The vegetative phase is when the plant grows its roots, stalks, and large fan leaves that will structure the plant.
Fan leaves will ultimately be used to convert the sunlight into the sugars that the plant needs to produce the flowers or seeds. The light cycle is typically reduced to 18 hours of light, as it requires a minimum of 16 hours of light to maintain the plant.
During cannabis vegetation, cultivators can train their plants or manipulate their growth patterns for a multitude of reasons. Indoor growers may want to train their plants to stay short by growing horizontally, while indoor and outdoor growers may want to force their plants to develop multiple flower growth sites at the same level.
There are several training techniques indoor growers deploy to get an optimal yield out of their plants within limited space and lighting conditions.
All of them involve manipulating the shape and growth of the plant, usually by bending the stem in some fashion or another.
Screen of Green (SCROG)
The Screen of Green (SCROG) method uses LST or Super Cropping to inhibit the vertical growth of the cannabis plant by encouraging horizontal growth. This is done by forcing the plants to grow through a suspended horizontal screen.
As the crop stems spread laterally across the screen, colas form in otherwise dormant areas of the stem. This technique is used where local laws limit the number of plants that can be cultivated at one given point, allowing growers to make use of a larger amount of area.
Sea of green (SOG)
The Sea of Green (SOG) technique involves growing several small plants instead of a few large ones with the intention of maximizing space and cultivating single colas. With the proper setup, a SOG grow promotes the shortest vegetative phase to produce short and dense colas.
Low-stress training (LST)
Low-Stress Training (LST), like most training methods, involves bending and tying down stems for maximum yield and light exposure within a finite space. The “low stress” element of LST refers to manipulating stem growth in favor of extreme bending to prevent the stress that results from breakage or cutting.
You might think of super cropping as the opposite of LST in that it features strategically executed forms of “high stress,” rather than sustained forms of minimal stress. This method uses targeted stress to encourage cannabis plants to produce more of the cannabinoids and terpenes they develop for protection.
Strategically planned and executed stress on the plant is intended to initiate a defensive reaction, thereby increasing the plant’s cannabinoid and terpene production. This type of sustained stress is usually achieved by pinching targeted areas of the stems and tying them down. When growers accidentally apply too much stress, they typically apply duct tape to the damaged area to help the plant heal.
Lollipopping is removing growth from the lower portion of the plant to divert energy to the higher branches that produce colas, resulting in a “lollipop”-shaped plant.
This technique is especially handy for indoor setups that offer minimal light to lower branches and often used on SCROG grows.
Topping and fimming (FIM)
Topping, consists of clipping the growing tip of a plant’s main stem at a 45-degree angle that causes two colas to form instead of one. This method is used to prevent the plant from growing like a Christmas tree by stopping the vertical growth of the main stalk and allowing the lower growth tips an opportunity to catch up. Growers can also “top” a plant multiple times to turn two growth tips into four, and so on.
The FIM method, or fimming, is an offshoot of topping, and derived from topping a plant imprecisely (hence the name FIM, which stands for “F**k, I missed”). Rather than cut the whole tip of a cannabis plant at a 45-degree angle, fimming involves pinching off most of the cannabis tip with the goal of growing four colas immediately in the place of one.
Removing fan leaves
Removing fan leaves from the plant can be considered a training technique that aims to divert the plant’s energy into producing larger colas by limiting the amount of foliage that the plant needs to maintain and increasing the amount of direct light to any growth sites below the canopy.
It also helps reduce the likelihood of a pest or mildew infestation. However, fan leaves do take in light and provide energy for the plant, so growers should use caution when removing them.