Sea of Green is a wildly efficient method of growing. Its main appeal is how it allows growers to achieve maximum yields of flower heads in the shortest time. The underlying principle is to grow many smaller plants as opposed to fewer larger plants, thus reducing vegetative growth time and making it easier to completely fill a small space and maximizing light efficiency.
There are many advantages to using a SOG schedule for your grow. The disadvantages are few, but your circumstances may still prohibit you from using the SOG technique. Sea of Green divides growers—undoubtedly it’s a great technique, but is it right for you?
The Sea of Green Method
With the SOG growing method, it is vital to start off with a suitable plant variety. Since you’ll be growing small plants packed close together it will be important not to chose a plant that prefers to grow wide and branchy. If the genetics tend to mature into one main central apical bud naturally, even better. Plant varieties that stretch in the early stages of flowering would be an inadvisable choice; varieties with a shorter flowering time would be preferred. But don’t worry; this still leaves an abundance of plant varieties that will be suitable.
Uniformity throughout the process is key to getting the best results from SOG. Cuttings should all be of identical size and taken from the same mother plant at the same time. It is best to take many more cuttings than you anticipate finally needing with SOG, and then only pick the ones that have developed to a uniform size and root mass. Try to pick short cuttings of approximately three to six inches with actively growing tips. The cuttings you need should have rooted at the same time and be as homogeneous as possible. Any clones that don’t make the grade are not worth using in this set-up, so give them to a buddy, plant them in the greenhouse or compost them back to nature.
It is advisable not to use seeds for a SOG grow, as any variation in height will shade some plants. If you insist, then use seeds from a variety that has been around for a long time, as they will give more stable, even growth.
Grow them on a vegetative 18/6 light schedule for a short while. There are different schools of thought on how long to veg for—vegging time can be as short as three days if you want to pack lots of plants, or up to 10 days for slower growing genetics. Just don’t overdo it! The main thing to consider is how you want to eventually fill the space.
"Packing the plants tightly together also naturally restricts side branching too, as the plants grow upwards towards the light."
Ideal final spacing for each SOG set-up depends on veg time. A good place to start would be using six-inch pots, thus fitting four plants per square foot of space. For this tessellation you would only veg for a very short time, triggering your cuttings three to six days after they have developed decent roots and started growing on. Other options are using super-short cuttings in stonewool cubes packed tightly together for an incredibly dense short canopy, triggering flowering as soon as the first roots show.
If you try your first SOG grow with a plant variety you know fairly well, you will be able to make an informed choice for the length of veg time. Bear in mind that even classics will stretch a little when the lights are switched to 12/12 schedule, so allowing for this will ensure the plants are happy. You will be looking for almost complete coverage of the space once they are positioned and flipped into flowering. Because the canopy is so short, there is not the issue of light penetration to the lower branches as you get with taller plants. Packing the plants tightly together also naturally restricts side branching too, as the plants grow upwards towards the light.
SOG is not dependent on any particular hydroponic method. You may be able to easily adapt your current system to simply hold more plants closer together. Dripper systems, flood and drain or nutrient film technique (NFT) give great results with SOG and are easy to set up. Deep water culture (DWC) systems are not ideal, mostly because of their physical size, so if you did want to convert some of these it would make sense to plant several cuttings in each bucket to fill out the space in a suitable manner.
There is no need to train or top the cuttings, as they are flowered before developing any real side branches. If any rogue sucker branches at the bottom start making a break for the top it would be wise to chop them off and divert the energy back into the main central apical bud. In a SOG set-up you should expect one large central bud per plant, as opposed to lots of medium-sized buds as seen with Screen of Green technique—SCROG is pretty much the opposite ethos of SOG, using much larger plants with many side branches manually spaced out using a screen to achieve great light penetration. The end result is a matter of personal taste. Although huge buds look impressive, they can suffer from hidden mold right down by the stalk if atmospheric conditions are not completely perfect throughout the flowering, drying and curing process.
Due to the low height needed for SOG it is possible to stack two set-ups at once on shelves above each other, pushing your use of available space even further. It is also ideal for micro grows in a grow tent or closet. It is worth keeping the EC (electrical conductivity/nutrient strength) of your feed down since the plants will be small anyway. Keeping the flowering EC level at 1.3 is great in a fast-flowing system. The plants don’t need more than that, and the low EC helps prevent nutrient lockout and salt accumulation. Flush as normal, around 10 days before you harvest.
"SOG is probably the easiest spacing technique to achieve a homogeneous crop."
- SOG is probably the easiest spacing technique to achieve a homogeneous crop—you just grow little tiddlers, pack them tight, and then set them budding! No training of plant growth required.
- Shorter plant life means less opportunities for diseases, pests, human errors or pH/nutrient problems, which can damage your plants before they are fully mature. Plants will have a better chance at remaining healthy throughout the growth cycle, until they deliver a prime crop of top-shelf material.
- Less vertical space is needed. By growing them short and sweet, you can pack out low spaces and even grow on shelves to double your floor space.
- Faster crop from start to finish. If you need to get a crop done quickly, this is the best way. You could be reaching for your trimming scissors in less than nine weeks from taking the cuttings or planting the seeds.
- Super-fast trimming process at the end, with a higher ratio of prime buds to smaller trim leaves.
- Less organic waste such as fan leaves and stems to dispose of.
- No underdeveloped lower buds as can sometimes be found on larger plants.
- In situations where there is a legally defined limit of plant numbers, a continuous SOG schedule would inevitably exceed recommended limits. This is probably the No. 1 reason people choose not to use SOG. To get a continuous cycle on rotation, with several mother plants you could easily find yourself with more than 100 plants for a modest-sized grow.
- There is more work required on the front-end, such as potting up, taking clones, setting up drippers, etc.
- If pests or pathogens do take hold, they can take over your entire crop very quickly due to the tightly packed environment.
- You will need a huge mother plant to service so many cuttings regularly.
- Lots of grow medium to dispose of every time.
- Limited plant variety choices due to the required (and restricted!) growth characteristics.
- Less quantity of trim leaves isn’t necessarily a good thing if you like making your own concentrates.
Sea of Green is a super-fast and productive way of getting a really uniform crop. If you are unconcerned about high plant numbers, it might just become your favorite method of growing.