Main-lining or manifolding weed – you may have heard it mentioned on forums, but what is it exactly? It’s basically a technique that allows you to have bigger, denser buds and an easier harvest and has taken the weed-growing world by storm. After all, what’s not to like? All you need is a little skill and the patience to invest the time at the early stages of the plants’ lives, and you too could be enjoying the benefits of main-lining. Read this article for all you need to know about mainlining weed.
A brief history of the manifold technique
Firstly, the term main-lining and manifolding are interchangeable. The technique was developed about eight years ago by a legendary cannabis grower known as “Nugbuckets”, who pioneered the approach while growing organic medical marijuana. You can find plenty of detailed information and pictures about his process on various websites, although you may have to scroll through thousands of posts to find information relevant to you. There are also helpful tutorials on YouTube, but this article aims to take the main points of the main-lining method to make it easy for you.
What is mainlining?
Mainlining refers to the process of splitting the branches from one stem as there are lots of different outlets. Think of the shape of the mature plant as a bit like the spokes on a bicycle wheel – one main stem and lots of different branches all at the same stage away from the root system.
Mainlining is done as follows: Let a plant grow until it has five or six nodes and top back until the bottom three remain. You remove the first node, at the very bottom. If you don’t need cuttings, cut the second one out immediately. That way, only the third, top node is left to grow out. Once it is long enough (five nodes), top these side branches back to the third node. You get rid of its bottom two nodes again and then pull it horizontally. That way, you get a base that resembles a Y. On it, symmetrically topped side branches grow in a Y-pattern. Each time you top, the buds double. If you would like to keep cuttings from it, you can. Then let the second and third node grow out. When the second is big enough, cut it off to root. Of course, you leave the top node.
This all sounds pretty complicated. Let’s break down the stages, step by step:
1. Let’s get started
You will need the following basic equipment:
- Good quality cannabis seeds – not autoflowers; It is a good idea to choose a strain that grows medium to tall as these plants have longer flowering stretches which are vital to make the most out of main-lining. A sterile razor or scalpel. Keep it sterilized to avoid the risk of infection;
- Garden wire or twine – this is available at your local garden center; Soft-coated wire ties are recommended as they are very strong and also gentler to stems.
- A plant cage – also available at a garden center or nursery, or you could make one yourself out of wire;
- Plant yoyos – these little gadgets are invaluable for providing support during the later stages when you have lots of heavy colas. Hang the yoyos from the top of your grow tent to offer support to the colas, thus preventing any damage to the buds.
The first stage is to germinate your cannabis seeds. You need to let each plant grow until it has five nodes. But what is a node exactly? A node is an intersection between a plant’s stem and branches. Nodes are significant for cannabis cultivation as new foliage, and budding sites emerge from these junctions.
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2. Start to construct the manifold
Look at your plant’s third node and top it above with a straight cut using the razor.
Defoliation is the next step – you will need to remove all leaves and foliage above and beneath the third node. Leave the leaves and stem that emerge from the third node alone. Mercilessly prune all the plant material under the third knot to leave only a bare stem. This allows air to circulate under the dense canopy when it forms afterwards.
Also, leave a stump by making the cut just above the fourth node. This looks a bit unattractive, but it is essential to prevent the stem from splitting.
Looking at your plant now, you will see that you have a primary stem and two branches with enough foliage to continue to produce energy for the continued development of your plant. All this cutting and leaf stripping may look alarmingly drastic, but your plant will quickly recover. Carefully bend the two branches at opposite angles until they are at a ninety-degree angle from the main stem and tie into place. You could clip them to the side of the container at this stage. If they are not long enough, leave them to grow for a few more days.
3. Make some more mains
Now you will need to create the branches that will form the eight main stems. Eight stems of buds should be enough to keep you happy, and they will grow into plants that are efficient in energy and space use. There is no wastage with this method.
Allow the two new main stems to grow until they each have four nodes. Trim any growth on each side of the second node. This ensures that the emerging branches grow on the same side of the branch, so they are even easier to manage.
Top each remaining branch at the third node once again. You will now have the eight primary branches. Continue to train each branch horizontally and evenly spaced, until they also thrive.
4. Repeat step three until you have enough mains.
Indoor growers are usually satisfied with eight mains, while outdoor growers like to have 16 to 32 mains. You can combine main-lining with Scrog, in which case you should aim to have 32 to 64 mains.
Manifolding is an effective way of increasing yield, but don’t get carried away, or you could need up with smaller buds.
5. Put the plant cage in place
Once you are happy with the mains, give your plant time to recover and then put the ring in place and tie each main to the ring. This encourages the desired uniformity and allows plenty of air to circulate under the branches.
As the plant develops, you can remove the initial tie downs as the stems become woody and stronger.
That’s pretty much it. Continue to feed your plant according to the requirements of the strain and look forward to the harvest. Switch to the flowering phase once your plant has reached half of your preferred height. You do this by implementing a lighting schedule of twelve hours of light and twelve hours of darkness. Just before you switch to flowering, trim any broad fan leaves.
How does main-lining work?
Main-lining is a useful technique for several reasons. Firstly, the canopy layer is very uniform, which reduces the risk of mold and rot. A good distribution of air around buds of the same size means that there aren’t so many shady nooks and crannies where dangerous pathogens can lurk. Continuous airflow over the compost fights bacteria and pest infestations while helping humidity control.
Done properly, main-lining means that each cola shares the same nutrient pathways as all the other colas. This enables your plant to develop just a small quantity of highly efficient routes, as opposed to wasting energy by making uneven pathways to numerous nodes on the primary trunk.
As the principle of main-lining is to ensure that all the main tips are of the same height, it is possible to control the hormonal balance and avoid apical dominance artificially. As a consequence, each cola has access to precisely the same amount of nutrients, water, and light leading to even growth and greater yields.
The advantages of main-lining
Main-lining allows you to make the most of your available space and to enjoy bigger yields. Once the manifold is formed, the technique is low-maintenance compared to other methods, so there is less work for you and less chance of injury to the plants is rough handling. Harvest is also easier as all the buds will have the same size and moisture density.
The disadvantages of main-lining
There aren’t many negative aspects of main-lining cannabis, but it is worth considering them, nonetheless. The main disadvantage is that this technique is not suitable for autoflowers, and these are becoming increasingly popular for many reasons, such as their short time to harvest and their straightforward nature.
The overall growth of cannabis plants using the main-lining method might be slightly longer – by about ten days to a fortnight.
You might also need to invest in a different lighting system as lights with a low wattage won’t be sufficient to reach the long buds produced in a manifold system. You will require a lamp of at least 150 watts or the LED equivalent. It is also advisable to ensure that there is at least 75 cm from the lights to the tips of the plants to prevent damage. Make sure you have enough space before you begin.
Main-lining cannabis is a technique that involves relatively little skill and leads to potentially great rewards. It is rewarding and, once you have a little practice, an enjoyable method, so it is no surprise that it has become so popular in such a short space of time. Use in combination with Screen of Green if you have enough space. We recommend using leggy Sativa-dominant varieties which already tend towards single cola dominance, such as Super Silver Haze, Strawberry Cough or Sour Diesel.