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The Long Way: 10 Costly "Shortcuts" That Trap New Growers Who Don't Know Any Better
Short cuts make long delays.
"Short cuts make long delays." ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
When I first started growing, I, too, fell victim to the belief that I could outsmart those before me.
That I found a stone unturned, a path untraveled, that could shorten my journey—my learning process.
And, without fail, every time I took that path, I ended up retracing at least a few steps, both in time and money.
You see, when you're excited about something, your logic suffers.
It happens to the best of us.
Sometimes, these shortcuts are situation-specific.
It's why instant gratification is so integral to the purchasing process.
If you're excited about something, you'll pay more for it now...
Or, you'll buy something "that'll work" even if you know it's not exactly what you wanted or needed.
My fiancé will tell you I'm as guilty of this as anyone: I want it and I want it now.
Even Amazon isn't fast enough sometimes (cue Ronny Chieng)
Other times, these shortcuts are a result of a lack of knowledge and understanding.
Said another way: shortsightedness.
You don't know the mistakes you're making have been made 1001 times by other growers in your exact same shoes.
It's not your fault; You don't know the game yet.
To save you some of the trouble (and cost), these are 10 shortcuts I see new growers take, only to backtrack, costing them time and money.
10 Shortcuts Most New Growers Think are Right, But Aren't
1. Buying Cheap
Whether it's lighting or another piece of equipment, the cheaper it is, the more likely you'll have to buy more than one.
That's the obvious problem.
What's hidden under the surface is that, while you're running that discount version of what you really needed, you're also getting lower yields, lower quality crops, and increasing your risk of potential hazards like fires or floods.
You don't have to buy a Ferarri to know that the $100 car on craigslist is probably a dumpster fire with wheels.
Same goes with your grow equipment.
Buying cheap means replacements are inevitable (at best) and you sacrifice your results in the process.
2. Seed Scams
Without dipping into the drama and controversy that's rampant among growers and breeders, there are plenty of scammers that prey on new growers.
These scams can be passive (like selling low quality seeds) to outright assaults on new growers' wallets (in the form of fake sites, repackaged/swapped product, and money scams).
And when you get scammed, your confidence takes a hit, and you start feeling helpless.
One of the first things most new growers I talk to bring up is that how hard it is to buy seeds.
This is changing (and often the fault of the bank, not the vendor) but has opened up opportunity for scammers to prey on the unconventional purchasing processes most seed vendors have had to resort to using.
If something seems too good to be true—it's cheaper than anywhere else or it's in stock when no one else has it or the packaging looks a bit off but the guy seems nice—it probably is.
If it's a brand new site, brand new breeder, brand new strain, and it's only $1 a seed!....not going to be good odds it's a winner.
Always exceptions, but, until you gain enough experience to vet new vendors, I would recommend sticking to those with solid reputations backed up by reviews, testimonials, and customer experiences that are easy to find.
3. Starting with Clones
Clones are a great option in a lot of ways:
They've already been sexed
They save propagation time
They can be flipped whenever
Cuts are often proven performers
With that said, they're also an expensive shortcut if you don't know what you're getting.
Clones bring everything with them:
And their problems
That includes pests and pathogens.
If you decide to shortcut the start-up phase of your grow, skipping seeds and going straight to clones, you increase your risk of outside threats.
There are plenty of ways to bring clones in without doing so—namely quarantining and pre-treatments like dunks—but, unless you're doing your due diligence on the clone source, you could be getting more than you bargained for.
Even if the problem doesn't show up in your first grow from clone, contamination can find its way through your setup and present later on in a future grow.
Clean clones are great.
Not all clones are clean.
If you're taking this shortcut, make sure you've got a plan in place for minimizing your potential risks, or you could end up having to nuke your garden and start from scratch.
4. Buying What You "Think" Is Right
This usually translates to buying the wrong thing.
When I first started, I wanted to upgrade my setup from a 2x2x4' tent to something bigger.
I went to the local grow store (a small outlet in a strip mall, not one of the main ones in town).
They had 1 tent in stock, and told me it was the right size.
Set it up.
Twice as big as I needed.
Then, I had to pack it all back up, drive it back, return it. And still wait for the tent I had to order elsewhere.
Whether it's a light or a fan or ducting or something else, buying the wrong thing (even if it is on sale or cheaper than the "right" thing) will end up with you spending more time with the hassle of returns, as well as the expenses involved in returning or replacing it until it's right.
5. "Go Big or Go Home"
I'll never forget what my first grow mentor told me when I started my first grow:
"You won't get free weed until you're in a 4x4."
By "free," he meant more weed per dollar invested than if I spent the same amount buying weed.
But the point was that I should go bigger than I had decided to go.
And, unlike many growers who hear advice like this and decide to "Go big or go home" out of fear of it not being worth it, I stuck to my small tent.
I didn't have to try to make space that I didn't have.
I didn't have "wasted" space that was going unused while I learned.
I didn't have to run extra equipment—A/C, Humidifier, Dehumidifier, CO2, etc.—that a bigger grow might've required (which also saved my budget).
Did I end up wishing I went bigger?
Did I end up having to upgrade my tent shortly after?
But what I didn't have was 4x the plants (and problems) to deal with in my first grow when I knew I wasn't ready for that.
You don't have to "Go Big" to make it worth it to you; you can always upgrade later.
Buying Too Big of Setup -> Doesn’t fit, not enough room for airflow, inefficient use of space, waste of money, more things needed to make it work (A/c, humidifier, CO2, bigger light, etc).
6. Fast Upgrades
Piggy-backing on #5, the flip side of this coin is getting a grow or 2 under your belt, thinking you're a badass, and upgrading way to fast.
Everything increases when you increase the size of your grow.
Sure, you have more room for more plants.
(That's the exciting part)
But that also means more time training, watering, defoliating, harvesting, and trimming, as well as more risks of pest and pathogens (and more plants to inspect for potential problems).
As you grow, it's great to scale up.
What's not great is to scale past your ability to manage.
Keep the extra workload in sight when you get excited about building out a new tent or room.
7. More Money, More Problems
Often—and I am as guilty of this as anyone—there is a belief that more money will make things easier.
Buy the nicer light, you'll get more weed.
Buy the nicer tent, you'll get more weed.
So on and so forth.
But the more you spend, the more you need to get out of your investment (unless money is of no object, in which case, let's chat about building you the most boujee hobby grow ever seen!).
And there's a cap to how much you can actually get, regardless of how much you spend.
More money might make certain things easier, but it does not necessarily translate to bigger crops and more weed.
8. No Plan B
Shit happens. To everyone.
You've heard me say it, and repeat it.
That's because most growers I know don't have a Plan B.
They don't know what they would do if they got bugs, molds, or mildews.
Likely, they'd freak out, hit google, and try to WebMD the problem (while it's actively happening).
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Sure, you may have save yourself some money and time up front (aka a shortcut) by not buying IPM supplies or not taking a few hours to learn about common pest and pathogen defenses, but you're going to spend that time and money frantically trying to fix the problem as it gets worse by the minute.
Don't cut corners when it comes to having a plan when shit hits the fan.
Hopefully it never hits the fan...
But experience says having a plan will make it a lot less stressful when it inevitably does.
9. Too Many Chefs
There are many areas of life where it is important to have a diverse group of people to turn to for advice.
In my life, I've got a close group of friends, my "Board of Advisors" that represent various facets of my life and the life I'm trying to build.
And it can be helpful to have 4-5 opinions on the next plan of attack.
In many cases, it is an effective shortcut that avoids countless hours reinventing the wheel.
But, in the grow, it can backfire because there's not always a clearcut path to the finish line.
Some grow in hydro. Some in soil. Some in coco.
Some grow indoors. Some grow outdoors. Some grow in greenhouses.
Some feed bottle nutrients. Some feed teas. Some feed tap water.
Asking all of these growers for advice is going to turn your 2-prong fork in the road into a 10-prong.
More options, more advice, more guidance, more people are not always the recipe for success.
10. Savant Syndrome
Lastly, we have a tendency as humans to believe we might just be a natural at something we have never tried before.
It's the opposite of Imposter Syndrome—thinking you're not proficient at what you are.
It's the belief that you're a Savant; thinking you're naturally inclined at something.
Savant Syndrome, if you will.
But the problem with this belief is that it allows your brain to shortcut all of the learning process it doesn't think it "needs."
So, sure, you can assume you know everything (and save yourself time learning anything) but, in the end, this prevents you from asking for help, taking the proper steps to learn, and even knowing where to go to learn what you don't know.
Believing you are a Savant impacts your overall learning arc, slowing your progress down in the long run.
Even if you get through a few grows without it catching up to you, eventually, it does.
Shortcuts can be tempting, but, in the long run, they cost you more money and slow down your progress.
Think things through, do you due diligence, and be realistic about what you want to accomplish (and what you have the means to accomplish).
Have you taken a shortcut that ended up costing you more than it was worth? What was it and why?
Let me know in the comments (or a private reply).