In the last article, we discussed getting started with either seeds or clones. In this article, we are going to dive into veggin’ these young plants and some tips and tricks to optimize your time during the Vegetative Stage.
The goal of Veg?
As we discussed in Part 1, there are two stages (called photoperiods) of growth that your plant must go through. Veg is the “summer” phase, and we often use an 18/6 light schedule indoors. The flowering stage requires equal or more darkness, so we use a light schedule of 12 hours on, 12 off off.
A unique thing about veg is it has a sort of advantage when it comes to growing, compared to flowering. How so?
Whereas the flowering period has a definite ending (when the plants finish blooming), your Veg phase has no fixed length. Because you can switch the light cycle whenever you want, Veg is as short or as long as you want.
So why is this advantageous? Because it gives you time to plan and prepare… even redirect if necessary. You have time to get things right! And if you don’t the first time, you can simply snip some branches and drag it out a bit longer.
Although you control the length of this phase, you should make it the right length to accomplish all of the things you want before flowering. From our perspective, the entire purpose of Veg is to prepare for the flowering stage. It’s for getting your chores done.
Now is the time to shape your plant, to optimize it to the fullest, so you have the best chances going in for a killer flowering phase.
Well, that’s where optimizing your vegetative phase comes in. Let’s take a look at some things that have helped us, and can likely help you too!
Match the Size of the Pot to the size/age of the Plant
To have a great plant for flowering, your plant needs to be a decent size by the time you are ready to transition. And to grow your plant, you must have a healthy and wide-reaching root system.
So, start your Veg phase off by using very small containers for your baby plants. In a large container or pot, the water will run all throughout, forcing the baby roots to chase it. A small pot will keep the water nearby, and encourage the roots to grow down and deep, as opposed to stretching to chase the water. And deepening the root base will encourage vertical growth.
Transplanting as the Plant gets Bigger
As your plant gets bigger, it will need a larger container to allow for further root development. After a few weeks, you should transplant to a larger container. This can be your final destination, or you can continue this trend if you like longer Veg cycles.
The purpose of the larger pot is to allow the roots space to continue growing. You want a wide-reaching root base. The more root development, the greater potential your plant ultimately has.
Prune your plant: it’s good hygiene, and it encourages vertical growth
Now that you’re a few weeks in, you’ve likely got some new branches coming in, all with their own set of foliage. When the plant starts looking congested, especially at the bottom, it’s time for some pruning.
We like to get everything off the dirt and clean up at least the first six inches or more. That means cutting everything at the bottom, even if there are branches with multiple nodes.
It’s okay. You aren’t losing anything. There will be plenty more growth to come. For now, clean it up. Keep it high and tight.
Topping your Plant
We advise against topping a small plant. Topping when the plant lacks a lot of root development, and is small overall, stunts its growth. It’s best to wait until you have at least 12 to 18 inches, even more. We’ve found that taller plants recover much quicker from topping than do smaller plants, and so that is what we’ve delayed topping until later in veg.
When to top, how to top, and the different strategies for topping are covered in our article Topping for a SCROG canopy.
The goal of Veg? Preparing the plant for Flowering
The vegetative stage is the ultimate preparatory phase to get your plant in the shape and condition you want going into the flowering stage. We’ll explain more on that later but know that there are good reasons for being disciplined and using veg to start taking control of your plant’s shape and grow patterns. And so far, we’ve done just that.
You’ve stair-stepped your containers to optimize root development. You’ve pruned the bottom of your plant to encourage vertical growth. And you’re waiting to get some size on your plant before using any high stress techniques.
To learn more about veg, check out the Week by Week Guide to Veg. If you are ready to move on to flowering, check out our Week by Week Guide to Flowering Cannabis.
In the next article, we discuss how to create an annual cultivation plan in a small grow space.