Cultivating cannabis itself is an enjoyable endeavor. What makes it more gratifying, though, is seeing heavy colas crop up from the once tiny plant. Several growing techniques have emerged with the sole purpose of accomplishing that. Among the most effective method is called mainlining. By growing an even, symmetrical canopy, all of the buds receive uniform amounts of energy and nutrients, guaranteeing a bountiful yield of dense, flavorful buds if done flawlessly.
Mainlining is a training technique used to maximize space and yields. It aims to form a manifold of branches wherein each branch has a direct line to the main stem. Not only is this a great approach in controlling the growth of the crops, it also provides a fuller, uniform canopy that produces more massive output.
Though its exact origins remain unknown, the term mainlining was first coined by Rollitup.org forum user Nugbuckets. The procedure can be viewed as an amalgamation of Low-Stress Training (LST) and Screen of Green (SCROG), in such a way that it trains the flora to create a wide canopy with several budding sites. If done correctly it delivers a result similar to SCROG, but without the screen setup.
How It Works
In a natural setup, cannabis tends to form branches of varying lengths and at various points of the main stem, allowing them to grow unevenly and pop colas of different sizes. The highest bud, also called as the apex or terminal bud, is always the biggest and strongest since it has more access to light and is prioritized by the plant.
Such naturally occurring mechanism is referred to as apical dominance, which isn’t very ideal when aiming for a larger yield. As most of the resources are channeled towards the apex cola, the lower flowers are left to compete for less plant food. As a result, buds below the canopy are not as developed as the uppermost ones.
Mainlining solves this problem by growing every cola as like an apex flower. By topping the main stem and training the branches to develop at the same height, the energy is evenly distributed. Each bud also receives the same amount of light and thus grows evenly.
Mainlining is gaining more popularity in recent years, primarily due to the benefits it has to offer. Among these include:
- Heftier Yields. Like most other training techniques, the primary goal of mainlining is to promote better growth and get bigger harvests. Using this method, nutrients and energy are evenly distributed among the buds. If done correctly, the plant should produce several stunning pillars of high-quality and resin-rich flowers – instead of tiny “popcorn” buds.
- Better Space Control. Mainlining essentially tames the branches thereby reducing the uncontrolled stretching to save and maximize space. Moreover, it allows for greater control over the dimensions of the crop, making it easier to manage and hide.
- Easier Maintenance. The uniform canopy of mainlined crops makes it easy to observe the plants for possible diseases and infestations. Their open and expansive growth also enhances airflow, reducing the risk of molds and other fungal infections.
- More Cost-Efficient. Breaking the apical dominance of the uppermost cola ensures that other buds get the most of the resources poured onto the plant. The same amount of nutrients, water, and light produce larger yields than those of untrained crops. Moreover, the approach can be put into practice with just a few cheap materials and in any existing setup, regardless if it’s soil or soilless, keeping the expense minimal.
- Simpler Post-Processing. Mainlining eases not only the growing process but also the post-harvest procedures. Equally-sized buds hold the same amounts of water and thus dry and cure at the same rate. Because of this, there is less room for error, guaranteeing higher-grade products.
Though hugely beneficial, mainlining also has its drawbacks. Even so, these disadvantages are not entirely detrimental. If at all, knowing these downsides gives a better understanding of the technique – allowing appropriate planning before growing mainlined crops.
- Takes Time and Effort. Training the plant to grow in a certain way takes time and causes it to undergo stress. Thus, it needs extra time to recover and get back on track. Depending on how extreme one may want to go, mainlining can add anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks to the overall growth cycle.
- Not Suitable For All Strains. Mainlining is best done with Indica or Indica-dominant hybrids with a single dominant cola. Sativa plants, on the other hand, are leggy and do not have the ideal shape. Furthermore, it also produces plenty of secondary branches, making ScrOG more suitable. Meanwhile, autoflowers are entirely out of the equation. Its rapid growth cycle is incompatible with the longer growing period of this technique.
- Not Beginner-Friendly. The procedure requires experienced hands as branches can be stiff and prone to breakage. Moreover, this kind of training can be extremely stressful for a plant. Hence, it requires a certain level of expertise to avoid unnecessary stress. Apart from providing an optimal, stress-free grow environment, knowing when to proceed with the training or stop is also vital.
How To Mainline Cannabis Crops
While mainlining requires a lot of work in the beginning, it is relatively more straightforward compared to other training techniques. Once the manifold is set up and the main branches are in place, there is not much to do other than basic maintenance.
The initial training involves forcing the main stem of the seedling or clone into a Y-shaped manifold. The process is replicated on newer growths, doubling the number of main colas. Depending on the goal, the colas can be doubled for as long as one wants or as much as the space allows. Below is a step by step guide on using this technique to achieve bigger yields.
Mainlining With Seedlings
Mainlining is best done with seedlings as these are genetically programmed to develop a strong root mass, which is critical when it comes to how fast a young plant can recover from training. It also provides more room for error, making it suitable for beginners.
- Cannabis seedlings
- Scissors or razor
- A spool of soft garden tie
- Grow the seedling the usual way and wait until it grows 5-6 nodes. The nodes, also known as growth tips, are the points in the stem where branches originate. Waiting for the right number of nodes before topping ensures that the plant is strong enough before being subjected to a certain degree of stress.
- Once the plant has sprouted enough nodes, top the upper growths down to the third node. Then, cut all the others below the third node. The plant should be left with a single pair of branches which will be the center of the manifold. By removing all the other growth tips, the energy of the plant will be directed toward these two main branches.
- Gently tie the two main branches down in such a way that it forms a right angle from the ground. If the two limbs are still too small to be tied down, give it a few more days to grow out. Be careful not to break the branch during bending. While snapped branches can be taped back to heal and recover, an undamaged plant ensures better results.
- Allow the main branches to grow into healthy and vigorous colas. Each branch will grow upright after a few days and develop its own set of nodes.
- Once the main branches are strong enough, choose a pair of growth tips from each one to be grown as part of the manifold. A key aspect of mainlining is symmetry – always choose nodes from each opposite branch that are of the same placement. It will ensure that all the colas grow evenly, and thus maximizing the benefits of the technique.
- Cut off all the growth from the main branches except the chosen nodes. Be careful not to damage growth tips coming out of the node as these will eventually become part of the manifold. Leave the fan leaves attached to the end of the chosen nodes to power its growth. After this step, the plant will have 4 main colas.
- Repeat steps 5 and 6 until the plant reaches the desired number of colas. Each time the plant is topped, the number of colas also doubles. Ideally, indoor plants should have 8 colas while outdoor crops can have up to16 colas. To get the same effect of a SCROG, train the flora to produce 32 total colas.
- During the vegetative stage, make sure that the canopy is growing flat. Monitor the crops at least twice a week and check for any stems that appear taller than others. Bend these stems down away from the center so that it is the same height as the others.
- As preparation for flowering, give the plant a last cleanup by taking off big fan leaves, particularly those blocking the bud sites. During this step, be wary not to damage any growth tips under the leaves.
- Initiate flowering once the crop has reached half the desired final height. Do this by switching the lights to a 12/12 schedule (12 hours light, 12 hours dark). It is crucial to change while there is still enough room left as the plant may double its size during the early weeks of flowering.
- Keep the lower part of the crops clean so that all energy and nutrients are focused on the canopy. Also, ensure that big fan leaves shade no buds. Defoliate the canopy whenever it becomes bushy.
- Stop defoliating after 3-4 weeks into flowering. At this point, plant growth slows down. By week 6, it will stop growing leaves altogether. The crop will need enough leaves to make it to harvesting. After a few more weeks, the buds will ripen and be ready for harvest.
Mainlining With Clones
Unlike seedlings, clones are more temperamental during early vegetative growth, and may not respond well to training. Because of this, growing time takes longer as the plant should be afforded enough time to recover. Still, growing from clones is beneficial for those who want a uniform quality of harvest, or prefers an exact genetic copy of a particular mother plant.
- Cannabis clone (preferably acquired from a young mother plant)
- Scissors or razor
- A spool of soft garden tie
- Pick a healthy clone. While any healthy cutting will suffice, clones taken very early off the mother plant yields the best results. Unlike those taken from an older plant, younger cuttings still exhibit symmetrical growing patterns, making these the perfect candidate for the technique.
- Top the chosen clone to create the main colas. Choose a particular node in the clone and cut off all the growth above it. Leave the fan leaves under the node intact. In its early stages, clones need these leaves for energy as it is yet to develop a strong root network.
- If needed, correct the asymmetrical growth of the clone. Some branches may exhibit dominance over the others. To fix this, lightly pinch and bend the higher limb so that both sides form a level canopy. Try not to damage the inner bark or allow the stem to break. Clones are less hardy than seedlings; injuries may take more time to heal.
- Using gardening wires, tie down the main colas in a way that both branches form a 90-degree angle from the trunk. As always, it is vital to maintain symmetry by keeping the bends at the same level. If the plant has been injured from the previous step, wait for a few days before proceeding with tying down to allow recovery.
- Provide the plant some time again to recover. After a few days, the main branches should grow into heavy colas and develop its own set of nodes.
- Choose a pair of nodes from each cola. It is important to select those that grow at the same level to keep the canopy even. Then, remove all growth tips from the branches except for the chosen nodes. After this step, the plant should have four main colas.
- Spread the new mains and tie them down to create a flat table of canopy. Keep the colas as flat as possible to maximize light and allow more room for buds. Give the plant at least days to recover from the last step. More time may be needed if it is injured or struggling. Wait until the plant is growing fast and healthy before training or pruning again.
- Repeating steps 6 to 8, prune and top until the plant achieves the desired number of colas. Each training stage doubles the number of colas, so pruning again will produce 8 colas, then 16, 32, and so on.
- Allow the plant to grow in the vegetative stage until it reaches half the desired final height. Prune unnecessary growths under the canopy to focus all the energy of the plant into the colas. Also, see to it that all branches grow evenly. Tame any cola growing higher by bending it back down.
- Switch the light cycle to 12-12 to trigger the flowering phase. During this phase, ensure that big fan leaves do not shade the budding sites. Defoliate the plant whenever it becomes too dense and bushy.
- After 3 to 4 weeks into the budding phase, plant growth will slow down. Stop defoliating by this point unless the foliage shows excessive growth. The plant needs its leaves to fatten its buds. After a few more weeks, all the colas should transform into pillars of resinous buds that are ready for harvest.
Mainlining For Astonishing Rewards
Mainlining offers a great way to not only have bigger yields, but also to manage the shape and dimensions of the cannabis. Aside from that, it is also more efficient and can even lessen the work needed in processing the harvests. Because of benefits like these, the approach is increasingly becoming a favored technique whether growing indoors or outdoors.
Still, these advantages can only be reaped if the process is done properly. Ensure that all colas grow uniformly to prevent a single bud from hogging all the resources. Remove growths under the canopy, as well as fan leaves that cover budding sites to maximize the energy flow through the main colas. To guarantee astonishing rewards, simply remember that, in mainlining, symmetry is key.