Leafly grows a half-pound: Black Dog LED grow kit review

Leafly grows a half-pound of marijuana: Black Dog LED kit review | Leafly Loading…

Scores of aspiring home growers in North America should resolve to achieve THC independence in 2021. And we’re here to tell you, it’s possible.

In late 2020, Leafly grew a personal 150 grams of A-grade Supreme Diesel over 8 weeks of flowering. We did it with some bomb Compound Genetics seeds. That’s Jet Fuel Gelato crossed to Sour Diesel. Plus, a fabric pot, some dirt, and the Black Dog LED Phytomax 200-watt, all-in-one grow kit.

You can crank out up to 3 pounds per year in their starter tent kit.

Since the average price of a wholesale indoor pound of A-grade bud runs about $ 1,450, you’ll make your money back in herb in about six months of growing.

You needn’t be a gardener. I certainly wasn’t. A ‘keep it simple, stupid’ (“KISS”) approach works just fine.

Why everyone is gardening these days

Because what else are you going to do in the age of the coronavirus?

No seriously, 10% of the US populaton is regular cannabis consumers, and most of them carp about retail prices being too high. A subset is giving growing a try, especially as legalization spreads. And the mental health benefits of gardening speak for themselves.

“There’s nothing like smoking your own. There isn’t,” said Noah Miller, COO at Black Dog LED in Boulder, CO.

About 40 bud sites finish flowering in this white-balanced photo. (David Downs/Leafly)
About 40 bud sites finish flowering in this white-balanced photo. (David Downs/Leafly)

Why Black Dog LED’s kit?

First-generation LEDs got a bad rep after a rocky debut in the 2000s. But we first noticed Black Dog when growers started winning cannabis competitions like The Grow-Off with Black Dog LEDs.

In 2021, you can 100% grow the best indoor weed in the world with LED lighting, Miller said. The cooler, more efficient technology finally stacks up to, and surpasses, more standard grow light bulbs, mostly called HPS.

“Better in every way, just more expensive upfront,” said Miller.

Black Dog’s LED arrays are built outside of Boulder, CO, and the company spent 2020 hiring—its biggest, commercial grow lights back-ordered.

Related

Leafly’s guide to growing marijuana

“We are selling them as fast as we can make them,” Miller said.

Yes, most folks don’t have $ 2,400. And, yes, you can spend your time Frankensteining up your own dirt-style kit on an overseas marketplace. But you generally get what you pay for. If your time is valuable, and you prefer quality—this is a legit, pro-grade light, and an expertly curated kit to support it.

By the numbers: Black Dog Phytomax 200-watt grow kit cost: ~$ 2,400

Cannabis Yield: up to .5 pounds, every ~8 weeks (w/ separate veg space)*

Wholesale cost of a pound of weed: ~$ 1,477**

Time to kit cost-neutrality: ~25 weeks***

Kit return on investment in year 1: ~100%

*Black Dog LED; ** Cannabis Benchmarks, Jan. ‘21; ***not including seeds, power, water, time

What you get for $ 2,400

For the price of a ’96 Honda Accord EX, you can turn the key on the coolest Christmas gift you’ll ever buy yourself.

The starter 2’ x 2’ kit comes in six boxes weighing a total of 139 pounds. My UPS driver shook his head—astonished.

You got the light, tent, fans, filters, nutrients, sensors, a big ol’ flood tray—all the way down to the duct tape and extension cords. You should not have to go to Home Depot to start this kit.

What’s it like to assemble?

It takes a couple of hours to assemble the kit with the help of the tutorial videos Black Dog has on YouTube. We called it “adult Lego time” and spent an hour here or there unpacking, inventorying, and setting it up. The actual tent is the most Ikea-like part—we had to fix it once.

The light is the centerpiece—bright and weighty, it requires special glasses to work around. Like having the sun in a tent, the boxy beast is crazy quiet and cool. You plug it in and you know you’re going to power some fire tree.

It’s studded with differently colored LEDs that combine to feed cannabis plants the exact mix of color they use.

“That’s what’s so great about LED,” said Miller, “you can dial in the right spectra in ways HPS cannot.”

American-assembled in Boulder, CO—Black Dog LED lights are in high demand. (David Downs/Leafly)
American-assembled in Boulder, CO—Black Dog LED lights are in high demand. (David Downs/Leafly)

How our grow went

Our grow went like clockwork, with delicious, stony results.

The kit comes with a set of Advanced Nutrients bottled ‘nutes’ and a feeding schedule, but we just used a fabric pot and dirt. We wanted to start with a ‘keep it simple’ run as a baseline. Measuring out nutrients and doing math didn’t sound simple. We figured good dirt, water, light, temps, and humidity—and good genetics—should be enough for the plant to take care of itself. It did!

  • In March, we popped seeds in a small veg room in March.
  • In May, we sexed and topped them.
  • In June, we transplanted the most vigorous, pungent, female of the bunch into a 25-gallon fabric pot filled with: Fox Farm Ocean Forest, mycorrhizae, and worm castings. Dubbed ‘Tank Girl’ she vegetated a few weeks more under 18-hours-a-day light in the tent.
  • In July, we defoliated her, and switched Tank Girl to a schedule of 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness, triggering flowering.
  • In August, we trellised the fattening branches, creating an even, “screen of green” with about 40 major bud sites.
  • All of the bud sites became fat, icy, pungent, colorful mid-sized finished buds by August’s harvest. Yew!
Our 'keep it simple' approach of good dirt and tap water yielded a sweet, berry, creamy 5 ounces of Supreme Diesel. (David Downs/Leafly)
Our ‘keep it simple’ approach of good dirt and tap water yielded a sweet, berry, creamy 5 ounces of Supreme Diesel. (David Downs/Leafly)

The killer results

We flowered the plant until the trichomes looked ripest and the smell peaked—harvesting by mid-August. After a quick chop (drying net included in kit), 10 days of net drying, and two weeks of curing, the Supreme Diesel looked club-grade. It tested well into the 20%THC, according to my brain’s stone-ometer.

It smelled rowdy, too. I wanted more of a gas station, but my Supreme Diesel came out surprisingly sweet, berry, and creamy from the Gelato. The final product looked icy, smelled terpy, and felt not rock-hard but plenty dense, and sticky. The nose of creamy, berry Gelato yielded to the Jet Fuel and Diesel upon exhalation. The relaxing, happy, indica hybrid effects go great with the end of the day and into night.

We got 150 grams, or about 5 dried, trimmed ounces without really trying, and Miller said the Phytomax 200 maxes out at a half-pound of yield (8 ounces). Every step up in light wattage adds a half-pound to yield. So you can get a pound off the 400 watt, 1.5 pounds off the 600, etc.

“What you have is the perfect size to play around with. If you want the commercial weight, then you add power,” Miller said.

Tank Girl: A close-up of flowering Supreme Diesel under LED light. (David Downs/Leafly)
Tank Girl: A close-up of flowering Supreme Diesel under LED light. (David Downs/Leafly)

The average daily cannabis consumer smokes about a pound a year, so the baseline Black Dog 200 kit yields enough homegrown to keep you stoned all year long.

More realistically, a huge stash becomes the house wine—something you gift and share; a form of currency, even.

A fat homegrown stash also radically lowers your dispensary bills; allowing you to splurge away on exotics. I’ll always be growing a little or thinking about what to grow next.

Will it be Capulator’s Britney’s Frozen Lemons? Or In House Genetics’ Slurricane IX? Probably both in 2021.

He who is not busy growing, is busy buying.

Compound Genetics Supreme Diesel grown in soil under a Black Dog LED 200-watt array. (David Downs/Leafly)
Compound Genetics Supreme Diesel grown in soil under a Black Dog LED 200-watt array. (David Downs/Leafly)

David Downs's Bio Image

David Downs

David Downs directs news and lifestyle coverage as the California Bureau Chief for Leafly.com. He’s written for WIRED, Rolling Stone and Billboard, and is the former cannabis editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as the author of several cannabis books including ‘Marijuana Harvest’ by Ed Rosenthal and David Downs. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. TW: @davidrdowns | IG @daviddowns

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