Why waste light and electricity growing stem? Stretched-out plants are the bane of indoor growers. There are several ways to reduce internodal length and thus grow denser, more efficient buds.
The easiest and most under-used way to control internodal stretch is temperature control. Plant internodal length is directly related to the difference between day and night temperatures ? the warmer your day cycle is as compared to your night cycle, the greater your internode length will be. The opposite also holds true; the closer your day and night temperatures, the shorter your internodes will be. Ever notice how as the warmer summer months approach, your plants begin to stretch? Part of this problem may lie in an overall hotter grow-room, but a larger factor is the increased difference between day and night temperatures.
Lets look at putting this to play in your grow room. Maximum temperatures should ideally never rise above 26?C, so you must do everything you can to prevent your room getting too hot (run lights at night, use exhaust fans, air conditioners, etc). An ideal temperature range is 24-25?C when the lights are on, and 22?C when the lights are off.
The temperature technique is most effective under a 12/12 light regime, which is ideal as this is when cannabis stretches the most. When the light cycle is brought to 12/12 we will raise the night temperature to the daytime level of 24-25?C. Space heaters on timers work well for this, and max/min type thermometers are ideal for
It is during the first 2-3 weeks of the flower cycle that most strains begin to lengthen internodes, making it a very important time to control temperature, as this is when the framework for future colas is built. After this 2-3 week window we need to drop the night temperature back down to 22?C, as this is where the plant is happiest.
As floral development begins we need to keep in mind that the total size of your buds is determined largely by average daily temperature, provided it does not exceed optimal. So if you are letting your day temperatures drop below 24?C or your night drop below 22?C, you are costing yourself in overall weight and harvest.
Once your buds have reached optimal size and and you have begun the flushing period, you may consider dropping temperature down to 17-19?C for the final week or two. This drop in temperature triggers anthocyanin production, which intensifies the colour of the floral clusters and makes for a showier bud, especially with “purple” varieties. This final temperature change is not always feasible and can be omitted.
For extreme height control you may even use warmer night temperature than day, but be very careful when running settings like this, as even a zero difference between night and day temperatures will lead to leaf chlorosis (yellowing) after 2-3 weeks.
Some things you will notice while using this technique are a change in the leaf angle, upwards during warm days and downwards during warm nights. There is also the chlorosis if this is done for too long. Neither of these symptoms is nutrient related and will fix themselves when the temperature is changed back.
Moisture and conductivity
Whether you’re growing hydro or in soil, the electrical conductivity (EC) and moisture of your medium are two key elements that should be manipulated to meet your needs. Both of these factors are controlling the same thing; the ability of a plant to uptake water and nutrients from the growth medium. (EC measures the level of fertilizer salts in the water.)
A plant grows by first dividing cells then expanding them, and in order to do this it requires water. By limiting the amount of water available to a plant you limit the expansion of cells. This can work for you by keeping your internodes close together, or against you by limiting bud growth. Both the amount of water you give your plants and the EC at which you grow them control the uptake of water.
A plant’s roots act much like a pump, using osmotic pressure to move water into the plant. In order for this to work there must be a larger concentration of fertilizer salts in the plant’s roots than in the soil or hydroponic solution, so when the medium’s level of salt rises above the roots’, the plant will wilt. Raising the salt level in the medium closer to that which is in the roots limits the water availability just the same as if we had provided less water.
During the vegetative stage we want our plants to form very tight internodes, especially under artificial lighting. By allowing the EC to drop below ideal during this stage we are wasting valuable space growing stem instead of bud. Most marijuana strains are happiest when grown at an EC of between 1.5 and 1.8, but different strains have different preferences. Try growing one of your plants using straight water for a week or so, you will see the internode length stretch dramatically compared to the ones on a regular fertilizer regime.
Hydroponic tomato growers sometimes will grow their transplants at extremely high EC’s (up to 6 EC!) in order to get really nice stocky production plants. Please note that when doing this they use special nutrient formulas designed for this purpose, most of which have potassium to nitrogen ratios of 4:1, much higher than normal, as too much nitrate at this high an EC will easily damage a plant.
(Try this formula if you’re interested: calcium nitrate 7 grams, potassium nitrate 0.095 grams, potassium sulphate 9.25 grams, mono potassium phosphate 2.2 gram, magnesium sulphate 5 grams, micromix .02 grams. Slowly raise your EC during veg stage, I would not recommend going above 3 or 4 EC. This is experimental! Do not try on all of your plants at once until you are sure your strain can handle it. All of these ingredients should be available at your local hydroponics store, it is usually called “six pack formula”. Be sure to bring your EC back down once you enter floral stage, by the time tufts of pistils are visible you want to be at your ideal EC of 1.5-1.8.)
Try not to change the EC too quickly as a sharp drop can cause root damage. This also goes during your final flushing period when you want to eliminate all fertilizer from the medium ? lower the EC over a couple of days, as the sudden change in salt level will harm the roots.
When growing hydroponically, the only way of manipulating water availability is with the EC, while in soil we may also use the moisture level of the medium to the same ends. Many growers are under the mistaken impression that the EC and pH of their nutrient solution remains the same when applied to the soil. This in not the case, and you must test the soil in order to have a true
To test your soil, take a sample from the center of the root zone at the side of the pot (don’t worry the torn roots will be fine). Mix the soil with 2 equal parts distilled water and let sit for 20 minutes. Once the time is up take an EC reading and multiply this number by 2.4 (this takes into account the dilution and the pore space factor) this will give you an accurate picture of the EC the roots are actually being exposed to. The pH should also be checked at this time. It is not feasible in soil to maintain an exact EC at all times, what we need to try and avoid is EC’s climbing much above what we want and plants going for long periods with very low EC’s.
A frequent mistake marijuana growers make is over-emphasizing the need for a plant grown in soil to dry out completely between waterings. Cannabis does like dry feet but this simply means that the root zone must not be kept extremely wet at all times. Keep in mind that if the soil has an EC of 1.8 and then dries out completely the amount of salt remains the same, causing the EC to double or more.
As a general rule, during the vegetative stage you should keep your plants a little on the drier side as this will restrict cell elongation, creating a shorter noded plant structure capable of creating a dense bud cluster in the floral stage. (Unless of course you are using the high EC method described above, in this case you must not let your soil get too dry because of the increased fertilizer level you will create.) Maintain this level of moisture into the first 14 to 20 days of 12/12 to minimize internode stretch.
As soon as early flowering begins you need to increase soil moisture to a nice evenly moist (not soaked) level to maximize bud expansion. Growing marijuana too dry during this stage will adversely affect your overall yield, as will having too high an EC in the medium.
In these times of government oppression we must make the most efficient use of available growing space in order to produce the copious amounts of cannabis necessary to overflow the boundaries placed upon us. Control your cannabis!