In our last grow article I talked about how to germinate cannabis seeds. Once your seeds have popped and your young plants are well established, it’s time to move into the next phase of the cannabis grow, the vegetative state.
Also referred to as “veg” or “vegging”, the vegetative state is the growth stage in which the cannabis plant is exposed to light for 18 hours per day. This phase determines how big the plant will be before the next flowering stage of development.
In my opinion, this is the most important stage of growth for the cannabis plant. This is where we get to do a lot of training on the plant to determine how many flower sites we will have. We also get to determine the approximate harvest date. Remember, you can keep your plants in veg always, but once you start flowering, the clock is ticking.
Topping your Plants for a Bigger Harvest
Growers do a lot of work during the veg stage to maximize their harvest. Defoliation, low-stress training, and topping are just some of the techniques often used for bigger yields.
One thing I do in every grow at the beginning and throughout the veg state, is “top” my plants. In the horticultural world this means cutting off the top part of the plant to prevent it from disseminating seeds (like the grass you grow on your lawn).
Topping is a “high-stress” training technique which entails removing the top growth tip from the main stem or a branch. We do this because of the plant’s “apical dominance”. This term refers to the cannabis plant naturally growing into the shape of a Christmas tree. The plant produces one main cola in the center which receives the bulk of the growth.
We can train our plants to produce more colas through topping. Cutting off the top parts of the plant forces it to start growing in a more horizontal growth pattern. This produces multiple colas along the top of the plant, and changes the growth structure from tall and skinny to short and bushy.
To top, cut beneath a node that is close to the top of the plant. A node is where the stem separates and grows leaves.
Nutrients for Cannabis Plants in the Vegetative Stage
Most nutrient companies have a feeding product for plants in veg. Oftentimes you will see these products called GROW or VEG. Typically there will be an A and B portion of the veg nutrients that you mix together. Most vegetative nutrients have high levels of nitrogen which is critical to the plant’s formation during the vegetative state.
I always try to keep my ph levels around the 5.8 – 6.0 range. As your plants develop, they will drink more water with each feeding.
Another important step is to “flush” your plants every 3rd feeding. This means feeding the plants a non-nutrient, water-only mix every third feeding. This gives the plant the opportunity to expel, or flush, the nutrient build-up from the previous 2 feedings.
Start Shaping your Canopy
Once there is good growth happening in the vegetative state (around week 3), I like to start manicuring my plants and creating the canopy that will develop in the flowering stage. This means cleaning up all the smaller plant growth underneath the canopy.
I pick a horizon line under my plant and remove all growth happening beneath that canopy line. Small underdeveloped stems and leaves attached directly to the main stem should be removed. These only serve to thwart plant growth above the canopy by robbing the plant of energy that can go towards creating larger bud sites on the top side.
How Long to Veg?
I have been playing around with different veg times lately with the goal of producing larger plants with many bud sites. If you are in a hurry to get through a grow cycle, the recommended veg time is 4 weeks. Just remember, the larger your plants are, the more likely they are to grow up and touch your grow light. Excessive topping will keep the plant short in veg so we have a full canopy for flowering. Try to keep those plants right around 24” before going into the flowering phase so your plants have the room they need to grow.