Benefits, Yields, and Different Ways of Growing Cannabis
So, you’ve started growing your first cannabis plant and you want to be more successful. Let’s explore the different techniques currently used, their benefits, typical yields, and if they are best for your grow space.
Consider Which Cannabis Strain You Want to Grow
When growing cannabis many factors will determine which technique is best to use. The first and most important factor is the strain that will be used. For example, many breeders breed seeds that work best in their area and grow in a certain way.
Therefore, trying to force that seed to grow in a different environment or different way may affect the quality of flower as well as yield. This doesn’t mean that only one technique is best for that strain, but it does mean a little more scrutiny must be taken when choosing a strain. For example, a strain that grows best outdoors may not be good for growing indoors as they grow fast, big, and with lots of branches.
Alternatively, strains that are selected for growing indoors will typically be more compact and have less branches, which may not grow to its full potential outdoors. Strain selection should be determined based on your grow space, environment, and time dedicated to the plant. Overcoming this first factor will allow for better success at the end of the grow.
Cannabis Grow Medium a Big Factor
Another factor to consider is the grow medium, which currently includes hydroponic or soil-based growing. Commercially, more breeders and growers are moving toward the no-till organic soil base. This grow medium has been selected for its economic value, ease of use, and promotion of biodiversity. However, many growers use hydroponic, aquaponic, and other growing mediums. Selecting the right growing medium will give the best chance for large growth and yields. When determining the medium, it is important to follow the growing medium the breeder used to grow the strain. This can often be difficult but doing a little searching often gives you clues as to what the original medium was.
Read also: 5 Growing Mediums and Their Benefits
Location is Key for Outdoor Cannabis Growing
Global location is the last factor to consider when determining what technique to use as this will determine your growing season and how much time you have to manipulate the plant. For people in the tropical zone, growing outdoor sativa species or hybrids is essential. These species can cope with the environmental stresses of heat, humidity, and hours of light. In tropical zones supplemental light is often needed as there is usually 12 hours of sunlight per day. Other locations benefit from 15 to 18 hours of sunlight allowing for bigger plants that are able to grow at a slower pace and therefore be manipulated with different growing techniques.
Before we get further into the techniques available, let me explain some terms I will be using. When looking at the cannabis flower it is sometimes beneficial to understand the quality of buds produced. Often, the biggest buds are referred to as being high-grade buds, with medium-sized bud being termed medium grade, and the smallest being low grade. High- and medium-grade buds are typically designated for the shelves of dispensaries. Low-grade buds are destined for concentrates. Vegetative cycle refers to the growing time the plant is producing leaves and branches. The flowering cycle is the time the plant produces flowers or buds.
Grow Methods: Topping/FIMing, SCROG, SOG, Manifolding, and Flux
Method: Topping and FIMing (F**k I Missed)
Technique: Topping and FIMing are easy techniques that require cutting off the growth tip. Topping is when the entire growth tip is removed down or close to the base of the node below it. While, FIMing is the removal of roughly 75 per cent of the growth tip. Depending on the technique used, you will get different growth patterns. Topping a plant will result in two new shoots that grow evenly spaced. FIMing will result in two to four shoots growing from the cut site. Both methods have a quick recovery and better growth structure.
Benefit: Both methods can be used in combination at different weeks to create a nice structure on the plant with more flowering sites. Both methods are similar in that they create more sites and therefore more yield from a single plant. Topping can be used to reduce the height of a plant, allowing it to spread horizontally.
Read also: Topping and Low-Stress Training
However, with topping the plant undergoes more stress and requires a bit longer for recovery. For this reason, topping a plant should be stopped one to two weeks before the flowering cycle. FIMing creates more unevenly spaced branches that can crowd each other. Recovery time is much quicker but deformed leaves are usually created on the new node. These leaves will usually correct themselves after a couple weeks, but to an inexperienced grower it may look like a nutrient deficiency. FIMing does not reduce the height of the plant and is better for small scale growers.
Yield: Both methods work indoors or outdoors. Indoor yield will depend on the strain used but will result in more medium- and high-quality buds. The yields are increased as more flowering sites are created. Therefore, a plant that will grow 100 grams per plant dried and cured will be able to grow 200-400 grams indoors.
Growers using these techniques outdoors will often experience yields of one kilogram or more. However, outdoor growing requires more support, so the branches do not crack off during the flowering stage.
Method: Screen of Green (SCROG)
Technique: During the vegetative cycle cannabis branches are weaved through a screen as they grow to their desired height. As branches start growing out of the screen, each branch is slowly and carefully bent into the adjacent hole of the screen in an over/under fashion to spread the branches out lengthwise. Weaving of the branches is best done during plant drying periods to make them more flexible and less likely to break. Prior to this method topping, as well as FIMing, is conducted to allow for more branches and potential bud sites. During the flowering stage another screen is used to support the buds.
Benefit: Using the SCROG method gives you an even canopy and even canopy height. This method allows for less plants, more yield, grow area, and efficiently utilizes light. SCROG also has the advantage of being used with sativa strains as they are better controlled. Indoors, this method will typically grow some high-quality and more medium-quality buds with proper nutrition. Outdoors, SCROG produces more high-quality buds. However, this method requires a longer vegetative cycle to fill out the entire net, and it also requires more pruning to reduce disease.
Read also: How to Set Up a Screen of Green (SCROG) Cannabis Grow
Yield: Yield is dependent on several factors such as the number of watts used, growing medium, strain, and length of time in the vegetative cycle. Typically, indoor yields will fall between 250-500 grams per plant (dry weight) after curing for approximately one to two months. Outdoors, the amount can be three to six times higher when compared to indoor growing.
Method: Sea of Green (SOG)
Technique: SOG is a type of grow method allowing for many plants to be grown at once and flowered at a young age. This method allows you to maximize your grow space by putting as many pots that will fit in the space. Most growers will use a two- gallon (eight liter) pot size, but a one-gallon (four liters) pot can be used as well. Topping and FIMing are not used here. Plants fill the grow space quickly as they don’t have to recover from stress. The cannabis plants are typically grown for 30-50 days in the vegetative stage then switched to the flower stage.
Benefit: SOG allows for growing many plants in a small space, decreases the amount of time spent in the vegetative cycle as well as flowering cycle, with less time spent on pruning, more efficient use of lights, no training of the plant is needed, and more high-quality buds can be grown. While this technique has many benefits, some disadvantages do exist. The most important disadvantage is maintenance of the plants. Growing many plants in a small space requires more care when watering, daily checks for pests as well as disease, and less choice on strain choices as tall plants do not do well in SOG.
Yield: Yield using the SOG method is subjective as it depends on many factors.
These include the plant size, how many plants fit in the grow space, and how long they are grown in the vegetative cycle. Typically, a strain that can yield 100 grams per plant after curing is recommended. This allows for any grower to achieve one kilogram of high-quality buds within 60-80 days indoors. SOG for outdoors varies and is dependent on the same factors as indoor growing. However, plants that grow big and fast are recommended. To use this method effectively outdoors, light deprivation tents may be needed depending on your global location.
Technique: Manifolding (also known as mainlining) is a growing technique that builds the structure of cannabis plants to direct nutrients to the flowering sites. The technique can be scary for a beginner as it is an extreme training technique. The method requires the cannabis plant to be grown to the fifth or sixth node then topped down to the third node. All the growth below the third node is removed.
What results is two main branches that will form the base of your structure. After these two main branches have grown four nodes they can be carefully tied down and topped back to the third node. All the growth from the second node is removed leaving only nodes one and three with growth. Doing so will leave you with eight main budding sites. These are allowed to grow and recover as the plant is growing in the vegetative cycle. To maintain the structure of the plant, the smallest branch is identified. All other branches are tied down to the height of the smallest branch. This will allow for a flat canopy and even distribution of nutrients.
Read also: How to Master Cannabis Mainlining
It will also decrease the plants’ apical dominance. When your plant is at a final desired height it can be flipped to the flowering cycle. Depending on the stretch of your strain some plants may double in height in your grow space. Prior to flipping, fan leaves below the budding sites are often removed to increase air flow. While eight budding sites are recommended, some growers will grow for 16 to 32 sites.
However, doing so requires longer recovery time and more time spent in the vegetative cycle. Outdoors, it is recommended to keep the plants in pots and not allow them to get to big. This is done to ensure the branches do not break off.
Benefit: Manifolding cannabis allows for a grower to control the height of the plant, equal distribution of nutrients, a flat canopy that is relatively energy efficient, and more high-quality and medium-quality buds. Manifolding does, however, require more recovery time and can be difficult for beginner growers.
Yield: This method is mainly indoors but can be applied to outdoor plants grown in small pots. Indoors, depending on the strain, typically results in 300-500 grams per plant (dried and cured). Outdoors often results in 400-800 grams per plant (dried and cured).
Technique: Fluxing cannabis is a relatively new method that is similar to manifolding but results in a much different structure. This method is best for indoor growers and outdoor growers who use small pots. The cannabis plant is allowed to grow to the fifth or sixth node and is then cut back to the third node. Everything below the third node is cleaned and two branches are left to grow.
These two branches are slowly tied down and are laid flat, almost touching the growing medium. The two branches are allowed to grow out and get tied down every time a new shoot is developed. As the new shoots grow longer, they are tied and brought down to lay flat. What you want to achieve is a grid formation with no branches intersecting: basically, a bunch of 90-degree angled branches. During the growing process the plant is cleaned of all large fan leaves and allowed to recover.
The plant can grow as linear as you desire before you flip to flower. What results is many evenly spaced budding sites. It is best to bend the branches on your dry out days as they tend to be flexible.
Read also: 6 Steps to Great Big Cannabis Buds
Benefit: Using the fluxing method allows for very short plants, high- to medium-quality buds, works well in limited space, and allows for fewer lights as the plants are kept compact. Fluxing is not good for every strain as it is highly stressful. Some plants can’t deal with the amount of stress placed on them and don’t grow to their full potential. If breakage of one main branch occurs, it often can’t be saved and results in one side growing out. Water should be gently applied as it can cover the plant growth during the vegetative phase which may cause fungus problems. This method is very labor intensive, so a smaller number of plants should be grown.
Yield: Yield is highly dependent on the strain and will generally equal about 200-300 grams per plant dried and cured indoors. Outdoor yield will usually be the same as indoor yield and for this reason is not recommended.
These methods will help a cannabis cultivator achieve excellent yields based on using the right strain with the right grow method. Make sure you plan everything out before trying out these techniques.
Written by Luis Cordova | Plant Biotechnician, Pharmaceutical Scientist
Luis holds a M.S. in Plant biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Science. He is a long-time cannabis grower He has put his focus on breeding cannabis and development of organic soils for tropical regions. He loves how much the industry has grown and changed. He hopes to pass on new and old knowledge to all growers across the world.