What isn’t there to love about plant training? Training is fun, it gets you more involved with your plants, it helps maximize on your grow space and lights and it burns a calorie or two in addition to dramatically increasing yields!
But there is a dark side to training. It shows up when newer or possibly misinformed growers attempt to train their cannabis plants, but end up stunting their growth or generally doing them more harm than good. This can come from accidents like breaking stems, but sometimes it’s a fault in the way the technique is being used.
Today, we’re going to show you how to avoid making mistakes during plant training that will slow down plant growth. Instead, you can be sure you’re using the right technique the right way at the right time!
ScrOG - short for ‘Screen of Green’ - is a method of growing cannabis when a screen is placed in between the plants and the light. The plants are kept under the screen during veg, and guided through the screen by the grower during flowering to influence neat rows of colas equally spaced from each other.
Most Common Mistakes
First Time Grower
ScrOG can be a tough method, even for growers who’ve been doing it for a while. It isn’t just a question of knowledge, ScrOG takes much more time and physical work to keep the plants arranged the correct way. If you’re just looking into growing for the first time, I would leave the ScrOG technique for a few grows down the road.
Foul: Improper Use of ScrOG Net!
Many growers (myself included) see the ScrOG net in action and are entranced. From the outside, it looks like you set up a net and just let the plants do their thing. Unfortunately, doing ScrOG this way nullifies its benefits and will actually make for a tougher grow since there will be a useless net in the way.
When using the ScrOG net, one of the most important aspects is to keep your the plants in an even canopy and below the ScrOG net until the 2nd week of flowering (minimum). Topping will give more colas and make them easier to train under the net; topping is pretty much mandatory for ScrOG really shine.
Manifolding (another name for the ‘Mainlining’ growing technique) is like topping taken to the extreme. Manifolding involves topping your plant at three separate times for a total of 14 cuts. This is to accomplish something similar to ScrOG, but without a net; it makes for 8 colas that are spaced apart from each other in addition to being equidistant from the main stem.
Most Common Mistakes
Manifolding is a great technique and I enjoy using it personally, but it doesn’t necessarily perform the same in all mediums.
Although we learned the original technique from Nugbuckets who was an avid organic soil grower, many growers of varying levels of experience claim it adds too much time to the vegetative period. This is due to the fact that manifolding requires a lot of recovery and growth time due to the all the topping.
Hydroponic setups generally experience much faster vegetative growth than soil, so this method is much more viable in such a medium. In particular, plants grown in DWC, hempy buckets or similar mediums seem to best demonstrate the power of manifolding.
First Time Grower
This is another technique that can give a new grower much larger responsibility than they prepared for. In addition to having to make quite a few cuts on your plant, LST is almost necessary at a vulnerable time for the plant. This means there isn’t much room for error though there is plenty of opportunity for a wrong snip or bend.
If you’ve never grown cannabis or feel apprehensive about having to top so many times, try growing a plant and top it just once. If you’re feel confident and/or experimental at that point, try topping the plant again or top a side branch for practice.
Topping Too Early
When growing a cannabis plant and trying a new technique, the excitement is palpable! Unfortunately for us, plants - even fast-growing ones - don’t grow fast enough to quench our gardening thirst. This can lead to ‘over-care’ (aka ‘Too Much Love’) or starting techniques prematurely.
When topping a plant for manifolding...actually, when topping a plant at all, make sure to let it grow 6 nodes before cutting anything off. You can certainly do it earlier, but topping after your plant has grown six nodes means it will be stronger and won’t need as long to recover.
Keep the ‘Low’ In ‘Low Stress Training’
Cannabis plants are pretty hearty, but a young plant can easy be decimated by the strength of a human without even trying! When using LST on a cannabis plant, the difference in strength it takes to bend a stem versus breaking it is miniscule; in some cases the breaking point is indistinguishable based on resistance alone.
This means you have to be super careful when utilizing LST on any cannabis plant, especially when they’re still young since their stems break much easier. If you’re feeling nervous when doing LST on a young plant and feel it might break soon, try splitting the LST session into multiple days. This way your plants will have a chance to recover and have a smaller chance of breakage on the next bend.
Defoliation is the act of purposefully removing fan leaves from a cannabis plant to expose more nodes/bud sites to a higher amount of light. To make it short, defoliation takes back space and light taken by fan leaves and instead makes both things available for plant matter that can actually grow bud (among other benefits).
Most Common Mistakes
Defoliation - amongst other things - is meant to help growers capitalize on two things in short supply: grow space and light. When it comes to growing indoors, this is a constant battle since indoor space is usually limited and grow lights give off a finite amount of light. And although a 1000W light can give MUCH more light than a plant needs, the area to which that light can reach is very limited...unlike the sun!
Defoliation is meant to help solve problems that many outdoor growers never face in the first place. If you have the room and privacy to grow in a backyard, you likely aren’t worried about how to cut down on the amount of space your plant uses. And since the sun has amazing penetration and power, there isn’t much need to try to open up the plant; it’ll grow tons of buds regardless. In short, defoliation isn’t of much use to outdoor growers.
First Time Grower
I hate to do this again, but it’s just as true with defoliation as it is with manifolding or ScrOG. If you try this on your first grow, you’re lowering the chances of success and thus you being happy with your first attempt. It's always a good idea to tackle a grow once on easy-mode, and then try your hand at some advanced techniques.
Plucking the Wrong Leaves
Defoliation is meant to open up the plant so more light can get in. This is accomplished by removing some of the fan leaves, and the fan leaves only! Pulling sugar leaves, or growth tips can mean less bud, lost bud and/or slower growth for that part of the plant.
This is a picture of a fan leaf:
Remember that this is on the only type of leaf you want to remove when attempting defoliation. Also, keep in mind that the removal of leaves shouldn’t be random. Before you pluck one, try moving it to see if it lets light through to a growth tip or generally a part of the plant that will use it.
Pulling Leaves Too Early
Younger plants, especially those grown in hydroponics under a metal halide, tend to take on a shorter and bushier look than if they were grown otherwise. When you see what looks like a little shrub packed with cannabis leaves, you instinct may to pull some, but you’ll need to make sure to factor in the age and health of the plant before moving forward.
Even if the plant looks bushy, make sure that removing leaves will actually benefit another part of the plant.
Also keep in mind that your plant should be in full-on vegetative mode, meaning that it’s growing at a pace that makes recovery easy. If you pull leaves from a plant that’s sickly, small, has only a few leaves, or is just plain bad at recovering, you’ll be waiting for days or even weeks before your plant bounces back from the procedure.
Are there pitfalls you’ve run into when trying to employ training techniques? Have you found something that has saved you time and effort and can possibly do the same for your fellow growers? Let us know!