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How To Improve On Your Harvest:
A Complete Guide To Topping, Training And Pruning

We got some requests for pointers on how to train your plants for a maximized crop, so I put this guide together. I will cover the basic idea behind topping the plant and how to apply the various techniques, sometimes in combination, for the best results.

Topping

Topping the plant means that you remove the main shoot located on the central stem. By doing so you will encourage the plant to grow into a bush with a lot of shoots, instead of one big main shoot that you get on the untopped “Christmas tree”.

The reason why the plant behaves this way is because the centre of growth control is located in the apical meristem or main shoot. The main shoot sends suppressive hormones down to the lower or axillary shoots which stops them from growing. This is called apical dominance. This mechanism does not stop the lower branches from growing but as long as the main shoot is intact it will be largely favored. By removing the main shoot, the branches beneath it become free to grow at full rate in order to take its place.

The main shoot also has other functions. It communicates with photosensitive pigments, called phytochromes, located in the leafs.

Flowering in plants is triggered by two things. The first part of the system is called the Circadian rhythm which is basically an internal biological clock. This biological clock is an evolutionary response to light and darkness and is tightly linked with hormonal functions in the plant. The second part involves hormone signalling mechanisms, messenger molecules and specifically encoded proteins that tell the plant to start budding based on the information that it receives from the environment. The plant knows when to trigger flowering because the sensory pigments keep track of the photoperiod or the hours of daylight and relay this information to the centre of growth control which is located in the main shoot. The sensory pigments also inform the plant of how much sunlight a certain part of the plant receives, which enables it to relocate energy and growth hormones to where they are needed.

There are several types of hormones that regulate growth. One of the most important growth hormones is called auxin. It originates in the main shoot and is part of a mechanism called the auxin transport system. This hormone plays a big part in the internal signaling and growth control mechanisms of the plant. It also regulates the formation and behavior of other growth hormones that are responsible for everything from root growth to the formation of flowers.

By removing the main shoot, the communication between the leafs and the main shoot ends, effectively canceling the apical dominance. The result is that the plant assigns the next shoots in line to the job. This means that the smaller shoots on the branches beneath the cut starts growing faster and gain size. Since there is no more apical dominance, the plant will grow into a bush because the newly appointed main shoots all have equal priority. These shoots usually grow very slowly when the plant is left untopped. It is probably best to top the plant at night when most of the hormones have been sent to the roots, which means that there is a smaller chance of the plant being stunted after the main shoot has been removed.

There will be a short period of time when the plant is in something that could be called a state of confusion. It will stop all activity until it can figure out what is going on, so to speak. It will resume vegetative growth as soon as the hormonal functions are up and running again. It should take no more than a few days for this to happen, a week at the most.

Most of the time this transition is quite fast but some plants that respond poorly to topping might have stunted growth for a while. It is possible to top a plant many times, each time the number of main shoots will double. Give your plants some time to grow before you top them, if they are topped too early they might get stunted for a while. I do top them quite early sometimes as you can probably tell from the pictures that I have included. Go by your feeling, once the plants look strong enough you can start topping and training them.

This is a good way of training the plant if one wants to make the most out of the space available. Topping is also a good way of slowing down plants that tend to stretch a lot, as each time the plant is topped it will redirect energy to a greater number of shoots. The new shoots will never grow as large as the untopped main shoot will but they will most likely produce a larger crop.


(Credit to the original creator of this picture)

There is also a technique called FIM (Fuck I Missed) topping. By leaving a small portion of the growth on the main shoot intact, the plant will for some reason assume that four shoots, instead of two, are the main shoots and they will grow evenly in height. The success of this method is usually up to the luck of the draw but you should make the cut circular so that the remaining tissue forms a “cup”. The same result can however be achieved by topping the plant twice.

Here are some plants in various stages of training.

Super Cropping

There is also a technique called super cropping, which involves crushing of the soft inner tissue of the stem in order to gain some control over the plant, but mainly to increase health, potency and yield. This soft inner tissue is made up of cellulose and forms a network of vascular tissue that can be divided into two groups, namely the xylem and phloem. These two are responsible for the transport of water and nutrients along the stem.

Breaking the plant’s inner walls will cause it to rebuild. The plant will rebuild the tissue stronger than before and this is why this technique can increase the harvest. While rebuilding the tissue the plant expands on the network of cellulose, which is why the stem grows thicker than before at the point where it was crushed. Think of it this way; instead of having a two way street for water and nutrient transport, you now have a multi-laned super highway.

If you pinch the main stem it will grow very thick, which will benefit the entire plant. Pinching the side branches will allow you to have more control over how she takes shape. Thanks to the bend on the newly crushed branch you can now redirect it in any way that you see fit. This will also allow more light to reach the lower buds. Since the branch will grow stronger at the breaking point, it will also be able to support more weight. The branches that are closest to the breaking point will also grow stronger in order to compensate for the injury.

Here we can see how the stem has grown stronger where the vascular tissue was damaged and then repaired.

The idea here is to gain some control over the shape of the plant while improving on health and increasing her yield. Pinched plants usually grow into very healthy bushes with thick stems. Super cropping is also a good way of getting several main colas. The pinched branches will eventually grow so thick that the plant will treat them as if they were main colas instead of secondary branches. The added stress that comes with super cropping might also increase potency.

Super cropping should be carried out during the second or third week of vegetative growth. Take a branch between your forefinger and thumb and proceed to pinch and twist at the same time until you feel the insides start to collapse under the pressure of your fingers. Slowly squeeze and bend the stem without snapping it. Just squeeze lightly until you feel the branch give, then let go. The branch might droop for a while but that’s ok as it will heal over time.

Keep in mind that sometimes you will have to keep the plant in a vegetative state a bit longer than usual as it takes the plant some time to repair the broken tissue and redirect energy. It is probably best to choose either topping/LST training or super cropping, as both techniques have the same purpose and applying all of them at the same time might put the plant under too much stress. Pruning super cropped plants might however become necessary at some point or the other in order to ensure that the plant is functioning at its full potential

If this technique is applied correctly and with patience, the outcome will most likely be a stronger, bushier plant and a greater harvest.

Low Stress Training

Topping the plant or Super Cropping can be considered High Stress Training (HST), which might upset the plant to some degree. There is however another option called LST or Low Stress Training.

Topping and LST training work quite well together but it’s not necessary to top the plant in order to start the LST training. Some people prefer to leave the plant untopped and tie down the main shoot at ground level instead. This will have the same effect as topping it because once again, the centre for growth control located in the main shoot will dictate how the plant grows. When the main shoot is tied down, all shoots above it will grow more rapidly as the plant now assumes that these are the main shoots.

These diagrams, originally posted by big_buddha, illustrate what I am talking about. These are excellent diagrams so many thanks to the creator.



It is possible to keep tying down each new branch as it grows, which will result in a plant that grows into a dense bush. LST training combined with topping can be a very effective way of creating a plant that makes use of all the available space. The trick here is to top the plant at each new node and to keep the internodes as short as possible. Training the plant in this manner takes some time and there is no way to reach good results by being in a hurry. As you can see, the plant in this picture has been both topped and trained. If you look closely you can see where the branches have been tied to the pot. Tying down the branches in a circular fashion will help the plant to take the desired shape.

There are many ways to train a plant, each plant requires a slightly different treatment. The goal is however to get a plant that looks like the one in the picture above. Once that plant goes into flowering it will have many branches with many nodes, you can probably see what I mean. Once the bush gains size and starts to stretch, you will have to start pruning it carefully and wisely.

Just to demonstrate how differently plants can be trained, here are some pictures of plants in early training. All of them were topped first. By training a plant you can also slow down the stretch, especially in pure or sativa dominant plants that tend to stretch more than indicas.

This Oldtimer’s Haze was stretching a lot and had quite long internodes so I topped it and trained it to grow around itself and eventually it grew into a sphere.

This Kali Mist plant did not like to be topped so I tried to slow it down by tying down the branches horizontally. In the end this plant preferred a few main colas so I stopped the training shortly after. Some plants will resist any attempts of training and respond poorly when you try. These plants will probably yield more when left untopped.

Here is an example of a Ingemar’s Punch plant that went through some serious LST training. This plant resembles a creeper vine more than a bush. Here the goal was to keep the plant as low as possible but usually the plant is allowed to grow in size and height so that it produces a larger crop. This example however illustrates the possibilities when it comes to training. Remember that even if your grow room is limited in height, you are not restricted to growing solely lowryders or other strains that stay low, as any plant can be trained to grow in any manner or shape. This opens up possibilities for stealthy cab and pc grows. All you have to do is reserve some time for the training during veg and perhaps you will have to continue the training during flowering as well, like in the example above. Anything is possible.

Topping and training is also a good way to keep mother plants from growing too large. There are several good threads on how to keep bonsai moms on this forum so I will not venture further into that topic.

Scrogging

Scrogging, or Screen of Green means that you suspend a net over the plants and allow them to grow through it. This makes it easier to separate the growing branches so that they cover the entire area of the grow room. The Scrog net also provides support as the buds can often become so heavy that that the branches cannot support them anymore and break under the weight. Thereby the Scrog net also removes the need for noisy fans, used to make the stems stronger through the waving effect. Personally never use fans due to limited space.

I usually train the plants for up to three months before flipping the switch, which means that they are thick stemmed and quite large in size. Although plants can be kept very low with training, my aim is to grow large and busy plants that produce the maximum amount of buds. Due to the long vegetative period, the plants are strong and healthy with an abundance of bud sites.

I try to keep the canopy even by topping the plants that stretch more but sometimes it is impossible, especially when growing both indicas and sativas at the same time. One has to adjust according to the plants and direct longer branches to the corners of the grow room, sometimes the only option is to tie the branches horizontally so that they are resting on the Scrog net. This can be a strange sight as the flowers keep growing vertically out of the side of the bud.

The basic idea is that the training should be complete by the time the plants start flowering and grow through the net. Sometimes a second Scrog net is necessary higher up if the plants need further support.

There are also different methods when it comes to Scrogging, some people tilt the net so that one side is higher than the other, as this provides a greater surface area for the buds.

Sea of Green

Sea of green or SOG is the method of growing where a multitude of smaller plants are grown instead of few large ones. These smaller plants will mature faster and in less time than larger plants and one crop can be started while another is maturing. This saves the grower a lot of time and money as less time is required between crops. This method is also good for those wanting to make the most out of their smaller grow area.

Twice as many plants grown half as big will fill the grow space twice as fast, so harvests take place almost twice as often.

Although SOG is more of a style of growing than an actual technique that can be applied in order to increase the harvest, I still wanted to mention it here as this method of growing will under the right conditions actually increase the harvest. As opposed to growing a few larger plants in the same area, that is. Since you want the buds to cover as much of the grow area as possible, one plant per sq. ft. is a good rule of thumb for SOG.

Plants should naturally not be topped when using the this method as the idea is to harvest the main cola from a whole bunch of smaller plants and topping them defeats that purpose. The SOG plants do not require any training either as that will only slow them down and delay the harvest. It is probably better to just grow more plants instead and fill out the entire surface area with as many plants as possible. In case the smaller plants do not fill up the entire area of the grow room, some minor LST training might be needed in order for them to branch out a bit more.

The SOG grow can also be Scrogged for further control over the plants. In order for this method to be truly effective, all the new plants would have to be clones from the same mother. That means that all the little plants will grow at the same rate, which is important for keeping an even canopy.

Although no topping and training is needed when growing SOG, the trimming of branches and fan leafs, especially lower ones, becomes a must because every little bit of space counts towards the harvest. By removing excess fan leafs that would otherwise block bud sites, the SOG grower improves on his yield. Since SOG grows usually contain a great number of plants in a relatively small area, the need for trimming fan leafs becomes apparent. After all, what we are after is a bountiful harvest and different methods apply to different styles of growing.

Monster Cropping

Monster Cropping or Flowering Clones is another method of growing that was brought to my attention by one of our members; JWP, who also was kind enough to provide the pictures for this part of the guide. This method involves taking clones of flowering plants and then forcing them to root and re-veg, which eventually leads to very bushy plants with a great number of branches and nodes. I named this technique Monster Cropping because that is what you will get, real monster plants, but also because this method was introduced to the scene by a grower named greenmonster714. He in turn credits a grower named Feral for discovering this technique.

Taking clones from flowering plants goes against all that has been said about cloning cannabis and might therefore seem a bit confusing at first but the science behind the technique is sound and the results speak for themselves.

You start by taking clones of a plant that is about 21 days into flowering. This seems to be the best time to do it but you can also takes clones at a later stage with the same results. The lower branches make better clones as they have not yet become rigid and will also root faster and more easily than say the top cola. Move the new cutting into a glass of water and let it sit for a while in order to make sure that no air gets into the vascular system during handling, as this can be fatal to your new plant. You should make the cut so that it runs along the stem as this will increase the surface area for water and possibly nutrient uptake, depending on what method of cloning you use. Personally, I have found that using a small hydroponic setup or a propagation bubbler is by far the best way to clone cannabis plants. I will not expand on the subject of cloning here, if you need more information on how to clone your plants, have a look at the official cloning thread by JJScorpio

In the picture below, you can see how the clone from a flowering plant been has placed in a propagation bubbler for rooting and re-vegging. This also means that you will have to put the clone back under a veg light schedule of 18/6, 20/4 or even 24/0. Clones do not need strong light so a small CFL will do. You can remove some of the buds at this stage in order to encourage the plant to revert back into its vegetative cycle but leave the topmost flower alone.

It will take several weeks for the clone to root, some never do, so it is best that you take a great number of clones at the same time in order to ensure that at least one makes it on to the next stage. It might be a good idea to place the clones inside a humidity dome, which can be bought at gardening stores or custom built for your specific needs. The high humidity inside the dome will make sure that the plants do not dry out and die. Ventilate the dome every day just to make sure that the plants don’t get attacked by mold.

Keep in mind however that the most important thing when it comes to cloning is to provide the fresh cuttings with plenty of oxygen and that is why the propagation bubbler is so effective compared to other methods.

The clones might be a sad sight at first but as soon as they root, they will also revert back into the vegetative stage and start growing again. Once the clones have rooted properly and started growing again, they will put out single unserrated leaves at first but the normal leafs are soon to follow. It might be a good idea to apply some training at this stage, tying down some of the tops will encourage even more branching. You can also provide some heat underneath the clones as this will speed up the rooting process considerably.

When the plant starts growing again, the incredible branching power of the flowering clone becomes apparent.

As you can see, this plant has grown into a real monster, and all this without ever topping the plant. That’s the beauty of this technique; you can forget all about topping and FIM’ing since the flowering clone will sprout all these new branches all by itself.

This plant is now perfectly suited for a SCROG or perhaps even a SOG grow. This one plant can easily fill up an entire Scrog net in no time. Several of these plants grown in SOG will definitely give you a grand harvest.

There are other benefits from using this technique; it also removes the need for keeping mother plants. When the newly re-vegged plant is flowered, it can also provide more clones for a perpetual harvest. Recycling at its best. This might be of interest to those who need to keep down their number of plants.

Needless to say, this method is highly effective thanks to the heavy branching that occurs after a flowering clone is re-vegged. With further training and some patience, you will get some real monster plants and thereby also a monster harvest.

Pruning

When the plant is left to grow as it chooses, it usually has more branches than it has the energy to support. This means that a lot of energy is wasted on smaller branches, especially the lower ones. The energy need is so spread out that in extreme cases flowering takes a very long time as the plant tries to supply energy evenly to every location. By removing some of the less important and weaker branches, you can ensure that the larger branches produce a greater amount of high quality bud. The bud on the lower branches that receive less light usually end up as single “pop corn” buds that never truly mature, so it is best to remove them at an early stage.

You become the investment planner for you plants. Observe the growth and remove any branch that has long internodes (the space between the nodes) and any branch that stays significantly lower than the main shoots. These branches will get very little light and they will also have a hard time finding their way up to the well lit area. Most of the time I end up removing almost all the growth underneath the Scrog net, I only leave the fan leafs intact until the plant drops them by itself after the energy has been recovered.

When it comes to removing leaf material opinions vary, some remove leafs and others, like myself, chose not to. I have tried both methods and can honestly say that there is no positive effect really from removing leafs. Keep in mind that fan leafs are the primary location for photosynthesis and that the plant also stores surplus energy in them. By removing the leafs you do double harm, you handicap the plants ability to produce vital energy and you also remove the energy that has already been stored for future use. Furthermore, although it cannot be observed with the naked eye, light actually passes through the leafs and that is why some of the lower growth stay green throughout the entire grow. It is better to tuck or tie the leafs under the canopy so that light reaches more bud sites, or alternatively cut the leafs in half.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there is a hormonal response in plants to being wounded. This includes a growth inhibitor called jasmonic acid. It tells the plant to favor defense over growth. The more you remove at any given time, the greater the response. It is therefore wise to trim the plants gradually althrough flowering, instead of removing all the growth at once. This hormone also plays a part in regulating the formation of trichomes, and that is probably why a little bit of stress is thought to increase potency. There is however a difference between stress and torture, a healthy plant will always produce more bud than a plant that has been severely handicapped.

Since most of the photosynthetic activity takes place in the fan leafs, the buds themselves do not need light, in other words, bud sites are activated by light when it hits the node but the energy is produced and transported to the buds from the leafs. This is where a Scrog net comes in handy, you can tie down the leafs without removing them and thereby allow more light to reach the buds while no energy is lost.

Sometimes you do not have a choice and must remove some of the growth in order to ensure that you get a good harvest. It all depends, some plants respond well to rigorous pruning but in general I would advice that you keep it to a minimum since there are optional methods to removing the leafs altogether. The rules of pruning are a bit different when it comes to SOG grows as you might have to remove some of the fan leafs because the plants are packed so close together.

I think that the best advice is to watch your plants closely and adapt your technique and grow style according to the needs of the plant.

Nothing is set in stone when it comes to growing.

All grow rooms are different and so is each strain of cannabis. In fact every plant is different from the next so you will have to try out what works best for you and your plants. I hope that this guide at least gave you a general idea of what the methods are and how they can be applied for a greater harvest.

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Step 1: Germination

As I mentioned above, the best place to get your seeds is from Amsterdam Marijuana Seeds. If you are getting your seeds from a friend, look for seeds that are light gray or dark brown . Some may have dark lines inset into these colors, which is fine. Small, white seeds are immature so don’t take those ones.

Method 1 (Recommended)
Try to handel the seeds as little as possible. Fill a cup half way with room temperature bottled water (tap water has alkaline and other chemicals harmful to fragile sprouts) and a drop of Super Thrive, then place the seeds inside. Let them sit over night. The good seeds will sink while the bad seeds float. There are exceptions to this rule so don’t throw away any seed just yet. Store the cup of seeds in a dark place like a closet. Soaking them will soften the hull and promote the germination process. Within about three days, the hulls of the seeds will crack and a small white sprout will emerge. The sprout will generally curve around the hull. When the sprout grows to about a half-inch, it is time to start planting!

Method 2
Place your seeds between six moist paper towels, or in the pores of a moist sponge. Leave the towels or sponge moist but not soaking wet. Some seeds will germinate in 24 hours while others may take several days.

Non-germinated hemp seeds
Germinated hemp seeds
Non-Germinated Seeds
Germinated Seeds

Step 2: Planting Your Germinated Seeds

Plant the seeds in a small pot with non-fertilized soil. Fill the pot with soil and lightly pack it down. Make a hole in the middle with a pencil or pen and plant a single germinated seed per pot. The seed should be planted with the end of the sprout pointing up, keeping in mind that it is probably wrapping around it’s hull. Plant at a depth of 1/3 inch. Transplanting into the pods needs to be done without damaging the sprout or disturbing the hull of the seed. Handle the seeds very carefully with sterilized tweezers. Be gentle not to pack the peat too tightly against the sprout. Now your baby plants are ready for your grow room. I recommend you use the best soil you can get your hands on. There is always excellent soil for sale at your local plant shop. Make sure your containers are sterilized, especially if you have used them before for growing other plants.

Planting  your seeds
Planting Your Seeds

Step 3: Lighting

Indoor marijuana growing lights need a minimum of 2000 lumens per sq. ft. If you use less then this, your plant is not going to grow at its full potential. This also means you will have to adjust the distance between the light and the plants daily, never allowing you a break.

2500 – 3000 lumens is a good target, especially if you’re going to enrich the CO2 levels (more on that later).

HID lamps are the best choice for indoor growers. There are 3 basic types of HID lamps: High Pressure Sodium (HPS), Metal Halide (MH), and Mercury Vapor.

HPS lamps can be used to grow your crop from start to finish and are almost twice as efficient as MV lamps. A crop grown under HPS lamps will mature a week later than if the same crop was grown under MH lamps, but the benefit is a larger yield. It’s worth waiting the extra week.

It’s obvious that having a lamp that uses half the power to output the same light will pay for itself in about a year. This is a simple cost vs. operating cost calculation, and doesn’t even take into account the increased yield the HPS lamp will give you. If you include this in the calculation, the HPS lamp will pay for itself with the first crop.

Mounting your HID lamps Horizontally will boost the amount of light that reaches your plants by 30%. Most HID’s sold for indoor gardens are horizontal mounting.

You have to be careful of heat build up with HID lamps. The amount of light the plants can use is determined by temperature, CO2 levels, nutrient availability, PH, and other factors. Using a lamp which is too big for your space will force you to constantly be venting your space. If this is the case then there is no way you can enrich the CO2, since it is being blown out of the room right away.

HPS  Lamps
HPS Lamps

Step 4: Ventilation

When you are using an HID lamp, you need to have good ventilation. Humidity build up requires that you vent your room at least 3 times a day. With a lamp that creates heat quickly, you want to have a ventilation system that can clear the room in 5 minutes, and then would turn off for 25 minutes allowing the CO2 to build up before turning on again. The key is finding a timer that can manage this timing. If you are regulating the CO2 inversely with the ventilation, you can be looking at a $100 climate controller. Despite the cost, this is well worth the investment as you will see the benefits in the yield of your crop.

An alternative is a thermostat that starts a fan when a predetermined temperature is reached. It then turns off when the temperature drops by 4 degrees. The down side to this is it’s really tough to coordinate the release of CO2 because you never know when the fan is going on. You can install a voltage sensing relay, but by the time you’ve gone to all this trouble, it would have been easier and cheaper to just get the climate controller. If you can ventilate your grow room quickly and prevent the heat from building up too fast, the CO2 can be run in slowly and continuously, which will build up between the exhaust cycles.

Buying fans for venting can be expensive, so I recommend going to your local electronic parts liquidators and see if they have muffin fans for $5-$10. This can be a huge savings over the fans you get at indoor garden stores which go for $50-$70. A good ventilation fan keeps the humidity and temperature down, and distributes the CO2 to your plants from fresh, incoming air.

Internal air movement is important as well. Use and oscillating fan to circulate the air within your grow room. This helps to keep the humidity down which will allow the air to absorb more moisture reducing the risk of fungus. I recommend using a wall mount oscillating fan to save your floor space for your crop. The best grow rooms have the most internal air circulation.

Grow  Room Layout
Grow Room Layout

Step 5: The Vegetative State

Once your plant has sprouted, it will start it’s vegetative growth. This means your plant will be photosynthesizing as much as it can and developing grow tips at each pair of leaves. Grow tips are the part of the plant that can be cloned or propagated asexually. They are found at the top of the plant at every major inter node. If you “top” the plant, it will then have 2 grow tips at the top instead of 1. It takes time for the plant to recover from being pruned. A lot of growers find it faster to just grow 4 smaller plants and not top them at all.

All plants have a vegetative stage where they are growing as fast as possible after the plant first germinates from seed. You can grow your plants with no dark period, which will increase the speed they grow by 15%-30%. You can grow your plants vegetatively indefinitely. It’s up to you to decide when you want to force the plant to flower. A plant can grow from 12 inches to 12 feet before you force it to flower. This allows you to grow your plant based on your goals and the space you have to work with.

Miracle Grow Patio or Rapid Grow plant food is good for hydroponics and soil gardening when growing continuously under lights. Peters 5-50-17 is a high P plant food used for blooming and fruiting plants when beginning 12 hour days. Epsom salts (1tsp) should be used in the solution for its magnesium and sulfur minerals. Your plant requires trace minerals as well, if the food you are using doesn’t include them. I highly recommend Miracle Grow Patio because it already includes these trace elements, so you don’t have to worry about it.

For sprouts you should give them as much light as you can since they don’t need a dark period like older plants. You won’t need a timer unless you want to turn the lamps off during a certain time each day. Light the plants for a minimum of 18 or more hours, or continuously at this point.

Bending a young plants stem back and forth will make it grow thick and strong. Thin stems won’t support heavy flowering growth. An internal oscillating fan (mentioned in the ventilation step above) will cut down the humidity on the leaves which will improve the stems strength as well. The oscillating fan has been mentioned a couple times now because I can’t stress enough how important internal air circulation is to your plants growth. It will make them grow stronger, while reducing hazards that may kill your crop.

The  Vegitative State
The Vegitative State

Step 6: Identifying Male and Female Plants

The reason you want to identify the male plants from the female plants is so you can separate them so the males don’t pollinate the females. The flowers on the males plants are also un useable. After the fourth week of vegetative growth, your plant will start to form pre flowers. Using a magnifying glass, carefully check above the plants fourth node to determine the early flowers sex. The male plant has a small, “3 leaf clover-looking” pre flower with a tiny stem under it. The female flower has a single or double pistil emerging from an immature calyx.

Male  Marijuana Plant Female  Marijuana Plant
Male Plant
Female Plant

Step 7: The Flowering Stage

This is where you get to start seeing what all your hard work and long hours has gone towards. Once your marijuana plants are about 20 inches tall and are strong and well nourished, you want to set you lights to 12 hours on and 12 hours off. By doing this you are tricking your plants into thinking it is fall and that is time to start flowering (aka: budding).

You will also want to keep “lights on” the same as when you were running your lights for 18 hours in the vegetative state. So if you you were turning your lights on at 8am during the vegetative state, then you want your lights to go on at 8am during the flowering stage. In this time example you want 12 hours lights on and 12 hours lights off starting at 8am so set your timers to that. This prevents adding any unnecessary stress to your crop and the less stress, the better the crop!

When you plants are in the “lights off” cycle, you don’t want them to get ANY light at all! I recommend you do your gardening during the “lights on” cycle so you can see what you’re doing and reduce the risk of giving your plants some light. If you absolutely need to do your gardening during the “lights off” cycle, you can use green bulbs which will allow you just enough light to see, but not enough to damage your plants. It’s easier just to do it during “lights on”.

Now is when you want to stop the Nitrogen nutrients. Your plants need more Phosphorous and other nutrients during this stage. PH level affects affects the growth of your marijuana plants in all its stages. On a PH scale of one to fourteen, seven is neutral. The ideal PH level for cannabis is 6.5. Being way above or way below this level will slow the growth and is a tell-tale sign that something is wrong.

If your crop shows signs of slow growth, check the PH level and correct it accordingly. At this point your crop has already experienced the nutritional stress so you need to allow time for it to recover before you will see quicker growth.

The length of the flowering stage will vary for every different strain of marijuana plant. If you are buying your seeds from Amsterdam Marijuana Seeds they come with a guide of the flowering stage length.  This is helpful, but not necessary for us to know when the best time to harvest our cannabis plants.  I recommend you get a strong magnifier so you can determine when the best time to harvest is. You should start to notice a white frosty look to your buds. These are the trichomes which hold the THC. This will tell you when it’s time to harvest!

The  Flowering Stage
The Flowering Stage – Notice the frosty look

Stage 8: Harvesting and Curing

We know its time to start our harvest by the color of the resin glands or trichomes on the buds. They should be turning a white or amber color instead of clear or translucent. The small hairs will also be turning orange, brown  or reddish. For the best harvest, I recommend you do it within 5-7 days. You should harvest when half the resin glands have turned amber. This will give you an excellent product! When you first start seeing the trichomes turn amber, you want to start watering with JUST water, no nutrients.

Now it’s time to learn how to properly cut and trim the buds, and dry them to cure for the smoothest finished product. You should have good air circulation for the trimming and drying rooms as this will help cut down on the strong odors caused by this stage. keep your room at about 70 degrees. Heat is not important at this point and will only enhance the strong smell.

TREAT YOUR BUDS WITH CARE! Handling your buds too rough, storing them where temperatures are over 80 degrees, and too much moisture will all decrease the potency (THC levels) of your pot.

Trim and manicure your buds the same day you harvest them. You will find the leaves are firm and easily cut off. Take off all the large leaves and leaf tips that are around the buds. Remove the large leaves right to the stem so there is little or no stem stick left in your buds. This takes a little skill, but gets easier the more you do it.

Harvesting  and Curing
Harvesting and Curing Your Marijuana

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