So you finally got into the game of home growing. You’ve been smoking weed for years, but you always had to get it from an outside source – local dealer, caregiver or dispensary. But with increasing legalization and decriminalization, home growing is becoming more popular and common than ever. And that is a great thing!
Growing your own bud is incredibly rewarding. It is also a discipline, as you will soon learn. And there is a steep learning curve. You will go through stages of development as a grower. You will learn new things with each batch. You will improve upon old skills that you previously learned but now realize are subpar.
Like learning a martial art or really anything that involves tremendous skill, you will later see that some concepts were too complex to even learn in the first couple rounds, but you grasp them later on. That is okay.
In the beginning, just get a couple runs under your belt and you will improve with time.
If you are reading this article, then you are early in your cultivation journey, and that is okay. We were all there once.
The Situation: My cannabis plant is tall and skinny
You popped your seeds, took that seedling through the vegetation phase, and are now flowering that baby. You could be doing this in a grow tent, a closet, or a room specifically set up for growing, like your garage. You could be growing in soil or a soil substrate like coco coir, or even in rockwool cubes. There are lots of mediums out there, and they all work.
Your plant is now getting tall…really tall! But you are scratching your head and asking, “where’s the beef?!”
Although your plant is tall, it is long and skinny, and you’re not seeing the potential for chunky yields. The top cola is fattening up, and there’s maybe one or two more getting thick, but the other nodes further down don’t seem to be developing as rigorously.
Next, you are starting to notice that your plant resembles something closer to a corn husk than to a fat, danky bush. You’ve been having dreams about a fat bush from the Kush mountains of Pakistan yielding monster dank flowers. We all have those dreams. And the best part is you can make them come true!
But right now, your plant is not turning out to be a wide bush of fat colas, but instead is like a slender palm tree with some fruit way up top. That’s okay, we are going to show you how to fix that problem!
Why your weed plant is tall and skinny instead of being short and fat
There are several things you must do to optimize your plant every single round of cultivating that you dive into. If this is your first or second run, you probably missed a few things on the checklist and that is alright. We’ve all been there. So let me catch you up to speed.
If you’re plant is growing tall and skinny, that means:
- You didn’t top your plants in veg
- You did not train your plants to grow wide
- You are not using trellis netting properly
We will teach you how to do those things in this article.
Learn how to Top your plants to encourage horizontal growth
First, you must top your plants while they are in the vegetative stage. Topping your plants will cause a node to fork off into two separate nodes, that will eventually grow into separate branches with more nodes.
Remember back to when your seedling first sprouted. As it emerged from the dirt, it grew straight up, with maybe one additional side branch. Once you reach about two weeks, you should top that plant. If you want to learn how to do this, we published two videos in this article that show how to top your plants.
Cut into that top node, and watch that stalk fork into two stocks. Now, topping is a form of stress and necessitates recovery. Give your plant at least a full week or more to recover. After 7 to 10 days, you should top the plant again.
You should top your plants at least two to three times before flowering them. Remember, you want to train your plant to grow like a Hanukkah candle, not a corn husk. Before you start any other form of training, you need additional branches and tops. So always top your plant in veg.
Use Trellis netting to spread the plant wide, and counter the vertical growth
Before you switch your light cycle, you should spread out a layer of trellis just above your plant’s current height, so that only the top nodes are poking out. Go ahead and train your plant now by spreading the plant wide, taking the branches out to the sides.
Now, place a second layer of trellis about a first above the first layer. When you switch to 12/12 light cycle, your plants will go through what is known as the Post-Veg Stretch.
During the first 2 or so weeks of flower, your plant will likely double or triple in height. You can use this to your advantage to greatly increase your yield and the amount of ganja you and your friends will have to smoke on.
While you don’t’ need endless ceiling height, you will need some space horizontally. If you are growing in a tent, set up some bamboo stakes in the four corners and stretch that netting so that the entire tent is netted.
Use Trellis Netting to not only create a fatter plant, but also a fatter yield
In addition to training your plant to grow wide, and hence flower more nodes, the use of trellis also increases yield for another reason: utilizing all available light energy.
No matter what type of grow set up you have – tent, commercial facility, etc — you have a fixed amount of light. You should be using all of that light to grow, not keep the sidewalk warm. Let me share a personal experience.
Beginner growers often do not understand the importance of proper canopy management for increasing yields
When we first started out at Smokey Okies Cannabis, we had a room that had about 50 lights. We had our plants on drip trays that were supported by empty buckets from Home Depot and Lowes. We couldn’t afford fancy tables or rolling benches, so that is what we used.
We had two to three foot aisles between rows of these tables on buckets. After every harvest, our total yield was always below expectation. “Why oh why?!” We couldn’t hit these metrics that we always heard about in the cultivation industry, such as pounds per light or per square foot, or whatever.
We eventually came to discover that those metrics are based off of a fully maximized canopy. Meaning, there are no aisles, sidewalks, empty spaces, etc.
In order to maximize our true yield potential, we would have to use rolling tables, so everything could be pushed together to make one giant canopy.
This was enlightening, but also meant we would need to spend a bunch of money we did not have.
But there were other things we could do in addition to help mitigate this low-yield problem.
Setting yourself up for success from the beginning instead of waiting until it’s too late
One, we had to start being more consistent with our trellis use, design, and implementation. At the time, we would trellis as necessary, which meant we were always playing catch up instead of staying ahead of the game.
We developed a practice of setting up our trellis netting before we actually flipped into flower. Further, we set up a second and sometimes third layer in advance, so we would have to in the future.
During the post-veg stretch, we would then use the trellis to assist in spreading our plants wide, poking through as many squares as we could.
Next, we learned that we could train the plants in veg to be ready for a trellised flower canopy. And therefore we implemented a strict, rigid, consistent topping schedule during all veg cycles. This made everything in flower so much easier!
Eventually, we did upgrade to rolling benches in all of our rooms, but by that point we had already maximized everything we could up to that point.
Conclusion: Top your plants in Veg, and use Trellis in flower to grow them wide
If your plants are tall and skinny, you simply omitted the necessary tasks of Topping and training your plants while they were still in vegetation phase. Once you are deep into flower, you risk snapping branches if you try to lay the plant down.
It’s okay, take the loss this round. You can learn from this and you will get better. We all do. Just keep at it and each new round, try to implement a new skill, while refining a skill or tactic you’ve already learned, and you will soon have more weed than you can smoke.