There are a variety of cannabis cultivation techniques to choose from to suit every growing style. Explore some of the best and how they work.

Cannabis Cultivation Techniques

At SunMed, we aim for perfection with every plant and bud, and as the cannabis industry continues to flourish, new techniques are being developed every day. To produce the highest quality buds and maintain efficiency in a high-demand industry, it’s important to understand all the available growing techniques.

In this guide, we’ll shed light on six of the best tricks and techniques to ensure premium yields and consistent quality. From time-tested indoor approaches, to the sustainable benefits of using greenhouses, let's dive into the world of optimal cannabis growth.

6 Best Cannabis Cultivation Techniques

Low Stress Training (LST) vs. High Stress Training (HST)

  1. Sea of Green (SOG) Technique

  2. Screen of Green (SCROG) Method

  3. Super Cropping

  4. Greenhouses

  5. Topping and Fimming

  6. Deep Water Culture (DWC) Hydroponics

FAQs about Cannabis Cultivation Techniques

Gary Payton by Cookies x SunMed Growers

Low Stress Training (LST) vs. High Stress Training (HST)

Low Stress Training (LST) and High Stress Training (HST) are two ways of characterizing the different cultivation techniques we’re considering here in this blog. LST is gentler, focusing on shaping the plant without causing significant stress, whereas HST is more invasive but can yield dramatic results when done correctly. Choosing between the two often comes down to the grower's experience level, the desired outcome, and your comfort with the potential risks involved.

Low Stress Training (LST):

  • Nature: As the name suggests, LST involves techniques that are less traumatic for the plant.

  • Methods: Common LST methods include gently bending the stems and securing them in place, often with ties, to expose more bud sites to light and encourage horizontal growth.

  • Recovery: Since the plant undergoes minimal stress, recovery time is usually brief, and there’s less risk of stunting growth.

  • Purpose: LST primarily aims to optimize light exposure and create an even canopy, which can lead to bigger yields.

High Stress Training (HST):

  • Nature: HST techniques are more aggressive, causing notable stress to the plant.

  • Methods: Practices like topping (removing the top of the main stem) and super cropping (deliberately injuring the stem to encourage thicker growth) are examples of HST.

  • Recovery: The inflicted stress means plants require a more extended recovery time. If done incorrectly, HST can significantly stress or even harm the plant.

  • Purpose: HST is designed to reshape the plant dramatically, encourage multiple main colas, and boost its overall resilience.

The Sea of Green, commonly abbreviated as SOG, is one of the most widely adopted cannabis cultivation techniques, especially for growers working with limited space. The primary goal behind SOG is to maximize the yield per square foot by growing many small cannabis plants rather than fewer larger ones. Here are its key features:

  1. Density: The SOG technique involves planting cannabis densely, typically with one plant every square foot. This encourages each plant to grow vertically rather than branching out, creating what looks like a “sea” of cannabis tops.

  2. Speed: One of the significant benefits of SOG is the reduced time to harvest. Since the goal is to get plants to the flowering stage as quickly as possible, growers can often achieve multiple harvests in a year. This doesn’t necessarily mean more cannabis harvested overall, but does increase flexibility with what strains you grow and for how long.

  3. Uniformity: By keeping plants in the vegetative stage for a minimal amount of time, the majority of energy is channeled towards creating a single, large bud. This results in a uniform canopy where all plants receive consistent light, ensuring even growth.

  4. Efficiency: While SOG does mean more plants, the technique is efficient for indoor growers. With each plant being smaller, there’s less risk of issues like mold, and pests can be easier to manage.

  5. Light Utilization: The dense canopy created in the SOG technique ensures that available light is used most effectively. With more buds at the top level, there's more efficient light absorption, leading to better yields.

However, the SOG technique isn’t without its challenges. With the plants so close together, it’s more important to monitor them vigilantly to avoid diseases or pests. Plus, it requires a grower to manage a higher number of plants, which may not be feasible for everyone due to local cultivation limits.

The Screen of Green, or SCROG, method is another celebrated cultivation technique, but it contrasts with the SOG method in various ways. SCROG primarily focuses on optimizing light distribution through strategic plant training. Some of its major attributes include:

  1. Horizontal Netting: The cornerstone of SCROG is the use of horizontal screens or netting. As plants grow, they're gently woven or tied into the screen, so that the branches are sitting just above the screen. This process trains the plants to grow horizontally, ensuring a flat, even canopy.

  2. Maximized Light Exposure: By creating a flat canopy, there’s a more even distribution of light. This eradicates the problem of lower branches getting overshadowed by upper ones, which can lead to underdeveloped buds in non-SCROG setups.

  3. Fewer Plants, Greater Yields: Contrary to SOG, which uses many plants, SCROG focuses on getting the most out of fewer plants. By training a plant to spread out and occupy a larger space horizontally, one can achieve impressive yields from a single plant.

  4. Better Airflow: The horizontal spread of plants allows for better airflow beneath the canopy. This reduces the risk of mold and mildew, which are common issues in dense cannabis setups.

  5. Efficient Use of Space: SCROG is particularly beneficial for growers with limited vertical space. It allows plants to be spread out horizontally, making the most of available square footage.

  6. Resource Savings: With fewer plants being used to produce more yield, there's a potential reduction in resources like water, nutrients, and the number of seeds or clones needed.

However, SCROG does demand patience and meticulous attention. The process of weaving or tying plants into screens requires regular monitoring and adjustments, especially during the vegetative growth phase.

The Screen of Green method is ideal for those who seek to maximize their yields using fewer plants. It combines the art of plant training with the science of optimal light distribution, leading to robust, evenly developed cannabis crops.

Super cropping is a high-stress training technique aimed at enhancing a cannabis plant's resilience and, consequently, its yield. It involves gently pinching and bending the plant's stems, causing minor intentional damage. This stimulates the plant to heal itself, becoming stronger in the process.

As plants recover, they often produce thicker stems and more branching, which can support heavier yields. Additionally, this method can help control the height of multiple plants, and promote more even canopy growth.

It's crucial to apply the right amount of pressure when bending the stems, as excessive force can break them. Timing is also critical; super cropping should be done during the vegetative phase for best results.

Harnessing the power of natural sunlight while enjoying a controlled environment, greenhouse growing represents the best of both worlds. Here's a closer look at this sustainable method:

  1. Natural Light: Greenhouses utilize the sun, ensuring cannabis plants get a full spectrum of light. This can lead to healthier growth and potentially richer cannabinoid and terpene profiles in the final product.

  2. Controlled Environment: Unlike outdoor grows exposed to unpredictable weather, greenhouses allow for environmental control. Growers can adjust temperature, humidity, and light exposure, ensuring optimal conditions year-round.

  3. Sustainability: By relying on sunlight for a significant portion of the day, greenhouses reduce the need for artificial lighting, leading to energy savings and a smaller carbon footprint.

  4. Protection: Greenhouses shield cannabis from adverse weather, pests, and airborne contaminants. This protective barrier ensures higher yields and consistent quality.

  5. Cost-Effectiveness: Over time, the reduced need for artificial light and climate control can result in significant cost savings for growers.

  6. Extended Growing Seasons: In areas with shorter growing seasons due to cold or unpredictable weather, greenhouses can extend the cultivation period, allowing for multiple harvests in a year.

In summation, cannabis greenhouses combine the advantages of indoor and outdoor cultivation. They provide a controlled, yet natural environment for the plants, promoting healthier growth, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness. For growers like SunMed, it’s a technique that aligns with our commitment to quality and to ecological responsibility.

Rows of cannabis growing at the SunMed greenhouse

Topping and Fimming are pruning techniques used to promote a bushier growth structure in cannabis plants, maximizing light exposure and potential yield. Though distinct, both methods involve pruning the plant to achieve desired results. By increasing the number of primary colas and growth points, these techniques can lead to more significant bud production. Let's delve into their intricacies:

What is Topping? 

This technique involves cutting off the main stem's top growth shoot. By doing this, the plant redistributes its growth hormones, leading to the development of two main colas instead of one. This results in a 'V' shape, fostering a more uniform canopy.

Cannabis plant being cultivated in a greenhouse

What is Fimming?

“Fimming” stands for "F*** I Missed” – a name that hints at its accidental discovery. Unlike topping, which is a clean cut, fimming involves pinching or cutting off around 75% of the new growth at the tip. This often leads to the development of three or four new growth points instead of just two.

Tips for Topping and Fimming

Both methods promote a bushier and wider growth pattern, optimizing the plant's light absorption. They also help control plant height, which is beneficial for those growing indoors.

  • Recovery Time: After topping or fimming, plants require time to recover. It's crucial to monitor them during this time to ensure they're adapting well to the stress inflicted.

  • Timing: It's best to employ these techniques during the vegetative phase, allowing the plant ample time to recover before entering the flowering stage.

Diving into the realm of soilless cultivation, Deep Water Culture, commonly known as DWC, stands out as a prominent hydroponic method. By suspending plants in nutrient-rich water, growers can achieve rapid growth and impressive yields. Here's an exploration of DWC:

  1. Basic Setup: In DWC, plants are held in net pots, with their roots submerged directly into nutrient rich water. The water is oxygenated using air stones. This ensures the roots receive ample oxygen and prevents root rot.

  2. Rapid Growth: One of main advantages of DWC is the speed of growth. With direct access to water and nutrients, plants don't have to expend energy acquiring them, resulting in faster vegetative and flowering phases.

  3. Efficient Nutrient Uptake: With plants absorbing nutrients directly from the water, it allows for more precise nutrient management and potentially bigger yields.

  4. Water Efficiency: DWC systems are closed-loop, meaning water is recirculated. This makes it one of the more water-efficient cultivation methods.

  5. Disease and Pest Reduction: Soil can sometimes harbor pests and diseases. By eliminating soil from the equation, DWC can reduce the risk of certain pests and diseases. However, it's worth noting that hydroponic systems can be susceptible to issues like root rot if managed improperly.

  6. Monitoring and Maintenance: DWC requires consistent monitoring of water pH and nutrient levels. Any imbalance can have immediate effects on plants due to the direct nature of nutrient uptake.

Deep Water Culture is a testament to the innovations in cannabis cultivation, offering growers a method that, while demanding, can lead to exceptional growth rates and yields.

FAQs about Cannabis Cultivation Techniques

Whether you're a seasoned cultivator refining your techniques or a newbie just starting out, understanding the nuances of each method can be challenging. In this section, we address some of the most commonly asked questions about cannabis cultivation techniques, offering insights and clarifications to guide your green thumb journey.

What is the best cannabis cultivation technique?

The best technique for you comes down to what you want to achieve as a grower. Some are more natural or sustainable, others more stable, and still others may just be the best fit for your circumstance. At SunMed, we use sun-grown, greenhouse methods to produce high-quality buds and high yields.

What is the fastest method of growing cannabis?

The Sea of Green (SOG) technique is often hailed as one of the fastest. By planting cannabis densely and switching plants to the flowering stage as soon as they mature, SOG can significantly reduce the overall time to harvest. Coupled with strains known for their rapid growth, this technique allows growers to achieve multiple harvests within a year. 

Additionally, growing in a Deep Water Culture (DWC) hydroponic system can lead to quicker vegetative growth due to the direct access plants have to nutrients, though the flowering stage duration remains strain-dependent.

What's the best method to grow cannabis indoors?

Which indoor growing method works best for you will depend on your desired outcome. Here at SunMed, we believe the best method to grow cannabis indoors is greenhouse cultivation because it combines the benefits of natural sunlight with the controlled, consistent environment of an indoor space.

How long does it take to grow and cultivate cannabis?

In total, from seed to smokable bud, the process can take anywhere from 3 to 8 months, or even longer if one opts for extended vegetative periods or grows strains with particularly long flowering times. However, a variety of techniques shorten this duration, allowing for faster yields.

What are the different styles of growing cannabis?

There are very different styles of growing cannabis based on the medium the plant grows in: these include soil, hydroponics, aeroponics, and aquaponics.

  • Soil – Sometimes called organic cultivation, this method duplicates the way plants grow naturally in the wild: i.e. in the ground.
  • Hydroponics – The process of growing plants in a water-based nutrient solution that doesn’t use soil.
  • Aeroponics – A cultivation method in which plant roots hang suspended in air and are fed by a fine nutrient mist.
  • Aquaponics – Still a very rare method, this cultivation technique combines aquaculture (i.e. the raising of small fish, crayfish, prawns, or snails) with hydroponics, feeding the plants with the nutrients produced by aquatic animals.

diagram comparing how hydroponic, aeroponic, and aquaponic growing systems work

What is the easiest medium to grow cannabis?

Soil is the easiest medium for growing cannabis. It's simple, natural, and straight forward, and most people have at least some experience growing plants in soil already. Other growing mediums can be faster or yield more specialized results, but soil is without a doubt the easiest and most intuitive for new growers.

What are the stages of cannabis plant growth?

The growth cycle of a cannabis plant can be divided into six stages: germination, seedling, vegetative, pre-flowering, flowering, and harvesting.

  • Germination – The initial stage, lasting anywhere from 12 hours to several days, during which the seed sprouts and the root emerges.
  • Seedling – The one- to four-week stage in which the seed coat splits open, the root system begins to take shape, and the initial cotyledons (i.e. seed leaves) emerge.
  • Vegetative – A two- to twelve-week period of rigorous growth that develops the plant’s structure: the root system deepens and expands while the plant continues to grow vertically and produce more leaves.
  • Pre-Flowering – The initial one- to two-week stage after switching to a light cycle with 12 hours of darkness to trigger flowering. Also called “the stretch,” the plant continues to expand in size and starts to develop bracts and bracteoles where the branches meet the stem.
  • Flowering – The seven- to -twelve week stage in which the small calyxes developed during the pre-flowering begin to expand and cluster together forming dense, resinous buds covered with trichomes.
  • Harvesting – The point at which the growers harvest the buds from their plants then dry them.

How do you maximize yields in cannabis?

The processes described above – of stressing, pinching, and pruning plants at the right times in order to encourage different patterns of growth – play a huge role in maximizing the yield you’ll get from your cannabis crop. The method you choose will vary depending on the space you have to work with and your level of expertise working with the plants.

Try Our Expertly Cultivated Sun Grown Cannabis 

As you figure out your favorite cannabis cultivation techniques, one of the best ways to hone in on what you want to create is through experiencing the qualities of finely grown buds. To taste the best in greenhouse and sun-grown cultivation, visit a dispensary near you to experience SunMed’s premium products.