This past year, I had the privilege of growing out one of TGA Genetics' newer creations: 'The Ace Of Spades'.  This gorgeous and delicious strain is a hybrid of Sub's prized 'Black Cherry Soda' UNK and his 'Jack the Ripper' (which is comprised of a lineup of great strains including Jack Herer, Purple Haze and Romulan).  TGA doesn't have a feminized seed option in their lineup so with my small-scale type of grow, I ran the risk of getting a male and ending up with nothing - but my curiosity in this strain got the best of me.  The past few years have seen my grow-room make the big switch from soil to hydro as I tried out some waterfarm units.  With limited time and space, only one plant was grown out - but superior genetics (and some good luck) proved that was all that was needed to obtain some truly impressive results!  Fun fact: The Ace Of Spades was appropriately released on April 20th, 2011 (4/20)

Setup

With the space that I have and the size of plants achieved with the waterfarms, I'm able to run two units under 2 separate 600w HPS cool-tube/reflector lights. With a carbon-filter drawing in air from within my tent it filters out the odor and ducts it through both cool-tubes and out through the top of the tent.  For fresh air and circulation, I've got a small inline fan in the bottom corner of the tent pulling air in and another fan in the middle of the tent keeping things moving as well.  Temperatures during lights-on are kept to the 75-79 degree range this way.  The Ace is sharing the 7x4 ft footprint in my tent with one other waterfarm and each plant has its own 600w HPS light.   I use waterfarms that are a hybrid drip / DWC system, and use hydroton as a medium.  (picture1)

Helpful tip:  Replace your grow light bulbs once per year for indoor grows in a perpetual grow-room, this will ensure you're not loosing lumens from used HID bulbs.

Germination and Seedlings

Using the paper-towel method, the seed took about 3 days to crack.  Most of the time my seeds take about 2 days, but this one appeared to have a thicker shell.  I've had almost 100% success with germinating seeds in a wet paper-towel.  After about a 1 day soak in a shot-glass of filtered water, the seed goes into the moistened paper-towel and in a zip-lock baggie (not closed all the way) and wrapped in a handkerchief.  I then put the handkerchief onto a dark, warm surface, like the top of my computer sub-woofer speaker, and it works like a charm!

This seedling got off to a bit of a slow start and had some early leaf damage which I suspect was due to the hydroton in the waterfarm being fresh and unused.  I've found that once your hydroton has been through one grow, it's easier to start seeds in it as it's 'seasoned' from having had water flowing through it for a few months – this can often cause plants to suffer through some early leaf damage even before the roots have made it all the way down through to the water in the reservoir of the waterfarm.  I had a Vanilla Kush plant in another waterfarm next to this one and it was almost twice the size of the AoS at about 2 weeks from germination. (picture2) Now that the plant's root had reached the water in the lower reservoir through the hydroton, things really started to get into gear.

Veg Stage

The AoS proved to be a very flexible but strong plant in veg.  As soon as this plant was 6 inches in height I started low stress training.  The first 4-5 weeks included some extensive LST control and the plant really opened up.  By the end of week 6 of veg, this plant was looking amazing and definitely ready to start flowering.  We had around 15 nice tops coming in distinctively at this point and you could already see a nice even canopy developing (picture3).  All the way up until now, I hadn't noticed any serious deficiencies on the AoS and it was a very 'happy and healthy' looking plant!  Over these first 6 weeks we slowly increased the nutrient PPM from 150 to about 500.  I use GH's Flora Nova Bloom nutrient throughout my grows and using one nutrient at different levels, as needed at the different parts of the grow, has given me awesome results.  I also supplemented my last few weeks of res fills in veg with a small amount of GH's Flora Micro to give it a bit of an extra nitrogen boost before going into flower. (picture4)

Flowering Stage

There were early signs of female flowers in this strain, showing obvious white hairs at around the 5th week of veg, but I didn't change my lights to 12/12 until just past the 6 week mark.  The LST tie-downs were mostly removed at this point and the already nice canopy was looking even better - even without a scrog screen to manage the tops.  The typical first two weeks of flowering showed some nice stretch, but nothing like some other strains that have more sativa in them.  At the end of the first week of flowering, I did some fairly aggressive super-cropping by twisting and pinching all of the tops (about 4-6 inches from the top on each). (picture5)  I've had great success with all of my grows using this method as it both limits the stretch during this period of the grow and ultimately gives some 'heavier' buds.  My theory is that due to the high level of growth at this point, the stem-stress causes the plant to focus on repairing the pinched stems and thereby providing more of that 'growth spurt' energy to those parts of the plant.  That's why I try to super-crop in these locations of the tops, as further down the road it provides buds that fill-out better, all the way down the stem.  Upon weeks 3 and 4 of flower, the buds really began to take off and show their stuff.  The leaf structure was showing some heavy indica signs with nice, dark, wide leaves and thick healthy stems. (see pictures6,7)  At week 6, the developing buds were really starting to show a strong purple-pinkish colour as well, together with a bit of lime-green - a truly beautiful plant. According to the parentage of this strain, the phenotype I apparently had was the Black-Cherry Soda dominant one, showing a shorter, thicker, heavier stature – other phenotypes with heavier Jack the Ripper influence being greener, taller looking plants.  The smell in my grow tent was a back and forth mix of berries (from the AoS) and lemony-pine (from the Vanilla Kush) and the frostiness just seemed to keep building more and more on this plant! (pictures8,9)

Harvest

By the end of week 8 of flowering, we were seeing enough amber trichs on this girl to pull the plug and start chopping.  The last two weeks of flower allowed us enough time to bring the PPMs down to about 250 and the big healthy fan leaves faded out nicely right before we began harvest (picture10).  Some beautiful purplish solid buds had established on this plant which were super-sticky and frosted with orange hairs.  Trimming and manicuring took us almost an entire weekend. Maybe I'm slow, but I tend to spend extra time manicuring my buds, and keep all of the sugar-leaves and popcorn buds (small non-manicurable buds from the lower stalks and branches of the plant) for making BHO, cannabis-oil and canna-butter.(picture11,12,13)  Our dry climate here required us to only need a 5-day hang-dry before splitting our buds, weighing them and dividing them into mason jars to begin the curing process. This plant ended up yielding over 7 ounces of dried, sticky product. (picture14)

Cured Product

After a few months of curing, the AoS reached a nice point where it's moisture content was just perfect and broke up beautifully in our herb-grinder.  It produced that satisfying 'chill' and keen interest when taking a sniff of freshly ground sweet cannabis. (picture15)  Having kept all of our 'popcorn' buds from this plant in an aerated paper-bag stored in the deep-freeze, we soon discovered that those buds which were thought to be destined for oil and butter, would instead be completely smokable!  This technically added another ounce or so to our total yield.

Smoke Report

One of the things Subcool uses to describe the smell of the Ace of Spades is blue sex-wax – I think this is what best describes what we ended up getting from this heavy Black Cherry Soda phenotype; a very deep, concentrated berry smell.  The taste is difficult to explain as it's fruity, but very strong when smoked in joint form.  Vaporizing seemed to be the way to go with this strain, as we experienced some extremely tasty and pleasant-smoking tokes from the AoS.  As for the effect, we noticed this one to be an immediately 'heavy' head and body stone – very relaxing.  Late in its cure however, we noticed the AoS would not couch-lock us, but rather act as quite a motivational high when used during the day, and great to use on a weekend to easily complete otherwise bothersome chores.  We also discovered that, when used as an evening smoke, the AoS will guarantee you an amazing night's sleep – my wife thoroughly enjoyed medicating with this strain in the evenings for this reason.

Overview

It was truly a privilege to grow this strain as the true brilliance and quality of TGA's genetics really comes through here.  Looking like this at only 8 weeks of flower is an impressive thing indeed, with most quality of this level requiring closer to 10 weeks for other strains.  With minimal feeding, this plant stayed remarkably healthy in all stages of growth and we didn't exceed 1000 PPMs of nutrient by much in flower as she didn't show any signs of needing more.  It was easy to leach and flush the plant in the last 2 weeks of flower because of this and we ended up with a nice, potent, tasty result.  Being a 70/30 Indica/Sativa split, this plant makes a great candidate for producing cannabis-oil due to the heavily crystal-coated buds and leaves. 

This article first appeared in issue 105 of Weed World Magazine