Shape Your Garden’s Growth
Lush, vibrant growth is always a good thing in a garden; however, indoor growers don’t have a lot of room to spare. Thankfully, we’ve devised a number of techniques and products that will help gently curb your plants’ enthusiasm.
We become almost giddy with excitement as our indoor or outdoor gardens flourish. After all, luscious, vibrant growth is a terrific thing. However, most indoor (and some outdoor) gardens have limited space, which can become a problem when things start to grow like an unruly jungle.
For indoor horticulturists, it is imperative to control and shape a garden’s growth in order to maintain a plant canopy that lies in the room’s optimal light energy. Horticulturists can take many different approaches to control or shape their gardens. Each technique has its advantages and many methods can be used in conjunction. Ultimately, only the grower can determine which technique or method will work best for the given situation.
During the vegetative stage, fast-growing annual plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, peas and many others can quickly get out of control if left unattended. One of the reasons a grower will implement garden shaping techniques is to better control the growth or vegetative stage of the plants. Growers who shape their gardens tend to make the most efficient use of their space. This is important for indoor horticulturists because light energy in an indoor garden is limited. There are essentially two ways to shape a garden during vegetative growth: physically cutting the plants or manipulating the way the plants grow.
By physically cutting the plants during the vegetative stage, the grower is actually using a common growth control technique known as topping. This technique can be used indoors or outdoors. When the shoots emerging from the plant’s main stem are cut, new shoots will appear at the node site just below where the cut was made. Most plant varieties will experience a multiplication effect with this technique.
When one shoot is cut, two will emerge from the node site and take the cut shoot’s place. Topping allows the grower to shape and maximize growth at the same time. This multiplication of new shoots also equates to more flower or fruit sets when the plant enters its blooming stage of growth. Again, this is especially advantageous for the indoor horticulturist. Having a multitude of flower or fruit sets in the optimal light energy zone ensures an indoor horticulturist will get the largest yields possible.
Growers who don’t want to physically cut their plants but still need to control the growth can implement a technique known as tying down. As its name suggests, this technique entails bending the plant and tying it down to some sort of permanent structure (usually the plant’s container or sometimes even the plant itself). This technique can be used indoors or outdoors to spread the plant out and create a bushy vegetative growth. Growers can accomplish this by pulling each main shoot away from the center and tying it down. As the light penetrates the once shaded center, new shoots will emerge and fill in the gap left after spreading the plant. Indoor horticulturists use this technique to manipulate plant varieties that tend to grow out of control.
As annual plants reach the end of their vegetative growth and begin their fruiting or flowering stage, they might need a little support. Whether it is because of the sheer weight of the vegetative growth itself or in preparation for the large fruit or flowers to come, growers can use a variety of techniques to give their gardens some support.
Another popular technique for controlling the growth of plants is using trellis netting. Trellis netting is usually made from a nylon or similar material that can be stretched taut into place. Once the grower creates a taut netting of trellis, he or she can weave, bend, spread or otherwise manipulate the plants into place. Trellis netting for the indoor horticulturist is an invaluable tool. It can be used in combination with the other growth control techniques or as a stand-alone plant training tool. The biggest advantage of trellis netting in an indoor garden is that the grower can create a perfectly horizontal plant canopy located in the most optimal place for light energy. Since most indoor gardens utilize horizontally positioned horticultural lighting, the optimal area for light energy is a horizontal section located directly beneath the lights. A trellis net placed in this area ensures the grower will be getting the most efficient use of the light energy.
Indoor horticulturalists generally use trellis netting in a horizontal position, but trellis netting can be advantageous in a vertical position as well. Trellis netting stretched between two supports can be used outdoors to control a variety of climbing plants like peas or beans. Growers can use four large stakes combined with vertically positioned trellis netting to encage large, bushy plants for better control. Vertical trellising placed against a rigid structure (a building’s south facing wall, for example) can be used to grow a variety of herbs and vegetables, including cucumbers, squash or hops.
Trellis netting is just as valuable for giving support as it is for controlling growth. Growers who implemented trellis netting as a growth control technique will also gain support from the trellis netting. Plants that are continuously weaved in the trellis net will automatically get support during their fruiting or flowering stage. Since the plant is already trained through the trellis, the fruit or flowers will be supported once they become heavy. Gardeners use trellis netting as a support system for their plants even if they did not have a growth control technique implemented. A trellis net can be stretched horizontally just above the plant canopy as the plants reach their fruiting or flowering stage. The plants will continue to grow through the trellis netting and when the fruit or flowers become heavy the trellis will help to support the plant.
For tomato plants or other fast-growing annuals that bear heavy fruit, cages are a great way to make sure the plant is supported. Cages can be made of wood, plastic or metal. As long as the gardener is somewhat proactive, cages provide support and a way to train the plants throughout the growth in the fruiting or flowering stages. Cages can also be used as a structure that growers tie the plants to.
The classic technique that never gets old. Staking plants is the easiest and sometimes the most logical way for growers to quickly give their plants some support. Plant stems can be tied to or leaned against stakes in order to maintain a plant’s upward position. Some growers use four or more stakes around the perimeter of each plant and then use twine or wire to create their own custom cage. Large stakes can also be used to support trellis netting in either horizontal or vertical positions.
There are many techniques gardeners can implement into their gardens, both indoors and outdoors, that will dramatically increase performance; however, few can compare to the benefits of training, trimming or supporting their plants. These simple techniques can lead to huge differences. Indoor horticulturists are destined to gain the largest benefits from these techniques because all of them help to better utilize their garden’s light energy. By choosing one or several of the various techniques used to manipulate plant growth and/or give support, growers can better stimulate their garden’s growth and inexpensively increase production to maximize their return.
Written by Eric Hopper | Writer, Consultant, Product Tester
Eric Hopper’s past experiences within the indoor gardening industry include being a hydroponic retail store manager and owner. Currently, he works as a writer, consultant and product tester for various indoor horticulture companies. His inquisitive nature keeps him busy seeking new technologies and methods that could help maximize a garden’s performance.