Straight from the greenest corners of the East Coast, this original variation on the classic Chem Dog strain delivers yield, flavor, and a classic sativa buzz, creative and inspired yet functional and non-drowsy.
What is it?
Chem Dog is – supposedly – the original and best of the Chem Dog strains, acquired almost 20 years ago by the legendary breeder and grower Chem Dog himself, reportedly handed over in the parking lot of a Grateful Dead concert in 1991 (long live Jerry!). Because of this, we refer to it as the ’91 for short. Developed over many years from land-raised strains, the premise is simple: this is the Chem Dog. Most of you know Chem Dog by what has come from it, including a long lineage of diesels and other popular strains that are now ubiquitous, but the classic Chem Dog still has a huge appeal, especially back east, and is always a solid yielder. In addition, this strain is nearly impossible to come by, and we waited for it for over 10 years, despite our strong connections to the best breeders.
How is it grown?
The plants we worked with exhibited a single phenotype across several different gardens, which is a good indicator of solid genetics. The plant takes approx 63-70 days to mature, or 9-10 weeks. The kolas are large and dense, reaching as much as 4-6 inches in diameter, even in an indoor environment. Because of this, being careful to avoid gray mold is important. The plant also has a slight susceptibility to powder mildew. Proper neeming and sulfur treatments are adequate measures for avoiding these problems. Keep humidity below 60% and avoid direct contact of water on the buds. Even a late, heavy spraying/foiler feeding is not recommended with this dense of flowers. This strain responds extremely well to a technique we call “sativa back topping.” This technique is an extension of the traditional idea of topping your plants. After taking a center top, the plants will grow into a candelabra formation as expected. Usually 2 or 3 of the main branches will take a lead on the others, and begin to grow taller. We cut or “pinch” these leads off at the internode closest to the height of the majority of the plants main branches, leaving the top-most flower site. This often creates an additional lead at this location, and the two together grow with the others that are at the same height. We continue this process until 3 1/2 or 4 weeks in to the flower cycle. To some this sounds crazy, but we’re confident that on most sativa strains you’ll see many more flowers than if you would have let those leads grow. The other benefit is that the smaller leads that would’ve suffered in the larger branches shadows grow more evenly and receive a better exposure to the light canopy. This technique worked very well with Chem Dog 91, with many plants seeing as many as 10 thick kolas that were 8-12 inches in length, in a seven gallon container.
Chem Dog has a definitive look, smell, and taste. The appearance after drying is a lime green with a golden hue and an infusion of red hairs and a good coating of sugary crystals. This strain can herm but only under extreme light deviations or temperature stress. The plant will also “bolt” or stretch and grow “fingers” in the buds as a response to excessive heat or humidity. Even when this happens the flowers are still perfectly usable, which is another good indicator of a sold strain – toughness. Does the plant endure quite a bit and still do what it’s supposed to? If so, it’s because the plant has evolved those characteristics, which is a good sign that this strain has some history. The taste is sour and sweet, with diesel fuel overtones, herby and rich, a real classic “skunk” marijuana flavor. The yield is probably one the strains most distinguishing aspects… it yields extremely well.
If you do end up with a flowering crop of Chem Dog, take the time to flush it well to really manifest that great flavor and aroma. There is nothing particular required to finish this strain, it will wrap up on it’s own schedule in 9-10 weeks, but don’t cut any corners… the material is worth putting your best work into.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line on Chem Dog 91 is that we are convinced. A lot of different bud ends up with the name “chem dog”, but the second we tasted this stuff we knew it was the real deal. The flavor and aroma are there, the classic look and smooth smoke are there, and the yield is what it should be. Hopefully this version of Chem Dog will take hold and become the dominant Chem Dog strain once again.
If you get your hands on some Chem Dog 91, give it some love, water and food and watch it grow. Remember to always to keep it organic. If done the right, the flavor is impossible to beat.
Curing, as much as any stage of cropping, is an important step in the process that is often overlooked by beginning farmers. Even after weeks of hard work ensuring a bountiful harvest, many young gardeners overlook this crucial last step; a mistake that often ends up hurting the final potency, flavor and smell of their fruits and flowers. Although it does take a little extra time, proper planning and a little patience will give your flowers a chance to lock-in the flavor and smell you’ve work hard to get, and will often “bring out the nose” of material that was dried too quickly or otherwise wasn’t exhibiting a strong aroma at time of harvest.
What Curing Does
Curing does three important things that work together. The first goal of curing is to equalize the material’s moisture level. At the end of 7-10 days of drying, when your stems are snapping, the moisture that remains is mostly stored deep in the flower material. The outer most layers of the buds will be dry to the touch. Upon breaking a flower open however, you’ll notice that the center is still rather moist. If you then allow the plant to continue to dry, the center of the plant will reach an ideal finished moisture level after the outer most layers of the plant have become far too dry and brittle, leading to the breaking off of material that creates the “duff” and “shake” we see in the bottom of finished bags of material. This hints at the second goal of properly curing your flowers, which is durability. A properly cured flower will contain just enough moisture, evenly spread throughout, that it resists crumbling or breaking-apart, yet is easy to work with and use. We call this “bag stamina,” and it refers to the ability of the flower to stay intact and not crumble despite being handled and rustled in a container. Lastly, and possibly most important, is flavor and aroma. The moisture stored inside your flowers carries essential oils and sugars that need to be expressed evenly throughout the material to get a great finished smell and appearance.
The only real preparation required for curing is to have the right amount of the right size of containers and the right environment to store them in. If you are working with longer, thicker branches, you’ll want to use storage totes, approx. 18-20 gallons in size. If you are working with shorter, thinner branches, then it’s possible that smaller food-grade containers or even turkey bags will work for you. For totes and containers, home improvement stores and places like Target and Wal-Mart will have a variety to choose from. Some people will need a half-dozen small containers or a half-dozen turkey bags. Others will need 2-dozen 18-gal large storage totes. It just depends on the quantity and average girth of your material. After you’ve chosen your ideal container, make sure you get plenty of them, as you’ll only be filling them halfway. So, if you have enough material that it will all fit in 6 totes, get 12, so you can spread the material around.
Clear the space necessary to store your containers in a room that you can keep at approx. 65 degrees with approx. 65% humidity. This will ensure a relatively neutral environment that allows the plant to breath and sweat naturally without being excessively dried or being overly moistened.
Curing and Checking
After your space and your containers are ready, take your full branches of material (it’s best for it to cure on the vine if possible) and pile them loosely and evenly in the totes until they are filled halfway. The branches should have plenty of room for air to flow in and out between them and for moisture to escape, but close enough together that they can spread their moisture around amongst each other. If you just stack them loosely and don’t compress them (or bury them under too much of their own weight) then you will be fine, and you’ll notice lots of 1-3 cm airways between your branches and all the flowers.
Now we’re going to “sweat” them. After you are finished loading your totes, tightly fasten the lids on each of them. In 12 hours, check them by removing the lids. If the stems bend again instead of snapping, and the flowers squish instead of crumbling, then you know you’ve done some proper sweating. Leave the lids off for 6-12 hours for this moisture to dry away, and then repeat the process. If there is no change, check them again in 12 more hours, approx. 24 hours after the lids first went on. If you notice a change at 24 hours, then leave the lid off for 24 hours, and repeat the process. Some material will cycle through the sweating process quicker and some will do it slower, so it’s important to check at 12 and 24 hours to determine the right “rhythm” to breath and sweat your plants by. Either way, the goal is to alternate in even intervals between having the lids on and taking the lids off. When the lids are on, the air supply is cut off which slows the drying. The moisture inside the material spreads around throughout each branch and from branch to branch. When the lids are off, the drying continues and the newly released moisture is dried away. This process, when repeated, slowly extracts the remaining moisture and oils, drying away the moisture and leaving the flavor and aroma spread throughout the material and condensed on the surface of the plant. It’s important to remember that his is not an exact science, some environments with relatively higher or lower humidity or temperature may require an intermediate approach, where the time cycle is closer to 6-12 hours and the lids are put on but left askew or slightly cracked for air flow.
Finishing the Cure
After repeating the sweating/drying process several times, you’ll notice that little change has occurred since the last interval. This is your indication that your plants are done curing, although some farmers insist that good flowers are never done curing, and if properly stored, will get even better and better over many months! In reality most of us can’t wait that long, so if you are noticing little change between sweating and breathing, it’s time to trim your flowers off the vine and bag them up. If you are keeping some of your harvest for yourself, or have grown an especially important “head stash”, then take the time to store it in mason jars or some form of glass container. Either way, when choosing your final container to store your finished cured medicine, make sure that the air-to-material ratio is rather low, i.e., don’t put a small amount of material in a large container. Loosely fill a container all the way, this will prevent the finished material from further drying. For personal stashes, consider a container that you can fill with enough medicine to last for 1 month. You can continue to breath and sweat it (you will naturally every time you open it for a sample) and you’ll notice that after a few more weeks it is even more potent and aromatic than before. Like fine wine, this process will continue for months and months, resulting in an aroma and flavor you just can’t get any other way.
If you have any tips or techniques you use for curing your flowers, let us know, and leave a comment! Keep it organic and keep growing!
The Art of Propagation
Sounds heady, right? Well it kinda is. Cloning plants is one endeavour where having the mythical “green thumb” will certainly help you. Some people take to cloning instantly, with little trouble, and successfully propagate their plants of choice for years to come. Others however, often experience a tough start finding a technique that will work for them, and are forced to resort to other means, like purchasing clones at a garden store or taking cuttings from a friend. As any pest expert will tell you, the first way to prevent mites and other parasites from taking hold in your garden is to control where your plants come from. The clones found at garden stores are exposed to the elements, the whims of their proprietor, and the bugs, spores, and microbes that are trafficked in by the public at large. For these reasons as well as many others, many professional gardeners prefer to propagate their own favorite plants. We have a sure-fire technique for cloning almost any plant that we’ve documented here, in order to help any cloning noobs out. As you are about to find out, it’s much easier than you may think.
Supplies and Setup
Before starting, you’ll need the following supplies. 1) Oasis rooting cubes are the brand we prefer. 2) Fresh clean razor blades. 3) Cloning trays with domes at least 10 inches high. 4) Rooting gel (we prefer Clonex), 5) a heating mat for keeping the roots warm, and 6) and a mild bloom solution with a little nitrogen in it, like a 5-10-10 or a 2-5-5. You’ll also need a cutting board and some clippers.
Put your cubes in a tray, prepare a mild and tepid (70 degrees) nutrient solution using your bloom formula, at approx. 1/4 the strength of the recommended amount. Soak the cubes in your tray, filling the tray so that the water is level with teh top of the cubes.
In order to ensure vigorous clones, you also need to make sure your mother plant is as healthy as possible. We do this by feeding the mother plant 3-5 days before cutting with a healthy dose of an evenly balanced nutrient, like a liquid 5-5-5.
It’s also important to setup your cloning space, because you’ll want to put your finished clones directly into their new home when ready. Make sure you find a space that can accommodate two flourescent four-foot lights, and one to four cloning trays. Place your heating mat on the shelf or surface, and hang your light so that it is approx. 4 inches above your dome. Make sure you use a timer or other device to regulate the temperature of your heating mat. We turn ours on for 30 minutes, then off for 30 minutes. Some heating mats will come with a thermostat and can be set to an exact temperature. Either way, use a hygrometer to watch the temp and humidity levels of the dome and the root zone in order to make sure you aren’t over or under heating your babies.
When choosing which branches to cut off of your mother for cloning, think about how you want to manicure and manage your mother plant. If your plant is getting tall, take the tops from the lead branches. Think of your mother plant as a banzai tree. This will encourage your plant to produce more branches in a shape that is desirable for you. As well, when selecting branches, look for material that needs to be thinned from the plant in order to encourage air flow and reduce sites for molds, mildews, and buggers.
To take your cuttings, you’ll need a small pair of shears and a shot-glass full of Clonex. Make sure you are cutting from thick, healthy branches, with at least 5-7 inches from the lowest node on the stem. Cut the branch from the plant, making a nice clean cut as close to the attaching stem as possible. Use your razor to make nice clean cuts along the stem, cleaning up small branches and leaf sites except for the last two good leaf formations. Cut the remaining leaves back so that the entire radius of the finished clone is approx. 2 inches. Make a 45 degree cut, 1/4 inch below the lowest node/internode, dip your stem (approx 1+ inches worth) in rooting gel, and then insert into the hole on the oasis cube, firmly pressing the stem far enough in to keep it stable, but not all the way through the bottom. Your clone should have a nice, clean stem, approx. 4-6 inches long, emerging from the medium, with 4-8 leaves on top, each cut down so that the entire clone, when looking down on it, is approx 2 inches wide. This ensure nice airflow throughout the tray and dome. When you are finished, you will have a tray with several evenly spaced clones, ready for a dome and placement under a light and onto a heating mat.
Now that your clones are ready to go into their environment, make sure your domes have the vents open, or if necessary, cut vent holes into the top of your dome. Place the dome onto the tray, and place the tray on your heating mat. If necessary, take the time now to adjust the height of your lights. Lastly, now that your trays are sitting comfortably, rotate the dome very slightly, so that approx 1 inch of the dome overhangs the tray. This ensures a natural air convection from the bottom to the top.
Once a day the dome should be remove for 5 minutes in order to exhange the air completely. In addition, while the dome is off, go ahead and flush the nutrient solution by flooding and draining your tray, then filling again with a fresh mixture of 70-degree diluted nutrient solution. Repeat nutrient flushing every 2-3 days. After approx. 7-10 days you can remove the dome completely and shortly after you should have vigorous root growth.
Trimming is the bane of every grower’s existence… meticulous work that just doesn’t come with any shortcuts. Although there are a number of automatic trimmers on the market, most growers (understandably) just aren’t willing to trust their valuable harvest to a machine. Many gardeners and farmers believe that properly manicured flowers require a human touch. This doesn’t mean however that you’ll be spending the next 45 days in solitary confinement until your thumb is cramped into a ball… it just requires some planning and a one-step-at-a-time approach.
The first step is to plan your attack. Depending on what you are growing and how much of it you grew, you might need more than one person for a successful trim. Break down your quantity into managable numbers and approximate. If you have 4 lbs of freshly cut fruit or flowers, and it takes one person 8 hours to properly manicure 1 lb of your flowers, then you’ll need 4 people to get the job done in one day. If you have 8lbs, you would need 8 people, and so on. If your produce requires 1 person half a day to prepare 1 lb, then you can get 4 lbs. a day from 2 people. The point during this step isn’t to magically guess the numbers perfectly, but to avoid overwhelm and plan a quantified attack. For large outdoor harvests of leafy varieties, you will need a large team to get things done in a timely fashion. For personal indoor gardens, usually 1 or 2 two people is enough to finish the job in 1 or 2 days. Once you have a clear idea of how much work you have, you can then coordinate with workers and plan a schedule.
Most gardeners that have worked with a few trimmers before will keep a roster of their favorite workers. Approx 1 or 2 weeks before harvest you will want to start calling your crew and organizing work days that fit everyone’s schedule. It’s best to just work during normal business hours in order to accomodate the most people and to avoid undesirable traffic in your neighborhood after hours. Once you assembled a team and schedule, make sure you have all the supplies you’ll need. You’ll need scissors; the fiskars snips for fine detail, regular short and long blade scissors for rough material, and the big clippers for cutting larger stocks. You’ll also need turkey bags, approx. 1 bag per pound of flowers. For large harvest food-grade storage totes will work as well. Most workers will prefer gloves, make sure to use the powder-free, and the most ecological variety you can find. Rubbing alcohol, olive oil, paper towells, lighters, snacks and beverages (something with caffiene), plenty of light, fans, and good tunes will be everything else you need. Comfortable seating and tables are also necessary as the work will continue for long hours.
The Real Work
For trimming wet material, you’ll want to take it directly to your workers as you harvest. We prefer to just take enough down to give everyone something to do for one hour. This avoids the wilting that will slow down your trimming work. Start by breaking down your material, if necessary, into 7-10 inch stalks. This will make your material into easy-to-manage individual units. Proceed by removing the fan leaves, usually the largest, outer-lying leaves that contain little or no medicine. Be careful not to leave stem bases or torn leaves, which dry up into unappealing “crow’s feet” on your finished produce. As well, be careful not to try to remove too much during this phase; getting over-zealous can result in accidentally tearing buds from the stem or otherwise damaging your flower material.
First use your fiskars snips to go in after the largest remaining leaves, where the leaf stem attaches to the larger branch. After removing all fan leaf material, place in plastic trash bags or containers for disposal. Next, using your hands to rotate the flowers and your short-blade scissors, you’ll want to look across the bud, pick a plane to cut along (almost as if trimming hedges) and then choose a cut, attempting to cut as many leaves along that plane as you can. Rotate the flowers in your hand as you cut, to keep the plane close to the material, “wrapping” your cut around the flowers as you go. Repeat this method on the smaller leaf material until the flower has an even, uniform appearance with no protruding or scraggly-looking leaves. Lastly, use your fiskars snips again to target any remaining leaves or unwanted material that remains. Do this trimming work over a tray or a table to collect the trim. This finer level of trim is useful for making concentrates.
For wet trimming, the finished manicured flowers will go onto wire hangers, hung from the last bud or branch on the stem. Pack the hangers loosely so the buds are barely touching and hang the hangers to dry, approx. 4 inches apart from each other, to allow for at least an inch of airflow between buds
For dry trimming, you’ll want to use the above method, except for you won’t be taking wet flowers directly to your workers. Instead, you’ll be bringing in your hangers full of almost dry branches, and the workers will work directly into your turkey bags or food-grade totes. Usually, for dry trimming, you’ll want your workers to remove the flowers from the stem directly into bags. Be careful not to let your material get too dry before trimming, or it will be too delicate to handle effectively.
While you are working, and especially after you are finished, you might have quite a sticky mess. Our preferred method for cleaning is to use olive oil and table salt. Approx 1 tablespoon of olive oil, when mixed with one teaspoon of coarsely ground salt, when rubbed between the hands, will emulsify the resin and it will easily rinse away with hot soapy water. For larger jobs, even your carpet may require cleaning, so consider who you will call or where you will rent your favorite scrubber.
For more information and more tips, make sure to keep reading RootsandHarmony.com and check out our 2010, 2009, and 2008 medical gardening calendars. If you have any questions or tips on trimming, please post comments here and keep the discussion rolling!
Climate is one of the most misunderstood factors for beginning and intermediate growers. The key to good climate control is understanding the relationship between your plants and nature, and how you mimic and manage that relationship when you go indoors or into a greenhouse to grow. The three big aspects of climate control are temperature, air movement, and humidity. Other factors, such as CO2 concentration, can also be considered and managed.
Temperature is often one of the most difficult things to manage for new growers. It is so crucial to the development and lifecycle of plants that it can’t be overstated. While most new growers tend to air on the side of overheating, overcooling your garden is an equal concern. Either extreme will cause your plants too shut down and stop growing, and in the most severe cases, even die altogether.
First, in order to prevent guessing, get yourself a decent hygrometer. This is a handy little device that will tell you the temperature and humidity of your environment. The common ones available in garden stores today have a minimum/maximum feature, which will tell you at any given time the highest and lowest temperatures recently recorded, as well as the corresponding humidity levels. The magic numbers are 75 degrees during the day (when your lights are on) and 68-70 during the night (your plants expect a slight cool down when the sun isn’t out).
Anything above 80 degrees is getting towards the dangerous end of the scale for most indoor fruits and flowers. Transpiration (water leaving the leaves due to evaporation) will begin to exceed the rate of hydration (water entering the plants roots), therefore drying your plants out, no matter how much water you give them. As you approach 90 degrees, this will start to have a noticeable effect on the health of your plant. Dry, brittle, yellow fan leaves, and dead, shriveled old growth will begin to appear. If you notice that your high/low is getting up to 90 or more, and you are witnessing these symptoms, you should first address your temperature problem. You may in fact be under-watering as well, but you’ll never know until you get your transpiration/hydration balance in check. There are other problems that can come with high heat; certain pests and parasites, including mildews and mold, thrive in warmer temperatures, and unhealthy plants are at a distinct disadvantage in trying to naturally to fight them off. As well, your plants will manifest strange growth patterns in an attempt to cool and aerate it’s fruit. Stretching stems and flowers, airy or “fluffy” fruit development, and overall low yield will result. In addition, extreme temperatures can even trigger hermaphroditic behavior, which is a natural defensive reproductive reaction the plant has to shock or stress.
Extreme lows can be equally problematic. In colder climates and winter months, night-time temperatures indoors can easily reach 30 degrees or lower without the aid of a heater. When plants become too cold, the rate of transpiration slows so much that there is no need for hydration (there is literally no room in the plant for more water) which dramatically slows the uptake of nutrients and essentially brings the growth process grinding to a halt. This can shock the plant into thinking an early winter has arrived, and that it needs to pollenate itself, which will result in male flowers and eventually seeds. As well, cold temperatures tend to encourage high humidity and moisture in the plant and growing medium, which will invite mold, mildews, and pests.
Humidity is the other most crucial factor in protecting the health of your growing environment. Even after beginning growers learn to control their temperature, they often experience powder mildew, botrytis (brown/grey mold), and funguses and other yield-threatening problems. The culprit? High humidity, almost every time.
Humidity is a measure of how much moisture (water) is in the air. This is important for three reasons. One, the moisture level of the environment has an important influence on the moisture balance your plants. If the environment’s humidity is extremely low, plants will loose moisture faster, and certain pests like spider mites benefit. If the humidity is too high, the plants won’t loose moisture fast enough, and powder mildew and botrytis benefit from that environment. The trick is keeping it right down the middle, at around 45%. This is best achieved through the use of a commercial dehumidifier which you can get at any home improvement store. Lastly, the moisture in the air is vector (delivery system) for parasitic spores and microbes itself, so it’s important to keep it in check.
Keeping it in Check with Airflow
Heaters and dehumidifiers are nice, but without a good, comprehensive airflow system, they are just fighting an uphill battle. The biggest thing a grower can do to manage both temperature and humidity, as well as exposure to unwanted foreign particles and parasites is to carefully manage airflow. Ample intake and outtake CFM (cubic feet per minute) are necessary for managing heat, humidity, and cleanliness of your environment. For larger rooms, 10′x10′ or more, consider a 12″ or larger outtake fan that will provide at least 1000 CFM or more. Smaller rooms can use smaller fans, all the way down to the 4″ models that are carried at many garden stores.
The key with airflow is maintaining a good ratio of flow to temperature. Too much incoming outdoor air, when lights are off, will cool a room down too low, and may not be needed. Too little outgoing air, when lights are on, will let heat pile up. Some growers dial this in with timers, others carefully adjust using a manual method, and others use temperature-based controllers to turn the fans on and off. These are our favorite, as they allow the room to “breath” with the temperature and bring in cool air when needed, turn it off when it isn’t, and stop exhausting when the room isn’t hot. 4 or 5 oscillating fans keep the air in the room moving in between bursts of in and outtake air activity. If you do use a timer to turn on your fans, make sure you set the timer to run long enough to actually completely exchange the air in the room. This should take 1-5 minutes to happen.
For keeping your intake air clean, it is important to use HEPA certified intake filters. Ask your garden store to recommend a filter size for your room. Remember that an intake filter will slow down the airflow in, so it’s important to get a fan and filter with enough combined CFM to compensate. Your outtake filter is another very important part of keeping your air clean. That activated carbon filter you have is the same stuff they use to keep hospital air clean, so it will work for you. Make sure again that your output filter and fan are large enough, that with the combined CFM between them they are able to quickly (< 3min.) clean and replace the air in your room.
Lastly, make sure that your intake CFM and outtake CFM are roughly equivalent. This will keep air moving and prevent vacuums and pile-ups of dirty air.
Remember that every grow space is it’s own environment and will require monitoring and adjusting. By carefully measuring your room however, and consulting with your local garden store, you can make sure you have the recommended amount of CFM both in and out when you start. Add in a dehumidifier and a basic space heater and you are good to go!
Controlling it All
Now that you have the basic elements of your climate control system in place, it’s important to consider how you’ll run it all. There are dozens of products on the market that will help you do this, from single-device, thermostat-based controllers to large, elaborate “brains” that will run your lights, your heater, your A/C, your dehu, and more. Some of these new systems even come with an ethernet connection so you can access your information from the internet, your PC, and even your iPhone! For more information on this, it’s best to consult your local garden store. A knowledgable owner will know what item is appropriate for the budget, scale, and concerns of your garden.