Training cannabis plants is a great way to encourage more bud sites and bigger yields. Cannabis responds well, in fact vibrantly, to being trained. Indoors and outdoors, a number of training methods are proven to improve the overall performance of cannabis. Although plant training can produce impressive results, sometimes marijuana growers aren’t given the right information, which can cause unfortunate mistakes that hurt their yields!
Not training plants at all is the first mistake most inexperienced growers make. Indoor grow spaces are most often limited, and not training means not optimising the production capabilities of any space. Even smaller autoflowering varieties respond well to even light distribution over a tied-down canopy.
Breaking a Main Stem by Accident
You may have to put a “cast” on your injured cannabis stems so they are able to healIt’s important to use bending techniques from the beginning of a plant’s life because stems start getting stiff as they get older. Starting while the plant is still young makes the whole process go much more easily!
However, even if you’re careful, it can be easy to snap a stem by accident. This most often happens when trying to forcefully bend an older stem that has become thick and unyielding.
Nothing is better than bending when stems are flexible to get your plants to grow exactly how you want, but there are a few techniques that can help you bend over stems after they’ve already hardened!
Prevent broken stems by bending at the newest growth if possible, where stems are more flexible.
ScrOG, or screen of green, is a training method that can produce some really impressive harvests. It involves weaving stems through a mesh screen to create an even canopy of colas, which can really push your plants to maximise yield. That said, it’s a labour-intensive method that can be difficult to master, even for experienced growers.
We generally do not recommend ScrOG for beginner growers. If you’re planning on trying this method, make sure you have a few harvests under your belt. A solid understanding of how cannabis grows is essential to understanding how your plants will react to being grown under a screen.
When performing ScrOG, the first thing you’ll want to get right is the position of your screen, which should sit about 40–50cm (15–20 inches) above your pots. The corners of the screen should be attached to the sides of your grow tent/room. A screen that hasn’t been properly secured can fall on your plants and ruin an entire harvest.
Arguably one of the biggest mistakes growers make with ScrOG is thinking that once they’ve installed their screen, they can just leave their plants to do as they please. This couldn’t be further from the truth; you’ll need to start training your plants as soon as possible using topping, LST, and pruning. You’ll want to tend to them constantly and keep them under the screen until two weeks into flowering (minimum), at which point you can start guiding them through the mesh.
The end result should be an even, green canopy with big, thick colas, not just a bunch of plants growing through a screen.
Mainlining involves topping a plant a number of times, then undershucking the branches so only main colas are grown. Branches are tied into positions to maximise light and air distribution.
Topping too early, then too often, is a common mistake when mainlining. Too early, and plants take longer to recover, then new growth is too close to the grow medium, preventing air circulation and risking disease. Then, when aiming for 16 or more colas, branches need to grow enough before being topped again so the plant volume doesn’t become overcrowded. Topping all new growth successively will create a slow-growing, poorly structured plant.
A good rule of thumb for a well-distributed plant is to wait to top again until you have the same number of nodes as what number topping it is. After the first top, let two nodes grow before the second top, then let three nodes grow before the third top, then let four nodes grow before the fourth top. This way, plants won’t fight for space and will remain vigorous at each topping.
Topping Plant Early or Incorrectly
Removing the top of the main stem (“topping” the plant) before it has grown at least 3-4 nodes often wastes more time than it saves.
In fact, removing any part of the plant when it’s very young can stunt the plant, meaning it may grow slowly or stop growing altogether for days or even weeks.
However, if you wait until a plant is healthy and growing fast with a good root system, it won’t even slow down after being topped! Waiting until the plant is the right size often improves your overall results from topping.
Defoliation is helpful when growing cannabis as it allows you to maximise space and light, both of which are vital for your plant’s development. It involves cutting away any unnecessary foliage, allowing light to penetrate the parts of your plant that will actually grow bud. And while it might seem pretty simple to experienced growers, properly defoliating a plant can be difficult for beginners.
One mistake we see rookie growers make is not knowing what foliage to remove. Ideally, you’ll only ever want to prune away fan leaves (the big leaves that grow straight out of a stem and branch, usually around the nodes). These leaves take up a lot of space and often take light away from bud sites. Never prune away sugar leaves or growth tips, as this can inflict a lot of stress and affect both the quality and size of your yields.
Another mistake we often see from beginner growers is defoliating too early. Remember, defoliating involves removing unnecessary foliage. Seedlings or very young plants do not have unnecessary foliage yet, and don’t need to be pruned. Plants that are sick or slow-growing also shouldn’t be pruned, as removing foliage will likely do more harm than good.
One final mistake we commonly see growers make is not defoliating at all. Remember, your plants have access to a limited amount of energy (nutrients, water, and light). By defoliating, you’re cutting down on the number of points your plant has to divide that limited amount of energy between. If you never defoliate or train your plant, it essentially has less energy to send to its main bud sites because you’re forcing it to keep foliage it doesn’t need.
Cannabis loves to be trained, but only by those with the care and finesse to do it right. Whenever you’re thinking about training or removing parts of the plant, always consider the plant’s overall health first. Now that you’re familiar with some of the common mistakes to avoid, you can proceed with greater confidence and know-how than before!
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