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The Farm – Perpetual cannabis growing at home

If you are growing at home for you personal use, you most likely own a single tent, a light (or two if you swap between veg and flower), some pots, soil etc. A single grow can be seperated into five different stages (0-4), and all of these stages take place inside that single tent. What if you manage to give every stage its own small room? This is called a perpetual grow. You swap tents respective to the stage your plant is currently in. Maximize your space and grow more efficiently.

View of a room with tents
I filled about half a room of my apartment with the tents and equipment.

Stage Zero: Cloning – The Greenhouse

For rooting cuts have a small greenhouse on the side. In this stage plants do not need ungodly amounts of light. I shine a small photolight or a desklight on them, to keep the clones from flowering. The rest of time I wait until I see roots emerging from the side and keep them moist. Not every new plant undergoes this stage, but seedlings can also be kept here if needed. Its also perfectly fine to put the greenhouse into a tent, if it has sufficient size.

indoor greenhouse with cloned plants
Some clones in a VERY DIRTY greenhouse thats really not suitable to show off online. Shame on me.

Stage One: Clones, mothers, early veg – The Living Collection

The real first step into perpertual growing is seperating veg and flower. My clone tent happens to be a 2×2 tent for me with a cheap blurple light to keep things alive. In this tent I let my clones root through their pots and keep mother plants. Not much is happening here. Keeping everything green and vital is hard enough. The lights are on 18 hours a day.

blurple light in a tent with clones and mothers
The collection: This tent is always a bit chaotic. Everything that has to be kept alive is in here.

Stage Two: Vegetative tent – The Gym

Here it gets interesting: This is also a 2×2 tent, but with a much better light. I am using my Lien-Tec Dual Quantum Cube in here to get the plants used to the amount they will receive in the flowering tent. I also repot them into a 20l (5gal) pot, once they filled out their initial pot and let them root through. In this tent most of the plant manipulation takes place. The plants will be in here for about 4-6 weeks until they move on into the flowering tent. They get topped and LSTd, pruned and schwazzed in here, whatever you feel like doing to them.
My personal strategy: Get them to fill out their respective space twice, then cut away all but a single node on top of every branch three days prior to the flowering period and swap over new plants from the Stage-One-Tent.

veg tent with vegging plants
Vegging plants in different stages. While the plants in the back are getting ready for flowering, the ones in the front just got transplanted.

Stage Three: Flowering – The Sunhouse

Where the magic happens: Every plant going in here is fully vegged, trained and ready to go. No timeloss here, everything is running at a 12 hour light cycle forever – no darkness periods or whatsoever. The plants in here most get spread abit with gardening wires or hooks. They also get the day 21 and day 42 defoliation and of course: water. But thats also basically it. Keep the tent clean! You will not have off-periods after a harvest to do that. So once a month, take everything out, get your antibacterials in here and clean your garden.

My current flowering tent runs on 6x CXB 3950 Cree COBs condensed into 2x Pro Emit Sunbars 150-B and 2x HLG QB288 V2. Totalling about 570W this tent is packed with light.

flowering tent with plants, lights and a fan
The beginning of a perpetual grow: Emptyness in the flowering tent. The number of plants will rise with time.

Stage Four: Drying – The Barn

This is more or less a small darkroom where 3-4 plants should fit in, drying. You are used to hang every thing from a tent inside said tent for the initial drying period. This is a huge off-time where your tent is blocked for veg/flowering purposes! My small IKEA-hack (article is pending…) involves a kitchen cabinet with wheels and a big hole on top to connect to one of the tents. This way you get a suction airflow, thats perfect for drying bud initially. The room does not have to be as big, since you only harvest 2-3 plants at once using that method. To dial everything in, you will need about 3-4 month of planning. In the first iteration you can even stat mulitple plants in each of the stages and cumulate them after a while in the flowering tent. This is your last step to perpetual grow: get drying out of the flowering area.

Useful tricks

Plan ahead

So with one single tent you have plenty of time to choose new genetics. In this operation you have to choose genetics about every two weeks, so be prepared! Work out a plan for several month ahead and stick to it. You will learn how the system dials in, and how long each plant can veg etc…

picture of a calendar
You can print out sheets of these calendar-pages to keep track of every plant. You can find them here.

Maintain a journal of everything

Once you gro perpetual, you will handle much more plants in every possible stage at once. They all have different needs. Keep track in what stage every plant is at the moment. Write down things like date of germination, date of switching stages, how many days they were in each stage, etc. Keep track!

Have fun!

With this perpetual grow method you should be able to not only keep more genetics in your operation but also have a steady refill of your stash instead of a massive haul every 3rd to 4th months.

Topping

Topping is an invasive training method. Contrary to Low Stress Training a plant needs a significantly longer recovery time from an amputation, which sounds reasonable.

Timelapse of a topped cannabis plant

As you can see, the plant is developing more than one main branch. This happens due to the amputation.

The right moment to top – mainline or spreading

How to top cannabis plants
The topped plant has already established very noticable side nodes. These will be the new main Branches

The right moment to cut of the head of a young cannabis plant is to choose carefully. What to you want to achieve? If you want to spread out her sideshoots you can wait until two weeks before flowering to cut off the main. The plant will distribute more energy and growth into the sidebranches which will develop much better after that. So you end up with more thicker branches at even height which will also optimize growth overall. Growers who do that, like to top a bit later into the vegstate (after the 5th node) and refrain from low stress training in the way to let the shoots go upwards.

Example of a topped autoflowering plant
Autoflower that got topped without mainline. source

Mainlining your plant has a different approach: Its more of an artform and maintops will be developed in a more symmetrical manner. The topping has to happen much earlier in is my favourite approach to HST or high intensity stress training. It combines HST with LST very early on in the life cycle and gives you the ability to guide the growth of the plant in a more detailed fashion. It also let the plant stay small and bonsaiesque which is favorable for small grow spaces with low heights.

Mainline branches
Plant that got topped and put under LST at least twice. This results in 2^2=4 shoots.

Mainlined plants are split up immediatly with next to no internodial growth. That results in a distinct number of tops: If you cut away the mainshoot n times you will end up with 2^n mains.

triple mainline
A plant that got topped a third time, resulting in 8 main shoots.

Pros and Cons of topping

First of all topping costs time. Flowers need to heal up of that for about two weeks before you can think of switchting them to flower and establish a healthy branch structure again. You will end up with a more even canopy, can bring the light lower and will ultimately get more yield since more buds are in close proximity to the light source. Mainlining takes even more time than just a single top, but you will be able to shape your plant in various ways because all fresh branches are still young and flexible.

My recommendation: Take your time and let her veg for 2-4 weeks longer. You wont be disappointed in the end.

Topping Autoflowers

Yes, topping autoflowers is definetly possible. The best strains to try this in are the ones with a longer life cycle like most sativa dominant strains. The moment of the amputation has to be crucially timed tho. If you think the plant is already about to strech or shows early signs of sex, you should refrain from it. The time window to properly top an auto is pretty thin. Be careful here. But as I said: Its worth it in the end.

A mighty cannabis flower
If done right you will end up with a massive canopy of donkey dicks! (This is not an autoflower.)

Defoliation – Make way for the light

Buds tent to develop best, when hit by direct light. If a bud is overshadowed by big green fan leafs the bud will develop not as good. Defoliation is the key to make the most of your plant and maximize flower development.
This grow tech requires a bit of experience and knowledge of a Cannabis plants structure. I do not recommend this if this is your first grow. After a full run, without removing leafs you will know exactly what to look out for the next time.

There are growers out there removing nearly every fan leaf that a plant grows after 21 days and after 42 days of flowering. This is called schwazzing and a rather extreme manipulation technique. The other extreme is to remove nothing. My way of defoliation will remove a lot of leafs in the process, but will leave a lot of leafs for the plant. Its kind of a middle way.

The Pros way: Moderate or selective Defoliation

Not every plant needs to be defoliated the same amount. There also no godly plan to defoliation for all the plants.

Defoliation in the vegetative state

If you have a very bushy indica dominant strain or applied a lot of LST to your plant it will potentially grow very bushy. In extreme scenarios only a few leafs on the top of the plant will be necessary to build up a full canopy.
This is not good if you want to encourage branches under there to develop!
Remove the big fan leafs from the top of the plant to make sure that budsites below get direct light aswell.

freshly defoliated plant
Freshly cut plant: Fan leafs from the top of the plant got removed
recovered from defoliation, new growth is visible
New growth after three days: The gaps have been closed by new branches taking the spot.

How to check if a certain fan leaf should be removed:

  • If the fan leaf creating a shadow to budsites below remove it.
  • If the fan leaf is growing “inwards” or growing bigger and bigger, remove it.
  • If the fan leaf grows at the edge from the plant away, it can stay.

This way you will remove the leafs very selectively and keep the plant not as stressed out. Its also not feasable to potentially stun the plant because you removed so much.

Defoliation in the vegetative stage can be tedious since it could be applied about every third day from a certain plant size on.

Defoliation in the flowering process

This is pretty similar to the vegetative state. Since the plant will still grow new green material, remove the leafs that steal light from buds. Just look closely at every bud and check if there is a leaf above. Remove all the leafs. From about week 3-5 the green development of the plant will be reduced because the plant packs more supply into the flowers. Your work is pretty much done then regarding defoliation.

Extreme Defoliation: Schwazzing

Widely in use by certain industrial grow operation schwazzing is the process of removing nearly every fan leaf that grow on a plant at the beginning of the flowering stage, leaving only the top of every budsite intact. This method also involves some kind of lollypopping since every side branch is pretty much removed as well. Just leave the first 2 to 3 nodes from every branch intact.

Timelapse video of schwazzing in an industrial grow setup. These operation have a lot more light power per squaremeter than a common homegrow. The lights can penetrate much deeper! Schwazzing a plant makes sense here.

Chocolope that got alot of nodes removed, leaving up only the top of the plants, sortly before flowering.
The same plant in flowering: Branches full of buds!

Additional notes

I would not recommend schwazzing for every strain out there. There are alot of cannabis varieties that are able to put on serious weight on the side branches where you would harm more than you do good if you remove too much. Branchy indica type plants are very much content with selective defoliation while some other plants like to be cut more heavily. I suggest you.

Lemon Zkittle that got exposed to defoliation: You can see through the branching to the other side of the pot.
Alot of Budsites are directly visible from the topview, since the light now got a free way down there.
Areas that wont get direct light will be cut most.

Defoliation is a pretty harmless tech, since a plant will develop way more fan leafs than needed to survive. A grow tent is also an environment where the plant is enclosed and save enough so that it can deal with this harm without having to fight pests or difficult weather patterns while at it.