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Increasing yield with defoliation indoors: What's it mean? How to do it?

Bassman59

Member of the Month: Oct 2012
This is going to be a very long post and possibly an even longer thread. We're trying to make this an educational thread on the subject of defoliation.

*Please refrain from posting in this thread until MR Smith has made his comments* This will allow us to get our thoughts, and lessons learned in some sort of order. Thanks.

All of the info posted by myself or Mr Smith is based on our own personal experience with the subject. Not conjecture nor opinion. Just our experience. There will be some quotes I will make from a 3rd party. These quotes are from the person whom I used as my initial guide on the subject. He's been using this technique for many years.

Ok lets start!

The first thing we need to do is understand the context within this topic as it pertains to our beloved plant. We need to define DEFOLIATION for the context of this thread because it has so many negative connotations with respect to cannabis.

Defoliation in this thread is: The removal of leaf, by hand, to be rid of shading of any other buds, nodes, or growth in crowded situations.

This could be called a substitute to the removal of lower branches, another popular technique sometimes called lollipopping.

As described by k33ftr elsewhere: Defoliation encourages branching in vegging plants in the same way as nipping the leader. The benefit of this technique is that the leader is retained to continue to create branches. It also shortens nodal length creating a more compact specimen.

Of importance is: It also shortens nodal length creating a more compact specimen. More on that later.

Some growers have been enjoying yields in very compact plants at only 32" cubed above and beyond 12oz per plant using this technique. Again, over 12oz dry per plant on girls that are no taller than 32 inches and just as wide around.

Again from k33ftr: 3 decades of experience with this technique reveal that bud growth benefits more from light exposure than whether the corresponding fan leaf is present.

Yes he has 3 decades of experience using this technique. It's pretty hard to argue against that much experience. And it makes sense! Bud growth benefits more from light exposure than having a corresponding leaf present.

The idea is to allow any and all bud sites to fully produce. Unlike removing lower branches, we keep them and get plenty of light to them. We grow real buds not popcorn off these lower branches. This method allows light to penetrate to any and all of the bud sites for full benefit throughout the entire plant.

Some people may be shocked at just how few leaves are on these plants and how robust they actually are. Below is the canopy of my current grow, about to be harvested.


As one can see, there is an abundance of bud. It's a pretty even canopy. And clearly there are still leaves on the plants. We dont have any main colas sticking 6-8 inches or more above the rest of the bud sites either. That would mean much of the plant is getting less light while one small section (the main cola) is getting most of the light. Why not get most of the light to all of the plant?

Once we understand that we're trying to get the maximum amount of a limited light source in a limited area, we can begin to understand how and when to apply this technique and what other techniques are used in conjunction to make the whole process come through.

Prior to trying out this technique, please have your methods and strains down pat! This is important! This technique tends to work much better on indicas or indica dominants. Know your methods well. Have your ppm, ph, and atmosphere dialed in already. above all, don't over crowd your grow with plants! There are some that do use this in high count, fast flip to flower, small plant grows, but I'm talking about plants that get a real veg period. Say 4-6 weeks on avg.

The last thing you want to do is not have all your other peripheral methods down pat, have an issue, and blame a poor result on using this method when say, root rot due to high water temps was the real issue.

So we start this all out in veg. We begin our plant training to defoliation in veg. Once our girls are about 8" tall with about 6-8 pairs of true leaves we begin. We remove the fan leaves! You can top them also if you wish. If it's a natural shrubster type strain you may not want to. Grower choice. To be bit more specific, I remove all the leaves except the little cluster at the top.

In less than a week they will re-leaf. And boy will they ever! They will come back with a vengeance! More leaf, more nodes, more compact, in just one week. It's important to note, we only do this on good healthy plants. As an experienced grower you know if your plants are healthy and strong. With experience, you soon find you can tell by feel when you grab a branch or leaf if it's healthy and robust. Thus ready for the stripper pole and some leaf removal.

After this 1st stripping, they look a bit scary at first. But lets see how well they bounce back:
Before stripping:


After the stripping:

Just 10 -12 days later


At the above point in veg they are about 8-10 inches tall and I strip them again.
Here's what they looked like after stripping for the 2nd time in veg on the same day as above:


I do have a few more fan leaves above but notice they are all top cluster fans only. The smaller leaves are attached to new growth nodes and are left alone.

Here is what these same plants look like, 16 days later, (pics actually taken moments ago).


The above plants are ready for flower. They are between 10-14" tall But the taller ones will be getting bent laterally to widen the girls, open up the canopy for more light exposure from top to bottom, and become those nice 32" wide fat bottomed girls we're striving for.

I personally don't strip them down just before going into flower. The stripping of these girls in veg DOES slow them down in veg, but in the end, it's only a week or two, and if you're cycling your plants, after the first extended veg, it's all moot. You plant accordingly. Also sending stripped girls into 12/12 slows the stretch. With defoliation we both love and hate stretch. We like the stretch because we can make them fatter with bending. We hate upwards stretch however. The plan is to get a nice even canopy that is fat and wide that allows really good light from top to bottom! Yes, we want to see all that crap popcorn we used to have become awesome bud. But even better, as we bend, the off shoots start to climb up and they hit the top of the canopy and become big fat budding flowers too!.

During stretch I dont strip the girls until day 21, or basically end of stretch. I let them grow like crazy and bend them accordingly.

*note, you may want to create a form of netting to support the bent over branches. It doesnt have to be a string ever 3 inches or less like say in a scrog. 5-6-8 rungs in each direction, depending on the size of your grow is all it takes.

*I plan my grow space based on 28" center to center between plants MINIMUM. I have 4 plants in a 5' x 5' tent.

*note, if for some reason they get so tall that you lose light adjustment before stretch is over, if you strip them hard, they will stop stretching for the most part. This is a simple way to manipulate height. But it's not ideal. It won't hurt the plants. It just means you (like I did) probably didnt plan quite right and let them get too tall in veg.

*one of the side benefits of defoliation like this is reducing relative humidity and increasing airflow. We've all seen monster bushy plants with so many leaves they literally sweat water on each other and the floor. Dehumidifiers may be a thing of the past for some using this technique. I know I don't need one.

Next post, about this transition phase and defoliation in flower along with other techniques used along the way in this process.
 

Bassman59

Member of the Month: Oct 2012
Transition, stretch and flower phase:

Now that we've sent out girls into 12/12, the fun really begins. Most strains will stretch 2x to 3x during the first 21 days or so of 12/12. We hopefully know our strain well already and planned for roughly 32" tall and 32" wide. Maybe even a bit less tall. Lest we forget, there is diminishing light the further away we go and depending on your light(s), we may want them in the 28" range. Keep in mind that some light penetration charts suggest a 600w hps on avg, will deliver about 5500 lumen at 28" away from the source, while a 1000w will deliver 8200 at the same height or 5500 lumen at 34" away. The optimal distance lumen per range is around 5k with an hps. The sun delivers more than 10,000 lumen throughout the entire range. Plan your max height.

More often than not our plants if veged and stripped well will grow beyond 28" tall given the opportunity. This is a part of this technique that I love. Bend the hell out of them! Even during stretch it's ok to bend. Some call it super cropping. But any time I see a branch I can bend laterally that will help widen the plant and keep the canopy more even and lower in height, I do it. I have branches as can be seen below that have 8 or more bends in them at times.


To prepare for bending I use 1/2 pvc and create a frame completely around the grow to use as tie points to support the bends. Then I make 4-8 strands back and forth of string in each direction. When I bend, I squeeze, twist 60-90 degrees and lay the branch over exactly where I want it. All with the idea of opening the canopy and evening it out.

Around day 21, or end of stretch you'll likely have a huge bushy monster not unlike these:


It's time to turn on some sexy music and put those girls out on the stripper pole again!
I start plucking leaves relentlessly! Damn near any fan leaf that is not directly attached to a new node that has developed it's own leaves gets plucked. If a corresponding node has not really developed it's leaf yet, I don't pluck that fan. Don't worry, you can come back to it later in the week.

This is fairly typical of what that first strip in flower period may look like for me:


Notice there are still lots of leaves but there's tons less shade and massive more light penetration available.
This was early in my trials using this technique and by some standards I went light on this stripping.

After stripping at 21 days, there are two basic theories being used. One is to again hit them hard at 45 days, while another is to constantly pluck daily as fan leaves develop. I choose to do the latter. It gives me something to do and I hate seeing leaves where I could look at bud instead. So almost daily I go in and pluck any fan leaves that have a stem of at least an inch long and are not directly attached to a newly developing bud site or node. I have been known to leave some of the outer most fan leaves in the grow tent. The ones that will never shade anything at all. However, I have also found that many of these leaves are a waste too. All they do is weigh down a skinnier outer branch that while it develops some really nice buds, eventually breaks and falls over away from all that good light. I now tend to pluck them sooner.

A highly recommended suggestion from my "defoliation mentor" is to set up a reflective floor at the plant base. In hydroponics using 5 gal or larger buckets, this can sometimes be a bit of a pain. We want to be able to add nutrient, admire our great work when we look at pretty roots, and test ph/ppm, etc. Yet if we can manage a reflective floor at the base of the plant (not the base of the bucket), we are just going to be reflecting back up that much more light to our buds. He also said if we can't see our plant medium or this reflective floor, and the light shining on it we either have too many leaves or so much bud the light can't get through. If you have the latter, and the girls are nice and wide, they may have had a bit too much veg period and are actually too big for your grow area. They needed to be wider yet! Looking at my canopy from my current Kosher Kush, this is what I did. I let them get too tall in veg and with all the bending I had to do just to keep them off the 1000w hps I lost light penetration down low. Yet my canopy is solid freaking bud! I learned my lesson well and began training my next grow in veg laterally sooner.

I have read countless times where experienced growers, growing same strain, same methods, getting the same yield over and over before adopting this technique, add high defoliation to their scheme and get increased yields of 20-40%. Occasionally way more even. Yields of 10oz - 12oz per plant can be the norm with plants covering only 32 cubic inches. I saw one grower go from constant 12oz yields to 14.5oz averages and his best was 19oz (can't confirm the size of that plant) from single plants.

Quality is unaffected!

I am not an expert on this. I am only sharing with you what I have learned by reading and trying it out. I'm just about to complete my 3rd grow using this technique and it looks to be my best yet. Even better, is my 4th grow using this technique is about ready for flower and looks to have the potential to surpass my current!

Do not be scared or subject to the "solar panel" jargon. Far better growers than I have been doing this quietly for many years. Have your grow down pat, read up on the topic thoroughly. Maybe even google Defoliation, hi yield technique.

Above all ask questions!

Start out on a few plants in veg. What can it hurt? If you don't like it after a few weeks, it only cost you a few weeks and a couple clones or seeds.

I am posting this because there were some requests in my current Kosher Kush journal for more instruction. I don't really feel so well qualified, but I can share my experience and share what I've seen of others using this technique. Surprisingly, this somewhat controversial technique is being used by a fair number of members here at 420 mag and they have been doing it quietly for years.

Besides, who doesnt like a naked lady showing her flower!
 

Bassman59

Member of the Month: Oct 2012
Still skeptical?

Yesterday I began harvest. I have trimmed down one plant, the biggest of the four. Her trimmed wet weight is 1160 grams. Should dry to between 10.22oz - 12.2oz

Here's a pic on scale after about 8 hrs drying time and to get perspective, the cardboard box lid is from one of those full size file storage boxes you would get at office max and such.


I guess Mr Smith is pretty busy with other life stuff and hasn't been able to chime in just yet. Feel free to comment or ask questions. We'll see if we can get his thoughts bumped up should he find the time later on to post his experience.

Please, if you havent tried this and want to talk about solar panels and such, refrain from posting. I am sharing my actual experience, not theory or conjecture. Numerous other forums have turned into a shit fest of bickering from those that refuse to try or accept the experience of those that have.

Let's keep this educational for all of us.
 

s1ingblade

New Member
I guess Mr Smith is pretty busy with other life stuff and hasn't been able to chime in just yet. Feel free to comment or ask questions. We'll see if we can get his thoughts bumped up should he find the time later on to post his experience.
The defoliation techniques make total sense and your pics are living proof that it works and how healthy the plants and buds turn out. This technique will really help those of us that have limits on the amount of plants we can grow get bigger yields which is what we are all after. This will help me get to or above the 1 Gram per Watt I have been striving to get for years. Thank you Sir!:goodjob::bravo::high-five::nicethread::thanks:
 
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sqwheels

Plant of the Month Winner - June 2012
Hi Bass,

Nice tutorial

I've been watching you perfect this technique for a long time now...Great Job!!! Experiment = Experience

Keep up the good work...We'll all learn something.

Thank you for sharing.

Sq
 

kimmy

New Member
Hello Bassman.

+ Reps for good subject matter !!

I too am a defoliator. I like the fact that air is free to circulate so well. There's less chance for mold or mildew. When mine are in veg, I keep the bottom 1/3 nipped back before the little branches get a start. Then 21 days after they are in the flower room I am ruthless to them. At first they look pitiful, but as the buds swell it is worth it. Harvesting is easier too. With SOG they are just budsicles when finished.
 

spring2012

New Member
Hello Bassman.

+ Reps for good subject matter !!

I too am a defoliator. I like the fact that air is free to circulate so well. There's less chance for mold or mildew. When mine are in veg, I keep the bottom 1/3 nipped back before the little branches get a start. Then 21 days after they are in the flower room I am ruthless to them. At first they look pitiful, but as the buds swell it is worth it. Harvesting is easier too. With SOG they are just budsicles when finished.
Kimmy,
I just did a major defol on my TransSiberian Auto. Its at day 35 and has been flowering for several weeks. Not sure if this was the right thing to do with an auto.
 

kimmy

New Member
Kimmy,
I just did a major defol on my TransSiberian Auto. Its at day 35 and has been flowering for several weeks. Not sure if this was the right thing to do with an auto.
I have never tried an auto, but I bet the results will be good. I am going to check out your journal in the blue link to see what's going on...
 

Bassman59

Member of the Month: Oct 2012
Thanks for the compliments.

I finished my harvest. Yield was approx 2600 grams wet from four plants. Dry should yield around 22 oz. Not bad, but there were yield costing mistakes.

1. Don't let them veg too tall with limited height/light.
2. Four plants in 5'x5' tent may be too many. Three in triangular setup might be better. At four, the two big girls, with bending, still way over shaded the other two. I didn't realize because they were so tall that I was covering so much with my lateral bends. But I needed light clearance REALLY BAD. (refer to #1 above!)
3. I broke and couldn't repair one of two main branches on the big girl. This probably cost me 2-3 oz but then again I would have had more mass at canopy top and no room for it. Pay attn when bending! I didnt get a good twist on her.
4. I either need a wider reflector, or throw two 600w setups in. The spread needs just a bit more in 5x5.


I'll be starting flower on my next batch in a day or three. Have to clean up tent and prepare. Decide on 3 plants or four again. They are at perfect to just a hair too tall right now, but still plenty trainable. If all goes well it will surpass the 22oz from above.

So now I'm basically just working on dialing in the defoliation grow in terms of size, light, etc. Once I can avg 10+ oz per plant I'll be pretty well dialed in. So long as I can do it in under 36" cubed per plant.
 

spring2012

New Member
Good advice Bassman! makes me feel more comfortable with defoil. also I feel better about growing regular plants. I just enjoy the speed of autos.
 

Bassman59

Member of the Month: Oct 2012
I've just dropped my bud into jars for curing. Big girl yield was 10.43oz. Not bad at all imho. And I know I can do better!

Here's some pics from my 4 plant harvest:

 

Bassman59

Member of the Month: Oct 2012
I don't know that there is a best jar. Just a good glass airtight canning or pickling jar is the norm.
 

spring2012

New Member
Thanks. I found the entire thread valuable. I did some defoliation to one of my auto girls and she has taken it well.
 

sqwheels

Plant of the Month Winner - June 2012
Hi Bass,

WOW!!! Great harvest. You should be proud.

Let us know when you start again.

Sq

+ reps if it'll let me

Edit: Forgot to mention I'm trying this technique with my newest Wonder Woman. We'll see what happens
 

donpaul.p

Member of the Month: Aug 2013
hi mate, i got a quick question for you, im growing some 2ltr dwc hempies and some 2ltr hempies not dwc, now i wont be lolly popping these as i think i lose some yield doing this, so i plan on letting them grow as it, but they only had 1 week of veg and now they are 12-12, would you still use this method if it was 12-12 from seed, im only asking as my big bud#2 has got huge leaves but is only 3 nodes high but all ready the top set of fen leaves are stopping any light getting to the lower parts of the stem where the new growth is, so would you say its worth doing on these, i have got 2 of this strain going so would you do it to both or just 1 to see how it goes,
 

Bassman59

Member of the Month: Oct 2012
Can you post a picture?

MrSmith is the best one I know of to ask on your type of grow. Hopefully he gets a chance to pop in here and post his experience.

In general, I would tend to say it's less effective with smaller plants as you describe. The leaves have some transparency. It's when their are stacked amounts that they really shade out a lot of light.

In any case I wouldn't touch them before stretch is over, or basically 21 days.
 

donpaul.p

Member of the Month: Aug 2013
ill take some pics tomorrow the lights off now, its only about 5 or 6 inches high but the leaves are so damn big, the top set and the set below are leaving the rest of the plant in the shadow, so all the new shoots at the nodes below are not getting much light, ive been tilting the pot slightly so it raises the one edge up and this has helped slightly, but its not the safest option as its a 2ltr pop bottle and the res is the same so its not very stable, i dont want to stunt growth but it seems growth is been stunted due to these huge fan leaves,

ill put some pics up tomorrow and you can tell me what you think, or what about cutting the leaves in half or just removing the very top set of leaves, i need to get light in to help the lower branches grow, ill give you a shout tomorrow when im on and you can come and have a look
 
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