“Those big, light-blocking leaves on my pot plants, should I pluck them off so the rest of the plant gets more light and air?"
Most growers think that removing one or two big leaves is okay, especially since removal of the large ones allows other parts of the plant to produce bigger sticky buds. But then again, those big home-grown solar panels are gathering energy for the plant. Removing them is like cutting off a source of energy for growth.
Recently, while visiting one of the more skilled growers I have met in my travels, I asked the secret for getting consistent quality and big yields from top to bottom on very-tall indoor plants. I was told that plucking leaves was key. Turns out the answer has more to do with when rather than yes or no.
With OG Kush crops, after about four weeks into the bud cycle, the growers almost completely defoliated the big, beautiful leafy plants. Seeing the before and after, I was a little shocked (“what are these guys smoking?”): Big, healthy bushes stripped to sticks with just a few fan leaves, but with all of the budding sites intact.
Yet, when they showed me a section that had been treated this way and was now ready to harvest, it became clear that there was a method to what appears as madness.
Not all strains will respond favorably to this method, but all of the tested Kush strains and indica-dominant strains responded very well, sometimes giving up to 30% more yield. Seriously. Some Sativa hybrids respond well too, although they typically need to have fewer fan leaves removed. When in doubt, test a plant or two before subjecting a whole crop to any kind of plucking.
Why Does Plucking Work? Here's The Deal:
In nature, by the fourth week of bloom, cannabis plants are not likely to have a full rack of fan leaves intact. They are persistently leafy only when grown indoors, because of the favorable conditions and high level of nutrition that marijuana growers provide crops.
In a natural setting the lower leaves are exhausted of their nutrient reserves, which have been channelled by the plant into the budding sites. The leaves drop off on their own, especially as nitrogen becomes depleted in the soil.
By the fourth week of bloom in a nine-week budding cycle, Kush and Indica dominant plants don't really seem to use those fan leaves anyway, even when indoors. Growers needn't worry about nutrient reserves; there's plenty available right at the roots.
By removing the big leaves, the canopy opens and breathes a second wind into the crop.
Because more light reaches all parts of the plant and humidity isn't trapped in the canopy, you will see bigger, harder and frostier nugs at harvest time. Buds swell up almost overnight, because the roots can now channel more juice into buds and there is no foliage to rob the bud of fluid.
Do pluck all at once: not a little here and there. While it does shock the plant, healthy plants recover virtually overnight; especially if you follow up with a feeding of vitamins and trace minerals (post-surgery feeding).
Also note that plucking one or two leaves off in veg to open up the canopy isn’t a bad idea either; but save the major pull for after all the budding sites have formed.
Tough love can be hard at first; but when you see the results you won't look back.