Monster Cropping: Growing Your Favorite Strains Forever
Got a few strains you love and want to keep them going? Follow Michael Coffey’s advice on monster cropping and hand yourself the keys to your own cannabis kingdom.
Holding onto an outstanding cannabis specimen and preserving the prized genetics is easier said than done for the ordinary homegrower. It’s all about keeping mum in more ways than one. Retaining a mother plant long term is not practical when you’ve got limited time, space, and resources. It’s also really boring growing and then smoking the same weed over and over and over again even if it is top-shelf bud.
For those seeking a decent selection of dankness on the house menu at all times, I’ve got another option to the continuous cultivation strategies you’re probably already familiar with. Sure, the SOG is a superb strategy for the commercial grower but it’s not a great fit when all you’ve got to work with is couple of grow tents.
There is a better alternative and it’s an absolutely perfect fit for the homegrower: monster cropping. Keep reading to find your way on the road to cannabis self-sufficiency.
The Homegrower Herbarium
Whether you are just getting started growing or are already in the middle of a cannabis crop, with a few modifications to the grow-op you can apply the strategy I’m about to outline. First, let’s take the case of the new grow-op in a spare bedroom or garage converted into a growroom. Consider partitioning the area into two separate grow spaces, one small vegetative growth section (about 25 percent of available floor space), and a second larger bloom room (about 75 percent of available floor space). If that’s too much hassle two grow tents will do just fine. In fact, one 2.5x2.5x5.5-foot compact grow tent for the vegetative growth phase and another standard 3x3x6-foot grow tent for the flowering stage comprises my own personal set up.
On the other hand, if you happen to be already cropping a real superstar and don’t want to let that ganja gold slip between your fingers you can still save that dank. All you have to do is set up a basic little veg grow tent as described in the next paragraph. You can find a temporary spot for it somewhere in your home for a few weeks and move it into the designated permanent growroom later.
- How to Breed Your Own Cannabis Strain
- The Easiest Way to Clone a Cannabis Plant and Grow Mother Plants
- Maximizing Autoflowering Cannabis Growth
Kitting out the veg tent is simple as all it needs is a modest grow light and fan for air flow. As the plants will be in vegetative growth in this tent it is not essential to add all the extra odor-control measures, provided you can tolerate a modest planty scent. A simple 100W full spectrum LED and an oscillating desk top fan is great if you’re into the new-school grow tech, which I am, so I’ve got my 100W Spider Farmer SF1000 deployed in the veg grow tent. For those die-hard old-school HID growers, a 250W MH bulb, ballast, and reflector will work but a more efficient substitute would be a cool white 200W CFL. This tent runs on the 18/6 schedule.
The bloom room needs the works — more powerful lighting, intake fan for air, and you should install the usual extractor fan connected to a carbon filter with ducting to ensure the pungent odor from flowering plants is controlled. As we all know, odor control is the best way to camouflage an indoor grow and all growers should invest in high-quality equipment especially when undertaking a long-term cultivation venture.
Lighting needs to be as close to the point of light saturation as possible — ideally a 200-300W full spectrum LED (I’m using a 200W Spider Farmer SF2000 in my bloom grow tent). The HID equivalent would be a 400-600W HPS bulb under a large hood powered by a digital ballast. For air circulation a clip-on fan or two should maintain optimal air flow during flowering. This tent runs on the 12/12 schedule.
If you can take cuttings you can definitely monster crop your cannabis. Monster cropping is the process of cloning flowering cannabis plants and revegging the cuttings. Instead of taking cuttings during vegetative growth, you hold back from pruning a few choice branches and you wait until the end of week four of bloom before you go for it.
Using the same skills and tools for conventional cloning you can make an enormous difference to the growth pattern of your clones by simply delaying when you take those cuttings from your mature potential moms in the bloom room. By the time the donor moms in the 12/12 bloom grow tent have been harvested, you will have bushy beasts bursting out of the compact 18/6 veg grow tent. Plus, holding off on taking cuttings until bloom has the advantage of giving you more time to make your selection of a mother plant.
Moreover, there is no need to identify and isolate an individual mother plant. Perhaps you can’t quite make your mind up? And who says you have to narrow your choices down to just one single pheno of a particular strain? You can simply take a few cuttings from all your flowering plants during week four of bloom and this allows you to cultivate multiple strains simultaneously.
When you take your cuttings from your flowering females you should house them inside a propagator in your little veg tent. Treat them as you would any other clone and focus on getting them rooted. Then carefully pot them up and feed them light doses of nutes. Don’t be surprised to see strange mutant growth for a few weeks — single finger leaves and all kinds of peculiar secondary shoot development are to be expected. Hang in there and after three to four weeks of revegging you will have some healthy, humongous monsters.
Implementing an effective and incredibly efficient crop rotation system without compromising on quality, quantity, or variety all hinges on your success rate with cloning and specifically monster cropping. If you can master monster cropping you have got the keys to the cannabis kingdom.
By taking clones from your flowering plants at the end of week four of bloom leaves you with four to six weeks, depending on the strain you choose, to root, pot up, and reveg your monsters. When one crop is ready for harvest in the bloom grow tent, another batch of monster cropped clones are ready to replace them in the veg grow tent. This translates to five to six crops annually.
The greatest benefit of the monster crop rotation system is that it generates significantly more downtime for the grower and is far less demanding in man hours than a more conventional crop rotation. The grower can attend to one tent at a time for longer and you only need to manage both tents together at intervals with weeks in between cycles. The mid-late bloom period will be busy as you will need to attend to the veg tent too, but you have all the next veg cycle and the early bloom period off before you repeat the process. This will reduce the electricity bill too.
Best of all, monster cropping is a high-yield, low-volume strategy. That means you can pull down heavy harvests from small numbers of plants. Instead of 9-16 SOG style plants packed tightly together in tiny plastic pots per square meter, all you need is four monster bushes in great big 25-liter smart-pots or air-pots to achieve a comparable turnover and dry weight yield.
The monster cropping alternative to crop rotation is far less labor intensive, not limited to one specific strain, and you won’t need to spend a fortune on nutrients for feeding lots of plants. Also, it is a much safer strategy as it allows for greater genetic diversity in the grow tent and it’s easier to manage feeding a few plants than many, especially if you are watering by hand. Overcrowding high numbers of clones from just one line brings with it increased risk of a total wipe out by a pest/pathogen invasion. Furthermore, you will have to be extra vigilant monitoring many chunky single cola plants for mold throughout the flowering period.
All things considered, the monster cropping method of crop rotation is more flexible and probably the best option for the homegrower. I won’t pretend I understand the changes monster cropping makes to a cannabis plant’s biochemistry and how it is triggering the trademark asymmetrical growth pattern. All I know is it works for me and I’m giving four flavorsome strains a run with the goal of monster cropping the juiciest specimens. You’ll be able to see how I progress with Lemon Pie, Mighty Grape, Romberry, and Strawberry Éclair later this year on Patreon and YouTube.