How to support heavy buds (outdoors)?
Outside, weed plants can easily reach heights of eight feet with heavy tops on each branch - what a lovely sight. However, tall plants catch a lot of wind, commonly during late summers when autumn (or fall for our American readers) peeks its stormy head around the corner. So it's always wise to be prepared and learn how to properly support cannabis plants growing in your garden, after you have planted the cannabis seeds.
Proper support for your cannabis plant is like insurance. You never know when it will come in handy, but when things take a turn for the worse, you are glad you are insured. The professional cannabis industry in the United States is a good example. There, supporting heavy buds on the meter-high cannabis plants is a serious science, with every organic grower using their own methods. From huge self-built cages to nets to special walls.
You also cannot control the vegetative stage like you can indoors, where you can adjust the light cycle to induce the flowering stage. This means that your cannabis plant can keep growing and growing. Tall branches are more likely to break as well, especially without proper support.
And wouldn't it be a pity to lose even a single branch? Each branch represents a number of large buds that cannot be consumed anymore. That would a huge waste of your hard labor, wouldn't you agree?
Support cannabis plants rather than firmly fixing in place
Support is different from fixing. You want your weed plants to have a little space. A branch should be able to move a bit to strengthen the main stem. A thickening trunk means more water transport, vital to transport nutrition to your big buds.
You actually want to provide structural support to the branches in such a way that they cannot break off during a storm, but still have enough freedom of movement during the entire growing cycle to become stronger.
Three techniques to support heavy buds (outdoors)
There are three main methods of support for outdoor cannabis plants. Choose which one you apply and see this choice as an estimate of the risks, because you never know how it will go this year. Of course there are many possibilities, and we advise you to let your creativity run free.
1. Use bamboo canes
Bamboo canes are one of the oldest and simplest ways of offering support to your cannabis plants. You take a few large bamboo sticks and put them in the pot or soil. Preferably at least four on each side and a stick for the main trunk. Then you attach the branches of the plant to the sticks with garden twine or plant clips.
The advantage of these sticks is convenience. It doesn't have to be too difficult. The disadvantage is that the bamboo stakes can damage the root system when they are put in the pot after a few months. In addition, it is sometimes difficult to get the poles exactly in the right position so that each branch is optimally supported. It always involves a bit of a trial and error.
One disadvantage is the fact that bamboo canes work well for smaller autoflowers, but are more difficult with a plant above one and a half meters. You have to buy very long canes, which also have to be a lot in the ground.
You can also attach the bamboo stakes to the outside of the pot. Drill a few small holes in the top edge of the pot and secure the bamboo canes with cable ties. At the bottom, you use a strap or a large piece of old-fashioned duct tape to keep the sticks in place.
2. Assemble a screen
The idea of the screen comes from the world of ScrOG, an indoor growing technique that involves entwining the plant through a screen or trellis, keeping it low and not growing in length. Growing indoors, this method is not only great to support the larger buds, it is also great to stimulate cannabis plant growth with higher yields.
For the outdoor grower, such a trellis can also serve as a support, and a way to keep the plant lower and wider. This method is very suitable if you are growing cannabis in a backyard with a lower fence.
The method is not very difficult, but requires some skill. You mount a horizontal screen or rack at a certain height, for example, with bamboo poles or beams of wood. Make sure you the screen is securely fixed in the pot, you don't want the screen to fall and cause damage to your cannabis plants. Ideally, you have already topped the plant once or twice, then let the plant grow through the horizontal screen. This gives the plant extra strength.
If you want to shape the plant wider and lower, you can also bend its branches further out when you place the screen. The screen also gives you a nice dividing line to thieve all flowering shoots under the screen at the beginning of the flowering stage (lollipopping). This improves the airflow, the ease with which you water and the quality of your weed. In addition, buds also get more light, which benefits development and increase yields.
Tips on using ScrOG on your weed plants
You can place the screen in the growth phase of your young plants, but we recommend that you do this at the very beginning of flowering. This ensures that the screen can also support the stretching branches. But of course you can also place two horizontal screens, one after a month of growing cannabis and one in week 3 of flowering, when the stretch is over.
If a branch breaks off, make sure you have some painter's tape available. Then tape the two parts together well, with a splint if necessary. The advantage of painter's tape is that it rips if the trunk thickens itself. Duct tape is much stronger and does not have the same flexibility. You should also remove that after a while, otherwise the branch may get pinched. However, if your plant is in the rain, you should use duct tape anyway. Painter's tape comes off when wet.
You can also use the screen to ScrOG. You do that with the outdoor variety in pot. Please note that autoflowers are not suitable for ScrOG. They don't have that much time to recover from stringing and weaving through the screen.
If you use a screen, choose garden mesh or make your own screen from thicker wire. Chicken wire is not suitable. It is very thin and cuts into the branch. Garden mesh panels of the hardware store generally work well. They are sturdy, contain thick iron wire, a plastic coating and pleasant mesh openings. Just grab a pair of clippers, and you can easily cut the panel to size. You can even place multiple screens on top of each other. The possibilities are endless!
3. Make a plant cage (using tomato cages)
Making a plant cage is one of the most pleasant methods to work with, if done properly. The plant cage method is ideal for autoflowers as well as huge outdoor plants. These cages are also known as tomato cages, which you can either buy ready-made, or create one yourself.
How does it work?
You buy a roll of green garden mesh. Then you make a column that is the diameter of your pot. You literally make a cage in which your plant grows. Of course, you tighten the garden mesh so that it has nowhere to go. You can do that in the pot, but it is better to fix it outside the pot.
Drilling small holes in the rim of the pot also works well here, or you could secure the garden mesh with hose clamps, tension strap, t-raps or bolts/nuts. Anything goes as long as it is firmly attached! You will see that the branches of your plant grow through the cage and thereby gain support. A good cultivator also guides the branches, so that they make optimal use of the cage.
What have we learned?
If you want to grow bigger buds, you have to take proper care of your cannabis plants, making sure you provide support to prevent branches from breaking during high winds. You can use either bamboo canes, a Screen of Green (which also works in a grow tent, and is beneficial for growing more buds) or a (tomato) cage.
No matter which of these several ways you choose, just keep in mind you should always find the right balance between proper structural support, and making sure the crop itself manages to build enough plant strength by itself.
Now that you know what you need to do for supporting heavy buds outdoors, you might want some more tips on how to produce those heavy dense buds, just consult our Dense Nugs Guide. We also have selected five cannabis strains that are known for their big buds. Read all about them in our Top 5 Best Hard Dense Bud Strains.