Want to know how to get larger yields and bigger buds with only the cost of some string and some of your time? Would you like to fill the same amount of stash jars using less plants and taking less clones? Of course you do – so let’s explore the science of plant canopy management.
It is amazing what can be accomplished using plant bondage (or LST – Low Stress Training) and canopy management. These can be very useful in medical gardens where the number of plants is limited, but everyone can benefit using this technique by achieving larger yields per plant. I get amazing results with much larger plants using simple topping and spreading the plant open and using string or floral wire to tie her down. This method can help in many areas.
First we want to top our plants very early and close to the soil so they have multiple heads and they’re left in the vegetative phase for long enough to form a large bush with a height of about 24-36”. Once the plants leave the vegetive area and enter the flowering room, tie them down so that their overall height is much shorter and the plants are wider. This allows your lights to be a bit lower – maximizing lumen efficiency. With taller grows, sometimes the lights can be so high that the overall lumens reaching the shorter plants have diminished so much that those plants end up with poor yields. This method also allows you to fill a rather large area with far less plants and it requires fewer plants to be cloned.
The second thing this training of the plant allows is more light to the second level buds – or lower shelf, as I like to call it. Before we employed this method our tops were huge but the lowers were airy and mainly fluff. This trick assures large buds even at the lower levels.
Last and most importantly, it increases yields per plant. Many state medical programs have strict plant limits, so yield can be extremely important. With larger-topped plants tied up to maximize yields and manage the canopy height we get a good four ounces per plant minimum, and on some strains we get 5 and 6 ounces per plant. That’s enough to last and make enough cookies for our patients and other friends who have cards.
My setup: I run two grow rooms – one for the vegetative phase (Metal Halide) and one for the budding phase (High Pressure Sodium). I grow the plants in my own mix of concentrated super soil containing worm castings, bat guano, bone meal, Epsom salts, lime, and other organic ingredients including endo/ecto mycorrihizae, which I find extremely beneficial to young plants. I start rooted seedlings and rooted clones in straight high-quality potting soil so the super soil concentrate doesn’t burn the fragile babies. The clones are started into rapid rooters and then they are transplanted into 1-gallon pots, and when they’re firmly established I top the meristem (Main Stem) nice and low so the plant develops a nice short bush-shape with 3 to 4 growing heads. As long as I leave two sets of fan leaves, the plant always recovers well and gets a great start.
Seedlings are a bit different, and you must allow the seedling to develop and have at least 4-5 internodes before topping. If you top a seedling too early the shock will slow the plant down, wasting a tremendous amount of time. Clones and seedlings grow under a 18/6 light cycle until I can see roots in the lower drain holes. They then get transplanted again into large 7-gallon lowboy pots, using my super soil in bottom 2/3 of pot and straight premium potting soil in the top 1/3 and placed back in 18/6 under the same 1000-watt MH. Once the plants have been in veg for almost 60 days, almost everything is finishing up in the bud room and harvest time is approaching. After everything is trimmed-up and the old pots moved out and the soil recycled, it’s time to clean everything well, washing the floor and tarps with bleach and making sure everything is mold-free. Clean off the glass in the vented hoods with glass cleaner. A clean room is the sign of a good grower! The plants are now placed in main bud room that measures 10×5 with 2 1000-watt HPS Hortilux bulbs.
Then we clean up our plants, removing any smaller shoots that are still shaded. This way, the energy that would have gone to produce fluff and added time to trimming can instead go to the upper buds that are actually in the light. This also allows more air to circulate under the canopy so that O2 doesn’t stratify. This in itself will increase the yields and make your trimming a bit easier. I’m not sure everyone will understand this analogy but the plant looking up should kinda look like broccoli, with everything up top.
Tie your mother down!
Using a small drill, I make 4 holes directly beside each main branch. I use floral wire and secure the branch about halfway up and then gently pull that branch down – opening and exposing the center of the plant to allow more light to penetrate the canopy. As discussed, this also makes the plant shorter and can allow more veg time and a larger base stem – all things that can increase your yields. Don’t be so quick to bud your plants as a few extra days can make a huge difference in how long your medicine holds out. ‘Super cropping’ is the next technique I want to cover here. In layman’s terms super cropping is bending or pinching the stem to cause slight damage. The plant repairs this damage, making a stronger stem that creates much larger buds. Some people completely break their stems and then repair them using bandages or splits – we don’t need no stinking bandages! Try treating a room of plants and not a garden and get in touch with each strain or hybrid you grow to determine how much it will stretch and whether it does best topped or (like a rare few) better untopped.
Try some of these techniques on your plants and you will be amazed at the outcome.
Subcool is an expert grower and breeder, and author of Dank: The Quest for the Very Best Marijuana, published by Ed Rosenthal’s Quick Trading Company. He and is a regular contributor to Cannabis Culture and other marijuana magazines. Read Subcool’s Blog.