All marijuana growers live to increase their plant’s yields and there are a number of ways to do this. However, you don’t get something for nothing, these yield-boosting techniques do involve some risk, that is, if you don’t have the experience yet. But every experienced grower goes through these growing pains where they lose a plant or two, but that is a small price to pay for the experience you’ll get that will allow you to double or triple your harvest.
Let’s look at some of the most common techniques used to increase yield and how difficult they are to execute.
Increasing light intensity and duration
Lighting is fairly easy to figure out, even for beginners and the only difficult thing about it is the cost of the equipment and operation.
Intermediate and advanced growers can talk all day about lights: what kind is better, what they use, what they want, and on and on. However, beginners can skip all of these discussions and just go for a decent set of LED lights since these are often the most economical in terms of cost and power consumption. LEDs are also easier to set up since they don’t get as hot as HIDs and most have adjustable color temperatures which can be transitioned from cool during the vegging stage to warm for the flowering stage.
Once you get your lights set up, you can then decide on your lighting schedule based on what kind of plants you are growing. If cost is not a constraint, then you can either opt to run your lights on your autoflowers 24 hours but some growers argue that 18 hours will give your plant some recovery time in the dark, making it healthier. Since there’s a lot of factors that can influence yield, growers are still divided as to which lighting schedule gives the best results but one thing is for sure, an 18/6 or 24/0 hour schedule will yield way more than a 12/12.
For photoperiods, you can only push the lighting schedule during the vegging phase and many will argue that the optimal schedule is still 18/6. But to transition your plant to the flowering phase, you’ll have to switch to a strict 12/12 schedule.
It’s the most obvious move but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Your plant will need lots of nutrients to grow bigger but too much can cause real damage that, in worst cases, may be difficult to recover from. Overfeeding can cause either nutrient burn or nutrient lockout and the damage will immediately show up on your plant’s leaves.
In Essential Nutrients for Growing Cannabis Plants, we mentioned some of the macro and micronutrients commonly found in popular nutrient formulas. This takes out the guesswork of what nutrients you need to provide but it can still be difficult to figure out the amount you need to apply. The only way to do this would be to follow the instructions on the nutrients and fine tune from there. Most growers also recommend using a slightly diluted formulation at first, just to be safe. When using nutrients, you should also know how to flush your marijuana plants and recognize signs of overfeeding.
Fine tuning climate control and using CO2
It’s no secret that some strains grow better in a particular climate sweet spot but most will do well to veg in temperatures of around 70-85 F or 20-30 C and a touch cooler during periods of darkness. During the flowering phase, temperatures can drop down just a handful of degrees to bring out the best bud color, density, and smell. Remember that marijuana plants typically grow during the warmer half of the year and enter their flowering phase towards fall.
Your plants will also need less humidity as it progresses through its stages. Seedlings and young clones will need around 70 to 80% while developing, after which you can dial back the humidity levels to around 60 to 70% during the growth stage. As your plants transition into flowering plants and do their final growth boost, humidity can be lowered to around 50 to 60% and it can go as low as 40% late into flowering.
Growers who want to eke out the very last drop of potential yield from their plants also resort to using carbon dioxide in combination with increased lighting. Raising the CO2 levels in your grow space will help your plants breathe better during photosynthesis, allowing them to convert the extra light into vital sugars needed for growth. However, the costs of running a CO2 setup may not always give you the kind of yield you’d expect from the extra that you shell out so it is typically done only by experienced growers who have already fine tuned their setup.
Optimal climate settings will not only increase your plant’s potential for a good yield, it will also create an inhospitable environment for pests and diseases.
In How Marijuana Plant Training Can Give You Bigger Yields, we discussed how these techniques can dramatically increase your harvest and improve the way you grow marijuana. However, it does not come without any risk. Training involves pruning, bending and even breaking your plant’s branches, all of which cause it stress in varying degrees. Done incorrectly, these can inflict damage that can slow or stunt your plant’s growth and in worst cases, even kill it. Do it correctly and you will be rewarded with improved growth, a canopy maximized to receive light, better airflow, and more colas.
The Screen of Green (ScrOG) is arguably the best kind of training a beginner can do. Here, you basically just have to weave the tops of your marijuana through a grid to get a flat, evenly distributed canopy. It is fairly low stress to your plant and the pruning you have to do is minimal, giving beginners a higher rate of success for the effort they put in.
Once you’ve had one or two successful harvests using soil as medium, you may feel confident enough to take your grow to the next level, which is hydroponics. Under similar conditions, a hydro setup may yield around 20-25% more than that of soil but the drawback is that it costs more to set up and requires a lot more expertise. In the hands of a novice, the results can be disastrous but those who learn how to do a proper hydroponic system maintenance routine will manage to achieve yields that are otherwise not possible with soil.
You should consider shifting to a hydroponic setup if:
- Your priority is to maximize your yield per cycle
- You are already running powerful lights and want to maximize their potential
- You want your plants to grow much faster
- You want to use water and nutrients more efficiently
- The initial cost is not a problem for you
The science of hydroponics is wide and deep and there are a number of setups to consider: deep water culture, drip system, wick system, ebb and flow, nutrient film, aeroponic, and variations of these. Each has its pros and cons and what you choose will entirely depend on your budget and expertise.
Frequently Asked Questions on Increasing Cannabis Plant Yields
There’s no single best way to increase your cannabis plant’s yields. Rather, it is a combination of techniques which typically involve plant training, increasing light intensity and duration, and using a hydroponic setup.
How to increase yields is a never-ending discussion among cannabis growers and rightfully so, since there’s still so much to discover by pushing the boundaries of tried and tested techniques. Beginners will do well to start simple like trying ScrOG, practicing pruning, starting with soil and getting the hang of using nutrients, and perhaps playing around with lighting intensity. The knowledge gained from applying these on your own setup will serve as foundation for more difficult techniques which you’ll inevitably progress to once your current setup is already consistent, predictable and bulletproof.