The day has come to flip your lights and let the buds start growing. After weeks of hard work in the vegetative cycle, every grower wants to do what they can to get the biggest, frostiest buds possible at harvest. Here are five simple things you can do during the flower stage to increase your yield.
Low-stress training is a technique that creates a flat, even canopy and maximizes your space by growing shorter, bushier plants with more bud sites. Pruning excess leaves allows light to get to each site so you grow more large buds and fewer popcorn-sized nugs. This can drastically increase your harvest.
While the bulk of this technique is done in the vegetative stage, you’ll still use this technique for about the first month of the flower cycle. It’s important to start this technique when the plants are young, only have about four to six nodes, and the stems are easy to bend. If you start training your plants before this, you can potentially stunt your garden’s growth. Timing is important. A healthy plant that is pruned and staked at the correct time will recover quickly and growth will be more vigorous. Some people top their plants at this stage as well, creating an even canopy. If you decide to top your plants, chop them down to about the third node.
Using bamboo stakes and some twist ties, bend the stems away from the center of the plant, which allows light to penetrate the canopy. Be careful not to tie your twist ties too tight. If you don’t allow room for the stem to grow, the ties will cut the stem, which can lead to disease. Be gentle when bending the stems. If you accidentally break one, use tape to secure the stem back to the plant and it will heal.
Read also: Topping and Low-Stress Training
Be sure to train your plants on a weekly basis so you can control the growth and shape. Once stems are bent sideways, any part not tied down will start growing upwards again.
You’ll continue training your plants throughout the vegetative stage and into about the first month of flowering. As your plants get older, be sure only to bend stems that are flexible. Do not bend woody stems that will break easily.
As you train your plants, be sure to prune as you go. The key is to take away enough fan leaves so that light and air can get through, but leave enough so your plant has enough nutrition to draw from for photosynthesis and when your buds take energy from the leaves to finish right before harvest. Proper pruning can save your crop from fungal disease before it starts.
Monitor Your Environment Closely
This may sound like common sense, but many-a-crop has perished to unintentional neglect. All it takes is one pump stalling for the entire crop in a hydroponic system to die, or a timer to stop working for your plants to stress and slow their growth. As buds grow larger, humidity levels become more important. Too much humidity will cause bud rot or powdery mildew, usually right toward the end after months of hard work.
It’s a good idea to check the following in your grow room at least once or twice a day:
- Make sure your temperature is between 70-74°F.
- Humidity levels should fall between 45-50 per cent.
- Check that all timers and pumps are working properly.
- Check the angles of oscillating fans, especially as plants grow larger, to make sure all plants are moving gently in the breeze. Not enough air flow will guarantee fungal issues.
- Adjust your lights as plants grow taller to make sure they don’t get too close and burn.
- Check the pH and PPM of your nutrient solution before every single watering. If you’re growing in soil or a soilless media, check on moisture levels so they don’t dry out too much.
- Make sure your room is clean at all times and be sure to change your clothes and shoes if you’ve been outside so you don’t bring bugs or fungal diseases indoors. This is one of the main causes of pests and disease in your growroom.
Adding carbon dioxide to your growroom can have a dramatic effect on your yield. If you increase your CO2 levels to 750-1,500 ppm, you can increase your yields up to 50 per cent and reduce flowering time by seven to 10 days. Fresh air has about 370 ppm of CO2, but that can get used up quickly in an enclosed space. If your levels get below 200 ppm, growth will slow, and below 100 ppm, growth will stop altogether. However, don’t get too enthusiastic and think more is better. CO2 levels above 5,000 ppm can be harmful to you and your plants.
There are two main ways to set up your growroom so you are getting enough CO2. The first is to install inline fans on a timer or temperature controller so fresh air from outside, which contains plenty of CO2, is regularly added to your room. In this system, you can also add mushroom bags throughout to add more CO2. This method is a little easier and less expensive, however, you also risk pests and molds entering the room depending on the immediate outside environment.
The other method is to build a fully-enclosed environment that is completely self-contained. Instead of inline fans dumping stagnant air and refilling your room with fresh air, you would use a CO2 burner and an air conditioner to control temperature and CO2 levels. CO2 burners and air conditioners can be expensive, but they allow you to have more precise control over your CO2 levels.
Bloom Boosters and Supplements
There are many bloom boosters and supplements on the market that will increase the size and flavor of your buds. Most base fertilizers contain enough phosphorus and potassium to supply your plants’ needs in the flower stage, however, you can be sure by monitoring the run-off water, and if levels are low you can add more to your nutrient solution.
Sweeteners can be beneficial in the flowering stage. Feeding your plants carbohydrates like simple sugars will increase yield and feed beneficial microbes in the soil. They also contain amino acids, which are necessary to plant growth. Some growers find using sweeteners that smell like pineapple or berry can enhance flavor and aroma.
Compost tea and mycorrhizal inoculants are helpful at every stage of growth. Not only do beneficial microbes and fungi help ward off pests and disease, but they also help to recycle nutrients by attaching to the roots. Instead of nutrients getting flushed out with each watering, microbes hold onto them and release them for the plant’s food on a regular basis. This massively increases root growth, and as we all know, the bigger the roots, the bigger the fruits.
Probably the number one thing you can do for a better final product is to flush your plants for two weeks before harvest. If you’ve ever smoked some harsh bud, chances are the grower did not flush. What is the point of going through months of intensive work only to smoke something that tastes awful and makes you hack up a lung, and not in a good way?
Not only should you do a final flush, but because salt build-up in the soil can be harmful to root systems and stunt growth, it’s good to flush your plants every few weeks throughout their life cycle.
Many growers will flush and then wait for their plants to dry out before their next feeding. This isn’t necessary and you’re wasting a prime opportunity to give your plants more nutrition. You can flush and then feed on the same day, although it is a time and labor-intensive process.
You can use plain water to flush your plants, however, a product designed for flushing will be more effective in removing salts. Once you flush, let the solution drain out into the saucers and then use a shop vac to suck it all up. Then water again using a nutrient solution and suck up the drained solution again. By doing this, you remove the salts without starving your plants of nutrition until their next feeding. And although this process does take a lot of time, you’ll have more time than usual before your next feeding, so it evens out.
There are many factors that contribute to healthy plants with big buds. By following these tips and protocols, you’ll dramatically increase the size and flavor of your yield, which makes all your hard work worth it.