Welcome to the basics of soil runoff for cannabis! We’re talking the water that escapes your pot after watering. This runoff can give you clues about two important factors: pH and EC. pH tells us how acidic or alkaline the water is on a scale from 0 to 14, with cannabis plants preferring a slightly acidic range. EC approximates the level of nutrients are in the water, indicating the plant’s food supply. Keeping track of these can lead to a thriving cannabis garden. Let’s learn to measure and understand soil runoff to ensure your plants are in their best state.
Importance of pH Levels and EC in Cannabis Cultivation
Understanding pH and EC levels is crucial for anyone looking to grow healthy cannabis plants. Let’s break down why paying attention to these factors matters so much.
Starting with pH levels, they’re the key that unlocks the door to nutrient uptake. If the pH of your soil is balanced within the ideal range (typically 6 to 7 for soil), your plants can easily take in the nutrients they need. When pH levels go too high or too low, certain nutrients can become hard for plants to absorb, even if those nutrients are right there in the soil.
Now, EC, or electrical conductivity, is all about knowing if your plants have enough to eat or maybe too much. EC tells you the amount of minerals in your soil by measuring the “conductivity” of the water in the soil. Soil with a healthy amount of nutrients will have a higher EC value. If the EC is too low, your plants might be running low on nutrients. On the other side, if the EC is too high, there could be so many nutrients that your plant can’t handle them all, which can lead to nutrient burn. In either case, EC gives you the chance to adjust the food levels before your plants suffer.
Both pH and EC need to be right in the sweet spot. By regularly checking and adjusting these two factors, you can set the table for a feast your plants can really enjoy, leading to healthy growth and larger yields.
Step-by-Step Guide to Measuring Soil Runoff pH and EC
To take a peak at the environment your roots are growing in you can monitor the pH and EC of your soil runoff. Here’s how you can check these values with accuracy.
- pH meter
- EC meter
- A clean container for collecting runoff
Collecting Runoff Water:
- Position a clean container beneath the pot to catch the runoff.
- Water your cannabis plants until you see the water beginning to drain from the bottom of the pot—this is your runoff water.
- Let the water settle for a few minutes so any solid particles can sink to the bottom.
- Switch on your calibrated pH meter.
- Gently place the meter sensor in the runoff water and wait until the reading stabilizes.
- Record the pH reading. The optimal range for cannabis is usually between 6 and 6.5 for soil grows.
- Turn on your calibrated EC meter or probe.
- Place the sensor end of the EC meter into the water, similar to what you did with the pH meter. Give it a slight swirl.
- Wait for the meter to provide a stable reading and note the value which approximates the level of dissolved salts in the solution.
By following these steps to measure the pH and EC of your soil runoff, you’ll gain valuable insight on the environment your plants are growing in. These measurements can help in making informed decisions about feeding and troubleshooting the health of your cannabis plants, ensuring they receive just the right amount of nutrients they need for optimal growth.
A Note About EC
Measuring EC is not a perfect method for calculating the precise nutrient content because it only measures the electrical conductivity of the solution, which is influenced by the total dissolved salts. While these salts often include nutrients essential for plant growth, EC does not differentiate between them. It also cannot tell you about the specific nutrient ratios or detect non-conductive substances that may be present. It’s a helpful approximation but requires further analysis for detailed information on the nutrients available to your plants.
When and Why You Should Measure Soil Runoff
Measuring soil runoff is not essential, but doing it every so often can help you monitor your cannabis plants’ health. If you were to test the soil runoff each time you water your plants you can get an idea of what’s happening in your soil.
You should also know that watering your plants with just water will have a much lower EC measurement than if your are feeding your plants nutrients. The best time to measure the runoff when growing in pots would be at least a day after feeding.
Regular monitoring holds a lot of benefits. For one, it can help you spot any potential nutrient imbalances before they become bigger problems, saving you time and resources down the line. By having a steady record of your soil’s pH and EC levels, you’ll be able to adjust your feeding schedule and amounts more precisely. It also allows you to catch any pH drifts early on, which helps in maintaining a stable growing environment for robust plant health and yields.
A grow Journal is a great way to keep track of what is going in and coming out of your plants. By tracking this information you can better diagnose issues in your garden.
How to interpret the Results of Soil Runoff
By keeping track regularily you should now have a baseline to compare your future results to.
What you are looking for are trends while the exact numbers aren’t necessarily important.
A optimum soil sunoff pH should be between 6-7. If the numbers are gradually going up or down then your soil is getting a little basic or acidic from either the water or feeding.
You may have to adjust your inputs with a little pH up or down.
EC readings can and will vary based on the stage of growth, but generally, they should fall within a certain range that indicates a healthy level of dissolved minerals. Low EC readings suggest your plants may be hungry and could benefit from more nutrients. High readings can indicate that there’s a risk of nutrient burn.
If you find the EC level is high, simply dilute your nutrient solution with more water next time you feed. Conversely, if it’s low, consider increasing nutrient concentration.
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Mike Drouin is the co-founder of Reefertilizer. He’s an experienced craft cannabis grower and a writer of many articles regarding the process. Mike enjoys cycling and camping and will sometimes combine the two.