Growing weed has many tasks and chores that must be performed in order to achieve the best crop. Primarily among them is the task of proper pruning. This article will explain what exactly is pruning, why it is important, and how to do it.
What is Defoliation of marijuana plants?
Pruning and defoliation both refer to the same primary tasks: the removal of fan leaves and excess foliage from the plant. Growers may use these terms interchangeably, or they may use each in a separate context. Some growers might refer to pruning as shaping the plants during veg, and others might use the phrase “defoliate” to mean the removal of fan leaves during flower.
We use the terms “pruning” and “defoliating” interchangeably and we mean the same thing: removing excess plant material. But we have different times where we perform various degrees of pruning or defoliating. It all depends on the stage of the plant, and how that plant is growing.
Why Defoliate Marijuana Plants?
The main goal for every batch of plants is to maximize yield and maximize quality of the buds. Proper defoliation helps to accomplish both of these objectives.
When a cannabis plant transitions from veg to flower, it goes through a three week period of aggressive growth and stretching. This growth period is known as the Post-Veg Stretch.
During this time, plants can become overgrown with foliage: fan leaves, lower branches, and small branches. This overgrowth must be managed or else many problems can ensue.
A cannabis plant that is overgrown with foliage, and becomes a hairy bushy mess, can become more susceptible to mold and mildew. This conditions can be controlled through proper feeding and environmental controls, but there are other reasons to defoliate.
Defoliating Marijuana Plants allows for larger buds
A hairy, bushy, messy plant will obscure the actual bud sites. You have to reach your hand inside the plant to grab a bud. We don’t want that. Instead, we want the cola tops spread through the trellis, so they can chunk up. And we want the buds and colas below the top to also receive sufficient light so they can yield good bud, too.
By removing excessive fan leaves and foliage, you allow for greater light penetration through the canopy to the colas and other preferred bud sites.
Proper defoliation absolutely leads to larger, more dense buds. This is especially true for the buds in the middle of the plant. A hairy, messy, bushy plant will yield more larfy buds than a properly pruned plant.
Defoliating Marijuana Plants increases total yield at Harvest time
Even though it is only one part of the process, proper defoliation is a huge part of our strategy in obtaining top yields, The plants must be properly pruned, and trained, in order to maximize yields. Just as hairy, messy plants do not yield fat, dense buds, they also do not yield a lot of overall weight either.
By removing excess foliage, your total yield will have a greater ratio of bud vs. trim. But not only will there be more bud compared to trim, the quantity of bud itself will be greater from a properly pruned plant.
When should you Defoliate your plants?
The best practices are prophylactic, meaning preventative measures, not reactionary measures. To us, that means it all starts in veg.
Your veg practices can greatly improve your outcomes in flower. Proper pruning in veg can also decrease your work load in flower.
There are many different cultivation styles when it comes to growing marijuana. We have recently adopted a practice that is serving us well.
How to defoliate your plant in Veg so you require less defoliation in flower
First, we allow our plants to grow about a foot tall before touching them. Once the plant is at least a foot tall, we will have a center stalk and some branches coming off with new tops. At this time we will prune off excessive leaves, and especially clean up everything at the bottom.
Next, we don’t want anything touching the soil and we want some space between the soil and the lowest branch. So we will even cut off branches that are close to the soil top. It’s alright, there will be plenty more branches poking off this plant. Trim her up and make her look clean.
Once the plant is to about 16 to 18 inches tall, we will then “top” the center node. By this time, the bottom should already be clean, along with the rest of the plant. And there should be several branches surrounding the center cola, that we refer to as the crown.”
After topping the center cola, its growth will be slowed for a week or so, and the crown will rise up. Now we have several colas, all around the same height. Another couple weeks in veg, and the plant will be bigger and shaped for a good flower run. Before flipping into flower, we will clean it up one more time.
Proper pruning during the Vegetative Stage makes defoliation easier during flower
Remember, the strategy is to trim off everything close to the soil. We want nothing down there, especially no low branches near the base. We then focus our efforts on a strong center stalk, with a center cola top. There will be other branches at the top, so don’t worry about only having one cola.
We then top the center to allow “the crown,” i.e. the surrounding branches to catch up and we are now ready to enter flower with the perfect shape to have a wide canopy.
During the initial weeks of flower, the post-veg stretch will cause the “crown” to stretch in all directions, which is fine. You stretch it through the trellis and you now have a broad canopy.
But by refusing to allow any lower branches during veg, you prevented a lot of bad overgrowth that would require a ton of defoliation in Weeks 2 through 4 of flower.
And that his how proper defoliation in veg helps achieve bigger yields and quality during the flowering stage.