Watering And Pruning Your Marijuana Plants
Marijuana watering and pruning
Creating a healthy crop of marijuana involves more than just getting your plants in the dirt. Now is the time to vigilantly provide enough water for your crop while keeping the plants fit and trim through judicious pruning. Make sure there’s enough water available on your growing site. If you water and prune your marijuana plants the right way it will increase the yield substantially.
It’s no small feat to succesfully coax your marijuana plants to life and then give them a permanent home. Now that you’re officially farming your own crop, you want to make sure that all hard work doesn’t go to waste by losing your plants before they reach maturity. Again, this is ultimately a “back to basics” issue. Faithful watering and judicious pruning are the two keys to ensure a thriving crop of harvestable marijuana plants.
Watering Your Crop
There is a fairly widespread belief that because cannabis grows in Mexico—and Mexico, according to all the cowboy movies, is desert—the plants can live with little water. The truth is that marijuana plants like water as much as the next species, and growers should anticipate that as plants grow in height and produce more foliage, they will need progressively more water to maintain good health. By the time your plants are 3 feet tall or higher, they will need about 1 gallon of water per plant per day.
This is where good planning and site selection pay off. Unless you’ve had the good fortune to plant on a streambank or some other location where the water table is near enough to the surface for plants to draw their own water, they are likely to need daily watering during the hottest and driest days of summer—July and August in most of North America.
One of the perks of growing your own pot is that you can enjoy some of the benefits even before plants have begun to show their gender. Some pot farmers subscribe to a hands-off philosophy, refusing to trim plants and just letting nature take its course. My experience has led me to a few different conclusions that cause me to believe that controlled pruning is critical to achieving maximum health, growths and THC content.
“Pruning” is the basic process in which a plant cultivator cuts off dead (or even still live) pieces of a plant. The idea is that by taking away a minimal amount of material, the grower is actually helping ensure the survival of the overall plant.
Pruning away pale, yellowing, or brown-tipped leaves cleanly with scissors or a sharp knife is something like excising dying tissue from human wounds. Yellowed, dead leaves are a fact of life as lower branches are shaded out by increasing foliage density above. As long as dying leaves are attached to the parent plant, they drain some of its resources. Affected leaves detach at their stems’ bases and fall off eventually, but a clean snip of the stem on a leaf that shows signs of dying is less taxing to the parent plant than supporting a slowly dying leaf for reeks on end. More resources are channeled into new growth, resulting in larger, healthier plants at maturity.
Pruning also enhances growth by promoting the formation of new branches. When a seedling reaches its tough, energetic stage, when it has at least eight pairs of lobed leaves, you should begin to see green hairlike growths sprouting from the bases of leaf stems where they meet the main stalk. At this point the plant should be sprouting a pair of new leaves from its top every day, some of which maybe as large as a man’s hand, and each uppermost leaf will sprout a pair of these fledgling branches. More branches mean more buds, and as soon as the pair of young branches begin to sprout their own leaves from either side, I remove the large five- or seven-lobed “shade” leaf that spawned them.
Left to themselves, the shade leaves will turn yellow and fall off anyway when the branches from their bases begin sprouting their own leaves; by pruning the shade leaves early, I keep plants struggling enough to maximize growth during a short growing season, but not so much that their resources are taxed. Like a human bodybuilder, the goal is to grow healthy, strong tissue through stress, while feeding a subject the nutrients needed to make the entire stronger and tougher. I take only the largest leaves—at least 4 inches long, discounting stem—and only those with healthy branches already started from their bases. This opens the smaller leaves below those large leaves to more sunlight, while also forcing them to grow and make up for the chlorophyll production lost by removal of the shade leaves.
Another method of spurring branch growth is to remove the top and the ends of branches. In most instances “topping” plants and branch tips does promote the growth of branches, but it also retards further length until the nipped end heals and sprouts a fork of two new end branches. Proponents of this practice argue that topping makes a plant thicker and bushier, with more leaves. My feeling is that the retardation of length growth isn’t offset by the increase in new branch growth, nor does topping result in markedly more leaf growth.
Dangers of Overpruning
Overpruning is a very common mistake, and an understandable one; once your very own pot leaves have achieved a THC level sufficient to make an average smoker slack-jaw stoned, then it’s pretty tempting to enjoy it more frequently than you might the pot that came from a purchased bag. That’s great, and it’s fun to share the fruits of your labors with friends, but always bear in mind that the best is yet to come, when the females give you big, fat, sticky buds that get the job done within three tokes. It pays— literally—to do nothing that might hinder a plant’s summer growing stage, which could also take away from its later fruiting stage.
Following the directions already given about pruning leaves will help you to avoid overpricing, but here are a few rules of thumb: Never take a leaf that doesn’t have branches sprouting from its basal stem; never take all of the leaves from any stalk or branch; never tear leaf stems free, but always cut them with a sharp knife or scissors; always water a plant immediately after you’ve pruned it—preferably with plant food—to lessen the shock and to spur new growth.
You will probably prune a lot of leaves from your plants through the summer months, and I regret to admit that they will probably not be worth smoking until your plants are three months old. It will probably take that long for plants to achieve their peak insect-repelling THC levels, a cycle that roughly and not coincidently corresponds to the life cycles of leaf-eating insects. If a plant has been carefully pruned and mildly tormented, its leaves will have acquired sufficient THC to make them definitely worth smoking by mid-July. It doesn’t hurt to test-smoke a few leaves prior to that, just to see if you’ve gotten lucky, but in most cases you’ll end up throwing away pruned leaves for about the first three months because they simply won’t get you high. Discard these impotent leaves, preferably in a fire, because one thing worse than getting busted for possession of marijuana is getting busted for possessing lousy marijuana.
It’s enough to make a dedicated toker cry, but I’ve seen large, mature pot plants that had grown to adulthood without proper tending, and whose THC levels were so low that even the buds weren’t worth smoking. Over the years, I’ve developed a theory that judicious pruning can actually increase the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels produced by a growing plant.
It appears that THC, like the oils in catnip that make cats go euphoric, is in fact an insect repellant. Only a few insects will eat marijuana in its branching stage, and then usually only lightly (the exception being slugs) because the bugs literally appear to be stoned. Strategic trimming, just enough to keep a plant struggling slightly, can inhance its production of natural insect repellant to pretty impressive levels.
Visual indicators of leaves that need pruning include brown tips, yellowing, half-devoured lobes, and any sign of withering. Also remove any leaves with branches starting from their bases, taking the topmost leaves first to drive smaller leaves below to grow faster.
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