Growing Cannabis can be done indoors, outdoors, and in greenhouses and can be grown at different times of the year. Using indoor growing lights, or greenhouse light deprivation techniques, the option to grow small, big, and autoflowering plants is possible, but the question is which size plants are best to grow and what are the benefits of growing big or small?
By Stoney Tark
The Logistical Side
When we think of outdoor plants growing wild in an ideal climate, we often think of 10 ft tall miniature trees that are harvesting kilos at a time. The side branches can grow enormous and some plants may exceed 15 ft in height once fully mature. If you are growing indoors, then of course growing to this scale, as much as we would love to, is just not logistically possible.
When describing logistics, there are a number of elements that enter into the equation. These will be finance, time, man-hours, maintenance, genetics, experience, and growing techniques. Knowing if it is better suited to grow 9 small plants in a 1.2 x 1.2 m tent or to have 4 larger-sized plants, or if it is better to have a short or longer vegging period, can make a big difference in terms of results and overall yields.
Maintenance is also a big factor when thinking about plant count, which is why, when it comes to commercial-sized Cannabis farms, plant training is usually kept to a minimum in order to maintain consistency and simply down to the maintenance factor and labor aspect. It may be much easier to tie down and SCROG 2-4 plants in large-sized pots than take the time to do so with a larger-sized garden that hosts 12-18 plants.
You may have heard the term Sea of Green before: it's a style of growing based on keeping as many plants as possible as closely together as possible with minimal vegging time. The main advantage behind this method is that productivity-wise and time spent powering lights, fans, feeding nutrients and covering any initial financial investments will be the fastest return in that sense.
Genetics play a huge role in which plants are better suited for which style of growing, which is why many seed companies will take the time to explain in their seed catalogs if the strain is better suited for Sea of Green or SCROG. Generally, Indica-dominant hybrids with a shorter flowering time are usually the preferred choice for breeders who are target driven.
Pot size will also determine the final size of the plant, although the vegging time and plant training will also play a significant role in the development of the canopy. Small pots will produce small plants when it comes to growing with an organic medium and large-sized pots will take more time for a root zone to seriously establish itself. Hydroponic growing mediums such as rockwool and coco can be kept in smaller-sized pots as they will act as a permanently wicking growing medium, so the rule of small pots produce small plants is not true with hydroponics.
Advantages Of Small Plants
- If growing in a Sea of Green format, then using smaller-sized plants to limit the growing size and final flowering height is better suited for small plants. Just because they are smaller in size does not mean they will yield low, it just means you will achieve more per square meter in a shorter amount of time than conventionally grown large plants.
- Growing small plants can work perfectly for growers who are simply limited to grow space. For those who are growing in a bedroom cupboard, small-sized tent or limited attic space then small-sized plants are really the only logistical solution.
- Small-sized plants are easier to maintain indoors and outdoors when checking for deficiency, insect damage, powdery mildew, mold, seeded flowers, and broken stems or damaged leaf tissue. Large-sized plants can grow very tall, so, unless you have a ladder, then physically checking the tops of your plants properly can be very difficult.
- The option to grow more varieties is possible when growing smaller-sized plants. From my experience, it is much easier to include more varieties in a large plant count than when limited to 1-4 large plants. Even if the total harvest is not huge, then having a mixed variety of flowers is the most important thing to me personally over quantity.
- Growing clones in a Sea of Green is a very good way to perpetually harvest and an excellent way to harvest medium-sized plants that are heavy with buds. For growers who are target driven and aim to grow as many plants as possible in a year will usually grow this way.
Advantages Of Large Plants
- The first main advantage associated with large-sized plants is large-sized buds and plenty of them. Spending the time to nurture a large-sized Cannabis plant that will have had a long vegging time and an equally long flowering period can require a lot of hands-on maintenance, but the rewards are worth their weight in gold.
- Big roots mean big shoots, which means that large-sized plants will usually have an extensive root system that allows them to become the large yielding plants we all want. When growing organically, having a microbe-rich growing medium can improve the uptake of nutrients as well as improve the overall taste and aroma.
- Plant training can be seriously rewarding but also takes much time. Usually, more experienced growers will SCROG large-sized plants allowing them to enhance yields dramatically. Tying, bending, snapping, pinching, pruning, and feeding through a screen all take time.
- When growing outdoors, big plants are the only way to grow and especially if your country's laws permit you to a legal plant count. One of the reasons the plants in California are grown to such enormous scale is due to the restriction on plant count and the farmer working in accordance with the law and the legal number allowed.
- Mature large-sized plants will develop into a hardwood structure which makes them ideal for taking clones. Growing from a seedling will take much longer before a number of reliable clones can be taken, which makes large-sized plants a much better candidate.
Autoflowering strains of Cannabis have become extremely popular in Europe, and it seems the American scene is now enjoying their simplicity and versatility. Through extensive breeding programmes, autoflowering hybrids not only deliver top quality flavor, effect, and flower production, they also grow to a final height that can range from 40 cm - 120 cm depending on the genetics, time of year, pot size, and climate.
One great thing about autoflowering strains is that indoors they perform exceptionally well, and many growers who use separate rooms for vegging and flowering can grow half the room autos under 18/6, meaning they can harvest from both the vegging room and flowering room together, whilst still growing their other plants normally.
My final thoughts regarding plant size are that the size of your grow room, budget, experience, and genetics all play a role in what is possible. There are benefits to growing both small, large-sized plants, and automatics and, although some outweigh others, deciding which are most practically logistical should be done before any floor is created.