Nick Clifton Special for the Roanoke Times
This is an exciting time of year for a gardener. The weather is warm day and night. The sun is high in the sky and intense. You seem to notice the growth when you stare at your plants. The anticipation of your first tomato or “tomato” harvest is growing!
I hope you’ve had a chance to read some of my tips from previous columns. If so, you probably remember that your photoperiod plants can get quite tall if you plant them outdoors too early. Oh, what’s this? Didn’t get that word of caution and are now seeing that your sweet little seedling has grown to 3ft and worried you may need a taller privacy fence soon?
Don’t worry, now is a good time to learn about pruning, training – and, while we scissors out, cloning. These skills are fundamentals of cannabis cultivation. Pruning and training is usually done by cutting off the top of the plant, encouraging lateral growth, and then tying the side branches to the pot, tomato cage, or similar to create a wider but shorter plant. I should mention that caution is advised when growing autoflowers—many recommend avoiding it altogether. I once experimented with topping autoflowers to keep them shorter, but that’s all I can speak to. As far as photoperiods go, you can get pretty wild with your scissors and your plant will cope. Just make sure you have your plant shaped the way you want it before flowering begins.
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Pruning and training for indoor growing is done to maintain an even canopy. Basically, all of the tops of your plants are at the same height, so your lighting will reach the bud sites with equal intensity. Sunlight is brighter than any indoor unit, and the sun moves throughout the day. Therefore, outdoor growers don’t have to worry as much about an even canopy, but pruning can still reduce the height of your plant, and that can be desirable, especially for patio growers.
Personally, I grow autoflowers right now, so I don’t have any plants that need pruning. However, I have a friend who is a first time grower and got her beautiful plants gigantic. I suspect many first time growers are also going through what they are experiencing, so I thought this would be useful advice at this point in the season. She has cloth pots and maybe 5-7 gallons of soil, but the plant is large enough that she can use up all the water given to her in a single day. With two more months of intense sun and vegetative growth, I think she needs to be repotted to a much larger container, and soon. She uses sack soil, which costs about $20 per sack, and she probably needs 3 to 4 times the current amount to keep these plants happy all season. With a few plants, this can quickly add up and she’ll harvest more bud than she probably wants to trim. My advice to them and anyone in this position: clone and start over.
Cloning sounds intimidating at first, but it’s actually quite simple. I mentioned earlier that I think cannabis is more of a gateway to gardening than drugs. After learning how to clone cannabis, I quickly realized that the same techniques work for cloning many plants. I have now successfully cloned Begonias, Coleus, African Violets, Loropetalum, Arbor Vitae and Figs. I see a plant I like and I’m thinking can I clone it? Herbaceous plants can usually be cloned at any time, woody plants tend to thrive better if taken during dormancy. Follow my advice on cloning cannabis and try cloning other plants too. All the extras that root are great gifts for friends!
There are many ways to clone plants. I’ve dabbled in a few, including Rockwool Cubes, Root Riot Cubes, and Klongeles. The cannabis industry certainly makes you feel like you need fancy cloning equipment. I keep it simple, stupid. My preferred method is called “cup-in-cup”. Follow these steps:
Take a clear cup and cut holes in the bottom to allow the water to drain.
Fill it with soil or your choice of mix, then water to saturation.
Cut a 4 to 6 inch (10 to 15 cm) piece from a growing tip of your plant (known as a meristem). Remove all leaves from the underside, leaving only 2 fan leaves, plus the small budding leaves where new growth appears.
Soak the bottom in water; Immediately dip them in rooting hormone, then stick the cutting in your cup of moist soil. (Note that the rooting hormone is optional but will increase your chances of success. I use a cheap one called TakeRoot that you can get at any major department store. Just look for the active ingredient, Indole-3-Butyric Acid 0.1% or 0. 3%.).
If your cutting’s leaves are very large, trim the tops to reduce their size, which will reduce your plant’s transpiration rate.
Now place the clear cup in a colored cup to keep the soil dark. Place the cups under a dim light like a desk lamp or near a window, but not in direct sunlight. Your goal now is not for the plant to grow, but for roots to form. Too much sun dries them out too quickly. Stop by once or twice a week and make sure the soil stays moist. The cuttings should stay upright and plump; If they look drooping, they probably need more water or less light.
After about two weeks, you should start to see root tips on the side of your clear cup. Start watering a little more regularly and increase the light intensity of your plant. Soon this cup will be full of roots and ready to be transplanted outdoors.
My friend’s facility is now much smaller and more manageable. I am confident that one of the cuttings will take root and she will have enough time to get a nice sized plant before flowering begins. She will keep the original plant alive for safety reasons until we see those roots forming as they should too. If you’ve never tried this technique, give it a try.
It’s so much fun to grow cannabis!