This is the third article in a new series where I present some selected tricks and advanced growing techniques. My name is Franco, and i work at Green House Seed Company, in Amsterdam, since the year 2000. Over the last 10 years I have learned from Arjan countless tricks and advanced techniques, and I developed a few of my own as well. And now itâ€™s time to share some of this knowledge with growers worldwide. If we share the knowledge, everybody wins.
Last month I explained some of the best tricks to maintain a clean, efficient and productive mother room. This month, I give you...
Francoâ€™s tricks on vegetative growth
Vegetative growth, also called â€œvegâ€ or â€œveg-timeâ€, is the time between sprouting (seeds) or rooting (cuttings) and the beginning of the flowering period. It is a transitional phase, and most growers tend to overlook the importance of this time of the crop. Several tasks that are vital to achieve a high-volume and high-quality harvest are performed by the plants during vegetative growth: formation of a strong root system; growth of branches and support structure for flowers to come; and formation of leaves for photosynthesis, to name a few.
Vegetative growth can be as fast as a few days, or as long as a few months.
Indoors, vegetative growth is usually kept short to a minimum, for 2 reasons: growers want to shorten the total crop-time, and they want to keep plants short because of room-height concerns. Nevertheless, veg-time is the moment when the plants boost the most, when they create new cells at a staggering speed. Cannabis is one of the fastest growing plants on earth, with average growth that can reach over 2 centimeters per day at peak.
During veg-time there are a few very important tricks that can improve the performance of plants. The most important one is surely to allow enough oxygen to the root system, by allowing the medium to dry properly between feeding cycle. Watering cycles should be far apart enough, and the medium should have very good drainage properties. A plant that grows with a constantly wet medium will slow down its metabolism and get lazy. On the contrary, when the root system is exposed to cycles of feeding alternated to dry ones, and the other factors (air, light) are at 100%, growth will explode.
The EC for vegetative growth should be kept between 1.3 and 1.6, depending on the strain and the medium used. In very particular situations (fast-responding genetics, hydro-setup, experienced grower), it is possible to push the EC at higher levels to increase growth-speed, but this requires a very good control on the grow, and a lot of experience.
pH should be kept around, or below, 6. This will allow a faster intake of Nitrogen, the most important nutrient during the growth phase.
During vegetative growth it is also time to give the plants clear â€œinstructionsâ€ on how to develop, based on the needs of each particular growroom. Most indoor growers like to â€œpinchâ€ the tip of the growing plants, so to split growth into 2 branches. This can be repeated several times, to obtain very bushy plants with massive lateral development and a contained height. By splitting the growth of the main cola (a technique known as super-cropping) and the lateral branches, it is possible to increase the total production of a plant, keeping the height under control at the same time. The best moment to pinch plants is after they have developed 2 or 3 internodes.
An alternative to super-cropping is to apply a net over the plants (SCRoG system) and to form a flat canopy at a desired distance from the lamps. This can be particularly effective with long-internode genetics, or very stretchy ones.
Very important is to always clean the bottom of the plants, trimming away low branches that are touching the ground or the medium.
Outdoors it is very difficult to control the growth of plants, because control over many factors (like temperature or light-exposure) is limited or nonexistent. But there are also factors that can be influenced positively, like controlling the development and the shape of the plants by pruning them, and supporting branches if necessary, keeping in mind the heavy loads of flower that they will have to support and the local conditions that can create issues (like wind or storms).
Fertilizing outdoor plants during veg-time is important because it is the time when the plants build their immune system. The best solution to fertilize outdoor plants during veg-time in guerrilla-grow situations is to use slow-release fertilizer, thus reducing the number of necessary visits to the location. Leaf-feeding (spraying a light nutritive solution on the leaves for absorption) can help outdoor plants if they canâ€™t get enough feeding from the earth.
Outdoor plants tend to become very large, so it is sometimes convenient to bend them down and tie them to the ground (a technique known as LST). The best time to do this is just before the beginning of the flowering, when the stems are still very flexible and the plants have already developed the structure necessary to support the buds. You can use sticks and ropes to support long branches, and to point them to grow towards the desired direction. Some growers like to bend down long branches all the way to the ground, and put a stone on the branch to keep it down; it is an extreme but very effective way of LST. After bending the long lower branches all the way down to the ground, they make a few cuts and incisions in the plant tissue, right in the spot where the branch touches the ground. Finally, they apply some rooting hormone. The branches will shoot out strong roots, and become physical extensions of the plant. This trick can reduce vertical development considerably, and is great for camouflage and to increase the output of the crop.
If plants grow too bushy or too dense it is a good practice to â€œmake some roomâ€, by trimming few branches and leaves, allowing light and air to penetrate the plants. This will prevent the dying of the lower part of the plants and will increase production.
And last but not least, pest control; another key factor in any successful crop, pest control starts (and should end) during veg-time. Good growers know how to prevent problems, by applying pest-control as a preventive element during veg-time, instead of fighting bugs during flowering. Using a wide-spectrum synthetic pest-control agent during vegetative growth will not leave any traces in the finished product, as long as the treatment is done early enough in the cycle. With most agents, the important is to allow light exposure to break down the chemicals, and allow enough time for the plant to brake down the traces left inside.
The vegetative growth is a phase of the life of the plants when few, precise actions can make a lot of difference in the final outcome. It is worth keeping it short, but also as effective as possible.
Franco â€“ Green House Seed Co.
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