Guides and How-To's

The Ultimate Vertical Growing Guide

September 28, 2017
The Ultimate Vertical Growing Guide
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The world of indoor cannabis growing has come a long way from the single spindly plant in your dorm room closet. These days marijuana growers are getting creative; developing new and innovative techniques for increasing yield. Experienced growers are exploring a popular new method called vertical growing.

To maximize harvest with limited space, producers turned to vertical farming. On top of the increase in canopy development, vertical growing is also much more energy efficient than traditional setups. Less energy means less money spent on the monthly electrical bill. Especially for those who grow a substantial crop, reducing the monthly power bill can significantly increase the overall profitability of the harvest.

Depending on who is farming and where they are farming, there are a number of different methods to incorporate into a vertical approach. Some of these methods include hydroponics, the screen-of-green (SCROG) approach or adhering to certain crop rotation techniques.

With a little work and little experimentation, combining almost any method with vertical farming will prove to be extremely beneficial to final harvest.

A Comparison of Different Approaches

One of the easiest ways to grasp the concept behind vertical growing is to understand it compared to other concepts. Here we break down the three most popular methods of growing cannabis to better explain what going vertical means.

To build an accurate comparison between the different methods, we’ll use one example throughout. The baseline model is growing within an 8 ft x 8 ft x 8 ft room.

 

Horizontal Growing

Also known as flat growing, horizontal gardens are just what you’d expect. The primary light source is hung from the ceiling, either shaded or not, and the plants are laid out on the floor below. While this is the most common setup, especially with newcomers, it is the most inefficient concerning light and energy expenditure.

In our 8 ft x 8 ft x 8ft room, a grower can expect to have only 64 ft of potential capacity. On top of this, the setup has many inefficiencies. For example, if you imagine what an unshaded light source sends to the plants, it isn’t much.

Roughly 75 percent of the available light travels away from the plants. On top of this, because there is theoretically a dense horizontal canopy, much of the plant doesn’t see the light at all. The light will only penetrate a few inches into the foliage, and much of the plant will not reach its full potential.

Stadium Growing

Many growers turned towards stadium gardening to increase yield. By staging plants on a set of angled stairs around a light source, much more light can reach the plants and stimulate bud growth. The final setup looks like two sets of soccer bleachers, facing one another, with a standard light source in the center.

In our baseline example, the stadium set up instantly increases capacity by 40 percent. This works out to be roughly 90 ft instead of only 64 ft of grow space. Also, more of the plants receive more of the light. Less energy travels away from the plants.

Vertical Growing

By far the most beneficial setup to maximize canopy is to switch to vertical farming. In this environment, plants are set up in a vertical cylinder around a vertical light. The light typically hangs from the ceiling or is attached to a stand on the floor. The initial setup requires a bit more work, but the results will prove themselves over and over again.

Coming back once more to our example, in the same 8 ft x 8 ft x 8 ft space, we will now have over 150 ft of usable space. If you are doing the math, that works out to 135 percent more than flat growing. A vast increase in harvest within the same basic room.

What Strains Work With Vertical Gardening?

Theoretically, any strain of marijuana will benefit from a little vertical stacking. However, experienced growers usually agree that some varieties work better than others. In this case, try to stick to Sativa strains with a higher stretch ratio. The stretch is the natural tendency of the plant to sprout in a vertical direction during early flower stage. 

The reason why many suggest looking for strains with a higher tendency to stretch is that vertical growers also tend to use particular trimming techniques to thicken the canopy. By having a stretcher plant, you can better direct its growth.

What Other Techniques Improve Harvest with Vertical Farming?

Why stop with just vertical farming, when there are many other methods complement the process? Vertical growing, unlike other basic methods, requires a little bit of research before starting up.

Your crop will also benefit when you take the time to dive deep into the vertical farming forum discussions. There is much to learn from expert growers by going deep into their techniques and experiences. We’ve gathered a few ideas to help get you started.

Screen Set Ups

Farmers have been adapting the SCROG technique to vertical growing for years. In essence, it allows you to train the stretch of your plants along a screen to open up more bud sites along the way. By training your plants to flush out in a specially designed cylinder, you encourage significantly more bud development. They will receive the maximum amount of benefit from the light source, without having to rotate the crop.

Crop Rotation

If you have decided to forgo the SCROG setup for the time being, it is essential to rotate your plants.  Only part of the plant is facing the light source at any given time. It will, therefore, need to be regularly spun to ensure all areas receive equal light. If you neglect to rotate the plants, they will start to grow inward towards the light source. This can start to mess up even the most carefully managed systems.

Trimming Techniques

As with any grow operation, a little careful trimming can go a long way regarding final harvest. There are unlimited thoughts on what types of trimming working for which strains, and under what grow conditions. No matter what path you choose, vertical growing will require at least some precise trimming. By removing the unproductive parts of the plant, you ensure the plant is focusing all its energy on creating big beautiful buds.

 


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