There are many reasons to prune a plant, but none of them are absolutely necessary to the health and survival of the plant. If you do not prune, this will diminish neither the size nor the yield of your plants and pruning is not essential to growing high-quality marijuana, however some strains do respond well to pruning and sometimes do produce bigger yields so experimentation is advised.
Some of the reasons to prune are to reduce detection by limiting plant size, increase flower production, or simply have some (mostly) shakeable buds before the actual harvest time. Spacing is a key factor in the decision to prune since plants growing too close together will tend to shoot up in an attempt to reach the sunlight. This can lead to a lot of empty space on the main branches and longer stems with large internodes (the space between two node regions) resulting in empty internode zones where plants have not produced any buds.
The prime outdoor growing months are July through August, so those will be the busiest in terms of both watering and pruning. The decision to prune is yours alone but there are certain issues to be aware of, including some things that should never be done.
In order to create smaller, denser plants, some growers will start pruning as soon as the plant reaches two feet in height. Using the thumb and forefinger, a grower should pinch off the tiny growing bud at the tip of the main branch or stem. The same thing can be done using either pruning shears or very sharp scissors. This forces the plant to branch outward, creating many strong branches able to produce large flowers. This is especially useful if you need to limit the height of your plants for any reason. Smart growers will also prune if the plant is growing straight up with long empty spaces on which no branches are growing. Upward pruning forces the plant to focus its energy in a different direction, outward.
Pruning is not rocket science and ordinary growers use it to encourage growing patterns in plants all the time. However there are certain things that should be avoided.
Severe pruning done late in the season, in September for instance, will reduce yield since there will be less branches available to develop flowers and the plant will put its energy into leaf and branch development instead of flowering. Severe pruning is cutting a foot or more from the top of your plant or removing a long stem. The plant won’t die, but since the yield has been drastically reduced you will feel the pain. Instead, practice consistent, small pruning measures to achieve the growing pattern you wish and prevent the need for such drastic measures later in the season.
Another thing to avoid is removing too many of the larger leaves, or fan leaves. Though they may appear to be limiting the sun that hits the bud sites because of the leaves surface area, these large leaves receive a ton of sunlight that is then converted into sugar and energy, which helps the plant to grow vigorously early in the season and to produce strong, full flowers late in the season.
Finally, when pruning, be sure to prune on sunny days as it allows the plant to heal with the sun acting as a kind of disinfectant. Pruning imitates the effect that animals, or occasional insect predators, would have on the plant, which is why it can be considered natural and not such a bad thing. However, marijuana grown naturally without extenuating circumstances, like detection, will likely not need any pruning to be high yielding.
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