In this series, we cover the topic of trimming marijuana plants. If you’re growing marijuana at home, then you know that these plants can get bushy!
Even if you are new to growing, you might already know that you’re supposed to trim your ganja plants. If Part 1, we went over some of the main reasons for defoliating your plants, such as for the purpose of increasing airflow and access to light.
In this article, we are going to explain the proper times to engage in defoliation, and when you should leave the plant alone.
Trimming Your Weed Plant while it is still in the Vegetative Stage
After your seedling has grown enough to be considered a small plant, or after your clone has taken root, your plant is ready to enter the vegetative stage.
How long should your vegetative stage last? As we’ve explained previously, if you are growing indoors, the length of your veg cycle is up to you. You can veg your plant for six months, or as little as two or three weeks.
We typically employ a 5-week veg cycle. We have found that is enough time to allow us to top the plant once or twice, but also enough time to allow for recovery and growth. And a 5-week plant will give you a decent sized plant for an indoor flower cycle.
Managing both tasks of Defoliation and Topping during the Vegetative phase
During the vegetative cycle, your immature plants will grow a little every week. We highly encourage you to top your plants while in the vegetative phase, as this will not only give your plant a better shape, but also put you a in position for much better yield during flower.
So after you top your plants, they will need a full week to fully recover. You should not trim your plants after topping, unless you did it at the same time. But if you just topped your plants a few days ago, go ahead and let the plant recover. Plants that are in the vegetative phase really do not grow while they are recovering from stress. And topping is a stressful activity, as is defoliation.
So while both topping and defoliating are important, space those activities out so you don’t over stress your plant.
Further, unless you are vegging for a really long time, plants really don’t need much pruning while in the vegetative stage, especially if the veg cycle is less than 8 weeks.
For shorter veg cycles, you probably only need to prune your plants once or twice. Your priority should instead be on topping and training.
Trim your plants prior to switching into the Flowering Phase
The most helpful time to defoliate an immature plant is right before you transition your plant from vegetative to flowering.
When you switch your light cycle to 12/12, your plants will go through explosive growth. So much so that if you are not prepared, you can feel overwhelmed, especially if you are growing a lot of plants together.
A helpful strategy to get ahead of the messy post-vegetative stretch that is coming, is to give your plants a good haircut right before flipping them. By getting your immature plants nice and bare, you will be ready for the onslaught of growth that occurs during the early flowering period.
Trimming Marijuana Plants during the flowering period
We’ve written many articles on the chaos that ensues once you flip your light cycle to 12/12. And it’s all good chaos. But for the unprepared (and we were very unprepared in the early days of commercial growing in Oklahoma), it seemed like an insurmountable task to defoliate all of our plants and keep up. We always seemed like we were behind in those early days.
What we learned was that by getting a little organized, we could manage the jungle. We implemented a defoliation schedule. And it’s been smooth sailing ever since.
The first part of that defoliation schedule is pruning the plants during their final week of veg, as we discussed above. The next part was choosing a dedicated time during the flowering period to defoliate the plants.
Defoliation as a way to Manage the Post-Vegetative Stretch
The post-veg stretch begins toward the end of the first week. Things really get crazy during the second and third weeks of flower. If you have not defoliated by the fourth week, you will be flirting with disaster.
We defoliate our plants at the end of the second week, or beginning of the third week of flower. And when we defoliate, we go heavy with the scissors. We’ll explain more in part 3. But we perform a heavy defoliation early in flower, after the second week.
The plant will still keep rebounding, and so by the end of Week 4 or beginning of Week 5, we perform our second defoliation.We have found that if you really strip the plant, you only need two actual scheduled times to defoliate the plant. This gives the plant plenty of time to recover. We prefer this approach to more frequent pruning activities.
More Frequent Pruning is an option
You can opt for a more frequent pruning schedule. If you simply don’t like the thought of stripping your plant bare naked down to just the bud sites, you can go lighter. You simply remove the giant fan leaves and leave a few others. But in commercial growing, most prefer to strip the plants down, manage them with trellis, and train them to grow a wide canopy.
If you do choose more frequent pruning, you will still want to space out the activities. Because if the plant is recovering, it’s really not growing. So get your work done, and then let the plant recover from the stress, and then move on to actually blooming.
In Part 3, we will explain what exactly you’re suppose to do when defoliating your plants.