A few longtime gardeners will tell you that growing in soil gives plants a boost because there are nutrients already present in any type of soil; what you might add to the mix is gravy. That method might be okay if you’re planting sissy annuals like Cosmos or easy-grow perennials like Chamisa. But vegetables and cannabis are performers and they need the whole opera going on around them to offer a spectacular yield. Let’s break it down for you.

Remember N-P-K? That’s the chemical balance needed for plants: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K). Even if you’re new to the growing game, you learned in sixth-grade science class that plants need certain nutrients to thrive–in different quantities at different times for different purposes.

A bag of fertilizer used for lawns might register its N-P-K formula as 17-23-6, for example. Nitrogen makes lawn grass grow and gives it that deep green color. Phosphorus helps the roots grow, keeps the blades strong and as such rates the highest percentage of the mix. Potassium activates necessary enzymes in the soil that would lie dormant otherwise. Together, these percentages make up the best formula for growing lawns.

A container of liquid fertilizer used for cannabis might register its N-P-K as 10-30-10. This ratio would be fed to the plant during its flowering phase when bigger buds can be produced with extra Phosphorus. A precise formula like this one will also prevent overflow or runoff problems and/or nutrient burn.

Advanced Nutrients Water Soluble Powders has something called Big Bud® that I just love. (I haven’t tried it yet, mind you, but the labels on these products are retro adorable. I keep them in my shed just to make me smile. I’ve left a few examples for you below.) Big Bud and others of its ilk give a plant the right boost at the right time. Starter kits like the one offered by Advanced Nutrients give you smaller samples of water soluble fertilizers for each stage of growth.

Best thing to do? Find some reliable advice on which nutrients to add when and make a chart. I’m partial to Google Sheets. Or a calendar from the Chinese restaurant down the street. Whatever you do, if you like your own-grown product, write down the methods so you’ll yield a similar crop next time.

In general, if your plants are looking peaked or too short for the growing period or too sparse to bud, add a nutrient with a high number for Nitrogen. Or as Chong said to Cheech, “Piss on ’em.” There’s a lot of Nitrogen in human urine.