[Editor’s Note: Here’s another somewhat complex technique for growing to harvest the best and biggest buds. Yesterday we published a pruning technique called schwazzing. Today’s technique is called scrogging.]
Even if you haven’t grown cannabis, you’ve likely seen pictures of cannabis crops, both indoor and outdoor, with bug buds growing up through a nylon screen. This screen is called a scrog, short for “screen of green.”
Scrogging will improve the quality of your cannabis plants and increase yields. There’s an art to putting a set of plants together and stretching out their limbs so they don’t grow on top of each other or shade each other out, but we’ll demystify the process.
Keep in mind that each plant is different and there’s no specific measurement for how close or far apart each plant or branch should be. Scrogging involves reading a plant to see what it needs and usually involves some fine-tuning. But with a little time and patience, your plants will be healthy and lush.
Why Scrog Your Cannabis?
Put on during the flowering stage or right before it, a scrog has a few main functions:
- It stretches out branches to expose more nodes to direct light, thereby increasing your yield.
- Stretching branches out increases the airflow through a plant, helping to prevent bud rot.
- A scrog adds support to branches so they won’t flop over or break as buds get bigger.
All of the branches above the screen will fill out with thick buds and most of the foliage below the screen will get shaded out. You want to prune these bottom branches and dead leaves because they either won’t produce buds or will produce subpar buds. You’ll get the most out of your plant if you can redirect resources from those branches to the quality buds above the screen.
To start, pick a set of plants, ideally of the same height and size. It’s hard to scrog plants of different sizes because the screen needs to be level across the whole canopy in order for light to distribute evenly.
Nylon screens come in different mesh sizes, usually 4-6” square. For a smaller grow, try a 4” mesh.
When Your Plants Don’t Have to Move
Scrogging is easier when your plants stay in one spot throughout their entire life, from vegetative stage to flowering, but depending on your setup, you might have to move them.
In this situation, you can just set the screen (more below) after you’ve done all of your topping and let the plants grow into it. You’ll have to touch up the screen a few times over the coming weeks to make sure branches are spaced out evenly and not too crowded.
When Plants Have to Move Into a Flowering Space
Make sure your plants are in their final place because you won’t be able to move them once under the screen. Plants also need to be transplanted to the appropriate size of pot.
A scrog over an outdoor cannabis crop. (SEASTOCK/iStock)
Plant Placement and Spacing
Plants need to be placed so they aren’t crowded, but not so far away that there are big gaps in the canopy. You do want some space in between plant branches when they are pulled up through the scrog—plants will still grow and fill in a little bit because they have at least eight weeks to go through the flowering cycle.
As a guideline, for a 4’ x 8’ tray, try putting in 18 or 21 plants in 5-gallon pots. That would give you three rows of either six or seven plants and should give you a sense of how many plants will fit together. You can adjust accordingly, based on tray and pot size.
Once all plants are in place, it can help to fold the branches back a little bit to get them ready for the screen. Be careful during this step! It’s easy to snap branches.
Fold branches out and away from the main stem, like a flower opening up or peeling a banana. Also keep in mind that some strains are sturdier than others and can withstand more bending.
Stretching the Screen
You’ll need at least four points of contact to put the screen on. Most growers will use a vertical extension that can withstand some force, like a two-by-four or a T-post, at each edge of the canopy.
There are two ways to put on a screen:
- Place each corner of the screen on one post at a time, stretching the screen as you go.
- Put the screen on all four contact points somewhat loosely and tighten it down later.
After the screen is on, shimmy it down until it’s on top of the plants. Ideally, you want the screen about 6-9” above the lowest branching of the plants—this is the first topping you gave the plant and the first point at which the plant starts branching, after the stem comes out of the soil.
Once the screen is set in place, make sure it’s tight, especially the edges. The tighter it is, the more it will be able to hold shape and hold the weight of developing buds. Zip ties come in handy here.
You can grab a part of the screen and pull it back and zip tie it to a post to tighten it up. Each point should be tighten about the same amount, so that the screen doesn’t come out lopsided. Be careful not to pull the screen too tight, as it might snap.
At the end of the day, the branches in the screen should interlock with the branches of all the other plants around it. Think of spreading out your hands and putting the fingers of one hand in between the fingers of your other hand.
An important question to ask before putting branches into the scrog is: Where does the branch want to go? If a branch doesn’t want to stay where you put it, you might need to place it somewhere else. Don’t force it.
Try to fill each square mesh of the screen with a single branch—avoid putting two branches in one square and try not to leave a square empty. This will ensure that each branch gets enough space and light and that the screen is utilized to its maximum potential. You may not be able to do these depending on how much plant material you have, but they are good guidelines to follow.
Stretch a branch out as far as it can go, pull it up through the screen, and rest it on the screen. If it falls through, pull it back one mesh closer to the main stem of the plant.
A good place to start on the scrog is a corner, at one of the posts. Work your way down one of the edges to the next post, and then do another edge until all edges are filled in, then work on the middle.
Work methodically, putting the branches of one plant into the screen before moving on to the next plant.
If you’re having trouble with a certain branch, one trick is to rotate the entire plant—by grabbing the pot and turning it—so that the branch in question is now facing where you want it to go.
After you’re done, it’s a good idea to look below the screen to make sure you didn’t miss any branches. If so, just pop them back in the screen.
Scrogging can stress a plant out, stretching all of its branches around. You’ll probably notice that your plants look a little wilty, or like they “took a hit” after doing it. But fear not—under some direct light, they’ll bounce back, and putting them through the scrog will be worth it in the long run.
It’s a good idea to water your plants within 24 hours of scrogging them, just to give them a little boost to pass the stress of the procedure.
It’s also a good idea to check the scrog 2-3 days later to touch it up. The plants will have grown into the screen a little bit in those couple of days, and you’ll have a better sense of where each branch wants to go and where all the buds will develop.
Above the screen, a beautiful canopy of buds will develop and fill in. But because the canopy becomes thick with buds, anything underneath the screen will get shaded out and most likely die. It’s important to clean up dead leaves and prune small branches that don’t receive light under the screen.
These branches may start developing buds, but they won’t be worth your time and effort. It’s better to get rid of them and have the plant redirect resources to the buds above the screen, making those better and more vibrant.
Original Post: Leafly: How to Scrog Your Cannabis to Maximize Yields
[Editor’s Note: This is a great how-to guide. One grower’s OG Kush is different from another grower’s OG Kush. Is it the grower? Are they the same strain?]
Ever wonder why the same strain of cannabis can be slightly different, depending on which store you get it at? A gram of OG Kush from one grower who sells to a particular dispensary will be slightly different from another grower’s OG Kush at the dispensary across town. Although they are the same strain, these are different phenotypes (or “phenos”)—different expressions of the same genetic material.
If two cats—one an orange tabby and the other a black and white calico—have a litter of kittens, some of the kittens will be orange tabbies and some black and white calicos. Some may even be black and white tabbies. So too, do different cannabis phenotypes have different traits from one or both of their parent strains.
When a grower decides to produce a particular strain, they typically get a packet of seeds from a breeder, each one a different phenotype of that strain. After growing each seed, the grower will pick the best one because of its characteristics, picking for yield, bud density, smell, flavor, potency, color, and many more attributes, and discard the others.
This narrowing process usually takes a few generations of selection, and months, sometimes years, but in the end, the best pick will be mass produced for sale, and that’s the cannabis you buy off the shelf at the dispensary.
The Importance of Labeling
An example of the phenotype selection process. Growers typically mark and number each phenotype for tracking purposes. In this case, a grower is selecting OG Kush (OGK) phenotypes. Click to enlarge. (Elysse Feigenblatt/Leafly)
Selecting phenos is a meticulous process. Organization and keeping track of things through the long growing process is imperative. You’ll be taking clones of each phenotype and keeping some while discarding others, so it’s important to label clones according to their originals phenos and to not mix up any.
To start, plant all of your seeds and label each one with a separate tag. So if you’re growing 10 phenos of OG Kush, you would assign them “OGK 1,” “OGK 2,” etc., up to “OGK 10.” The order of the numbering doesn’t matter, but make sure that a number always stays with the pheno you assign it to.
Grow out each seed until they are 6-12” tall, or big enough to clone. This will probably take about 3-6 weeks. Take a clone of each phenotype and number each clone to its corresponding original: the clone of “OGK 1” would also be named “OGK 1” and so on.If you’re starting out with ten seeds, you should now have 20 plants: 10 seedlings and 10 clones.
Clone, Flower, Discard
After you have taken clones, grow them separately in a vegetative state. When the original phenos are big enough, after at least 2 months in the vegetative state, put them on a flowering light cycle (12 hours of dark, 12 of light).
After about 8-10 weeks of flowering, these original phenos will be ready to harvest for buds. Some phenotypes might finish sooner than others and each will probably be slightly different. Now you will discard some of the phenos based on their poor quality and keep the ones that have good qualities.
A lot of seeds come pre-feminized, but if you are starting out with male and female seeds, you will need to determine the sex of the plants first and discard all of the males, because only females produce buds. Reproductive organs appear a couple weeks into the flowering cycle, and if you have any males, discard them and their corresponding clones and keep flowering the females.
When harvesting each phenotype, take meticulous notes of each pheno’s bud structure, yield, smell, density, and overall appearance. Some phenos can be discarded right away, as it will be easy to tell that they won’t produce quality buds. Whenever you discard a pheno, discard its corresponding clone that’s in the vegetative state.
You can still use the harvested buds from discarded phenos. This product may not be as desirable because it’s from the phenos that didn’t make the cut, but a lot of growers will sell this for pre-rolls or extracts, just usually not quality flower.
Repeat the Process
The process is repeated. If you started with 10 phenos and discarded six after the first round of flowering, you’ll be left with four. Take a set of clones off of these four—a second generation of clones, or clones from clones. Keep this new second generation in the vegetative phase separately, and flip the first generation of clones into flower.
This first generation should be big enough to flip into flower now because they were growing vegetatively while the original phenos were flowering. But you can always grow these out more vegetatively if you want bigger plants.
After flowering these four remaining phenos, harvest them and take more notes. Discard the ones with poor qualities and their corresponding clones and keep the ones with good qualities.
Continue this process until you’re down to one pheno. That is your winner!
You don’t want to discard a pheno with possible good qualities, but keep in mind that the less you discard, the more rounds of cloning, flowering, and discarding you’ll have to do.
Often, commercial growers will go through at least three rounds of generations of this selection process to get the final pheno, sometimes even more.
You can see how this is a time-consuming process. Three generations of flowering phenotypes, if each round takes about 8-10 weeks, is 24-30 weeks alone. Add on top of that another month or so for the seeds to germinate and get to an initial size in which to clone off of at the beginning of the process, plus time to harvest, dry, and cure buds at the end.
So before that OG Kush from your favorite grower hits the shelves for the first time, they have been growing and narrowing it down for 7-9 months at least, to get you the best version of that OG Kush. That phenotype is now their “cut” of that strain.
Original Post: Leafly: Selecting a Cannabis Phenotype: How to Get the Best Version of Your Strain
[Ed. Note: Growing cannabis is just the beginning. Then it has to be dried and properly cured for the best quality weed. Read on to learn how cutting edge growers are experimenting with their curing process.]
After watching your cannabis plants grow for months and months, it’s harvest time. You trim your crop, dry the buds, and finally, you’re ready to smoke the fruits of your labors.
Not so fast. Now you have to let the buds cure.
Curing is an integral part of the growing process, yet often overlooked. Some may not pay as close attention to this step because they’re eager to start smoking or start selling. But curing is essential to bringing out the aromas and flavors in your cannabis, and the process accentuates your strain’s terpene profile.
Plenty of superstitions and old wives’ tales abound on how to properly cure cannabis. But there are some basic, tried-and-true methods that will get your cannabis smelling and tasting great.
Legalization has helped pave the way for innovation and new methodologies, allowing entrepreneurs to rethink the entire cannabis growing process, including curing.
Here we look at three companies who are changing the game in the final, sometimes mysterious, step in the growing process.
Gold Leaf’s Long-Cure Process
Gold Leaf Gardens, out of Lacey, Washington, is experimenting with curing cannabis for long periods of time, trying to answer the question: Why can’t cannabis be aged like scotch or wine?
“Curing is more of an art than a science. Flavors and tastes are highly subjective,” says Gold Leaf Owner and Founder Nate Gibbs. “A lot of it has to do with the market, and there are two camps of smokers: people who like fresh-dried cannabis and those who like long-cured. There’s a bias toward fresh, recently harvested product.”
Gold Leaf set aside 5% of every harvest, experimenting with how different strains taste and smell when cured for 6-12 months or even more. It tracks moisture content, how often a batch gets burped, taste, and smell, month after month, trying to find the point of diminishing return when curing ceases to help the product.
And of course every strain is different and ages differently. “Bright, citrusy notes might age worse, while earthy, spicier stuff ages better,” says Gibbs.
As a small-scale producer, 5% of every harvest can be a substantial amount of product, but they are committed to this experimentation process and believe that it’s worth the effort. They grow and produce the product that they want to smoke.
Even though the market may currently be skewed toward freshly harvested product, long-curing may appeal to high-end consumers, who are willing to pay top dollar for quality. High-end Cannagars, from sister company Leira, may be the key: “There’s no drop-off in aging. They only seem to get smoother and smoother,” says Gibbs.
Yofumo’s Terpene Amplification Processes and Enfleurage
Denver, Colorado-based company Yofumo—Spanish for “I smoke”—uses science and data to unlock the secrets of the curing process.
“When we started, curing was in the Stone Age. People were still using buckets and hangers,” says Yofumo CEO Alfonso Campalans. “It was a dark art or thought of as a dark art, but the science and technology are standard. Curing has to do with consistency, repeatability, and pulling data. We love data, we don’t put anything out that we can’t back up with data.”
Yofumo sells curing units for mid- and large-scale cannabis producers, which shrink down the curing process from months to just 5-7 days. Their Pro+ Cure units approach curing from three distinct perspectives:
- Plant on self. The most traditional approach, this practice focuses on the development and expression of a strain’s native terpene profile, taking it to the maximum level of potential genetic expression.
- Plant on plant. This perspective allows a grower to amplify or accentuate specific aspects of the native terpene profile of a given strain.
- Natural botanicals. Also called Enfleurage, this allows growers the ability to completely manipulate the aroma and flavor profiles of their strains with naturally derived, non-cannabis terpenes.
(Courtesy of Yofumo)
“Knowing how to manipulate the environment is paramount to the process,” says VP of Client Applications and Deployment Joe Edwards. “Moving water through the plant is the key. Environmental manipulation is just as important in the post-harvest process as manipulation is in the growing process. Curing is about water and resin—as you move water through the plant, it becomes a transfer vehicle and pushes the resin through the plant to the trichomes.”
The natural botanicals process in particular is intriguing, as you can add any flavor you want to a batch of cannabis, similar to adding bergamot to black tea to get Earl Grey. This enfleurage process has been around for centuries and has been used by the perfume industry to pull flavors out of specific plants and flowers to put into perfumes, but Yofumo’s technique is a lot more high-tech.
“Specially designed rods are saturated in a terpene profile, which in turn fuel the saturation of the atmosphere inside the unit, allowing the plant to uptake and bind the new terpene profile,” says Edwards. “These units extend the plant life cycle by manipulating environmental conditions, and thusly the flower present in that environment, allowing the plant to absorb and bind the additional terpene compounds.”
For some, the natural flavor of cannabis can be a turnoff. Much like how different flavors can be added to e-cigs and vapes, this process could allow for a multitude of different flavors to be added to a multitude of different strains, with endless combinations and permutations of flavors and terpene profiles.
“It’s the greatest puzzle I’ve ever been able to play with, seeing the development of terpene profiles and to bring out those flavors,” says Edwards.
Harvest Right’s Freeze-Dry Process
Freeze-drying cannabis has been around for a while and it’s becoming increasingly popular for small- and large-scale growers. Salt Lake City’s Harvest Right has freeze-drying units that shorten the curing process to just 24-36 hours, and are affordable and aimed at both small- and large-scale growers, and even homegrowers.
Starting off primarily in the food industry, cannabis growers and producers started coming to Harvest Right, telling wonders of their units for curing cannabis. That’s when the company developed its Pharmaceutical units line.
Talking with Project and Sales Manager Nathan Cheney, their units preserve buds and terpene profiles better than standard curing because they don’t use heat. Because of the quick cycle of the units and because the curing happens in a controlled environment, there’s a reduced risk of mold or mildew.
Growers and processors working with concentrates like hash and shatter find the units to be extremely useful. Rosin press company Pure Pressure is a reseller of theirs and has even won awards using Harvest Right’s freeze-drying machines.
Their units cure buds in three phases:
- Deep-freeze. This brings cannabis buds down to negative 40°F or below. The colder you can get your product, the fresher.
- Sublimation. This process turns solid ice straight to water vapor, skipping the liquid phase. A vacuum pump then kicks in, sucking out the water vapor.
- Final dry. Which brings the temperature back up to room temp (70-80°F), taking the last bit of water content out of the buds.
Growers can control the last step of the process, if they want to control the amount of moisture left in the bud for flavor or preservation.
The units are able to dry 10-to-20-pound batches at a time, making units available for everyone, from the homegrower to large-scale producers. These small batches allow even large-scale growers the ability to control small batches of product to keep an eye on quality, and also allow them to stagger their personnel so that they don’t have to cure hundreds of pounds at a time.
Original Post: Leafly: The New Methods & Technologies of Curing Cannabis