Growing cannabis is easy.
It's basically a weed. It's even called weed. And like a weed, it just grows on its own.
Getting the maximum yield from your marijuana plant is another story.
A plant left to its own devices out in nature will grow well, but the yield will be small and low quality.
To really get the most out of your plant, you need to give it the perfect environment.
And that is the biggest benefit to growing indoors. You control everything.
You can give your plants exactly what they need and if you do, they will reward you with monster yields.
But what do they need?
Unfortunately, there is a ton of conflicting information out there. And a lot of it focuses on time-consuming tasks or expensive equipment that result in only small improvements.
That's just a huge waste. You want to focus on those fixes that bring the largest improvement. At least at first. Once you've done the big stuff, then you can focus on dialing in those things that boost yields by a small amount.
So what are the things you can fix to see large improvements in yield quality and quantity?
I'm glad you asked.
6 Ways To Boost Your Cannabis Yields
The factors that contribute the most to a flourishing yield are light, temperature, nutrients, and time of harvest. Here are steps you can take to maximize the benefit of each factor.
Prune Your Plants
To improve the size and quality of yields, try pruning your cannabis plants. This involves cutting off parts of the plant that get in the way of overall growth.
A major problem is large leaves sticking up above the canopy and blocking light from reaching the rest of the plant below. Trim your plants so that the canopy is even and no part of it is being shaded.
You also want to cut off dead and yellow leaves. These unnecessarily consume the plant’s resources. Getting rid of them means those resources go toward bud production or something else more important than feeding leaves that are already dead.
In addition to pruning, you can also train the plants. This involves forcing some branches to grow sideways. They eventually turn upwards toward the light, but because they grew sideways first, the whole plants ends up being wider.
Wider plants mean more canopy area for the light to hit. This, in turn, means you get more bud sites and a far larger yield. If you additionally keep plants short, they use fewer resources to grow tall and instead use those resources to make more and larger buds.
In addition to maximizing the impact of lighting, pruning also allows better airflow to the middle of the plant. This helps prevent mold.
Here are some things to keep in mind when pruning:
- When your plant grows into a bushy shape, start pruning.
- Look for leaves that are dying due to lack of light.
- Look for bud sites receiving less light.
- When the plant enters the flowering phase, stop training and pruning branches, but you should tuck away large leaves that block light (some growers remove them, but these leaves actually provide a lot of energy for the plant).
Master Climate Control
Climate is fundamental to agriculture. Growing cannabis under natural climate conditions is effortless, but it does not result in maximum yields.
When you move indoors you have total control. You regulate the temperature and the humidity. If you provide the ideal conditions for your plants, they will reward you with incredible yields.
What are the ideal conditions?
For vegging you want the keep the grow area between 70 and 85° F (20 and 30°C), with a relative humidity of 40 to 60% (I’d stay over 50%).
Flowering plants are much more sensitive to humidity. Keep it in check to prevent mold.
The temperature for flowering should be between 65 and 80° F (18 and 26° C) and the relative humidity should hover between 40 and 50% during the beginning of the flowering stage and 40 and 45% during the final weeks.
In some locations, conditions will be within those ranges naturally, at least during parts of the year. The rest of the time, you control the temperature and humidity with ventilation, cooling, heating, humidifying and dehumidifying.
This seems like a lot of work and a lot to think about. It is. You can grow weed without any of this, but to get the best possible yields, you need to provide the best possible growing conditions. There is just no way around that.
Marijuana plants need light. And lots of it.
During vegging, they need at least 18 hours of light per day. Some growers give them 24 hours of light, but I prefer a schedule of 18 hours light and 6 hours dark.
During flowering, switch the lighting schedule to 12 hours on and 12 hours off.
The key for maximum yields is to provide large amounts of light and to distribute it as evenly as possible across the canopy. Space your lights accordingly.
When it comes to types of lighting, there are only two I recommend these days: LED or CMH. Both have a great full-spectrum light (good LEDs do anyway; avoid those that don't) and are highly efficient.
My first choice is LED lighting, but make sure you get a high-quality American made fixture. Some of the Chinese branded lights work just fine, but the quality control is poor and customer service even poorer. You always take a big risk with those lights.
You also want to make sure LED fixtures give you a full-spectrum light. Do not get a fixture with only red and blue diodes. Those will not give you great result.
I will not go into the actual lights to get here. I have covered that extensively in my buying guide, so check that out for help in choosing lights for your grow.
Harvest At The Right Time
The rule of thumb is: do not rush into it. Patience is key.
Harvesting too early means the buds have not had time to reach peak potency. Once you're past "too early", the longer you wait to harvest, the more the effects of the bud move from a speedy, energetic high to a more relaxed, narcotic high.
So how do you know when to harvest your buds? There are a few methods to identify harvest time.
The Pistil Method
When the pistils, or hairs, are white and noticeable, it is still too early to harvest. Wait for the white pistils to turn dark.
If you are aiming for a high THC yield wait for 60-70% of the hairs to get dark. For a more calming and anti-anxiety type of bud, let 70-90% of the hairs grow dark. This does vary a bit depending on strain.
The Trichome Method
For this method, you will need a magnifier to take a closer look at the stalk of glandular trichomes on the cannabis buds. Some also like to call it the resin glands.
A jeweler's loupe works well as a magnifier.
Start checking the trichomes 3-4 weeks after they enter the flowering stage. When they begin turning milky and appear cloudy, you are entering harvest time. The cloudier they get, the more the buds move from a speedy high to a narcotic high.
The perfect harvest time very much depends on your preference. Do you want weed that gives you an energetic high, or a more relaxed, narcotic high?
For most of us, the ideal result lies in the middle, which means you'll probably want to experiment with different harvest times for your particular strain, until you get a bud that gives you exactly the type of high you are looking for.
For more on the ideal harvest time, including photos of what the trichomes and pistils should look like, check out mistake number 6 in my article of the top mistakes beginning growers make.
A lot depends on genetics. The strain of indoor or outdoor marijuana seeds you purchase will affect the growth and potency of the buds.
That's why you should always buy from a reputable seed bank. Our favorite is the ILGM seed bank, because they have a 100% germination guarantee. If the seeds don't germinate, they replace or refund them (your choice).
The guidelines below are the same, whether you are planning to grow feminized seeds or auto-flowering seeds. Auto seeds are generally preferable for beginners. They are easier to grow and do better in hotter temperatures.
The most common mistake growers make is picking low-priced seeds. If you pay a bit more, you not only get better quality, you usually get a guarantee as well. If the seed does not produce a viable plant, you get your money back.
The following features will help you identify quality seeds.
- Color: dark-colored seeds are generally healthier and more likely to produce good yields; seeds with a whitish or greenish appearance tend to be less productive.
- Shine: seeds with good genetics have a shiny coat, like a protective layer; this generally indicates they have the potential to grow into a healthy plant.
- Size: good quality seeds tend to be larger.
Nutrition And Maintenance
Excess nutrients lead to nutrient burn and lack of them results in the discoloration, and even death, of leaves.
Plants need the correct amount of food, whether water or nutrients. It is crucial for healthy plant growth.
The leaves are your guide to proper nutrition. They show you, before anything else, if your plant is suffering. If they start turning yellow, you'll probably need to increase the amount of nutrients you give your plants.
When it comes to water, you want to water the plants regularly. If the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch, give them more water.
Add water them until you see approximately 20% extra runoff water coming from the bottom of the pot. Do not over-water. Always wait until the top inch of soil is dry.
As for nutrition, you may not need to worry about it for a while, if you are using a nutrient rich soil. Eventually, the nutrients in the soil will get used up and you'll need to begin adding them.
The easiest way to do this is to get nutrient solutions made especially for cannabis. That way you should have separate solutions for vegging and flowering (plants need more nitrogen during vegging).
When adding nutrients, add them to the water you use to water your plants. Add half as much as is indicated on the nutrient package. If the plants start growing rapidly and need more, up the amount to 3/4 of what is indicated.
Once you enter the flowering stage, switch to the flowering solution. For the first month of flowering, your plants will need a lot of nutrients. After that, start cutting back gradually.
Final Thoughts On Maximizing Yields
As mentioned at the beginning, there are many factors that effect marijuana yields. The 6 detailed above are the ones that will have the largest impact. Get them right and you will enjoy yields far larger and far more potent than the average grower.
Only then should you worry other factors: those that give you smaller increases in yield size and potency. Until you've got the big ones right, there's no point in working hard for small gains.