I wanted to take today’s article to discuss something I’ve been getting many questions about from newer growers around Denver. That question is usually something like, “How do I know when to flip my plants to flower?”
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As with many other questions I’m asked, most people expect there to be a simple and easy answer for me to give. Sadly, most questions I get asked are complex in reality and depend on a number of factors.
How early can I switch my plants to the flowering phase?
This question is something I hear all too often, especially when the answer is so simple. Basically, you can switch to flowering any time you want. In fact, you can plant a seed or clone and from day one you can switch your lights to 12/12.
The plant will still grow and flower to make bud, especially if you give it everything it requires through the flowering cycle. Of course there are drawbacks to doing this, such as a small plant that won’t produce much bud, but I’ll be addressing this in more detail later in the article.
As a general rule, the size of your grow environment determines when to flower your plant. As I’ve discussed in my earlier article about the marijuana lifecycle, your plant will grow rapidly for the next two weeks after you switch to flower.
It will double or even triple in height while also growing wider. Therefore, if you wait until the plant is too big to flower, it will outgrow your environment, possibly growing into your light and burning itself.
Now if you have never grown the particular strain you are growing, then you will be at a disadvantage because you don’t know how much your specific strain will stretch upwards when switched to flowering.
Which brings me to the next question I often hear…
If I’ve never grown this strain before, how can I know how much it will stretch?
There is no straight and simple answer to this question. However, there are a few general factors that you can look at within your plant while it is still vegging to get an idea of the lineage of the plant (indica or sativa dominant).
The best and easiest thing to look at on your plant is the large fan leaves. Leaves that have much wider and shorter fingers would indicate the plant is indica dominant, while a sativa-dominant plant will have much thinner and longer fingers on its leaves.
An indica-dominant plant is going to stretch closer to 2x its height when you decide to flower, while a sativa will stretch more than this (2.5 to 3x its height).
All of these general measurements are taken from the bottom of the stalk where it meets the grow medium.
For example, if your plant has very fat and short fingers on its leaves and is 14inches tall and you decide to flower, you can assume that it will finish somewhere between 25 and 30inches in my experience.
If your plant has long and narrow finger leaves and is 14inches tall, you should assume it will finish up somewhere between 30 and 40inches.
Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, but without knowing the exact details of the plant or even being able to see it, this is the advice I normally give to people. Sticking with this advice will most likely keep even the newest growers out of trouble.
So now that I’ve explained how to determine when it’s safe and the safest time to flower your plants, it brings me to the last question it seems I am constantly asked.
How long should I veg my plants to get the biggest yield?
The way I answer this question is simply by explaining how more veg time can benefit your yields. If we assume that the plant doesn’t have any other growth limiting factors, such as being root bound or lack of nutrients, then essentially the longer you veg the more time the plant has to develop, and therefore, at least has the potential to produce bigger yields.
This brings me back to my example from the beginning of the article where I discussed putting a plant on 12/12 from the moment you plant it. With zero veg time, the plant will in all likelihood grow one main cola straight up. The plant ends up about 12 to 18inches tall.
This method is actually used by many growers who are growing in extremely small spaces, such as a computer case or short stealth grow box. The key to producing decent yields using this method is to have many plants. I’ve seen this done with 100+ plants where each plant might only yield a half ounce but with that many plants you can get very respectable yields.
Legally speaking, having hundreds of plants could be a problem for most, but it can also be an exceptionally efficient way of producing bud from a very small space.
On the other side of this discussion is vegging your plants for months at a time and growing them extremely large. This is quite useful for legal grows where plant count can be a big obstacle to massive yields. If you can only legally grow 6 plants, with proper veg time (1+ months of veg time) you can produce half a pound or more from each plant, leaving you with plenty of product at the end of your grow.
I have personally grown plants in 50gallon containers and vegged them for 2-3 months and have produced over a pound of bud from each plant. Multiply this out by 6, and you can see how this could be extremely beneficial. If you combine a long veg time with plant training methods (LST – low stress training, topping, etc.), you can obtain massive yields.
While this sounds great, you have to remember that if plant count is a legal issue for you and you are trying to flower 6 plants at a time, that doesn’t leave you any plant count available for vegging plants.
This means that for months at a time you won’t be flowering plants, simply training and vegging your plants for big yields. You can balance these different factors to find out what produces the most bud for you on a yearly basis.
I hope that this article made it clear to you that how long you veg you plants is completely up to you. There is no amount of veg time that will somehow hurt your plant, it’s just all about balancing your space with your expectations of yield per plant.
Thinking about these questions and problems in terms of multiple crops and on a yearly basis is how I have been so successful throughout my career at producing more bud in less time and with less space.
Taking notes throughout your grows can be a huge help for you when planning out how you will do your future grows. Length of stretch, flowering time, yield, and notes about nutrient requirements, will enable you to get every last ounce out of your grow, whether large or small.