Welcome to the ongoing story of one man’s journey into the world of indoor growing.

The waiting is the hardest part

Cutting bucket is full. Grow bucket is nearly full. Let’s hope they don’t realize the horror the previous occupants experienced, and have a happy uneventful adolescence this time around.

Still just the six in the main bloom hydro unit, but they look good. In fact the bottom of the plant looks ready to harvest, although the top looks like it can go a little while yet. I sound like a pro don’t I? Well, I’m just repeating what my buddy who gave me the original clones said when he saw my grow the other day.

I’m no pro, but even with the recent setbacks, I’m feeling pretty good about my first grow.

Meanwhile, back at HQ…

Not too much new to report as my elder plants near their final stages and my younger plants recover from tragedy, so I thought I’d head back to KnowESys HQ for some inspiration and for some copy with which to fill my customary Saturday morning blog post…

Dean: Welcome back!

Marc: You look older and wiser!

Me: Thanks. I am at least one of those things.

Dean: So we’re dying to know… How’s the grow going? Have the grobot and the add-ons we set you up with been useful?

Me: Useful? No. Indispensable. Seriously, how did anyone ever grow before you could just know what’s going on in the plants’ environment? Precisely. Over time. This is huge.

Marc: Well, we killed a lot of plants.


Dean: Which is why we built the Cyborgro platform. 10 years ago this level of automation and control was only available at an industrial scale and it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Me: Well, I don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars but I sure am glad I have a grobot! I just wish It could have prevented “user error.” I mixed up a toxic batch of nutes and killed my entire grow bucket overnight.

Marc: We’re working on it.


And I find that oddly reassuring. ‘Till next week!

Heartbreak in the homestretch

Just learned one of the most painful lessons in hydroponics– mistakes are amplified and death comes quickly.

I guess I mixed up a batch of nutrients and got the proportions way off because that grow bucket dropped and it dropped fast. I now have no new plants up and coming and still have just 6 plants rapidly finishing their bloom cycle. Those six look great, but this seriously changes the dynamic of my grow, and not in a good way. Oh well, I guess I can start taking cuttings at a faster clip now. So that’s a good thing.

The six in bloom look great, though. That first one that I worried about getting too tall? Well it got too tall. I didn’t have the heart to cut it short, so I bent it gently to about 90 degrees and secured it to the trellis with fuzzy pipe cleaners.

Halfway through first bloom

Hard to believe some of these plants have been in the bloom phase for nearly a month. I’m told this variety needs just about two full months to complete its bloom cycle. One of these plants is a good six inches taller than all the rest– not sure what I’ll do if it gets much bigger! I’ve already had to stabilize nearly all of the plants by loosely affixing them to the trellis with fuzzy pipe cleaners. I sure am glad I built the trellis up a good three feet over the top over the hydro system! I’ve been spacing them every other slot to give each plant a little more room, but that cuts my capacity from 21 to 10. And we’ve got 6 already with more on the way. Looks like I either need to expand or slow down! The moms are getting big too, and I really should be taking cuttings from them more often to keep them in check. Anybody need some cuttings?

Over-engineering FTW!

I am very impressed with the dosing pumps from KnowESys. Well, the pumps themselves are pretty standard little units you can get cheaper just about anywhere really, but I love the dashboard control through the Ninja Smoke app on my phone. I just tell it how much liquid to dispense (6 ml or 2 tsp or 0.1 gallons, whatever!), tap a button on my phone and the almighty grobot dispenses that exact amount. Pretty nifty!

Ninja Smoke - Dosing Pump

Ninja Smoke – Dosing Pump

So I figured, I would be equally impressed with this next innovation from KnowESys: The power switch.

The power switch is just an 18″ power cord with a relay in the middle that you can run a wire to from your grobot and turn things on and off through Ninja Smoke on your phone. So I replaced the physical timer on my main Bloom lamp with a virtual timer on the grobot. Long story short it does exactly the same thing but now I can log it. Which I already could because the grobot has a light sensor and I moved the grobot into the bloom zone weeks ago. So maybe this just isn’t the best application of the technology. I think the power switch might be more useful with larger pumps or space heaters than as a fixed cycle light timer. It sure does demo well, though. There’s something about being able to turn the lamp on remotely and showing someone how the camera slowly starts to reveal your grow as the light slowly powers up… pretty cool!

Ninja Smoke - Control Panel

Ninja Smoke – Control Panel

A death in the family

Sorry for the melodramatic title there, but it almost feels that way when you lose a plant you’ve cared for it’s whole short little life. I have no idea what happened– one day it was a happy recent transplant to the bloom zone, the next evening when the light came on it was dead. Just dead. I’m told this happens by all my grower friends, just not TO any of my grower friends apparently. Harrumph.

The grobot continues to make my job (hobby? pass time? obsession?) easier and more enlightening. Now that I have over a month of data, I can actually see the trends over time. I can actually witness the interaction between the central air heating system, the outside temp, lights turning on and off… I feel like I’m connected to the whole thing in a deep and intentional way. When I show it off to people they are uniformly impressed, and when I show it to growers they want one. I feel like these KnowESys cats might really be on to something big here!

The circle of life

Holy cow! This week I moved three more plants into the bloom zone for a total of four! These plants are growing an inch a day, easy! I do hope they slow down– any taller than four foot and we’re going to be getting a little too close to the light.

I’m trying to get into a cycle of replacing each plant I move from grow to bloom by moving another plant from cloner to grow and then taking a fresh cutting. It’s a little tricky because my moms are still pretty young.

I’ve picked up another pH probe and fluid level sensor for my grobot, so I can get the same info on my dashboard for both zones. The folks over at KnowESys also set me up with pH-up dosing pump for my grow bucket, which is far more volatile than my bloom reservoir. I think I’ll pick up another dosing pump for bloom eventually, but I really only need to adjust it when I add solution so it’s not really an issue. Sure is handy for the grow bucket though! Other than occasionally transferring plants, taking cuttings, tapping a button on my phone to pH-balance my grow bucket and periodically refilling reservoirs, the system pretty much just takes care of itself! Awesome!

Beginning the bloom

Well, I’ve been busy building and the blogging has fallen a little behind. In preparation for moving plants into my bloom zone, over the last few weeks I have constructed my most amazing frankenstein-contraption ever. This bad boy is (pardon my french) the bastard son of a million online hydroponics designs, adapted by yours truly to be, above all else, easy to construct and maintain.

Basically, I used three 5′ segments of 6″ PVC with a cap on one and and a T fitting facing down and out at the other. I built a trellis out of 1″ and 1/2″ PVC and a zillion PVC fittings, couplers and adapters. I drilled seven 2″ holes along the top of each, and threw three of those 317 GPH pumps in the reservoir at the end. Each pump runs to a 1/2″ PVC pipe running along the inside top of the 6″ PVC pipes with holes for sprayers. Super simple but also super modular so each part of it can be easily removed, cleaned and replaced.

And the plants dig it! At least the one that I’ve transferred so far does. They better like it after all the work I’ve put into this room over the last few weeks: Building a hydro system from scratch, installing fans and routing airflow with long foil hoses from lights to exhaust vents and from air-intake vents to the tops of both zones!

Splitting up the family and preparing for bloom

I have made the executive decision to take my two strongest looking plants and turn them into moms so I don’t need to keep copping clones from my buddy. I picked up some sterile dirt and just dropped the plants into some 8″ pots. First day they were a little droopy, but a couple days in they look OK. We’ll see how they do!

I’ve replaced the 200W light with a 400W metal halide. Looking at the graph of the last week’s temperature on the grobot, I can see exactly when I plugged that thing in, because the temp in my grow zone shot up from 70F to 80F literally overnight. We’re gonna need some fans!

Speaking of fans, if that 400W drove up my grow rooms temp that much, imagine what that 1000W HPS my buddy unloaded on me for cheap is going to do to the temps!

Also, speaking of graphs, I can see now why my pH readings were “all over the place” when I was doing it by hand. The pH is extremely sensitive to temperature. If you compare the temperature graph to the ph graph you can see exactly how they correlate with a slight lag. Same with humidity, it’s really cool! In any case the plants also change the pH as they extract nutrients from the solution. With my plants, the pH seems to start out high and then slowly “walk” steadily downward over the course of a day. Once, it actually went from 6.5 down to 5.5 TWICE in one day! No wonder my sporadic manual readings were all over the place! Taken out of context they seemed totally random, but being able to graph it out and look at it over different periods of time really helps me make sense of it all.  I’m getting better at timing my pH adjustments so that I don’t get notifications from my grobot in the middle of the night anymore!