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overfeeding cannabis

What Is Overfeeding and How to Fix It

Nutrient burn is the result of overfeeding and it’s a super common mistake among new growers. Unlike humans, plants do not get fatter and bigger with more “food”. If you give nutrients in excess, your plants will start to show signs of stress.

1. What is overfeeding?

Nutrient burn is the result of overfeeding. When feeding in excess, your plants will start to show signs of stress like the tip of the leaves yellowing and ultimately, browning and dying of the leaves. To avoid this it’s essential you follow the schedule the manufacturer provides and adjust accordingly.

A TDS meter measures the amount of nutrients in a solution (PPM), this is the only way to know exactly how much nutrients you’re giving your plants and is the best way to avoid nutrient burn.

Stages of growth PPM (Particles per million)
Seedlings 100 – 250
First half of vegging 300 – 400
Second half of vegging 450 – 700
First half of flowering 750 – 950
Second half of flowering 1000 – 1600
End of flowering and harvest 0

Nutrient burn is the result of overfeeding and is something that all growers have dealt with because some plants need more nutrients than others, nutrient burn or deficiency can happen to more experienced growers but it’s more common with new growers.

Just like humans, plants start “eating” a small amount of nutrients and will start to need more as they grow, that’s why manufacturers usually provide a feeding schedule, even though the dosage they recommend can vary from strain to strain and on the medium you’re growing in, it’s a good guideline.

If you want to provide an optimal amount of nutrients you can use a TDS meter, measuring the PPM (particle per million) will guarantee a healthy plant.

2. Nutrient burn causes

As the name says, the cause of overfeeding is the excess of nutrients and this can happen in a lot of ways:

Drying out the soil too much

When the soil is drying out your plant will have less water while the nutrients remain the same, this will cause a sudden increase in the nutrient to water ratio and can affect your plants.

Overusing bloom-boosters

Bloom-boosters aren’t anything else than Potassium (P) and Phosphorus (K), even though they can help you get a better harvest, using too much will cause nute burn.

Mixing nutrients too strong

A too-strong nutrient solution can affect plants in all stages of growth but younger plants with less developed roots can have a hard time recovering from nute burn.

Overfeeding can happen with organic and synthetic nutrients but because organic feeding makes the nutrients available in the medium and synthetic nutrients feed the roots directly, it’s more common with bottled nutrients.

3. Signs of overfed plants

When the roots absorb more nutrients than the plant can use, the excess will inhibit water from being transferred throughout the plant and this is when you’ll start to see some signs of overfeeding.

You should be really careful when mixing the nutrient solution that you’re giving your plants, because plants don’t have a way to deal with an excess of nutrients, they will start to show signs of “nute burn” like:

  • Bending of the tips
  • Yellowing or browning of the leaves
  • Leaves with crispy tips
  • Leaves twisting

Nutrient burn during the vegetative stage

In can be easier to deal with nute burn in the vegetative stage because there are no buds to be affected, so you will only suffer from a couple of burnt leaves if you can control it in the early stages.

Even though it’s easier to deal with because you’re not risking your buds, have in mind that depending on the amount of nutrients you’ve given to your plant, all the leaves can ultimately burn and it can be really hard for your plant to recover.

Nutrient burn during flowering

Buds can also be affected by nutrient burn, when changing from vegetative to flowering nutrients, cannabis needs a higher amount of Calcium and Magnesium to produce flowers properly.

Depending on the medium, you will have to provide those micronutrients and can be easy to burn your plants if given in excess, remember nutrient burn can be caused by macro and micro nutrients even if they are used in lower quantities.

If you overfeed during the flowering stage, the symptoms will be the same but it can be more risky because if the buds brown, they can die and start rotting, ruining your harvest.

Early symptoms Advanced symptoms
Slow plant growth cause by nutrient lock Brown spots on leaves
Leaves curl downwards Burnt tips of leaves
Leaves edges burnt Lower leaves damaged (macronutrient excess) or Top leaves damaged (micronutrients)
Yellowing on the tip of leaves Leaves dying and falling

Nutrient burn vs nutrient deficiency

When identifying symptoms it’s crucial you don’t get confused because the symptoms of overfeeding are similar to what plants show with other problems like plant heat stress symptoms or light stress, potassium deficiency, nitrogen deficiency (or other nutrient deficiencies) or pH oscillation.

Nitrogen and potassium deficiency can be easily mistaken for nutrient burn but they happen if there’s a lack of nutrients and not an excess, while the symptoms of nitrogen deficiency are the yellowing of the leaves, starting by the tips, the symptoms of a potassium deficiency are yellow and brown spots in the leaves.

Because they’re very similar to nutrient burn, it’s essential to control the amount of nutrients in your watering solution so if this happens, you know exactly how to deal with it.

4. How to fix nutrient burn

If your plant is showing signs of nutrient burn, first make sure it indeed is an excess of nutrients and if it is, you can easily fix it by following 4 simple steps:

Cut off the affected foliage

If the leaves have already started to brown and die, it’s essential you remove them.

Dying leaves can ultimately rot and this will cause even more problems, like mold and even bud rot , depending on where those leaves are.

Washing the roots and medium

Just like when flushing before harvest, when your plant suffers from overfeeding it is essential you remove the excess nutrients in the medium and in the roots.

To do this, you need to flush with pH water (5.8-6.3 for soil) 2 times a day, ideally, you would water until you see run-off coming from under the pot and repeat it after 15-30min.

If you want to make sure you’re doing it properly, you can measure the PPM of the run-off, this way you’ll know when you have washed off the nutrient excess.

Adjust the nutrient solution

Usually the manufacturers provide a feeding amount and schedule but it can vary according to the medium and strain you’re growing, to keep things safe it is recommended to use a TDS meter but if you want to keep simple you should always start with a smaller dose than what your nutrient solution advises and increase little by little.

Help the roots recover

To help the roots recover you can use root stimulators which contain vitamins, hormones and microbes that will make the roots develop stronger and faster, by adjusting the nutrient solution and helping the roots recover you’ll see your plant coming back to normal in no time.

5. How to prevent overfeeding

When preparing the nutrient solution to water our plants we need to make sure we are giving the right amount of nutrients, if you don’t have an TDS meter, here’s a guide to help you avoid problems without having to buy expensive tools.

Stages Nutrients
Seedling Water
First half of the Vegetative stage ½ dose of Veg. Nutrients
Second half of the Vegetative stage 1 dose of Veg. Nutrients
Pre-flowering stage ½ dose Veg. Nutes + ½ dose Flowering Nutes
First half of the Flowering stage ½ dose Flowering Nutes
Second half of Flowering Stage 1 dose of Flowering Nutrients
Ripening and Harvest Flushing (water)

Because all plants are different, even plants of the same strain, you should always start with ½ or even of the recommended amount, after you see your plants are okay and don’t show stress symptoms, you can slowly start increasing the amount of nutrients.

6. In conclusion

Nutrient burn can be scary if you’re new to cannabis, but luckily, it is quite easy to fix.

We recommend using organic nutrients because it’s harder to burn your plants with them, but if you cannot find them where you live, make sure you take a look at our chart to avoid nutrient burn.

If you’re experiencing nutrient burn or still have doubts about it, feel free to leave us a comment below!

Nutrient overfeeding can happen in any stage of growth, it?s essential to avoid it because it can result in a wide variety of problems like a nutrient burn.

Holy Overfed Cannabis, Batman!

Douglas.C

Just a heads up to new growers, dark green is a sign you’re killing the quality of your end product. Though each strain has it’s own particular shade of green, I have yet to run across a strain which turned a better quality product through overfeeding.

Cannabis will permanently attach excess nutrients to new growth. This happens when the plant has excesses available. This excess will never flush/fade out, not even with plain water for over a month.

Feed your plant the bare minimum required to sustain full and healthy, vigorous growth. 🙂

Seamaiden
Living dead girl
MidwestToker

Just a heads up to new growers, dark green is a sign you’re killing the quality of your end product. Though each strain has it’s own particular shade of green, I have yet to run across a strain which turned a better quality product through overfeeding.

Cannabis will permanently attach excess nutrients to new growth. This happens when the plant has excesses available. This excess will never flush/fade out, not even with plain water for over a month.

Feed your plant the bare minimum required to sustain full and healthy, vigorous growth. 🙂

Douglas.C

The closer you get to what the plant wants (again, the Mel Frank numbers are a great starting point) the more you can feed without burning. Your fine line becomes 100-150ppm, instead of 50ppm.

The goal is to feed the plant a plate of food it can clean off completely, zero excess. Cannabis is a hyper/dynamic accumulator and excesses can and will be bound to new growth, without being processed by the plant. These excesses will never flush/fade out, no matter how long you give a plant plain water. 🙂

Bulldog420
Premium Member

The closer you get to what the plant wants (again, the Mel Frank numbers are a great starting point) the more you can feed without burning. Your fine line becomes 100-150ppm, instead of 50ppm.

The goal is to feed the plant a plate of food it can clean off completely, zero excess. Cannabis is a hyper/dynamic accumulator and excesses can and will be bound to new growth, without being processed by the plant. These excesses will never flush/fade out, no matter how long you give a plant plain water. 🙂

Instagram Account: @HazyBulldogFarms

Seeds for the community coming soon.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life thinking it’s stupid.” Albert Einstein

MidwestToker
One drop
Bush Doctor
MidwestToker

The closer you get to what the plant wants (again, the Mel Frank numbers are a great starting point) the more you can feed without burning. Your fine line becomes 100-150ppm, instead of 50ppm.

The goal is to feed the plant a plate of food it can clean off completely, zero excess. Cannabis is a hyper/dynamic accumulator and excesses can and will be bound to new growth, without being processed by the plant. These excesses will never flush/fade out, no matter how long you give a plant plain water. 🙂

Douglas.C

When you have dark green, your mix is still off and your quality is being lowered. Period. That’s the nature of cannabis.

I can’t get around it, you can’t get around it.

MidwestToker
Douglas.C

I already explained this, cannabis is a dynamic/hyper accumulator and excesses are directly bound to new plant growth. I’m not here to do your research for you, I’m simply here to point out there’s a different way of thinking. When you look, you’ll find the same yourself in a large variety of studies on dynamic and hyper accumulator plants. The information is there for the taking, should you wish to add it to your knowledge bank.

The darker the plant, the hotter the smoke and the lower the terpene production. There’s a big difference between “well fed” and being fed a properly balanced mix, a fat banker is “well fed,” yet not exactly a healthy specimen. Are there strains which have a darker green hue to them than others? Indeed there are, yet nowhere near as dark as I see the majority of online posted photos.

BTW, where did I say anything about a reduction in trichomes? I’m simply talking quality differences here, not frostiness.

MidwestToker
Douglas.C

I don’t say much about veg, everything I post is for flower. People have all kinds of ideas about veg and I haven’t the research into it. I use GH flora, micro:bloom @ 9:16/gal, but that’s me. My goal in veg are short, stocky plants, not something everyone desires.

Excess, bound to new plant growth in veg, has zero effect on quality of the end flowers. The mix for flowering is what determines the end flower quality.

MidwestToker
Douglas.C

It’s also detrimental in veg, seeing as it’s less than ideal for the plant. Since it doesn’t hurt end quality, if you get flower right, it’s not that big of a deal. Those who overfeed and/or have an unbalanced profile in veg, often don’t get it right in flower either.

Keep in mind, the dark green is only one sign your feed is off. Simply one of the easiest to spot. 🙂

MidwestToker

It’s also detrimental in veg, seeing as it’s less than ideal for the plant. Since it doesn’t hurt end quality, if you get flower right, it’s not that big of a deal. Those who overfeed and/or have an unbalanced profile in veg, often don’t get it right in flower either.

Keep in mind, the dark green is only one sign your feed is off. Simply one of the easiest to spot. 🙂

The whole idea in veg is to prepare you’re plants for the flowering cycle.

How can you ignore that phase of the plant and concentrate on flower only. Quality and quantity begin there, in the veg phase.
I said I agreed with you about over fertilization being detrimental but you don’t pay much attention to veg, haven’t done much research into it, but come off as a know it all.

Listen carefully. I like you and agree with what you’re trying to get across to people, but you’re only telling half the story.

Douglas.C

Because everyone has a different setup and needs. Quality and quantity are affected less by inaccuracies in your feed in veg, than they are during flower. Veg needs are a big variable and nutritional needs vary. My experience is with my setups, which usually have nothing to do with others. No point in covering it.

During flower it becomes much more critical, so this is where I focus.

MidwestToker
dan1989

I already explained this, cannabis is a dynamic/hyper accumulator and excesses are directly bound to new plant growth. I’m not here to do your research for you, I’m simply here to point out there’s a different way of thinking. When you look, you’ll find the same yourself in a large variety of studies on dynamic and hyper accumulator plants. The information is there for the taking, should you wish to add it to your knowledge bank.

The darker the plant, the hotter the smoke and the lower the terpene production. There’s a big difference between “well fed” and being fed a properly balanced mix, a fat banker is “well fed,” yet not exactly a healthy specimen. Are there strains which have a darker green hue to them than others? Indeed there are, yet nowhere near as dark as I see the majority of online posted photos.

BTW, where did I say anything about a reduction in trichomes? I’m simply talking quality differences here, not frostiness.

Just a heads up to new growers, dark green is a sign you're killing the quality of your end product. Though each strain has it's own particular shade of…