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Ask Erik: Precision Pruning For Bigger Yields

Get the best out of your crop with some smart pruning practices. Get the best out of your crop with some smart pruning practices.

 

Q: I’ve heard lots of different schools of thought on pruning my production plants for bigger yields under lights. I like to just let my plants go during veg because I have other work elsewhere. In bloom I can spend more time in the garden. So how much should I take off, where, when and how often? My plants are usually about two feet tall and a couple of feet around by the end of veg, and I get about another foot of growth early on in the bloom phase.

A: There are many different ways to prune your plants to optimize the way light reaches all parts of the plant rather than just the tops. Experienced growers like you know the bottom scrub usually needs to be sacrificed so that more energy from the roots can flow into the more productive upper portions of the plant.

When you apply horizontal lighting from above, the branches tend to grow more upright, straight towards the light. The top branches, or leaders, usually dominate the canopy. With horizontal crop-lighting applications, you will usually want to keep these leaders and remove the suckers, typically the lower third of the plant, and any spindly little runners that may emerge.

A hard pruning is best performed just before the lights go out. This way, the plants have the dark cycle to recover, which helps reduce the amount of stress on them.

Vertical lighting applications are a bit of a different story. Typically you need to prune something from the top rather than from the bottom, as the plants are being broadsided with light and are growing outward horizontally toward the light source. In vertical applications, the upper portions may be above the sweet spot where intense light is landing on the plants, and should be pruned.

Most growers find that they get the best results from their pruning efforts when a major chop is performed after the first two or three weeks of the bloom cycle. Avoid pruning a little bit here and there, and instead do it all at once. Constantly nipping at the plant causes prolonged stress and confuses the plant as to where it should be directing its energies.

Some growers also pre-treat their plants several hours before performing this hard prune with B-vitamin solutions, carbohydrate sources and some fulvic acid. This pre-op solution will help the plant recover faster and better redirect its surplus energy into the remaining leaders after selecting and pruning. Make sure your plants are well watered and otherwise free of stress before doing major pruning, otherwise the slight shock could progress to a more serious cropping stress.

Always use clean, sharp pruners. Drop them in some boiling water for a few minutes after sharpening. It’s also a good idea to wipe your pruners with alcohol from plant to plant, which helps reduce the possibility of spreading disease.

A hard pruning is best performed just before the lights go out. This way, the plants have the dark cycle to recover, which helps reduce the amount of stress on them.

If done correctly and timed right, you may see a jump in growth overnight, with your leader branches and flowering sites visibly swelling. This occurs because the same-size root system now has 20% less stem material to service, so more nutrients and water make it into the parts of the plant that are going to give you the best yields and crop quality.

Consider watching Edward Scissorhands for a little inspiration, but make sure not to go overboard. Overly complex and vast branching systems require a lot of plant energy to support. This can end up taking away resources from flower production, limiting the improved yields you seek through your pruning practices. Stay sharp!

Cheers,

Erik Biksa

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Last modified on Wednesday, 20 February 2013 18:20

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