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Topping weed plants: a guide for beginners
Topping is a tried-and-tested growing technique to get more weed tops on one cannabis plant. Pruning back a branch or main trunk allows you to double the number of growing tops and the plant grows more in width than in height. The difficulty is knowing where and when to top a weed plant as these have major influences on the result.
Topping is believed to be thousands of years old and is used with all kinds of plants, such as box – the tree that is commonly grown as nice thick hedges in gardens. To allow such a hedge to grow closer together, it is pruned once or twice a year. For every branch that is cut off, at least two new ones are substituted. The box becomes larger and denser and forms a dense hedge that you cannot see through.
Although topping weed plants has a completely different purpose, exactly the same thing happens. Every time you cut a branch or main stem, the side shoots underneath have the chance to take over. One branch turns into two branches and two branches similarly grow into two buds, doubling the potential harvest. Instead of all energy going to one branch or top, the juices and the vigour are distributed evenly over the side shoots. Your marijuana plant becomes wider instead of taller.
Why topping is an essential part of cannabis cultivation
The topping of a weed plant is ultimately done for two purposes. Firstly, two tops yield more harvest than one. Although the two new buds will be smaller than the original ones could have become, their total weight is higher. Topping gives the plant a better shape in terms of light distribution and higher harvest weight. Increasing yield is the main reason why growers top their weed plants.
Limiting height and more width development is the second important reason to top a weed plant. You can imagine that two branches will also grow less quickly than one. By topping a weed plant, the growth is spread over several tops. As a result, the weed plant develops more in width and less quickly in height. This is very useful when growing weed indoors, in a grow tent or cupboard with a limited height.
When should you start topping?
It’s not a simple as just taking a pair of secateurs to your plants, there must be enough side branches to form new buds. If you were to top a seedling before 3 to 4 sets of side shoots (nodes) grow well, you would do more harm than good. Young plants need too much recovery time, and that is not profitable.
Instead, you should wait at least until a weed plant is large and healthy enough and has a well-developed root system. Then the budding no longer has much influence on growth and it hardly needs any recovery time. There are roughly two ways to top, but remember that a weed plant must always have at least 3 nodes before you start.
What should you take away?
How much you remove at the top, or how far you prune back a weed plant, depends on the purpose of the topping. If the goal is simply to create two peaks where one first grew, then it is best to remove as little as possible from the top growing point. Wait until the plant has about four nodes, and carefully cut out only the top growing point. This results in a rapid recovery and doubles the number of growth points.
Many growers, however, prune their plants back a few nodes to create a firm basis for their plants and to prune the height considerably. That can make sense if, for example, you have little height in your grow room, but still want to have a large thick trunk and root system before you start flowering. Sometimes it is also applied to mainlining, a variation on scrogging.
However, when you do this, you must bear in mind that the more you remove, the greater the attack on your plant’s health and recovery time. If you want to use such a stressful procedure, your plants must be large enough for that. Wait until your plant has at least 6 nodes to ensure that the root system is well developed.
The plant hormone auxin is responsible for vertical growth in plants. When a top is planted, the entire growing top (the “apical meristem”) is removed, which means that the plant temporarily ceases to produce auxin. The lack of auxin causes the plant to grow without direction, as a result of which plants often become a lot fuller and not much higher
When is the best time to top?
The best time to top or to bind/train your plants in radical ways is during the vegetative phase. The reason for this is that the plant has to recover from these processes: if too much stress is caused for a plant during flowering, it can be at the expense of the harvest and can even cause a plant to become hermaphrodite. The best time to top your plant and how often you want to do this depends on how large and how full you want your plants to be. If you assume that it will take 7-10 days for new shoots to start and grow, it is advisable to take approximately two weeks of recovery time for each time you top a plant. It is also very important to properly guide your plant during this process since the rest of the plant continues to grow and there is a lot of new growth in the areas where topping has taken place.
Double your weed buds
When growing weed, your success often depends on the number of buds you have, so the tops of your weed plant can have a huge effect on your culture. This not only increases the yield but also ensures that instead of one large central cola with many branches, different “head tops” without branches arise. Below is an example of how often you can top a plant to get a certain number of head tops in your plant. When following this guide, you must, of course, bear in mind that the plant needs time to recover and that it is important to steer the growth that does continue.
- The first topping of buds forms 2 new stems
- The second topping forms 4 new stems
- The third topping forms 8 new stems
- The fourth topping forms 16 new stems
Longer growth phase after buds
If you follow this guideline for tops of weed plants, a much longer growth phase must be taken into account. The best way to grow a grower depends on the growing space to ensure that the plant is distributed as well as possible over this space and therefore has an optimal yield. When growing a plant that has been topped several times, it is recommended to keep the plant in the growing phase for longer. The plant’s hormonal system is disrupted for a while every time you top, making it a good idea to have the plates repaired as much as possible before the flowering phase is started. Very large plants are often kept in the growing phase for up to 70 days before they switch to flowering, during this growing period many new stems are created that can be tied up.
The more of the plant you cut away, the longer it will need to recover. Certain chemicals can help the plant recover its strength faster and vastly reduce the chances of turning into a hermaphrodite plant. These can be purchased in your local garden centre or nursery.
Topping with a Scrog
Growing cannabis in a “screen of green” setup is an important reason for many growers to grow and can provide a huge yield of one plant. If a grower keeps topping over and over again, this may cause the number of leaves to be too heavy for the plant itself, which may make it necessary to support the plant. When using a screen or a net it is easy to tie all new stems with the same spaces between them. The use of scrog in combination with buds ensures that the lighting is used optimally and that you can get a huge yield from one plant.
Topping goes hand in hand with the SoG and ScroG techniques and having an understanding of both methods can enormously improve your yields. Follow our advice and you can look forward to wide bushy plants with a fine crop.