There are many ways to increase the size of your harvest, but beyond basic nutrition, there is little that a grower can do that will impact yield more than proper plant training. When growing indoors, lights only produce appropriate growing light a certain distance from the bulb. This varies from light to light, but is usually no more than 4 feet from the light. With the heat the lights produce, you can’t get your plants too close or they’ll burn. This leaves a thin canopy depth that the light will penetrate through, so growing your plant wider is the only solution to increasing quality bud production. Here are some of the most effective techniques used to train your cannabis plant to grow wider (not taller), increase canopy width and increase yield:
1. Topping - The most basic technique, topping means taking the very top leaf growth of any branch and cutting it down to the stem, removing the very top leaves. This forces the energy that was being used to grow the plant tall, down into the 2 nodes immediately below your cut, creating 2 “tops” from that one cut. You can do this as many times as you’d like while in the vegetative stage, just know that it does create a thicker stem that is undesirable to some growers, so it is usually only done a few times during a grow.
2. FIM’ing - Like topping, this is a cut to the very top growth, but instead of snipping all the leaves off down to the stem, FIM’ing cuts just a part of the top growth off, forcing all the energy throughout the entire plant (not just the 2 nodes) making it create new growth all over. Very beneficial with just a few weeks left in the vegetative stage.
3. Low-Stress Training (LST) - LST is the act of bending a stem or branch to force it to go in a different direction than it would normally grow, usually parallel to the ground. Used in conjunction with topping, it’s one of the most beneficial ways to widen your canopy without any contraptions to assist you. However, you must be careful to not break the branch all the way off, or you essentially lose a branch and “top” the plant at the break. I suggest squeezing the stem until you feel the cell walls break under your fingers. Then slowly bend the branch, while still squeezing a bit, until the branch bends and creates a crease. The plant will then force energy into the rest of the plant, and create a knuckle at the break over time. Above the bend should still continue to grow, and most times be better off after. This is usually done during the vegetative stage, but some growers perform this on a limited basis in flower.
4. Lollipop - This is a term used to refer to cutting all of the lower growth from the plant, either before switching to flowering stage, or no more than 3 weeks into flower. This is done to eliminate the plant growth that will not get any good light to grow from. Remember, you are only gonna get good light a few feet from your bulb with most lights (new technology is changing this a bit) and as your plants grow thicker and your buds start to get bigger, even less light will reach the undergrowth of your plant. If you eliminate this growth, your plant will be able to focus all its energy into the leaves and buds that are getting good light, increasing bud production and size.
All of these techniques should be used in conjunction with regular plant maintenance: snipping undergrowth that doesn’t get enough light (and any yellowing or browning leaves) as your plant grows bigger. This is the easiest way to eliminate these leaves and small branches to help maintain a healthy plant.
Rob Smith is the owner of The Harvest Helper. www.theharvesthelper.co