This week’s blog entry we’re going to discuss the many ways you can support your plant. Between our two businesses, I’ve been in and out of a lot of grow spaces and hydroponic shops lately and have seen a lot of creative ways to support your flowering plants and heavy branches. But first, I think it’s important to discuss why supporting your branches, especially as your plant buds, is so important to increasing your final yield.
I like to think about the energy that any plant has to consume as a pie (Butterscotch Crème Pie to be precise, but maybe that’s just the fat kid in me screaming for a snack…). This plant has its entire life to eat its pie, and your job as its caretaker is to direct as much of that energy into the final 7-10 weeks of its life and the buds it produces during that time. The plant cannot gain any energy into its pie, just maintain the current level of energy it until it is ready to use it all up. You, as its caretaker, are responsible for not taking energy away from the plant by providing it with a great environment to grow in, solid feeding program and caring for it like it was your first born (ok, maybe that’s a bit overboard, but you get the picture).
When you change the light cycle of your plant from 18-24 hours of light down to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness to trigger flowering, this is when you want the plant to start eating that PIE! Since airflow is critical throughout your grow space, you should have multiple fans throughout the room with air blowing on and over your plants. Your branches will inevitably start to sway back and forth which will, you guess it, start to eat away from that pie. This is especially true when these branches start to produce flowers and get heavy tops, causing them to sag and fall over each other. See, your plant wants to reach towards the light, so it is spending energy in keeping these heavy buds pointing towards the light, even if it is fighting a losing battle. It just doesn’t know that it’s using its energy on a fight it can’t win, and ultimately, we don’t want it to win. Besides wanting the plant to conserve that energy, we also want to keep our plants in the “sweet spot” of the light, and buds laying on top of each other means that the bottom buds don’t get light. Also, the extra moisture trapped in between buds laying on each other could be a safe-haven for mold to appear. There are SO MANY reasons to want to support your plants as your buds get bigger!
This is where supporting those branches as they get heavier comes in to play. However, supporting heavy branches takes planning and work before those branches are heavy, or else you’ve missed the boat and your plant has already used up more energy than it needed to. There are a few items that I use in the garden to ensure that my heavy buds stay vertical and pointing towards the light, and I’ll discuss them briefly here.
Bamboo stakes: a mainstay in most gardens, but they are never easy to work with. They’re simple to use, but basically you can insert as many of these into the soil at any time throughout the grow cycle as you’d like. You can use small ones to tie your plant off to (for training purposes) in veg, and then use taller ones when going into flower to support your biggest branches as they grow. My biggest problem with this method is needing so many sizes of stakes, because they do not grow with your plant, and you want to keep the lights close to the plant. So, having a 4’ bamboo stake next to an 18” tall plant does not allow for the light to be close enough to the plant. Also, they are straight and only go in one direction, and it can take multiple tries to get the stake at the right angle for your plant support needs.
Trellis netting/chicken wire/mesh fence: These all serve the same purpose, but I HIGHLY recommend using a non-metal solution for this. In my opinion, trellis netting is the go-to solution here, but none of these things are easy to work with in a big garden. Trellis netting needs to be attached to a solid framework, usually based outside of the plant pot, and then spread over the tops of the plant to allow the plant to grow through it in the flowering stage. All plants stretch in the first few weeks of flower, some up to 100% or more of its size before flowering. This means those branches are long and weak, and need that extra support more than ever. That’s why some people will put two layers of trellis over their plant. One placed directly over the plant in the first days of flower, and then one 8-12 inches above that for the plant to grow up into. This gives two layers of support for your heavier branches, and is key for the plants that stretch more than others. My major problem with trellis netting is it makes me feel like a dolphin trapped in a fish net when putting it over the plants, but holy hell is taking it off during harvest a nightmare! It definitely adds time and a bit of frustration to the harvest process, but is ultimately worth it for the yield increase you should see by using it.
Plant yo-yos: These come in a few different fashions, but all function in the same manner. These are hooks (1 or 2) attached to a retractable string that has a push button lock to lock the string at a desired length from the attachment point on the lights or ceiling above your plant. You would place one of the hooks at the very base of one of your heavy top buds and retract the string so the bud was pointing towards the light and the string was taught. Press the lock button to secure into place. This should hold your heavy bud in this place for the remainder of the cycle, allowing for light penetration and better air flow. Yo-yos can be used throughout the flowering process, and are critical if you haven’t used any other support methods, or else your heavy buds could by lying in the dirt before too long. While yo-yos are very helpful, having too many of them in your plant makes it hard to work with at times.
Honorable mention: Tomato cages – they do a great job supporting the plant from the outside, but they do nothing to keep the buds from leaning on each other and on top of one another without additional products like netting or yo-yos, so it didn’t make the cut.
These are the 3 most helpful items that I see used to support plants and the heavy buds they can produce. I’m sure there are more contraptions and creations that people have come up with over the years that work for them, and I’m sure they work great! These are three items that are on the market that people could go buy today, that would support their heavy buds all the way through the grow cycle.
But none of them are easy to use, convenient, and grow with the plant. This is exactly why I had the idea for Atlas Plant Trainer, designed by a grower for a grower (it started as a way to ease my own pain), the only completely customizable plant training and support system that grows with your plant to the exact size and dimensions that you want. I wanted to provide a system that was contained inside the plant pot so that I have the ease of working with one plant at a time, and to give me, and all growers, the ability to move their plants if necessary. Space is always at a premium, and we know that mobility is key in packed spaces. With our system, you should easily be able to increase plant size by 10 to 50 percent, undoubtedly increasing your yield along the way.