mix out there is Subcool’s Super Soil.  His recipe is free and online for anyone who wants to use it.  The only downside to his recipe is that it takes several weeks for the recommended beneficial fungi to colonize the soil, but if you have patience and the ability to try his blend, then I highly suggest it.   

Outdoors watering is one of the biggest challenges.  Reducing your need to water is a big deal, so doing things like applying several inches of mulch on top of your soil and/or including water-retaining substrates like vermiculite, polymer crystals, or simple compost can really help out a lot.  I also encourage you to run some dedicated hoses and emitters to make watering a lot less physical and more enjoyable. 

You will need to inspect your plants every day for signs of pests and pathogens because it doesn’t take long for a plague or blight to wipe out your whole crop.  This part isn’t really much of a chore for most growers as we find being in and amongst our plants is one of the great joys of growing marijuana.  Preventative measures like sprinkling diatomaceous earth on top of your soil or routinely foliar feeding your plants with a compost tea spray will stop a lot of pest problems before they can get started. 

Outdoor plants require sufficient space to prevent crowding each other, so use a minimum of ten feet on all sides when you initially plant them, more if practical.  The plants will also require substantial supports built out of lumber or heavy duty fencing wire.  Think tomato cages on steroids.  You may have to build successive support structures as the plants grow.  Be prepared to mend broken branches that can snap in windstorms or heavy rains. 

Because you’re used to indoor growing, chances are you’ve had to lollypop your plants to remove lower growth that was too far below the lights to produce anything of worth.  You’ll have to do something similar outdoors.  The inner growth of the plants will become shaded by the outermost canopy.  Removing this inner growth will send more energy to the outer developing buds and remove a habitat for fungi and molds. 

If you get through this year and decide you want your plants to get even bigger next season you could try starting them early indoors to give them a jumpstart on the season.  Just be sure to get them used to the sunlight beforehand by exposing them to a little more each day over the course of a week or so before dedicating them to full time sunlight. 

Finally, the best advice I can give is one you already seem to understand.  Nobody gets it right the first time and each season you grow there will be problems you will need to overcome.  Just do your best and try to keep it as simple as possible. 

Best of Luck to You.

Professor Lee 

Hello Professor Lee,

I recently bought a foliar feeding fertilizer that has instructions that suggest I spray the plants while my lights are on.  That doesn’t seem right to me.  Is there a benefit to spraying while the lights are on?


Confused Guy

Hello Guy,

Don’t be confused.  That advice seems really wrong to me for two reasons.  First, spraying water around hot bulbs can lead to exploding bulbs.  Second, water droplets on leaves under hot lights can act as tiny magnifying lenses that could burn the leaves.  I really see no upside to doing any foliar feeding with the light on.  In fact I always took great pains to avoid it.  Sometimes I’d take my plants to a shower stall and spray there then wait for the plants to dry before returning them to the garden. 

Good Question. Stay Safe.

Professor Lee

Hello Professor

I’ve been stalking the lighting section of my local grow store looking for a good light.  I want to pick up a 600-watt HPS which will fit in my space just perfect.  My question is about the reflector.  I know that a horizontal reflector will be the best choice but I didn’t know they made reflectors with a metallic surface. I’ve only seen white before.  They have one style that is smooth like a mirror and another that is dimpled.  Are these better than the white ones and what’s the deal with the dimpled one? 



Hello Kelly,

The textured surface of the dimpled reflector is called a hammer-tone finish. It will diffuse the light more evenly than the smooth mirror finish of its counterpart.  While it’s true that the smooth mirrored finish may reflect more initial light than the others, the light will not be evenly distributed across your garden canopy and there can be some serious hot spots.  Both the white fixture, coated in titanium dioxide paint, and the hammer-tone fixtures rate at about 95% reflectivity so unless there are other features like air vents to consider, your choice may simply come down to cost.  

I Hope This Helps.

Professor Lee

Hello Everybody

Thanks for sending your questions in. Please keep them coming.  I really enjoyed answering the outdoor advice question from Jenny – after all, spring is almost here for us growers in the Northern hemisphere!  I’ve sent her an autographed copy of my book Marijuana 101: Professor Lee’s Introduction to Growing Grade A Bud.  Keep sending your questions and next time it could be you that gets a book. 

'Till Then, Happy Growing.

Professor Lee

Professor Lee is a marijuana cultivation guru and author of Marijuana 101: Professor Lee’s Guide to Growing Grade A Bud, published by Green Candy Press and available through Amazon and all good bookstores, as well as alibongo.co.uk for $20 US and £14.99 UK.

This Article first appeared in issue 116 of Weed World Magazine