A large, healthy, flowering cannabis plant is an inspiring sight. It’s the successful culmination of an entire season’s effort. The quest for big plants is an artifact of eased prohibition rules, which allowed cultivation for personal consumption, usually based on plant numbers four, six or 10. Some of these numbers have remained the same with legalization. If you can grow only a limited number of plants, grow as big as you can. However, commercial growers, even microbusinesses, can sometimes grow an unlimited number of plants. This opens up a lot of possibilities.
Growing a large plant takes time, labor, energy and space. The first stages of growth are spent nurturing branch and leaf infrastructure. These parts of the plant are not harvested, as only the flowers grown on the branches during flowering are used.
When figuring the cost of the active ingredient, whether tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or another cannabinoid, all the costs must be taken into account. This includes the cost of getting the plants ready for flowering.
There is a way to speed up production and cut the use of your time, energy and labor: Remove growing plant infrastructure from the equation so the plants spend more time flowering.
Usually, vegetating plants grow until the canopy space is filled. These plants will keep growing vegetatively as long as they are provided with enough light, about 18-24 hours daily. Assuming you have enough space and light, fill the canopy with plants placed close together, on 6-8 inch centers. Once they are in place, grow them vegetatively until they have five to eight sets of leaves. Using a timer, change the light cycle to 12 hours on, 12 hours off. Make sure not to interrupt the dark period with any light other than green because it will interrupt the plants’ photoperiod regimen, which will result in softer, smaller buds.
The plants will start flowering within seven to 10 days. Some varieties with sativa backgrounds will continue to grow for a while even as they flower, doubling in height by ripening time. Other varieties, mostly with indica backgrounds, slow vertical growth almost immediately, growing about 20 percent taller.
The plantlets of most varieties will not grow any side branches once they are in flowering regimen. Instead they will put their energy into producing flowers along the stem that ripen into a single bud, or just a few larger buds.
This technique can be used indoors or out. Indoors and under lights, it’s easy to adjust the light regimen. Outdoors and in greenhouses use a blackout curtain for light deprivation during the summer. During the fall, winter and early spring there is a long enough dark period to promote flowering.
With small plants you save time transplanting, pruning, staking and other laborious chores. You also cut greenhouse shelf time and save on manicuring, because there are fewer buds, which are larger and easier to manicure.