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Plant Support: How to Manage Your Cannabis Garden Canopy

By Keith Bouchard | Last updated: April 22, 2021
Key Takeaways

Newer cannabis cultivators need to consider supporting their plants when the buds get so big that they can topple a plant over. This is a good problem and managing your canopy will help keep plants upright while reaping even more massive buds.

It’s a wonderful feeling to walk into your cannabis grow and see an even canopy of unending big and tall buds (a.k.a. colas) atop your beautiful plants. Full of frosty nugs, all spread evenly amongst a sea of green, you cannot begin to tell where one plant ends and the next one begins. On the flip side, it’s a horrible feeling to walk in the growroom and see that your plants have played dominoes with each other.

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Possibly just one plant fell over and toppled down the rest of them, but since there was nothing to support any of them, they all toppled over. Now, you have to get acrobatic and use Mission Impossible-like moves to get to your plants and set them back up again. Avoid this mess and maximize yields and quality by instituting proper management of your garden canopy.

An Even Canopy for Maximum Efficiency

Since you are paying for the space, why not fill up every square inch with canopy? After all, you didn’t purchase all that grow gear, lighting, and environmental control equipment just to light up the floor. Spread plants out into the canopy as best you can by means of stakes, trellising, yo-yos, or otherwise. The main point is supporting the plant while simultaneously spreading it out and opening it up so light can penetrate down through the canopy and into the plant to allow buds to fill up every square inch.

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Read also: How to Set Up a Screen of Green (SCROG) Cannabis Grow

Trellis

Spreading plants out into the trellis can greatly increase their square footage, increasing overall canopy coverage and thus yield. The same plant will yield a considerable amount more when spread out in a trellis because the bottom buds will not be shaded out anymore. No one wants to harvest and manicure or even smoke the larfy, sparse, and leafy nuglets that had the potential to be so much more. The light and environment are there, so if the square footage is available, use a trellis to fill it up with bud sites.

Start trellising early so the plants can spread out and get a wide horizontal footprint. This accomplishes a couple of things: it grows canopy under each square foot that you are lighting and heating and cooling, etc., thus being the most efficient you can possibly be. Also, it opens the lower levels of the plant up so more light can penetrate down, creating dense buds and not just little larfy, popcorn nugs. Instead, they will be larger, more dense nuggets that look, smell, and taste just as good as the colas on the top of the canopy.

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If you do get the trellis up early enough and the plants are quickly growing through it, do not worry. There are several options — one being you can spread out and wind the leaves into the trellis horizontally as they grow. As each new node spreads out into the trellis, the previous nodes each become a new cola. This can really maximize the footprint of a single plant. If the trellis is up early enough and you have plenty of plants filling up the canopy, you won’t need to spread out each plant.

Sometimes the canopy is full and quickly outgrows the trellis. This is a good thing and you can easily install a second trellis to support large buds and colas that might later fall over as they pack on weight. Use this time to defoliate the canopy and allow light penetration to the lower buds. Pat yourself on the back, as you’ve been proactive instead of reactive and your crop will thank you. Remember, you don’t want to have to react to all of your plants falling over like dominoes when only one or two plants needed support. Consider trellising or other methods described below to avoid this easily preventable tragedy. Trellis early, and if necessary, trellis often.

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Read also: The Best Way to Trellis Outdoor Cannabis Plants

Staking

If staking plants, be sure to cover the top of the stake with something soft such as tape or a ping pong ball. There have been plenty of hospital visits from eyes being poked by bamboo and other stakes.

Stakes can be very handy tools to hold up buds as your plants get larger, especially in container gardens. With varying sized plants, you may not have an evenly spread out canopy. Stakes can support individual branches and/or the entire plant. There are several ways to stake plants, but a good rule of thumb is to first stake the main branch, which will prevent the plant from falling over. For most plants, this is great for holding up the main stalk with added support to keep other branches continually reaching towards the light. Sometimes, however, the need for additional stakes on each branch is apparent when the buds began to bend and break the branches with their weight. It’s a great problem to have so don’t fret! Just support the plants one way or another. If necessary, it’s fine to use multiple stakes in the same container in order to support several large colas.

Yo-yos, etc.

Yo-yos are simply wound up fishing line or a piece of string with a hook at the end that can clip around a branch to support a branch being pulled over by a heavy bud. The other end of the yo-yo can be tied up to the ceiling or wall or somewhere else that will support the string and weight of the bud. Yo-yos can be found at most grow stores, though they may not be called yo-yo by product name. I am just referring to them as yo-yos because they behave much like a yo-yo. They lock into place at the length you need, hook around the plant, and can easily be tied off where needed to support the buds. If set up on several branches, yo-yos can accomplish more than supporting just one single bud and they are useful tools in a garden that doesn’t have many large plants needing support. This will allow gardeners to avoid the labor and expense of more extensive choices such as trellising.

Read also: Cannabis Canopy Management For Maximum Output

Indoor and Outdoor

Light orientation plays a role in canopy shape so don’t forget to consider the angle of light when supporting your canopy. For example, outdoor gardens get sun from different directions as the day progresses, so the plants grow more like a round or bushy ball than in an indoor garden with light coming from only one direction. Cannabis and most plants are phototropic, meaning they tend to reach towards light. Thus, plants receiving directional light in indoor gardens will only spread out once they can’t support themselves. Indoor gardens with horizontal light create an added need for trellising because they tend to crowd themselves, stretching up instead of out. Horizontal trellises are better indoors, but outdoor plants may require vertical trellises on the sides as well in order to support their more rounded shape. For this reason, many outdoor growers also use tomato cages, whereas an indoor garden usually needs a horizontal support in which to grow.

In conclusion, there are more than a few ways to accomplish managing your garden canopy. Choose the tactic that best matches your situation as far as the number and size of plants, as well as these other factors. Remember when light is coming down from only one direction, a horizontal trellis or something similar to spread out the plants is very beneficial to maximize every square inch that is being lit. If there’s only a few plants or smaller plants, maybe just a stake on each plant is fine or a couple of yo-yos here and there to support branches that are falling over. Just be sure to start early before the need is there. Be proactive rather than reactive and you will fully support your plants on their way to success. Support your canopy and your plants will thank you for it. If you can accomplish this, you will notice improvements in both yield and quality.

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